The strangest day trip

I have a mate who is famous for crazy day trips. A couple of times that he’s admitted to, he’s done Melbourne to the King River and back in a day; once even as far as the Kiewa. If you go by the trip rule that you shouldn’t spend more time travelling than fishing, he’s definitely had some time in the red. But I think I’ve just completed a trip that would make even my friend blush.

Yesterday, I set out on a long-planned (and thrice deferred) trip to the Snowy Mountains with Steve. After an early start, complete with my obligatory NSW Entry Permit, I was just about at Corryong when the car radio announced the shock news of Victoria’s snap lockdown. This of course raised a whole lot of new scenarios, so I pulled over and called the NSW COVID information number. A woman called Shauna answered my call with impressive speed. Don’t worry she said, if you’re in NSW before midnight and you’ve not been to any of the dodgy Victorian sites, you’ll be fine. Phew!

I got my Parks Pass in Khancoban, and before losing phone reception, checked in with Steve for his latest ETA: 5pm. Okay, time for a quick fish here and there along the Alpine Way, before meeting up on the outskirts of Jindabyne.

It had apparently rained for several hours in the mountains (again!) and the landscape carried no hint of a normal February. Gullies and creeklets were flowing, the bush was green and lush, and the stunning views of the Main Range were partly shrouded by drapes of cloud.

Half-hidden peaks and valleys along the Alpine Way.

I pulled over beside the bridge at Geehi to find the river roaring, yet clear. I fished a small hopper with a little bead-head nymph beneath for no other reason than it was what I had tied on from my last trip to the Rubicon, and I was too excited to change; this being my first chance to fish the Snowy Mountains since May last year. A bigger dry and nymph would have been the smarter choice, but I persisted with what I had, searching the softer eddies and edges. It didn’t take long for the hopper to slide under, and I lifted into a small rainbow. Nothing special on the face of it, but under the circumstances, I was delighted. As I let the fish go, a faint patch of sunlight pushed through the clouds. Bugs of all descriptions took this as a cue to fly out of the bankside scrub, while a mob of kangaroos hopped lazily along the river flat. The air smelled of misty mountains and promise.

The Geehi flowing hard, but fishable.

Next stop was the Indi at Tom Groggin, flowing even harder and somewhat more discoloured than the Geehi. I made a start, but soon realised this river would take more dedication to fish properly. After a few casts, I decided to push on to meet up with Steve: this would give us plenty of late afternoon and evening to try the Thredbo, Lake Jindabyne, or both. Great!

It’s breathtaking to cross from the bottomless forest ravines and switchbacks of the upper Indi, over Dead Horse Gap and into the arrow-straight valley of the Thredbo with its gentler patchwork of snow-gums and snowgrass meadows. This valley is beautiful in a different way, almost postcard-like compared to the utter wilderness just left behind.

A quick flick on the Indi.

With the Alpine Way’s curves no longer as tortured, it seemed to take no time to reach Steve near Hatchery Bay. But as I covered the last few bends, the radio news abruptly announced that Victorians arriving in New South Wales would be required to self-isolate for 5 days, effective immediately.

I pulled over and greeted Steve with the bad news. We exchanged a half-hearted COVID fist bump and scrambled for a way out, but we’d seen it all before and deep down, we knew our trip was stuffed. The only option was to turn my car around and head back home. Home lockdown seemed preferable to lockdown in a basic cabin, even in somewhere as lovely as the Snowy Mountains. I got home at 1am. 1300km and 15 hours driving for about 30 minutes fishing and one small rainbow. It seems I’m in the red.

Postscript: I learnt this morning that NSW changed their requirements for Victorian visitors late last night: having arrived in NSW before midnight Friday, I would have been allowed to stay, travel and fish freely after all. Bugger.