Monday, October 9, 2017

The Unfortunate Trout

I fished for the first time in about 30 years the other day, by the banks of the Goulburn River, near Eildon. I felt completely relaxed. I did not expect to catch anything. Inexplicably, however, I somehow landed a good-sized rainbow trout. I didn’t realise this would happen. This is the sorrowful story of the fish I landed.

I skim the surface of the Goulburn River. I am closest to the northern end, a short distance from the small town of Eildon. This has been my home from the time when I was spawned, some eight months ago. I like the way that the currents play with my body, teasing it, encouraging it to go left, then right, then left again, depending, it seems, on the whim of the winds.

I see my body in the morning reflection upon the water. I am silky and colourful. My scales shine brightly. Sometimes there is a silver sheen like a rainbow when I catch the reflection off the sun. I am of the trout family. We are one of the more beautiful fish in the Goulburn. And one of the most rare.

Sometimes I see myself heading straight towards other, less noble fish, and I do my best to steer my silky body away from them, for fear of contamination. These are ugly, more common fish like Murray cod, redfin, carp. In case you haven’t guessed, I am a rainbow trout, no less.
The rainbow trouts of this world, like me, tend to stick together. We come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, all of us with the distinctive body sheen and rainbow gills and elegant, slender shape. We are a kind of fish that know its family. I am one of many and I see my fish family every day, gliding the currents as I do, looking for food, tearing along the river’s surface, watching the particles of sand rise as leeches, insects and worms naively explore the seabed. Our mouths rise in anticipation and with our little sharp teeth, we rip the heads off the bigger prey, and swallow in one gulp the smaller ones.

Today the sky is cloudy above, but there is no hint of rain. I have just spent some time nestled beside a log with my younger friends and family. We have been joyously flinging ourselves into the air. We get a glimpse of another world when we do this. Air rushes into our gills momentarily and we feel a curious mixture of pleasure and pain. It is as if we want to be land animals for a second or two, before we plunge again into the icy waters that keep us alive.

 I can hear chatter from the nearby bank. Sometimes humans come to explore the creek too, and even wade into the water. This puzzles me because I know how handicapped they are. They are unable to properly swim. Their heaving, clumsy bodies stir up the sand and create a cacophony of noise where only the bravest fish stick around.
I am not particularly hungry this late afternoon. My day has drifted blissfully by. I have eaten when I can be bothered. I have seen plenty of mayflies and midges and consumed any number of them. I am not looking for anything in particular, just planning to head downstream to Thornton and to float across some wild, fun rapids under the bridge. Then I see it. The laziest worm I have ever seen. Thick, and juicy, and virtually impossible to ignore. Its cocky long body is resting on the river floor and it won’t let anything disturb it. It even looks like it might be dead. There is a slender piece of hooked metal next to it, which does not look so appetizing. But the worm? Delicious.

I snap my elegant jaws into the slippery worm and receive the shock of my short life. The curved metal piece hammers into my mouth and I feel it crush painfully across the inside of my mouth near the pharynx. Somehow it is hooked into me. I shake my head in a panic and the pain becomes sharper. I feel as though I am more hooked than ever. I am full of regret for what I have done, but there is little time for regrets. Through an indefinable source I am being dragged across the river by my mouth. My eyes are dazzled by bright light. I am being lifted out of the warm cocoon of the water.

There are humans, people on the bank, and I am inexplicably being hurled towards them. Their faces are shining. Three men. I glide in a dangerous arc towards their feet and smack flat onto a rocky bank. One of the men has grabbed my once proud body in his hands and he is trying to wrench the sharp hook from my gullet. The pain is roaring through me. I want this hook out too, but instead of an unclasping, this awful wrenching continues. My life flashes before me. Blood, my blood, is dripping onto the rocks and I am losing focus, and consciousness. Just when I feel free of the hook at last, and blink to regain my senses, heaving my asphyxiating body across rock, screaming in pain for water- the man lowers a curved blade towards my head, and begins his cutting motion…

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