When the going gets tough the tough get going, or at least go fishing.
Now things around here have been a little slow on the fishing front, it’s mid summer with bright blue skies and hot as Hades, the water is low and the fish have been further educated by another half season of catch and release fishing.
The younger fish are just completing their degrees in artificial fly identification and the larger and older ones seem to have specialized for their Masters with theses including “Artificial fly avoidance”, “Drag: tell tales signs if imminent danger” and “Auditory Signals of Angler Approach…an overview”
If the sarcasm appears to indicate a level of frustration, well yes you are quite right it does, because the fishing has been difficult and slow and it’s all getting just a bit much.
Breaking the monotony:
In a gallant effort to break the monotony Mike and myself set off last weekend on a trip in search of some carp. It is an experiment that had been some time in the planning and further delayed by various inconveniences best left unmentioned but mostly to do with earning a living and keeping loved ones happy. Still we finally got a clear day and headed off to the Berg River for a drift down a section never previously visited by us but known to contain at least some carp.
The start went well, we met up at a garage along the way and Mike, as with all good fishing partners is eminently reliable and so was there on time as always. We did the usual ritual of allowing ourselves to be ripped off to the tune of 16 bucks for a cup of what only the marketing department at Wimpy could refer to as a large coffee. Luke warm slightly discoloured milk with about as much caffeine punch as a baby’s bottle. When you get right down to it the servings wouldn’t be considered large by any creature of greater dimension than a hamster and the caffeine content probably wouldn’t be sufficient to wake up the same rodent after consumption of half a wine gum.
No matter we were going fishing so we swallowed the stuff, washed down the odd hot cross bun with the unappetizing contents of our paper cups and set off to the first stop where we were to drop one vehicle. All went well, we checked the portage out of the river to insure that we would be able to exit with the boat later in the day and headed upstream.
Some fifteen odd Kilometers upstream we were kindly afforded the chance to park the second vehicle in a pleasant car park only metres from the water and unloaded and inflated the boat. Things were looking up, and whilst being taken for a ride on the coffee front we got to park our car for free so I suppose the two balanced out to some degree. Thanks to the people at Riverside for their kindness.
We hit the water and drifted down a section before rigging up the gear, the water was far clearer than we had anticipated which on the one hand was very encouraging, the river looking for all the world like a New Zealand stream or a Western American River and we were filled with hope of success.
What a glorious piece of water, high mountains surrounded us and not a soul in sight as we tripped along in the reasonable current, a water flow that was the result of the outflow of the relatively new Berg River Dam. There had to be fish in here surely? It was just looking so very very good. On spotting the first carp or two we stopped and rigged up, spending various amounts of time in different spots Czech nymphing and swinging wet flies in the hope of hooking one of these monsters, all to no avail.
It seemed that perhaps the clear water was to our disadvantage as the fish that we spotted were spooked within moments of us getting close enough to see them.
We did see carp, in fact in reasonable numbers in some parts but the story was always the same, get anywhere near close enough to make a cast and they would be on the run. I suppose that we were beginning to doubt our prospects and despite catching a few small mouth bass we remained carpless.
Then we got to a large weir which was clearly labeled with “keep out” signage but for one rapid water shoot with indicators that this was the legal and preferred route of canoeists heading downstream. It looked a bit tight but the alternative was to lug the boat around the obstacle in a tiresome portage. So Mike, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor took the camera and a few other bits and bobs out of the boat and walked around whilst I eyed the prospects of surviving the drop on the sluice.
When Mike was in position to film the event I lined up the boat and heading down the river rowing backwards I hit the rushing water of the drop, all went well for the first second or so but then the boat slewed around, there was no room to adjust with the oars and the rubber duck got stuck between the walls. Every effort to release it from the concrete’s grip would simply allow it to be pulled further into the back eddy, swamping the craft which had it not been inflatable would have sunk for sure.
Finally after much battling I managed to use my body as a sea anchor and dragged the boat out, soaking wet and sitting up to the gunnels in water. The inside of the craft awash with floating rod tubes and the like. Still it was a hot day and I warmed and dried fast and was no worse for my adventure, still though no success on the fishing front to speak of.
The river narrowed in places and once or twice we were forced to shoot rapids overgrown with trees. At one point a hidden branch came into sight too late for any structured avoidance tactics and I was forced into the position of simply shouting “Duck” as we whizzed through the foliage. Mike was a tad slower than I and caught the bow straight in the chest, knocking him overboard backwards and hooking up the lines in the trees. Reels screamed as Mike’s head bobbed in and out of view above the choppy surface and by the time the was some semblance of control restored we had metres of fly lines running up and down the river and wrapped about the branches. Now Mike was soaked as well, but I figured it served him right for laughing back there at the weir.. Karma Karma
We persevered, regularly spotting and spooking carp without ever really having a decent chance at one, Mike caught a bass or two and then we figured that it was time to put in some effort to exit the river before dark.
The river obviously meanders more than the road so the estimated distance to be covered was probably closer to twenty kilometers than fifteen. We rowed and rowed as the sun sank gently behind the hills and reached the car after a portage detour caused by picking the wrong channel and a few more close encounters of the tree kind. It was almost dark as we hauled out and reaching the car found that our gear, carefully packed away in a waterproof Ziploc bag was drenched. Mike’s cellphone swam forlornly behind the plastic window, for all the world looking like one of those goldfish you used to win at fairgrounds. I also found that during one of the semi arboreal incidents my flip down reading glasses had been whisked from the peak of my cap and on taking stock we found that we were minus two cellphones, one alarm remote for the house, had two soaked wallets and a damp car key. Oh my God the car key, without that and without comms we were going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without so much as dry clothes.. You can say what you like about Toyota but that key worked like a dream and the submersion didn’t seem to have affected it at all. Who can deny the power of prayer after that?
We eventually packed up the boat, put on dry clothes and returned to pick up Mike’s car still parked in the dark upstream. Delayed by roadworks for another twenty minutes we headed home well after eight.
All of this for two or three small bass, hardly seems worth it but the situation on the trout streams had driven us to such measures and whilst we didn’t have any great success we had a good day, got some exercise and are already planning another adventure. I figure that in fishing sometimes you have to get out there and make the news. If we keep going, and more importantly survive the attempts, at some point surely we will find some decent fishing and when we do I am not going to write about it. I figure we will have deserved the chance to keep any finds secret for a while, but for now we still have to find one.
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