Stories Tenkara Trip Reports

Fear and Self-Loathing in Australia

Article by Nick Pavlovski

The water burbles and glugs as it flows over the boulders and past the logjams. A myriad of small bubbles trail past my feet, some winking out of existence almost immediately, others keeping their small silvery domes for much longer. Looking upstream, the dawn’s rays still haven’t even breached the peaks forming the valley I’m in.

Hmm. Trying a new part of the river. Use the twelve foot Nissin Zerosum, or the thirteen and a half foot Tenkara USA Amago? I said I’d use the Amago… but… but…

Selection made. I fumble the knot six times trying to tie my level line to the Lillian. I haul out my mobile phone, find the JPEG with the diagram how to tie it, study it, and try again. Three more attempts later, it is safely on.

Here we go, then. Will I do better or worse today compared to last time? Last time I didn’t even get a single take. I should have got at least some takes. Wasted my time. Don’t wanna waste my time.

I’m always careful entering the water, and the walking stick I use became essential the same day I began using it. I’ve mis-stepped before and started my journey with water chilling the inside of my waders.

Never getting wet like that again, thanks! 

The birds are quiet; usually are at this time of day. I saw a kookaburra feeding on something beside the gravel track on my drive up here; the kookaburra, that iconic Australian bird with its distinct warbling, laughing call. When there’s a group of them all laughing together, you know you can only be in Australia. A female fairy wren lands on a boulder near me, as if inspecting me, then it is quickly gone again in a flutter of brown wings. Flighty little things, but reassuring to see them.

I survey the stretch of river immediately in front of me. About ten clear metres of water and then a big logjam across the whole river. There don’t seem to be any pockets worth trying between me and the jam – the water looks too shallow and doesn’t offer any good trout hidey-holes. I slosh my way forward, a little gingerly, until I reach the logjam, and carefully pick my way over it. Ahead of the logjam looks much better. There’s a nice, deep, slower-moving trough flanked by boulders over against the right bank.

That trough. Perfect. Gotta be something there.

Nick Pavlovski - Fear and Self Loathing Australia- Logjam

I let go of the loose level line I’d been holding in my rod hand and it flutters out in front of me. Using a lazy roll cast, I flick the line forward. My Stimulator lands nicely, and making sure to keep my line and tippet off the water, I let it drift with the current through the trough. Nothing happens.

I then use a proper overhead cast – well, as proper as I can make it for the first ‘true tenkara’ cast of the day, and let the Stimulator drift through again. The cast is shorter in length than the first one. A bit annoyed, I try a third cast. The cast is halted a microsecond into the forward stroke and I am jolted from my complacency.

Oh f#$% no. F#$%ing already?!

Looking up and over my shoulder, I can see my fly and tippet are snagged in a leafy branch above and behind me. The old lure fisherman trick of a little twang of the rod fails to free it.

F#$%! Gonna have to collapse the rod, pull on the line, see if I can free it without losing the fly or snapping my rod tip…

I carefully collapse each section of the Amago, starting with the second-bottom, until even the top section is tucked away. Sealing the top of the rod and half my Lillian with my thumb, I use my other hand to slowly pull the line towards me. Mercifully, once some good pressure is applied, the fly hook tears through the leaves it’s snagged on and all is free again. I hurriedly re-extend the rod and get ready to resume.

Gotta remember what Daniel Galhardo wrote… always look ahead, above and behind before you start casting at each spot, and modify your actions and casts accordingly…then I won’t make simple screw-ups like that…

A poor cast, and the Stimulator enjoys an untroubled ride through the trough.

Ach, one more cast…then I’ll leave this spot and move up a little, try behind that boulder on the left banks…have I already wasted too much time here?

Finally, the last cast is a good cast. The rod loaded the line well and flicked it forward to its fullest. Even the tippet, which sometimes refuses to roll out for me, mostly straightens and extends. Halfway across the trough, there is a boil.

YES! A take!

I lift my arm in a flash. The Amago bends, the level line goes taut, and I can feel the fish’s weight – then a millisecond later all goes slack. I lost him.

F#$%! Can’t do anything right, can I?

Sunlight was now painting the eucalypts lining the valley sides vivid with strong colours, their grey trunks now almost white, their dull green leaves now rich and lustrous.  After hooking and landing one rainbow trout and hooking and then losing a brown, I was feeling good. The spectre of the previous disastrous trip a week earlier no longer haunted me.

My boots *crunched-crunched-crunched* over the dry, small pebbles as I trekked around a wide, lazy bend in the river. The water rushed hard against the opposite bank.

There are often fish to be found in undercut opposite banks. I should send my fly though there a couple of times.

But – I was going to be very exposed if I did so. I wouldn’t be casting upstream, but across stream. Fish would be able to see me. There was a bushy fern growing atop a rotted stump to my left, so I stood behind that, and made my first cast. The rod hardly loaded – the tippet stopped and fluttered limply into a pile onto the water’s surface, leaving my fly floating in water two inches deep and one foot from the riverbank.

F#$%. It only just made the water’s edge. What a crap cast! Better do better this time…

Casting again, my Stimulator went a foot further upstream and a foot further out into deeper water, and the tippet piled up on top of it like a bird’s nest, almost cocooning it.

Huh?! I could swear I had better technique this time! Alright, I’ll try again! This time I’m gonna do an awesome textbook Tenkara-no-oni cast!

A metre of line, all my tippet and my fly snagged the green fronds of a giant tree fern behind me.

Nick Pavlovski - Fear and Self Loathing Australia- Fern

Nick Pavlovski started tenkara and fixed-line fly fishing in February 2017. He has uploaded videos of some of his older trips over at his YouTube channel,  He’s currently interested in becoming a better fixed-line tactical nympher.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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