Breaking the trout drought
From ribbon thread to storming stream,
The anglers chase throughout,
The noblest fish the river width,
A shining rainbow trout.
I’ve always had an affinity with trout. I’m from the mountains, they’re from the mountains. I like swimming in clear, rocky, icy streams; trout like swimming in clear, rocky, icy streams. I like to sit in the shallows at the bottom of ripples and watch life go by; trouts like to sit in the shallows at the bottom of ripples and watch life go by (or at least try and catch it for dinner). So when I was strongly encouraged to take an interest in fishing, it seemed natural that this was the way it would go.
I was particularly keen to get into trout fishing after I discovered no fancy gear was required. I had been under the illusion that they only way to snare yourself a trout was to painstakingly craft pretend flys and gnats and the like before tying them to a piece of thread which you then swirled around in manner of rhythmic gymnastic Olympian before attempting to get in the 40cm of water directly in front on you. Now, I know there are probably trout fishermen (and fisherwomen) out there that would never lower themselves to fishing with and ordinary rod and a few lures, but if, like me, you sometimes suffer from an indecisive cast, then it is a great way to have a go without investing in expensive gear. I have generally used celtas like the one pictured below. They are relatively cheap, come in lots of colours so you can switch it up if you aren’t catching anything, and the weight makes them far easier to swing into the water than a scrap of twisted thread that weighs about the same as a cotton ball. They also look exactly like the grasshoppers that I used to feed to the lone rainbow trout that lived in the creek at the back of our property when I was small, so was convinced the trout had no chance.
Minor problem – I was no good at catching them. After many casts into likely ripples and perfectly fishy pools, not to mention a few forgiving trees, I was no closer to my dreams of trout pride. Lee claimed I had lots of follows – but there was a good chance he was just being kind.
However, a trip to Island Bend last weekend finally yielded a prize. After two days fruitless wedding venue searching (but quite fruitful fishing) on the coast, Lee and I had headed to the mountains to check out a few potential spots. After a day of batting away people trying to sell us a ‘special day’, we retreated to the sanctuary of the bush at Island Bend, in Kosciusko National Park. The choice was essentially a whim – close to Jindabyne (wedding venues) and from the maps it seemed to be on some river. Turned out to be one of the loveliest camping spots we have ever been to and is on the Mighty Snowy River! The river, as we learned, is particularly mighty when they are letting water out of Guthega Dam just upstream. Apparently the area is well known and popular with the kayaking frats, and upon arrival we had the company of about 5 kayakers loitering around waiting for the water to come down from the dam. After an hour or so a few people must have turned on their lights and down came the water, raising the river level of by about 30cm in three minutes.
However, this story is about fishing, not boating, and I want to talk about my trout. It was a stunning sunny afternoon and as we strolled up the river you could almost forget what you were there for- trout! While the river was hardly filthy with fish, a few early sightings of their speckly bodies in the shallows gave us hope, and after about forty-five minutes we struck it lucky with a fish – my first trout!
I had landed a reasonable cast in a nice little pool just below some ripples where the fish like to sit to catch food in the ruffled water. I started to wind in and- bang! I was on at last! It was one of the most exciting catches I have ever had – mainly because, unlike ocean or estuary fishing, I actually saw my quarry before I caught him. In the past when I have caught fish I have just felt something on the line and had to haul it in before I could meet it, but in this case I saw the trout a metre before it struck- or about a second! Trout are great fighters too, so it was a real thrill to land it –a very respectable little rainbow the perfect size for the pan.
We cooked the trout in butter and salt with a twist of lemon and ate it straight from the pan. A perfect weekend.