Three Mile Dam – Seasons

 

There in its basin, right on top of the mountains it lay … The great broad circle of it in the rolling landscape, blue and silver to the sky… Shivering in the slightest breeze.

Rimmed with low banks, where alpine daisies glittered like snowflakes among the flowering heath, and guinea-flowers and bulbine lillies … With minute white orchids among them shone gold and yellow like the sun.”

Douglas Stewart – The Seven Rivers *



Three Mile Dam was built by the Kiandra gold seekers in 1883. It is the highest fishable water in the Australian Snowy Mountains at 1460m. Extreme weather can be experienced in all seasons, and the entry road in winter can be covered by snow making access unpredictable.

 

 

With fly fishing, that first time is an epiphany.
A small trout gently swallowing a clumsy imitation of some obscure insect placed in its path …
Heart pumping,
Pausing in a state of unbelief as a flashing red and blue speckled fish lies gasping on the grass at your feet.

And so the journey begins ….
Each time like the first,
the searching for signs of activity …
The subtle, silent rise …
The trout accepting greedily the offering
the pause …..
the lifting of the rod …
the tightness of the line as rod bends over …
And in the end, the fish returned gently to the cold clear water
to live, to grow, to seduce us again.


 

Many years ago, with our children … I travelled on occasions to Three Mile Dam to learn to ski cross country, and later used it as a starting point for walks into the huts above the Eucumbene River.
I was captivated by its beauty then, the snow shrouded gums, the frozen lake edges and the winter silence … The way it had of bringing sleet in the summer.

The dark sky nights.

These were the days before fly fishing had woven its spell, so it hardly occurred to me that there lay a time ahead when I would stand all day in the mountain summer sun pursuing a rising fish.

 

 
 

For a long time now, this place has been a personal haven, a retreat and sacred ground.

It soon became a ritual to drive 5 hours south 2 days after Christmas to camp alone under those snowgums …. With the lapping of the windswept lake a metre away. At night, often, the mountains would drive a ice filled gale across the lake and lay the tent across my face, and there would be no sleep. Some years would deliver a dozen trout in that 4-5 days … And some years only a few. In the end it did not matter. The time spent in that place restored my soul, gave me peace and time for reflection.


 

 
 
 
Days without time …
Without meetings or mobile contact.
You slept exhausted from being focussed, from just “being” …


 
 
The revelation – when it came, that this had been a favourite fishing location for one of our great poets – Douglas Stewart, and his friends … was like rain after drought, filling all the gaps in my mind about why this place held me so firmly in its grip.

 





Douglas Stewart's wonderful book … The Seven Rivers, describes as only a poet can, the haunting beauty of this place in all its seasons, and in a time before good roads made access as easy as it is today. It took time and effort to go there but the rewards of doing so were clearly articulated by him. It must have given him great peace to escape the pace of city life and the responsibilities he had as Bulletin Editor to spend time there.

 

 
 
 
It's been a few summers now since I've made that journey, competing priorities for one, and the need to avoid the 4WD camping season … But come early autumn the desire will be strong, and preparations made. The pull of the mountains is very strong. A week spent snowshoing there last winter confirmed that. The lake was frozen at the edges, the banks shrouded as in all winters with their blanket of snow, the snowgums a fixture of the landscape … And the silence.
 
 

 

“And, in clear sparkling sunshine after the rain, there lay that noble sheet of water, a white wilderness of ice. All around, on the banks where the wildflowers used to grow, the snow lay thick and soft; it clung to the branches of the grove of black sallies where the bees rejoiced in summer ….”

Douglas Stewart – The Seven Rivers *


* Used with Permission
Publishers – Allen & Unwin (http://www.allenandunwin.com)
First Published by Angus & Robertson in 1966

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