What surfing taught me about flyfishing.

We’d just smashed into a Kangaroo with our camper and decided it was time for a drink. We were tired of driving anyway, and those damn kangaroos were just too hard to see in the dark. We saw a sign near the road, tacked to the side of a rickety shed: “Kalbarri Pub.”

Silent Treatment

“We must be in Kalbarri,” said one of my companions, who was accompanying me on a surf trip up the dusty and rugged northwestern coast of Australia.

“Must be,” I said. “Let’s go in and blow the froth off a couple.” (I only dared to use Aussie expressions in the company of my own countrymen, as I wasn’t very good at hiding my Wisconsin accent.)

The ragged and smoky little joint was dimly lit and smelled of beer and sweat. It was mostly filled with tan, shaggy-haired, older men yelling to each other over AC DC’s “Dirty Deeds,” which blared from an abused looking jukebox. It only took a few pints of Western Gold, a delightfully bitter local brew, to get in on the conversation.

“Mate, if your hands aren’t scraping the reef when you paddle, you’re sitting too deep,” one of them slurred to me.

We were talking about surf spots, which amazed me. I had heard and read stories about the surf scene in northwestern Australia, and how—just like the landscape—it was harsh, localized, and unforgiving. If you weren’t from there, you didn’t belong in the water.

Continued in the Summer 2011 issue...