Sorting out the tough ones
  |  First Published: August 2003

Now is the time around here you find out who the real fanatical fisherman are.

There are the guys who will put in hours of trolling and casting for only a couple of decent fish in a day, while the more wise opt for some warmer indoor entertainment or coastal focus, which is a great option.

The cold slows the fish down a fair bit and catch rates are, at times, unrewarding. The challenge, though, is bigger and the camping at this time of year is special – cold, but special.

This is when impoundments offer some of their massive hidden treasures in the form of XOS cod, but you really have to target them specifically to meet with success. Pick a couple of nice, structure-strewn banks and flog the hell out of them.

The other option is to cover as much water as possible and hope that your lure will intercept an active fish. This does work and is a great way to get to plot out the structure below for when the waters warm a little and fish become more active.

Don’t just troll anywhere, though. Deliberate and calculated paths must be chosen at least 30 metres ahead so as to not cut in too sharply on structure and snag the lure. Fluoro colours work well at this time of year, but that is only a rule of thumb and if things are not happening, you’d be mad not to try something different.

Casting spinnerbaits into shady pockets works well at times. Big tandems and double Colorados are the go, with one of my Winter impoundment favourites a 1/2oz head with No 3 and No 8 Colorado blades in lacquered brass. Many Winter cod are hooked on the outside of their mouths and obviously a stinger hook is going to help the hook-up ratio.

Try varying depths until you get a couple of hits or fish and you should be able to set out a pattern to target. This goes for trolling also Pay attention to the depths when a strike is registered and that will sometimes lead to consistent action at that depth for the day.

Winter is not everyone’s cup of tea and I’m the first to say that it is much slower action on the dams, so there’ll be so there’ll be plenty of Winter for mainly casting practice. But many of my biggest cod have come in Winter and that’s what keeps me on the water through the cold months.

Addictive challenge

Different challenges attract different people and fly-casting for natives is a real challenge and not for those who are out to just catch numbers of fish. Although many fly-casters haven’t ever fished any other way, as a general rule you find that those who have caught enough fish on lures and bait and are mainly out there to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle will relish the challenge of natives on fly.

Probably the most important thing when choosing an outfit is to go for a specific rod and line size to best suit the water you fish. I use mainly floating lines in rivers because of the versatile nature of the presentations. For instance, if I am on a river with has an average depth of around 1.4 metres to 1.8 metres, I’ll use my trusty Struddy BWS 8-weight four-piece pack rod with an 8-weight Rio Lumo Lux weight-forward floating line.

This allows me to present and control a sinking fly slowly and accurately on a long leader, letting the fly sink down to the desired depth and then hop it back above the structure. A sinking flyline will have you snagged much more as you try to slide your fly over branches.

For yellas, I use Clousers and a couple of bead-eyed creations tied for me by Chris Ingle. Whistlers also work well and most smallish sinking flies like Woolly Buggers will also take yellowbelly.

When the sun sinks lower on the horizon, it’s Dahlberg time. This is when the Lumo Line (glow in the dark) comes into its own. To be able to see the line while casting and stripping makes night fishing so much easier.

For the uninitiated, Dahlbergs are super-buoyant, tightly-packed deerhair and create a blooping sound when stripped across the surface. Anyone who uses surface lures for cod will know the rush when you get nailed by a decent fish on the top. On fly its even more exciting.

Shane Roulston and I were on a New England river and Shane when we spotted a fish cruising on the opposite bank. Shane wasn’t wearing his sunnies and couldn’t tell how big the cod was. As his Barra popper fly touched down, he lost sight of the fish but, aided by my Mako Warriors, I could see everything and relay the goings-on. The dialog went like this:

“OK, Rolly, strip … let it sit, let it sit

“Here he comes, give it one little bloop.”

“Ooohh, s*#t, he’s right under it, give it one more bloop, mate.”

The strike was loud and water displacement huge as Rolly struggled to gain control over the big greeny. Ten minutes later, 30 old-fashioned pounds of fly-caught Murray cod lay at Shane’s feet in the shallows. A few quick pics and off it swam, with a huge bow wave. Not bad for your first cod on fly.

Shane has landed many cod on fly since then but that one will take a bit of beating. Even though it can sometimes take a while to get your first cod on fly, it can happen on the first attempt and every fish you catch on fly you will learn from and help you catch more.

Give it a go and enjoy what I think is the most challenging, relaxing and rewarding of all styles of fishing. A flyrod will never take the place of my baitcaster but is another of the angler’s options.

The only hints that I can tell you when purchasing an outfit is to buy the best quality outfit you can. Around this neck of the woods, Hong Yuens of Moree and North West Fishing Tackle of Tamworth have a wide range of Strudwick rods and these are unbeatable. Cheap rods cause all sorts of problems with casting and this is the most important aspect of fly-fishing, getting the fly out to the fish.

The under-$100 ‘beginner’s kit’ has helped to put many people off fly-fishing. Even though I know not everyone can afford a high-modulus stick, I recommend spending no less than $300 on a flyrod no matter what brand, and this will quickly have you casting with confidence.

I usually can have people casting competently enough in a couple of hours to start catching any inland species. Get in touch if you want to know more.

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