I always get nervous when people join me for a fishing session, knowing that unstable weather can wreak havoc on our native fish. John Everett would be arriving today just as the condition where forecasted to turn ugly, afternoon storms could make this trip difficult.
With very little flat camping ground on offer, we selected an area that would be easier for us to drive out of if it decided to rain.
Inflating our water striders we ventured upstream into the “Bronx” area, so overgrown with bottlebrush its bloody dangerous for rod tips and a real nightmare for casting. Usually it’s a productive area, except for one cod that smashed a bendy roller popper, it was extremely quiet. I had my suspicions the low river levels may contributed to our steady progress. Working back downstream, we searched for deeper water with hopefully a little less weed to contend with.
When John opted for a modified Dobson fly, things started to happen for him. The fish where beautifully conditioned and very fit, problem was they were never really ‘on the bite’ it was a case of being patient and keep casts in the zone.
There were a lot of slow patches during the day, for an hour or so things would go quiet. Concentrating through these patches was tough, often our casting mojo would be lost and end up firing casts into overhanging foliage.
By 4:30pm clouds started to roll in, signalling things could get rough very soon. The faint sound of thunder confirmed what was about to head our way, what happened during the next hour was crazy fishing. All of a sudden we were both busy into fish. When John found himself connected to an absolute animal, I finned over and watched the battle unfold. The fish forced the Largemouth Bass rod into ridiculous bends with every powerful surge. Netting the fish wasn’t easy considering its bulk at 87cms it was totally out of proportion to its length, unfortunately for John It regurgitated most of its stomach and bowel contents over his new boat, what a horrendous smell. I quickly snapped some photos and left John with it.
Flashes of lightening indicated this incredible late session may come to an abrupt end, simply for life preservation. Out of curiosity we changed to floating fly lines and surface poppers.
John could do no wrong and next cast he witnesses the most aggressive surface strike imaginable. The big cods head breached clear out of the water, even from the other side of the river the strike sounded impressive. The fight was a letdown, but who’s complaining when an 85cm cod takes a surface fly like that. Unfortunately Johns luck ran out minutes later when a cod decided to steal his only articulated popper. The bad run continued when the storm finally caught up with us, producing a very sudden downpour. Forced back to camp, we prepared for the barrage of storms that was heading our way. The sudden temperature drop indicated that hail wasn’t too far away.
In the morning the cooler water temps really put a dampener on things. John worked his surface fly incredibly slow and managed to find an aggressive cod on duty. I found a cod hiding deep in the undergrowth, which abruptly stole my popper. By lunch things warmed up and we continued to add to the tally of the fish. John lucky streak continued when I found his missing popper, floating amongst a cluster of floating weed.
Arriving at a very reliable snag, I encouraged John to put a fly deep into the centre of the mallee. As if on cue the snag produced a fish, unfortunately it quickly managed to stitch him up within seconds, very funny stuff.
Once again, cloud and strong wind rolled in early, this time it looked we were about to receive some really bad news. The decision was made to head home early.
John really honed his skills over the weekend and between us we landed 16 Murray cod on fly, in pretty ordinary conditions. Nick
I often forget how effective surface fishing for Murray Cod can be, our rivers in the New England has some of the most consistent top water fishing available. When conditions turned cloudy on one of our latest trips, I took the gamble and chose to fish the surface. (Check out some of the highlights from the day’s effort we captured using a Vio headcam). Jason typically played it safe and stuck with his lovingly constructed sub surface patterns, which contained very minimal flash material. Fishing together, our game plan involved peppering casts under blossoming callistemon trees. This would give the fish the option of taking either of our flies, but I prefer to view the strike from a Cod. During the day many of the surface strikes failed to connect, on many occasions they’d managed to somehow to doge that ultra sharp hook point. By around midday the sun broke through the clouds and revealed the true clarity of the river. From this point on things quietened down, we had to rely on throwing subsurface flies in order to get the bite. Jason was tallying up a steady number of fish on a 6/0 olive emu huntsman fly, while I flavoured a lightly weighted rust brown/black coloured Mega Dobson. We discovered many of the Cod were laid up under the midstream boulders/rock bars, due to the super clear water the best option was to nymph fish our flies along the most promising areas. Most times they’d attack the helpless dead drifted fly; otherwise it was a case of imparting a few small twitches to encourage a strike. It was truly remarkable day with an estimated 20-25 cod on fly.
Jason flavoured a Scott s4s 8ft 10wt fly rod, while I used a Hard Core Elements 10wt, 8ft custom native specs flyrod. Both rods were kitted out with RIO Outbound Short floating/inter sink tip flylines. Nick
Don’t let anyone tell you cod fishing is glamorous, it’s far from it! Usually it involves a lot of sweat, fatigue and plain hard work. Our latest overnight trip was one of the most gruelling adventures we’ve experienced.
Typically, trekkers plan their trips down to every intricate detail; I’m not one of them. If Jason only knew that I was still deciding which direction we’d be heading to in the morning, he’d probably take over as trip co-ordinator.
Next morning we reached the river, instantly we were blown away by the rugged, brutal landscape and water clarity. Spotting cruising cod was kind of fun, but boy they were spooky! We had to have a total rethink of tactics to fish this water; it was a case of dredging fly’s in the deep gorge channels.
By three o’clock we reached the end of the longest pool, deep water was replaced with more familiar banks. Callistemon trees and snags lined the water’s edge, cicadas droned noisily from the overhanging she oaks. Better still the sun was setting behind the hills and it was getting quite dark. This was the time to see if they’d respond to a surface fly. Respond they did! The 50 metre tail section of the pool, was a surface smashing arena. I landed 7 cod and had so many failed hook ups I stopped counting. Meanwhile Jason had worked his way downstream, into classic nursery water, baby cod smashed his 4/0 big poppa well into the darkness. With the aid of headlamps we made it back to our Hilton Hotel bush accommodation.
Camping and sleeping don’t really mix to well for me; I suspect I might have some sort of sleeping disorder and at 3am the sounds of cod smashing surface, lured me back onto the water. Surface fishing at night is something I haven’t trialled many times in the past. Having a ¾ moon overhead, visibility was okay and most casts somehow landed on the water. From now on, that’s all going to change after that mad surface bite. The cod ranged from small to very small, but what a session!
Packing the Floatboats we progressed through a heavily timbered and beautiful deep gorge, fishing was a patience game using slow inter sink tip flylines. Possibly express sink flylines may have helped the situation, we’ll find out next time! Jason opted for smaller subtle flys. This seemed to be the key for these timid granite gorge cod.
With time getting away, the river dropped abruptly into a steep rock lined gorge, we parked the boats and climbed high up on the rocks to get a better view of the surroundings. Things turned hectic when we spotted a 1mtr+ cod cruising the water’s edge, we could see multiple cod in this pool as well as numerous catfish guarding their nests. Jason slid frantically down the rocky bank with flyrod in hand, while I called the shots from high above. Unfortunately our mythical big cod disappeared into the depths, undeterred we spent several hours sight casting and catching these cruising cod. Leaving this special place was very difficult; managing this while hauling heavy backpacks up so many steep hills was a chore. Doing it during the blazing midday heat was painful. It doesn’t matter how much hardship we endure on these trips, we’ll always go back! Nick