I am sure every angler has one, it is that river or stream that they feel is a part of them, the one that when they climb the bank or push through the blackberries or slide down over the soft slippery stones and get their first look at the water they know that right here and now this is where they belong.
I have a river like this, I don’t really know how it happens, it must simply be getting to know your way around and understanding the changing nature of its seasonal faces, understanding the lies that the fish prefer, getting used to its easy feel.
But then the questions come;
Why was I drawn back to this river again and again? How was it that in all discussions I was having with fishing friends this was the one place I kept talking about? And why was it that whenever I had a spare moment to think about fishing or even simply look at the weather, this river was always the one that I wanted to be near?
Don’t get me wrong - there is no shortage of wonderful places to fish on this island that I call home. There is the beautiful bubbling St Patricks river, a wonderful tight mountain stream offering the angler endless challenges, the Macquarie, a classic Tasmanian meadow stream, immortalised by the likes of the great David Scholes and Tony Ritchie with stories of red spinner hatches unlike any we had ever seen, and the North Esk river which seems to take the best ofboth of these and roll them into one, and of course the Meander which still remains an under-fished gem.
I’ve asked myself this question many times, and yet I still come back to my river, the beautiful South Esk. When I first started fishing this river I had heard that mining further upstream had ruined the weed, resulting in a diminished food supply and that the fishing had become very poor. I’d also heard that so much water had been drawn off that fish kills where common. Let’s just say that in general nobody was very upbeat about this river.
It may not come as much of a surprise to most of you that this just wasn’t true. The river that I stood looking at was as beautiful as any I had ever seen. When I climbed down and looked upstream what I saw was a broad river with a wonderful steady flow and an abundance of the usual riffles, runs and pools that every angler hopes for.
But I have to tell you what had me most excited was the weed. You know the type. The long green stuff hanging just under the surface, swaying so seductively with the current that it nearly looks like an Hermès scarf, the long strands like you find in every fish tank that always seem to tangle with your dragging fly line.
You see all of this and then it happens. You’re a little unsure at first and then you see it again, there’s a little brown working up the left bank in the slacker water taking a few spinners as he goes and you know: This is it.
I have read stories of men that loved to fish who went to war and experienced terrible things and one of the things that kept them alive was the thought that they would return to their loved ones and to the rivers that they had fished as both child and adult.
It’s not the same for us today, but when you stand in your stream feeling the push of the current against your waders, watching the gentle sway of the weed you have a sense of self that you can find only on a river.
Every angler loves discovering new water. It doesn’t matter how you chance upon it - if a friend has showed you or you’ve done some searching and found a wonderful piece of river you’ve never fished before. In spite of the why and the wherefor, there is one very important thing to remember. When you wade in and you are about to make that first wonderful cast, think of the other anglers who may consider where you are fishing as the river of their life, and offer the respect that you’d hope they would offer you.