I don’t know if I qualify? No I don’t because I know some real trout bums and I’m not even close, but I have done a few things that get me onto the ‘wanabe’ page.
I wrote a while ago about confessing to secret trips I did alone (https://callofthestream.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/untruths-and-solitude-2/). Not clever, but in retrospect they were experiences with a lot of soul searching – solitude does that to you especially in the dark, a sensory overload. The fishing was good though.
These are my recollections ……………
The pack was light, few luxuries except the coffee pot and some whiskey. I planned on eating trout – I do that occasionally!
At one point on the hike in I got pretty close to a pair of innocent Francolin and considered getting one with a rock – I had this momentary olfactory hallucination of roasting it, I would have probably missed.
Moving on, it’s late afternoon and the gorge is shaded, the stream has a lot of pocket water and some nice looking runs with deliciously looking undercuts. I find a level spot a cast away from the stream with trees to secure the bivouac. It’s shirtsleeve warm with just a hint of evening chill; I hear the screech of a Jackal Buzzard somewhere above the treetops.
Time for a few casts – on the third I take a nice plump 12-inch rainbow on a spent mayfly spinner; it would be my supper. I read somewhere, “if you’re gonna keep fish, go ahead and keep ‘em. If you wait till the last two you’ll be eating beans”. So I tapped the next two10-inchers on the head. The last fish was a solid brownie with colours that reminded me of the Eastern Cape in autumn, I released him. Browns are rare here and I have a thing about treating them like my kids – I never eat them. Supper is pan-fried rainbow trout and whiskey cut lightly with sweet, cold stream water. It doesn’t get much better.
It’s dark, really dark. In the sleeping bag I think of the trout, the hike home, people, family, the past and guilt at being alone. It’s a restless night on rough ground. With every sound, grunt or rustle, my imagination runs wild. I’m convinced I’m about to be attacked, stung, bitten or eaten – but I make it through to morning. I get the stove fired up and start water for coffee. After the first cup I go to the stream and without ceremony take a 12-inch rainbow for breakfast and down another cup of strong black coffee.
The morning is gray and cold with the clouds out to the west perforated, with a few promising blue holes – it was clear by mid-morning. Pack loaded I head off upstream wading and casting; an art in itself just avoiding unplanned swims, it’s clumsy. I concentrate on the best looking water spooking a few good fish from unlikely places – there’s that enigma again, just when I thought I was getting the hang of their game. The trout are eager and there is a strike nearly every time I put a half decent cast over a rising fish
It’s a good day; it eventually comes to an end as the sun slips behind the escarpment, the light fades and the temperature plummets. I eat supper; more trout in the chilly twilight, the darkness and sounds of the night seem a little more familiar. I sleep better, until the rain starts. I’m cold and wet so I drink cups of coffee laced with what’s left of the whiskey – fortified, my anxiousness and discomfort eases. Dawn arrives – I’m soaking wet and freezing. Luckily the sky is clear and the sun’s fingers spread warmth out over the gorge. Packed, I leave the stream. Three hours later I reach the road, my shoulders ache from the pack. I stop an already overloaded local taxi, pay my dues and squeeze in between the intrigued passengers. It’s a short cramped, deafening boom, boom (what IS that music?) ride back to the Park Camp.
Hiking and camping alone is not something I do normally – I have no regrets for the experience. I prefer to now share it with close friends, trout bums. The horrors of the night are no longer.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2015. All rights reserved