March 30th, 2009

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

By Bill Hillman (wgflyer)

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 Jindabyne.

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 hopper.

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 the crest.

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)

Archive of Readers Casts

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice