Murray cod on surface fly
  |  First Published: December 2012

My Murray cod flyfishing ambition is to educate lure casters and trout fly fishers to this wonderful branch of our sport.

In this article I’ll give you the basic rundown on what you’ll need to start targeting Murray cod on fly.

The recommendations on fly equipment are what I use but there is more than enough tackle out there that will suit your budget and taste.

After little more finesse? Throwing surface lures with a baitcaster or threadline casting small and big lures is one typical way, but the next-best and effective way is by fly. The excitement, joy and the thrill of flyfishing are amazing.

The commotion on the water from the cod smashing your fly to the havoc in the boat getting your backing line on and fight the fish is heart-stopping, to say the least.

It might sound obvious but flyfishing for Murray cod isn’t the same as for trout. Rods, reels, line and flies are much bigger. You can make a bit on noise with the fly hitting the water and cover more water on a lake or the river as you cast at every nook and cranny!


I use several set ups for chasing cod, ranging from 8Wt to 10Wt. My preferred 8Wt is an 8’ rod with a 900mm-1m 20lb mono leader connected to the floating fly line with a braided loop knot. It’s one of the strongest connections you’ll find and a smooth knot to go through the guides on the rod.

With a 10Wt set-up, I often use 30lb-60lb mono. My better 10Wt outfit is an 8’6”, spooled again with floating line with that braided loop knot connection.

When connecting the fly line to the backing I recommend a nail knot, which is easy to tie and very strong.

When attaching the fly to the leader there are two simple ways, a clinch knot or full blood and an all-time favourite, a loop knot. Both are very effective for different styles of fishing.

Casting a full fly line isn’t necessary; this is where trout and much other flyfishing diverge. Delicate line placement is not needed; a rougher approach is fine. The normal casting distance is 5m-10m, sometimes 15m; perhaps more will be required depending if you are in a boat or on the bank.


I call ‘false cast teasers’ disturbing the surface with false casts up to 4-5 times as the fly smacks the surface before resting in place. Barramundi anglers will know exactly what I mean. This style works well with any fly, such as a Deceiver, streamer or surface fly: most Murray cod will find it irresistible.

Our flies are designed to intimidate the fish, annoying it into striking. Similar to the fish itself, flyfishing for Murray cod requires aggression. This is why these tactics work.

While surface fishing you’re imitating a frog, moth, mouse or any sort of insect or a small bird that may have landed on the water. Injured or not, that’s what we are trying to imitate to lure that magic surface strike.

Flies such as the 200mm Kaos Codzooka with its 30mm diameter cupped face provoke some awesome strikes. Use a clinch knot and twitch them slowly and you’ll see fly dart off left and right. Move the fly only short distances, then pause and then repeat with more twitches. Stripping the line back this way gives the fly the motion of an injured mouse or a frog.

Quick strips in a straight line may resemble a frog on the water trying to get back to a safe place. With this retrieve you’ll need to tie the fly on with a loop knot.

These techniques work best with a floating line but can have a similar effect using an intermediate line.

The best set-up is to use a floating line with mono leader. The mono leader sinks enough so when the line is stripped quickly, the fly will naturally go under the surface and make a blooping noise. Once you have stopped it will resurface like a small injured mouse as it tries to gasp for air.

Well-tied surface flies leave a bubble trail behind with this technique. With floating line it won’t be as big as if it were stripped with an intermediate line.

Fishing surface flies hard up against the bank in 30cm-40cm of water is a blast; the strike is instant, with the cod attacking as soon as the fly hits the water. It’s like a shotgun blast ringing though your ears or the commotion of a crocodile dragging a deer into the water.

On many occasions I have seen the dorsal fin of a Murray cod in the shallows chasing baitfish or waiting for that unfortunate frog to leap into the water. Vibrations, movement and noise on the water are what the cod is after, not a huge racket but enough to get the fish’s attention to make him interested.

Time of day

Evenings and into the early hours of the morning are great times to give surface fishing a go. However, some people have had success in daylight hours.

Calm water with no wind, not even a ripple, makes for exciting surface fishing. A balmy night after a hot day will bring on topwater activity, after the cod have been lying low and relaxing for most of the day.

Summer is when cod are most aggressive on the surface and anything that might land in striking range will get nailed.

I’ve had many years of hit-and-miss nights on the water but now I’ve learned what I need to do in the Summer, it’s a whole new ball game.


When it comes to Winter it’s all different. Conditions such as the barometer, daytime temperature, wind direction and moon phases all have influences. I like a falling barometer and I try to hit the water at its lowest point. I also like about 3-4 days before a full moon.

Another key element is moonrise and moonset. If you have the opportunity to schedule your fishing session around all these factors then the next time on the water I think you’ll have the best chance of landing that big greenback.

Being a 100% accurate caster is not necessary. Murray cod react with lighting speed over a short distance. A metre either side of the structure will entice a strike – but no more than that.

Repetitive casting at the same spot will give you another chance to raise a hit by giving yourself a chance at casting the fly closer.

Colours and styles of flies to cast will depend on the day, just as it would if you were casting spinnerbaits; it’s the same principle.

Local knowledge is paramount; any information about the location you’re going to fish is very valuable. For example, if anglers tell you they had success casting spinnerbaits in particular colours, then the same colours can be used in your fly, whatever the style.

Huge, long casts, stalking the fish and being super-quiet aren’t what you need to achieve cod on surface fly. Short and reasonably accurate casting is helpful, but it’s vital to read the structure above and below the surface and practise and fine-tune that cast.

Good luck with a cod on surface fly – it will change your attitude to these fish.

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