SIMPLY MESSING ABOUT IN BOATS© Wolf Avni
“Fishermen are born honest, but we soon get over it” (#1)
Tethered beneath a flushed sky, the boat swings serenely, a pendulum in a whisper of wind. High overhead, warning of a weather change, vermillion-tinged stratus draws like a veil around the dawn. Later, with the risen sun, a north wind will kick down off the high berg, transforming the mirrored surface into an churlish broth of foam and spray, but till then, the lake will beckon in perfection. In the reed beds, a chaotic clamour of pied starlings, where a vast flock makes ready for their daily forage out into the rolling pasture and grasslands far down the valley. They bustle and scold, calling in raucous babble, scanning the sky and stretching their wings on short, hopping lift-offs. In small, nervous groups about twenty strong, they take to air, flying low, hugging the lake to avoid their nemesis, the red-chested sparrowhawks patrolling high over the open water.
All about the anchored boat, trout sip delicately at emerging midges, each leisurely rise leaving a single, silver bubble at the centre of a set of perfect, concentric rings. A sunken buzzer, fished sink-and-draw, just below the surface, beguiles the trout. Inside of twenty minutes and a half dozen fish have been netted, including one beauty of just over 4lbs (1.8kg). Fishing with a greased leader, the trick is to flick the fly out on a short line, no more than a couple of boat lengths. Let it sink a few centimetres sub-surface, then, slowly, very slowly, lifting the rod up and back, draw the line in till fly and leader swim up, almost to the transom, then roll the cast back out over the dimpling that marks the feeding fish. If the fly is presented correctly, intercepting the cruising trout, almost every cast is rewarded by a enthusiastic take. As each fish feels the hook, it sounds, reaching for the shadows in the deep channels between the water grass. Turned by the angler, they come rocketing up, catapulting clear into the air against a geyser of crystal droplets.
So there I was, floating all alone, about as smug as a back-woods boy can be, and with good reason. It was summertime and the liv’n, easy!
The boat is modest enough. It has been with me a long time and is getting old now. The finish is cracked and patched and the colour faded, but I love that skiff. With its shallow, cathedral hull it floats in barely five centimetres, is ideal for stealthy forays into hidden coves and over weeded banks and is rigged for comfort, configured for efficiency; carpeted to the gunwales, with a single, ergonomic seat, swivel-mounted, like a throne in the prow, a bow-mounted electric thruster, and, purely extravagant, an echo-sounder rivet mounted amidships to the anglers’ keep-all. The keep-all is a universe all on its own, more chaotic than a harlot’s handbag, crammed to overflowing with every indulgence that an angler could wish for; thermometer, barometer, reel-lube and about a dozen fly boxes loaded with more flies than God made insects. Of course, many of the imitations are past their prime, rusted, feathers dishevelled, dubbings unravelled, good for nothing but the memories they hold. There are collecting nets for sampling the water column and sieves for sifting the substrate, where a thousand. wriggling, crawling and burrowing creatures hide, a diving mask, measuring tapes and girth-rings, spare reels and spools, lines, snips, pliers and grips , and generally, more trash and hi-tech trinkets than would normally burden an average Yuppie fishing vest. That’s some serious inventory.
But, to regress, there I was, rolling short casts and gliding the fly back in. Coming to the end of a retrieve, with the fly just off the transom, accelerating the line to lift it off off the water, flicking it into a rolling loop, when, following the fly at the instant that the leader drew it into the air, came a 27 inch (68cm) brown trout, with jaws agape and flaring gills. With crimson spots and glinting flanks, snapping at the fly, that fish arched high in the air and over the transom, coming down in the foot-well, to flap around before my unbelieving eyes. What a magnificent fish it was, by far the biggest brown I had ever, well... not exactly ‘caught’. It lay there, flopping ignominiously for long moments while I contemplated the tale that I would tell, when presenting it, with flushed face, back at the farmhouse. But in the end, honour won the day, and, lifting it carefully, cradled, I slid it back into the water. It lay in my hands at the surface, gulping, then, with a flick of its broad caudal, it was gone, angling down into the green, mysterious depths.
So much for the fabled guile and caution of the brown trout. This fish was old enough to have known better, but then, I guess, as with us, age and maturity are not always the same thing, or even vaguely congruent.
#1. Ed Zern