Spring has well and truly sprung on the Northern Tablelands and all the older blokes’ thoughts turn to fishing – well, most of us, anyway!
The season is shaping up to be a beauty with the rivers and streams holding on well throughout the Winter.
Although much of the region is still drought-declared, in recent months quite a few storms have moved throughout and while the rain has been patchy, sooner or later it all ends up in the rivers.
Flows have been good. On my last few trips down to Tamworth I’ve been keeping an eye on water levels in the Macdonald/Namoi River at Bendemeer. The prospects for the cod season, and indeed the local trout, look good and water heights have seldom dipped lately.
Following the dry Winter and with plentiful tucker about, the local trout should really be on the chew. One of my favourite early season lures is the 2.5cm Wilson Double Strike soft tails in Hot Pink. These things are deadly on New England trout, especially during the early season.
I fish them on fly and spinning tackle. Lure flickers can rig them on the lightest of jig heads, such as the tiny Berkley models. I also slide one onto a size 10 wet fly hook, fix the head with a dollop of super glue and run them through the pools just as I would a conventional fur-and-feather streamer.
A bonus of the good Spring conditions will be the beetle numbers. After a couple of dry seasons, everything from wild pigs to grasshoppers will be exploding in numbers. Hoppers and beetles are prime Spring trout tucker and I tip both to prove deadly over the next month.
For spin fishermen, I’ve mentioned the use of bubble floats and flies in past columns. Couple a dry beetle pattern to a small clear bubble float and drift it through the pools for some good trout.
Concentrate on areas with healthy bankside vegetation such as shrubs or tussocks. Fly anglers should of course be well versed in the use of foam beetles but don’t ignore wet patterns such as Lead Coachman.
I don’t know why but particularly when the beetles are prevalent, small black or green Celtas take fish consistently. If you ever see a submerged beetle swimming flat out with a huge amount of flash, please tell me, but the trout make the connection and often these lures bear fruit.
When the beetle numbers are up, so are the hoppers. In fact the DPI has warned of heavy early hatches of plague locusts out west. These conditions also favour high country hoppers and I’d expect to see good numbers of them this Spring and into early Summer.
Hoppers are excellent natural baits. They are pretty quick and the best way to catch some live ones is early in the morning, when the dew and cool conditions make them lethargic. Store hoppers in a takeaway food container with a few air holes punched in the lid.
The accompanying diagram gives a primer on hot spots for local trout creeks. Areas to target are the bubble lines at the heads of pools and reed beds which generally form along the lower sections of major holes. These are great spots for yabby imitations.
Within the narrower stream sections focus on outside bends, where trout often hold station at the undercut banks. Here you need to get your offering down and into the pocket.
Upstream, where obvious vegetation overhangs the water is a prime position to drift a beetle pattern
One of the hottest locations in recent weeks has been Dumaresq Dam, just out of Armidale. A favoured venue for local paddlers and for families as a weekends picnic venue, it has also produced some excellent trout have, mostly at the head of the dam although most of the shoreline has been fishing well.
The shallows in front of the picnic area are well worth targeting but you’ll need to hit the water early, before the action starts at the boat ramp.
At Sheba Dams, near Nundle, rainbows up to 4kg are being taken with frightening regularity. I’ve mentioned this small impoundment in the past as a great spot for a weekend under the canvas, and the proximity of Chaffey Dam adds to the attraction.
Chaffey almost always fished well throughout the Spring and with recent rises in the water level, this year will be no exception.
The western shore is a favourite with fly flickers for spooky mega-carp, while those seeking natives should consider the eastern shore down towards the dam wall or upstream where the river flows in.
The extensive flats at the top end can hold plenty of carp to annoy bait flickers but trolling shallow-running lures here can bring some solid yellowbelly.
Copeton Dam will be firing up for the season. On December 5 to 7 the Yamaha Inland Fishing Festival kicks off at Copeton and usually draws a good crowd from across the region.
It’s a laid-back, family-orientated competition with around $20,000 in prizes on offer. The facilities suit kids and the fishing this year should be excellent with most anglers targeting the monster cod the impoundment is known for.
The yabby population will be going off its head this month and you’d do worse than jig fresh crayfish baits among the timber in any of our impoundments.
Another excellent option is to slowly crank smaller spinnerbaits along the drop-offs. Keep the speed down and occasionally flick the rod tip; if you’re doing it right you should be in contact with the bottom.
Trout chasers will also find yabby imitations successful. The old Rebel Crawdad lures every year continue to bring some large trout to the bank.
Fly choices such as olive Woolly Buggers should be weighted to get down and will take plenty of trout in coming weeks.
This month usually heralds the start of the gorge bass fishing, with a sharp increase in water temperature and storm activity. Early Summer rains lift river levels and make canoe trips through the upper reaches more feasible.
Next month I’ll be outlining a couple of great canoeing/angling options for the gorges with detailed info on getting in and out of the rough stuff.Reads: 1891