Lines of Connection

Jack Viney comes full circle in the Western Lakes

It is halfway though the second day of a multi-day trip in the Western Lakes, an area that many of the Tasmanian fly fishing community hold close to their hearts. The weather forecast hadn’t looked spectacular and nor was the company – this time it’s a solo trip due to fishing mates being tied up with recent or imminent baby arrivals. My enthusiasm and longing to get deep into the lakes country have pushed back any doubts about the mediocre weather. A cold westerly has robbed the first day of any chance of providing some insect activity, and gauging by the current conditions, today is shaping up to be a similar affair. Having cast to a few early morning tails and caught some unlucky ones, spirits are up, but after being on foot for a few more hours with a full pack and not a single fish sighted, an early lunch is on the cards. Ahead is a gravel beach covered with white foam: the wind is whipping white flecks up at the lone pencil pine that stands guard. Enjoying some respite from the leg-destroying scoparia and contemplating how good it would feel to sit down, I stare out into the waves and catch a glimpse of something moving. Is it my imagination? I’ve been scanning the water all morning — it must have been a shadow from the cresting waves as they spill in ankle-deep water. But there it is again, this time in copper and gold, my quarry for the day. Line is frantically stripped, a fly is presented, and as if it was meant to be, my fat golden friend swims right up and opens its mouth to eat my fly — but not on this day. The fish just noses it politely and carries on with business. One chance, one refusal and an early lunch. It’s funny how a split second in time can be etched in your memory as if it’s been shot in slow motion, replaying over and over, reminding you that this windy Western Lakes day could have provided the fish of a lifetime. Solo fishing in remote areas creates time to reflect, and as I trudge on I contemplate what fly fishing means to me. It isn’t always about catching a bag or making perfect casts. Sometimes the most rewarding moments are the least expected — and the ones that demand the hardest work. Maybe that’s what drives us to fish and explore — savouring the rewards, putting in the effort, enjoying the surprises and lamenting the near-misses. It’s a passion that gives constant feedback and demands dedication and time. These are the connections that we all understand and that link us together as fly fishers. My day is looking up. As I pass more lakes along the way, the wind is backing off and the sun is starting to shine. With a cold morning and a wind-blown beach behind me, the chance of some sun keeps me moving forward. I haven’t seen a soul for nearly two days but as I round the next corner I spot a couple having lunch on a dolerite outcrop. We chat and exchange morning reports — I’m not the only one having a hard time. It is their first time ‘out west’ and they haven’t managed to find a fish in the past two days. I assure them it isn’t all that uncommon. After hearing their plans for the day and no longer feeling anxious that they had already fished my intended water, I mention a little nearby tarn where I can almost guarantee spotting a fish. They had passed the tarn earlier, but disregarded it due to its small size. They seem surprised and a little skeptical, but they take my assurances on board and we agree to take a look. I know how disheartening long days of walking and no fish can be, so I hope my guarantee holds true. As I walk over the hill and down to the bank of the tarn, a nice 3-pound brown is working hard along the rocks, on the beat for some food. I realise that in the lee of the glacial moraine, the wind has almost disappeared. With calm water and direct sun, black spinners are emerging, as are the trout. My new friends look on as I net the first eager spinner feeder. The next hour is spent enjoying a perfect spinner hatch — not a breath of wind and plenty of hungry trout. I’m relieved that the little tarn came good for us and I’m delighted to be sharing the Western Lakes experience. The shocked look on my companions’ faces as trout fall to parachute spinner patterns is nearly as enjoyable as the fishing itself. So there we are, late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, a long way from the city parties that would soon be firing up, catching fish after fish, laughing and discussing casts and flies. All by chance — but connected by a common love of fly fishing. In camp that night I listen to the flutter of the tent-fly in the breeze, recall the pleasures of the afternoon session and think about the lines of connection that have brought me to the shore of this Tasmanian lake. Fernie, British Columbia, Canada. One of the finest dry-fly river fisheries in North America and my second home for several years, Fernie is featured in Greg French’s book, The Last Wild Trout. It’s here that I rekindled my childhood fishing passion, aided by the easy-to-fool wild Westslope cutthroat trout. It was also in Fernie that I followed another expatriate Tasmanian into a job with the town’s tourism office. I soon learned that my predecessor also fished the Elk River in Fernie, but it was not until we were both back in Tasmania a few years later that we finally met and began bushwalking and fishing trips together in the Western Lakes. Our planning always involves Greg’s book, which we fondly refer to as ‘The Bible’. I feel like we’ve made a strange full circle when I read Greg’s account of his time in Fernie, the place that eventually led to my own love for the Western Lakes. Information passed on from one to another; friendships formed, not from a place but from a passion; words published to share stories and knowledge — these are the lines of connection that enrich our experience of the sport, the game, the recreation, the hobby, the obsession, the whatever it may be to you… fly fishing.

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