TINTALDRAUpper Murray NSW/VIC
The upper Murray between Walwa and Towong is a fascinating stretch of water offering excellent Murray cod fishing, and the little town of Tintaldra makes a great base for exploring this region.
“Today, cod fishing is undergoing a renaissance right along the Upper Murray: a boom aided by a paradigm shift in the local culture.”
Three freshwater springs bubbling from the flanks of 1,430 m high Forest Hill in the Australian Alps, not far from Tom Groggin and Mount Kosciusko, mark the official birthplace of the mighty Murray River. From these small, high country beginnings, the world’s third longest navigable river ultimately twists and winds its way more than 2,500 km across the south eastern corner of our island nation to meet the Southern Ocean at Goolwa.
Often referred to as the Indi River in its uppermost reaches, the newborn Murray is soon joined by the Geehi, Swampy Plains and Tooma Rivers, as well as various smaller creeks and streams. After leaving the high mountain country behind, this fast-growing watercourse twists and winds its way through a mix of grazing land and forest, passing the small townships of Bringenbrong, Towong, Tintaldra and Walwa before eventually flowing into the backed-up waters of Lake Hume. This portion of Old Man Murray – from its spring-fed source high in the mountains to the concrete wall of Hume Dam, near Albury/Wodonga — is the stretch generally referred to as the Upper Murray River.
For much of the 20th century, the Upper Murray was best known to anglers as a fair to middling trout water. In better times, it produced some fine (if sporadic) fishing for these introduced salmonoids. Then came the carp plague of the late 1970s and ’80s, and the standard of trout fishing declined. However, savvy locals always knew that Murray cod also ranged up the river at least as far as Bringenbrong Bridge, near Khancoban. When the crest of the carp wave receded a little, these green-marbled native fish began to reinstate themselves as the river’s dominant species, bolstered in more recent times by a judicious re-stocking program using hatchery-bred cod fingerlings.
Today, both cod numbers and cod fishing are undergoing a renaissance right along the Upper Murray: a boom aided by a paradigm shift in the local culture and mindset. It’s no longer regarded as clever to string dozens of set-line springers along the banks of the local fishing hole, nor is it still a badge of honour to hang the drying head of your latest cod conquest from a prominent fencepost or road sign… The times are indeed a-changing.
These days, in the pub bars at Corryong, Tintaldra or Walwa, you’re more likely to catch snippets of educated debate about the best lure colours, or the smoothest-running reel, rather than overhearing some half-cut old boy boasting about his prowess with an illegal drum net or cross line.
While there are plenty of places to stay in this part of the world, Clearwater Caravan Park at Tintaldra — phone (02) 6077 9207 — makes the perfect base for exploring the river. It’s one of the quietest, best kept and most pleasant parks I’ve experienced, and if you don’t have a van in tow a tent to pitch, the park also offers cheap but surprisingly comfy fishermen’s huts.
While there are certainly land-based fishing opportunities in the area, you’ll fare much better with a boat of some sort. Basing yourself in one of the Upper Murray towns like Tintaldra and launching your trailerboat or car-topper nearby is a good way to explore the deeper holes along this part of the river, but there are also plenty of public access points where you can throw a canoe, kayak or lightweight punt in for a more extended down-river expedition, with one vehicle left at the drop-off point and another at the proposed take-out location. Lots of people do it this way. But a word of warning: the river twists and loops back on itself like a contorted python, rendering “as the crow flies” distances virtually meaningless. If planning such downriver jaunts, carefully consult topographic maps and Google Earth first, and always allow a lot more time than you think you’ll need to cover a particular stretch.
The biggest potential negative in this part of the world in terms of fishing action is associated with intensive water releases from the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme. These can see the river running a banker with icy cold water. That situation throws the cod “off switch” in a big way. If you’re able to dodge that particular bullet and find the river running at a more normal height with warm, green-tinged water, your chances of success are much higher.
It would be fair to say that the widespread acceptance of the weird-looking metal lures known as spinnerbaits has totally reinvigorated Upper Murray River cod fishing. Locals who’d only ever caught green fish in the past on baits of bardi grubs, yabbies or cheese (yes, cheese!) now sport growing collections of these colourful whirlygigs and regularly use them to chase cod, either while casting or trolling. This more active lure fishing strategy also sits well with the growing shift toward catch-and-release.
Most of the Murray cod encountered by anglers in the Corryong-Tintaldra-Walwa triangle these days are reasonably modest specimens in the 45 to 70 cm length range. However, bigger fish definitely lurk here, too. Eighty to 90-something cm beauties are caught here each year, along with the very occasional metre-plus behemoth. That’s the wonderful thing about cod fishing: there’s always that hope in the back of your mind that the next thumping strike will come from a marbled beer keg with fins! That knowledge tends to keep you focussed.
In the final analysis, I can’t think of too many better places to chase a few cod on a cast-and-retrieved lure than along the Upper Murray between Towong and Walwa. It’s gorgeous, readily accessible country, the locals are a delight, and the odds of success reasonably high, especially if you can avoid those big pulses of chilled hydro run-off from the mountains. There’s also reason for optimism that the fishing here will only continue to improve each year as stocking levels are maintained and more and more locals and visitors alike choose to carefully release most of the cod they hook. All-in-all, it’s a pretty rosy picture!
Tintaldra is a small, picturesque village situated on the southern banks of the Murray River, which forms the state border between NSW and Victoria. (Note that NSW Fisheries regulations apply to this stretch of the Murray River.)
Tintaldra lies some 440 km north-east of Melbourne and approximately 140 km east of Albury/Wodonga. The larger town of Corryong is 22 km south south west of Tintaldra.
This quiet little township boasts a general store, a pub and a caravan/camping park, but to obtain major supplies, visitors will likely need to travel to Corryong.