At last the opening of the trout season is upon us! For all those diehards with a love of the small speckled fish and for those who’ve vowed to catch their first this Summer, there are plenty of options ahead.
Although much of the region is still under varying states of drought, the local fishery is in good condition. Traditionally, early season stream levels are low prior to the arrival of Summer storms.
However, the temperatures are still cool and the trout willing to get out and about.
Most early season fish are looking to put on condition following Winter. The majority of activity occurs in the broader pools throughout the creeks and rivers, where fish can cruise at leisure to mop up early-season hatches and prey on the juvenile yabbies that favour such spots.
For this reason most anglers will choose chunkier imitations that follow the ‘feed ’em a burger’ theory. Fly flickers will do best with yabby imitations such as olive Woolly Buggers around size 8 or one of the local patterns such as the excellent New England Yabby or Olive Mountain Shrimp.
Focus on the heads of the larger pools and twitch the pattern through the slower tail out.
I’d also include a couple of beetle patterns fished dry, as well as a hefty dun imitation. Spring beetles are a favourite of New England trout and anywhere you find bushy vegetation along the streams you’ll find beetle-munching rainbows. Look for areas where the brush is coming out in blossom because this really pulls in the nectar-swilling beetles and the trout follow.
Lure casters will also find excellent sport in the larger pools, such as through the Macdonald system out of Walcha, if they put in time with small rubber grubs hopped along the bottom. Rig these with as light a jig head as possible and in most instances just use a bare hook, the weight of the grub is enough to flick out.
Where you find deep, turbulent water such as at the bases of waterfalls, I’d be ripping a Rebel Crawdad or similar through the foam. Give the lures a bit of speed through here because the fish will be only too keen to smash them.
Smaller Celtas are a good alternative where you want to fish through the shallows or along the top around the fall pools. Hold the rod tip high and rip the lure back through the top half-metre of water. It works a treat.
Before the weather heats up you should find active fish anywhere there is a decent pool. As the season advances and the mercury rises, most fish pull back into the runs where the agitated water is cooler and well-oxygenated.
But early in the season, most will linger in the bigger pools for most of the day.
Take your pick of waters at this time of year although if you are heading up Walcha way this season, now is the time. Call into the tourism office at Walcha for information on stream locations and accommodation.
The headwaters will tend to fish better, with the upper Cobrabald and Macdonald areas worth investigation.
Towards Armidale I’d be pounding the banks of the upper Wollomombi and Rockvale rivers where you’ll probably find some of the bigger fish. Take particular note of my earlier comments on yabby imitations – the fat Wollomombi rainbows love them!
Ebor, as always, will prove consistent although I tend to target this area in mid-season when the faster, cooler waters continue to produce action into the Summer.
Beetles and high-riding dries such as Humpy patterns will do the business out this way. Lure casters should stick to small bladed lures in the faster water.
Spring conditions will kick the native fishery into gear now. The yabby moult will trigger the cod and yellowbelly to mooch into the shallows seeking a feed.
Fresh yabby baits fished on the bottom will bring fish and casting small lures along the drop-offs is equally effective.
It is traditional for the long weekend to bring the first major downpour of the new season and any heavy rain that finds its way into local impoundments will kick the fishing action up a level.
Rising Spring water levels really draws fish to the margins so we can only hope some good early rains this month.
A boat is of great assistance under such conditions because it allows you to scour the lake shoreline seeking active fish. However, the conditions are pleasant enough at this time of year to stroll the foreshore with a day pack, picking the eyes out of the bank structure.
It is similarly great fun walking the rivers at present. Temperatures are mild, you don’t have many serpents to contend with and the fishing is productive.
Around the likes of Bundarra, Manilla and Bingara you’ll find plenty of great water.
Carry a small bubble float and a couple of yabbies to drift through the bankside willows yellowbelly. Lures should be in brighter colours such as combinations of red/yellow or green/black.
Fly aficionados should stick to natural coloured Deceiver-style patterns fished with an aggressive strip.
The next couple of months offer some of the best options for our fishery. There is water everywhere at present despite the countryside being dry. Do some exploring and mix your options, the fish are ready and willing.Reads: 747