Scamander, February 2023

In order to flex my writing muscles on the days my WIPs won’t whip, I’m free-writing whatever experiences come to mind. I’m aiming for about 500 words. Today’s effort is 780 describing a recent excursion on the river with my husband.

Scamander, Feb, 2023

The low thrum of the engine on our five-metre fishing boat, albeit registering eighty decibels on my watch’s volume warning app, presents the perfect white noise soundscape as we travel up river. The boat is not a sleek, modern craft, but rather the Holden ute, paddock-bashing equivalent of functional, much loved and well-used vessels.

The water ahead glistens with a mirror finish; the chaos that follows us can be described as three distinct trails—a wake from each side and one straight down the middle caused by the churn of the sixty horsepower motor thrusting us onward, its propellers well-clear of the riverbed to limit collateral damage both to creatures below and its own propellers.

Our immediate goal is a small indent in the river’s course, port-side, where we begin each fishing adventure. We’ve been successful here on previous occasions, harvesting the one or two black bream required to satisfy a meal for two. When our teenage grandson, JB (Junior Beloved) visited, he and I each caught a decent-sized fish on which we dined handsomely.

When I say, “I” caught…, I should offer a disclaimer. My Dearly Beloved (DB), once I’d lowered the anchor to stay the boat’s drift, retrieved the fishing rod notionally regarded as “mine”, attached the leader, sinker and hook, baited it, cast the line, then passed the rod to me to guard. I might point out that I’m quite able to do all of these steps myself, having been well-schooled in the art over the fifty years (next week) of my association with this man. I accept what he’s done, as intended, as an act of love and consideration.

Some time later, I set aside my weapon of piscatorial murder to deploy a micro-table on which to stand the Thermos, mugs, milk and this morning’s box of treats (Audrene’s Anzac Biscuits and the Cheese Puffins JB requested). In my brief absence, the line screams. JB captures the rig before the whole lot goes overboard, and hands it off to DB to reel in the trophy. JB assists by sinking the landing basket to hold the fish and raise it safely on board.

Having secured the catch, the males applaud my achievement. It’s the best specimen of the day. I ask you, can I seriously claim any level of credit? I hadn’t baited, cast, maintained any vigilance nor reeled it in.

“Well done, Ma.” (Teenager’s title for ageing grandmother.) “That’s an excellent catch.”

I accept the plaudits with good grace, (they’re well-intentioned), dole out mugs of tea and pass around the box of goodies. (Yes, I’m a feminist, still a grandmother.) It’s been a great experience building memories for all three of us.

Today’s foray is not so successful hunter-gathering-wise. Instead, the delights are aesthetic—a joy to the senses.

Sound: A cacophony of bird calls, laughing kookaburras, choked cries of honeyeaters, raucous crows and rasping black cockatoos. Overhead the hum of a plane (rare in these parts) disturbs the natural sounds for a mere five minutes.

Sight: Sun on the water, the surface so still it’s difficult to discern where the reeds near the bank enter the water and their reflection begins, puffball clouds in a stark blue sky.

Smell: The after-waft of engine vapours, then nothing. Clean, fresh, pure air—trademark Tasmania.

Taste: A salty residue on my lips displaced by the coconut macaroons and carrot cake for today’s morning tea.

Touch: The dratted march fly which persists in its attempts to suck my blood; a fine thread of filament my fingertips press against the carbon-fibre rod; the sun’s heat pervading the protective covering of my salmon-coloured fishing shirt.

We spend two hours or more communing with the natural world and feeding the fish (bait disappears in stealth attacks with monotonous regularity). DB turns the switch to start the engine then raises the burley trap. It seems the fish didn’t care for his concoction of ham rinds, leftover rice and teriyaki sauce. I weigh the anchor—a less heavy version than its predecessor, thank goodness.

The ride to the ramp takes fifteen minutes. We’re accompanied for a short time by a juvenile swan that, as much as it tries, flapping its wings and running on the water beside the boat, cannot lift its body into the air. Once we pass, it settles close to the shore, relieved, I suspect, to be left in peace.

Trailering the boat is quick, born of practised efficiency, and in minutes we’re home again. Tonight we will still have fish and chips as planned. DB will gather it from the local café.

“A bad day’s fishing,” they say, “is better than a great day in the office.”

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