The joy of fly-fishing

By: Kath Heiman, Photography by: Kath Heiman

Kath rediscovers a quiet pleasure.

The joy of fly-fishing

When was the last time that you beamed? I mean, one of those big smiles that lights up your face and sends a warm glow towards anybody in your midst. If you ask my husband Scott, it happened to me on the final leg of a 5000km road trip we recently completed, by the side of a river within 350km of our home.

Let me explain.

One morning at Colac Colac, Vic, I snuck out of our camper trailer in the early dawn, trying not to wake our five-year-old. I pulled on a pair of waders and grabbed a 30-year-old fly-fishing rod that hadn’t seen the light of day for many, many years.

I selected an artificial nymph that looked like some of the insects I’d seen around camp the previous day, and I rummaged unsuccessfully for a can of dry-fly floatant. Then off I went with a single action reel, a fishing line of unknown weight and a leader that was far too short on account of several nylon-snapping encounters with overhanging trees, some time in my distant past.

My fly casting was amateur, but I’d obviously retained some muscle memory from days spent fishing with dad when I was a teenager. And it wasn’t long before I felt the familiar tug of the rod as a trout snatched at the lure. Fantastic.

But this wasn’t what made me smile most. What made this morning really special was glancing out of my peripheral vision and seeing a platypus surface, no more than 2m away, holding its position in the stream with agile adjustments of its webbed feet. Obviously foraging for breakfast, the platypus was resting its ‘duckbill’ on the surface and grabbing any insect or worm floating by. I moved away, very gently, to avoid disturbing the little hunter and was surprised when it resurfaced near my new fishing position just a few moments later.

Returning to camp – without successfully landing a trout – I wasn’t surprised to find my family wondering what I was smiling about. The platypus encounter had been amazing. And I felt that I’d finally redeemed myself for an incident that had occurred more than 25 years ago, when I’d been fly-fishing along another quiet river. On that occasion, a platypus had surfaced right next to my position on the bankside – obviously returning to its burrow. I was so excited by the occurrence that I immediately yelled "Dad! Platypus!!!" and (not surprisingly) the creature vanished, never to be seen again.

At least I’ve learnt something in the intervening years about how to avoid scaring the wildlife. This time at Colac Colac, I did it right.

Since our recent trip, I’ve made a personal commitment to get back into fly-fishing. I’d forgotten just how therapeutic it can be, and what great things can happen when you stand quietly among nature when the rest of the world is still slumbering. My efforts so far have involved attending the local fly-fishing club. But I must admit, they talk about fishing in a language I can’t remember, or possibly never knew. I’ll go back to them sometime, but first I need to get my fishing kit updated and find myself an instructor, or colleague, who can gently bring me back into the fly-fishing fraternity.

Maybe some of you recall the ABC series A River Somewhere with Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner casting off around Australia and overseas in search of the perfect fly-fishing spot. I remember the series well and I still enjoy listening to the accompanying soundtrack. I don’t think I’ll ever achieve Sitch and Gleisner’s level of fishing proficiency. But that’s okay. 

I know there’s a river somewhere close to home, where the joys of fly-fishing can be enjoyed – even by an amateur like me.

Check out the full feature in issue #102 July 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.