River Rafting Reflections
There are some fishing experiences that simply change the way that you go about finding trout. Spending time on a river hunting fish creates so many fishing memories in just one day, that for one of those days to stand out means that it is very special indeed. An experience I will never forget is one of rafting down the Macquarie River near Launceston with Andrew Harker; a well known river rafting guide. Also accompanying me on that sensational day was Neil Grose and Andrew's daughter Sophie.It was a bright, hot, late December afternoon, not a cloud in sight. Standing in the raft watching the hopper drift down stream followed by a nymph in tandem was an exercise in unrequited anticipation. My imagination was wandering, visualizing the hopper sinking at a fast rate of knots with a huge boil to follow. But it was not to be on most occasions. This addiction of watching the fly was something I had never experienced before. I knew the second I looked away a fish would take it and I'd miss the damn thing on the strike.
"Here it comes" yelled my fellow on lookers, as a beautiful golden streak, similar to a large banana, casually zig zagged its way up to my fly. "Watch it", "STRIKE", Oh; !@#$, "you've lost it"!!! I looked in dismay and contemplated what happened. How big was the beautiful brown I just missed? Was it "the fish of a lifetime?" Reflecting on the comments from before I then asked myself "How can you loose a fish that you don't have on in the first place?" This did make me feel a little better, as I hadn't actually lost it at all; I just never had it on in the first place!
We drifted over more "fishy water" with at least one of us commenting each time "There has to be a fish in here" but it was not to be.
All of a sudden Andrew yells "Hey Nicole, chuck it in there, in the ripples". Well before I could focus back down on the hopper, there was an enormous boil of water, and with that my fly sunk, my right arm automatically rose above my head and it was on. A huge splash; a yell of, "you ripper" from my fellow rafters that got my adrenalin really pumping. Neil yelled, "Beautiful fish Nicole, don't loose it" as if I didn't have enough pressure from loosing several fish before, I had more than pressure now. "Beautiful fish Nicole, don't lose it" was going over and over in my head like a cracked record. "Get it away from the bloody strap weed". "Hold your line tight". "Keep your rod up" was being yelled from all angles.
I knew what to do and was trying to do all of the above but the excitement was over riding my bodies basic desire to get the fish in the net and then release it.
This fish played with me just as well, or if not better, than I played it. He was a cunning little creature. When hooked he had the ability to swim down deep and put as much tension on the leader as possible, making me think that I was going to loose it. Swimming amongst the strap weed and fallen logs and then deciding to swim to the surface ever so gracefully; then lying on its side while showing me it's size and to see the beautiful brown and red spots and the golden glow, then, with a quick flick of its tail burry down deep again pulling even harder than before.
After lapping up the moment for several minutes I finally led him to the surface and had the net soon under him.
I found my self over whelmed with excitement and a huge sense of personal achievement, a beautiful 2 1/2lb Tasmanian wild brown trout caught while rafting only 30 minutes from the city centre. It soon became the most photographed fish in Tasmania, and while not the biggest trout I have ever caught, it is by far the most memorable!
After all that how can anyone say that fly fishing is boring?
I felt so privileged to be able to spend a day on the river with 3 great friends enjoying the fresh air, with Andrew sharing some of his guiding experiences with us, telling tales of the ones that got away, and the ones too big too fit in the net.
People often brag about the tackle they have, the brand name equipment they use, the flies they are using and the who's who that ties them.
But when I reflect on a days fishing, it doesn't matter how many fish I catch or lose or what brand of rods, reels and flies I use, it is the experience, friendships and great memories that count most for me - these are all priceless.