DRIFTING

   Pausing for a moment of contemplation.

Pausing for a moment of contemplation.

That gentle morning light seems to push back all those fears that hound our minds at 3am. Glancing sideways out of the ute window, I see vague outlines race by as the human world slowly comes into focus; the radio is silent, and only the occasional rattle of the trailer reminds me that the boat is in tow. Early mornings belong to no one. Fishermen seem to love them more than most, the enveloping quiet, indifference from most wildlife and only the occasional raspy bird call. The put-in at Cressy is quiet, not another soul as you watch the sun creeping closer until finally that ribbon of fire burns across the landscape. The boat slides gently from the cradle, the teflon doing its job as quickly the boat is tugging on the rope. Sometimes it feels a little strange, like a dog pulling on the leash, then final checks and a gentle push, and your other life is left behind. The first dip of the oar as you correct then find your line, followed by the inevitable arse shifting as the rope seat softens and you push to find your sacred position. You swing the bow into the current, one more quick check, and finally it feels right.

Despite the graft, it just feels right. Everything seems to be as it should be, and a little on-the-spot research confirms that these boats were designed for hard labour. I’ve never considered myself an oarsman, but when I sit in a boat that has been shaped by my own hands a different kind of connection seems to exist. It may sound a little fauxmantic, yet it is possibly like any other love in that it helps make us whole. The slow start is comforting, low volume on the chatter as eyes search, those extra few minutes in the seat settle you quickly as mental adjustments are made and reading the water takes on its true meaning, searching casts arc out toward the bank as perception and reality clash. Thankfully, rhythm takes hold as cast after cast seems to be hitting the zone, the first slashy take drags us back as the mad scramble ensues, all that initial organisation goes to shit as the net gets dragged out from under what appears to be a floating fishing store and takeaway food shop. Gently you ease back on the oars as the struggle quickly fades and the net is dipped beneath a pretty little hen with spots that makes you take a second look. It feels good to be on the board early and, after easing her gently back, some quick reorganising shuffles the positions and it’s my turn to cast. 

The day rolls with the pace of the river. Continual mends are thrown as you attempt to use the current to your advantage, still no hatch yet enough fish sitting just off the edge that the nymph dropper can still bring some activity. The air temperature has climbed enough that we can now strip down to waders and a tee, we need no reminders of how cold and long winter is, and any chance to lighten up is taken. Along with the warmth come the hatches. All of a sudden the back eddies are filling with lilting mayflies, they lift and fall under the now patchy sky, leaders are lightened and size 16 black spinners are tied on and ginked. We float along until a fish shows and the oarsman does his best to slow us in the current. You don’t hit all of them, but when all those sweet little things fall your way it opens a part of your soul and allows you to tip a little back into the sometimes-empty cup.

We come to the bridge near Woolmers. The old homestead dominates the skyline, and for better or worse we get a glimpse into our colonial past. Fish love this section, and I’m calling off the clock face sometimes, much to the annoyance of the guy up front as fish selection gets a little ragged. I can’t keep the smile from my face as a couple of sitters are missed and observations about my poor boat handling is thrown backwards, all this only making me happier. We swing into the tighter section, dodging overhanging branches and working hard on the oars to hold our good line. The jitters from the bridge section have faded and a solid cast forward sees a good fish suck down the little black spinner; he heads straight for the boat as Marcus works furiously to gain control. The leader disappears under us as I quickly try to pivot us upstream, and suddenly the rod springs upwards and all goes quiet. He starts winding in- the bend in the rod has gone and so has the fish.

I can’t keep the smile from my face as a couple of sitters are missed and observations about my poor boat handling is thrown backward…

We ease the boat into the bank and unload a far too elaborate lunch. It’s always been this way only because we can; it feels so luxurious to lay back and pick through the esky for an icy cold beer and half a chicken. Talk has amped up as the reality of the day sinks in and we revel in the fleeting ease of our lives. Most of the talk is about access; Tasmania, like most other places, is struggling with increasing numbers and landowners that are taking a pretty dim view of people blundering around their property. But, the boat allows you unhindered movement, and can take you to places that see very few people.

We quietly reload and push back out into the river. It never ceases to amaze me what freedom I feel when we fish like this, no order, no need to think, just the river taking us along, oars gently dipping as the landscape unfolds like an old school panorama. The heat of the day has slowed things a little, and we seem to settle a little more as lunch and the warmth of the sun work their magic. Casting is laid back as memory works hard to keep the backcast high, and when a fish gives itself up the softness of the day makes for a quick release and gentle return.

We drift on. Numbers no longer matter as we move through familiar country, most sections now open pasture beyond the river with fences of Hawthorn bush and grazing sheep. At every turn you spot a different hawk or kestrel, most riding the light winds as they hunt over the open paddocks, while others sit on fence posts and watch with a slight turn of the head. Sound carries clearly over the water, giving us the chance to put a dry on feeding fish, and takes are no longer a surprise as striking becomes as natural as walking. We watch fish dance across the river, spray showering upwards, the tiny fly holding as you battle all the while with the guy on the oars pushing and pulling, keeping you in touch with the thing you so desire. Fishing sometimes offers up these special moments as the river, the fish and the landscape allow you to grasp all that is and all that can be, maudlin thoughts abate and for those few thankful moments you are free. 

We seem to have timed this pretty well as we move through the timbered section then on to some longer pools. The sun is quietly retiring and a coolness has moved in; almost immediately another hatch is on. The fish seem to have lost some of their usual paranoia, and seem happy to attack any fly they find. We are both now standing and casting, the boat swinging  on the current and us risking a swim to get a fish. We look up and see something that we both take a moment to recognise; street lights in the distance tell us that we are coming up to the take out and our day is drawing to an end. We are both quiet for a moment, and then I reach into my flybox and drag out a big Goddard caddis; we may be nearly done, but the fish don’t know that. We take turns all the way back, talking and laughing, taking the piss out of each other until the very end. The boatramp at Longford looms up and we quickly tie off, Marcus heads up to grab the car as I start breaking down rods and tidying gear. This bit just rolls the same as always, you know your tasks, get them done. We drag the boat out and tie everything down, the pub at the end the street is open and we stop for a pint, not much to be said, just the life of a couple of fishermen. 

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

THE ROMANCE OF RIVERS

   Sun setting over the majestic South Esk river.

Sun setting over the majestic South Esk river.

People stand with hands thrust in jacket pockets, faces turned from the cutting wind, watching quietly as the water surges on, seemingly unending, brown and clotted as the flotsam of our modern world is dragged under. Currents swirl and suck while this beautiful, heaving mass rips apart the banks and riverbed that we hope can hold. Every time I watch this event the thought comes into my mind that this particular rain may have only weeks ago been flowing through Varanasi, carrying countless souls on their final journey down the Ganges, or simply evaporation from a Japanese Marble trout stream. Whichever it may be, the miracle and power of this is something to behold.

This same river that I wade in summer could not look more different, knee deep with endless beds of swaying weed, a gentle current always drawing back your flyline, fish happy enough to attack poor fly choices, and a landscape dry and blistered by the sun. The tall eucalypts seem to crackle in the heat, and light shafts pierce the foliage. All around, life seems to be operating in the extreme as bugs hatch and swallows hunt for takeaway, and gentle swirls in the current so soft they could have been done by a child carry a curled leaf or the occasional spent mayfly through the inspection path of a waiting fish. How could we not be enamoured?     

The intimacy of a safe haven, a link that runs so much deeper than a line of sight, rivers seem to carry the very essence of humanity. They transport the planet’s most precious resource, ebb and flow at their own whim, and although we sometimes try to steer them, success is generally short lived- they simply forge their own path. So much unharnessed power that has the ability to comfort, console and inspire. Limitless words pour forth in admiration yet we seem unable to protect them, to give them the love they so deserve. Tasmania is no different than anywhere else; a growing population, pollution and changes in farming practises keep applying distress, but thankfully the wonderful place where we live is capable of incredible things that offer hope for the future. I do not long for a time that has passed, for the headwaters and rivers that I fish are still some of the cleanest on Earth; it simply means that we have to work harder to protect them.

Fly fishing is a strangely wonderful life choice. It seems to take forever to learn the simplest of casts, and then one day you turn around and can’t even remember not knowing, as muscle memory and years of practice sink in. How good is it that these early years are mostly spent on rivers, so many days of quiet wandering helping us to subconsciously reconnect with the natural world as we push against the rivers current? Fancy new waders and an overstocked fly vest help to convince us in the early years that we are on the right path, though only time will correct this decision as simplicity and skill fuse.

Rivers always seem to wait for us. Thousands of years bare themselves before us as we move among the banks’ quiet sanctuary. It feels kind of surreal as the never-ending flow drifts past, weaving a kind of magic as most of the clutter of our lives are pulled from us, an unseen string drawing us closer, letting us grab and fumble with our own complex view of the world yet all the time showing us a simpler, more complete perspective. To be able to wade through these places, casting feather and fur copies of locally grown bugs, is to the fly fisherman possibly the most natural place in the world to be. All things need to be tempered, and perhaps that is why the modern fisherman is so aware of the balance of all of this. The world that is operating outside of the river is so broken and challenging that any time spent fishing is like a gift, a chance given to be a part of something that makes us whole, the fisherman we always dreamed of being.

A life can be spent here and it would not be wasted.

The fishing in those early years can have some very difficult periods. All the books and sweetly uttered words disappear as we struggle to connect the dots and make some sense of all that we have tried to learn. Branches and trees seem to be the most popular place for our flies to reside as bad casts and poor judgement leave us wondering what the hell we are doing here. Seeing a fish has not even moved onto the radar as moss covered rocks and tricky currents keep us struggling to stay upright, let alone look for a fish. The river takes all this in and yet shows us nothing. Time passes and a kind of intimacy grows as we explore and start to look past just the fishing, as birds, animals, trees and plants take a far more important part of our life as the landscape starts to open up. Cold, rain-driven days are spent huddled under stream side scrub as the dimpled surface sweeps on. A quietness has entered the equation, the ability to sit and just watch has settled upon us. Then, the serenity is shattered as a good fish surges upstream and, without a look sideways, we’re thrashing the water to foam and all good intentions drift off with the current. Ah the life of the beginner.

Slowly skill starts to build, and along with that our catch rate starts to increase. It sometimes still surprises us as the fly is quietly sucked down and instinct makes us strike before our brain has even engaged. That sudden weight never loses its thrill as the battle begins, all this with a backdrop that makes you feel that this is your river, a special place that may have showed you nothing until you opened your arms first. The South Esk in the North of Tasmania is this for me, a place so beautiful that it can still make me catch my breath as each turn reveals another aspect and the hope of spotting another fish. So many friendships have been formed as permission for access introduces us to people who make their life on the banks of these rivers, some happy, some not, that’s just the way the river rolls. People tell me that the dying talk of few things; family, home and the land they come from. The rivers and landscape of Tasmania have become that for me, children born here, a life of toil and love have confirmed all of this and makes me sure that this is true: you may not have been born here, yet you choose to die here. Perhaps that is the essence of home.

Rivers change us, help to make us look at the world anew, see things a little bit brighter, a little more possible. Unlike a lot of other things in life, most are not going anywhere; if we show them a little love, perhaps they can last forever. The big sky country of the Western Lakes seems so far from here, a world away yet still only two hours by car. I think of lakes like Kay and Botsford so often, yet the rivers seem to call me on, like memories of a first kiss, a feeling forever sought. Early days on the South Esk are punctuated by small moments; finally succumbing to words of wisdom and tying on a size 16 black spinner, a longish cast onto a smooth tongue of current and a huge change in confidence as the fly touched the surface and was gone, another five minutes and three more fish, my best day so far and a warmth inside that hasn’t faded. Lunch on the bank, leftovers generally tasting sweet and luscious as the river weaves its mood through everything, feet dangling in the water as knots are retied, flies ginked and we make ready for another session. A small goshawk watches with his steady gaze as we make our way up river, generally alone yet never lonely, enveloped in a world that completes us, a romance that will hopefully never end.

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

SIMPLICITY

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People ask me what Camden is all about? And the answer is simple, that's it… simple!

That's what I strive for in my fishing, in my design, in my fly-tying, in fact all aspects of life. Simple works because it strips away anything that's not necessary. If it doesn't add anything, take it away!

This fly fishing journey has always been about simplicity. Catching a fish on a fly is simple right? Cast the fly in front of the fish and wham! (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek). So why do we—as anglers—go to so much effort to complicate the process?

We all start out with too much gear, too many accessories, too many flies—most of which were designed to fool fishermen, not fish. The very opposite has been true for me. I threw out any unnecessary dangling thingys, hung up the vests and thinned out the fly boxes; T-shirts instead of shirts, bags instead of vests, oars instead of engines.

A funny thing happened along the way—I became a better fisherman. I guess it’s been an evolution of sorts, so I’ve translated my fishing philosophy into a business. It’s really hard to beat a day in a drift boat, casting dries in shorts and T-shirts… it keeps things, well, simple. And that’s what it’s all about for me.

Marcus
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

THE SEASON THAT WAS

   Welcome to brown town!

Welcome to brown town!

Normally I just want to catch more fish, there I said it. Something happened this season that was different, I found myself wanting to become a better fisherman. I concentrated on casting practice, simplified my fly box and honed my techniques. I tried new things, bought new rods, changed leader and tippet brands. I really mixed everything up. 

I found and fished waters I've never seen before, I walked further, rowed more, explored more and camped more than I ever have before. I began to teach junior how to fly-fish and he's a natural. I guided friends on the water. I persisted when others did not.

Normally I just want to catch more fish…

The result: I caught more fish than any other season, bigger fish than any other and in places most only sight them. I shot some of the best photos of my life. I really pushed myself harder than ever.

The moral, if there is one, is challenge yourself. Every day you leave the house, ask yourself what can I do differently to catch a fish today. Thinking is key to outsmarting the humble trout, that may seem obvious but I’d been a little complacent looking back over the past few seasons, relying on the same waters, same flies and same techniques to catch (possibly) the same fish.

I’ve heard a lot of people at the fishing store say this season was tough. Me, I had the best season of my life. I believed in myself as a fisherman and I can’t bloody wait for the next one!

Marcus
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

FAVOURITE WATERS

TASMANIA – THE ANGLERS’ PARADISE
In 68 km² there's over 3,000 fishable lakes and rivers, not a bad ratio for a tiny little island at the end of the world. Tasmania is home to some of the best fly-fishing on the planet—we truly are spoilt for choice! Here's a few of my favourites…

PENSTOCK LAGOON
Penstock is an intimate fly-only water nestled amongst tree lined banks in the central highlands of Tasmania. As far as lakes go, it’s more of a penny than a pound, this only seems to concentrate its quantity of bugs, fish and beauty. A dun hatch on Penstock can last for, what seems, an eternity, and casting to feisty rainbows sipping down Mayflies as they drift like tiny sail boats is nothing short of bliss.

Penstock doesn’t give up fish easily, she’s a fickle mistress. That being said spend some time on her banks, get to know her and I promise you’ll fall for her as quick as I did. It’s odd to refer to a lagoon as a person, in this case I’ll make an exception, given that one small bay is called The lady’s walk it seems appropriate. A word of warning though, when the Mayflies are up, you will never want to leave.

BRONTE LAGOON
The grassy shores of Bronte are home to some of the best tailer fishing in Tasmania. When you rise to a dawn patrol and luck upon the fish in amongst the shallows, it’s simple unbelievable. At any given point you can be staring at a dozen foraging trout, heads down and fins carelessly breaking the water’s surface – all within a five metre radius. If you see the slightest disturbance on the water, make a cast, it’s more than likely a fish.

Bronte’s shores swell with Spring rain early in the season and flood fishing can be extremely productive. An infinite supply of earthworms are flushed out of the ground and become tasty morsels for hungry trout looking to gain weight after a long and cold winter. Putting up with the schizophrenic weather patterns makes it all the worth while when you grass a brownie bulging with terrestrial treats.

Oh and the dry fly fishing, let’s just say it’s superb!

Tasmania is home to some of the best fly-fishing on the planet…

LONDON LAKES
The term champagne fly fishing, must have been first spoken at London Lakes. Lake Big Jim and Samuel are the Dom Perignon and Cristal of fly fishing waters in Tasmania, if not Australia. The mayfly hatches are second to none, just ask Greg Beecroft,  once you’ve lucked upon a swarm of these mini-beasts taking to the wing your heart will explode through your chest and you will never be the same again.

Some may say “it doesn’t count, it’s a private water, you’ll only catch stockies” Nah I say! it’s a self sustaining population of brownies and bo’s that suffer very little fishing pressure and grow fatter yearly from a majority catch and release program maintained by the guides. The added bonus of spending a day on either of these magnificent lakes, is the piece and quiet, there’s never a lot of people and wildlife everywhere. Simply put, this is highland heaven!

SOUTH ESK RIVER
If the St Pats was your first kiss then the South Esk River will be your first love. The South Esk begins at Mathinna and wonders her way through the grassy plains of the north eastern quarter of Tasmania, eventually meeting the sea at Launceston. This river is pure romance, she’s elegant, challenging and most of all beautiful. You have to treat her exactly as she expects to be treated.

She has many faces, from old-english broad waters, intimate willow lined runs, to high hopper-banks to die for! One look and you’ll fall in love, one cast and you’ll be hooked, one day and she’ll break your heart. You will however, like a love struck teenager, never tire of her attractions.

NORTH ESK RIVER
We spent many nights under the shadow of Ben Lomond casting flies to sparkling mountain trout. Those were the early days, our flies were too big, our casts too short and our bags empty. I fished with a broken rod for the first season, held together by gaffer tape at the ferrule. Paul's holy waders would fill up with water as we both stood puzzled by these rising fish and perplexed why we couldn't catch them. We've learnt a lot since those days, one thing that hasn't changed though is our enthusiasm for fly fishing.

The North Esk is a challenging river, we often talk about the early days and how landing a fish there was worth three anywhere else. It falls from the mountains winding it's way through bushland and pristine farming country. With some of the most picturesque runs and glides to be found anywhere in Tasmania. In places the North Esk is a true meadow stream and it holds some seriously large trout for it's size. A four pound brown taken on a size 18 nymph is not uncommon occurrence and when you have one safely in the net a high-five is the only way to celebrate.

ST PATRICKS RIVER
The St Patricks River or the St Pats as it’s known locally is a sparkling mountain fed stream. It’s a special place for us, it’s the river where we first learnt to cast a fly, and over many seasons of practice, frustration and delight, the charm of fly-fishing took hold. Its headwaters flow down through a area called “The Camden”, a plateau set under the climbing peaks of Mt Barrow in the North East of Tasmania and as you would suspect we named our business after this beautiful place.

It’s a stream that we love and often return to, it’s mystic matched only by it’s beauty. There is never a day on the St Pats that is easy fishing, its tight turns and bubbling runs keep you guessing, and just when you think you’ve figured it out, it changes again. This is its greatest appeal, and sometimes frustration, a stream that seems to evolve over time along with your fishing ability.

TYENNA RIVER
A summers day spent flicking a dry on the Tyenna is like no other, the water sparkles under the southern sun. We often talk about the light in Tasmania, its unique colour and the way it glows in the evening. In the Summer months that light smothers the hills of Westerway and surrounds, transforming the water into caramel and making the trout glow like speckled gold ingots.

The Tyenna is nothing short of addictive and once you’ve had a taste you’ll never want to give it up. Fishing a Caddis hatch on dusk is as close to heaven as it gets. It’s a river best described as unexpected, there’s fish where there shouldn’t be, no fish where there should be and the places you’re least likely to cast are exactly the places you should. Time spent on the Tyenna is always time well spent.

MACQUARIE RIVER
The Macquarie, the grand old dame of Tasmanian rivers. This majestic waterway encapsulates all that is required for first class fly-fishing. Plentiful amounts of cold water, above average size fish and views that belong on postcards. This being said she does not give up her fish easily, you’ll have to work hard here, harder than most in fact but hell it’s worth it. This river was beloved by the legendary David Scholes and is just as tantalising as his sparkling words describe.

Marcus
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

DRIFT BOATS IN TASMANIA

As published in Freshwater Fishing Australia magazine no. 130.

THE CAMDEN BOYS, PAUL BRADBURY AND MARCUS SAUNDERS TAKE US ON THEIR JOURNEY THROUGH BACKYARD BOAT BUILDING AND SEDATE WATERS.

Fly Fishing is the reason drift boats exist, building them is a good reason for fishermen to exist.
— Anon

I wandered around the garden on a sunny December morning, nursing a cup of coffee that, in return, was nursing my weary head. One last beer – it gets me every time! I was daydreaming about an upcoming river trip I was soon to embark on five days on the South Esk River in North East Tasmania with my best mate in a borrowed inflatable boat when memories of the previous night came back to me. F*%k me! Last night, after about the seventh beer, I vaguely remember telling Marcus (said best mate above) that we were going to build our own goddamn drift boat!

The receipt in my email inbox confirmed our plan. Thank you for your order Mr. Bradbury, your copy of Roger Fletchers Drift Boats and River Dories will be dispatched today. Staring blankly at the fence, my mind finally registered the proposition. We were going to build a boat and go fishing in it – all in three months!

So there we were. Two guys with a shed- load of wood (more about that later), a box full of tools and no idea what to do! Not really what you would deem a textbook start, but a start nonetheless.

THE DESIGN
Legendary American boat-builder, Woodie Hindman, designed the McKenzie River Drift Boat around 1946, and they quickly became a favourite of American fly-fishing guides. Mac boats are as tough (certified for class 4 rapids) as they are beautiful, they’re a charm to row due to the accentuated rocker, and can pivot on a 10 cent piece. Perfect for fly-fishing, the high bow gives the angler a higher elevation for spotting fish, while the oarsman has no trouble maneuvering the boat in all kinds of water.

Tasmania doesn’t have the big freestone rivers of North America, our waters are more meadow streams and big open lakes. And while Mac boats may seem over- gunned for this job, their shallow draft and maneuverability gets anglers into places other boats simply can’t go.

BUILDING THE BOAT
What do you need to build a boat? Timber, tools and time… easy, right?

Huon Pine is our favourite timber; Tasmanian boat builders have been using it for over 200 years. It’s easy to work with, strong, smells amazing and most importantly it never rots! Huon is an increasing rare commodity; we chose to use salvaged wood from Queenstown, on the remote West Coast. The piners, as they’re known, drag up logs from the mighty Gordon and Franklin Rivers; it only seemed appropriate that wood drifting on the river ends up a wooden river Drift Boat. How many years of this diminishing resource we have left is uncertain, but any boat made from this wonderful timber will definitely out live us.

For The Mayfly, our first boat, we used a combination of Huon, Celery Top and King Billy pine, all endemic Tasmanian timbers and perfect for boat building. Some of the longer lengths required simply weren’t available so most of the external rails and chines are scarfed. Wood glue and a little patience make these joins virtually unbreakable, and added another level of skill to the build, mills like Bradshaw’s, in Queenstown, need a simple cut list and will cut the timber to any size, a wondrous service in this day and age. The other essential ingredient is Marine Ply, this had to be shipped from Queensland, we chose AAA grade hoop ply, it’s easy to work with and tough as all get out.

PETER THE CARPENTER (AND BOAT BUILDER)
Being a carpenter, my man cave is overflowing with tools. Modern equipment certainly helps speed up the building process; the complex cuts and joins are even manageable in the backyard workshop (or on the back lawn). However, hand tools are not to be ignored and still play a critical part in boat building. It is even possible to build a Drift Boat without an extension cord. I found myself relying on hand planes and a tenon saw just as much as the drop saw.

There’s a lot of jargon in boat building, I read and re-read the instruction book to try and get my head around it all. Loft this, chine log that, and what the hell is a thole? Oh well, just get on with it! My inner monologue battled with impatience and enthusiasm in equal proportions, I wondered what it would be like when we were floating down the Esk, damn it man concentrate!

BUILDING YOUR BOAT
The first thing to do is loft the plans onto the ply sheets, attention to detail is critical and a simple word of advice here may be appropriate, if you haven’t built a boat before, stick to the plans. Even minor changes will have more of an impact than expected.

Scarfing the ply is the first step, we found a belt sander was the most successful for this job, keep the lines of the exposed layers straight and it will all become apparent down track. With the cutout of the sheets we use a power saw with a guide, this gives us a very accurate working edge. This is probably the time to discuss the most suitable glue, we used International Paints Epiglue, a two-part adhesive that is easy to mix, apply and sand. Once the ply is cut, move onto the ribs. A good quality bevel, sharp plane, strong vice and lofted plans are all essential to get this part correct. Take your time with the bevels and check continually, lay them out on the lofted plan and you will soon see if they need any more adjustment.

Assembly at the beginning is one of the most challenging parts of the build. Both sides have to be screwed to the transom and then tortured around the centre rib. Doing it by the book leads to breakages and swearing! A little frustrated I consulted You Tube, which revealed an alternative approach. Screw in the stem post as shown, then screw in the transom, place the centre rib in position, secure, then working from the centre, alternate rib placement forward and aft. This is so much easier and it works.

Continue to sand as smooth as you go removing excess glue now will save a lot of time at the end. Fitting the chine logs is tricky, check the rib cut outs and front and rear bevel cuts, always remembering that these are forever visible.

Once fitted, check for square and sand everything to get a tight fit with the bottom sheets, remember to line up the join in the sheets with the centre rib (you won’t see the join) for a much better finish. When cutting out the bottom panel keep as close as you can to the scribed mark, if you don’t there’ll be a lot of extra sanding before you can apply the external chines. I love this point of the build, the shape is clear, a lot of the complex cuts are done, and it starts to look like a boat.

Now is the time to fill and sand the exterior, this is a critical point and requires a lot of attention, as this is what will give you a better final finish. For filling we use International paints Epifill, once again a two-part product that is stiff to apply yet sands beautifully and takes paint very well. Once filled and sanded, apply primer and allow to dry, check for imperfections and fill if necessary.

I prefer to paint by hand, a brush and roller gives a more traditional finish and allows plenty of flexibility with colour choices. Two coats of primer gives a great finish when sanded and take the undercoat really nicely. Be careful painting outdoors, as enamel paint attracts flies more than cow dung. You can end up with a lot of unwanted tiny beasties set into the finish. And, rain is no friend either! The Mayfly ended up in my lounge room one wet January night.

TIME TO GO FISHING
I woke up on another Sunday morning, three months later, with an enormous sense of satisfaction, there on my front lawn was a hand crafted Drift Boat, something that I had wanted my entire life. Marcus and I got straight to work applying the vinyl graphics, roping up the seat and packing our gear. My father-in-law was due in an hour to drive us to the river. As we all stood around admiring the boat, Marcus brought me swiftly back to reality by asking “reckon she’ll float?” in all the excitement we hadn’t even tested the bloody thing in the water.

Two hours later we we’re drifting down the South Esk river somewhere in Tasmania. The first bend in the river spun the boat, tore off paint and shot us straight into the willows. It’s fair to say we we’re pretty anxious!

The days that followed were a steep learning curve, we battled strong head winds, and low summer flows that resulted in us carrying the boat through some sections of the river. No hatches, very few fish and no cutlery, needless to say it wasn’t one of the best fishing trips we had ever had! We eventually cut the trip short, conceding defeat to a relentless Northern sea breeze.

Subsequent drifts have been less dramatic, or perhaps our confidence has increased. Either way, we’re now both hooked on drifting rivers.

THE BENEFITS OF A DRIFT BOAT
Drift boats as their name suggests are at home on rivers, yet we’ve had enormous success using them on our local lakes. The ability to drift gently along shallow edges or drop-offs and reach spots deeper draft boats can’t is a real bonus. Many of the fish we have caught out of the boat have been caught in six inches of water. Drift boats are perfect for patrolling the edges of Penstock Lagoon, and casting back towards the weedy edges where fish are nymphing or rising to mayflies.

One of our favourite waters is Brumbys Creek in the north of the State. Brumbys Creek is a renowned tailwater, with wonderful weed beds reminiscent of English chalk streams. It’s a tough fishery, but drifting its waters opens up new opportunities that shore based angling simply cannot reach. Last season a very polite elderly gentlemen cautioned us about chasing the splashing birds on the opposite bank, we rowed over and had an hour and half of spectacular dry fly fishing.

Tasmania is a long way from Oregon, yet perhaps that’s what great design is all about, here we are 80 years after they were first designed, building and using these wonderful boats on the other side of the world. They evoke an inherent sense of wonder in everyone. The people we meet on the water are drawn to them like a trout to a mayfly.

Marcus
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

10 YEARS

   Paul casting to a finicky North Esk trout.

Paul casting to a finicky North Esk trout.

I think we all tend to look back over the season with both a little longing and a fair proportion of happiness. Fish lost, fish won, challenges overcome and some new lessons learnt. The passage of time has not dulled my senses to the finer points or the need to adapt and change quickly as weather conditions, selective fish, river levels or a myriad of other natural elements keep me continually trying to keep pace with the changing needs of my finned friends. I suppose this is also the time when we watch the changing colour of the trees as Autumn takes hold and the world that we have immersed ourselves in for the last five months starts to shut down. 

Standing mid-stream casting to a late rising midge feeder can have its moments, it can also bring back that uneasy feeling that after all these seasons and all the fishing there is still so much shit you just don’t know. That horrible moment when you stand looking at the lake in front of you and simply not knowing where to start, or the river on that beautiful warm sunny day with not a fish to be seen, these are perhaps the moments that separate us from the great fisherman. They roll through this as so many seasons of experience come through, easy choices, confident casting, a focus that we so wish to attain, all these things and so many others reminding us of the long long path ahead.

Time, that most precious of all the elements, always moving, unstoppable, infinitely unforgiving, but with some gentle manoeuvring the one thing that will accompany us on every fishing trip, casting lesson or quiet moment tying flies.

Time, that most precious of all the elements, always moving, unstoppable, infinitely unforgiving…

How many years will it take me? Will it ever feel like it should? Marcus and I stood on the bank of the South Esk near Evandale, the fishing had been technical and slow, no rising fish in what seemed ideal conditions, the conversation just felt different, not much too it, almost inaudible. How many years had we been doing this? In some ways it seemed such a long path, in others a single blink in time, images flash past as years of fishing swirl like a small stream eddy, a life of fishing stored in my head along with everything else that fills our life in the everyday. We fished out the afternoon in varying conditions, a rainstorm soaking us to the skin and nearly sending us home until the sun pushed through and bathed the river in it’s beautiful autumn glow. 

How very different this season feels, the discussion on flies and tactics has lost the scattergun approach as choices through the simple passage of time have been thinned out, new water feels exciting as I watch Marcus immerse himself in that very wild world of the Western Lakes, returning a better fisherman after each visit—a renewed focus and energy coming through. I observe all this and yet I find it hard to leave my lowland rivers, their very changing seasonal faces still keep me excited as we drive dusty summer roads chasing better hatches and bigger fish. 

10 years somebody once told me, 10 years and you will have a good basis to start learning from, does this include fly-fishing? From all discussions it would appear to be the case, a life of fishing that truly starts after 10 years. Perhaps it is true but at the end of the day who cares? I certainly don’t, all the years that Marcus and I have now fished have left me a better person as well as fisherman, the learning bit seems to simply happen as a pretty cool off shoot. One minute you don’t know shit, a blink in time later you think you're the trout slayer, that particular phase doesn’t last long as the river and fish take their revenge. The other bit that always seems to get left out is how funny this whole caper is, I am pretty sure I’ve laughed my arse off more times watching us all trying to perform with some kind of grace but generally wind up looking more like a trussed chicken than a legend.  

This past season has been quite a challenge with life keeping me busy as the season rolled, for whatever reason in the end it hasn’t mattered, the fishing has been tough yet that’s what it is all about, tough fishing makes better fisherman and everybody’s goal is to be a better fisherman. The lakes were a challenge for me this year yet others have had a strong season, the South Esk and St Patricks as always have been my bread and butter with southern trips to the Tyenna and Styx rounding out an awesome season. 10 years they say, that’s a little while ago for us now yet none of the thrill has gone, all of us who have chosen this sport are on their own path yet the common thread is there, it ties us all together, keeps us focused and drives the things we love. Conservation, catch and release, fisheries management and of course this beautiful place we call home, all these things and many more help make this a life changing journey.

The weather here today is appalling yet I can’t help but smile as thoughts of coming trips creep into my mind and plans are laid out for some early season river drifts, my fishing bag is there on the table waiting to be cleaned out, birds nests of leader material poking through and flies strewn around the bottom, these simple tasks give me focus and keep me connected over the long cold winter, 10 years or one, six months or a lifetime, none of it matters, fly-fishing is a way of life that opens its arms to everyone, the funny side of that is that most of the fishing will be on your own, ignore the 10 years, open your mind and simply enjoy the journey.

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

TOWN FISHING

Simon playing a lovely Tyenna trout.

It bubbles… it tumbles… it rolls. Each little corner, the long enticing straights, at every turn, it seems to call to you, its voice tinkling one moment then gurgling and gushing the next, the water drawing you forever forward. The fish love this world as much as the angler, feisty and abandoned one minute, spooky and selective the next. The heat of the day drives them on as your fly choice brings another dimpling rise. Somewhere in the distance I hear a voice calling and it funnels down the tree lined banks and snaps me out of my meditation, I look around I see Simon on the bank pointing upstream, it quickly becomes obvious that the time has come for a coffee at the café that sits right on the river — this could only happen here.

…your very own Hog Johnson lives here.

Of all the rivers I have fished this one offers the most contradictions, so accessible, so pretty, so many fish and yet it sits right smack bang in the middle of a small country town. And make no mistake I mean right in the middle. You pull into the local service station, fill up with gas then walk a few steps to the river to see whether the fish are rising. The people are friendly and are quick to ask if your fishy pursuits have been successful, and offer condolences if not. It’s as simple as pulling the car to the side of the road, gearing up and wandering past the local B&B down to the water. A move through the trees and the cars and shops are dreamily left behind as the river goes to work on all your senses, beautiful dappled light, endless bubble lines and a quietness only broken by the occasional bird call and fruit pickers playing guitars on the grass.

The farmers in this part of the world are generous enough to work with Anglers Alliance to provide various access points, opening up large sections of river through private property. Make no mistake, the regulars here are aware of the situation and will tolerate no nonsense from the uninitiated. At the main access point, near the bridge, a journal has been placed in a folder asking anglers to record their days fishing, this is a pretty amazing read and I would suggest you take a look. There is a particular local gent in there that I would be very keen to fish with. This is one of those rivers that is so picture perfect, and it feels very luxurious when you are wandering through fields of raspberry canes occasionally stopping for a chat with the farm hands whilst keeping one eye firmly glued to the river… yes, very nice indeed.

To be truthful the first few times I was taken here it seemed a little weird, everyone telling me how good the fishing was and yet there we were in the middle of town, wading up behind country houses and the local shop casting to rising browns. It certainly made me smile though after Marcus released a fish and the owner of the overlooking house came out for a chat, they quickly fell into a discussion on the merits of soil types for potatoes and other matters of a vegetable kind. When he chose to wander back inside Marcus bade him farewell, re-ginked his fly and moved on, now that’s what I call a good relationship with the locals.

There is something going on here and I just can’t quite put my finger on it, but if someone said that it was slightly addictive I would have to drop my head a little and with some kind of rough smile, say yes it is. Fishing the lakes in high summer offers some pretty tough challenges but that is when this water comes alive, low flows and warm days only bring bigger hatches and better fishing. People speak of matching the hatch; to be honest there is just so much fly life on the water it’s difficult to choose. Caddis, tiny black mayflies, beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, they’re all here swarming, dancing and fighting for space to perform their miniature routines. Natures display is a entomological sympathy and the trout miss none of it.

There is one last point to this story that I promise I am telling just to you. HE IS HERE! You know the one, spoken of in hushed tones at the local pub, the occasional photo surfacing from an angler’s red-letter day. We don’t know whether they are fugitives from the fish farm or simply a product of the masses of insects who call the river home. MAKE NO MISTAKE lurking in a deep dark pool, lying under an undercut or ogling a caddis from the safety of a log, your very own Hog Johnson lives here. Don’t worry though, the locals will be only to happy to tell you exactly where, and I am sure that one of the specialist guides will put you right, hopefully. So search this river out, fish it, love it, respect it, and most of all enjoy it!

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

SCHOLES

David Scholes on the lower Macquarie River, Tasmania. From Fly-fisher in Tasmania plate 12, page 83.

“The call of the river is strong indeed, I cannot resist it. High hang the banks and swift flow the runs, the sound of the water like bells. Look for me close by a river. You will find Me on the banks of a river. I am happy by the side of a river, for there lies my hearts delight.”
David Scholes

What is it about this guy that leaves me so enamoured? I don’t know him, I have never met him, yet at any moment I can think of him. He’s there, looking over my shoulder when playing a fish in tight confines, any battle won by more than sheer luck is viewed with infinite pleasure, a tricky cast then a nudge at your fly is exactly as he would have done it, (or so you’d like to think). I’ve read so many books on fishing that at times they meld together, yet Scholes’ way with the pen still leaves me bare. Sure, there are some works which I don’t connect with, but others feel as is he has written them just for me, I’m there, standing beside him, willing him on, wanting to be part of his extraordinary world, and he appears only too happy to take me along. Endless good is the order of the day in the early works, his words seem to drive so many people to be the angler that in there heart they so long to be, yet as they continue a melancholy takes hold, a concern for his disappearing world, a sense of infinite sadness.

The release of Fly-Fisher In Tasmania in 1960 marked the beginning of what is probably still seen as the golden age of Tasmanian fly fishing, and this recognition can be pretty much laid at the feet of David Scholes. This book still inhabits the shelves of most anglers in Tasmania and is still used as the reference point for so many aspects of fishing in this state, beautifully written, accurate and timeless, sometimes they just don’t get any better. So much has been said and so much has been written that it would be remiss of me to even try to add anything, this is simply about saying how thankful we are he passed our way. 

I remember quite clearly buying my first copy of Fly-Fisher In Tasmania at the Compleat Angler in Melbourne, it was a reprint but that didn’t matter, I was just pleased to have found my copy. When I first became interested in fly-fishingI headed straight for the classics, they filled me with expectation and hope, took me up tiny streams and to wonderful lakes with names I can no longer remember, yet it all seemed so distant, so far from my little family home in Melbourne. Time and luck would eventually bring me to my new life in Tasmania and to a world of fishing that as a boy I had only dreamed of. This was a place of wondrous opportunity and unlimited adventure, all the time accompanied with words from fisherman with names like Wigram, Scholes and Ritchie, I still look at the black and white images taken by these guys and marvel at the simplicity and ease with which they approached each wonderful day, little did I know, that things are not always as simple as they seem. 

I remember quite clearly buying my first copy of Fly-Fisher In Tasmania…

I have read Trout Questmany times and the chapter “There goes an Angler” still leaves me with mixed feelings, it seems to touch at the very core of fishing, taking the reader into this other world. You can feel the frailty, the very breath slipping away, its so real that you feel you are in the room, sitting on the edge of your chair with both of them, the fire crackling quietly as you listen to tales of times long past. I suppose the other side is that as anglers we become more and more attached to the natural world, with every journey you are drawn further in, you no longer just look, you become part of it. That brings with it some amazing moments, yet nature is also constantly reminding us that to all of this there is an end, She makes no bones about it and lets no one slip by, we will all have to pay our dues. Scholes leaves us with no doubts and gives us these timely reminders, all the time written with beauty and care. 

Some sense of impending loss seems to creep into the later works, like his whole world was slipping away and the rivers and streams that he had so loved were being destroyed before his eyes. There is no doubt that the upper Yarra in Victoria was changed forever when the city of Melbourne began it’s relentless expansion, and his beloved Break ‘O’ Day river in Tasmania has been pushed to breaking point with changes in farming practices and irrigation, along with health issues in his older age, they seem to have left him a little exposed. These are things that I can only glean from the words of friends and the stories written, and oh how beautiful so many of those stories are. I personally don’t long for an age that has passed, the world that we now fish in might have changed, but this is the card we where dealt and it’s so very exciting to me. After so many years the words still have relevance, and it is to that fact that we remain so thankful. 

David Scholes died on 25 May 2005 and to many it was the end of that very romantic era, a way with words that will pass into history. I think Scholes would have been horrified by the development of online shopping and creations like Facebook and Twitter, yet these are the tools to alert people to change, to let them know if places are at risk, how they can help, give them a voice or simply to share stories. That doesn’t mean that we no longer have the ability to appreciate a great writer, so next time you grab a dog eared John Gierach from the shelf or maybe go for a copy of FlyLife, don’t forget to reach up and grab that Scholes classic, get a tumbler of single malt, sit in front of the fire and let yourself be taken on some of the most enjoyable fishing days of his life.

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds        

NOBODY TOLD ME

Christopher's smile lasted all day on the St Pats.

Nobody told me, they should have. How could you not tell someone, or at least give them enough information to make a choice. I understand that we all have to make our own way, pick the right path, be patient, etc, etc, yet all these years later I seem to understand less, question more, think constantly about my impending demise, worry about rainfall, global warming, pivot systems, people that don’t give a shit. All these crazy things leaving me so exposed, I feel like I’m naked in the supermarket, surprisingly this has come about because I took up the quiet and supposed gentle sport of fly fishing.

I still remember Mel Krieger waving his arms enthusiastically in his DVD Beginnings telling us all that there would be a whole life in front of us to learn, fish and dream. It always seems a little unfair that he left out the bit where fly fishing draws you in then puts you through the mental ringer, gently grinding away all the nonsense and peripheral waste that so far had seemed ok. You continue to drift slowly forward, all the time losing and gaining, gear comes and goes, flies are in then out then in again, new rods, bamboo rods, bags, vests, hats, fish, no fish, plenty of fish, no fish, all the time desire is at your shoulder, whispering redolent discourse into your vulnerable soul.

All these feelings and thoughts are replaced by a stillness, a returning warmth when we step into a favourite river or stream, the crunching gravel, the gentle push against your waders as gradually the river takes hold and all those empty emotions are swept away with the timeless current. We drink these feelings in greedily, all the while attempting to replenish our depleted essence, the fish are witness to it all, yet it leaves them unmoved. Instinct and hunger offer no time to contemplate, and the foolish or thoughtless are quickly gone. Some days I don’t want to deal with this, yet it’s part of the package, nature beckons us on and as we become more engaged we also become more aware. We feel ourselves moving away from the everyday and things that have worried us in the past just no longer matter. Thomas McGuane wrote in his beautiful book The Longest Silence a chapter on Walton. Beside rivers, we seldom fill our minds with “fears of many things that will never be. Here, honest, civil, quiet men are free from dread.”

Gradually the river takes hold and all those empty emotions are swept away…

The bookshop owner had rung me, a family had dropped them off, a life long customer now gone. I stood staring at the two cardboard boxes, It was like looking into his most private world, some covered, some torn and battered, yet all loved. There was the usual suspects, streamside entomology, the Scholes’ classics, some old school chalk stream reflections, Sloane, French, they were all there, a life of fishing, one mans journey from beginner to no longer beginner. Fishing without literature is like a bike without a chain, the only time you get anywhere is when you’re going downhill. The books seem to evolve at the same rate as our skill, constant companions, subtle guidance, a fair amount of crap and lots of good solid whispers. I don’t know when it changes, but at some point we step off the path and just stop to look around. The color of the sky seems deeper, the birds less mournful at our approach, and some days the fish seem eager to engulf our humble fly. This is also when we seem to step away from the guide books and the “how to” paperbacks, subconciously seeking a higher level, a deeper connection. This guy had done that, I could just make out the cover at the bottom of the pile, Thomas McGuane, always McGuane. At first it felt like a violation, then somehow it came as kind of okay. A lifetime of fishing and reading and the only thing left is a stack of old books in an unknown bookshop, no one to pass them onto, lost to the wind, yet fisherman had been going through the boxes all day, choosing for their level, seeking inspiration, searching for those sacred words, better this than the rotting away, supporting the leg of a broken coffee table.

We remain confused, yet less so, we talk of riffles, runs, eddys and braids, hackles, hooks, gink and drifts, belly boats, drift boats, stink boats, a whole language base dedicated to the pursuit of a beautiful fish. The journey continues, for some little will change, for others their world will be forever reformed, a kind of devotion taking hold, like the fish we seek, these desires are simple, elegant and completely at the mercy of nature herself, time, dedication and more time being the only unfailing requirements. We no longer approach the water with a rushing glance, there’s almost a silence in our mind as carefully we run our eyes over the broken surface, patience has it’s rewards when a gentle dimple sends out it’s tiny ebbing rings, instinct pushes you to your knees as you unknowingly forget to breathe, all those hours of casting in the park, the pile of books you have consumed, all the gear changes and the entomology lessons are compressed into this single moment.

Is this the point when we finally let go? The very beginning of a true life of fishing, wonderful authors like Haig-Brown and Wulff long ago dismissed the selfish nature and needs of modern society and just fished, their descriptions and tactics were based on the cycles of the natural world, how well you cast, how many Latin names you knew just didn’t matter, they were all about the fish, how he lived, what he ate and how changing circumstances affected his feeding habits. Not much more, not much less, simply a life spent doing something they loved. As with most of life’s journeys we head off with wonderful intentions, searching for our own Holy Grail, we spend years on this path and at the end we are left standing on a riverbank with less gear, a simpler view, confidence that is held in our hands and a renewed love for the outdoors. A strange journey for some, but for you and I a life changing odyssey.

The worldwide fly-fishing community is now very connected, through social media, fishing websites any number of great DVDs, magazines and so many other time consuming ways to get self involved. Images of massive fish, tough guides, and lots of high fives fill the screen leaving us with slack jawed disbelief. Yet what most of us are seeking is solitude, silence enough to hear our own inner-voice, a chance to be on rivers that seem like old friends, the solitary call of a drifting hawk, frogs along the edges getting frisky, small birds chattering angrily at each other, all the sounds that remind us that this is home. This is not an easy journey, there are no short cuts, some are gifted and they rise quickly, but for most of us time will be the only companion, always there, unstoppable, unforgiving, yet patiently accompanying us until the end. Our catch rate improves, confidence rises as we work to become something other than a beginner, all this is mostly unseen, unexplainable but to a chosen few. And on those rare days when we bow down, our essence replenished, our mind overflowing with what are now deemed just memories, be thankful that no one ever told you.

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

SIMPLE SMOKING

   Nom, nom, nom!

Nom, nom, nom!

Most fish I catch I put back, much to my Father’s disgust—the old mans catch rate does not warrant mercy towards the humble trout. I do, however, love to smoke trout. Why, because I love the taste, it’s beautiful! So, here’s my simply smoking method, enjoy.

A pair of plump Western Lake Brownies (above), around the two pound mark, are perfect for the home smoker. I tend to find the cleaner the water, the better the fish taste, avoid fish from dams and slow flowing rivers.

PREPARATION
Clean and gut your fish, lakeside is preferably, but like me, you may prefer the laundry sink and an entomology lesson with the junior fisherman in the house. In my experience, boys enjoy this more than girls, there’s a primal curiosity towards blood n’ guts built into male genes – it’s just the way it is. Once you’ve studied the contents of the trout’s last supper, rinse it under the tap and pat dry with a tea towel.

DISCLAIMER
A great many people like to soak trout in a brine and sugar solution for a few hours before smoking, I’ve tried many and personally don’t believe it changes the outcome enough to justify the time it takes. One advantage is improving the taste of a fish raised in muddy waters, but who really wants to eat them anyway?

SMOKING
Find a space in your garden thats’s out of the wind, It pays to fire up your smoker away from nervous neighbours – the kind that call the Fire Department at the first sign of smoke! Fill the little metal dish, that came with your smoker, to the top with Methylated spirits, place under the smoker. Sprinkle a good handful of moist wood chips (yes, moist! See below) onto the smoker base, now you’re ready to add the fish. Gently drape your trout across the smoking rack, strike a match over the Metho and put the lid on. How do you tell when the fish is ready? Give it 15 minutes or let the Metho burn out, what ever comes first and you’re done.

EATING
I love the taste of freshly smoked fish, its hard to resist. Remove the lid from the smoker, wait for the mushroom cloud to disperse. Peel back the skin with your pocket knife, ease your knife gently into the lateral line of the fish and push down, the flesh will glide off the bone. At our place a full fish rarely makes it back to the kitchen intact. Mouth fulls of hot smoked trout in the garden are hard to beat!

TIPS
Before you begin place a hand full of wood chips in a sieve, run under the cold tap to whet them down, then give them a good squeeze in a cheese cloth. This helps retain the moisture in your fish and avoids that horrible burnt flavour that can spoil a good catch.

ESSENTIALS

  • Trout
  • Portable smoker
  • Wood chips (Mesquite chips are great)
  • Tea towel
  • Sharp knife
  • Methylated spirits
  • Matches

Bon Appetit, Marcus
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

OUR TASMANIA

Paul hauling one out of the South Esk.

150 years ago two enterprising Tasmanians made a decision that would change the rivers, lakes and streams of our island home forever. English Trout and Salmon ova carried from the New Norfolk wharf on the shoulders of men, keen to find a place of sanctuary, freedom and sport without the watchful eye of the local gamekeeper. Our world today is very different, yet when we stand in our favourite river or stream, the current gently swirling around our waders, studded boots creating small storms under the silky surface, the landscape gently caressing our senses, we owe some of these feelings to that fateful choice so many years ago.

Contemporary fishing is a strange and wondrous pursuit, old school references being the elegant words of Scholes and Wigram, beautiful books in there own ways, yet feeling so far from the place that we find ourselves today.

Contemporary fishing is a strange and wondrous pursuit…

Tony Ritchie spans the two worlds, and then works from people like Rob Sloane, Greg French and Daniel Hackett re align us to the modern ways. These books all paint a fascinating picture of the place we call home, yet perhaps one element is not openly discussed. Freedom, the ability to choose so many places to fish, to camp for free, light cooking fires, talk to the local farmer when crossing private property, increased angler access, so many amazing things that you and I possibly take for granted.

Tasmania offers so many different places to fish, Little Pine, Penstock, The Meander, North Esk, St Pat’s and never forget the beautiful and wild Western Lakes. They all offer something, and every angler has their special place, for me, this is the South Esk River. How this came to be I am a little unsure, perhaps it just comes down to so many days spent exploring, watching the seasons change, getting to know the haunts of brown hawks and small wrens, even the platypus seem unmoved as they glance over on their drift downstream.

The fish here can be as fickle as any, yet some days the little #18 spent black spinner can weave a certain magic, the tiny out stretched wings throwing a silhouette the local browns find irresistible.

The fish may not be as big as those in the Highlands, yet a two pounder can put on a fight that only makes you love this pursuit all the more, and as you gently release him, the current quickly takes hold and he is swept almost instantly from view. Quietly you stand and try to see him, a last longing glance, but he is already back in the mysterious world below, now just a memory. I stare in wonder at the world we are free to roam and raise my tumbler of fine home grown whisky to those two enterprising Tasmanians and that fateful decision 150 years ago.

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

TASSIE TROUT 150 YEARS

Can we look forward to another 150 years?

Researching one’s Tasmanian family history over more than 170 years throws up some confusing information but there is no confusion about the history of brown trout in Tasmania.

One hundred and fifty years ago next month, on May 4, 1864 to be precise, the first of a mere 300 fish which had been painstakingly transported as ova from the UK, began hatching at the now famous Salmon Ponds near Hobart. A day later Atlantic salmon that had made the same journey began hatching.

The anniversary of the event is unlikely to attract anything but praise from fly fisherman.

But the introduction of trout to Tasmanian waterways, after many painstaking efforts, is an achievement which historians or naturalists might argue led to different schools of thought about the merit of the acclimatisation movement which gripped colonial Australia in the mid-19th century.

Focussing on what they missed from the Old Country, acclimatisation societies set out to bring in animals and plants and with no great knowledge of genetics, assumed the introduced species would gradually adapt to the new environment.

Few today would dispute the damage caused by rabbits, foxes, deer and carp which were introduced for “sport”. Occasionally one even hears of people, non-anglers I suspect, who would want trout added to that list.

But all this is now history and these introduced species are here to stay. With the possible exception of carp, those who chase these furred or finned creatures would argue their pursuit is “sport”.

The 1903 edition of the Tasmanian Government Railways illustrated guide to ‘the holiday resort of Australia’ says “excellent sport is obtainable with rod and gun. The principal rivers and some of the lakes are well stocked with English trout.”

One hundred and fifty years on both trout and Atlantic salmon can be credited with fostering a passion in anglers of all type, as well as with spear heading the business of aquaculture.

Jean Walker’s book The Origins of Trout Fishing in Tasmania tells the story of James Youl and William Ramsbottom who jointly championed a 12 year campaign of research and experimentation to introduce both fish species. Strident criticism of the cost accompanied their failures along the way.

The first attempt to introduce fish to the state was in 1852 with the shipment of 50,000 ova of trout and salmon on a four month journey on the barque “Columbus”. Various combinations of containers, ice and circulating water failed in this and three subsequent attempts until ova packed in moss in an icehouse survived an 84 day trip to Melbourne arriving in January 1864. On April 21 a barge was met by 50 men from the Derwent Valley who carried the cases of ova four miles to the now famed Salmon Ponds.

Just six years later in 1870 Great Lake was stocked by Chief Constable James Wilson.

By 1872 the distribution of trout ova and fry from the Salmon Ponds was well advanced and ova were being sent to NSW, Victoria and New Zealand. By any label this was Tasmania’s first aquaculture venture, preceding by about a hundred years the large scale commercial farming of fish for the table for which the state is now widely recognised.

One hundred and fifty years on, with any voices long silent against the “acclimatisation” efforts of Youl and Ramsbottom, it is a disturbing  prospect that “climate” might yet pose a bigger threat to our trout population than the trout have ever posed to our ecology.

When cooler temperatures should have been heralding the onset of winter and encouraging a trout population to feast before spawning, it is my experience albeit limited, that surface water temperatures in highland lakes were disturbingly high.

Climate change deniers might enjoy their 15 seconds of media time but after 150 years trout may be in for a greater shock than their tentative beginnings in Tasmania’s waterways.

Mike
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

DECEMBER

This little guy swam straight through my legs.

I always find the time leading up to Christmas gets a little too frantic, work’s busy, kids are busy, partners are busy, it all seems just a bit too consuming. The fishing  at this time of year is some of the season’s best, good water flows, excellent hatches and lots of fat healthy fish. Getting on to the water is the real challenge, days of blue skies and soft fluffy clouds do their best to lure us from tasks that have to be done, a sort of resentment may even creep in as gentle breezes lift the greenery in passing waves and tug at some inner level of consciousness, urging us to down tools and follow this bidding call. A loss of confidence may even overtake us, as all around the word is passed of so many good fish, and for some it seems, endless summer days.

The fishing is late this year, the rain seems unending as we patiently wait for everything to steady. Muddy flows and high water persist, even the fish “up-top” are being less than co-operative as high water levels keep them out of the shallows. One of our favourite rivers in Northern Tasmania is the St Patricks, a beautiful small mountain stream that holds a large head of fish, the fishing here in early summer can be amazing, and what the fish lack in size they certainly make up for with enthusiasm. Today was a scorcher, all was quiet as I sat next to one of my favourite pools, the local platypus that lives in this section was busy enough, yet only the occasional fish rose as the heat drove them down, waiting for the cooler period of early evening. Some days, to sit beside a stream like this with no fishing rod or gear has a strange feeling of freedom, you simply relax and take it all in, let your mind wander along with the current, talk away to the small robin who seems to be eyeing off your lunch and stretch out on the bank with a certain sense of satisfaction.

Even the fish “up-top” are being less than co-operative…

The St Pats, as it is affecionatley known, can be fickle. We both learnt here and it has its tough days, fly selection was born on rivers like this, a minimal choice can get you through, yet a smaller size, a minor colour variation, even a reduction in tippet size may make the difference. The classic patterns do well; Elk hair, Adams, black spinner, pheasant tail nymph all work, just be prepared to run through a few changes. Possibly the best way to start if no fish are rising is with a double rig, bushy elk hair on the top and a bead head pheasant tail underneath, search through the faster water and some deeper runs, the fish are there, you just have to get the combination right.

This is one of the few local rivers that clear and drop quickly, around Christmas it’s a “go to” choice when the rain seems to hang on, flooding all the meadow streams for weeks on end. The fish don’t give themselves up easily, you still have to work at it, but some days it fishes well,  tight casting,  gentle pushes, even your crappy roll cast work, the #18 black spinner drifts along with the current, sitting happily on the surface as it moves gently into the window of a sighted fish. The take still comes as a surprise, how gently those bigger fish can sip, the fly disappearing with barely a ripple. River fish fight with intense energy, leaping, rolling, surging for the safety of sunken timber and deep water, all the time with us riding the roller coaster of excitement and dread as we attempt to gain some control and get him to the bank. This is wonderful fishing that anglers of all levels love, always something to learn, always a new fly to try, always another section to explore.

I think every angler has his own version of the perfect small stream, the St Pats is this for me, a gravel and sand bottom, endless sections of faster water, steadying pools, riffles and runs that the fish love nearly as much as the angler. Yet what is so special on small streams is their enveloping feel, you park and hike in, with every step the load seems lighter, the everyday world is left behind, the perfume of gum trees warmed through from the sun, ravens, finches, robins and kookaburras calling warnings or simply watching as you pass, and all the time the sound of moving water. The pace quickens as we approach, excitement always with us, expectations run high as we glimpse the water through the towering trees, we know these sections so well that we crawl to the edge and look up and down stream, the water shimmers and sparkles as it dances over rocks and logs, endless eddies and currents ready to trap or free our fly, bubble lines always showing the way. At last a single rise breaks the surface, all is well, all is as it should be.

Wading into mid stream you start working out line, the rod comes alive, it all feels right, comforting even, then he rises again. Cursing under your breath as the cast falls wide, the line drifts past and the current takes up pressure and starts to load the rod, holding for a moment until everything is drawn tight, a quick push and everything is up, the line rolls forward drawing the leader on, this is better. The little Adams lands five feet up from the fish, your whole body is rigid, eyes are rivited to the surface as instinct puts us on full alert, the line draws happily through your fingers, it’s easy enough to keep pace with the current and a quick mend keeps everything on its right path, nothing. This time there’s no running through, he’s sitting further forward than you thought, a minimal false cast and another chance, the little fly touches down, it seems to have barely moved when it’s quietly grabbed, the little 4 weight goes to work and he’s quickly worn down, colours flare under the surface, red spots, flashes of gold, as you gently ease him into a wetted hand.

The St Pats fishes on for miles like this, fishing pressure is reasonably low and permissible access is good. Whether you’re a beginner or no longer a beginner, this is an amazing stream, some days unbelievable, other days tough, but always a wonderful place to be. Old sections of giant forest gum, chocked corners of willow and blackberry, dream like runs flanked by open pasture. It’s all here, most of it wadeable, with vast areas protected from the wind and weather, December may not be the best of it, but there’s no doubt that it can be one of the most rewarding. Leave a break in the calendar, make the extra effort, justify it all by calling it an early Christmas present. Like the Tyenna in the South it may bring some of your happiest fishing days.

Happy New Year from everyone at Camden.
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

BELIEF

Paul on the board at Penstock.

What happens to us? One minute you feel like you're flying along, making the right fly choices, catching a few fish, casting solidly, generally speaking doing pretty well. The following week you find yourself standing on the bank of your favourite stream and things just don’t feel quite right, you don’t seem able to choose a fly let alone find a fish and the one cast that you’ve made has left your favourite emerger firmly embedded in a tree high above. What’s happening? What's changed? This is one of those times in a fisherman’s life when you have to ask yourself… am I going to think this through or am I just going to blunder on?

From what I have read and when speaking with other fisherman, it would seem that just about everyone at some point has been through the same thing, those times when you just can’t find that place in your brain that will help put it all together, maybe this a plateau? Whatever it is, finding something or someone to help get us through this is our next step. Some people find it with the help of a friend, a lot of people head to the local fly shop or join a fishing club, and what are all these people seeking? Some call it confidence, others may say it's knowledge, my humble guess? Belief.

… Those times when you just can’t find that place in your brain that will help put it all together.

The discussion must now head in a different direction, we have to make sure that we have done all that we can to give ourselves the best possible chance of success, and let’s face it we are not really talking about our lucky hat (by the way I do have one of those). Belief in our choices and ourselves are what will take the angler to a higher place. The ability to decipher and understand what is happening with the fish, the water and whatever else we find confronting us is what will help us answer these questions. The more we fish, the more rocks we turn over, the more books we read and the more we search for these clues, the better fisherman we can become.

The hardest part of this process is time, life’s so busy these days that we are using most of it up just trying to keep ahead of the never ending cycle of bills, family commitments and the other mountain of personal responsibilities that fishing is sometimes hard to squeeze in. This is the very reason that losing your shit on the bank of your favourite stream is possibly not the best option. Daniel Hackett wrote a great story in FlyLife issue 62, it offers a clever and concise approach to building on basic skills and tries to help us all to narrow down time that is wasted that would have been better spent searching for fish. Daniel’s suggested approach goes like this, check the weather, learn a bit about hatches, sneak around in the grass, keep casts short and make sure you enjoy the day, sounds pretty good to me!

Of all the things that have left an impression on me when fishing with a guide, it's their unfailing belief that they will find feeding fish, they just don’t give in. The belief in their own ability is what makes them such strong fisherman and by following a few basic steps and making a few sound choices we can take our fishing to that next level. Make no mistake, some days will just be crap, but if we keep looking for fish, understanding a little about the insect life in the stream or lake and making better choices about where to go in certain weather, our confidence will grow along with our ability.

This now takes us back to the beginning. Check the weather, be organised, get out and get moving, look for any sign of a fish, keep it simple and most of all enjoy your self. My final thought on all of this, as in life, a belief in yourself and your abilities will allow you to become the fisherman that you always wanted to be, and that is probably a lot closer than you think.

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Couldn't resist a wet.

I don’t think it will ever change – that bewildered look on the face of a person of a non-fishing persuasion, when you talk to them about your successful day on the water.

You’re still pretty psyched up and itching to share some of the detail, yet no matter how hard you try it always winds up with something along the lines of what my beloved wife would say: “That’s enough babe, it’s all starting to sound like clicks and whistles to me” – but shit, you just want to get it out; clicks and whistles or not, it was an amazing day.

And again, how many times have you sat quietly at night, reading one of your favourite authors – their stories of amazing hatches of green drakes, western stoneflies, red spinners or pale morning duns – and you can almost feel the air moving and humming, tiny wings catching the light, selective fish gently breaking the surface film… And all the while your feet are warmly perched on the ottoman. Try to explain that to the punter and you may have some trouble.

I don’t think it will ever change – that bewildered look on the face of a person of a non-fishing persuasion…

I don’t know how to adequately express the feelings we all have about fishing, yet at some point we all try to do it – and, honestly, I have yet to meet anyone who was very successful. Trying to involve the uninitiated in the merits of a size 16 black spinner over the 14 just isn’t going to carry a lot of water, and no matter how many times you show them your favourite local pattern, their eyes will still glaze and you may even see a little slackening of the jaw as you use up all of the oxygen they need to stay alert…

Fishing is something I will never get preachy about, yet there are times when I just want to yell it from the highest mountain I can find: “Fly fishing is fucking awesome!” How do you not tell someone of the things you have seen? Those fish that you watch on warm summer evenings, clipping away at tiny black mayflies, ebbing rings catching the last rays of the sun, making you feel that this world is as beautiful as anything you have ever seen… a long horn caddis hatch that’s so thick you stop fishing and just stand there staring in wonder, thinking about the pattern John Goddard tied on the other side of the world and how perfectly matched it is to the caddis in this little lake in Tasmania… Almost all of these memories will be buried with you, most never shared and nearly all never discussed. Does this lessen the moment or downgrade the memory? I doubt it.

Perhaps this is why we all grow such a tight circle of likeminded fishing friends. In this welcoming environment, all the things you are saying make sense to more than just yourself. Hell, your mates are actually eager to hear how you landed that beautiful brown at Penstock or the pounder from the St Pat’s. Yep, it all falls into perspective with the right audience.

We can criticise the lack of understanding from the non-fishers of the world – or we can look at it for what it truly means to us (do we just let it go and never talk about it again? I don’t think so!). Every sport has fanatics; it’s simply that fly fishing seems to have more than its share. It may give us an edge of self-righteousness, yet it may also help us to achieve more in the way of conservation, protection and helping to build a better fishery – and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Of course, sometimes we ask ourselves: is this what we truly love? Does this fill our needs? Why do we fish? I think we probably ask ourselves these questions more often when we’re not fishing. Put those same questions to someone lifting on a dun-feeding brown and you’ll get your true answer!

There is no secret to any of this; every fly fisherman knows what I’m talking about. And, most likely, most of them don’t give a crap. When talking to the uninitiated it’ll all be lost in the translation anyway. Yet there we will all be, talking it up, laughing and reliving those enviable moments… and if someone gets dragged in from the sideline, we just smile and make them feel comfortable. You know they won’t be there long anyway.

Paul
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

WHAT MAKES A FLY FISHERMAN?

Mr Crabtree goes fishing by Bernard Venables.

At first sight this may seem like an easy question to answer.

The challenge of outwitting a fish.  A passion for eating fish. A love of the outdoors. A desire to get away from it all.

While those are the obvious reasons, I reckon there are some subliminal influences-the catalysts, if you like, that firm your resolve to get up in the cold grey pre-dawn light and exercise your arm for hours in pursuit of a very elusive quarry.

It’s not hard to recall the many influences that brought about my conversion from an everyday kid to a fisherman and later still, into a fly fisherman.

The odd success on Melbourne’s Station Pier with flathead. Chasing snapper off Mornington in a clinker built inboard motor boat or grass whiting and gurnard in Westernport Bay. Discovering the art of building rods-from Rangoon cane surf rods to split cane fly rods – under the tutelage of a master rod maker. And, reading what I have only recently discovered is the most popular fishing book the world has yet seen, under the bed covers in a cold greater London winter.

Bernard Venables wrote Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing in the late 1940s. Adapted from a regular cartoon strip that Venables drew for the London Daily Mirror, the book went on to sell some 2 million copies, making it one of the most popular sports-related books ever published.

He combined simple descriptions of the rods, reels and rigs for chasing different freshwater fish across the waterways and seasons of the UK with the images of a paternal Mr. Crabtree and his son Peter – the former always in a collar and tie, the latter always in short pants.

Accurately reflecting both the era and his passion for fishing, Venables has a lot to answer for in my fishing life, including most recently finding an old Young Trudex fly reel and using the Internet to track down a repairer and restorer of centrepin reels in the UK.

But Venables wasn’t the first piece of fishing literature I picked up. That honour goes to a small volume, in physical dimensions and in the number of pages.  I was given Let’s Go Fly Fishing by L.E. Russell as a gift before I was old enough to understand what it was really saying-or maybe I was slow to learn the art of reading.

The one thing I do remember of this modest little tome is that L.E. hedged his bets and despite the title, he devoted a chapter to “clear water worm angling” or the sort of thing a disgruntled fly fisherman MAY get up to when every fly in the box, dry or wet, fails.

Then there was Monaro, NSW-born John Sautelle,  the pages of whose book took meFishing for the EducatedTrout and introduced me to the fact that fly fishing was a therapy not just for us mere mortals but for civic leaders-vice regals like former NSW governor Sir Roden Cutler and former PM Malcolm Fraser.

But like chasing elusive browns, finding rare and excellent books on fly fishing is as challenging as the pursuit itself.

For example, take the long since out of print The Seven Rivers.

In a prominent magazine I had discovered an excerpt from that book by poet, journalist and fly fisherman Douglas Stewart, on his travels to the Brindabella Valley some 60 kilometres west of Canberra and the Goodradigbee River which winds its way through the valley.

It was on the Goodradigbee that I cast my first fly as an adult, long after Uncle Rex tried to guide my arm, with fly rod clumsily grasped, over the waters of Lake Mackenzie in Tasmania’s high country.

I was keen to fish vicariously with Stewart who had cut his teeth on New Zealand’s famed trout streams before moving to Australia. How did Stewart see and rate the Goodradigbee as a trout stream, if ever his prose could be described as analytical.

But, after more than 40 years The Seven Rivers was well and truly out of print as my Internet searches and telephone calls quickly revealed.

Until… a short time after my fruitless search I found myself in a second hand book store heading to the small section at the back allocated to ‘sports’ where to my shock, I saw the spine of what seemed like an untouched paperback–The Seven Rivers. Such were the terms of business at this shop that I could purchase the book for a modest $12.10 and if choosing to return it, would be paid $4.55. Hearing my story of discovery, the bookstore owner, no doubt quickly concluded that Mr. Stewart’s book would leave her store to find a permanent place in my library.

Out in the street I opened the book to begin my voyage of discovery only to hear ‘great book isn’t it?’ I looked up at a man who, by his voice, was a Kiwi. A visitor from Christchurch and recent convert to fly fishing, he had only been able to read Stewart’s book by borrowing it from his local library.

I felt very lucky.

Then there are other books like Peter Leuver’s, Fur and Feathers, so elegantly photographed and clearly illustrated by its artist and graphic designer author, that it turns fly tying and flies into an arcane art form.

More recently Greg French has captured my imagination with his Frog Call, the short stories set amidst the backdrop of Tasmania’s wilderness regions and trophy trout waters. The introduction describes Greg as a gifted storyteller, a legendary angler and a literary thinker who writes with the uncommon grace and clarity that only the timeless and utterly consuming act of fly-fishing can instill.

“Trout,” he writes, “entwine me with the land – I suspect in much the same way that Plains Indians have a spiritual connection with bison – but they are more a symptom of my love of the bush than a cause.”

Hear, hear I say!

Mike
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

THANKS TO A FISHERMAN

Uncle Rex in his beloved boat.

I only learned about Uncle Rex’s war time experiences some time after he had fostered my love of fishing with short but memorable journeys to country that largely still remains remote to all but bushwalkers and fisherman.

There’s no doubt that returning to the country of Tasmania’s highland lakes and central plateau did much to help heal the wounds of war for Able Seaman Pullen - a sunken ship, comrades lost, endless days of heat and thirst, encircled by sharks on a raft in the Timor Sea.

If he did not say so, I am sure Uncle Rex certainly thought it - the country of the highlandlakes and central plateau is good for the soul.

And, as time has passed I have embraced that country and the passion that took him there.

Uncle, you taught me to love that time, in the minutes before sunrise, when the mist sits gently on the highland lakes.

Uncle, you taught me to love that time, in the minutes before sunrise…

I learned the thrill of chasing those elusive trout when, even in the borrowed oilskins over two shirts, a sweater, a vest and two pairs of sox in rubber waders, the morning sun could do little to warm my inner core.

You showed me the joy of being remote when we were above the tree-line at Lake Mackenzie, treading carefully on the springy button grass as we approached the mirrored water without a sound.

I felt special.

I was one of the few who could feel at home under the canopy of a cloudless highland day or when, abruptly, the weather delivered a biting cold from the south-west.

Even when we were closer to civilization, your passion as a fisherman came to the fore.

“Flick the fly gently underhand boy,” you said, as I wondered how you had placed a trout’s next meal under the low hanging tea tree of the upper Mersey River.

At Lillico’s Beach, where I am sure the rising swells brought back memories of a life-threatening time, you taught with just as much enthusiasm - and I was much better rewarded with catches of parrot fish and leatherjacket.

Some fishermen hate to share their secret places. But Uncle Rex gave me more than just a list of places to visit on a map.

He shared his love of the peace and quiet that comes of being somewhere that few others go.  Or, if they do, they are kindred spirits, with a similar passion.

Uncle, I’m still chasing those elusive bloody browns so I will take your memory and good luck with me next time I wade into Bronte’s shallows.

Tight lines Uncle!

Mike
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

UNDIES FOR A BROWN

Roeland with his thumping brown.

For some people, getting out of bed is a challenge, regardless of what the day might hold in store. Even serious fly fisherman can be affected by this ailment – the need to stay wrapped beneath the covers, with 3 lb. browns taking a Red Tag at every bend in the stream of dreams.

Sometimes you catch more fish that way than a whole day in chilling water with barely a hip flask to fend off the despondency that results from no rises anywhere.

Not that I was looking for any excuse when I pulled the covers over my head, rolled over and was vaguely aware that the suspension of the camper-van, definitely not a luxurious Winnebago, was in need for some care.

Somewhere in the back of my still comatose mind a voice was calling to me with some urgency. My fishing buddy Roeland.

Somewhere in the back of my still comatose mind a voice was calling…

More than once I told him to go back to sleep. But it was to no avail. He kept calling. So it was that I woke, nursing a head somewhat befuddled by just one or two beverages the night before, beside this reed-encircled lake barely a hundred metres inland from an isolated beachfront on Tasmania’s north east coast.

“Go there,” said my cousin Lindsay, who owned a Hereford stud in the adjacent hinterland. “You might be lucky. We hear of people catching good fish,” he said. Well after a fruitless trip to some of the small tributaries of the acclaimed St Patrick’s River, we were fast running out of time on our island fly fishing sojourn.  As the tour guide with the local knowledge I was letting down the side. Our travels were increasingly looking like a non-adventure, our prayers for fish unanswered. Any recommendation was good enough for me, skeptical though I was about a prosaic lake whose shores were home to too many Boags cans and the remains of camp fires.

That evening we were one of just two vehicles who pulled up in the tea tree scrub that bordered the lake. I set about another round of pasta and an unassuming tin of tomatoes and herbs that was to pass for the evening meal. A pre-dinner walk past our solitary neighbours for the evening drew comments about the eels in the lake but “hey, you never know, you might be lucky”.

So, to red wine, to port and finally to bed.

Until a rude awakening as I crashed from the pretend-Winnebago’s top bunk and stumbled to the floor and attired only in the less than fashionable Y-fronts I opened the door to greet the dawn which, by this stage was a fast-fading memory.

I peered eastwards from where I had heard Roeland’s plaintiff cries, staring into the sun which was sitting just above the neighbouring sand dunes and dancing on the waters of the lake.

“Come and help me you old bastard,” he yelled.

I took off up the lake towards him, bearing a passing resemblance to those blokes in baggy undies who starred in the movie Chariots of Fire about the Olympics in the 1920s. Except my running style was anything but elegant and a topless runner would not have been allowed in the Olympics, let alone in the 1920s.

Unable at that point to see what was upsetting my fishing companion – was it a less than happy tiger snake, a lost and expensive fly, a hole in his waders or simply the lack of companionship – I made haste for the 200 metres or so up the lake where I could see him in the reeds.

Only then as I closed on his position could I see the glint of the sun on a fly rod that was almost bent tip to butt. Don’t tell me he’s got me up here to free up a snagged fly I thought as I made my way through the reeds to the water’s edge.

“What’s up with you?” Roeland panted breathlessly, “I’ve been calling you for 20 minutes.”

As the rod tip arched again I was getting the idea about what had woken me from my slumbers.

“Well, aren’t you going in there to get it?” he quizzed.

In a moment of no confidence I can believe if you take a landing net, you’ll never need it. This was not one of those times. Something called for decisive action.

With no fear for my Y-fronts but convinced I was about to become a reluctant hero, I took my first tentative steps into the reedy mud of a lake that had spent the night time hours dropping its temperature to the point where goose bumps blossomed and everything else shriveled as the water reached my knees and above.

“Keep your rod tip high,” I squeaked in a higher than normal voice to Roeland.

“Drag it in some more,” I shivered as I plunged my arms into the chilly waters.

With that Roeland pulled the line tighter and I rose from the water, weed-covered and lank-haired like a Y-fronted Neptune, cradling a brown trout that was a most splendid example of the species.

At more than 10lbs it lives on in my memory.

Mike
#TheSeasonNeverEnds