Some of my fishing trips are months in the planning: flights, accommodation bookings, weird licences – and the odd prayer that the conditions will be okay by the time I get there. At the other end of spectrum are trips which can happen within hours of first having the thought. I won’t pretend trips in this second category are as easy to pull off as they were 20 years ago, but it’s nice to know they’re still possible. Brother Mark phoned with the suggestion on Friday evening, I juggled a few commitments, and by lunchtime Saturday we were standing beside one of the prettiest rainforest streams you can imagine.
The Otways in December aren’t always an easy place to fish. Lush surrounds notwithstanding, the streams are beginning to settle to summer levels. They’re not yet as skinny as they will be by February, but in most places, you can see the bottom easily and the larger pools are almost flow-less. On the way down to fish our first spot, we watched from a clifftop as a big black cormorant shot after a trout like a torpedo. While it looked as if the fish got away that time, it was a reminder anglers aren’t the only thing summer trout have to fear.
So Mark and I fished as carefully as we could, aware that a single spooked trout could be enough to spark a chain reaction that trashed a whole pool. Sometimes we fished taking turns, although when the terrain allowed, we’d do a bit of leapfrogging. When I caught up with Mark after one such stretch and asked how he’d gone, he replied, with just a hint of exasperation, “One landed and about 20 bow-waves.”
For all that, it was simply magic fishing. As Mark’s observation confirmed, there were plenty of trout present, and many were feeding, albeit a bit nervously. In effect, the fish were doing their bit, so it was up to us to do ours. Long leaders, smallish flies and pin-point first casts were required to have any chance. The winning fly was a size 16 black nymph, fished beneath either a small Royal Wulff or Stimulator (the dry being eaten about a quarter as often as the nymph). Every trout hooked, let alone landed, felt disproportionately rewarding – I was fist-pumping at ten inch fish safely brought to the net. When Mark landed a two pounder, he was grinning like a lottery winner for half an hour afterwards, even though a hook getting buried in his finger sabotaged a decent photo.
We’d earlier toyed with the possibility of a surf or estuary session to finish the day but that idea slowly evaporated in the face of repeated lines like, “Geez that next stretch looks good; we’ll just fish that first.” It was nearly dark by the time we pushed up through the treeferns and Antarctic beech and back to the car. Planned or impromptu, there’s nowhere I’d rather have fished.