Here's some expert guidance from Michael Guest about freshwater fishing from Bulahdelah to Gloucester, Barrington Tops and the Manning River.

The catchments of the beautiful Barrington Coast are a myriad of freshwater creeks and tributaries that feed into the region’s main river systems. Now as a keen freshwater “fisho” this provides plenty of options to chase the main two targets and that’s either a feisty mountain trout or a tenacious bass.

Bass in the Manning River with Michael Guest.
Bass in the Manning River with Michael Guest.

Myall River and Bulahdelah

A great place to start your freshwater fishing adventure is at Bulahdelah, this famous timber town is alongside the Myall River. It’s a long and winding tannin-stained waterway that empties into the vast Myall lakes. The river provides excellent fish habitat via weed beds and flooded timber snags.

Bass are in excellent numbers throughout the length of the Myall River. Access is easy with a boat ramp right in town so whether you are a kayak, canoe, or boat angler it’s a cracking place to get on the water.

From here you can either head upstream where the river starts to narrow or head down under the road bridges and start exploring from there. All the usual bass lures work well at times in the system including small vibes through the deeper sections and surface lures along the edges either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Michael Guest with Barrington Tops brown trout
Michael Guest with Barrington Tops brown trout

Barrington River and Gloucester

Heading northwest from Bulahdelah there’s three ways to travel to Gloucester: in a southerly loop via Booral; straight up the highway north to Nabiac then westwards; or directly northwest towards Waukivory following the Myall River (note that Waukivory Road is still cut by a landslide at time of writing this story).

Gloucester is a picturesque country town with a long history in both the dairy and timber industries. There are accommodation options to suit all budgets from camping, motels, riverside cottages, and farm stays. The clear fast following water of the Gloucester and Barrington Rivers meet close to the town center. Getting access is to either river is relatively easy via public reserves and other points like road crossings. Keep in mind that you do need permission to go onto or through private land.

The main species is once again bass, though the crystal-clear water is in stark contrast to the dark tannin-stained flow that is a feature of the Myall River. Small soft plastic lures in natural colours tied to light fluorocarbon leader will help fool a weary bass in the clear conditions.

Using a kayak or canoe is the best way to explore the rivers, there are some fast flowing rapids to negotiate at times so take care and paddle to your own level of experience.

Brown trout with Michael Guest
Brown trout with Michael Guest

Barrington Tops

The other awesome thing about Gloucester is that it’s the gateway to the spectacularly rugged Barrington Tops and Gloucester Tops. The Tops are home to countless mountain streams weaving their way through the high country with the vast majority stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Either way it’s around an hours drive up and onto the elevated plateaux, accommodation is limited but camping is permitted. (note that Barrington Tops Forest Road is still cut by road slip at time of writing this story).

Polblue is a prime fishing spot sitting 1575 metres above sea level and receives good snowfalls in the cooler months so be prepared. Even in summer the temperature can drop sharply with a cool change moving through.

Trout thrive in the cool conditions and cold-water temperatures provided by the elevation. Tiny soft plastics, celtas and trout imitation shallow diving hard bodies work well on the Tops. If waving the wand is more your style both dry and wet fly presentations are effective and provide avid fly fishers with plenty of opportunities to bag a feisty trout.

Both species of trout can be easily caught though the larger specimens can be quite cagey. The trick is not to let them see you, clothing that blends in will be an advantage along with staying low. One other point to remember is that venomous snakes are present throughout the grassy swamps and rocky creeks, good solid footwear and sturdy long trousers are recommended.

Big bass fishing.
Big bass fishing.

Mount George and Manning River

Heading east from Gloucester the road roughly follows the mighty Manning River towards the coast.

The Manning is a huge river that starts as a spring right up in the tops where it plays home to trout but as the elevation drops and the water temperature rises the river gains momentum, and it becomes bass country.

Mt George is a sleepy little village located around 40 minutes’ drive from Gloucester proudly overlooking the Manning, not far from the agricultural center of Wingham. This is true trophy bass water with fish over the magic 50cm mark not an uncommon catch.

The warmer months brings on the deafening sound of cicadas, this is also a switch for the local bass to turn their attention to feed on the terrestrial insects. One of the great fishing sayings is to “match the hatch” so it’s obvious that a cicada style surface lure is definitely one to have in the tackle box. Late into the evening and early morning will see the bass more active leaving the security of a sunken log or rock bar to feed.

Bass catch and release on Nowendoc River.
Bass catch and release on Nowendoc River.

Nowendoc River

From Mt George it’s only a short drive to Knorrits Flat and the Nowendoc River with more bass fishing opportunities.

If you’re travelling around in a group with two cars or 4WDs the best way to explore some of the great bass fishing is to put a couple of kayaks in at one of the many reserves and drift along with the water flow down to another exit point to one of the waiting cars. If you’re on your own, then pick one of the larger slower flowing sections and paddle up stream.

There are so many hidden freshwater options for both bass and trout on the Barrington Coast, it’s just a matter of choosing one.

Tight lines,

Michael Guest

Bass underwater Michael Guest
Bass underwater Michael Guest
Casting poppers Michael Guest
Casting poppers Michael Guest

And remember, you must know the fishing rules:

  1. There are fish size limits and maximum limits for the number of attended lines you can run; the number of hooks per line; plus daily limits and possession limits
  2. Only fish during the official bass season (1st Sep to the following 30th April) and trout season (October long weekend to the following June long weekend inclusive)
  3. You’ll need a fishing licence (unless you’re under 18 years of hold an Australian Government Pensioner Concession Card) that you can buy online or at Barrington Coast Visitor Information Centres.
Catch & release is recommended to keep the population healthy for fishos in the future.
Michael Guest

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