High and Low, upper Murray

I really like that after decades spent fishing the upper Murray area, there are still lots of places I haven’t fished yet. Yesterday I returned from another trip up there with Mark and Paul, and, while we spent plenty of time on familiar streams like the Swampy and the Indi, there were also sessions on cod water and trout water I’ve never fished before.

The trout spot was high up in mountains and despite mid-thirties temperatures in the valleys, it was cool enough on the hike in to wonder if a light shirt was sufficient. While I’d fished parts of this backcountry stream before, this section was totally unfamiliar. It was exhilarating to round a bend and not have the slightest idea what lay ahead. The air buzzed with every conceivable trout stream insect – many types of caddis, mayfly, damselflies, dragonflies, beetles; even giant, clumsy Dobson flies. (Mark commented that maybe up here, everything has to get on with it before the long snowy winter closes in.)

Beautiful backcountry.

The setting was perfect, and the fishing itself was good. We caught plenty of browns and rainbows from charm bracelets to two pounders. Yet inexplicably barren stretches – and glimpses of much bigger trout we didn’t catch – had us wondering just how amazing this stream might be on the right day or right hour. The walk out was too hard and complicated to stay on for the evening rise, but we all wondered about what might be revealed on dusk if you camped by the stream overnight? Next time maybe.

Mark hooked up.

Down at the new cod spot in the relatively civilised farmland valleys, arriving late afternoon and staying until dark was not a problem, with only the odd wombat hole and remnant barb-wire fence to negotiate on the short walk back to the car. The barometer had bottomed out at 1011 and it was warm, cloudy & humid, with the threat of a storm.

Putting the fly back in to the snags on cod water.

The cod hit our flies often enough. (We joked that we could add another simplistic line to the rules for this exasperating species: ‘1011, cod heaven.’) However, our hook-up rate with surface flies was, as usual, borderline pathetic! There’s a whole raft of information out there about implosion feeding, and the best ways to get a good hook-up. My best result came when the fly was just floating there a few metres away while I contemplated where to cast next. When a 60cm cod exploded on it, my surprise-delayed strike worked really well!

Got this one, but we’re still missing too many on the surface.

Fishing for trout on more familiar streams, there were no real surprises. There are some decent-sized hoppers getting on the water now (I actually saw the moment a few got eaten) and the trout were often happy to come up for a big Stimulator. When they weren’t, a couple of nymphs fished deep did the trick.

Hopper feeder.

It’s the cod I’m thinking of right now though, and how to improve that surface fly strike conversion rate. Guess I’ll have to get in some more practice…