Short Stories

18 March 2017
12 October 2012
04 June 2011
01 April 2011
Chris Slatter

Tales of the Fly River


The man was real old and leathery, but his eyes still sparkled. He started to talk after the meal, shifting and settling his old bones so you couldn’t tell whether it was him or the chair that was creaking. The story came slow at first with wheezing breath, then in a rush as he remembered the hunt and the fish that had eluded him, up there at the head of the Snowy.
I packed that same night and left in the dawn with the night sounds still echoing. I travelled light, taking only my rod and fly kit and the old billy with some black tea. The moment my paddle dipped into the water I felt the excitement well up and I increased my stroke. Still it was dusk before I reached the stretch the old man had described with only time enough to study the eddies before dark
If the old man wasn’t exaggerating, this was the home of a monster brown trout grown so big it would take a man’s leg. Maybe it was something in the water or the weed growth that turned a five pounder into a twenty pound slab sided monster. Or perhaps none of it was true - fishermen can be awful liars sometimes. But the river, bathed in the orange glow of sunset, seemed to hold a mysterious promise and the last of the evening fly hatch dappled the surface like rain.
There! Against the far bank, in a hollow framed by the roots of a Red Gum and almost screened by overhanging branches, something big had risen. I watched the spot as I crouched by my beached canoe, gathering deadfall by feel for the fire. Again! A huge, hooked jaw had emerged from the depths, sucked a fly off the surface and withdrawn. I was transfixed. Then it was dark as if a blanket had been thrown over the sun and I could only imagine this behemoth. I don’t think I slept a wink that night and it wasn’t the dingos snuffling beyond the fire that kept me awake.
It was cool the next morning, and I shivered as I fit my rod together, thread the line and tied the fly. Time seemed to flow past and I fumbled with the knots in my excitement.
The trout’s lie had given me an almost impossible target, thirty yards across the river and down a little, through a gap no more than six inches wide. Too short and the current would sweep the fly away down river. Too long and I’d be into the branches and snagged.
I pulled some turns off the reel and began the rhythmic switching that pulls line through the rings and into the air until I had a great loop of it flying above me. I leaned into the final forward stroke willing the fly and leader through the gap in the branches across the river. Damn, it was too long and slightly wide and the fly and leader hung on a twig inches above the surface. Then there was a great surge and that massive hooked head lifted clear out of the water and plucked the fly off the branch as clean as you like.
It was a snaky line I’d cast so the fish felt no resistance and neither did I until I’d gathered a few coils in my hand. Then it was as if I’d hooked a log, ponderous and unbelievably heavy. Now the small hole in the bank was giving me different problems - not how to get the fly in, but how to get the fish out. I kept up the tension, gradually increasing it until I thought the leader must surely part, but it didn’t and suddenly the fish was out in the main stream, plunging and leaping. I ran along the bank, leaping tree roots so I wouldn’t have the current to fight as well as the fish and I prayed. I fought him for two hours with the rod tip touching the butt until at last he was beaten and I drew him through the shallows towards me, like beaching a boat.
The trout went 30 pounds even on my scales and if it had been any heavier I truly believe the spring would have snapped. I packed him in moss and laid him on the bottom of the canoe and set off home, because it was a full moon, although ghostly.
When I brought out the monster the old man laughed and laughed, whooping and wheezing and slapping his knee. “That’s not a bad trout, “ he gasped. “But as the to the one I was talking about, why, that’s just his baby brother!”
As I said before, fishermen can be awful liars sometimes.
Copyright Christopher Slatter 2011      

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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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