Ah, phooey! I was gonna have another crack at finding the Weld today - but this endless gloomy wet sou'easterly weather has put me off. (Wouldn't have been so easily dissuaded when I was younger, but now I'm an old f@rt...) So here's another Pedder yarn...
One quite successful weekend at Lake Gordon, I still managed to go home empty-handed.
Col and I had borrowed the ducky again, carted it for the two-and-a-half hour drive to the lake on the roof of Colin's screaming little "Bongo" van, and launched it into a moderate slop, under a heavy grey sky. After a quick early lunch, we motored around the bay, trolling flatfish lures and eventually, by mid-afternoon, had taken three fish - two for Colin and one for me - on our four kilo tackle. We decided that such heavy gear was a bit unsporting, so we broke out the two-kilo gear and went drift-spinning. We drifted the boat among the dead trees, flicking lures into likely-looking spots and retrieving, enjoying the stability of the ducky with its rigid flat bottom.
By tea time, three more fish were in the boat - again, two to one in Colin's favour - and we motored back to camp well pleased. The best of the fish, a six-pound rainbow, had stretched Colin's little rod and fine line to the maximum, and had provided some anxious moments among the snags. The rest of the trout, ranging from four pounds up, had all fought hard in open water. They were in great condition, too, apart from just one rather slabby specimen.
After tea we decided on an early bed, to make an early start next morning. We were both fairly weary, but after a day of bumping around on the water, with the slop of wavelets against the boat ringing in our ears and a touch of angler's headache from squinting into the glare, we both knew that a night spent in the cramped Bongo van could be a somewhat restless one.
"Never fear," said Col, "I've brought the BGSP." And, reaching under his leather poncho, he produced a bottle of Stone's Green Ginger Wine.
"BGSP?" I asked, totally baffled. "It looks like good old Stone's to me."
"A Big Green Sleeping Pill," Colin explained. "One good shot of this and you sleep like a baby. Don't know why, but it definitely works. Go ahead; after you."
We decided we should first put the fish away safely. Col grabbed a length of rope and a thick hessian potato sack. We soaked the sack in water, laid the six lovely fish inside, and tied up the top of the sack with one end of the rope. Colin slung the other end over a tree branch, hoisted the sack about three metres up in the air, and tied off the rope's end.
"That ought to keep them safe," he said. "Now let's take the BGSP and hit the sack."
Next morning we awoke just before dawn, remarkably refreshed. I had slept like a baby: probably the best night's sleep I've had in makeshift quarters on a fishing trip. Col was pleased with himself. "See? Now we’re bright-eyed as squirrels, and we can catch lots more fish."
I think we both noticed the sack at the same moment. It was still hanging where we had left it, three metres above the ground, apparently undisturbed, but it didn't seem very bulgy. We looked closer and discovered a rip right down the middle of one side. All that was left inside was one half of the slabby brown trout. The other five fish were gone, without trace.
Colin was furious. "Some rotten no-good b…s have swiped our fish in the night!" he roared. "Where are they? I'll crush them!" He probably would have, too, if there had been anyone nearby.
"Wait," I said. The earth around the tree was damp, and showed our own boot-prints clearly, but no others. We inspected the remaining piece of fish, and the end was ragged, suggesting it had been chewed rather than cut. Anyway, who would leave half a fish, if they were bent on nicking someone's catch? What's more, there was no sign of any other anglers or campers in the area, and we were miles from the main road and hadn't heard any vehicle during the night.
We gradually came to the conclusion that some animal must have been responsible. But the only tree-climbing animals in Tasmania are possums, and I’ve never seen any sign that they are partial to trout. Even if they were, there should have been some remains around the tree and in the bag, as I don't believe a four- or five-pound possum could have dragged away, intact, several fish bigger than itself. Chewing them up surely would have left some sort of mess.
We wondered about the incident all day - which was bright and hot, and we caught nothing - and for a long time afterwards. I have to say I am still baffled, having never heard of a similar incident anywhere since, and have learned nothing new about our native wildlife that could help to shed any light on the matter. Perhaps there was a Bunyip at Lake Gordon. There might still be, for all I know!