As a means of conveyance, the thumb has it's pros and cons,
but one of the best things about it is the accidental discovery
by the traveller of some really magical places during the course
of a journey.
One such adventure in1980 found me thumbing my way across
Australia, learning how to say "g'day," and "mate," and other
more colorful terms. I was also getting very good at knocking
the hat off my head while swatting at flies, a maneuver lovingly
called the "Australian Salute."
While travelling the Snowy Mountains that summer, south of
Canberra, I wound up in the resort town of Thredbo. Known
for it's skiing by winter, the town was abustle with summer outdoors
enthusiasts doing their commune with nature in a variety of ways.
Thredbo appealed to me, especially so when I discovered that running
right through the center of it was a small stream.
True to the kid in me I clumbsily chased down a couple of
grasshoppers, tossed them in and was delighted to see some
small rainbows come up and gobble them down.
No matter where in the world I am, if I find a trout stream I'm
home. And in this case I stayed a week.
But budget accommodations were booked solid so I got a small
cabin down the road a bit from town at a big reservoir called
The lake was full of rainbow and brown trout and a nearby tackle
shop offered me the rental of a fly rod and sold me a few flies and
a licence. Quickly I found that the trout in the lake rose nicely to
a hopper fly fished in the evenings just down from my cabin and I
caught several browns in the 15 inch range, to my great pleasure.
Mornings weren't quite so productive, inviting exploration, and a day
later I set out for the Dam. I was hoping that the stream on the other
side of the dam might prove more productive. The dam was only half
a mile from the cabin, an easy fishing stroll interrupted only once by a
small rainbow not yet so wise as his elders, who took interest in my
Crossing the road, I looked down into the canyon and was greatly
disappointed at the lack of moving water. The stream there consisted
of several rather long and still pools interconnected by short and
shallow trickles of riffles. However, from my vantage point at the
road I could see some large trout swimming in the pools so it seemed
worth while to pursue investigation.
At the top of the canyon the hills were rolling, covered in dry grass
and sprinkled here and there with eucalyptus trees. Replace those
trees with oak trees and it looked just like the California foothill
country. But when I got to the bottom things got greener, the plants
taller and thicker, and I became somewhat wary.
You see, the first thing one must understand about Australia is
that they have some of the darndest critters in the world. And
they're all over the place. There are about a million kinds of
snakes and most of them seem to be able to kill you just by
looking at you. But the first thing I saw when I stepped down
onto the floor of the ravine was a dead kangaroo, a big grey.
I stood there inspecting his torso, my gaze gravitating to the nasty
looking claws on his hands and the huge, spikey toe nails. And
gradually I came to note that his eyes had opened. He lifted his
head to look at me, but then lay back down and closed his eyes.
I don't know if he was sick or not, but he was big enough to have
his way with me and I left him to sleep it off.
I backed off and went on my way, immediately catching sight of
a flock of galas, with their pink heads and grey bodies, settling
noisily into a tree. There were cockatoos about, too, and what
a racket they made. Heard but unseen was a kookaburra
somewhere, the bird that laughs.
Then I hit the strand of a spider web that was so strong it made an
audible snap when it broke. I don't really mind snakes so much,
but I have a spider phobia, and that unerved me.
As I was recovering from the thought of just how big that spider
might have been there was a great noise in the grass and a startled
snake of large proportion went whipping away lickity split leaving
me equally startled. A few steps later a big lizard ran off across
the top of the water, on his hind legs, to the other side of the pool.
Now that was cool!
Slowly I settled in to the task of fishing. I've always been pretty
unstealthy in still water and the big trout I could see weren't interested
in the hopper fly I kerplunked over them. I fished in vain from pool
to pool, scaring the trout with each cast. And sadly, the little riffles
weren't significant enough to have any fish in them.
I had heard that this was platypus country so I kept an eye out for
a glimpse of one, but none showed themselves. Instead, I bumped
into a wombat.
The wombat is a pretty big marsupial, roughly the size of a big nutrea.
I blundered into this one in the shade of a couple of large trees and we
startled one another. He ran right at me, which was unsettling, but it
turned out that his hole was hidden on the other side of a small mound
directly between us. He ran to the hole but went in just deep enough
to hide about half of his body, and then stopped.
I reached over with my fly rod and tapped him on his rear end, at which
time he bolted down into the burrow and out of sight. This was turning
into quite a nature hike.
On the other side of these trees the last of the pools finally drained
into some running water that was sufficiently deep and sheltered to
hold fish and here I caught my first and only trout on this adventure,
a nice brown, again around 15 inches long.
After releasing him I noted that the creek now ran under a fence that
was the demarkation of private property. Taking stock of the situation
I decided to go back to the lake.
It was a fair hike through the spiders and snakes and whatever down
there in the gorge, so I decided to make things easy on myself and climb
out of there and finish the hike in the short grass at the top. I crossed
the stream and began the climb and immediately created a stir.
A group of about 5 or 6 startled kangaroos came bouncing out of
the bushes at the bottom nearby and bounded a little way up the hill.
Having never seen an American before, they were overcome by
curiosity and all of them stopped about 50 feet away and stood
there looking at me. So I said "G'day!" which sent them hopping
up the hill in great, distance eating leaps until they disappeared over
Up on top once more the hike became easier and a cool breeze
was blowing that had been absent below. But up there the only
critters I saw were birds and a couple of rabbits.
Back at the cabin, with the aid of a cold beer, I considered the
day and decided that it had been well worth the exertion. But the
rest of my time would be spent fishing the lake, which was very
productive in the evenings and less troublesome to explore.
Also, apparently, it had its own bevy of critters for me to contend
with. As darkness settled in, a couple of Australian "possums" came
down out of the tree next to the cabin and begged for handouts,
showing no fear whatsoever, and they kept me company every
evening during that short week.
As time goes by I marvel in the number of fascinating experiences
the simple quest for trout has presented to me over the years, and
hopefully will for many more.
~ BH (wgflyer)