All is lost

Ominous title aye? Well it had to happen—one of those days. The day hadn’t started off too smoothly, realising I’d left my camera hat at home only after I’d arrived at the river. A bit of insulation tape remedied that, as I secured it to my pack’s shoulder strap instead. Makeshift and not quite as level, and certainly nowhere near as picturesque footage with my mug at times appearing in the side of the frame, but all that aside it worked okay. No amount of MacGuyver’ing with tape could remedy the other regretful events of the day however. Two fish—goodies around six and eight pounds respectively—hooked, and lost. At times, a bit of tape over the mouth may’ve been a good idea!

The first was a bizarre incident. I knew where he was, thanks to a previous encounter a couple of weeks back, but despite that I still succeeded in spooking him off up the pool. In these situations I always fire off a couple of casts ahead of them—hopes eternal—and very occasionally I will still achieve a hook up. On this occasion the ever-optimistic post-spook cast did the business! As the nymphs drifted past him he swayed and I struck. His response was an uncoordinated, writhing mess of movement, offering no real resistance. It appeared I’d achieved yet another foul-hooking—must be about the fourth one this season! His movement just prior to hook up, however, did suggest he deliberately went for the nymphs. Just a few minutes into proceedings I had him on a shallow bar near the river’s edge, but for reasons unknown I took my time. I guess his shambolic fight gave me a false sense of security. Anyway, I soon paid for it dearly, as when he wriggled off the bar and headed for the depths he appeared to regain his composure. It’s as if it takes them a while to adjust their swimming style to overcome the unbalancing effect of a hook in the fin—understandable! Less than a minute after refloating himself the hook pulled and I’d lost him. Cue wild rant.

Okuku17Morning glory, momentarily….

okuku114Close, but no….

So you lose the fish. Provided you can keep it together enough the next thing you do is retie your knots. Sometimes I’ve found this process to actually be a little therapeutic. But having just spent x amount of time in one spot playing (and losing) the fish, it’s highly likely a ridiculous cloud of sandflies have materialised, and you’re of course in the centre of it. It just adds insult to injury really. Losing a fish, and then having sandflies go to town on you while you diligently retie your rig. Fossicking over your face, buzzing under your buff—ample fuel to sustain that inevitable post fish-loss raging. With the apex of that rage having passed, you settle into a sort of brooding irritability, and it’s here that, coupled with the torment of the sandflies, a sort of fisherman’s Tourette’s takes hold—near-involuntary outbursts of obscenities, accompanied by sudden, uncontrollable hand and facial ticks. To any distant observer unaware of the context, such a spectacle would surely pass for the genuine syndrome. Fortunately for me, the nearby track was unusually quiet on this holiday weekend.

Moving on then—equilibrium reestablished—to lost fish number two. It was a half hour later that I found him, emerging from the cover offered by turbulent waters to mooch around below my boots, no more than a rod length away! I’d been lurking around this section of river a while, adopting my best stealth, as I knew he was here somewhere. Again, this was another fish I’d seen before on my previous visit. Once my eyes had finished scouring the fifty metre long section of river, I’d climbed on top of one of the river’s numerous boulders, and had begun to think he was either hunkered down under a boulder, or had perhaps relocated. Interrupting these thoughts, the large trout sauntered out of the turbulent whitewater and into the all too glassy calm stuff just below me. Instinctively, I flicked out the flies, which created a cringe-inducing ripple as they entered the water just in front of him. He continued forward, shifting course slightly, and appeared to take one of the nymphs. Completely amazed he hadn’t seen me, I raised the rod gently—we were connected!

okuku7-2.4250fpsMid-battle, about where I hooked the guy!

It was a mellow battle at first. He skulked about in a rather monotonous, circular beat for several minutes in the turbulent water at the foot of a pour-over, before finally heading downstream. Things livened up quickly at this point, as he was fast approaching a majestic three metre high midstream boulder which dominated the centre of the river, splitting the thigh-deep flow in two. Minutes earlier—suspecting a downstream manoeuvre might eventuate—I’d been scrutinising this disconcerting feature, trying to plot a course of action. But it was too far away, and I knew it’d have to be left to a spur of the moment decision. He took the left channel, probably the worse of the two options—how surprising.

okuku9-10.01Meeting the Megalith!

Struggling to keep up, having to first negotiate a short but slippery crossing over green slime-covered rocks, I watched on in despair as he wrapped the line around the base of the midriver monster. As I rounded it and reclaimed direct contact with my opponent, it became apparent that he was wedged deep in the recession at the base of the immense rock. From this new perspective it was an even more concerning sight. This was no ordinary rock; it had the look of a stony-faced killer—of angler’s morales! Perhaps the river gods, having been feeling empathetic towards the plight of their resident fish, had forged this Megalith decades earlier with the foresight a day such as this may come. At it’s base lay it’s mouth—narrow yet broad, it’s immense darkness suggested substantial depth—spanning the entire breath of the boulder. A mouth, I wagered, which surely had a voracious appetite for fluorocarbon!

okuku11-1.17Get outta there! (I did warn you at the start the new camera perspective wasn’t pretty!)

While the line still possessed the vibrancy of a direct connection, I risked adding more pressure (and a bust off) rather than wait it out and hope, like I usually do. The risk was rewarded, and as I prised him from the depths of Megalith’s mouth in reverse, and his tail soon came into view. Once fully exposed, he dashed off to another large rock at river’s edge, and I rushed over to dominate the space in front of the stone-faced tippet assassin, hoping to deter any thoughts he may’ve been having of a return. His new recluse, however, still posed a threat. A swift current drove hard against this rock, concealing both fish and the geology beneath, and as he lurched about in the depths I did my best to angle line away from rock. Several minutes later, despite my efforts, the line pinged back in my face and he was lost. Clinging to “forlorn hope”—yes it was a bit of a hazardous mission—and suspecting where he might be, I charged in—net in hand—to do a bit of shameless, manic prospecting at the base of the boulder. It almost paid off, with him narrowly dodging the side of the net by mere centimetres as he fled his hide. Cue the ballad of the forsaken fisherman—you m*ther-f*cking, n*mph-s*cking, son-of-a-b*tch. I know, bit presumptuous of me to assume it was a jack.

okuku13-1.232Shameless prospecting post fish-loss, the length of grey just right of the net is the fish

Having tasted defeat, again, I attempted to console myself with a chocolate bar, but such was the bitterness of this defeat no amount of sugar could’ve masked over it. I pressed on upriver a while, saw one more fish—yes, I’d seen that one before too—and despite knowing vaguely where he’d be, still spooked him regardless. Around midday, fairly sure there were no more fish in the previously surveyed kilometres of river which lay ahead, I opted for a quick fish downstream of the car before heading home.

For some reason the banks here were teeming with bees. There were beehives further upstream, but for whatever reason they preferred it down here. I’ve got a lot of time for the bees, especially when bearing in mind Einstein’s prediction of us only lasting four years without them. Empathetic toward their plight in this precarious, pesticide-laden modern world, I went to lengths to avoid standing on them. Basically this meant I had to walk in the river—tactics not exactly conducive to good stalking! Short of the three fish lying in tough spots around willow lined stretches—all spooked—it was a waste of time. I had one amusing moment where I undertook a painstaking bush-bash through gorse to reach a better casting position, only to emerge from the scrub and spook a fish lying at river’s edge, which then bolted ahead and spooked his run-sharing comrade. Bugger!

011Bank littered with bees

Somehow—probably due to it still only being midafternoon—I got suckered into a futile kilometre-long recon downriver. It would’ve been forgivable if it wasn’t dead straight and clearly devoid of holding water, but ever-optimistic I pressed on. May as well have been fishing the Atakama—same number of fish! The perseverance did eventually bring me to a vast, sprawling pool with a near non-existent flow. Such a substantial body of water seemed curiously out of place on this river. Here, I fished a streamer a while, but it was tough to cover it all without wading in, as thanks to yet more willows, backcasting room was minimal. My efforts eventually brought about a brief burst of excitement, as a sizeable brown viciously accosted the tungsten cone-headed streamer, but a possibly slightly too eager strike yielded nothing.

013Upriver view, midpoint of the Little Atakama

015Downriver view

So, several thousand words later and I’m still fishless. But it’s okay, it wasn’t all for naught. Another long day out, many miles racked up, and a few memorable moments thrown in. I suppose that’s the good thing about the headcam. In the event of a fish loss, you’ve still captured some interesting footage. Now, before I forget, must find that missing camera hat!

Below is a short clip summarising the day’s grim events.

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