Illawarra Flyfishers Club


"COUSINS CAN WAIT"

September 2006


 

“I’ve got to go” said Tom, in a resigned, matter-of-fact tone of voice.

 “Tom, it gets dark around seven thirty at the moment and your cousin isn’t going to get to your place until tomorrow, so there is plenty of time to fish until dark and then head for home” I responded.

“I know, I know, but if I don’t make a start now, I’ll never leave and I’ll be driving home through the night dodging ‘roos all the way. Thanks Neil for a great day”.

 A quick handshake to seal his fate and Tom was gone, pushing his way through the streamside vegetation until he was screened from view and became the sound of trees and bushes being pushed out of the way.

 And then it was silent.

 

Gone was the banter between us both or the muffled curses and swearing following a poor cast or a hook-up in the trees or bushes that lined the river, only that silence that comes from being with someone and then being left alone to ones own devices. The sounds of “silence” that only the Australian bush can deliver - the sound of the river rushing and tumbling over and around rocks and boulders on its inevitable destination with the lake further downstream, the splash and slop of your boots as you push upstream against the current, the breeze through the trees and the sound of the crows calling as they wheeled and dived high in the sky overhead; the reassuring sound of your rod and line as they “swoosh” through the air and the quiet thump of your heart beating in your chest as you clamber over rocks, your breath quickened through exertion.


Tom and I had been fishing the Thredbo River for the past two hours, several hundred metres ahead of Steven Swan, his brother David and David’s son Henry; David and Henry were new to trout fishing and Steven had elected to stay with them to provide guidance and instruction, while Tom and I pushed ahead to fish “clean” water. We had been wading together upstream, Tom on one side (he would say the worst side) and me on the other, taking turns to cast at every likely run, riffle or pocket, chit- chatting as we went. Only one small Brown had fallen to a Royal Wulff, but despite the lack of success, both of us would rather have been nowhere else.


And then the moment of truth had arrived. Tom’s cousin from Gunnedah was due to visit his home in Wollongong the next day, hence the necessity to leave. No amount of cajoling could convince him to stay a little while longer, for Tom knew, as we all know, that the “last cast” is never the last cast.


I had fished this section of the river with Kerry Nichol the previous year and knew that just ahead, five to ten minutes wading away, lay a pool from which I had taken a lovely Brown. As this fish proved to be a personal best at the time and despite having undertaken a good deal of fishing in the interim, it had remained my personal best and the image of the rise, the strike and the display given by the fish which followed, still remained indelibly etched in my mind’s eye. Keen to revisit the pool, I continued upstream as quickly as I was able, ignoring likely fish producing runs, smaller pools and pockets until I spotted the tail of “my” pool ahead.

 

“My” pool is approximately ten metres in length, bounded on the left by scrub and trees and on the right by a platform of rock rising some one and a half metres above the water level. At the head of the pool, the river squeezes over, around and through a rocky bar, but the main river flow is directed hard against the rock platform, forming a flow of quicker water approximately five metres in length and perhaps one metre wide.

 

Crouching low to avoid detection, I cautiously approached the pool taking advantage of the cover afforded by several boulders located mid-stream and in anticipation, I crept up behind the last boulder, placed my rod and rucksack to the side and peered over the top.

 

And there it was.


Incredibly, as was the situation twelve months previous, a large fish was holding station only several metres away at the tail of the pool, its profile clearly defined against the sandy bottom and brilliantly backlit by the sun high in the Western sky. Without a care in the world, it slowly moved toward the head of the pool and disappeared from view into the shadow of the rock platform.

 

What to do? Stand up and potentially spook the fish, or lay low to see what eventuated? I had plenty of time, but at the sight of that fish, a definite lack of patience.

 

In the end, caution and stealth won the day. Having resolved to take this approach, I slipped back to where I had placed my rod and rucksack and went about preparing to do battle with my foe. Sitting on one of the many mid-stream boulders with my back resting against a larger boulder, the warmth from the larger rock warmed me through, settling my nerves and my pounding heart. Fly fishing may be a lot of things to a lot of people, but this, I concluded, is what fly fishing is all about.

 

It was at this time that I realised that I was talking to myself, asking myself questions, telling myself what I was to do and fortunately, there was no response. I continue to be amazed at what fly fishing does to grown men and women – a tear in the eye at a beautiful or spectacular view or a fish being released, the endless discussions and ramblings about things fly fishing and yes, even talking to ones-self. But damn it! I can speak to anyone I want and at least there isn’t an argument or disagreement when you talk to yourself!


With fumbling fingers I stripped off my fly vest, thinking that this would allow me to cast unhindered by a vest having pockets bulging with fly boxes and all the other necessary accoutrements. A thorough inspection of my gear followed and a close check of the tippet indicated there were no wind knots or nicks present, always a good start. However, the dampish Royal Wulff was replaced with another from the box and the turns of the Uni knot were placed precisely and purposefully to ensure that the knot would not fail should pandemonium break loose. Almost as a sacrificial gesture, I stroked the calf tail wings upward to ensure that they were standing tall, proud and divided and a quick smear with floatant ensured that the fly would ride high in the quick flowing run.


As ready as I ever was, I crept back to my vantage point and peered over the top to once again see the fish holding station in exactly the same spot as it had earlier. Frozen to the spot, I watched the fish for several minutes until it again moved off slowly upstream, disappearing into the shade of the rock platform, only to return soon after accompanied by a slightly smaller fish.


Two fish. Now there’s a turn up! I could count on one hand the number of times I had fished to a sighted fish and to be in the position to fish to two only upped the ante and increased the personal pressure to deliver a good result.


   

Once again both fish casually moved upstream and out of sight and it was at this time that I decided that it was time to chance my hand. With a firm grip on the rod, one last check of the fly, the leader and a quick glance to check the location of any streamside vegetation which might hinder the vital first cast, I slowly moved from my position into the pool. Deeper and deeper I waded, the bottom thankfully free of obstruction, until the genital plimsoll line told me that I was deep enough. Three or four long strips of line from the reel and I was ready as I ever was for any fish.


Despite what we may think of the Americans, thank goodness for their fly rod technology. A false cast or two to the side had the Loomis loaded and primed ready to send the fly forward and with a quick flick, off it went at the end of an almost perfect, textbook cast. Bugger! Too far to the left. Despite the good cast, the execution was slightly off-target and the fly had landed in the dead space that separates the slow and faster moving water. Quietly stripping the line back, I wondered whether that was the only chance I was going to get.


Another good cast with better execution saw the fly land at the top of the run, exactly where I had wanted. No sooner than it had landed, the fly was on its way downstream, bobbing along in the current with its two white wings upright and showing up clearly in the shadow of the rock platform. One metre…nothing, two metres….nothing, three metres….nothing, until the fly was shot from the run into slower water at the end and into the sunlight.  Although only the first drift, I was absolutely certain that a fish would have taken the fly and when I was almost about to lift the line and try again, out from the shadows came the sight that makes this sport so exciting…….the largest fish of the two that I had spotted, clearly visible in the afternoon sunlight, casually swimming toward the fly.


Despite swimming directly toward me, the fish was obviously transfixed on the fly and it slowly moved toward the fly from upstream, rose and took it gently off the surface. With a lift of the rod, the fish was on and the pandemonium that I had hoped for, indeed tied the fly knot for, broke out as the fish bucked, lunged deep in the pool and then proceeded to race this way and that. With the rod buckled over, it was then that I realised that I was talking to myself once again, giving myself instructions on what to do and what not to do… “Not too much tension”, “A bit of side strain here” and the usual plea, you know the one…….. “Please don’t break off/ drop off” (insert as necessary).


However today, Lady Luck was on my side and despite several leaps from the water and searing runs along the length and breadth of the pool, everything held the way it is supposed to and the fish, a beautiful 49 cm Rainbow hen, finally came to hand. A few quick photos and then it was gone, back to the shadows from where it had emerged and for mine, an incredibly satisfying way end to a beautiful day. If I were a werewolf, I’d be howling at the moon!


And yet, all this only thirty minutes or so since Tom and I had parted company. Yes Tom, when it comes to fishing, cousins can wait!



Neil Nelson