So there I was. Standing in my jocks and sock on the side of the Tumut River trying to dry out in the winter sun on opening week of trout season.
I was drying out because moments earlier I had fallen in while wading. Which for fly fishermen is a matter of when, not if. My waders were full, but my spirits were high.
I am sure it was a sorry sight to see (if anyone had) but I couldn’t get the smile off my face. Maybe the smiling face of a semi-naked, middle aged man on the river bank at the end of winter kept people from coming anywhere near me, but in the moment I couldn’t care less. I was thrilled and for good reason.
It all came back to COVID and my ‘Lock Down Skill.’
Back in April when NSW was in lock down, amongst the stress, the concern and the fear, people took to learning new skills. As a side note; if I see another instagram post of someone baking sourdough bread I’ll lose it! But, it did get me thinking it may be time to take the plunge and learn how to tie flies. So that is exactly what I did.
It had always been a thought in the back of my head, but for someone who struggles to button up his sleeves and those frustrating buttons on the end of your collar, I thought the challenge was too great for someone with my substandard fine motor skills. But now was the time to try. So, I bought a starter pack, watched some YouTube clips and got under way by tying some nymphs.
The first few attempts were and absolute flop. So I called on a mate with tried and tested skills, and before my wife knew it I was up late in a tie in session over Zoom. We started on Phesant Tail Nymphs and Frenchies, and by the end of the night, a few or them weren’t actually that bad.
Well back to the Tumut river. It was a day of firsts. It was my first day of the season, my first outing with my new Nymphing set up from Soldarini Fly Tackle, and my first attempt to catch a fish on a fly I tied.
I went with the Pink Frenchie, the best of all my early attempts. I fished it for a few hours with no luck. So I decided to push into the deeper water with a longer dropper. I was up to my chest with the water flowing hard after some morning rain. It was right at that moment where I though I can take one more step safely forward when I felt the weight on the end of my line. I’d hooked a beautiful little 30cm Rainbow. Not a trophy fish by any means but the first fish I’d hooked on a fly I tied myself. My heart was racing. There was no way I was going to lose this fish. So rather than dragging it up against the current I followed it down stream. In my head, I would do this tactfully and would glide my way across the river to the other side. However, swept out from underneath, my feet just seemed to slip and bounce off the slimy rocks for a good 20 meters. At one point my head was under but I was able to keep my rod tip high and keep tension on the line.
Finally reaching the bank on the other side I guided the fish to my hand and lifted it out of the water for a quick photo with my Frenchie in the corner of its mouth. What a great feeling!
On any other day I would have been mad at myself. Slipping over, filling up my waders in the fridget water at the base of the Snowies. But not this day. This was a good day. A day for firsts.
I love this sport. No matter how experienced you are, there are always new skills to learn, new ways to cast, new flies to tie, new rivers to explore, and new successes to celebrate.
I guess that’s why I was smiling on the side of the bank as I stood there in my socks and jocks. That’s not weird. Right?