04/07/2009 Back to school with Matthew
31 years ago my teary eyed mother dropped her little angel off for his first day of junior school, wearing clothes that didn't fit, carrying a bag full of crayons and a lunch box stacked with supplies, I was left on my own to venture into the big wide world of school. The class was filled with kids of all colours, shapes and sizes, most with wide eyes, snotty noses and almost certainly most of us there had no clue as to what on earth we were all doing there. It was on this first day of school that I met Matthew Smithyman.
And so it was for the following 12 years that Matthew and I were in the same class throughout junior school and as things would have it, we also ended up going to the same senior school together in the Natal midlands where as teenagers we cut our teeth trout fishing the rivers and dams around our boarding school. The foundation was being laid for a lifelong love affair with fly fishing.
As if we hadn't seen enough of one another during those early years, we both ended up moving to Oz and living in Sydney .... today Matthew is a stock broker with a young family, me a saltwater fly fishing bum - exactly what the teachers had predicted all that time ago!! Who better-a-mate to join me on safari.
The day Matthew arrived, the weather turned from cloudy and drizzly to beautiful sunshine and no wind, so it wasn't long before we packed the boat and headed off in search of some sight casting opportunities.
Isn't it meant to be the middle of winter ???
It wasn't long before the cobwebs were wiped off the casting arm and Matthew was into some decent fish ...
It's a special thing indeed when you can share a conversation with someone that spans over three decades. The laughter and boyish behaviour flowed freely and the conversation swayed from mate's birthday parties to teachers we had crushes on, to more modern pressing issues like the stock market (boring) and Russians (interesting).
Camping for three days in the Australian wilderness really allowed us to get back to basics but it reminded us of 20 years ago while at boarding school together, we had to do a 60km bush walk with a backpack, rations etc ... but today we are taking it a little easier and just enjoying a hearty breakfast around the campfire before heading out for a full day on the boat
Matthew putting his city slicker traders fingers to good use, washing dishes :D
A few years back, Matthew and I ventured to Cape York together to join Seafaris for a week - www.seafaris.com - We had some great fishing and enjoyed some frantic Spanish Mackerel action together where he got completely smoked and I bust a rod. It was time for round 2 so using heavier rods, sinking lines and some pre-prepared flies with wire, we went in search of 'maccies'. Both of us hooked up to some seemingly unstoppable large fish that either bust us off a few hundred metres out or the hooks would pull. Here's one that we did manage to get to the boat ...
The good weather meant good action with the longtails too
Matthew sporting the bling
After a week of brilliant fishing action, non-stop laughter and so much talking rubbish and generally having the time of our lives, another chapter in the Smithyman / Shales legacy comes to an end.
In closure, let's take a moment to reflect upon what all that time spent together at school has really taught us ...