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Summer fun: cod on fly
  |  First Published: December 2013



The Murray cod season opened on the first of December, and with the amount of water we’ve had in the New England and southern border streams recently our green fish should be well and truly on the job.

Before heading to a favourite stream – taking in an area from, say, Stanthorpe right down to Tamworth and beyond, and west as well – there’s one major consideration: water clarity. Flies don’t have whirling blades, skirts, rattles or other attractants so they need clearer water to attract the attention of fish. If the visibility isn’t 40cm or so, your fly is likely to go unnoticed. An exception might come with the use of the dry fly, but more on this later.

Solid tackle

Fly tackle for these marble-eyed mouse maulers should reflect the fact that while a lot of smaller cod inhabit our upland and adjacent western streams, there are also some really prime specimens there. Thinking big and fishing big makes sense.

Also, for a cod fly to be noticed it needs to be big, bulky, flashy; best tied on a 4/0 or 5/0 hook. It follows that an #8wt or #9wt fly outfit is best suited to the job. As a cost-cutting measure I use the same #9wt 4-piece TFO Mangrove fly rod for cod, tuna, and barra. Naturally, the matching reel and intermediate sink rate fly line also double as tuna and barra tackle in the saltwater.

A store-bought or home-spun leader of a little less than a rod length is ideal, with a final tip section of 8kg b/s to avoid flies being cut off from those fine little teeth. Cod are not particularly leader shy but are not pushovers either, so fluorocarbon leader tippet material makes sense.

The above tackle covers wet flyfishing. When using a dry fly such as a big fat Gartside Gurgler (again on a 5/0 hook) a floating fly line is used with the leader shortened to around 2m. The final tippet should be 8kg for strength.

Big flies

You want your sub-surface flies to push aside a bit of water on the twitch-stop-twitch style of retrieve that kick-starts these apex predators. I’ve found that extra bulky Lefty’s Deceiver style patterns, substituting flash material in lieu of feathers, are ideal for wet fly work.

Another excellent fly is the Toad. Designed for Florida’s giant tarpon, the Toad seems to take everything that has fins and a tail. A big Toad on a size 4/0 hook is a great wet fly for cod. Hop on the internet to see tying instructions.

If you prefer to purchase your flies, I recommend using large Deceivers or the ubiquitous Bush Pig style of fly to take cod. A useful source of tailor-made offerings is the Kaos line of cod cod flies (kaoscodflys.com) by Ross Virt.

While wet flyfishing certainly takes cod it’s the dry flyfishing that really excites. The outstanding dry fly is the good old Gartside Gurgler, a large fly that displaces a lot of water, sputters about sweetly when tweaked, then sits with the gentlest of bobbing while the cod lines it up from below.

These flies are easily tied on a pre-cut Gurgler foam supplied by a fly shop, or lovingly shaped from closed cell foam with your partner’s best dressmaking scissors while she is watching TV. Gurgler tying is easy to follow on the internet. I opt for longish tails on my Gurglers to resemble a mouse or lizard that’s fallen into the drink.

When and where

Like many predatory fish, cod are most active at dawn and dusk. They also feed at night. To catch a cod on fly during the middle of the day isn’t impossible, but it needs to be a special day; maybe dull and overcast or with light rain.

A cloudy evening with a storm brewing nearby is a ripper arvo for cod. They really fire up, showing an aggression that is out of character for fish that delight in seeking refuge in tucked-away places, only pouncing on meals that stray close by.

Most times the wet fly works well during general daylight hours, with the Gartside Gurgler and floating line reserved for change of light or, better still, after dark.

Surprisingly, cod are not a very accurate fish on the dry fly. The bulge of water associated with an attack seems to push the fly away. You can counter this a little by making a couple of small strips and then leave it sit with a fair amount of slack in the system, so the fly can be engulfed on a slack rather than tight line. Most hits come as the fly rests. Be warned!

Finding cod in small upland waters is comparatively easy. Searching out areas where there’s a combination of depth and current flow usually brings rewards in the form of a bent rod.

Larger waters may look daunting but there are always tricks to any trade, and the trick here is to identify the most likely locations before making a first cast. Remember that cod love snags. A fly cast close to a snag, allowed to sit a spell, then worked enticingly back will usually provoke a response.

However, not all streams, particularly our smaller upland ones, have a lot of snags. That’s OK. The clue is to work with whatever cover is there, plus hot spots such as the area at the head of a pool where the water suddenly deepens, or a side area of deeper water just out the main current flow at the pool’s head. Another great area is where water exiting a pool is funnelled into a run or a chute with some cover and depth about it. Like many predators, cod like their food delivered to them, and they hang about waiting for it to arrive.

Big, rocky holes in larger waters usually offer a mix of all habitats with snags, deeper corners, overhanging branches and fast runs all spread out nicely for a day’s fishing. If you fish the lot, bit by bit, sooner or later there will be a fierce tug on the line followed by a stubborn pull. Cod on the fly! Great fun this summer!

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