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Autumn natives still on the bite in Central NSW

An unseasonally warm start to winter has kept the natives on the chew in Central NSW. Ken Smith reports. Images by Col Gordon.

THE phone rang and Jim Harnwell, former editor of Fishing World, enthused wildly about a sustained high pressure system that would be hanging over the inland for the next few days and the chance for a crack at admittance to the metre plus Murray cod club which to date has been denied to him.

The combination of unseasonally warm weather and a lack of frosts added up to what I reckoned would be a pretty good chance at striking the fish on the bite. Generally the natives will throw all caution to the wind around the time that Autumn gives way to Winter and a severe shortage of tucker occurs. Jim’s plan was to bring a couple of mates and arrive in the high country camp on Saturday afternoon where they could hopefully bag a few goats for the table, before turning to stage two of the plan; a metre plus Murray cod!

The first stage of the plan was definitely the easiest, with large mobs of goats roaming the mountains in relative peace and quiet. And so after a relaxed breakfast and early morning hunt on Sunday – and with eskies filled with chilled succulent goat meat – we packed up camp and headed down from the mountains into the gorge to set up camp river-side.

Stage two of the plan was to have a crack at some Murray cod and golden perch over two sessions. One decent evening session and then an early morning session Monday before packing up and heading home. With canoes and rods prepped, a mixture of bibbed lures, spinnerbaits, soft plastics and top water lures selected, and a lamb roast set on slow cook in the camp oven, the evening session begun.

The hole we were fishing is around 1.5km long so it would be the only hole that we would fish that evening. With the shadows from the surrounding mountains covering the water everything looked set for “happy hour”; that time when the fish move out from cover and begin to actively feed. Working all levels of the water column it wasn’t long before a few fish started making their presence felt.

The head of the hole is the most fish rich section, with a fast run of water that enters across gravel before smashing into the tumble down slate edge fringed with timber. The resulting boiling water ensures there is always a deep section with a big circular eddy. Below the surface and a combination of rock bars, drop offs, caves and logs make the structure here second to none.

This part of the water hole always holds the highest expectancy for fish and we were not to be disappointed. Jim’s excited call of good fish and a bent rod to the butt had him thinking he may have finally have the credentials to gain admittance to the metre plus club but when the fish finally relinquished its hold to the bottom a very respectable and new PB 85cm Murray cod came to the surface. After a few quick photos and smiles all-round the fish was swiftly returned to the water.

Mark Luscombe followed up with a large golden perch along with a few pest redfin, while Tim Francis was also amongst the fish, with 70 and 45cm cods in quick succession. Jim again made the call that he was on and another powerful fish sought sanctuary on the bottom of the pool. As the fight played out, the fish slowly relinquished its hold on the bottom, fighting now in ever increasing circles towards the top of the water. With eager anglers watching intently from above for any sign to gauge the fish’s size it finally succumbed to the heavy pressure and came beaten to the side of the canoe. The fish went a respectable 78cm but fought like a much bigger fish.Now in relative darkness a retreat back downstream to camp saw Col Gordon introduce a new Berkley prototype surface lure. In quick succession, a 70cm fish and a 65cm fish climbed all over it!

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Nothing beats coming back from a night session to slow-cooked lamb in the camp oven!

A debriefing around the campfire while devouring slow roast lamb and vegetables washed down with various liquid refreshments led to a general consensus that the trip so far was bloody great!

Early Monday morning and a heavy dew and low fog clung tenaciously to the tree tops, meaning wet canoe seats had to be wiped dry before the Monday morning session began. Not having too much time to spare before having to return and pack up and head home Jim and Mark decided to push on up into the head of the hole to the scene of the action of the preceding evening.

Tim and Col decided to concentrate on the lower end of the hole. While not being as fish rich as the head of the hole, the lower section was home to the largest fish in the hole. If you catch a fish here it’s usually a good fish, and the best I have seen here has gone 1.2m. The resident fish here seem to ensure not too many fish populate this lower stretch and you have to have some weight about you to maintain your position in this prime section of river.

Jim had caught his fish the previous evening on a yellow and green Salmo Bullhead 8 with black stripes. Tim now matched the colours with a Boomerang lure and it was while probing the logs and rock bars in the lower end of the hole that he came up tight on the best fish of the trip, a superbly conditioned 104cm Murray cod! Jim and Mark returned from the top end of the hole to announce that Mark also had a new PB of 50cm.

So all tolled Jim had his new PB of 85cm, Tim had a new PB on wild river fish of 104cm (his PB on dam fish is an incredible 140cm!) Tim also had another entry into the metre plus club, and Col had taken a few as usual flicking his Berkley Ridgeback lure around.

In all too short a time we were back at camp packing up for the return the home front. With nine cod, two golden perch, three redfin, three catfish and one carp landed one could only wonder at how many fish may have been encountered if a full day could have been spent fishing compared to the few short hours we did.

The increased fishing activity also seemed to be matched by nature in general. The bird life was abuzz with noisy constant chatter and eagles soared over head while goats bleated high up on the mountains and a solitary deer grazed peacefully on the green pick of the river banks.

All in all a very successful trip but as to Jim becoming a member of that exclusive “Metre Plus Club”, well that would have to wait until sometime in the future. His new PB has inched him even closer again but the sign on the door still says “NO ENTRY”!

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