Harrietville weekender- friends, food and fly fishing

Over the Anzac day long weekend twenty or so of us headed up to Harrietville, for a quite weekend of eating, drinking, walking, riding, horse riding and fishing. The Ovens valley, in fact most high country valleys in the area are absolutely stunning at this time of year. All the european trees that dot the river valleys have dressed up in various hughes of brown, red and yellow. The air is crisp and clean. The scenery is stunning. It is a wonderful place to spend a weekend.Maxiephoto

Like often happens on weekends like this, everyone got a little bit excited on the first night. As our friendship group has gotten older, moved around, accumulated extra responsibilities; kids and the like, we see each other a little less than we used to. That makes trips like this all the more special. It can also be dangerous on the first night, the excitement of seeing much loved friends, a warm fire and great conversation mean its easy to get a little carried away. The fact that the whiskey and wine is far better than it used to be doesn’t help things. Its safe to say that there were more than a few sore heads on Friday morning.

Hanging
Hanging

For many Friday was spent nursing sore heads and going for short country walks. Some chose an arduous 7 hour ride, from Falls creek to Hotham and then back to Harrietville. Others chose wineries and delicious food. The fishermen, well, they chose fishing. Nick and Perrin, were the first, they got away early to the dredge-hole in Harreitville. What they found was a number of healthy rainbows patrolling the cliff edges. They sighted a few, but were only able to get casts at a couple. In the end the tally went something like this, Perrin dropped a trout and caught a load of little redfin while Nick landed a lovely 2lb rainbow. All the fishermen in the group eventually gathered at around 11 and headed out to hit up one of our favourite creeks in the area. It wasn’t a long session, only a couple of hours. In the end though, it was our only proper stream session for the weekend. We split into groups of two and each fished different sections of river. Myself and Brett purely sight-fished. There were fish in the creek and they were easy enough to sight. However, low, slow water meant they were incredibly difficult to actually catch. Over our few hours on the creek, we managed to eventually spook all the fish we saw. It was frustrating fishing, with fish spooking at the shadows thrown by 7x leader, by casts that in most other situations would have been deemed “perfect”. Frustrations aside and even though we didn’t catch fish, it was still a lot of fun. As we walked back to the car we discussed how just a year ago a session like that may have been disheartening, but how now all it did was whet the appetite, increase the desire. The challenge has now become half the fun. Nowadays blanking while fishing for spooky fish in technically challenging situations brings its own reward, learning, thinking, strategising, improving, so one day we can eventually fool those fish consistently. The highlight for me, was getting four lovely drifts over a rising fish. Sadly, the flies weren’t right. Each time as the fly drifted over his head, the fish would spot the fly, turn, swim over to it and then abort any ideas of eating the fly 1-2 inches below it, moving back to the stream bed to wait for more desirable morsels to drift by. Eventually I landed a cast a little heavily and he was off under the bank. The other boys did a little better, Pete got a nice little brown on a dry, his first trout on fly in Australia! As a beginner, who is quickly picking up the sport, I’m sure it will surely be the first of many. Nick managed a little rainbow on a wooly bugger in a deeper hole. Once we re-grouped back at the house and chatted about our respective sessions, the stories were similar, lots of fish, far too little skill to actually catch them. It was all very enjoyable none-the-less. In hindsight we may have done better fishing some of the larger creeks in the area, creeks with a little more water. So be it.

Pete's first Australian trout on fly
Pete’s first Australian trout on fly
Fishing
Fishing
Spot the trout- the conditions over the weekend were perfect for sightfishing
Spot the trout- the conditions over the weekend were perfect for sightfishing

Friday night was spent at the Snowline hotel, famous for the #2 parma in Victoria. The place was absolutely pumping! The parma was good but in a group of parma lovers, a claim such as that will invariably spark debate. Plenty of other parmas from pubs around Victoria were brought up as contenders for the #2 gong, in the end I think the conclusion was that rating parmas is hard. The other food was also delicious and in general the Snowline was a great little pub to spend the night. Four stars. Back at the house, there was more wine and some games before we headed off to bed.

Saturday came and after the success of Nick and Perrin at the dredge-hole, most of the fishermen in the group ended up down there soon after they crawled out of bed. We all slowly crept aroun the dredge-hole, casting blind sometimes and spending a lot of time trying to spot fish. Over the morning, Perrin landed another nice 2lb bow and I eventually landed one myself. My fish was sighted as it patrolled the cliff line less than a foot from the bank. I managed to find a place where I could make a cast and was able to intercept it just in time. By the time I was in position, I only needed to cast the leader. seconds after the fly the landed the fish saw it and quickly accelerated over and greedily ate my offering. Moments like that are what makes sight-fishing so addictive! Lee, who had become a little frustrated with the fly fishing business, eventually grabbed a spinning outfit and landed a bigger bow just as we were all about to walk back to the house for breakfast. Later on Saturday, we headed off mushroom picking, which was a great way to make a dog walk a little more interesting. Like fishing, mushroom picking taps into that old, ancient part of your brain, there is something indefinable that makes foraging or fishing so rewarding, a connection with nature, with our past as humans. In the afternoon we had another very short stream session of only an hour or so. Perrin had baby duties and me and Carl were busy cooking, so we only had a short window and decided to just fish the Ovens right in Harrietville. Again there were a few fish about but we never worked them out in our short little session and blanked. It hardly mattered, it was fun just to be out on the water.

Perrin with a lovely dredge-hole bow
Perrin with a lovely dredge-hole bow
Me with mine- almost a carbon copy of Perrin's fish size wise
Me with mine- almost a carbon copy of Perrin’s fish size wise
Lee cheated a little ;)
Lee cheated a little 😉
You never know when yo might need a fishing rod.
You never know when yo might need a fishing rod.
A box of delicious pine mushrooms foraged while walking the dogs
A box of delicious pine mushrooms foraged while walking the dogs

We headed back to the house and continued to prepare dinner, chat, relax and generally try to squeeze the absolute most out of our weekend, which was drawing to a close far far too quickly. The menu was, duck pancakes, pulled pork, 48 beef ribs, a bunch of delicious salads and duck fat potatoes with a delicious rhubarb crumble for desert. We spent the rest of the night talking, drinking and playing games. It was a great way to end a wonderful trip with some excellent people. As the night grew old, we were already planning our next group outing.

There isn’t much better than spending a weekend with your closest friends, eating good food, drinking good wine and being lucky enough to get in a little fishing. It was a perfect weekend. Five stars.

Cheers
Hamish

flickandflyjournal.com

Hamish Webb, Dan Firth, Graham Fifield and Lee Georgeson have been fishing the south-east Australian region since 1987. Since then they’ve become avid sportfishermen who are constantly looking for new ways to challenge themselves. They are all scientists and conservationists who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem in which they live. They promote understanding and appreciation of the complex socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding fish, fishing and fisheries, while never losing sight of the various motivations that keep them coming back. In English, that means they love all things fishing and have a damn good time on the water, and that’s all that really counts in the end!

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