Annual Social Fishing Trip
The anticipation for this trip was so incredible we couldn’t sleep for weeks before. The 4 of us have a group that had been going for over 4 months prior to this trip. To say the least we were all like a bunch of kids before Christmas. Instead of leaving out some milk and cookies we had our rods and lures sitting in the lounge room ready to go.
The Lead Up
The lead up to a big trip is one of the best parts as you cannot beat that excitement that has been boiling up inside you. Putting new hooks on lures, tying new leaders, coming up with new ideas and techniques, and best of all the banter! Some days we sent that many messages into the group chat it was as if we weren’t doing anything else. Except for Jack who would get home from work with a mountain of unread messages (would take him over an hour to read over them all). On one day he had over 80 unread messages from Chris, Stumpy and I.
The night before the trip was long with minimal sleep and awake way before the alarm. We all put challenges on ourselves to catch fish using new techniques. For myself it was to catch my first native on fly! I had only just purchased my new 10wt cod fly outfit and a handful of Kaos Cod Flies and I was super pumped! It was my goal for the trip.
Arriving at first light we were travelling in 3 different cars. I arrived first only by about 30 seconds followed by Stumpy. We were both towing the boats and Jack and Chris were travelling out together. We packed all our gear into the boats as we weren’t coming back to the cars for 3 days and wow did we have some stuff.
A Game of Pranks
Now I want to share with you a quick story about the pranks that we had played on each other prior to the trip. First of all I played a couple of pranks on Chris one of which was about my gators which I had lent to Chris on a trip a few months earlier. It was a night surface session and he had to leave before Jack and I and he left my gators on the roof of my car. I pretended that he still had them which was good fun. Well Chris had to get us back so he planned his prank before this trip. Long story short be pretended to slice his hand right open only 3 days before the trip. He had it wrapped up and sent us all pictures to prove his case. I was very sceptical at first until he arrived on the trip with a bandaged hand. And Chris made me tie his lures before revealing it was all a prank.
Watch the video below for the full story about the prank:
The Adventure Begins
The trip was finally here as we pushed off into the current ready for a great 3 days of just fishing! We had our own little points system for the trip to see which boat could get the most points so it was a friendly comp between; Chris and I in my boat and Jack and Stumpy in the other boat.
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The water had a little bit of colour to it which I was slightly worried about but I still stuck to my plan – targeting my first native on fly! Chris started with a spinnerbait and so did the boys in the other boat. It was mid-morning by the time we pushed off and within a couple of hours we could hear the boys in the other boat making a bit of noise. They must have hooked something big but by the looks of it they didn’t land it. Another 5 mins past and they were on this time as the net was out.
The first fish was on the board so now the game was on! I was new to the fly fishing game for natives, so getting use to my new outfit and this new style of fishing took me a while. I didn’t have any practise before the trip and casting a heavy fly line takes a bit of practise. I opted for a Wiggle Tail from Kaos Cod Flies which is a relatively heavy fly. This was to help me get the fly down in the quick water. The speed of the current wasn’t ideal for fly fishing and I was already told fly fishing in current for natives is very difficult. I was still willing to give it a go and I figured out is was best to target the slow backwaters.
First Native on Fly
Only 2 hours in and I rolled the fly off a small stick and whack! I loaded up and took a few seconds to actually realise I was onto my first native on fly! It was such a great feeling and it didn’t take long for a small Golden Perch to surface. It wasn’t any record breaking size but to me it was a great achievement! What a great start to the trip. Ticked off my goal and we still had 2.5 days to fish.
After lunch we found some really nice water and by about 2pm a thick cover of dark clouds rolled in. Yes! The perfect conditions for any style of freshwater fishing. In the next 15mins I would have to say we experienced some incredible action. Jack and Stumpy were ahead of us and working over a great set of snags. As Chris and I drifted around them I said, “These snags look so good but I’ve never caught anything off them”. This translates to, “There is a big fish living there”. Jack replied with, “Stumpy just got a good hit in against the snag but it won’t come back”. Chris and I had barely made it down to the next snag when the boys went off! Now I mean right off! More than just a normal fish! I looked up to see Stumps rod folded over and within another second the excitement turned into devastation.
They watched a cod of easy above 80cm come halfway out from the log and smack Stumpys spinnerbait only for the hooks not to set. Jack said he couldn’t believe he saw a fish of this size come out for the lure! Poor Stumpy was devastated and I think we could all feel his pain. As soon as this happened Chris thought surface fishing would be the go as they were full of confidence in the overcast weather. Chris changed to a Gobsmacked Leviathan and on its very first cast against a bank that had nothing more than the roots of some Shea Oaks he was smashed! The water exploded and I couldn’t believe it! Straight away I dropped my fly over the same location. I twitched the large deceiver along as it sat no more than 10cm below the water’s surface and I watched a Golden come flying in from underneath it to have a crack at the fly. He smacked the fly with no chance of getting it down before taking off.
It was insane what had just happened as I was expecting the cod that hit Chris to come charging at the fly but it was a small Golden that was intrigued. So most likely explanation is they were two totally different fish or that Golden Perch unusually smashed the surface with lots of power. Whatever happened it was an insane 15 mins where the fish were just going off but yet we had none extra on the score card. Sometimes it’s incredible how every fish will bite in just a short window of time.
Continuing on into the afternoon we caught some good quality fish mainly on spinnerbaits and the late afternoon bite was even better! Chris and I left the other boys behind but when meeting up with them they had landed 3 fish and dropped a handful more. I also landed what would have to be the smallest fish ever caught on a spinnerbait. This Trout cod managed to get its greedy mouth around the spinnerbait hook and it was the same size as the lure! At 20cm it was a brute. Chris worked hard with his home tied surface fly right till dark while I picked up the fish below with spinnerbait. We pulled up for our first night after a brilliant day of fishing. 19 fish between us all with Jack sitting on a measly 2 fish which he landed right at the end of the day. But all we could talk about all night was the big one that got away – seems to be a similar conversation we have on every trip.
As night fell the clouds disappeared and we were left with a brilliant clear night that was absolutely perfect. Not too cold or warm, with a camp fire and no mozzies. The perfect time of year to be out camping. We retied our leaders and were set for the next day’s adventures.
On the water at first light which was around 6am and no longer had we started casting and Jack was on! He landed a beautiful 55cm Murray Cod and then the fish just kept flowing for him. He was on a role and had beaten his score from a full day yesterday within half an hour. His purple and pink Mud Guts Spinnerbait was getting a hell of a work out and was producing the results. I worked the morning session with surface fly to try and tick another goal off my bucket list but once Jack had reached 4 fish I was back to the spinnerbait.
Chris started with his custom ‘Social Fishing’ coloured Strike Force 80mm timber lure and was also carving up. He had already landed a hefty Golden Perch and Cod for the morning. This lure produces an unreal action under the water and was getting the results. The key to this lure is the white belly on its underneath. It’s the perfect imitation for 90% of food that cod and goldens prey on.
Jack’s Cracker Cod
Chris swapped to lipless crankbait by mid-morning and was left with teeth marks down either side by a good sized fish. Stumpy and Jack were ahead of us and we managed to catch up to them while they were working over one of the fishiest spot on the trip. Jack launched a cast at this crusty old log and wack. He was on and the water exploded seconds after the strike. This fish put on a show showering water everywhere and it was even better to watch it from a distance while he tussled with the fish. I was expecting a monster cod but it came in much shorter than I was expecting after the fight. Still a great fish at 68cm which was the best of the trip so far. Again on that old faithful Mud Guts Spinnerbait.
I had to get onto a fish so after talking some photos of Jacks fish, Chris and I headed to a snag on the opposite side of the river. Only two casts at a monster submerged log and I was hit hard. The fish took me down and around the log and after a bit of angling with the rod I managed to get his to swim free of the snag and into the safety of the net. Not quite the size of Jacks fish but at 58cm it was still a quality fish.
How Big?……. We will never know
Down to the next bend on the river we were casting at some overhanging willow. Jack and Stumpy pulled into the bank behind us and left a few logs for at to cast at. As Stumpy went past he left the log for us but soon regretted it. Chris ran his 100mm Strike Force lure along the length of the long and he got smashed! He felt weight of the fish only for a second but the lure came free. To me I thought it was just an averaged sized fish until I inspected the lure. Wow it was a big fish! It had teeth marks down the entire side of the lure and they were very spaced and deep cuts. Defiantly not a small fish, which I was surprised about as the snag wasn’t in overly deep water. Well that’s another one to put in the back of the head and wonder about for years to come, to say the least Chris was hurting. Worst of all I had to put up with him.
After that he was on a role – and not a good one. He snagged and lost fish and snagged some more. It was a fun afternoon. But best of all the fish were consistent during the day and we had an absolute ball. Chris and I landed 3 Golden Perch from 6 along one bank which really brought us back up in fish numbers. One of mine went 51cm which was a cracking river Golden. But what was even better was watching this small Golden follow Chris’ lure 3 times and smack it beside the boat while he was twitching it. Over and over the fish kept having a crack at the lure and didn’t even realise we were right there. Was very exciting and interesting to watch – this fishy had lots more to learn. I wish the big cod would come up and do that for us.
The Bite before the Storm
As the light faded into the afternoon a thunderstorm began to brew over the hills. For over 45 mins we watched lighting flash down over the hills. As fisherman we knew it was the time to get the fish. The storm was still a long way from us so we were safe and we knew now was the time to get the fish! We came to a good outside bend and the other boys were just ahead of us. We heard Jack at the top of his lungs yelling from 100m away. He was onto something good! They had it in the net and headed over to a beach on the opposite side for photos. After getting closer he had landed a monster 63cm Trout Cod on a soft plastic! He had checked off his goal for the trip as he set out to get a cod on plastic. He had worked for many hours casting the plastic across the past 2 days and was finally rewarded. It took a Powerbait Rib Shad rigged weedless to help avoid the snags and the fish just love it!
Chris and I continued on hard working the structure tight up against the bank. Chris had swapped over to using his home made surface fly about 30mins prior. He had been so keen to get a fish on this fly and tried for an hour the afternoon before. He knew this was his time and I knew he was concentrating as he wouldn’t even answer my questions. We came to the upstream side of a snag that had a line of sludge pushed up against it. Just screamed surface cod and I waited to let Chris cast his fly into the zone. First cast yielded nothing – but second bloop into the second cast and whack. The water exploded and Chris rod loaded up! I couldn’t believe he had not only got the hit but he had stuck it on his own surface fly! What a moment it was as I ran down the back of the boat trying to pull the net up. I watched Chris’ fly line swirling side to side from the tell-tale fight of a cod and once surfaced it was straight into the net.
I’ve never heard Chris cheer so loud. He had just achieved something he had been working towards for a long time. A great catch and a memory he will never forget. What tips this experience over the edge is the fact he caught his first cod on fly, on his own tied surface fly! It was an ugly fly but it did the damage. A credit to the bloke for not giving up and putting in the time. It was only a small Trout Cod at 51cm but a fish that will go down in his memory as one of the best.
Well what a way to end the day as we were all standing on an inside bend giving out handshakes to celebrate. We only had about 10mins of light left and this storm was coming quick. We managed to find a spot to camp on a beach tight against a steep bank lined with Shea Oaks. We had to try and find as much cover from the storm as we could. We only just managed to unload all our gear and throw it and ourselves under a tarp before the heavens opened. The four of us sat under a tarp all on Chris swag and just waited for the storm to pass. The storm disappeared within an hour and we were able to cook up dinner and have a camp fire! A great end to a great day!
Again we were up bright an early for another day ahead. We started to pack all the gear into the boat on first light and while I was organising our stuff I turned around and Chris was gone. This happens on every trip, Chris always has to be casting! He loves to just take off and start casting lures, the bloke never stops. He walked his way up past our camp and started working over some logs in shallow water. Well as uncanny as the bloke is he hooked up to a small cod. The tinny bloke was off the mark already. Jack and Stumpy went up to take a picture of the fish and I was in bare feet and waited in boat. I heard them talking from a distance and they were getting really excited about the colour of the fish and me being intrigued I wanted to have a look. I started to walk across the stones in bare foot and did I regret that. Only being able to go so fast I was nearly there and then they released the fish! I didn’t get to see the fish and had to walk all the way back along the stones which absolutely kill to walk on. Chris loves his pranks.
The day started well for us as Chris got smacked on the surface within 20mins using his Gobsmacked Cranknstein but failed to hook up. Not a worry because only a few snags later in a still patch of water it was smashed again! This time the hooks connected onto a 50cm cod. Great fun getting fish on surface and it ticked off another lure for the trip.
This day was spectacular with clear blue skies and brilliant 24 degree weather. It made for an enjoyable day but with the sun high the fishing a little tougher. The river had also dropped about 10cm overnight and this turned the fish off a little bit as well. We still worked hard and managed to find some hungry fish. Chris worked hard again with his ‘Social Fishing’ coloured Strike Force 80mm and landed even more Golden Perch. While Jack and Stumpy were picking up the odd small cod on Mud Guts Spinnerbaits.
Waving the Wand
I started the day using fly and was going to stick at it until I landed a cod. I working on and off with it on day 2 and dropped a small cod mid-afternoon. I was spewing and after that incident I was set on landing a good fish on the fly. I started with surface, no luck there as I turned to sub surface. Conditions were against me as the water was very fast and had become slightly dirty from the drop in river. It was now late morning and my arm was really starting to hurt. For my first time casting a 10wt fly rod with heavy flies it was no surprise my arm was beginning to ache after 3 days of wand waving. My hands were also starting to go sore and red which was seen in my casting as it started to fall in quality. I stuck to my game and didn’t give up.
Chris and I were working a quick section of water but in against the bank it was shallow and slow flowing. Perfect for natives and for my fly. I cast the Wiggle Tail fly past this small log and let it drop. Nothing, just like every other cast for the last 5 hours. I thought it looked too good so I dropped another in, and whack the fly line pulled tight. I struck only to feel the weight slip while I watch a little Golden shoot back over the top of the log after being startled. I was hurting as I finally got the hit and was ever so close! Especially the watch the fish take off. To a lot of people this would make you give up but for me it made me ever keener to keep pushing. I was going to get one now.
I worked on and by our lunch break at 2pm I still had nothing to show for all the work. Meanwhile Chris was up to 5 Golden Perch, on …… yep you guessed it. That same custom ‘Social Fishing’ painted Strike Force. The Golden’s loved this lure across the whole 3 days.
Never Give Up
Talking to Chris at lunch time he was telling me to just give up on the fly and cast a spinnerbait to just get a fish on the board. I knew there was a chance of going fishless but I was willing to keep pushing. I said to him, “If I give up there is no chance of me getting a cod on fly. But while my fly is in the water I have a chance”.
The afternoon was nearly done and Jack and Stumpy had taken off for the boat ramp. Chris and I worked over a few last logs. We were in a very still patch of water that would have only been a metre in depth. But it was thick with submerged logs lying along the bottom. I worked my fly around in a fan and stripped it back just above the bottom. When using fly it’s very hard to judge if you are near the bottom and it feels like you’re retrieving nothing. My patience and hard work paid off as mid retrieve the line pulled tight and I was on! Probably one of the best feelings as I started screaming at Chris! I was on as this fish dove deep and I could see the fly line swirling around. It broke to the surface and even better it was a Murray Cod! I couldn’t get the fish in the net quick enough and once it slipped in I started fist pumping. The excitement and adrenaline was out of this world!
It would have to be one of the best fish I’ve ever caught. Up there with my first cod on surface and my first metre cod. I would have to say I’ve never worked so hard for a fish. This beautiful Murray made my entire trip!
Not surprisingly it was out last cast of the trip as the beauty swam back to where he came from. We headed on downstream to catch up to the boys and tell them the great news. The trip was finished but what a trip it was. We all caught some great fish and ticked off some new styles and techniques (we won’t mention the big fish that Stumpy lost). It was up there with one of the best trips I’ve ever been on.
I hope you enjoyed this story and that this gets you pumped to get out with your mates and catch some great Aussie fish!