I made my first serious Murray cod trip on the Murray River near Robinvale and for years was asked not to write about such a special stretch of river that produces a higher-than-average proportion of big cod. It wasn’t my backyard so I did the proper thing. Then, when other fishing writers spilled the beans, the anglers who showed me the area, local cod gurus Rod Mackenzie and Gus Storer, decided it was okay for me to tell people about Tol Tol.
The area is about 5 km east of the soldier settlement town of Robinvale, via the Murray Valley Highway and then on to the Tol Tol loop road. To get to this stretch of river, turn left on the Tol Tol road until you reach Invincible Bend Rd, which runs down to the river. Then go down any of the bush tracks that lead to the riverbank.
The Murray River is one of the most accessible campgrounds in Australia. Wherever you go along the river in a boat, you seem to come across small groups of campers in out-of-the-way locations. This was how it was at Tol Tol. A swag and billy trip – one of those experiences where a wash is a swim in the river, and a nature walk is taken with a shovel in one hand and a roll of toilet paper in the other.
There is no boat ramp so boats are launched over a low-lying section of riverbank using a 4WD. Head upstream for 3 km and you arrive at Belsar Island, and halfway between the island and camp is a pumping station at Millers Bend. Both these areas are known for cod and yellowbelly. On my first trip, the four-day tally was eight Murray cod weighing more than 10 kg each, with the best fish nudging the lie detector to 19 kg. On subsequent trips to Tol Tol with Rod and Gus, we’ve caught cod to 33 kg, plus a few bruising strikes that failed to hook up.