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.
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!