The Northern inland rivers of New South Wales are well known for the boulder infested gorge terrain river systems. These west bound flowing rivers make there way through this beautiful country on there way to the Murray-Darling system. As much as possible, I make the journey to these rivers to tangle with the numerous Murray Cod that call these gorges home. Its always worth checking river levels before venturing off into the scrub, especially on an area downstream of a dam. Many a time I have been restricted by high flows due to higher than expected release rates from an above stream dam. Even if you are planning on fishing in the upper reaches of a system, it is still important to check water levels and weather predictions.
For this particular expedition myself and two mates John Jackson and Lachlan Bartrop planned to leave Thursday night, arrive early Friday morning, snatch a few hours of sleep before trekking 7kms into a particular location I have always wanted to fish, but had not yet taken the plunge. Each kitted with a 60L pack plus a smaller day pack, we filled up on canned food, fishing gear, water and everything else we needed to survive down in the scrub for 3 days. It was particularly important that we packed a god first aid kit, tracking device and water purification tablets as we could not carry enough water needed. Arriving 2am Thursday night we hit the hay next to the ute and planned to set sail at 8am. The trek in was quiet brutal, lumping approximatly 20kgs each over 7kms was not easy, but our anticipation kept us going. Upon first glance of the river, our expectations were met, it looked unreal! We dropped our oversized packs and thought it would be rude to not have a quick flick before we set up camp. Peeling the Jbraid from my Tatula, through my Gen Black rods guides, I knew we were in for a solid weekend. Pristine water, predicted perfect weather conditions and a remote location is a recipe for a fishing frenzy!
After extracting a few lovely little cod from the first hole, the smiles on our face were endless. This gorge country is a crazy place, boulder jumping along the river firing lures into under-cut rock ledges. Some rock walls are up to 30 metres high and make fishing almost impossible in some instances, however walking along rock, kilometre after kilometre is my perfect fishing ecstasy. There is something about the scenery, remoteness, structure that further enforces my love for chasing the iconic Murray Cod. Fishing throughout the middle of the day, the Cod were consistent, willingly smashing spinnerbaits. With every hole holding fish, everything was going great until a few storm clouds started to roll in. Due to weight restrictions we could only carry a sleeping bag each down into the gorge, so heavy rain would be a major issue. After packing our gear as best we could under a horizontal lying tree, light rain begun to fall. With the riverbank structure being 90% rock it makes it very hard to travel once wet. Stupidly, our keenness for surface action had us slipping and sliding along the rock edges. After a solid strike first cast we managed 3 fish on surface before I reached a ‘tricky’ section of rock to navigate. The next hole looked pretty awesome and I went to quick down the rock, slipping down a 2 metre drop literally ‘rocking’ myself. The shock got me a little worried, but no server damage was done fortunately. Bruised up I walked down to find my Gen Black Rod snapped from the impact of the fall, 2 guides from the tip. Glad it was a snapped rod and not a limb, I cut the rod back and walked back to camp – rejecting the offer to carry on. Although I brought along a back-up road, I chose to continue using the Gen Black as its sensitivity far outweighed my second choice stick.
With light rain continuing into the night, sleeping was far from comfortable. Resorting to sleeping under the horizontal trees, the substrate beneath us was small to medium sized rock boulders. However, comfort is not why we come out here, it’s the fish. The next morning, we were greeted by clear sky’s and surface crunching Cod. Post nailing a few, we put the billy on the fire and agreed to pack up our gear and trek downstream to find a more suitable camp location. Relocating 2kms down stream, we were situated on a massive hole. Approximately 60 metres wide and 300 metres long, it possessed everything from large rock, weed, timber and deep water! As the afternoon wore on we fished hard, bagging many average sized Cod, but were yet to crack a ‘decent’ sized fish.
We finished the day with a few off the top, before cranking the fire and getting settled into a much needed sleep before a solid walk out the following day. With the boys opting for a sleep in, I rose early to score one last small, but beautiful, Murray cod from the surface. We packed our bags, cooked a quick feed and cleaned up our camp site before setting sail back for the ute. With a lot less weight, the walk out was more enjoyable, taking in the scenery on the hour and half hike out out. Reaching the ute was a relief as we gained an understanding of what we had achieved. It was very pleasing that we were able to locate this place, plan a trip focusing in on the area, manage our gear and food and most of all catch a lot of fish. Together we managed 34 Cod between 40cm and 65cm. After an early brake to my Daiwa Gen Black ‘Cranky’ rod, it was pleasing to easily modify it, and still manage to extract over 20 of the Cod on it. Paired up with a Tatula type R reel, 30lb Jbraid and 30lb Saltiga leader, it was the perfect combo for the trip. Although it may seem a little over-kill for the size of fish we were catching, it must be noted that there is without a doubt monster fish in these gorges, you must always be prepared for one. Non-the-less I am pleased to have finally found the perfect combo for walking the rivers edges throwing spinnerbaits and surface lures. I’ve really thrown everything at this combo over the past few months and its has preformed first-rate and caught a lot of Cod!
Although we managed around a dozen Cod off the surface, most fish fell to ‘Assassin’ and ‘Scotty’s Cod Lollies’ spinnerbaits. I believe this was due to the depth of most holes, while the river had minimal flow, the holes were large and deep. The fish that feel to surface lures were either hard up to the bank, or in the shallower water near an incoming rapid. As always when fishing any area, we take the ‘take only photos, leave only footprints’ approach. Personally I believe all Murray Cod should be released as they are such an icon to not only fishing, but the Australian environment as a whole. The satisfaction I get from watching a Murray Cod swim away equals, if not outweighs, the buzz from catching them. As well as this we must respect our environment, and taking all rubbish out is paramount. Safety comes first when fishing in these remote locations, wet rocks are just an example of knowing your limits. If its not safe to do, then don’t do it because help is along way away!
There’s not much that compares to a great weekend away with mates, fishing for these iconic fish in their radical environment. I can’t wait to get back there, hopefully extracting some larger specimens, however as long as I’m on the river, I am happy.