Mark Kelly captures the spirit of the high plains streams

Last year it was Steve Ooi (FL#90); this year it is Mark Kelly. Yes, our annual photo competition has introduced us to another exceptional set of photographs, this time depicting a uniquely Australian fly fishing experience — prospecting the high-plains streams of the iconic Snowy Mountains. The air has a crisp vitality, the landscape adorned with native alpine plants, the meandering creeks all but hidden from view, almost incidental to a great day in the high country being shared by three colourful characters, their experience and mateship evident in this sensitive portfolio. And so I should not have been surprised to find a professional photographer behind the lens, experienced and highly qualified. And yes, Mark Kelly himself is a keen fly fisherman, drawn to alpine landscapes and high-country trout. This is clearly evident in his portrayal of the setting and the day’s events — the action he has captured and the mood he has evoked. “As you know,” he told me, “it is often hard to put the rod down to pick up the camera, but I usually manage.” Mark Kelly’s regular fishing mates are clearly well versed in the ways of trout, well prepared, and attuned to this intimate stream environment. The detail and colour in their clothing and equipment is a study in itself. “Callum is a rod maker, so we each have at least one of his handcrafted bamboo or fibreglass rods, and he always seems to have a spare or the latest project on hand to try.” As Mark went on to explain, “It is not trophy trout we seek, but beautifully coloured browns and rainbows. There are one or two streams that also contain brook trout, and occasionally a better than average brown which is probably a spawner that has typically found a deeper, undercut corner with an overhanging tussock and decided to take up residence.” “Yes, everyone gets excited about photo essays from those glamorous, exotic locations, but flicking a small dry fly into alpine creeks is very accessible and affordable. The beautiful small streams offer a challenge, the fish are often super-spooky, so a poorly presented cast or the brief pass of a rod shadow will send them scurrying into the nearest undercut bank. In any case, it has nothing to do with the fish count but sharing time with mates.” Do photographs like this really re-quire any words at all? If Mark Kelly’s pictures don’t draw you back or inspire you to spend a day fishing the Lilliputian streams of the Snowy Mountains high country then no amount of text or captioning will help. Is there any place quite like it in the wide world of fly fishing?

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