Every year I like to spoil myself on my birthday, which luckily for me is in mid November. This year, my wife, with a glint in her eye, said I could do whatever I wanted on my birthday. So naturally, I packed my bags and headed to a special river in the Victorian high country to spend a couple of days flyfishing on my own.
Why on my own? Well for starters I have no friends and secondly my wife can’t stand flyfishing. And I quite like my own company.
The plan was to hike upriver in the remote Alpine National Park, stay overnight, fish some more, then head home. Now, as much as I like to think of myself as Bear Grylls’ understudy, the reality is I prefer to sleep in a sleeping bag than the carcass of a freshly-killed deer. For those who know me, you may attest that I’m not the best fly caster in the world (maybe third), so carrying a large pack up a moderately deep stream poses an issue for me. I also find carrying a large load cumbersome when flyfishing, and it makes me even clumsier than normal. The good part is, I’m a serious gear junkie.
I recently purchased a Patagonia 28-litre Sweet Fish pack and detachable vest, and I was determined to fit everything I needed into this small pack. It’s a treat to wear whilst casting and it sits high enough not to drag in the water. The downside is, it has a terrible waistband, so I attach it to my Fishpond wading belt for extra support. Inside the pack I carried a lightweight down sleeping bag (I use a Thermarest down bag that is comfortable in -6 degrees), a Thermarest neo air inflatable mat, and my latest purchase, a Hammock Bliss hammock and tarp. For those of you who’ve never slept in a hammock, you are missing out! There are many on the market but I really like the Hammock Bliss ones as they pack small, have an insert for your sleeping mat, are super light, and they’re an Aussie company.
On top of all that I carry some dehydrated food, a MSR Whisperlite stove and fuel bottle, a small billy, Crocs, and being a dentist… a toothbrush! Meanwhile, my fly vest is stocked with everything I need and don’t need, as per most of us.
Most importantly though, as I’m travelling solo in remote country, I carry a snake bandage, basic first aid kit and a Garmin inReach satellite communicator, which is one of the best purchases I have ever made. It acts as a GPS, EPIRB and a satellite phone (that you can text on only) and if you are so inclined, you can also post on Facebook! It is waterproof, has a huge battery life and hooks up to satellites even in deep, scrubby gorges. In past misadventures I have broken my leg, been sort of bitten by a snake, been geographically embarrassed, and have had to evacuate people travelling with me (hence I have no friends)! In these situations, having such a communication device is essential. Even if you don’t send for help from the authorities, you can at least tell a loved one that the fishing is great and you are never coming home.
Anyway, I managed to get all this into my pack, even if I cheated a bit by attaching a small 3-litre pouch to fit in my last few items. (By the way, if you’re short like me, it’s always a good idea to pack everything in a garbage bag or dry bag so your gear doesn’t get wet when you slip on a rock or try crossing a river that comes up to your nipples.)
The fishing was great. Not many fish were landed, but many were seen along with a multitude of platypus and snakes.
Another good reason to go solo is that no-one sees you do stupid things, which unfortunately I have a propensity for. I reached one of my favourite pools on the river, where you can often spot huge numbers of fish swimming around in the deep, clear water. This time, I even saw a few large 2-3 pound trout chasing off the smaller annoying ones. Panic set in. I quickly grabbed my rod, snuck over to the water’s edge and released the fly of doom. Naturally the fly of doom lodged itself in my net sitting on my pack and as I twisted to get it out, the net released from the magnet and flicked back into my face. I have a big nose and now I had a bruised one. I spent an hour at this hole watching numerous trout sipping aggressively at each dun or caddis which floated past. I tried every fly I could think of but to no avail. Each time the trout would tease me by charging at the fly and then at the last minute, close their mouths and swim off. They never spooked, they just didn’t want my offerings.
The only spooking that occurred was when tying fly number 16 onto my line. I put my hand in the grass and a huge black and yellow tail moved. I nearly soiled the only undies I brought with me but luckily, I realised just in time it was a blue-tongue lizard, not a snake. I named the blue-tongue Herbert and the poor thing had to listen to me talk to it for over an hour before it got bored and slithered off.
All in all, going solo is definitely do-able and can offer the solitude some of us desire on trips. It also allows travel to remote areas and the opportunity to explore without time pressures.