The alien inside us cries to be freed
No, I am not talking about alien-nation, though I really could ... I am talking about a “giant green dirt bin”, a fish actually. The alien.
Today we totter over a road barrier as cars swoosh by aggressively. We descend into an alien hell of shizenhauzen-sharp thorny tree trunks, steep, crumbly sabunga. The Pike and I, swinging and clonking King Tut, our canoe, through the mud towards the river.
I get in, as ever, “like Lady Di”, and we roll and punch through the papyrus into seethrough glass. A tract that is dark, greenblue, dappled with yellow, so mysterious I just want to dive in.
But no. We are on the hunt for the “monster”, the Florida Strain Largemouth Bass. It’s also known as Micropterus salmoides floridanus.
That last bit is how I feel at the end of the day when I lift my floridanus out of King Tut and feel the curse of the ring.
So we glide through this watercourse, the upper reaches of a dam which has old trees poking out at the sky. Alien gums killed off by the creeping lake.
Between us we have one rubber tadpole. I knot up and cast it to the back. We glide.
Bang! Like a rifle recoil. I’m on, there’s a splash, Nick is excited, then sploof. Silence. I reel in. The line simply ends. No rubber tadpole. Just the squiggly bit where the knot unravelled.
Alienation. The Pike sucks up air and words and is diplomatically passive aggressive.
We have other rubber toys with hooks, and he gets it in his head that he will prove that MS floridanus is such a rampant thug, it will tear into even an innocuous Maynard’s original wine gum (est. 1909), the yellow oval shape.
On the dam wall, the midday sun hammers me into an unfocused, sleepy state. What a codger. Bam! The Maynards actually works! Two hip young dudes arrive and start having a pissing contest over who can catch more. They are fun, but make us feel tired and jaded. We sneak away up the sides of this vast, delicious, wind-rippled stretch of fresh, fresh water.
Sheez it gets going. But the f-anuses are too small to fillet. We set off homewards. The damn summer sun tilts and releases the mellow yellow.
We are back in the still backwaters, where the only noise is birds, piddling across dinner plate-sized leaves with lilies which thrust ivory and pink flowers into the sky.
Nick eases us into a side alley, a secretive grove lush with underwater creeper and stumps. An obstacle course, but someone is twisting my arm, because the casts are plooping the plastic thingy with its hook just where I want them, close to the bank.
There is a woes whoosh in the far corner. Yoh! How hard do these bass hammer the lure? This thing is up on it’s tail and freaking out across the surface. Pure fury. In and out we go around the sticks, through the weed, until it is finally wrenched into the boat.
Nick holds it up - it’s not a giant dustbin, it’s more like the back of a BCM waste compactor. But much prettier.
We let it go. Fish are fun today, not food. It’s still thrilling, but we hear the call of the wild African craft beer and it’s time to head off to Emerald Vale Brewery.
And then we hear another call, and see only a few metres away an African fish eagle, Haliaeetus vocifer (sea eagle). Humans are not as threatening in a canoe. It’s incredible to see how colourful its plumage is up close, not just brown and white. It wears a cloak of raked-back, shimmering rose-red and russet feathers, and has a snowy chest topped with a bright yellow hook and dagger eyes.
We are dumbstruck. It does not fly, we try not to twitch.
And then Nick lets out a raucous whistle, his attempt at mimicry. I sigh. It will go.
Nope. It lifts its head and lets out a curdling, crystal cry. We are stunned.
Nick does it a few times, and there it comes back, call and reply.
Later we slake out thirst from a spread of taster glasses brimming with Chris Heaton’s ales. I don’t tell the friendly brewmaster that the very dark one is like the earthy umqombothi, which I love, through to the light and frisky pale ale.
Nick looks up, says he’s never experienced anything like that fish eagle’s serenade. Bass are a alien species, but as common to him as his dirt bin.
Fish eagles nest in every river, yet our experience was so unique, it felt like the aliens had landed and blessed us with an orchestra of sound and light.
Aurora australis in our backyard.
BASS: Indigenous eagle and alien bass bothers Dolores.