The home invasion

“Gusty norwesters” were the forecast for the day. Under normal circumstances, such a forecast would serve as ample deterrent from hatching angling plans. But these were not normal times. I was carless—well, sharing a car—which meant I was keen to make the most of any angling opportunity that presented itself. According to Accuweather—pretty reliable site—I could expect winds of up to 45kph. Just as well then that I had my trusty sawed-off 4 weight! (The only functioning rod in the stable of cripples). Stepping outside to pack the car in the predawn dark, I was both surprised and concerned at just how balmy and muggy it was—catalyst for the dreaded Norwester. There was no point in denying it, the forecast was bang on; this was the calm before the storm. The stand of Eucalypts nearby also knew it, and they were trembling. No doubt fearing the beat down they would receive later in the day, when the gales started up proper. As I dashed the highway for the river, a brooding vista of snow-capped mountains and leaden clouds spanned the horizon to the fore, and an ever-broadening, advancing line of orange crept up from the horizon to the rear, preceding the Sun’s arrival.

It was early morning, and Jack Trout and his missus were beginning their day with a hearty breakfast of the usual—bugs. Sun was shining, caddisfly were hatching; all was well in their expansive aquatic residence. Or so they thought. Little did they know, a serial trout predator—just escaped from a life-sentence block down the road—was making his way up the liquid highway. Approaching their residence, closing in. From the vantage point offered by a high gravel bank he spotted the contented couple. His restless eyeballs, concealed behind a pair of dark-lens Smith Optics, leered down upon them whenever the ever-changing windows of the Trout’s residence permitted. Occasionally, overcome with trout-fever, these optical shields would fog, temporarily thwarting his ogling. Thoroughly oblivious to his presence, they were, with their minds still clouded by post-spawning lust.

When Jack swung casually to devour another bug, the predator acted—surprise mutha…! Okay, to be honest we were probably both as surprised as eachother. I’d lost sight of him, and was merely preparing for another cast as I’d assumed the indicator had drowned again, until I felt an ever-increasing resistance on the end of the line upon raising the rod. Anyway, back to the Trout’s and their plight. As Jack bolted around his home, trying to recall the location of his panic room, his missus followed. Probably to question him on whether his life insurance policy was up-to-date. After a five minute long inquisition from his woman he’d had enough. He turned, dashing downriver—vacating his home—speeding through it’s tailout entrance, cutting through neighbour Dave’s more modest residence, then down some inhospitable rapids. He’d succeeded in slightly widening the gap, but the predator—now indulging in a bit of heavy breathing—was still in pursuit. He finned-it a good four hundred metres before he was spent, and hastily bundled into the predator’s net. Once the predator had attained his photographic trophies, he was set free—dumped at the edge of the liquid highway—no doubt only to suffer a similar fate again in coming weeks, or days. But for today, at least, his most pressing concern was making it home in time for dinner, or he’d no doubt have to endure more pestering from Mrs Trout. Tough life being a fish.

008Home invasion in progress. “Luv, I know you’re busy, but are you sure you updated the policy?”

022Some pretty serious pectoral fin damage!

044Solid Jack—first of the season!

Moving on to a slightly more normal recollection of the remaining days events…. On the board with a rather decent fish, I pressed on upriver with a spring in my step, and the lyrics to Ice T’s “Home Invasion” ringing in my ears (yep, I had some pretty ghetto music tastes in my youth!). It was tough to know how to approach the day, given the scheduled apocalyptic winds. I fished fast, with the aim of picking off the easy fish (if there were any), determined to cover a lot of distance before the winds blew me back down the gorge. Surprisingly, I was onto my second fish soon enough, with a double tungsten nymph rig doing the business. This set up also had the bonus of maintaining momentum better in the wind. This fish’s fighting style was in complete contrast to the last. Rather than deliberate, calculated runs, this one wriggled and spun about daftly—well it was a woman I suppose—putting on a strange visual spectacle of flickering white and grey, unable to summon the composure to flee anywhere but where the current guided it. Without too much exertion number two was on the board.

124Confused, inept fighter (no, for once I’m not referring to the angler!)

Pressing on, I reverted back to my usual self—the serial spooker—alarming the next few fish, which all sat in much shallower riffles rather than pools. The wind was really toying with my casts now, and on several occasions my cast out nymphs completely failed to find the water. Instead, landing several metres wide of the river’s edge. With all this casting at riverbank, I wasn’t really surprised when, promptly after hooking my next fish, the tippet failed at the knot. Pity, because the perpetrator was a long fish, and the fiery run it undertook post-hook up hinted it was probably a decent one.

As I waded up a deep, calm section of river, I glanced down and my eyes met with a fish-like shape. Initially I assumed it to be one of those mineral imposters that are ever-abundant in the rivers we fish, but this one begged further scrutiny. Turns out it was a fish, a rather lifeless one albeit. Assuming it dead, I scooped it into the net for a closer analysis. As I did, it came to life! I placed it back down in slightly shallower water which was more accommodating to the eyes. This was one beat up fish! Long, narrow, pale gashes littered it’s head and front third, and it’s coal-like colour further accentuated these horrific wounds. By the looks of it, the rigours of spawning had been immense for this guy. He’d done his duties, and if it wouldn’t have freaked him the hell out, I may’ve been tempted to give him a much-deserved pat on the head. But his end was certainly near, so I left him alone, to see out his final few hours in the peace of the placid water at the foot of the undercut bank.

Mortally wounded spawner

155Spent spawner seeing out his final few hours

222The first rainbow I’ve ever seen on this river

Now mid-afternoon, the gales were starting to reach biblical proportions. Ferocious gusts would rip water from the river’s surface, transform it to mist, then blast it thirty metres into the air where it would vortex briefly before dissipating. Rocks, dislodged from the gorge walls, also began to bombard the pools below. When I came to a deep, swift section of river that would’ve required a long shuffle against the foot of the gorge wall to negotiate, I decided these were all sufficient hints that it was time to call it a day!

254Slight breeze….

The wind was at least at my back on the walk back downriver, which spared my face from Nature’s unwanted sandblasting services. Each stride doubled it’s usual length, as Nature’s invisible hand took it’s grip, and forcefully escorted me out of the gorge with the force of an impatient, surly nightclub bouncer. Defiant, I paused at the Trout’s residence one last time to have a go at Jack’s missus, but a wind gust promptly picked up a scoop of fine gravel and sand from behind, and unleashed it over the entire span of the pool. The pool’s surface, in turn, bubbled and foamed rabidly as if it’d been hit by a freak hail storm. Well, I reasoned this dramatic disturbance, coupled with the fact she must’ve assumed she was now a widower, was probably enough to put Mrs Trout off her food. So I continued on, back to the car.

Arriving back at my starting point—thoroughly tired—with a couple of conquests and nothing destroyed or damaged, it’d been a most satisfactory day. And while I’ve been far more restricted in my angling-induced roamings this season than last, the couple of excursions I have had so far have been surprisingly enriching. Sufficiently rewarding, even, that my mind was distracted from it’s usual post-fishing thoughts of cold beer (quite a feat). Instead, it was busy hatching plots and schemes about my next venture up some other backyard river, as I headed back down the highway—dodging fallen tree limbs—homeward bound.