My partner is a criminal barrister, and a few times a year she undertakes
circuits, where she travels to a regional court and works there for 3–4 weeks. Sometimes she’ll come home on the weekends, sometimes not, depending on the distance from home. This year her Wodonga circuit has run for the past four weeks, and I’ve joined her for this last week to spend some time together riding around the area, both with her and on my own.
I arrived about noon on Monday and headed home this morning. We spent each day riding a bit, but also exploring Wodonga and eating at a few different nice places around town. Each day we had lunch at a salad bar called Greenstreat. This place was the duck’s nuts. They have different salad options, all super fresh with heaps of great tasty ingredients and a very healthy local following to boot.
On Tuesday I rode down to the Hume Weir, where the mighty Murray River starts at the base of the dam wall. I haven’t fished this far up the Murray before so I packed my
bike fishing rig and hit the road. I rode along the High Country Rail Trail to Bonegilla, nearly at the lake, then turned off the trail and took the road past the Latchford Army Barracks to the dam wall. Looping around and over the river, just past the trout farm is a little 4WD track heading down below the weir.
I cast some bait lines for a while at the yellow boat markers that designate the off-limits section of the river (for boating). I then headed up to the fence to the weir and there is an area set up for fishermen. My mate had warned me about how strong the current is here but nothing can really prep you for it — it’s ferociously strong. I cast some shiny Tassie Devil spoons up into the current and just drifted them down, which given the fast flow of the river almost meant an aggressive retrieve even without winding! I was fishing with my little Daiwa ultralight travel rod, with 6lb mono and a 12lb leader, so I took about 3–5 minutes just setting my drag correctly. A big brown trout hit the lure just about perpendicular to where I was standing, and oh my fucking god what a fight! She took off like a freight train, and I still can’t believe I didn’t snap her off. It’s nearly a Christmas miracle!
I wound her in, let her run, wound her in, let her run. I had no illusions about even trying to get her in the net, as it took all of my strength just to reel her in, and have her piss right off again. When she jumped — quite a few glorious displays of aerial defiance — my heart stopped. But still, no snap off! Despite a valiant effort, she finally gave up the fight and rolled over, but even then I couldn’t reel her in, just from the sheer force of her body weight in the current. After about 45 minutes, I got her close enough to swing my net over the top of her in a fashion I would never employ to net a fish in normal circumstances, but my back was killing me and I was desperate.
Of course there was no to be no catch and release — she was so thoroughly played out that the only fair thing to do was to thank her, snap her neck immediately, put the poor girl out of her misery and claim dinner. This also meant — due to my bike not having an esky, it being over 30ºC, and being an hour or so from home — that my fishing for the day was over.
I called Danielle to meet me on the way and pick the fish up, all the better to get her into ice quicker, and set about cleaning her. It was when gutting her I found seven hooks in her belly. This beautiful old warrior had beaten at least seven fellow fishos. I’ve never seen anything like it in years of fishing, but looking at the current I’m not all that surprised.
I met Danielle on the road out and then rode into Albury, and crossed back into Wodonga to make a nice little 40km loop.
We rode again each day for the rest of the week, clocking up 40km, 30km and 16km rides as we explored Wodonga, the High Country Rail Trail, Albury and the Murray River. On the Rail Trail, I was riding along and we decided to stop in a quiet bushy area near the Kiewa River for a toilet break, but in the confusion about where I was going to brake, Danielle rode right into the back of me and ripped up her knee in a bad case of gravel rash. I very sheepishly apologised and patched her up as best as I could at the lake with my first aid kit. In Albury, we visited the Botanic Gardens, had lunch at a nice pub and did a pretty good job of hiding how terrified we were about COVID-19 and the NSW Omicron threat.
We cooked up our fish on the outdoor barbeque at the hotel, sampled all the local wine, beer and food we could, and just enjoyed our little week off without the kids. And then, as if the week couldn’t get any better, I scored a job interview with the Starlight Children’s Foundation and — I believe — performed quite strongly, so fingers crossed!