Flyfishing for Australian Murray Cod

Posts tagged “Fly fishing

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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

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.


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.


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Dry Times

Travelling anglers heading to the New England region will be a little disappointed with the state of some of our waterways, due to the lack of descent rainfall, our rivers are loaded full of weed. Pindari Dam has once again started to release thousands of mega litres per day of cold water, straight from the bottom of the dam. We all know what our native fish think of sudden cold water flushes!
Finding time to fish has been pretty tough at the moment, but as time permits there will be a steady stream of trip reports to keep everyone updated. Nick

Winter Time Blues

I was going through the motions at work, when I received a text from John Everett. It seems both of us were suffering from winter time blues. Months of no fishing had taken a toll on us, but it was about to be cured.
Using float boats during the cooler months relies on thermal clothing, waders and a little luck. Often prime bite times occur around midday, so there’s no need for extremely early starts.
Hitting the water around 8:30am we soon discovered that our casting required a little honing before our flies started to hit the mark.
In the weedy shallows several large orange carp nervously cruised about. A beat up 6/0 orange Fatboy fly would perfectly match the cod’s natural prey.
The first hole was a fizzer even though we were getting our casting together by now. Embarrassingly the first cod strike I somehow managed to blow completely, I blamed the cold water temps for dulling the senses.
Thrashing our way down through the overgrown shallows, we finally reached the following pool and immediately found a nice cod tucked away in the current. The take was very different than the usual cod strike, after several metres of following the fly, finally the fish responded to a static fly presentation. Encouraged we worked our way into some prime water, the warming rays of the sun really helped to build up our enthusiasm.
During the next hour we found many aggressive fish with our flies, but unfortunately pulled the hooks on every single one. It has been one of the problems associated with the Fatboy fly.
All the earlier morning woes were soon forgotten, when I managed to sight cast at a very healthy 80cm cod, which was hidden amongst the bottlebrushes. The bite slowly tapered off for some reason during the afternoon, even though the deeper water and its numerous snags looked impressive. John restored the faith with a 78cm cod, on one of Virty’s Kaos Cod Flys.
Landing eight Murray Cod on fly for the day made putting up with the cold and leaking waders all worthwhile.
Tackle used – Sage Largemouth Bass rod, RIO outbound short 375gr float/ inter sink tip flyline, Kaos 10wt fly reels. Nick

Easter Action

It’s funny how old favourite flies can fall to the way side, to a point that they’re now totally forgotten. Back in the early days if the river had the slightest hint of colour, it was all about the Rattling Clouser/ Rouser. In particular, rivers such as the Dumaresq river, located on the Qld/ NSW border, the combination of flash and audible rattle wreaked havoc on so many of the resident cod.
Over time we stepped away from the use of rock sensitive rattles, concentrating our time on designing a simple, functional weed guard, with the reliance of natural fibres to create highly effective flies.
Looking back through my old fly boxes, I was drawn to the assortment of 4/0 Rattling Clousers, a fly that had bought me so much success in the past.
Knowing that the fishing in our rivers has been pretty tough going lately, I had my suspicion that this could be the fly to unlock these shut down Murray Cod. And indeed it did. So don’t be afraid to get reacquainted with your old favourite flies because chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Nick

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Changing Seasons

Easter is fast approaching and travelling anglers will find the next few months pretty tough going in the New England. Willow and Honey Locust Trees are beginning to shed their leaves at this time of year, indicating that the nights are starting to cool down and murray cod will become less active.
In order to succeed during these colder months, just remember to slow your fly presentation down and always fish with confidence. On our recent fly fishing trip we gathered enough footage to put together a short clip. Nick

Dusk & Dawn

As the sun dips below the river gums, Galahs and Cockatoos take the opportunity to have the last sip of water, many have already settled down for the night in the tree tops.
It’s the time when Murray Cod feel comfortable leaving their snaggy lairs and go on the attack, seeking food from above and below the water line.
The pinnacle of Cod fishing for me is that last magical hour of light, with floating fly lines and large surface flies at the ready. Unfortunately over the years I’ve also been on the receiving end of some monumental wipe outs from big fish during these times. Perhaps the biggest heartache when fishing surface flies has been the amount of hook set failures encountered, particularly when using large foam patterns.
Many of my recent evening sessions, I’ve been trialling new fly/hook concepts in the hope of improving hook up rates.
Articulated flies are nothing new overseas; in fact many steelhead, salmon, pike and trophy brown trout fisherman have been twisting them up for years. Except for pelagic fishing, their use has been nearly none existent here in Australia. Some of the benefits of using tandem flies are:
1) Extra swinging hook for increased hook up rate
2) The ability to create larger profile flies
3) Weighted subsurface flies have increased undulation motion
4) Surface flies inherit a snake like swimming motion
The Big Poppa fly created by James Nicholson in Victoria, is one of my favourite top water flies for Murray Cod. It generates the most seductive sound and it has a real knack of taking fish under many varied conditions.
The Bendy Roller Popper and the Big Poppa both share a similar problem, a dismal hook up rate! Jason pleaded for a total fly reform, starting with a treatment of articulation. So far the mods have exceeded expectations and produced a deadly top water fly for Cod. Mono loop weed guards fitted on both hooks help maintain its snag resistance, which is an invaluable feature for the rivers fished around the New England.

The Big Poppa
Hook – Gamakatsu B10s 1/0 rear, Owner 5/0 spinnerbait front
35lb plastic coated wire trace, 2 plastic beads, thread wrapped and glued
Body – Large Krystal Hackle rear hook, rabbit zonker front
2mm sheet foam – 15mm width rear, 20mm width front
Tail – arctic fox tail
Flash – blended Sparkleflash
Weed guard – 60lb Rio heavy mono shock tippet rear, 80lb front.
3D eyes – apply clear cure goo, then coated with head cement

For more fly tying inspiration try the following links.