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.
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.