In today’s recreational fishing world there is a bursting abundance of information and knowledge in circulation. Sitting back and sharing stories about incredible fishing adventures is a form of teaching that shouldn’t be left out. Growing up a kid I loved sitting down and reading about fishing journalists expeditions. The adventures they went on, the beautifully written words that painted a picture of the backdrop and the excitement to see if they landed the fish on not.
It’s these stories that build excitement and inspire. Especially with the younger generation who have yet to experience; a surface hitting bass, a monster Murray Cod or a visual take from an aggressive brown. It ignites that drive and offers a taster of what is possibly ahead for their fishing future.
I grew up reading the publications of Jamin Forbes and his way of writing really captured my attention. He was someone I looked up to as I learnt from every article he wrote. His recounts of targeting monster cod in the Murrumbidgee River, built that drive inside me to do the same. Not only did I read the story, but it was all a part of the learning, as I took in every fine detail that went into the capture.
‘It’s that gut feeling of wanting to experience the story your reading – a feeling that only a true angler feels.’
This leads me to the next topic, which is a story that I’m still trying to believe even as I write it down for you. These moments in your angling experience are truly unique and will never happen in the same way again. That’s why I want to share them with you to inspire you in your angling life.
The Story Begins
The closing weeks of the 2014/2015 Murray Cod season was not on my side at all. With three fishless trips in the crisp winter air, not only were they fishless but I had come so close, more than once. With four cod managing to throw the hooks and one of them being in the category of ginormous. This fish interrupted a falling soft plastic as he almost ripped my joint from its socket. It was safe to say it was the biggest hit I’d ever had; and the most painful part was he was so close.
When losing a number of fish from endless hours of hard work it makes you even keener to get out there again. That might sound silly but a true addicted angler will understand what I’m talking about. There was only one weekend left before the start of September and I knew this was my last chance. Not only was it the last chance but I had a feeling it was going to be the best. Mid-week before this outing we received large amounts of rain which raised the level of the dam. This rain washes in the food which therefore should make the fish a little more active. What was even better, this weekend coincided with the rain clouds clearing and a full lit moon.
We headed up to the dam Friday night and it didn’t start off all that well. We spent an easy 90 minutes trying not to get bogged. We eventually found a safe location to launch. The boat was in the water and we were on our way. It was a magical night; the lake was like a glass sheet as we parted our way through. There was a thick layer of cloud that was illuminated from above producing a glowing affect over the lake. Even though it was still winter it was surprisingly warm due to the cloud cover above.
The Crazy Technique of the Trip
Now something I haven’t mentioned yet was the technique we were going to test. The usual form of targeting monster cod in Blowering is trolling big deep diving hardbody’s like the 150mm AC Invaders. BUT – what I wanted to try on this occasion was surface fishing!
Before I pursued this technique I was told that I was crazy. All my other fellow anglers didn’t believe that it would work as there are minimal accounts of anglers casting surface lures let alone catching fish on them in Blowering. The reason being is due to the lack of structure and high intelligence of the fish. Other dams that are known for surface fishing like Copeton and Burrinjuck, as they have masses of standing trees where small birds and lizards can fall from – but Blowering is empty.
I thought they had to feed on surface, they were a cod! What cod wouldn’t eat a passing duck? My choice of location was to fish the extremely shallow grassy banks, where the cod may be patrolling in search of frogs or any other creature after this heavy downpour of rain.
Surface Fishing it Was!
The choice of lure was the all new 175mm Gobsmacked Leviathans – which at this point were still in the testing stage. I had only just been sent this lure to see how it would go. We slowly and quietly worked our way along a shallow bank casting our lures tight in against the grass and slowly working them back. It was a very slow and tedious technique but I was sure to stick to my word. I had talked about surface fishing this dam for a very long time but never had the confidence to actually do it – this was my chance.
We worked this bank for 40mins before coming to a small dry creek bed. We cast our lures down into the creek bed hoping there would be a foraging fish. There was plenty of weeds surrounding the area which made fishing difficult. I knew this area was home to a couple of small standing twiggy trees that were just out from this creek bed. It proved difficult to scour the area in the dark while I slowly manoeuvred the boat away from the bank. My head torched illuminated the trees I was searching for and luckily I drove the boat well clear of them. I sent a cast tight in against one of the trees and the conditions weren’t looking promising as the lures were riding the surface chop. The trees were about 3 metre apart and my next cast went straight between them both.
The lure wobbled its way past the bare structure and then from here what happen is almost unexplainable. It was like a deep, rolling explosion that erupted not only on the water’s surface but inside myself! It was that next level from a regular surface hit as this creature produced the sound of a bomb explosion. The sound was the most prominent effect of this attack as the light was very dull. In saying that I know it sent water flying metres into the air. Somehow, I don’t know how I kept composed and didn’t strike.
‘When surface fishing the rule is not to strike – let the weight of the fish set the hook.’
I’m usually a shocker for being surprised and striking but on this occasion I subconsciously knew the importance of the situation.
Success was ever so close BUT still so far
Now I was on – as I felt the beast load up the adrenaline was in full rotation through my body. I knew the significance of this fish and its rarity, I just had to land it. My first thoughts were, it had to be close to the metre as it stripped line from the firmly pressured spool. I let the fish go for the first few seconds. He stripped a lot of line quickly and produced extremely powerful lunges that were almost unstoppable.
I didn’t even have time to realise the value of the situation. It didn’t feel real! I was on, using surface! And not just on, I was on to a monster!
Within the first 5 second of the strike the fish was pulling the Spiderwire Blue Camo braid from the spool like it was a walk in the park as it buried towards danger. It was danger to me in the form of standing trees, to the fish it was a way out of this tussle.
I would like to mention that the next decision I made in the fight was at this point in my fishing career; the most important ever! It made all the difference, so make sure to take note of what happens next – it may help you land your fish of a lifetime.
The fish was on a roll towards the tree with the power of a semi-trailer shooting down a hill – it wasn’t stopping. I had to make a decision from two options:
- Let the fish go and hope he stops under the reels drag pressure before running around the tree.
- Or plant my thumb on the spool and hope that the line holds out the monster weight and turns the fish away from the timber.
I had to decide within a split of a second, as I dropped the thumb and lent into my Pflueger Trion. I knew that the fish wasn’t stopping and I had to put faith in my gear. If I didn’t take this chance it would almost defiantly be all over. BUT I must warn you that it can be very dangerous to put your thumb on a running fish because there is a good chance your line will give way under the extreme pressure.
The fish was still connected… who knows how?
In this situation my choice paid off as the fish slowed and veered away from imminent threat. The tension throughout my body was released for only a second as I continued to put as much pressure on the fish as possible. At this stage I knew it was a big fish and I knew the water around me was dangerous. By dangerous I mean it was shallow and snaggy, both which give advantage to the fish.
A few more seconds passed, which to me felt like minutes and then the fish broke the surface and resonated its full glory under the dim LED. The size of this beast left me speechless and to have hooked it on surface of all things! The uplifting feeling soon diminished as I noticed the connection of the lure in its jaw. To say I was scared was an understatement! This leviathan was hooked by one point on the back treble in the corner of the jaw. The rest of the 175mm Gobsmacked was hanging out – this was scary but also very lucky! If you were to see this kind of connection on a fish of this size in an area that was clear of timber and structure – you would never put your thumb on the spool! Because it could be very easy for the hooks to pull, in this case I was extremely lucky.
After the quick inspection of its size it swam right up beside the boat and you wouldn’t believe what happened next. The monster cod took a sharp ‘U’ turn around the electric motor before lining up a trajectory straight to the tree. This all happened within a fraction of a second and somehow my quick thinking caused me to disengaged the reel. I broke the number one rule in fishing, ‘always keep a bend in the rod’. My line was now totally slack, the fish had taken off and I had no control over the fish.
In this situation I broke this rule in order to maybe save this fish. If I hadn’t of disengaged the reel the line would have given way like cotton due to the rubbing on the electric shaft. As she swam away my heart sank as I was almost certain she would be gone. With such disappointment looming I somehow managed to untangle my braid from the electric as quickly as possible (it felt like 5 minutes although it was probably about 5 seconds).
Once the braid was freed I collected the slack line as quick as I could to find the monster was nearly back at the tree, but the good news – it was still connected. I loaded into her as hard as I could and put as much force as my gear would handle.
By some means I had every bit of luck on my side on this occasion. The fish surfaced again in less than a metre of water and even though she had to be still 80% loaded with energy I grabbed hold of her bottom jaw. Its body tightened up when I latched on as it wasn’t giving up a tussle yet. Holding on tight we manoeuvred the boat into knee deep water and I didn’t have a second thought about jumping in with this holy grail of fishing achievements.
The water was like ice at 8 degrees and I could feel my muscles burning in pain but it was all worth it! I cradled this true icon and achievement in my arms to freeze the moment forever. This big girl was back in the water as quick as possible because it’s where she belongs and because she was too heavy! At 130cm in length and on the surface it was a dream beyond my wildest dreams come true!
It finally came together
It was the entire situation that led to how meaningful this capture was. Everything, from the lead up to the trip to the fact it was the end of the season. It was on surface in a dam that it’s rarely heard of or even pursued and the fish managed to stay connected. Surface fishing has such a low hook up rate, this time it was 100%. The fact she was only just hooked and stayed connected after the pressure I put on my gear. The fish wrapped me around the electric which is incredibly unlucky but after giving the fish slack it all still fell into place.
You may say that it was destiny or it was written, but we all write our own stories through the actions we take. Make sure you put yourself out there to give yourself the best opportunity to yield success!