BOYS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN

A great little guest write up (and some great photos) from keen fisho, Jay Hayles. Enjoy!

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It started like many a trip before. Late one arvo I get a text from a mate who says he is heading on a weekend trip with some of the other boys from work and would I be interested in coming along. Now I was faced with a dilemma of sorts. The weekend prior I had been meaning to do some mechanical repairs to my 4wd and postponed it to go fishing and camping with another last minute crew. This weekend was meant to be the time to finally do those repairs. But the allure of the campfire, the scenery, and the prospect of landing a fish on my newly acquired fly rod was too strong. So I happily postponed the repairs another week and loaded up the Troopy with swags, snacks, tackle and beer and drove out to meet the lads on Friday arvo.

 

We left a little later than originally planned, thanks to one of the lads mistaking our service station meeting place for one on the opposite end of town, a quick phone call later and we had regrouped and started the two hour drive to camp. The mood amongst the crew was excited. The ribbing also started early, with many comments slung over the radio waves about fishing prowess, 4wd vehicle choice and how some of us bow hunters were better than the rifle shooters of the group. Passing through the last country town on the way we nearly pulled in at the pub for a few beverages but the call of the wild was too strong and we pushed on to the dirt track that would ultimately lead us to our weekend nirvana.

After about twenty minutes of dust and some patches of corrugations we crossed a small ford and arrived at our destination. The conversation over the UHF had now shifted to a hopeful lack of other campers. We wanted the place to ourselves and thought we’d have a shot due to the week of hot weather and upcoming end to school holidays but alas there we were, driving past caravans and horse floats and a few camper trailers for good measure too unceremoniously plonked next to the dam. We collectively sighed over the radio at our lost opportunity for some solitude amongst the bush and found the most secluded space we could on the banks of the feeder creek away from the screaming kids, generators and overly flatulent horses. Camp setup was quick, like a well oiled machine. We deployed swags and stacked firewood, cut up whilst clearing the trail on the way in and started unloading the kayaks and rigging lines.

The evening sun was already starting to dip and the fish were becoming active on the glassy surface of the dam. We could see several trout feeding and we excitedly rushed to try our skill and our gear. The decision was made to first have a quick walk around, with the crew flicking lures where they could to survey the battlefield. A resident pair of Pluvers made the survey slightly more interesting as we dodged and waved our rods about like mad men to save our scalps from the kamikaze like onslaught as we crossed the tussock grass at the northern end to check the other side of the dam.

When one of the blokes sank in the muddy bottom of the small feeder creek up to his chest while trying to wade across, the proverbial straw had broken the camel’s back and kayaks were shoved into the water, paddles flailing and the lads were soon out in the deeper water.

The boys in the Kayaks made short work of the dam, patrolling up and down, more resembling a shark that somehow found its way into fresh water. I was the only one without a craft so spent the hours trying my luck in the feeder creek with the fly rod and taking a few photos. Doing my best to follow the YouTube guide I had pored over in the week following purchasing my fly rod, I sat quietly on the bank at first just observing the fish’s habitat. I finally saw some surface action and worked hard to rig the closest matching fly I had in my measly kit. (My mail order encyclopaedic fly collection was still yet to arrive).

I was unlucky on the rod but managed to get a few good photos before the rain started falling. I moved back up into camp as the clouds thickened and the downpour began. The other lads weren’t so lucky. They made it back to camp drenched from head to toe and shivering. Their only consolation was that they had landed two decent Rainbows for their trouble.

The rain drumming down from above for the next 6 hours and a lack of adequate shelter meant the four of us spent the night drinking and drying off in the confines of a (compared to my Troopy) tiny Navara dual cab. Needless to say my offer of room to move and a cold fridge full of Great Northern in my rig fell on deaf ears as the boys cracked the first of two bottles of Stones ginger wine and I could tell they had no intention of leaving the car anytime soon. Knowing the outcome if I partook, I said my goodnights early (3am) and dashed through the rain to my bed in the back of the Troopy. In hindsight the lack of a working heater in my truck and their soaking wet apparel was probably a good enough reason for them to forgo leaving the confines of the Navara.

The next morning I awoke early to clear skies and bright sunshine, my sleep only broken during the night by the dog stealing the blanket from me.

The others rose from their slumber weary and still suffering from the night before, the majority of their swags now turned to wading pools. But hung-over and pruned from sleeping in a puddle or not, the Kayaks were soon launched again and the rods flung about with two decent little trout landed early on. They were quickly thrown in the cooler for dinner later on. Throughout the rest of the day there were bouts of drinks around the still saturated pile of firewood, bacon and eggs wraps or sausage sangas ( we tend to eat like carnivores when we go bush) and patrolling the reed banks and navigating small rapids south of the dam for a bit of fun.

Whilst the lads were enjoying their water sports I was usually stomping around the banks, flicking a fly or two but to no benefit. I then tried to keep occupied by taking more photos with my flash new camera and fought hard to keep my furry companion dry. He was obviously ecstatic the entire weekend, as I’m pretty sure he loves camping even more than me, however every time the boys launched the kayaks meant the dog would get soaked as he tried to swim out with them, obviously not wanting to miss out on the action. Normally I would have no dramas with this, but when he would then try to dry himself on my swag as if it were some giant towel, I got a little peeved. The day went quickly with no further success on the water, so we all moved back up to camp. The tally still sitting on only 4 fish caught thus far.

The campfire was finally lit as the sun set behind the surrounding hills and the feast was prepared. A forgotten camp oven meant the damper was quickly shoved into a billy kettle and the fish was wrapped in foil and thrown under some hot coals. In the meantime a few juicy steaks and a chorus of ‘don’t worry bout the spuds or veggies mate’, helped pass the time. The camping law of counting minutes by beers consumed was observed somewhat religiously afterwards and finally the ‘teapot damper’ was deemed ready, however what we received was a failure. Whilst looking fantastic and cooked perfectly, the savoury treat tasted like a mouth full of spare change that had been found in the bottom of a dirty shoe.

Our camp chef was more than apologetic, and promised to redeem himself with the fish which after another couple of beers was brought out from under the coals. The fish was unwrapped gingerly with all the delicate care of a bloke building a ship in a bottle. A touch of salt and pepper was applied before we took turns sampling the meal. For all of us this was our first taste of cooked trout and I don’t think it will be the last. Everyone loved the sweet flesh of our prey and within seconds all that remained were bones. Even the dog looked stoked chewing on the head after we had had our fill.

Our hunger sated, we then sat by the fire, bloated and starting to feel the weight of the day on us. A few last minute drinks and tall tales before we each in turn retreated to the comforts of our swags, thankfully all dried by the blazing sun of the day. Seemingly the most prepared of the group, I had to give up my fleece liner, as one of our troop had only brought a sheet for warmth and the temperature had been dropping rapidly as soon as the sun had disappeared. Lucky for me I had my furry hot water bottle to keep me company.

A cold night later I awoke early again to a glorious sunrise and a camp covered in dew. Whilst the other lads still snored, I decided to give the fly rod one last chance before we had to pack up and head home. Alas with the rain falling previously, my crystal clear feeder creek with its bevy of jumping trout was now a muddy torrent so I stomped back to camp having not caught a single thing except a little bit of colour from the sun.

After a slow start and what some might consider being too many bacon and eggs sangas, the camp was slowly dismantled. The kayaks were grudgingly dragged back up from the water and the vehicles loaded ready for the drive home. I made a promise as we pulled away, that I would be back again soon, with a vessel of my own so as to reach the reed banks and ‘blood’ my fly rod finally. I had nearly reached them on the second day by wading out but the silty dam floor gave way to bottomless muck and I soon found myself swimming for shore after nearly going under the water. Some places you just can’t fish without some kind of floating door it seems.

All in all though, I had a great little adventure. The rain only made the trip more fun as I’m sure we’ll be talking about the time we were all stuck in the back of Marshy’s ute drinking tins and eating the only thing that didn’t require cooking (corn chips) for years to come. The fish we did manage to land were delicious and those we returned to the water we hope to see again bigger and better next time. Now if only I could have enjoyed the drive home without the UHF taunts about my prowess as a fisho and the trips tally.

Jay Hayles, January 2017

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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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