Knog Bilby Short Story Competition 2020


The Competition

Entrants submitted a short story of 650 words or less reliving their favourite fly fishing moment
that occurred from dusk to dark for their chance to win 1 of 3 Knog Bilby headlamps.

Thank you to everyone of entered, with some fantastically colourful, and often personal,
short stories that reminded us all of the thrill of the ‘golden hour’ and of the joy of fly fishing in general.

A particular call-out to our Eucumbene, Jindabyne & Cooma locals and devotees who
put in an outstanding showing in their numerous high quality entries.


The three winners of the competition are:

Marina Lindsay – “Moonlight Magic”

Nick Withers – “Scattering Cows”

John Hamparsum – “Is that barbless?”

A special encouragement award of
FlyLife clothing & One Year Subscription goes to
a grade 6 student:

Deakin Fisher – “One More Fish”


Read each of the winners stories below…

A selection of additional entrants stories can be found here…


Each winner receives the new Knog Bilby headlamp
Knog is an Australian company specialising in portable lighting for over 20 years.

Winners also receive a FlyLife Limited Edition 100th Issue Tee & FlyLife cap or beanie of their choice.


Competition Winners

Moonlight Magic

by Marina Lindsay

Once I was lucky enough to witness trout rising on still water during a moonlit night. It was a silvery fantasy and I still enjoy thinking about it today.
Our elderly neighbour Ron regularly walked past our house in East Jindabyne at dusk towards his favourite fishing spot in a nearby bay. He had happily retired at 55 to Lake Jindabyne and took his constitutional walk every evening, carrying his fly rod with Tinkerbelle his dog. Ron liked a chat and advised that the weather conditions were leading to superlative fishing on the western shoreline. If I liked he could take me there the following evening. My mouth salivated at the thought of eager trout chomping on a juicy platter of wind-blown insects on water illuminated by moonlight. If only I could have my little fly in the smorgasbord. I had places to go, fish to catch, a fortunate wind, moonlit night and two small children to entertain.
A plan was hatched for me to pick him up at dusk the next day. Car filled with rod, flies, waders, torches, food, toys, blankets, gumboots, two children and a partially blind pensioner. What could go wrong?
Ron directed the car along the gravel paths winding across the sheep property on the western shoreline. The wind dropped and a gorgeous full moon slowly rose above the mountains reflecting on the glass smooth water. Multiple fish could be seen rising offshore, so Ron leapt out of the car and commenced fishing. I leapt out of the car and helped the children with gumboots, torches and their delicious dinners. I had a distant hope of fishing if only I could be graced with some time. However, my evening quickly became very frustrating. Wherever I went, the children followed while laughing and flashing their big torches. If I managed to evade the children, Ron appeared while splashing his gumboots. He insisted on galoshing through the water like an elephant. I managed to evade Ron and cast to a number of good swirls without any success.
The children finally had another round in their eternal disagreement about ‘he is looking at me’, ‘tell him to stop’ and ‘he is still doing it’. If ever a situation could be created to torture me, it was this. I had finally found myself on a perfect evening surrounded by big fish rising under a silver moon with no wind surrounded by an elephant and two fighting children.
The fish were actively feeding. Ron was doing his best to put them down by solidly whipping the water with big lashes of line and splashing boots. There is an art and grace to casting a fly line which some people do not possess. Wherever Ron went, all surface action disappeared as trout fled the commotion. Luckily for me, the fish were rising in a myriad of little bays which could not receive Ron’s attention at the same time.
After seeing the children go to sleep, I took the opportunity near to the car lights to inspect my line and found I had no fly attached. I must have lost it in a tussock while back-casting, so had been fishing for most of the fantastic evening without any fly. If only I had packed a headlamp and checked my line earlier! I frantically tied on a Mrs Simpson, walked so fast that the elephant couldn’t follow and with one cast caught a 5lb brown. It was a battle to land, but Ron appeared at exactly the right moment and artfully hoofed it onto the bank. It was now 9pm, so we agreed it was time to slowly drive back through the minefield of kangaroos and go home. Even after 20 years I still wonder how many glorious fish I could have caught that evening if only I had packed a headlamp and checked my line earlier.
C’est la vie!

Scattering Cows

by Nick Withers

“Do you want some help with that?” That’s AJ asking me. I should probably say yes – the birdnest in my leader is so impressive I’m surprised no one’s laid an egg in it. Being absurdly long-sighted, I struggle with knots at the best of times. At midday, I’d be half a chance of sorting this thing out, but with the sun now below the horizon, I’m floundering more than trouting.
I call back to him: Thanks anyway, but I’ll give it a crack for a bit longer. In the meantime, I reckon you should cast to one of those risers I can hear sipping somewhere in that pool. There is a pool there… isn’t there?
We’re up on the mountain for an after-work sortie. Daylight savings has kicked in, but only just, and after an hour’s drive darkness still looms. The pool would be a glass-off if not for the half-dozen trout feeding so actively. As though there were ten times as many in there. I fumble impatiently with the knot issue. Is this really my rig I’m trying to unravel? For all I can see, I could be weaving a creel from stream-side reeds. Well, AJ may find it useful…
We’ve got half a dozen hungry trout ahead of us and AJ has a doozy Klinkhammer ready for the taking. But he’s prepared to wait for me if it means I get to cast also. The rise could finish before I’m ready, and looking at the disaster in my hands, it’s a distinct possibility. On this stream tonight, AJ is the King, and I feel like the Parrot on his shoulder.
I tell him I’m cutting off my leader and I’ll be there in a tick – go catch one! I stuff my art project into a pocket and turn to watch, but it’s sound that dominates the gloaming’s stillness. I can’t see his loops, but I hear them swoosh, his Klinkhammer plop, the delayed slurp of a hungry trout… and then splashing, which AJ controls downstream and away from the rest of the fish. One down, five to go.
As he releases the pounder from his net, AJ approaches and points the butt of his rod at me. “Have a crack with mine.” I decline his offer. We’re both novices, and this is our first ever evening rise. I worry I’ll stuff everything up; that I’ll spook the fish by casting too heavily (more hammer than clink), or – more likely – I’ll not notice that I’ve hung his fly up in those reeds along the left bank, and back-cast so violently that I tear a whole plant into the pool. When I tell him thanks-but-no-thanks, he understands. These fish are his for the taking, I’m happy just to watch. I really want this to work for at least one of us, if not for both.
And it does. AJ releases four fish and drops another three before the evening rise is over. We’ve never experienced anything like it. Not big fish, but big enough for this stream, and no tiddlers. AJ is completely thrilled, and so am I. It’s exhilarating to be here on a beautiful evening, on a beautiful stream, with a beautiful friend catching beautiful fish. It turns out to be one of the best fly fishing lessons I’ll ever get: At times like this, your friend’s success becomes a shared success.
As the evening rise ends and night begins, we start to hoot and holler and high-five in the middle of the river, scattering cows in the adjacent paddocks. Making our way back to the car in the settling darkness, the beaming smiles on our faces light the way. Now I can see everything.

Is that barbless?

by John Hamparsum

It was a warm spring evening in the mid-90’s when Ranald and I ventured down to Hatchery Bay on Lake Jindabyne, we had hear through the grapevine that the Midges were balling and trout were rising aplenty.
When we arrived the sun was low and we saw we weren’t the first to arrive so we drove around the horseshoe shaped bay until we found a section of the bank we could have to ourselves.
We heard the midges buzzing in the air and saw the slashing rings of trout drowning the balled up midges on the lake’s mirror surface, instantly our excitement was up and we quickly assembled our fly rods and tied on our grizzly hackle imitation of balling midges.
The sun dropped below the horizon and that beautiful dusk light painted the magnificent colours on the surrounding ranges of varying shades of pink and purple, the trout kept rising with irregular persistence and our flies seemed to be delivered to exactly the wrong spot every-time, typical midge fishing!
As the twilight enveloped us so did the silence except for the sound of insects and the swooshing of fly rods around the bay, our own rods added to the rhythmic ambience, it was cathartic and meditative at the same time.
This trance-like state was shattered with the intrusion of a two stroke outboard motor entering the bay and then falling silent out in the centre of the bay, a torchlight swept over the water we were fishing, breaking the night vision we had developed and taken for granted. Numerous grumbles could be heard coming from the banks as fishermen commented to each other about the change in atmosphere that had just occurred. The signature rattling of gear hitting the aluminium side of the boat echoed across the water as the newcomers set themselves up to fish.
Slowly everything slipped back into rhythm, the swishing of fly rods once again carried across the water with a new one entering the chorus from the centre of the bay.
Until, from our new comers, swoosh, and the cry of “whooop”, “aaargh, Is that barbless?”, “Nope”, “You got my ear ya bastard, that’s why you fish barbless in a boat you idiot!” for the next fifteen minutes everyone on Hatchery Bay were entertained by the circus that was developing out in the middle of the bay as they fumbled for torches, pliers and advice on how to remove the new earring that was adorning the hapless grumpy fisherman, finally ending with “cut the bloody line, I will deal with it when we get home!”
Life returned to normal until gradually the slashing rises petered out and one-by-one, first the small penlight torches and then the car lights came on as fishermen left the bay.
The following evening we heading down to Hatchery Bay again for a repeat session, the script rolled out similar to the previous night and once again we were entranced by the sunset, the warm spring night and enjoying the true passion of fly fishing.
The same sounds enveloped us until my swoosh of fly line was bought up short as I hooked a thistle in the dark behind me and an involuntary “whooop” left my lips, from across the bay a call of “Is that barbless?” quickly followed by “Nope” from further around the bay and then just to my left I heard “that’s why you fish barbless you idiot”, across the still water sound travels and the chorus of laughter from all around the bay was nearly a cacophony after the previous silence, slowly it returned to normal with a slight chuckle now and then as the now familiar crowd of fishermen recalled the “had to be there” joke.

One More Fish

by Deakin Fisher
Grade 6 student – special encouragement award.
Compiled by teacher Chris Dawson

The late afternoon, Autumn shadows now stretch ominously across the previously sunlit, glistening pool. The same deep pool that has given up countless brown trout over many hours prior. May on the Eucumbene River can produce frenetic action. For those lucky fly fishermen and women who frequent these parts, this very occasional action is sometimes viewed as payback to the browns for the complete disdain they often show us throughout the warmer months. It also provides an opportunity to catch a trophy trout, a leviathan, a true monster.
A once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter with the ‘motherload’ of browns saw us cashing in on this unlikely bonanza. We were two totally ill-prepared anglers, who had unthinkingly ventured further up the majestic river than had been expected into an area that felt like no human could possibly have set foot. Although fully aware light disappears quickly at this time of year, we fished on with no warm clothing. No food. No light. And all the time with an awareness of the precarious walk out. The shadows quickly disappear and twilight descends. We fish on for one more fish.
Soon, darkness will engulf and challenge our navigation of several kilometres back downstream through thick scrub and the multiple, arm-linked river crossings will be fraught with danger. The realisation that a foot misplaced on this unforgiving rigid terrain could mean disaster. The next step could be down one of a plethora of wombat holes, an unseen rabbit warren, or even worse, a long-abandoned 50 foot deep mine shaft from the 1850’s gold rush. One more fish. The next one will be ‘The one!’…And they just keep coming! We couldn’t possibly leave now. But the shadows lengthen once again. One more fish. Alas, the quickly fading light leaves no option but to leave immediately and scan certain sections of river on our way back down.
Dark clouds see our predicament deteriorate further and almost simultaneously we are deluged by an enfilade of rain and sleet that pelts into the already saturated earth, tearing the once majestic landscape into a soap-like, slippery mixture of hillside gravel and mud-filled water.
Our chances of catching the trophy we had desperately fished for were fading quicker than the near darkness would allow. The Snowy Mountains, cold as bitter and knuckles landing blows on our exposed faces, had now become more of a challenge than tolerable, forcing us to take shelter under the canopy of an ancient, skeletal redgum, with nothing but the clothes on our back and fishing rods held by near frozen solid hands. We sat unknowing of what to do, slowly making our way towards the car, ever regretting our choice to venture this far. Yet through the monotonous, pitter-patter of the rain we heard a sound, a slight inconsistency, an unnatural movement of water, a splash sizable enough for it not to be just another modest-sized brown like all of the others. Heightened senses and a closer inspection of the pool right below us revealed a chance at the one we had desperately sought, not only today but throughout an entire lifetime. There lay resting a giant. A majestic beast of nearly a metre in length. We stood still, completely saturated, our freezing mouths agape at the trophy that lay in front of us. Yet with the unforgiving, harsh conditions, we remained frustratingly pondering, should we? Was this THE ONE? If only we had enough light, it would be possible for us to catch the giant and still get back relatively safely to the car. We were in the right place at the right time and the giant lay right beneath us. And all the while, the recently purchased Knog Bilby head-torches sat unopened on the back seat of the car!

A selection of additional entrants stories can be found here…