The month of May.
For us in the southern hemisphere it marks the final month of autumn, a month that normally signals the first blasts of cold weather that turn the leaves brown and send one reaching for coats and parkas.
Autumn is generally a wet season but this year we’ve had an abnormally dry summer and Autumn, leading to a general shortage of water. Lumbered with my dodgy hip I’d been unable to partake in the usual pre duck season traditions and maintenance. But by hook or by crook I’d be there for opening day, that unmissable tradition, that highlight of the year. With much assistance from good mate Matt, I was there in the maimai pre-dawn on opening with dad. We were ensconced in The Park, a fine pond with a view across the clearing where our ponds are located. Early on we made a call to take drakes only which is a fine notion if ducks are plentiful.
But they weren’t.
Fog shrouded the ponds which is a death-knell for hunting as the birds skim above it. The first pair that sailed in came from above the fog bank and dropped with feet extended. Having missed the entire early goose season laid up recuperating, I wasn’t expecting much from my shooting but I put them both down with a shot each. The hen bird lay dead but the drake took a bearing and headed out of the pond fast. Layla was released and quickly returned with the hen. I sent her back after the drake and for some reason dad decided to go for a walk. The next few minutes involved dad tipping over and I looked up to find him trying to crawl out of the pond on all fours (while Layla returned with the drake)… I grabbed the pole I’d cut as a walking aid and waded out to grab dad. Together we shuffled back to the maimai, old fart and cripple… we would have made a sight to behold I’m sure. I gave dad my down filled wading jacket and as the weather was fine he was able to stay warm. We shot ok, taking our 2 limits with an acceptable number of shots expended. It was a neat little hunt made all the better by challenging conditions and good company. Topped off by Layla retrieving like a champ. We lost no birds at all.
Knowing that I had no options to chase pheasants this year I’d accepted an invitation to go with a group of mates to fish Hinchinbrook, Queensland. The core group of Darren, Dion, Steve, Jase and I had gone on a number of adventures together. Dion’s mate Gary rounded out the angler contingent. We were booked to fish with Dave Bradley and his team from Australian Flyfishing Outfitters. Dave, Jon Snell (“Snelly”) and Amos (“Famous”) Appleston made up the guiding crew, and man, those boys knew their shit. We were hoping to find permit and golden trevally on the flats and assorted target species (notably barramundi) in the extensive mangrove creek systems behind Hinchinbrook Island. The week passed quickly. We really had only one flats day and ol mate Steve managed in his first 2 casts of the trip a permit and then a golden trev! I saw one permit but he was moving away from us fast so no shot was available. Fishing the tidal creeks is a game of local knowledge, serial casting (utterly relentless coverage of every snag, overhanging bush, pounding of mangrove root systems and harassing of gutters), and the species inhabiting the area are stunning in both number and quantity. Over the week we caught barramundi, cod, jacks, grunters, GTs, bluefin salmon, and a host of other species. The range of target species available makes kiwi stand back and admire what’s on offer. Evenings were social involving rum and gin drinking, pumping the guides for stories and intel and generally figuring out the way of things. As with these trips it was with sadness that Steve, Jase and I departed to Townsville in our rented truck while the other boys headed to Cairns for their departure. Hope we all get together again soon.