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.
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.