Flyfishing for Australian Murray Cod

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Doing It Tough!

When the snakes are keener to bite then the fish are, you really start to question your sanity.
This weekends overnighter, we covered some awesome water, unfortunately it involved 10,000 casts per fish. The weather couldn’t decide if it wanted to storm or hammer us with humidity. As the sun dipped, it came down to surface flies to save the day and keep us from embarrassment.  Working big surface poppers aggressively to induce a reaction bite was our game plan, since they were never interested all day in feeding on our subsurface flies.
We didn’t have to wait long before a pair of Cod found their way into the environet, confirming that Cod can’t resist a well presented surface fly. The next hit was an awesome strike from a trophy fish, right beside a submerged Willow tree. In a split second she turned for home with a fully loaded up 10wt rod and a fly line death grip, she still made it back home, deep under the Willow foliage. Once again I questioned these damn fish!, how does a fish fail to find a pair of chemically sharpened hooks, hidden under feathers and foam?
Not knowing how exactly far it was back to the ute in unfamiliar waters, we rowed for home under the light of the moon. Head torches seemed like a good idea, until we turned them on and instantly we’d be plagued by millions of light attracted bugs.  Traversing the snag filled races in darkness seemed a bit dangerous, so we parked the float boats on the gravel bank and packed the rods away, so they wouldn’t be terminated . The moment the rods hit the safety of their tubes the unmistakable sound of Cod could be herd slurping bugs off the surface.  You bastard fish!       Nick.


Cod’n Ain’t Easy

Thinking that Murray Cod on fly is your game? Hang on because it’s going to be bumpy ride!

Our latest expedition proved how temp dropping, easterly winds and foul weather can potentially blow a trip, but we’ve been in this game for a while and heading home is never an option for us. The day called for some team work, experimenting and persistence, which is pretty normal when faced with heavy cloud cover and drizzle. Surface and smaller flies where thrown in narrow, faster flowing sections and typically smaller cod are receptive to flies in these areas. Failing here, we decided to change our game plan and step up on fly size in the hope of enticing a better quality fish. Our casting remained tight and we fished confidently, prospecting every shaded structure throughout the morning. Reward was so damn sweet when finally my flyline sprang tight, a big tail swirl and thumping tail beats transferred through the fly rod. It was a nervous time as the fish fought deep, bending the Ross 10wt to its maximum. Once it hit the bottom of the environet, we were stoked with such an awesome beast. Its length of 80cm’s is quite respectable on fly gear. Over the next few hours our motivation was ramped up, raising fish as we float boated downstream. It was still tough going but there was enough to keep us in the game. Successfully targeting Murray Cod on fly always comes down to putting in the effort to reap the rewards.

The flies of choice were a combination of 6/0 Light Horseman flies and Pink Dobson’s. As the light faded, top water flies prevailed, man of the match went to Big Poppa, but getting the hook to stick was a challenge.     Nick

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Calm b4 the storm

As the winter chill begins to set in, I reflect on what a tough fishing season we’ve experienced so far. Many waterways were gripped with terminally low water levels. I can only imagine how many of our precious Murray Cod perished through the harsh ordeal.
While not all doom and gloom, we still managed to enjoy some success in ‘Cods country’.
There’s still a lot of water to explore and gear to be trialled, hopefully we can share some of our photos and videos with you.
I’ve put together a mash of pictures from several past trips.

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Serpents & Swine’s

It’s not very often I head far from home to find water, but I’ve been always keen to fish the lower Macintyre river system. John Everett was also interested in venturing to the rich broad acre cotton farming region and hopefully find a few fish.

5am road trips and country roads can sometimes involve white knuckle driving, dodging crazy kangaroos that seemed determined to inflict damage on my Toyota.

Calling into the first property, we were rewarded with a yarn and also fishing access, oh and the obligatory mud map that farmers always tend to favour.

Spotting the river gums we knew that the water wasn’t too far away, but it wasn’t going to be easy as we weaved our way through the thick mimosa bush that choked the prime grazing land.

A little unsettling was the number of black snakes sunning themselves in the morning sun. We knew we’d better keep our wits about us on this trip.

The river twisted and turned down through heavily silted sand banks. Little cod eagerly darted out from thigh deep water, pinning them with our flies wasn’t easy.

Finally we floated to a descent hole, but still the fish persisted with playing hard to get.

A black rattling clouser raised interest with not many takers. It was very frustrating when a big cod had three goes at the fly, but no hook up.

As the sun settled, we watched several feral pigs slipping down for their daily drink.

We decided to walk back upstream, to find and collect the ute. Our plan was to figure how to reach the large pool by vehicle. Somehow we worked our way through the maze of gates and Mimosa bush, back to our chosen campsite. The decision was to fish the rest of the large hole at first light.

While darkness fell, pigs grazed on previously ploughed paddocks not far from the campsite. Next morning while having breakfast we watched as a steady flow of pigs travelled from a distant cultivation, leading them right past our campsite.

Even though we worked some really prominent snag structures, the morning session remained very quiet. We decided it was time to pack the Hilux, head down the road and find the next property.

At the next farm they gave us the rock star treatment, happily showing us around and pointing out the better water. Even though the water was quite shallow, the hole looked similar to the New England water we fish regularly. Bottle brush and overhanging trees formed structures for Murray cod, which is the water we like to fish.

The cod seemed a lot more willing to strike on rattling flies. Pigs and snakes were ever present as we finned quietly upstream using our Floatboats, but we were here to fish, not hunt!

Although we struggled to encourage the bigger fish on our trip, I was assured the water held good quality fish. When the colder months arrive, I think I’ll return to the warmer Goondiwindi water with both flyrod and rifle.                   Nick

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Charming Success

How can you improve on an awesome late evening fishing session? A day when the fish really fired up and a stack of cod where landed on the fly.

Storm clouds rolled in and rain could spell disaster for the remaining few hours.

Clipping off the black fatboy fly it was time for floating flylines and topwater bugs.

To see some of the surface highlights check out the latest head cam clip, featuring an 86cm beast. According to the Fisheries handbook it would have weighed in at 13.5kgs.                   Nick


Surface Failings

There’s no bigger rush than pursuing Murray Cod on a surface fly. The anticipation and knowing, that any second, your top water bug could be detonated upon. It’s a sound that travels far across the water, instantly your mates know you’ve been ambushed.

Unfortunately a week can bring so many variables to our sensitive Murray Cod. Just last week, it was a case of having to fish the top layer or miss out on the action.

Today I found out that our native fish can quickly bring you back down to reality. Valuable light quickly faded as I struggled to raise any interest on my usually successful poppers.

Rethink time!

The “Light Horseman Fly” (a tribute to the heroic Aussie Soldiers and the Emu feathers that adorned their Slouch Hats),  it is a fly we fish with confidence, when using Intermediate sink tip fly lines.  It has several features that could also serve duty as a dual purpose fly.

  • Flymen Fish Masks provide a very slow sink rate.
  • Big Game Articulation shanks, movement and positive hook set on a static fly.
  • Reverse tied Buck tail and natural Emu feathers giving the illusion of life.
  • Front loop weed guard, we’ve popularised and perfected this awesome snag reducer.

Switching to a floating flyline I began to cover the same snag systems with Light Horseman, areas I usually reserve for a surface bug.

Most times I’d let the fly bulge the surface and sink to a maximum of around 40cm in depth.

It was nearly as much fun as surface fishing, watching fish rush up through the submerged limbs and climbing all over the snaking fly. It always pays to try new tactics and ideas when the usual techniques fail.                                 Nick

Light Horseman Light Horseman Fly Cod on Light Horseman Fly


River Redemption Pt 2

Peering through the bottlebrush we could see a promising sight, the combination of fading light and snag lined pocket water. As an experiment we chose to fish different techniques. Jason stuck with the traditional and boring sub surface flies, while I worked the surface.
I could see Jason struggling to raise interest and having no luck with the use of sub surface flies on his side of the riverbank. In total contrast I was raising a heap of fish amongst the shaded structure.
A 5/0 cod charmer was just the ticket for these little cod! A reasonably small fly, but can be fished subtly or worked hard depending on what the fish want on the day.
The hook up rate was pretty low on the day, but since they were mostly small fish it was all about the blow up.
Fishing top water is a great search tool; a lot of water can be covered in minimal time and fished ultra effectively. Nick


River Redemption (pictorial)

I’m still laughing as I reflect on last weekends trip. Finally we put together a day trip without having to sweat it out or lug a ton of gear over stupid distances. Being able to park the vehicle at the riverbank doesn’t happen often, so we really made the most of it.
I had a hunch that the minimal flow from Pindari Dam would pay dividends on a river that had been blown out, for so many months.
Our casting mojo’s had been set on “awesome”, no structure was safe from our invading flies.
We have often found that sometimes a simple temperature change can trigger a memorable bite session; this was one of those days.
This particular trip started slowly and fished without reward, by late evening we started smashing them! I don’t know what got us more excited, a 70cm cod or the pair of venomous snakes swimming through our hot zone.
Slipping into the next pool, we could see the heavily snagged pocket water that begged for top water tactics. Stay tuned for the next post and headcam clip, you’ll see why Murray Cod and surface flies are the ultimate combination. Nick

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Working Hard

Talk about a tough cod season! We have really put in some big days on the water looking for willing fish. Most times it’s been a battle to find just a handful. I guess that’s why there are so few people committed to targeting Murray Cod on fly.

Every one of our trips involves heavy packs, overgrown rivers, spills, hot temps and a whole lot of sledging. Keeping the confidence up and constantly casting tight into structure all day is tough, but with a few laughs we’re always up for the challenge.

Flies

Lately we have been taking notice of what overseas Musky fly fishermen have been getting up to. Both species of fish are very similar, lots of casts, big flies and heavy gear. The flies they use are a work of art, we’re talking articulation, thanks to the use of Big Game Articulation Shanks. Check out this clip and you’ll appreciate the similarities and dedication involved. https://vimeo.com/83142246

Tackle

Being a bit of a gear nut, I threw down $250 for a Ross 10wt 7’11” Flystik. At less than half the price of Sage’s Bass version, I never expected much for such a minimal outlay but damn I was wrong.

Both Jason and I worked the rod over after loading it up with Rio’s 10wt Outbound Short Flyline. At the end of the day, we agreed the very progressive action made difficult casts a breeze, bloody accurate too.

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Green River Run

Exploring river systems during drought conditions is never a good idea. On my latest trip, many hours were wasted in the attempt to find enough water to hold fish. Most of the bigger pools had turned a nasty green colour and the idea of inflating the float boat to enter the slime seemed crazy.
Hot, oxygen deficient water usually means tough fishing, as a rule the morning session usually provides the better results with such unforgiving conditions.
Strangely the small pools looked a little healthier and a lot less affected by the dry conditions; my main goal was to explore the river and find what fish the river held, while knowing there was so much stacked up against this particular trip.


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