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.
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.
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.