Rivers settling down
  |  First Published: February 2010

March normally signals the beginning of cooler conditions and the Summer storms, which this year have been prolific, will start to abate.

As things settle down you can expect the angling to improve a little, with stable river heights and increased insect activity.

Denser mayfly hatches typify the New England Tableland trout streams this month and the fish respond with increased activity.

The cooler water will encourage fish to range a little farther afield throughout the streams so anglers can expect to see more fish in the shallower runs and pool tails.

Evening hatches will draw fish into the hearts of the pools seeking the emerging insects. Although the caddis taper off, the larger mayflies will become commonplace along the waterways.

Fish should keenly hit soft plastics and small spinners such as Celtas. Use a more active retrieve than you would have over Summer because Autumn fish will now readily chase down an erratic lure.

Fly patterns should include colourful streamers in larger sizes. When the hatch begins, usually late in the afternoon, a dark Humpy or Dun in size 12-14 will usually do the trick.

Alternatively, grease the last metre of leader and fish a bushy nymph. Fish which consistently refuse to take the dry will often be suckers for a nymph high in the water column.

Dead-drift the imitation through the area of most activity and be aware that takes can be quite subtle.

Watch the leader for any movement or straightening before strip-striking with your hand.

Often beginners strike with the rod tip, as one would when spinning. This technique generally fails with fly gear and it is much more successful to draw back with your stripping hand.


On the native front, there have been reports over the past month of some excellent cod catches at Copeton Dam.

The numerous storms that peppered the catchment put some flow back into the impoundment but much of that was released downriver.

Despite this, night angling seemed to prove the most effective. Both lure casting and trolling drew some excellent fish up to 1m long and there is no reason why success shouldn’t continue into March.

Although most anglers have concentrated on the rocky shorelines, don’t ignore the expansive flats at Copeton. Anywhere you have extensive weed beds you’ll find cod.

Drifting along the outer edges and casting weedless lures into the margins should draw a fish.

You’ll probably find most of these are of smaller age classes because the little blokes haven’t put on enough size to claim the rocky ‘hot spots’.

Other impoundments throughout the north should also fish well this month.

Chaffey Dam has been a bit up and down over Summer but catches of yellowbelly and some silver perch have been consistent enough to warrant a visit.

Keepit has been relatively quiet by all accounts but don’t be put off. Anglers prepared to range far and wide should find action here.

The current remedial works at the dam will provide little inconvenience and there are heaps of options at the top end.

Autumn yellows are a mainstay of the Keepit basin and have been for years. You’ll be hard pressed to go past bobbing large shrimp around the deeper water.

The western-flowing rivers in their lower sections should also be producing cod. Upstream of Bingara is good water but you’ll need a canoe to pick the eyes out of it.

On the big holes I’d be casting large lures with an extra slow retrieve and don’t be surprised to get absolutely hammered along here.

The lower Peel River will fish well now. Downstream of Tamworth, not far from where the Country and Western crowd hang their, hats I’ve heard of some excellent action on good-sized yellowbelly.


Down in the bass gorges you’ll find March one of the better months for a canoe trip. The weather has cooled somewhat and the muggy days are fading into history.

There’ll still be plenty of fish about although they tend to be spread out through the system.

Focus on spots where there is plenty of open water, especially the heads of pools below long sets of rapids. Bigger fish set up in these locations and drifting a small metal blade or spoon over the gravel drop-off can be deadly.

The coming month offers one of the more pleasant periods for a backpack trip into the upper gorges.

I’ve spent enough years sweating it out and dodging vipers over the Summer to know a weekend trip in Autumn is the go.

If you’re a first-timer, look on the relevant topographic maps for long ridges with shallow descents. A light spin stick and a handful of medium soft plastic jigs in brighter colours is the go. Don’t forget a couple of medium-sized poppers.

Some nice fish are taken each year at this time from the upper Apsley and Chandler systems. Find a ridge down into either of these and you be enjoying wilderness bass angling at its best.

March is a great time to hit the water, the days are pleasantly cool without the need for a jumper and the fish are out and about. Maybe you should be, too!

Conditions are a lot more pleasant to be chasing bass in the gorge country this month.

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