In the world of flyfishing many of us tend to think of trout or maybe a tropical flats fishery rather than our native species. But this is starting to change.
As one of a series of species-specific conferences, Fisheries Victoria conducted a Murray cod based ‘Codference’ in Shepparton recently. The event, funded through the Victorian Government’s ‘Target One Million’ program, saw around 200 fishers listen to the story of Murray cod and it was both enthralling and uplifting.
Over the day, a series of presentations outlined the important indigenous connections with Murray cod and the history of the fish and fishery. The speakers also talked about habitat and flows, fish stocking, changes in regulations, better handling practices, blackwater and the affect koi herpies virus may have on Murray cod fisheries in the future.
Overall the news for Murray cod is bright. Cod populations have recovered from the lows of the 1970s, and while there is still vast room for improvement, it clear Murray cod are back.
Real highlight of the day were presentations from two of the country’s ‘Codfathers’, Rod Harrison and Rod MacKenzie. These guys are so knowledgeable about cod and cod angling and they gave participants some real insights into tips and techniques. And this is where fly comes in. Rod Harrison has been an advocate of natives on the long wand for many years, and was at the forefront of native fish sport fishing long before the growing boom in their popularity. Anyone who’s read his articles would be well aware of his love of flyfishing and his exploits chasing cod. Just before the Codference he was at a friend’s house in Shepparton looking at some new cod fly patterns – Harro continues to chase natives on the fly whenever he can.
Rod MacKenzie specialises in catching the really large river monsters. His videos, articles and talks have us in awe of these incredible creatures. While he usually uses lures, at the Codference he was explicit in expressing how effective flies could be on cod and suggested more fly anglers get out and have a crack. “They pull string.” was a memorable quote.
With the current Government’s Target One Million initiative, which aims to get more people out fishing, has come unprecedented support to invigorate recreational fishing in Victoria. The opportunities for cod fishing are only going to improve with such backing.
The increasing popularity and effectiveness of surface fishing for cod has me thinking of dusting of the old Dahlberg Divers and Rob Meade’s Gutless Frogs, but there are also an expanding variety of other patterns. And there is considerable scope to explore and create inventive new cod flies, especially with methods to make articulated patterns. One fly that Rod MacKenzie showed me was an articulated creation which was tied locally. It gave the impression of considerable bulk, but in a castable weight. Another fly mentioned was called ‘The Game Changer’ which resembles a bait fish and has a seductive natural swimming swagger.
The cod fishery seriously declined in the seventies and cod were thin on the ground. However, changes to land use, ceasing of commercial fishing, changes to regulations—such as stopping set lines and introduction of a slot length—and the development of artificial culture techniques that allowed cod for stocking, has seen a revival of this magnificent fish. Cod are now out there and available.
If the legends of the cod fishing game suggest that green fish on fly are a lot of fun, who are we to argue? It may just be the right time to dust off the old saltwater gear and go and see what the all excitement is about.