Fishmail: Wheels on fire

Sometime in November, 2002

"It’s 1200 miles to Hinchinbrook. We’ve got a full box of Clousers, eight cartons of beer, it’s dark and we’re wearing extremely expensive Bollé polaroids. Hit it".

And hit it we did – or Mike did, in any case, more or less non-stop for 24 pretty surreal hours. I suppose we should have known that something odd was up with this trip when a wheel sheared off the Landrover’s trailer a mere 3 hours up the road; the incessant bush fires and the 3am breathalyser in the middle of nowhere should have confirmed it. But it wasn’t until we’d reached Cairns and picked up Tom, who had predictably left his credit cards on an island in the Gulf of Thailand, that I really started to smell a rat – a rat that had fully and mephitically decomposed by the time Mike’s brand-new outboard seized in the middle of crocodile-infested Mourilyan Harbour.

You’ll hear a lot more about all this in due course. It is, in any case, just a long-winded way of telling you that one way or another, my trip to Australia’s Hinchinbrook Island in search of large, aggressive saltwater fish was only partially successful. We made it to the houseboat with all of our tackle and several of our important faculties intact; we negotiated the tricky flats and channels happily enough; and we got to exactly the spot we wanted in Missionary Bay in plenty of time to get a line wet on the first evening. And then the wind started to blow.

Now, I don’t need to tell many of you how annoying wind can be when you’re fly-fishing. It’s bad enough on a wet day at Rutland; but when you’ve flown for 24 hours and driven for 24 more, it’s blowing 25 knots and you’re trying to cast a size 1/0 Clouser into a 3-inch gap between mangrove roots with an unfamiliar rod in a small and rapidly moving dinghy, it is infuriating on a truly cosmic scale. And, of course, it went on for five days – five days in which we were battered by 95-degree temperatures and blow-torch winds that made flycasting all but impossible.

But still, we caught some fish. I won’t tell you how many just yet, or what kind – the trip is by no means over, and I want to give you a full and frank report at the end of it. But I can exclusively reveal that saltwater flyfishing is not nearly as difficult as Paul thinks it is. I can also report that we failed to invent a seagrass fly that would catch a dugong, on the basis that dugongs are extremely charming and rare creatures that really don’t deserve to be disturbed by fishermen; that try as he might, Mike could not think of a way to use Tom’s toenail clippings as fly-tying material; and that yes, crocodiles are every bit as scary as they look and sound, especially when they appear splashily twenty feet from your suddenly very small and frail boat.

But we’re all still alive and uneaten. Bass fishing starts today – but first, I have a trailer to unload and a bass fly to invent. Apologies for brevity and linklessness of today’s Fishmail; the whole grisly tale arrives next week.

 
Sean Geer (sean@fishmail.co.uk) is a freelance journalist and author. He specialises in ritual humiliation by fish on four continents - most recently in Ireland, where he became the first angler in history to not land a mayfly-caught trout on Lough Corrib in the middle of the mayfly season. A retired seahorse conservationist and self-taught zen origamist, he is currently writing a novel about sex, death and the meaning of fish.

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