Success: Cod on fly

Catching a cod on fly has been on the agenda for me for a while now. After a few unsuccessful trips last year, I finally managed to find a free day over the weekend.

Nick picked me up at some ungodly hour and we made our way out of Melbourne heading to a stream we had heard may hold some cod. Macca, a friend from Albury met us there. As we walked down to the stream the sun began to poke its head over the horizon, a soft drizzle softening the light. It just felt “right”.

What greeted us as we started fishing was a small slow flowing stream. No more than 4-6 meters wide in most places. Fallen trees, branches and timber criss-crossed the stream. Big root balls extended into the water. Abundant cover for the cod we hoped called this little stretch of water home. Although the stream wasn’t wide, it was deep. We all found ourselves swimming in water well above our heads at times retrieving snagged lures and flies. So while it was small, it looked like we had made a good choice, that this was indeed good cod habitat. Deep and full of cover.

Nick prospecting some likely looking water
Nick prospecting some likely looking water towards the end of the “good” section

It wasn’t long before our suspicions were confirmed. As we each fished separately, me and Macca heard a yell and came running to find Nick with a lovely little cod. We all admired the gorgeous little fish and watch it happily swim off a few seconds later. A little further up it was my turn. As a cast a gurgler at a likely bit of timber, a little cod came and sipped it off the surface. I set the hook and it made a run back towards the snag and the hook pulled. Frustrated I cast back at the snag. Without hesitation the little fish had another go but this time I missed the hook set. I kept casting hoping that it would be third time lucky. As I was about to give up Macca walked past and piped up. “Be persistent, you’ll get him. Just keep casting”. Fifteen or twenty cast after missing the second hit, Maccas words proved true. As my gurgler sat stationary under the branch, the little cod sipped it off the surface. This time the hook stayed put and soon I was cradling a little cod in my hands. Sweet sweet success. I quickly rushed off a couple of photos, but in my excited state, in my rush to get it back in the water as quickly as possible, I didn’t take much care getting a good shot. At the moment it didn’t matter.

Shit selfies. What happens when you are over excited and fixated on the release...
Shit selfies. What happens when you are over excited and fixated on the release…

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Next it was Maccas turn. Over the morning he had missed more fish than us, but had failed to make a hook stick. Eventually it happened though. One fish each. Not bad. Not bad.

We continued making our way up the creek. Sadly though, the narrow deep stream full of cover changed in character dramatically as we progressed. While the section we had started fishing was fenced off from stock, with good riparian vegetation extending 10-30 meters from the river bank, further up that wasn’t the case. Stock had ready access to the stream and there was little riparian vegetation to speak of apart from the odd Eucalypt and a few stray willows. There was still plenty of cover in the form of logs and branches, but that was about the only similarity. Instead of the deep narrow channel we had been fishing earlier, the river was now shallow. Clogged with silt and much much wider as a result. Most of the river was now no deeper than a couple of feet. In each long shallow pool were a multitude of carp. We kept fishing but the good cod habitat was gone. We didn’t catch another fish. It was a bitter sweet end to a very fun little session. Fish need habitat. Take that away and the fish go with it. If we want to restore populations of these iconic native fish, protecting the good habitat that is there and restoring degraded sections of stream like the one we found ourselves on needs to be a priority.

On a more positive note. I’m looking forward to getting out there again. Chasing cod on the fly rod is a challenge I can’t wait to begin to master. I’ve got a long way to go, there is so much to learn. Thankfully, there are so many rivers I am itching to explore on which to do it. One of the best bits of the day was the realisation that rivers I’d once driven past unthinkingly now had “potential”. In a matter of moments, they had changed from rivers I wouldn’t think about fishing to potentially being the backdrop to my next adventure. That alone it pretty cool.

Cheers

Hamish

flickandflyjournal.com

Hamish Webb, Dan Firth, Graham Fifield and Lee Georgeson have been fishing the south-east Australian region since 1987. Since then they’ve become avid sportfishermen who are constantly looking for new ways to challenge themselves. They are all scientists and conservationists who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem in which they live. They promote understanding and appreciation of the complex socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding fish, fishing and fisheries, while never losing sight of the various motivations that keep them coming back. In English, that means they love all things fishing and have a damn good time on the water, and that’s all that really counts in the end!

4 thoughts on “Success: Cod on fly

  • February 10, 2015 at 3:48 pm
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    It is an outrage what the vast majority of farmers do to our rivers and streams. They know flogging their banks with sheep and cattle is the wrong thing to do, but they just don’t give a shit and do it anyway.

    Makes a mockery of statements from the National Farmers’ Federation that farmers “are good environmental managers”. No, the majority bloody well are not.

    Reply
    • February 10, 2015 at 5:17 pm
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      Completely agree that allowing stock access to rivers and streams isn’t really acceptable. Especially not now.

      Through my PhD, I’ve worked with a lot of farmers. Most of the ones I’ve worked with (which to be fair are a self selected group that are potentially more conscientious) are good managers of their land who do the right thing. There are obviously a lot of others that don’t, which is definitely sad. I think if we want real movement on this though, it really has to come through policy and support for programs such as landcare, greening australia etc etc etc. Increased funding for stream-side regeneration, off stream watering and fencing stock out of rivers is definitely needed. It is a big issue and one we can’t expect cash poor farmers to fix completely off their own bat. They do need support and most likely a lot more of it.

      That doesn’t make degraded habitat any better. The saddest thing about Sunday was having the contrast between “good” habitat and “poor” habitat so starkly illustrated in a relatively short distance. It was so immediately obvious what we have lost in a lot of these areas. Its was not just the fish. The good section was just so much nicer to be in in almost every way.

      Cheers
      Hamish

      Reply
  • February 16, 2015 at 10:35 pm
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    I agree that in criticising the majority of farmers, it seems unfair to the minority which are doing the right thing, and the “minority-minority” who are truly inspirational.

    But you only have to drive, well, pretty much anywhere, and see cattle and sheep flogging streams everywhere you go, to see the majority of farmers are still doing the wrong thing.

    And I’m getting pretty irate about it.

    But I do agree, we could wait for the cows to come home for much of the farming community to voluntarily stop it/do anything about it.

    Clearly, we need a concerted government push, and hefty funding, to finally get those bloody cattle and sheep off our god-damn river banks.

    Reply
    • February 17, 2015 at 10:55 am
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      I can agree with that 🙂

      Restoring riparian vegetation and our creeks and rivers really needs to be a priority. The damage that has been done to date is pretty horrible to witness. A far bigger effort does need to be made to right some of those wrongs and restore those habitats to something that at least bares a faint resemblance to what those habitats were once like

      Cheers
      Hamish

      Reply

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