As the trout season draws to a close, I can reflect back on one of the better seasons in many years.
From Walcha in the south, east to Ebor and north to the Guyra/Glen Innes waters, the fishing this season has been terrific.
Although the waters were low back in October, cool conditions persisted and the fish held on well. The arrival of Summer brought some exceptional storm activity throughout the region with local flooding not uncommon. Thankfully, the rains continued throughout January and the trout responded well.
Many readers know of my preference for fly angling and the gear that goes with it. I constantly enjoy guiding clients and friends onto our local streams.
This year we saw a few overseas visitors working our New England streams and through my work at Armidale Outdoors this season, I saw an increase in the numbers of anglers looking for trout.
The past few years had seen a decline in the number of trout anglers. I guess the dry conditions and heavy focus on stocking natives in many areas had contributed to this.
However, there is a change in the wind as word again spreads on what a fantastic trout fishery we have in the north of the State.
Last month I guided Queensland visitor Corals D’Ott on a day trip to the eastern streams. Although Coral had cut her teeth on New Zealand waters and across the American North West, it was some time since she had last ‘flicked a fly’.
We enjoyed cool weather and although the fishing was a little slow to start, action improved as the day progressed. A few fish were missed on the dry but a lovely hen rainbow eventually came to the bank after a protracted fight.
At this time of year as the waters and days cool, it is not unusual for the fish to be more responsive mid-morning and then again later in the day.
Cool-weather trouting doesn’t call for early starts and the lazy days are a great time to stalk the streams.
Fly choice at the tail of the season is best restricted to medium-sized streamers when fishing the waterfalls and larger pools.
I have a preference for simple hair-wing patterns in yellow and red or pink and black. Think Mickey Fin and you’ll be close to the money.
If you tie your own, add some weight or choose a heavier-shank hook to get the fly down.
The addition of small split shot about 30cm above the fly is also recommended in the deeper holes. This assists in getting the fly down and results in a more erratic retrieve when fished slowly.
Don’t forget to mix up the speed you retrieve the fly. Generally, as the waters cool and the fish become more active, a quick, darting strip is the way to go.
However, if that draws no response from ‘fishy’ water, try downsizing the fly pattern and also slowing your retrieve. It will often save the day.
On the flatter streams such as down Walcha way and east of Guyra, you would be well advised to carry some small caddis and dun patterns. Goddard’s Caddis and Elk Hair Caddis in size 14 are great ‘go-to’ flies at present.
Similarly, when the evening hatch kicks off and at this time of year these can be exceptional, you’ll do well to tie on a size 14 or even 16 dun in dark colours.
If fish are rising but not breaking the water, they are probably taking just under the surface. Fish a Shaving Brush or emerger pattern again in 14 or 16.
On the smoother water it is critical to use light tippet, about 4lb and allow no drag on the drifting fly. This late in the season the fish have ducked and dodged all manner of flies and lures and can be a little gun shy on the more heavily fished streams.
Late in the season I also encourage anglers to explore water that they would usually have found difficult. Areas worth the extra effort to target include under overhanging brush, hard against the waterfall faces or in a tiny pool which takes a little bush-bashing to reach.
The majority of anglers are a little lazy and prefer to pick the eyes out of the easy water. Fish holding in the tougher country are generally a little more relaxed about things.
Sure, you’ll probably lose a few flies and have your patience tested but targeting the ‘secondary’ lies is a late season tactic worth exploring.
Going into the season’s end, the quality of the fish is very promising for 2010-11. The numbers of fit trout will be putting on condition and with record rains forecast for June and July, there’ll be no shortage of water.
Should these forecasts come true then the western streams in particular will be in prime condition for next season’s opening.Reads: 1060