On Sunday I awoke to my alarm clock at the ungodly hour of 3:45am, and flopped out of bed into my waiting ‘fish clothes’.
I had prepared everything the night before, so having pulled on my clothes I eased myself into the pickup and set off upcountry.
In mid summer you don’t want to be late. I speak of that time of year around Christmas when most people are on holiday, and when by breakfast time you might just encounter the first bead of sweat running down your face. Its hot and rainy and humid. Sunrises over crisp wet lawns are good. Sunsets are spectacular. The white hot hours between are best spent in deep shade, where one should move as little as possible. And even if you don’t move, these hot times are not good. Not to me anyway.
So anyway, there I was, barrelling along at a good speed so as not to be late for PD. 4:30 at his house. On the water by 4:45 am. Sunrise was scheduled for 4:56 am.
Surprisingly enough there are one or two people around at this time of morning. This time there was an old man perched on the front steps of the general dealer’s at Lidgeton. We stared at one another, long and hard, as I loomed out of the dark, and zoomed past him. What the hell was he doing up so early? The damn place is hardly going to be so crowded at opening time as to justify a four hour head start on the other shoppers! (and its Sunday dammit)
I guess he wondered where the hell I could be going so early.
Its funny how at this time of the morning one feels at least somewhat unique. Your friends are all tucked up in bed. The air has a sweet aroma to it. A sort of “after the rain” bouquet, with an ice cured edge. The light is everything. It unfolds a dull grey from the east, and then suddenly it’s golden and startling, and shining in great big streaks, right past you onto a hillside.
We were at the waters edge by then, PD and I. We had driven in through the wet grass and parked beside the water, adding the texture of the rusty gate, and the smell of the rank paspalum, growing in the flooded spillway to the package deal for our senses.
We rigged up float tubes and rods, and donned cold creased waders. We slid into the inky water. It was thick and grey. It slid about us and vapour rose from its surface.
Heron and mist soup.
We paddled out and cast heavy flies on long thin lines. Tricos had hatched the night before. The meniscus was thick with them, but there were none still struggling in the water. It was sort of like coming on a battle field the morning after the battle and finding no one alive. It spoke of action we must have missed.
Perhaps because of that the trout were apparently sluggish.
We oozed around the dam chucking more big flies out and wriggling them back enticingly (or so we thought).
New fly. Renewed hope. Move spot. Change the retrieve. Look in the water beside you for bugs. Cast again. Take the temperature. Mover closer to the bank and chuck into the ‘trouty’ spot near the flooded grass.
Then PD hooked something. It was slow and soft and uncertain. It circled his tube on a short line, while I pulled in and moved closer for a photo.
A tail the size of my hand showed , and PD suddenly got kind of serious!
Eventually it came to the net. A big brown. Six pounds. Twenty four inches. Big yellowing, and hook jawed, with splodges of deep dark chestnut on his flanks. Lovely.
We fished on a while. I probably fished harder, given the renewed sense of anticipation and possibility.
It was not to be.
We stopped for our first refreshment of the day….steaming mugs of tea, and egg and salt beef sandwiches on the tailgate of the pickup.
As we sat talking, our waders down around our knees, PD glanced at his watch. 8:00 am.
“They’re all still in bed” he said.
“Yup. Probably are” I agreed smugly.
Our day was rich already.