Short Trips a Go
  |  First Published: June 2010

As the cooler months set in, many regional fishos are looking for quick and short daylight jaunts out on the water. Overnight trips are better suited to the spring and summer months when the mercury is a little warmer.

A couple of popular and readily accessible winter options are Dumaresq Dam near Armidale and Sheba Dam in the hills behind Nundle. Dumaresq receives plenty of attention from Armidale locals and lies about 12km from town on the Boorolong Road. Facilities included most amenities and overnight camping is permitted, but I recommend a good sleeping bag at this time of year!

The dam was originally a water supply for town but is now purely a recreational venue. The impoundment covers about 12ha and although powered craft are not allowed, it can readily be covered by a canoe or even a float tube. At maximum levels the water reaches about 5m at the deeper points towards the wall.

Stocking in past years has largely been confined to rainbow trout although bass and redfin are caught. The bass are becoming a bit scarce but the rat redfin seem to persist. Best results are had from a canoe or small tinnie as this allows anglers to prospect along the deeper margins of the weed beds. Shore-based angling is limited by the rushes and weed growth with the boat ramp and eastern bank offering the best options.

Weapons of choice are smaller blades and plastic grubs. Natural colours tend to produce more consistent results although the colder winter water produces a reduction in algae and suspended solids. The water becomes clearer so under these conditions consider changing to either white or brighter coloured lures.

Early morning and evening excursions are a good choice, mainly because there is less recreational boating activity. This is especially relevant if you consider targeting the shallows along the camp shoreline. Once the picnic crowds arrive and the water is active fish will tend to be pushed out into the main basin.

Bearing this in mind, the camp shoreline is a good fly fishing option. In the winter months trout will cruise wide of these shallows at first light. Midge and emerger patterns will often bring a response but the tactic is slow and calls for patience. Cast it and they will come.

The venue also is used by the local St. Kilda Fishing Club Family Day. Held this year on 11 July, the club liberates about 100 rainbow trout brood stock. Some of these fish are seriously large and for a gold coin donation the local kids can fish for a trophy trout. Monies raised assist the club in purchasing fingerlings for release in regional streams.

To the south lies Sheba Dam. Originally built as a water supply for Chinese gold miners the water is a popular local attraction. Access is best obtained by reaching Nundle and then following the short but steep pinch up to Hanging Rock. At only 2ha it is substantially smaller than Dumaresq but can still offer excellent angling prospects.

The impoundment is heavily used by Tamworth visitors during the summer months as they seek escape from the heat of the plains and head into the mountains. However over winter visitation rates fall away and you’ll often find the place to yourself.

The target fish are rainbow trout and some excellent specimens are taken from here annually. The water depth along the main wall can reach about 6m, while around the road shoreline the bottom shelves gently slope away in an extensive flat.

As with Dumaresq Dam only non-powered boats are permitted. Trolling Tassie Devils or coloured spoons from a canoe or kayak can be very effective, especially around the bushy shoreline near the creek entrance. If you are prepared to wade the shallows then you’ll be able to cast well back into this area as well.

Fly anglers can have a ball here and a float tube is excellent for exploring the sheltered, small waters. The shallow bay to the right of the jetty area is difficult to fish from the shoreline but a float tube or canoe will allow you access. Drift quietly and explore the area with medium sized Woolly Buggers on a slow retrieve.

Both these small impoundments offer readily accessible day venues for winter angling. The amenities offer relaxed and safe options for family groups or a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle. Camping is possible at both locations but over the next couple of months you’ll want to take a couple of extra blankets.

Although the trout season is closed on the rivers and streams both these impoundments remain open. Rules still apply and you’ll need a current licence. The beauty of chasing trout is they love the cold water.

Native species, such as yellowbelly and cod, tend to slow down over the coming months. For success you’ll need to get a little more focused in the areas you attack. In the regional dams, such as Copeton, Keepit and Split Rock, seek out areas of broad gravel shallows. These areas tend to warm a little more than the drop-offs, especially if they are sheltered from the prevailing winds. Winds tend to ‘roll over’ the water and raise the colder levels to the surface.

Working such locations with large brightly coloured 15cm plastic grubs and double-tails can prove very effective. The key is to work them slowly with plenty of pauses. Keep in close contact with the bottom because that’s where the fish will be.

Winter months are a time for leisurely angling at civilized hours of the day. Take it easy and rug up the kids – there’s no reason to stay indoors.

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