My plan for this trip had always been to stop off in Melbourne for a week before New Zealand and catch up with friends there. I spent a few days walking around in the city, went to the Australian Open and arranged to go fishing with Brian for a few days further North in Victoria. This was quite exciting as Brian’s Facebook is usually riddled with uploads of all kinds of fish pics.
Brian picked me up in the city and we set off on the 3 hour drive. On the way up Brian was showing me all the areas previously affected by fires, thousands of black dead trees standing proud above the newly developing green undergrowth, it was quite surreal to look at. This, compounded with the fact we couldn’t see the mountains due to smoke from nearby bush fires, had me slightly questioning Brian’s choice of location! It turned out fine though, no fires and we’re still here to tell the tale.
First up was chasing carp. Carp are a pest species in Australia and get a bad rep as they inhabit just about every waterway going by what I saw. But to the fly fisher they are a large sized, hard fighting fish that will happily eat a fly and as a bonus can be sight fished. Well… sight fished to when the lake isn’t murky! Brian’s a bit of a lazy organiser and whilst sorting the overhead conditions he seemed to forget about the water. My first shot at a carp came when Brian spotted one tucked in behind some rocks on the shore and guided my casts in. A slow figure of eight with the wooly bugger saw me hookup for all of a couple seconds before the hook slipped, “BASTARD!” A little further along the bank, again not seeing any fish, I spotted some bubbles rising up to the surface. I’d been told that the carp often release bubbles from the ground when feeding hard in amongst the mud so when I saw the bubbles again a metre or so further along I thought that must be a fish. A quick cast another couple metres ahead and a slow retrieve had a solid hookup. Man these fish fight hard, big weighty fish with a bloody big paddle at the back. It took a while but I finally had my first carp on the fly landed and my first Aussie freshwater fish to hand. I had a few frustrating ones over the couple days, fish that would move to the fly and not eat it, those that missed it, and those that took about 10 casts before they ate it!
The deal for this trip was carp fishing during the day and murray cod fishing at nighttime on the river. Murray cod are a freshwater predator, with a giant mouth, a bad attitude and an appetite for anything! Leaving the six weight behind, it was out with the ten weight, big surface poppers and dahlberg divers. Just have a look at Brian’s fly box! All hand tied and probably the best examples of deer hair work I have seen.
The main approach was cast the flies near any big snags, deep holes and areas with lots of cover. Cast…bloop…bloop…bloop…bang! (Sometimes!) The first fish I hooked was incredible. They hit with huge aggression, turn and bolt straight back to wherever the nearest snags are. This fish pulled very hard even against a ten weight.
The only downside to the cod fishing is the frequency of hookups. Over the three nights fishing, Brian and I must have had 20+ hits to the flies for only two fish landed. It’s not the ideal hookup rate but it’s bearable since every smash sends a huge adrenaline rush through your body as you dramatically shit yourself when the water explodes 10-15′ from your rod tip in pitch darkness! Brian warned me it’s like a shotgun going off… it is. I’ve never jumped so much and been momentarily scared shitless as badly as this! The final rule to cod fishing is the adrenaline rush is usually followed by as many swearwords as you can fit in the next breath. The scariest thing is Matt told us that the biggest in living memory from the river was 80lbs, that’s a bloody massive fish! The story seems to be that a number of the big fish are caught on bait but the guys are out there experimenting with surface flies to see if they can get the big ones up top, when they do all hell will break loose, that’s for sure!
Brian managed this little one on the final night, again the larger ones eluded us unfortunately.
Day two saw Brian return to the carp field with a vengeance, his desire to slaughter as many carp as possible was clear when he started hooking up left right and centre. To give you an idea of where we were fishing, imagine what regular temperatures of near 40 degrees celcius would do to a lake. We walked a couple of kilometres out on the dried up lake bed and fished the remnants of a creek running through the desolate flat.
Fortunately in the creek we could see the carp feeding up hard against the edges or just sitting in shallow water. Any time they slinked off to the deep water they were gone from view, the water was just too murky to follow them. What follows is a little selection of Brian’s impressive carping performance.
The last night treated us to a spectacular lightning display roaring up the next valley parallel to us. Amazingly we were sitting under crystal clear skies with only the stars above whilst this powered past in front of us.
For the first week of my trip it was great to meet up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while, get some great fishing in all of which was new to me, enjoy being warm and see lots of new wildlife. I saw wild cockatoos, parrots of sorts, birds of prey, kangaroos, wombats, frogs, bats… think you get the idea. I’m busy planning a few options for fishing here in NZ at the moment, it’s raining just now but nothing serious. Hopefully skies will clear and I can get out spotting.