|In ultra crisp and still conditions, I emerged from my tent near Walker Flat in pre dawn 6am darkness. A metre of thick fog coated the glassy and painfully cold water. I was keen to compensate for a weekend of unsuccessful fishing
So far the last two days had yielded only three modest carp, and I was eager to bag myself a legal callop to fry up for breakfast.
The spot I chose was a snag pile of partially submerged logs, willow roots and other assorted rubble. From my experience the risk of loosing terminal tackle is far outweighed by the chance of bagging a big native holed up in a log or crevice.
I am known by my friends for always using the simplest rig possible, and today was no exception. I attached a single 6/0 hook and the lightest split shot I could find to the end of my 9 kilo platypus thread.
Bait was obtained easily through selecting the largest shrimp from the shrimp pot which I had baited with carp heads and left in over night. The shrimp I chose was excruciatingly large, it looked almost like a mutant king prawn, with a single claw that dangled 15cms below its body.
I clambered out onto a log and purposely scraped some bark shavings, leaves and debris into the River, in an attempt to stir up some interest.
With a flick of the wrist, the shrimp landed with a soft plip into the still water and set about flickering its way deep amongst the wooded river bed.
I was dozing off in the dawn twighlight when my Shakespeare Ugly stick lurched violently. I jumped up as though electrocuted and set about trying to manuever the rod, line and fish through the mine field of snags.
I was almost positive I had latched onto a Callop that would have won the five previous "Fantastic Fisheramas" hands down.
I released the drag on my Penn 6000, then tightened and reeled feverishly. After twenty minutes of cat and mouse, I realized it was no use - the line was wrapped around countless obstructions made invisible by the turbid aqua.
The fish lay still and I propped the rod in a forked log and contemplated my next move.
There was no way of retrieving the line with rod and reel, and I could tell from the way this fish struck and now lay motionless with such weight, that it was a pretty solid fish.
I estimated that the water the fish was lying in was about eight feet deep, and about three degrees celsius - if that.
There was only one thing to do. Stripping down to my VB boxer shorts, I gingerly poked a toe into the mighty Murray.
Groping around in the mud and sticks in heart stopping temperatures is not one of my regular Sunday morning pass times, nor is it something I would attempt without my astute fishing mate Moorey there to spot me.
Moorey and I were both well aware of the Occ Health and Safety issues associated with this desperate effort.
After much fumbling, I got hold of a baseball bat sized log to which the line was attached and with Moorey's help, I muscled it into the shallows.
I was in a torrent of pain, shivering, sporting numerous cuts and abrasions from the snags, and liberally coated in muddy clay.
It took only a couple of glimpses of the fish thrashing in the shallows to work out what we were dealing with - the mottled back and creamy underbelly said it all.
It was a Murray Cod, and it was an incredible looking specimen.
Well over a metre in length, the girth of this creature likened it to the proportions of that of a White Pointer Shark.
Despite the hardships I had endured to defeat this monster, I immediately knew what I had to do. Removing the chemically sharpened 6/0 from its mouth, I revived the Cod by gliding it gently through the shallows, getting the aerated water to fizz through its pristine gills.
Soon enough, I couldn't hold on even if I wanted to, as with a single powerful kick the Murray Cod disappeared into the murky abyss to fight another day, maybe a year or maybe a decade.
Moorey and I were in pensive moods as we chewed our breakfast of cold sultana bran, but we soon realized the magnitude of what we had done.
We had given hope to every angler, and indeed the Murray's ecology in general.
It is heartening to know that there is a lot of river out there, and there are some fish that are too big, too wily, and perhaps too lucky to be caught in the drum nets of commercial fishermen.
For how long though, I am not sure.