FOR years they have stood on the banks of sluggish, tepid rivers sucked dry by drought with nary a nibble at the end of their line.
But the fisher's luck is about to change.
Two years of drought-breaking rain combined with a massive restocking program across NSW's river systems is expected to make this season the best freshwater fishing for more than a decade.
About 20 million fish, including rainbow, brown and brook trout, Atlantic salmon, golden and silver perch, Australian bass and Murray cod have been bred at fish farms and released into the state's waterways in the past four years.
In 2011-12 alone, five million were set free.
''The season, from all reports of all the clubs in the area, is probably the best it's been for a lot of years - at least 10 years,'' the president of the Tamworth Trout Fishing Club, Laurie Muldoon, said.
''The streams have all been running well. The trout like the cooler temperatures so that if the streams slow down and the temperatures warm up they become stressed,'' he said. ''Whereas in the last couple of years, there's been good releases, good results and a lot of good fish caught.''
The vast majority of fish bred in the state's 14 public and commercial hatcheries do not survive after they are released, but their chances have increased since the drought ended and flood water flushed the river systems out.
''Higher water levels have resulted in improved habitat and abundant feed, which in turn leads to greater fish survival and growth rates,'' the Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, said.
''The end result for freshwater anglers is the best fishing for more than a decade, especially in the upper and middle sections of our inland waterways.''
Mr Muldoon, who recently retired, is among dozens of enthusiasts who travel to the Department of Primary Industries' trout hatchery at Ebor near Armidale each year to pick up bags of 2000 fingerlings to release into local creeks.
''Generally we stop the night at the hatchery and pick up the fish early in the morning in September or October,'' he said.
''The bags are placed … into the stream, to let the temperature difference change so that they become more a similar temperature slowly, and then they just release them into the stream.''
But the fly-fisher, who usually releases the fish he catches, said while the drought had an impact on fish stocks he could still enjoy a day out without getting a bite.
''The wildlife that you see, just get away from the hustle and bustle,'' he said.
''A lot of times you're out of phone range and [you] see the bird life.
''The art of fly casting can be very challenging. You catch a lot of trees and a lot of blackberries, and grass. But if you can catch a trout on a fly that you've tied yourself, particularly a brown trout, it's all part of the fun.''