He’s a professional fisherman, but not in the more readily accepted definition of the term.
Manangatang’s Rod Mackenzie certainly goes after his piscatorial prey with enthusiasm, but what he catches is not for sale, nor is it for the dinner table most times either.
He’s the epitome of the catch and release angler who likes to hunt the bigger specimens of the mighty Murray cod.
The smaller fish, he acknowledges, just don’t do it for him.
And the 55-year-old has been reeling them in since he was old enough to hold a rod.
A native of Victoria’s Western Districts, he moved to Manangatang 30 years ago as a shearer with plenty of work in front of him.
The fact that the Murray River wasn’t too far away was a bonus.
“I come from an angling family,” he tells me.
As a youngster he spent a lot of time with his keen angling grandfather, father and uncles.
They fished rivers and lakes, and the ocean too.
“Some families were tennis families, some were water skiers, but we were fishermen,” Rod says.
Any spare time, or holidays, were spent in piscatorial pursuit, more often than not beach fishing, something Rod still enjoys.
Of course, since his move to Manangatang, river fishing has occupied more of his time.
And over that time, Rod has been able to turn a favourite hobby into his job, and for the past 20 years or so has relied on fishing for his bread and butter.
He has a book, four videos and eight or nine television shows under his belt. And yes, you guessed it, all about fishing.
Rod spends his days on a river, or lake or on, or near, the briny blue, testing and reviewing fishing equipment, or writing of his fishing adventures for magazines with a readership hungry to experience a successful day with rod and reel through words and colourful photos.
He also has an online fishing tackle store.
“I’ll never make a million dollars,” he says.
“But it is a great lifestyle.”
“You only get one life. Best to make the most of it,” is his philosophy.
Rod has fished all over the world, and hosted many international anglers in Australia.
His Murray cod safaris are well known amongst serious anglers the world over.
But, those safaris, Rod reveals, have taken a hiatus during the past decade as the Murray-Darling River system has struggled to bounce back from two destructive blackwater events.
However, the river is recovering, albeit slowly, and he is looking forward to visiting some of his old Murray River haunts, places he hasn’t fished in years.
“It just hasn’t been worth it,” he explains.
But that is changing, and he has his fingers crossed that the river system can avoid blackwater incidents like those of the past decade in the future.
He’s not confident. Just hopeful.
Lots of people would not realise how important it is to restore Sunraysia’s reputation as home to ‘the giant cod’, Rod tells me.
In years past, hopeful anglers have descended on our region in droves to experience the thrill of the big cod chase.
“That has been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to our economy as anglers from Melbourne, Bendigo, Ballarat and even further afield try their luck,” he said.
Rod hopes those days are about to return.
But fishing is not just an Aussie preoccupation, Angling, he says, is loved around the globe.
“It is probably the biggest pass time, hobby or sport in the world.”
So, a reputation for being home to ‘the giant cod’ could be a lucrative one to have, Rod contends.
Rod and his wife, a school teacher, have four children who have grown up with a fishing father.
Three boys and a daughter, he reveals.
And, at least one of the boys is showing all the signs of being a ‘chip off the old block’.
But what about the wife?
“She has never really liked fishing, but she has always supported me,” Rod said.
But, that too might be changing.
Rod said Donna has been his fishing companion on a couple of recent trips, and had landed four cod in excess of a metre!
Bragging rights for sure.
Rod is not sure how he will feel if she ever out-fishes him, but he is sure he will never hear the end of it.
“She’s getting keener,” he says ruefully.
Rod’s biggest fishing joy is experiencing beautiful places and meeting a lot of good people … and he is looking forward to sharing those experiences with Mildura Weekly readers in a new column to make its debut next week.
Dubbed ‘CodMac’, the weekly column will shine the spotlight on the angling arena, mainly locally, but also, at times, on some other interesting fishing destinations.
It will also include tips, tricks and reviews of some of the latest tackle, rods and other fishing essentials.
Rod is looking forward to sharing his experience, and experiences with our readers as he wets a line on the hunt for the big ones.
Look out for it between our classifieds and the sports section!