True Tales of the Trout Cod – River Histories of the Murray-Darling Basin is the work of Will Trueman, a recreational angler originally from Victoria who has had a life long passion for rivers and their fish. In 2006, he began a project to validate accounts on the historic occurrence of the Trout cod in a number of waterways. To do this he interviewed fishermen throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, as well as investigating oral histories, science, newspapers, diaries, and photographs. This project evolved into a detailed collation of the history of fish and rivers of the Basin, and was completed in 2012.
Will interviewed nearly 140 people from 20 to 95 years of age, collecting 400 photographs. He believed the importance of old family photographs can never be underestimated. Will found every angler and scientist involved in the project, including himself, to be fascinated by the photographs – the fish, the people, the places – these all transcend time itself. While people varied greatly in their backgrounds, once they were convinced of his sincerity, they were willing to entrust him with their knowledge. He developed strong relationships with people, even with those he never actually met in person! Those interviewed felt the sense of profound change in our fish and our rivers, and wanted to help make things right. Will introduces the project in the video below.
Will recognised how the collation of historical accounts provides a window into the past that can inform our present and provide hope for the future.
History … should be a driver of change, where we do something about bringing things back and correcting the mistakes of the past.
The True Tales project has proven valuable in many ways. Those who participated gained recognition that their memories and perspectives are important. The historical information has provided scientists and natural resource managers with a better insight into changes to our fish and rivers and impacts of particular threats over time. This has helped inform management and research directions. The project has also increased awareness of how important oral histories are, and how easily they can be lost forever.
You can explore True Tales of the Trout cod via the River History booklets and book chapters below: