Afternoon trip up my local

A solitary mayfly dared to emerge from the relative safety of it’s watery abode, fluttering gracefully upwards toward the azure sky. It didn’t get far. Illuminated by the midday sun, it was an unmissable target for an opportunist predator. A hungry fantail swooped from it’s perch overlooking the river, and the hapless mayfly’s above-water life was abruptly curtailed.

This was the scene that greeted me as I entered the gorge of my local river. The unapologetic austerity that was the order of nature couldn’t have been illustrated any more concisely. It made me thankful to be human, and at the top of the food chain. For if I had been subjected to the laws of survival of the fittest I wouldn’t have lasted long, with the body still in a beat up state from the lengthly epic that was the first trip of the season. It was for this reason that I’d settled on a brief excursion to my local, a river I’d fished many times before.

The flow had subsided just enough to allow for a sufficient stretch of the gorge to be to navigated to make a day of it, well an afternoon to be precise. And what a beautiful afternoon it was, sunny and warm, with only the mildest of easterly breezes. And being a Friday, I knew it would require nothing short of a miracle for me to have the river to myself this early in the season. Sure enough, upon pulling into the car park I noticed another vehicle present with fishing paraphernalia inside. Ah well, pointless as it seemed fishing-wise I made my way up the gorge regardless, figuring it’d at least provide a bit of exercise.

Ten minutes into it and I’d already caught up to the owners of the vehicle. They were just having a lunch break fish, and after a brief chat they most kindly allowed me to proceed upriver, leaving them enough water for the short time they had to fish. A lucky break indeed! After a couple of dodgy river crossings I wasn’t confident I’d make it very far up, but it seemed to get easier as I progressed. Gorge fishing does often seem to be a case of “who dares wins”, well for the ones who don’t drown at least!

I’d done a bit of reconnaissance of the gorge a couple of weeks prior to the start of the season, and encountered a couple of fish, so as I neared the section of river where I’d spotted the first one my anticipation grew. And there he was, at the river’s edge, water lapping over his pale flank, dead. Guess it would have gone against etiquette to have counted this one. Still, I inspected his corpse, mostly to see if he was still in good enough nick that any readers of this blog might be fooled into thinking he was a still-live specimen, cleverly caught by the author. But alas, the absence of eyes meant I probably wouldn’t be fooling anyone, and so any thoughts of an opportunist grip ‘n’ grin were dismissed. Yes, these are the sort of vagabond antics us less masterful fishermen have to resort to when the going is tough, in an effort to gain a bit of angler cred. In seriousness though, it was obviously a pretty morale sapping find, particularly given how few fish this river holds. What had been a “long walk between fish” type river, was now an even longer walk between fish. The recently departed was a long specimen in poor condition, and bearing no obvious damage perhaps it was old age that accounted for his demise, or so I hoped.

I pressed on, ever hopeful. A couple of kilometres, and several perilous river crossings later and there it was, finally, a fish! Among the silty dust devils conjured by the discordant currents of the pool it was hard to be sure, but after witnessing a couple of deliberate sideways movements I was certain. A couple of nymphs were lobbed into the water ahead and left to drift. The indicator refused to dip. I tried again, same result. It was a tricky spot as I couldn’t sight the fish from the only practical casting position. And so, on the third occasion, I cast then dashed up to a higher position on the bank to watch. He swayed sideways again, and I struck. Success!

What happened next was rather odd. He thrashed about, turning the relative stillness of the pool into a boil of white water. Well that was a fairly common occurrence immediately after you hook a fish, but he never progressed from there. No bolting off to a hide, or diving for the bottom of the river. He just kept thrashing while the current slowly drifted him down the river. Once I had caught up to him it was a straightforward matter of placing the net in the water and waiting for him to drift into it. Upon removing the hook I discovered the reason for his inept resistance. The tailing nymph was nestled firmly in his tail, how apt! And with the length of tippet between the two nymphs being slightly shorter than the fish it must have greatly restricted his movement. Now if only I could master this method of hook up, the battles would be a far more protracted affair. But then again, what fun would that be.

005Not the largest of fish, but a pleasant looking one regardless.

Shortly after, a huge specimen made his way down river, and at roughly 180 pounds he was by far the biggest of the day. However, considering he was perched in a kayak I made a judgement call that he was off limits. Although had he appeared ten minutes earlier, the lack of angling action would have seen me struggling to refrain from making a cast.

Just before reaching my turn around point I encountered a young bashful sheep that seemed rather unnerved by my presence. When I reached for the camera however, he seemed to take on a new far more extroverted persona, and promptly did an about turn, a couple of steps forward, and struck a pose.

020The shameless poser… hmm but is it Blue Steel or Magnum?

On my way back down the gorge I paused at a pool for a final blind cast, and moments later I sensed movement in my peripheral. Upon turning my head, I laid eyes on an incredibly disheveled sheep, with a tail so long it nearly reached the ground. It stood some twenty metres away, eyeing me intently, before beginning a series of bizarre manoeuvres. It seemed to be trying to engage with me in a game a sheep charades. Hmm okay then, the fishing is a bit slow, why not, I figured. The sheep bounced one way, swivelled, then bounced back the other. It repeated this several times. Hmm back and forth… casting? I thought. Then as if confirming the guess, it defecated. My casting is….. not the best. The sheep then progressed further with it’s gesticulations as if confirming I was again correct. Next up was a bizarre head wobble, and a bit of salivation. This is honestly how it went down, there was no need for artistic licence with this sheep. So basically what you’re trying to say is “hey your casting is crap retard“. Seemingly content that I’d gotten the gist of it the sheep concluded his game and pranced off back into the bush from whence he’d emerged, with a  Ba-a-a-a-a-a that I could have swore sounded more like a  Ha-a-a-a-a-a. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been ridiculed by animals, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. This gorge certainly seemed to draw in only the blackest of sheep, myself included.

By the time I made it back to the car I’d acquired around a kilogram handicap in each leg of my waders, in the form of river water, undoubtedly due to the significant holes that had worn through the inner leg section during the last trip. And so, while driving back home I made a mental note to remedy the situation ASAP, as enduring the dreaded crinkle-foot all season was a scenario far too grim to ponder.

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