I saw him off the bridge,
he sat in an eddy behind a rock in shallow water. He
was easy to see, dark in colour against the stones on
the bottom. Scuttling low I clambered off the bridge
and waded out to get a good cast at him. Carefully I
put the fly down, casting a metre upstream of him, approaching
on an angle so as not to line or drop a shadow across.
The Knobby hopper bobbed
its way down the ripple and passed clear over his head.
Unperturbed he continued to fin on the current. Somewhat
perplexed I waited until the leader had travelled clear
of him and picked up. This time. Shortening up, I put
the Knobby in a bit closer so he would see and hear
it fall on the edge of his cone of vision. This time
it went down with a gentle plop and spreading rings
mingled with the broken rippling wavelets. He didn't
budge. Only a little flick of his tail indicated that
he was aware of its presence.
Mild confusion was aroused,
earlier in the day every fish I covered had fallen to
this technique. I retreated to the bank and sat in the
shade to give him a rest and consider an alternative.
A small emerger pattern might do the trick, so off came
the hopper and on went the blue winged olive paradun.
Five minutes later I was back on the bank. Several faultless
passes had not evoked even a twitch, so rather than
frighten him, I retreated to nurse my bruised ego and
reconsider. Here was a good sized fish fully visible,
sitting in a likely run and totally disinterested in
anything I had offered. With my confidence dented I
resorted to an unweighted nymph that drifted past his
nose in full view without an eyebrow flicker. Now I
had my back up.
I changed to a bead head
and plonked it nearby and retrieved hand-over in such
a delicious way I could have bitten it myself. I edged
closer, rattling a few stones as I waded but still he
lay on the glide. I could see him clearly now and despite
the broken surface and refraction I could see his mouth
open and close in the way that fish take nymphs. Frustration
began to gnaw away causing careless and reckless abandon.
Once the leader had been
dumped on him, further good presentation didn't seem
to matter. Now I was about a rod's length away and despite
him twitching now and then he refused to bolt out into
the current and the safety of the deep green depths
of the pool. I touched him on the back with my rod and
he moved to one side. I touched him again and he repositioned
himself again. He objected, but didn't leave. I slid
my hand under him, easing him gently out of the water,
before he gave a kick and a splash and returned to his
station. I could see his eyes. They were both grown
white with cataracts. I left him there, still finning
away in his pocket unprepared to swim away from his
little patch that he could sense. He was a slab, slowly
starving away, a victim of the eel-worm parasite. Eye
fluke or eel-worm are always present in the water as
parasites but only when a fish becomes old or weak or
stressed with high temperatures do the eye fluke migrate
from the gut to the rear of the eye causing blindness
Only a fairly low percentage
of fish are ever caught by trout fishers, many of them
die from old age or natural causes.
It was almost a year later
that we returned to fish the Swampy again and this time
Dennis and Anthony were desperate to come. Anthony is
a young blood, the zeal and enthusiasm of youth barely
able to be contained. Dennis on the other hand had come
to fly fishing with maturity and experience but the
glint in his eye burnt fiercely. The river had risen
overnight and the fish weren't cooperating and a long
fishless session that had been punctuated with some
monsters sighted but spooked and lost, meant any fish
would be welcome. Anthony had soloed on ahead and managed
to find a big one in an impossible tangle of branches
that defied capture. Soon he called to me from the bridge,
"I've got one! Come and look at this. I have thrown
everything at him but he won't take. You have a go at
I waded under the bridge
and Anthony acted as spotter, calling the shots as the
fly covered the fish in the run. "Yes! You are
right over him.... He has to take it.... The fly is
right on his nose. Give him another one... a bit to
the left this time...."I could make out the fish
vaguely in the distance but soon the recollections began
to filter through. He was dark, burnt black as his pigment
reacted to the constant sunlight of the shallow run.
"I know this fish
Anthony....It's blind Freddy!" "Aw..Bulldust!...How?"
Anthony fishes with us
every chance he gets because each time he learns something
it is a revelation, a constant journey of discovery
of techniques, and usually an adventure to some wilderness
of nature or the mind.
Down he came off the bridge
and we walked up to blind Freddy. He eased off his lie
and slid to the left to hold in the current. When we
had taken some photos we had to leave and beat our way
aback to the plane as the light would soon fade. As
we crossed the bridge we could see him easing back,
little by little towards his favourite position. He
was still thin but over twenty inches long at a guess.
He had survived the winter and Anthony was incredulous
at his story. We saw Dave and Dennis on the other bank,
and to much raucous laughter we recounted how Anthony
had met blind Freddy.