The Good Life

Lubin Pfeiffer & Casey Mattson hit the road in Victoria

Our Mitta Mitta roadtrip had been in the making for several months. My fiancé Casey and I had recently left our jobs for a life on the road. It was a big move for us. I had been working in the family business as an electrician for 18 years and I was just a little nervous to say the least. Budgets were done and we both hoped to find a little work here and there as we travelled the country in our van named Kevin.
Kevin is the blue transit van we bought from a French couple that had been travelling Australia, just like we planned to do. Their two-year visa was to run out in the month we bought the van, so we got Kevin at a very good price and took him home to fit out what would be our new tiny home on wheels. It’s a strange thing to say that we’ve both fallen in love with Kevin, but that’s exactly what has happened.
Life Change
We hit the road on a sunny Tuesday morning. A quick stop by Mum’s house had her a little teary. Sure, we had a rough plan, but really it was an open book as to where the road would lead us. That was the whole idea of the life change. Getting up to the alarm and working to the clock had grown tiresome, and this was the change we had dreamed about. It’s a funny thing but driving the van that is now our home away from home, really makes me smile.
The windows were down as we cruised along the Sturt Highway towards the Victorian border. The Sturt leads you along the Murray River, which is incredibly beautiful but the surrounding landscape was painfully dry. There had been little rain over winter in South Australia and we were itching to see some clear flowing water again. Both being trout tragics, it seemed fitting to spend the first few months of the new era as trout bums. So we decided to head towards the Victorian high country. I’d fished the Mount Beauty area a few times before during fly fishing nationals but never spent much time there just pleasure fishing. This was Casey’s first time fishing the area and I was very much looking forward to showing her around.
We stocked up on supplies for the trip at Shepparton before making our way across the hills. It’s amazing just how little money you can spend when you really put your mind to it. The length of our new journey will depend on how long our money lasts, so we have to make the most of every purchase. It’s a peculiar thing but the more time you have, the less money you seem to spend. At the end of a long working day I would usually rush in to the supermarket and grab whatever was easy. Now though, with all our extra time we could just cruise; it was fantastic.
Casey, being the ‘gun’ shopper she is, spotted discounted burgers for a grand total of $3.35! These were matched with a bag of two-dollar burger buns and an iceberg lettuce. So, for a total of around $8 we had two dinners and two lunches. I would normally spend $10 on a single lunch at home for myself! This trend continued as we slowly worked our way through the supermarket. We left the store having spent $64, which I couldn’t quite believe. Normally I would do $150 in the blink of an eye.

Kiewa Valley Stop
On our way through to the Mitta Mitta we decided to spend a few days on the Kiewa River. I knew of a secluded free-camping spot that was only a few steps from the river.
Van-life was really starting to set in. We would start each morning with a breakfast and tea or coffee before donning the waders and spending the morning on the river. Then, at lunch, it would be a couple of hour’s fly-tying in the van to restock or tie patterns we thought we needed for the afternoon session. After many years of competitive fly fishing, we were able to set the van out with a pretty amazing fly-tying kit. This was one thing we had to allow a bit of room for, as we both knew it would be something we would use a lot.
After the fly boxes were topped up and our bellies were full we would head back to the river until the evening rise. It was a simple and incredibly enjoyable way to live. I have been sleeping in swags since I was a kid, and although I do love it, staying in a van is something else. You have everything you need and also an area to get away from the elements, which is such an important part of being comfortable.
The Kiewa was running quite high but still clear and the fishing was a little bit patchy. Casey absolutely brained the browns in a few spots, which was most enjoyable to watch. I really struggled, so I was happy that she was able to work them out.
Over the time we stayed there we didn’t need to move at all. It was so good not having to drive home after fishing, burning fuel and also paying for accommodation. I think that’s when you also spend money unnecessarily. I know on typical trips when the money kept coming in, I’d get back from a long day’s fishing and think, stuff it, I can’t be bothered cooking, let’s go to the pub. I’d then spend $50 on food and drinks. Van-life allows you to slow down and make the most of your time. The food we were eating was just as enjoyable, and like most things, it actually tastes better when you are right by a river or lake.
It was time to move Kevin to the Mitta Mitta River, over the hill from Mount Beauty. Kevin had only 140,000 km on the clock and the mechanic had assured us that the van was in great working order, but I was a little concerned about touring through the high country. We started the incline just out of town, put some appropriate tunes on, and slowly worked our way around the turns and up the hill.
The views just got better as we went up. And as I mentioned before, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face while I was driving the van. It’s not about going fast or being able to four-wheel-drive over some gnarly territory; it’s purely a lifestyle thing. On seeing Falls Creek around the next bend I was even happier that Kevin had smashed the hill! Yeah, it was a little slower than normal but we had time for that.
A quick look at Rocky Valley reservoir took us around to the downhill run towards the Mitta Mitta River and soon we were cruising towards Anglers Rest looking for a free spot to camp. When we pulled up in Kevin right beside the river at the Jokers Flat camp spot, it felt like home. The sound of running water as it meanders its way through the rocks is so soothing.
Casey and I were quick to get everything set up. The awning was pulled out and erected; chairs and waders were set out and hung up. We even had our own personal shower cubicle, with running hot water. We picked up an instant gas hot water unit for a bargain at a recent 4WD show and it’s an absolute beauty. Running off a simple 12 volt plug, you get 50 hours of running hot water out of a 9 kg gas bottle. Getting back from fishing and being able to have a beautiful hot shower is just the best. Amazingly, we also had access to a toilet only a short walk away — Victoria really has its free camping sites worked out.

Fishing the Mitta Mitta
Having set up camp we were both keen to hit the river. I planned to go for a short walk downstream, while Casey decided to fish upstream just out in front of where Kevin was parked. The afternoon light had started to change as the sun made its way back across the hills. Shadows were beginning to creep over the water and the brown trout were very hungry.
As I worked my way up through the runs and riffles the fish were eager to hit my Perdigon and Frenchie nymphs, drifted down naturally through the current. In every spot I thought there should be a fish, there was, and stunning brown trout of very good size were regularly coming to the net. Some with chrome silver bodies and blue cheeks and others with buttery yellow hues and bright red spots.
We lost count of the fish we caught as the light began to fade in the west. The sky turned a spectacular shade of pink and purple as we met up back at Kevin for a chat about the afternoon’s happenings over a glass of red wine. Life was good, perfect in fact. The sky turned black as we slid the van door closed and retreated to a warm bed to dream about what great adventures lay ahead for us.

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