Tuesday, 3 June 2014

On The One That Got Away...

As has become custom, four friends and myself (the tongue-in-cheekly named Brunswick Heads Hunting & Fishing Club), headed out into the wild hills inland from Coffs Harbour to battle once more with the illusive Rainbow Trout. Below is the annual account of how it all went down...

Opening Night
Come late Friday night and I’ve had more bovine contact than piscine. The sun has long since slipped behind yonder mountains, my sweat-stained shirt clammily sticking to my back in the rapidly cooling air as I pant like an overworked farm dog, leaning against a dead tree wondering what my next move should be, cut off from my only escape by a herd of cattle seemingly intent on my imminent demise. Indeed, yet another situation.

Mid-Saturday morning, and I’m crouched behind a dripping tussock of razor grass, rain slowly making its way down the back of my neck, jacket zipped to my eyeballs, hat pulled low to keep out the mist and the moisture, my pants slick, my shoes soaked. I am, however, vigilant, silently watching the tiny red and white plastic bauble bob up and down on the slowly rippling water, droplets from overhanging trees making it bob all the more, but no other movement, nothing to inspire excitement, that feeling you get when you feel the tug and your heart jumps a little and you know there’s something down there, something flashing about in the deep, dark green pool, something that’ll bite and fight and make it all worthwhile. My knees are getting sore, and the red and white bauble just bobs away, nothing more.

The Whisky
‘You got any whisky in that backpack?’ asks The Editor from across yet another pool, almost invisible in the gathering dusk, late on the Saturday afternoon. He’s bagged three and is done for the weekend, not much more on his mind than dry socks, potatoes in the fire and various bottles of dark brown liquor currently lining the kitchen bench, back at HQ. The flask will do in the meantime.

The troutless Author
I wind it in one last time, cast one last time, tangle one last time, curse, not for the last time, trudge over the small creek to where he stands, leaning against a tree, root around in the pack for the flask I know is in there, I’ve hit it numerous times in the past few hours, hand it over, and he slugs from it, passes it back, I slug from it, and we stand in silence and wait for The Barista, who’s a while back downstream, still trying his luck despite having bagged two, one of which, at around 30cm, will bring him the trophy and 12 months of bragging rights, glory and the like.

There’s no sign of The Flyfisherman or The Waterman, they’d left earlier and headed off down another stream to try their luck, only the one between them the last I saw them, one more than I, one more indeed – from the seemingly limitless heights of fishing glory to the deep abyss of dismal failure in only 12 short months. Oh the humanity, the pain of it all.

View From The Balcony
Waking up on Friday morning, brain somewhat slowed, obscured by a film of Tennessee bourbon, I step out onto the upstairs balcony, clad only in boxer shorts and a t-shirt, cold air stinging my legs as I rub my eyes and look out over a vista shrouded in low-lying mist, the sun rising over the hills in the east, vivid slashes of red and orange, gradually turning yellow, slicing shards of light through the fog, the darkness of the hills in stark contrast, everything seeming crisp and brittle, like it’ll break if you so much as cough.

The walk from HQ to the river is through paddocks, over barbed wire fences and through marshy bogs, stepping high to avoid tangles and dried cow shit, thistles and mud, rabbits burst from under tussocks as you get near, bounding off into the distance, white tails held high. Cows look you over through sleepy eyes from afar as you ramble onward, switching the rod to the right hand so’s you can hitch up your pants with your left.

L-R: The Flyfisherman, The Waterman, The
Editor, The Barista
The landscape changes in short order, from wide open and brambled – red and yellow leaves off deep purple thorned stems – to quintessential Australiana, strips of stringy bark littering the ground under weathered gums, the uneven grass giving way to hard packed red earth, rocks and scree underfoot as the land begins to slope sharply downward, an ancient track down toward the river itself, the sound rising upward as we slowly, sure-footedly make our way toward it, finally visible through the trees which inevitably spring up close to water and so the day begins, ties tied, lures and flies, bait and the like, and we’re off, together but apart on our own search, seeking that illusive Rainbow Trout, making its way through the green glass like it has forever.

The Editor Strikes
The Editor gets his first early, The Waterman close by dropping his rod on the bank to scramble over to offer excited advice. The Barista gets his first a couple of hours later, standing amongst the thick vegetation on the edge of a long pool topped by a small waterfall, he reefs it in and the line snaps, fish lost in the undergrowth, both writhing around in the grass coming face to face, man versus beast, the latter eventually coming to a grisly demise.

The Flyfisherman reels one in on his own, somewhere along the lonely stretch of river, The Editor two more, The Barista a final catch – none for The Waterman or I, we retire empty and content ourselves with song over the table and bottles of beer and bourbon, whisky and red wine, obscure Croatian brandy and cans of Guinness.

The Catch
The weekend winds up almost as soon as it starts, the catch standing at six, a record. The Barista bags the trophy for biggest catch, I take home the Wooden Spoon, we slowly pack up the detritus that springs from a boy's weekend away, the slow Sunday morning shuffle, a little worse for wear perhaps, after a final night, beer cases stuffed with empties into the bin outside, the remainder of the bacon frying on the BBQ, Mexican beans and leftover slowcooked lamb and lentils, sleeping bags rolled and bags packed, damp shoes in plastic bags, rods and reels dismantled for another year, packed into cases and stowed in cars, ready for the long drive back to reality.

The Waterman Gives The Business
This year wasn’t as physically testing as years gone by, but it seems this year truly cemented what is a time and place where time is shared but enjoyed alone at the same time, the pursuit and the catch part and parcel of how it all goes down. A thundering success, for some, a weekend by a river somewhere, in the middle of nowhere.

Samuel J. Fell

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