|  First Published: June 2011

Murray cod are well entrenched in the fresh water sport fishing scene these days but there’s not a great deal written about fooling them with flies; they aren’t that hard to fool either if one makes the effort. I’m not saying that a fly will outfish a lure but it’s certainly an effective and enjoyable method if you are keen to try it.

The right conditions

The upland waters of southern Queensland’s border area and northern New South Wales are ideal areas for the fly angler in search of a cod. Murray Cod are known to be fussy biters at times, so patience and persistence is a must.

If the water has around 40cm of visibility and is not receding rapidly from flood conditions the fly should score. Be sure to time your trip; cod are apex predators and are most active at times of low light. Daylight, dusk or a cloudy day all are good conditions. Cooling water at this time of year won’t put cod off the chew at all as long as the other conditions are right.

Murray cod have a strong liking for cover so to look for decent structure when plying the fly. Likely hot spots are steep banks with a few obvious snags, some standing timber or perhaps bushes growing into the water. The idea is to try several different approaches or angles on each feature because cod don’t always attack straight away. A boil or swirl at a particular spot should be memorized and the area tried again a little later or from another approach.

Other hot spots are tail out areas or heads of pools where the water is narrower. This condenses food items and makes it easier to come by. A bit of flow in a stream won’t put cod off at all, they always find a rock or other obstruction to break the current flow and make them comfortable but as food comes by it’s sucked up quickly in that wide mouth.


Selecting the right rod is essential for cod flyfishing. I suggest at least an 8wt in case you jag a good sized cod. This weighted rod is also handy to move the bigger flies need for cod fishing; most are 3/0-4/0 hooks with a body size to match.

Flies don’t have rattles or whirling blades to attract attention and rely solely on size and colour to succeed. Besides cod eat big things; turtles, water rats, large yabbies, other fish, so a big fly is an attractive food item for them.

An intermediate sink line is handy for general purpose use and a floating line set up with a surface action fly works well at first light or dusk. Leader length should be a little less than rod length for convenience. A tippet of 10kg will handle most cod on the long rod but be aware that their fine teeth are quite abrasive.

Suitable flies for sub surface work include large Clousers, Deceivers, and any home spun derivatives thereof, all on 3/0 hooks. Cod seem to like gaudy flies so I tie my big Deceivers in a multitude of colours; same as I do for barra. Colour combos such as Gold/black, Red/black or Gold/white, Red/ white are all worth trying.

Working the fly

Sub surface flies should be worked back in small, 15cm strips with the rod tip in the water to avoid any slack whatsoever. If the water is snag filled, try to avoid losing flies continually by working a wet fly on a floating line and allowing the leader to sink prior to commencing the strips. Murray cod tend to take the bait with a solid whack without warning. Very fun stuff.

For surface work it’s hard to go past the Gartside Gurgler. This fly is very easily tied and is dynamite on cod when they are in the mood to feed. Gamakatsu SL12S hooks have the ideal shape for this fly. The Gartside Gurgler pre-formed bodies can be purchased at tackle stores outlets where fly fishing tackle is sold.

The colour won’t matter greatly. I’ve tried Gartsides in all sorts of colours and they all seem to attract fish. Working them does requires a bit of cunning; the idea being to allow the fly to sit for a few seconds after it hits the drink and then give it a couple of twitches so it wriggles energetically. As soon as the ripples subside completely the next set of twitches are commenced. If a cod homes in on the disturbance it usually won’t take long to see him snapping at the fly.

Don’t rush the take; allow the cod to take the fly properly in its mouth before setting the hook with a solid strip-strike. Lifting the rod is pretty useless as a strike. Most times the fish will be missed.

It doesn’t sound so hard, now, does it? Just remember that perseverance pays with these fish as they can be very obliging one day and quite stubborn the next.

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