by Nial Logan
Summary of 2012 Team Kiritimati -aka “Cool Team” trip to participate
in the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships –
After frantic last minute preparations (passports and visas arrived the morning we departed CXI) the team commenced their big adventure.
All were excited but nervous about flying for the first time. I’m sure the seat arms on the Air Pacific flight will have some finger marks in them for a time to come. As normal, there was the usual drama getting through transit at Nadi due to the manual check-in at CXI. Hence the computer system does not recognise that we have travelled to Nadi and the counter staff have to find out how to override the system and process the transit. As a result of this, we barely had time for a toilet break before boarding the flight to Brisbane.
Customs and immigration were fantastic and were more interested in the team’s story than anything else. Even the pandanus traditional fishing hats, that form part of the team’s official uniform, received only brief inspection.
The trip to our overnight quarters proved was an early eye opener and a hint at things to come. By about 1230, some very tired travellers were quickly asleep. The excitement level however was still running high and a number of guys were up and roaming around the garden at 5.30 in the morning.
Alfie Kither, in his usual form, whipped up a great BBQ breakfast before we headed off to make some gear purchases and back to the airport by 10am for the next leg of the trip. The number of houses, roads and traffic prompted a lot of conversation.
Funny how we take things for granted……access from the Jetstar check-in to the departure lounge on the second floor is via escalator. Something, of course, they have never seen let alone used. Alfie and I nearly died of laughter at the antics getting on and off this “weird contraption”. One of the guys leapt about 6foot in the air from the third top stair to get off it. He had so much momentum that he crashed into the wall opposite the top. Even the other guides were killing themselves laughing.
Upon arrival at Launceston they were greeted by a news team from the local paper and acquitted themselves well in the interviews. The hats were a curiosity item and were in high demand for photographs.
After picking up a hire car, an hour and a half drive saw us located at Malcolm and Kaylene Crosse’s house on Penstock Lagoon in the Tasmanian Central Highlands. When told the size of some of the resident browns in the waters, the guys were keen to start fishing even though it was 5 in the afternoon.
Most of the morning was taken up with fitting and sorting out the gear that they would need. All of which has been kindly donated/loaned by the local flyfishers. This has also been accompanied by donations of food staples such as vegetables and rice. In addition, the fly tiers have been busy and produced a huge selection of flies for the guys to use.
Malcolm gave the all important entomology lesson in the morning and the afternoon provided glassy conditions and had the guys out on the lake and walking the shore getting their first taste of trout fishing.
Plenty of surface activity, perfect for dry fly fishing saw all the guys open their account in Tasmania.
After and early breakfast they left for Lake Fergus to fish from boat (kindly operated by David O’Brien) and sight cast from shore. A number of fish resulted and, after Alfie’s special preparation, were quickly devoured at the evening meal.
Dawn revealed a bleak overcast day with some rain and a cold 20km/hr wind……sorry now 30km……no, now more like 50. They are off fishing Arthur’s Lake in boats today and they will have no problem casting in the wind but I suspect the cold will really knock them around as the previous two days have been very mild. No doubt the fireplace will be very popular tonight.
The generosity of the Tasmanian flyfishing community in giving their time to assist is something to behold. On behalf of the team I would like to thank all who have donated and assisted to make this all happen. I can assure you all this assistance is greatly appreciated by all the team.
Everyone is settling into a routine to make the most of the opportunity and sample as much of the varied fishing locations that Tasmania has to offer.
The routine usually involves a cooked breakfast, prepared by the Chef Alfie and his “toast man”, packing lunches, loading vehicles with gear and on the road by 8am to the location selected for the days activities. With the selection of food that they are having, I’m sure we will send them home to their families having gained some weight during their stay. We feel that it is important that they have plenty to assist them to combat the cooler temperatures.
We have been very fortunate with the weather as the daily temperatures have been very mild by Tassie standards. One exception was the day we travelled to Howes Lagoon on the edge of the Western Lakes area to have some tuition on wading a lake. It was overcast, with passing scuds of light rain and a bitterly cold wind. All the team took it on the chin and fished hard even though their fingers were numb. To quote one of the guys, “I couldn’t feel my fingers and they were hurting but I enjoyed the fishing”. The result was 20 odd fish of which a number were kept for the evening meal. They were more that pleased to have the comfort of air conditioning on the trip home.
When we arrived back, the South African mens team called in after a day on Penstock Lagoon to introduce themselves and meet the “Kool Team”
Today saw us on the road to Deloraine area to check out a river recommended by one of the fisheries inspectors. This proved to be unsuitable for what we wanted so we moved around looking for a location more suitable for the tuition we wanted to give. The highlight of the day was a visit to a local dairy owned by an acquaintance of Malcolm Crosse. Milking cows, 400 to be exact, and tasting fresh milk was a real novelty. We did manage a sneak preview of one of the closed rivers where the competition will be held.
A friend of Charlie Thompson, one of our Tasmanian hosts, kindly gave us access to a section of the Mersey River that runs through his property. A perfect location to hone up the skills on river fishing with dry fly and nymph. This is more like the fishing they are used to at home and took to it like ducks to water. All managed to net some fish, both browns and rainbows.
Days 7 and 8
A reporter and cameraman from The Australian called in to do an article on the CXI team. If no one saw the great article in the Weekend Australian, it’s a worthwhile read……nearly half a page on page three.
The training was aimed at lake fishing for these two days. Fishing was tough with a lot of boats on Arthurs and Woods Lakes, however our team managed to get some fish while some of the other teams more familiar with trout fishing techniques drew a blank.
We had a lay day and visited Hobart. This gave our members a change to have some retail therapy and purchase some gifts for family and friends. The Saturday markets are huge with a wide variety of trinkets however the Salvo store proved to be a real hit for quality cheap clothing. John Horsey from UK Sky TV, here to film the Commonwealth Championships, came to speak to the guys before heading off to the competition area.
After a counter lunch close to Constitution Dock, they were keen to see some of the local wildlife up close and personal. A visit to Bonorong Park fulfilled this wish.
The team headed off to Little Pine Lake as did a number of other competing teams. This is one of the competition lakes and all were keen to get some practice before the competition proper. For some reason, on this occasion, the fish were not co-operative and everyone had a no fish day.
An organised BBQ for all competing teams at a local community centre gave the team an opportunity to meet a lot of the other competitors.
An ABC film crew will arrive at Penstock today to film the boys and after that they will have a fish on the lagoon. A beautiful clear day with hardly a cloud in the sky should have fish on the move later in the day.
Tonight we pack up and more to Launceston first thing tomorrow ready for the opening ceremony and the start of the competition.
Thanks to all those who responded to the first update and all your well wishes have been passed onto the team.
Good luck to Nareau, Iobu, and Ekeuea friom Captain Cook Hotel and Eketi and Neemia from The Villages Lodge.
Lets hope all the preparation has done the job and the guys do well. They are keen and I know they will put their heart into the effort to do themselves proud.
After an hour and half drive down from the central highlands we arrived at the competition accommodation located at the Country Club Villas at Prospect just outside Launceston. It is a great facility with very comfortable two and three bedroom self contained villas that back onto the golf course. There are conference rooms and a couple of restaurants within the complex so we don’t have to walk too far after the days fishing. The cost is very reasonable and it is worthwhile considering as a place to base if you are planning a trip to Tassie as it is only an hour or so drive to the highland lakes and there are many great river fishing locations within a short drive.
All the Captains met to ratify some of the finer points of the competition rules and conduct the draw for the sequence of the fishing locations.
The event comprises of five three hour sessions, two out of boats on Arthurs and Woods Lakes, one wading a lake edge at Little Pine and two river sessions on the Meander and South Esk Rivers.
For those unfamiliar with the conduct of the event, there are five teams of sixteen anglers comprising of a representative from each competing country. Competitors names are drawn out of a hat to determine the beat they will fish on the rivers and the boat number for the lakes.
The opening ceremony comprised of a short parade of all competing teams down the main street of Deloraine followed by buffet meal hosted by the Governor of Tasmania. They looked smart in their white embroidered shirts.
The uniforms and the local fishing hats have drawn a lot of attention and it was like a media frenzy at the start of the parade with everybody wanting a photo of them. They have been in high demand for interviews and photographs. Besides the Australian, they have been on ABC radio, ABC 7.30 report and numerous articles in the local Tassie print media. This has been great exposure for CXI. Let’s hope that some good will come from the exercise.
Transport for the 90 anglers was by 12 seater min-buses driven by volunteers. Some had to travel for about an hour and a half to Arthurs and Woods Lakes meaning that the teams had to be up, have breakfast, pack gear and be on the buses by 6.45 to be at the nominated locations for the start of the three hour fishing session by 9am.
At the completion of the session, packed lunches were provided and the teams moved to the next location for the afternoon session. In addition to the bus drivers, there were 16 boats with drivers for the lakes, and one controller for each beat.
As you can imagine, this has been a mammoth administrative and logistic exercise undertaken by Malcolm Crosse, his organising team and the many volunteers. All credit must go to them for the smooth running of the event.
Not forgetting Kaylene Crosse and her assistants who kept the paperwork in order and often worked late into the night producing the programmes and posting the results from the previous day.
On the fishing side it has been a mixed bag for the Kirbati Team. There have been tales of tough fishing and bad luck with lost fish. On many a session the guys had lost 3-4 fish. Very frustrating for them but they are hanging in there and trying their hardest. It is all a matter of experience and they are improving every day. If they had landed all the fish they had hooked they would be doing very well.
Fly Tying and Expo
As part of the event, one member of each team is nominated to compete in fly tying for the Commonwealth Title. The rules are fairly simple, tie two nominated flies and one of own choice. Neemia represented CXI and he made a determined effort at tying a Red Tag and Mrs Simpson and CI special. He was up against some formidable opposition and did not get the top prize.
Presentations and Closing Ceremony
Presentation dinner was held on the evening of Saturday 19th. It was held in the well appointed conference room at the Casino. In the wash up the Australian Team blitzed the field to claim the Commonwealth Championship with England second and Northern Ireland taking third place.
Although the team did not feature in the prizes they did receive a more treasured prize. As part of the event a Friendship Trophy is given to the team that is voted the friendliest by all the competitors. With a majority of more than half the votes cast, the CXI team, to their great delight, received this prize. They took it home with them to no doubt, proudly show it around the island. Hopefully it will eventually be housed safely at the Captain Cook Lodge.
We left Tassie on Monday the 20th and stayed overnight at our place in Brisbane. After a quick bit of last minute retail therapy in Brisbane and loaded up with gifts for family and friends, they departed Brisbane for Fiji and home to CXI at about 11am on the 21st.
Wow!!!! What a whirlwind journey it has been over the last four weeks. Even with a few ups and downs I know they had a wonderful time and enjoyed not only Australia’s sights and sounds but also the unbounded hospitality they have received during their travels and the friendships they have made along the way.
In closing, on behalf of the team, I would like to thank the following people without whom this journey could not have been made.
First and foremost all those who have donated funds to make it all happen. You all will be receiving a special letter of thanks in the near future.
The Captain Cook Hotel and The Villages Lodge for their foresight to recognise the opportunity to promote the island and provide the airfares for their team members.
To all the Tasmanians in particular Charlie Thompson, Bruce Jordon and John Smith who gave their time, transport and boats with no questions asked to assist the guys with their training. Malcolm and Kaylene Crosse for the use of their house on Penstock, assisting with training and maximising the media attention. Not forgetting the Tassie Fly Fishing Clubs and fly tiers who supplied equipment and flies for the guys to use. To Mark Aspinall and the many others who helped with advice on techniques and fly selection for the conditions.
Janet Holmes a Court, patron of Fly Fish Australia for organising the Weekend Australian to fly down to the central highlands of Tasmania to do the half page article that appeared a couple of weeks ago. A real coup for the team that had others green with envy.
Last but not least, Alfie Kither, who, behind the scenes, worked tirelessly to make sure that everyone was well fed and for helping with the transport to and from the airport. Your assistance was invaluable. I’m sure most of the guys went home having gained some weight. Thanks Alfie, I owe you one, even though you took great delight in blowing my budget on food.
Nial Logan 26/2/2012