Unknown water and sketchy weather treated us with a few surprises on our latest adventure in the search for Murray Cod, from portages in skinny water to thunderstorms, we faced it all, and still found fish in some pretty ordinary conditions.
The fish were fussy and preferred small flies, in particular a beaten-up cod snack dubbed “black death”. Surface fishing was slow but John and Craig found fish using tightly spun deer hair bugs.
The waters held quality fish and no doubt there were plenty of metre fish holding up along the larger pools, but we all agreed the smaller boulder and willow lined sections had an abundance of cod eager to eat our flies. Nick
Murray cod by nature are an aggressive species. Typically it’s not too hard to provoke a fish into striking a fly if it’s put in the right area.
During the warmer months, water temps raise to the mid-twenties and active fish tend to hang high up in the water column, waiting for an easy feed.
If you can find a quiet stretch of river that has a combination of narrow, flowing water (or as I like to call it ‘Gun and Run” water, there’s going to be happy times ahead, unfortunately during the colder months, I’ve found the fish in our rivers tend to slow down and become less aggressive.
New England winter water temps can hover around 8 degrees and even colder in some rivers and creeks.
I’ve definitely had more success with very slow presentations and minimal fly movement when it’s in the strike zone, during the winter. I look for a fly with enough weight so when it lands it sinks vertically and not slide away from the structure, having the patience to allow the fly to sink deep and very little fly input takes some doing, but after a few winter fish you’ll appreciate the reward of fishing the colder months. Nick
Slowly the sun fades below the river gums, its harsh light replaced by an eerie darkness. The occasional squawk from a late roosting cockatoo can be heard as it settles for the night. In the distance a farmer’s dog is letting his owner know its tucker time with a series of vivacious barks. Even the hum of a single but annoying mosquito seems amplified as it searches for blood.
The inadequacy of human eyesight soon becomes apparent and without the aid of a headlamp, life becomes clumsy. Salvation from embarrassment comes soon enough in the form of a rising moon.
Finally casts start to search for hungry cod, life is good right about now.
A different dimension exists when fishing at night, senses such as hearing are heightened to new levels. Elevated heart rate caused from unfamiliar sounds and cod detonations is certainly guaranteed.
If your easily spooked or of a nervous nature, fishing under the stars mightn’t be for you, since many creatures forage and flocks by the river banks. My advice is to man up and try it.
*Whether fishing from canoe, kayak, or float boat, store extra clothing in a dry bag. I like to pack polypropylene pants, jumper, beanie and a buff to cover exposed skin in the cooler months. Keeping a spare set of clothes in your vehicle is also a good practise, just in case of an emergency.
*Using a LED headlamp that features a red lamp to alleviate being swarmed by insects.
*I rely on three types of poppers, all feature weedguards and don’t be afraid to experiment with trailing and tandem hooks. 1) Loud bloopy style featuring large cup face. 2) Slider type, eg Big poppa. 3) Gurgler style.
*Concentrate casts towards structure, in particular weed edges. I find the head and tails of the pools to be the most productive areas.
*Anywhere from half-moon onwards is an ideal time to fish at night, I like to be on the water at least a few hours before the moon comes up. Alternate from the shaded side of river to moonlit to find if the fish have a preference.
*Mix up retrieves from a quick pace to slow steady strips with long pauses, most times the strike will come within the first metre. Nick
John Everett and I had been eyeing off the abundant and very healthy water on the eastern side of the range. We researched a stretch of river that could be easily covered in our float boats with enough white water to make things interesting, but the chance to tussle with the resident Bass and Eastern cod made the threat of capsize worth it.
*3am, when most are in bed we start heading east to catch a beast.
*The fishing was tough, but as a fly only option it was obvious that express sink flylines and weighted flies should be in the kit.
*Kayaking is one serious Olympic sport, but they don’t carry expensive rods and camera gear, so we portaged the nasty ones and lived another day.
*Light fading and food failures: we sacrificed some fishing real estate to reach a boulder ridden gorge section with a hunch fishing top water under moonlight would be where it’s at.
*Discovered that dehydrated soy teriyaki and John’s gluggy rice should be dished up with a warning label attached.
*Thank you Mr Bass and Goodoo, brought a little size 1/0 foam gurgler to the late night party and you all came out to eat it. By 1.30am we head back to our 5 star hiking tents.
*During the daylight hours we covered the kilometres and cursed a heap of cruising Cod, damn things weren’t interested in our flies!
*Plenty of potential for the adventurous angler, but being scared of the dark or too fond of the sleeping bag will rob you of fish and good times.
*Photos taken by Nick & John.
Strange header but it’s what best describes some of our latest stupid tactics in the hope of tricking a Murray cod. Kamikaze fishing is reckless, dangerous, scary, exhausting and thirsty work, but it’s also awesome fun.
How do you know if your fishing style constitutes this crazy behaviour, or adventure share any of these basic elements welcome to the “kamikaze club”.
- When most are going to bed, we’re rigging up to hit the water.
- Trekking in at night during the full moon, tripping over rocks and fencing wire, but don’t warn your mate of the impending obstacles because it’s funny watching them fall.
- Having head torches at night but don’t use them ‘cause that’s too safe.
- Float boating at night during a cold snap dressed in t-shirt and shorts, plain stupid!
- Prolonged fatigue from days of fishing during blistering heat.
- Carting in heavy/ expensive watercraft, but there’s not enough water to actually use it.
- Fishing prime cod water with big flies, but you catch turtles instead, strangely you still enjoy the battle.
- The body’s reaction after entering the two metre exclusion zone around a venomous snake.
- Painful repetitive casting of big flies for hours waiting for that big cod intervention then forget the basics and trout strike.
- The constant stench of regurgated crustations, fish and mice remnants in your lap from fat murray cod.
- Not having your thumb shredded by cod disappoints you.
- Knowing you have kilometres of trekking ahead of you, but no drinking water.
- Counting steps and not kilometres on those heavy laden hiking out trips.
- When blistering summer heat almost kills you, but stupidly you can’t wait to head out and do it again.
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.
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
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.