I recently had the pleasure of taking my first international guest fly fishing. He was a seasoned angler from America wanting to wet a line in between business meetings in Melbourne. It was incredibly exciting and pretty daunting all at once. Out of all the guides available, he’d chosen me — so, as a relatively new guide, the pressure was on to show him some special water and how fun Aussie trout can be. I consulted my maps, the weather forecast, and notes on places that have fished well for me around Melbourne. After careful consideration, I picked a stretch on the Stevenson River I have private access to. I know it like the back of my hand and it’s produced great fish in the past, so I figured it was a wise choice.
We agreed to meet at the bakery in Marysville (just 1.5hours from the city). I arrived early, had my usual hot chocolate and custard tart to gee me up for the morning, and eagerly waited for my guest. I had no idea what he looked like and was grinning like an idiot at various motorists who parked near me. Finally, the right guy recognised me and headed my way to save me from further embarrassment! We shook hands and I knew instantly that we were going to have an awesome day whatever the fish did because Richard radiated patience, intelligence, kindness and good-humour. So, loaded with sugar and caffeine we headed to the river.
I’ll be honest, I was a little worried when we arrived because the water levels were a bit low and it was shaping up to be a warm day. But the optimist in me thought about all those hoppers, hatching insects, and potentially hungry trout. After kitting up and running through the safety brief we headed down to the river. Luckily the grass had been mowed so at least I’d see the giant tiger snake I stumbled on (literally) last time I was fishing and be able to calmly warn Richard to walk the long way around. It was during this recollection that he piped up with “you Aussies have some pretty poisonous creatures, right?”. I gently told him about the lethality of our wildlife and reassured him that I always carry bite bandages and an emergency beacon. As it happened, we saw no Joe Blakes (snakes) all day which I think he was a bit disappointed with and I was delighted by.
We started at one of my fave sections. It’s on a bend with a steep grassy bank and deepish run on one side and a nice riffly drop-off on the other. I’ve always hooked a couple of nice trout here so I was hopeful. We watched for signs of life but nothing was rising. I picked up a few rocks and saw a bunch of nymphs squirming. What to tie on? Decisions, decisions. I advised Richard to rig up with a hopper and I tied an elk hair caddis on my spare rod. Sure, there was no surface activity but I had a hunch a well-presented fly would work (I know nymphs have their place, I’m a dry fly fisher at heart). His casting was solid, and he worked the bankside run hard. Nothing seemed to want to play. He snagged up so I handed him my rod and he worked a little higher up the run. Boom! A nice little brownie smashes the caddis. We release him and Richard then lays a few good casts over the riffle drop-off section and hooks into a very lively rainbow. We’ve only been on the water for 20 minutes and so far, so good.
Up the stream we continued with the same of combo of flies and Richard successfully landed a couple more fish. He then stopped to catch his breath and generously handed the rod over to me. Much to my disappointment, I didn’t manage to catch anything on this particular occasion but I wasn’t too fussed because today wasn’t about me. So, we moved on.
The next section had big fish written all over it. We stopped and I spotted some movement in the middle section of the pool. Richard laid a couple of well-presented caddis in the hotspot and got no love. The fish was still there. It was time to change the fly. Looking at the bug life buzzing around I suggested a Parachute Adams. Stealthily, we sneaked up the stream a little so Richard could get into a better casting position and he started working the water. Then it happened … a large snout gulped down the fly and he was on! Three pounds of brown trout power gave Richard’s lovely 2 weight rod quite the workout. Eventually, the bull acquiesced and while helping Richard unhook him my hand slipped and he got away before I got to take a trophy shot. Being the good sport that he is, Richard shrugged off the mishap and was over the moon with his catch despite not getting a photo.
After lunch, the trout tally stood at six (not bad for a morning’s work) and I expected things to calm down a little. They didn’t (in a good way). Parachute Adams continued to do damage, and stimulators and Royal Wulffs yielded good results too. Then the weather changed quite dramatically. Dark clouds and intense rain rolled in. Richard was delighted, the ‘four seasons in one day’ phenomenon he’d heard so much about came true. We ducked under a couple of big trees and waited out the storm for about 10 minutes. The clouds then receded and the blue sky returned to create some pretty insect friendly conditions. Now, we decided to double rig with drys and emergers (recommended to me by Russell at The Fly Fisher — thanks, Russ!) … with fantastic results. My fly selection was bang on and the action was troutrageous!
The afternoon rolled on and a number of misses made it clear Richard was tired and getting a little frustrated. So, I suggested we put down the rods and pick up my homemade Anzac biscuits. I can actually take no credit for these, my partner Deb makes them and they’re amazing. This break was the highlight of my day because Richard and I chewed the fat about life and the universe. And while we didn’t solve the world’s problems, we felt better in ourselves and in a more positive mindset to tackle the last hour of fishing.
By the time the clock struck 5:15pm, Richard had clocked up eleven fish and around five strikes, and I had two fish to hand. It’s fair to say that we both felt totally elated and very much in need of a cold beer! On the walk back to the car, I turned around a couple of times and saw Richard gazing off into the distance, drinking in the stunning nature of the Australian landscape with a big smile on his face. It made me proud as punch and honoured to have helped someone have such a magic day. And it’s days like these that make me realise I have one of the best gigs in the world.