Ever since I first heard about Murray cod, I’ve been fascinated by them: an unusually large, predatory freshwater fish, unique to Australia.
Cam McGregor from River Escapes is one of the most experienced flyfishing guides around when it comes to Murray cod and I considered myself lucky to line up an opportunity to fish with him. As we were organising dates during the cod closed season, Cam hadn’t fished the area we planned to visit for a while – and knowing there had been bushfire damage several months earlier didn’t help with destination decisions. But with time on our side, we made a rough plan, keeping our options open so we could make a quick switch if we had to.
I had very little dedicated cod flyfishing gear and so I started talking with Andrew at The Flyfisher about putting together a decent setup. We had a good look around to see what new gear was available and for a rod, eventually settled on Vision’s Big Daddy Ti in a 9 weight. I paired the rod with an Orvis Hydros reel and Scientific Anglers Titan Sink Tip line. I knew Cam had me covered for flies, so I was soon set and ready to go.
A few weeks before the trip, Cam sent a big box of McGregor cod flies to The Flyfisher. As a ‘trouty’, it was exciting to see the sheer size and unique designs Cam has developed for these incredible fish.
I left work at The Flyfisher early Thursday afternoon, still lacking the final word from Cam on where I would be staying that night! I headed home, packed all my camping and fishing gear, and set off. After about an hour on the road, Cam sent me text with a dropped pin where I should camp, and where we’d be launching the raft at 7am the next morning.
Cam arrived at camp as promised and we got the raft launched. We started the morning fishing on the surface using a fly Cam calls the Dinner Bell. We also used another called Cam’s Critter, a surface-walking fly. It was a quiet first morning, with only one boil, but seeing that was more than enough to keep me focused.
We fished the rest of the morning and early afternoon using subsurface flies – more of Cam’s originals. About 5pm, we drifted into a shallow run. There was a rock wall on the other side, so I put a cast right up hard against it so the fly bounced down along the rocks. A cod came out and had a look at the fly but didn’t commit. I quickly picked up and delivered another cast to the same spot. This time, about halfway back to the boat, the fly got smashed and I was on!
This had to be the biggest hit I’ve ever felt from a freshwater fish, and the subsequent fight took me by surprise. The cod went a lot harder than I was expecting and was clearly in great condition. Soon it was in the net and had calmed down for a few photos before release. I was so pleased to catch one of these magnificent fish on the fly, but I was intent on getting another! As it turned out, it wasn’t to be that day, so eventually we headed back to our motel for a meal, cold beer and a bed for the night.
The next day at 5am, we started our drift from the exit point of the previous day, giving us a new 8.5 kilometres of river. We used surface poppers at first, but with no luck, I changed to Cam’s subsurface Yowie. We dropped anchor and I threw the Yowie overboard while we tried to untangle a mess of fly-line which had miraculously formed around bags and boxes in the boat. While we were doing all this, the line suddenly went tight: a cod had eaten the fly as it dangled in the water! During the commotion, the line got caught around Cam’s fingers, but once it was clear, I was in for a fight. This cod seemed to pull three times harder than the first one but it stayed on, and soon Cam could drift into the shallows where I could land it and get a few pictures.
It felt great to get a cod so early in the day, albeit a fluke! Pressure off, we continued with the Yowie for a couple more hours, before deciding to go to a full sinking line and a slightly different pattern. This brought a few takes which I missed, but I was still optimistic I could land another.
We came to a small run adjacent to some rocks. I threw the fly into a pocket of still water on the other side, and as soon as the fly landed, a cod came up and smashed it, although unfortunately it didn’t stay connected. I cast back into the same spot several times, but the fish was gone. Bloody exciting though, and it kept me revved up for the rest of the day.
At one point, we were drifting through a prime piece of river with plenty of timber and rocks on my left. I noticed a snag sticking out of the water and placed a cast so the fly drifted beneath where the snag angled under the surface. The line went tight as if I was snagged, yet I struck just in case… and I was on again! This time, it was a smaller cod which came to the net. We anchored up under some willows for pictures and a release video.
The drift ended soon after, and as we loaded up the boat, I was already recalling an amazing two days of fishing. I got my first Murray cod on the fly, and learnt so much from Cam as we talked fisheries management, working in the industry, and all things flyfishing and cod.
Having been fixated by trout for so long, it’s nice to chase a new species with new challenges. I will definitely be back and I’m looking forward to booking another trip with Cam.
For more info on the flash new Vision Big Daddy Ti CLICK HERE
For more info and to get in touch with Cam at River Escapes CLICK HERE