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.
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.