Monday, 27 May 2013

A River Somewhere - Part 2


Last year, four friends and myself went trout fishing. It was an arduous ordeal we thought we'd never return from - and we caught nothing to boot. You can read about it here.

This year, we returned - Part One of the epic adventure you can read here, Part Two, the conclusion, is below.

Day two begins much like its predecessor, early but sunlit, people in the next room stoking and talking, coffee boils and porridge bubbles, perhaps more of a subdued air today given what lies before us. Indeed, The Gorge, our foe, our sworn enemy, our bugbear to be sure, something we barely survived last year, and yet, this year sees us return. We are foolhardy indeed, stupid perhaps, but game to get amongst it once more, to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight and emerge victorious. Or at least alive.

Stocking up.
To be honest, I’m not feeling it today. What I am feeling, is last night’s beans, but I digress, for there is business at hand, serious business, battles to be won etc. I step outside and realise we’ll not be toiling under a cloudless blue sky, but one of the pregnant, grey variety, threatening and cold – the day looms before us like some sort of ugly spectre, one intent on doing us in, just as a matter of course. We don’t fall for such things though, we stock up, we stretch it out, we swagger and strut – a brave face if ever there was one. Into the car, and off, our destiny awaits.

The Flyfisherman has decided to change things up this year, and so there’ll be no descent via The Vertical Cliff Face Of Doom, a slight relief, and so we start off across yet more cow paddocks, startling the livestock along the way, warming as we go, spirits lightening, once more looking forward to the sport at hand, visions of our bounty large in our minds, buoyed by yesterday’s catch, men on a mission, that sort of thing.

After a while, across paddocks and down a steep farm track, we hear the river down below, getting louder as we get lower until we can see it through the trees, the only thing between us and it one last, steep, slope, covered in brambles which we navigate on our arses, a controlled slide which has us on the bank in no time. The other four, using fly rods, move downstream a little way to haunt the fast-moving narrow area of the river, while I move upstream, towards our eventual destination, where there are a few deep pools, perfect for a man with a spinner and a jar of live worms.

The Pool
Except I forgot the worms today. No matter, for we’re a resourceful lot, and so I hook up a spinning lure and the day begins in earnest. It’s a tranquil spot – I’m on my own, and if I didn’t know the other four were just around the bend, I could be the only person for miles and miles around. The cliffs, the hills, the trees tower high above me on both sides, the sun seems to have broken through the cloud, but it’s not yet reached a point high enough to penetrate this crevice in which I find myself, and so despite the fact I’m soaked in sweat from the climb down, it’s cold and I put on my rain jacket over my jumper and turn my attention to my quarry.

I sit and cast, hitting all three of the deep pools I’m near, trawling, spinning, crouching so I can’t be seen, over and over again. Not a nibble. I get snagged, and so lose my lure, retie another one, cast and repeat. It seems spinning lures are a poor substitute for live worms, but I persevere. I snag again and so lose my second lure. I’ve only been here for an hour. I have a packet in my bag with two more, but it’s one of those plastic packets you can only open with scissors. I have no scissors.

It’s times like these, when a man is tested, that one must make do with what one has – necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention, so I wander a bit further upstream, wondering what I can do here, thinking that perhaps if I keep wandering, I’ll get to the waterfall and then not have to do any fishing at all. No, a boring option – I also have with me a packet of hooks, so I tie one on. What to use for bait? I think to myself, looking around for something, anything. Nothing.

Another Pool.
Inspiration hits, and I open my pack and rip off a bit of The Editor’s homemade sourdough, ‘bait’ my hook with that, and cast once more. It floats. Not winning here. I reel it in, re-bait with a smaller piece, recast, and it sinks. Not much happens after that. I throw caution to the wind and eventually rip open the plastic packet with my remaining lures – the dance continues.

The Flyfisherman appears, imparts the news that The Waterman has struck – suddenly, the day looks good, he’s snagged a monster too, ended up on his arse in the water, but the Trout has been caught, and once more the thought of The Dinner reemerges, and what a dinner it will surely be.

The rest of them catch up and once more we’re moving ahead of one another, crisscrossing the stream, wet up to our knees, casting and snagging, tangling and cursing, but all to a man intent on the task at hand, which is better than last year, needless to say, and the thought of the ascent come day’s end is on no one’s mind.

We get to a point, after a few hours, that The Flyfisherman says is impassable, and so we must climb out a way, make our way around, before coming back to the river. Grim news, but four of us sit and eat chocolate while The Flyfisherman fishes one last pool, just around the bend from us, before we have to backtrack a little way, climb out a little way, walk around a little way, climb back in. We sit for about 20 minutes – fishing must be good in that pool, one of us remarks, and then there’s a shout. The Flyfisherman, he’s already climbed out, he’s up there, right up there. We have no choice but to follow, and so we do.

The Hill - a very small part.
About 20 minutes later, the five of us sit, high above where we were, not talking, breathing heavily, having just struggled and trudged, grasped and slipped, slid down, heavy feet one after the other, slowly but surely moving upward. We sit and pant, and the clouds have come back and it starts to rain. The Waterman lies on his back with his rain jacket on his face, entertains the idea of climbing out, given we’re already halfway there. I agree. We think about it, but then it’s time to move on, time to find a spot where we can get back to the river, and so off we go – the going looks tough, we’re daunted. The Waterman and I, bringing up the rear, have a quick business meeting… we’re done, we’re leaving, we’ve had enough, we’re climbing out.

We justify it to one another as we begin the trek – yesterday was a full day fishing, today has been a few hours, we’ve both caught a LARGE Trout, fuck it, we’re going home. The rain comes down harder. The other three trudge off, we head upward. It’s not as steep as last year’s ascent, it’s relatively easy going by comparison, but it’s still tough. The undergrowth is thick as shit, rocks and logs and holes underneath, you climb a ridge and then look up, only to see another. We need to head up, but to veer right, so as to avoid a vertical cliff near the top. We tramp through the undergrowth, sweat stinging my eyes, rain running off my face, we’re not sure where we’re going, not really, and we don’t have the emergency beacon – the others have that. Treading carefully.

Three or four ridges, we can see the cliff off to our left. Towering. We need to veer right, away from where we’re going. Hard to see a path. We stop and consider. Then, a sign from heaven, oh joyousness – a wallaby bounding through the trees. We figure if a wallaby can get through there, then we can too. We follow the path, easier going, slowly rising. Another impasse. Another stop to think. Then, again, the wallaby – we slog towards where he was, another path. I see a fence, says The Waterman. And we’ve made it.

We walk along the fenceline, climb over at one point, back across the paddock to the waiting car. Home. We’re done. No more strenuousness. And we caught fish to boot. Almost too good to be true. Pub lunch? suggests The Waterman. Given we’re so wet – it’s raining in earnest now – I suggest we head for HQ, fire up the pig, fry up some bacon and eggs and drink Guinness. The Waterman beams. Who need an emergency beacon?

We return a few hours later, warm and dry, full and sated, to pick up the other three, who we can see (from the comfort of the lookout), far below, tackling The Vertical Cliff Face Of Doom. They’re not long in getting to the top though, and relief abounds as we’re all united, no one has died, things are good. The Flyfisherman has struck again, a good mid-sized number, and so our tally is five, which is three more than last year, and two of them were basically sharks, so a solid haul with which we’re more than happy. The Curse has indeed been broken, we are men, we now own these woods. They are ours.

The Bounty
The evening sees fatigue matter little as beer and whiskey is consumed in perhaps larger quantities than the two nights past, and fish is gutted and stuffed with herbs and put in the fire, potatoes roasting, guitars playing, stories are told and retold, laughter bounces off all four walls as the fish get bigger, the hill gets steeper, the river wider and colder, the wild beasts more numerous, as the whiskey flows, mixing with wine and fresh fish, our bounty and The Dinner.

We pack up the next morning and head home, bright sunshine once more, through small towns, winding roads down through the hills, out the bottom onto the flat, booming down the highway toward home with tales – not tall, all true – of battles and adventures the likes of which will hold any and all in suspense and excitement. Indeed. This year, it was hard. This year, it was tough. This year, we wondered if it was worth it. But this year, we broke The Curse and fished like champions, we proved it could be done, as much to ourselves as anyone else, and we found that river somewhere, a far nicer place than that other river, that river nowhere.

Samuel J. Fell

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