Adventure Diary

“One Beer”, “Brigitte Bardot” and “Taxidermy”

Today’s client spoke only three words of English. Bernard (from Tahiti) wasn’t letting language difficulties stop him catching New Zealand trout though. He arrived smiling, fully kitted out with new fishing vest, waders, rod, reel and line. Bernard’s lady spoke fluent French and English. She had arranged everything.

Next day, on the river, our two cultures merged – hunting trout. Bernard had practiced and cast a fly perfectly. Marcel Marceau would have congratulated me (miming frantically, arms waving, gesticulating) as I pantomimed the art of Tongariro River nymphing. ‘Casting’, ‘stripping’, ‘mending’, ‘feeding’ – giving the ‘thumbs up’ for good drifts. Bernard learning quickly and, always, smiling.

How does a New Zealand fishing guide explain “the trout are sleeping” and “keep fishing” with no common language?(Miming fish with their heads on a pillow – that’s how.) But wait, what’s that large dark shape near shore? Surely too big to be a trout. Bernard fished through without a bite. More arm waving and encouragement. And then the indicator slid under. “Strike!” “Pull!” “Yank it!” Oh no, Bernard didn’t understand about hooking.

The fish, an enormous female brown trout, decided to tour the pool. We followed. Shamus miming frantically “rod up”, “let it run”, “wind”. Desperate stuff. Bernard, cool under fire – smiling. Shamus shouting and miming: “huge fish”, “10 lber”, “Brigitte Bardot!” Bernard managing an English question: “Taxidermy”? “Taxidermy”?

Brigitte was pure muscle – a mature hen on her spawning migration. Fins out, she hung in the current, our ‘sidestrain’ pantomime barely moving her. After nearly landing her in the shallows she swam, deliberately, down a powerful rapid. Stumbling over boulders we chased Brigitte downstream where she hid under a large rock. Swimming into the river Shamus scared Brigitte from her lair. Shamus excited, shouting: ” We have her!” “Brigitte Bardot!” “Brigitte Bardot!” Eventually the net came out – but so did the hook. Brigitte swam away – Bernard never landed her.

What to say? What to mime? Bernard’s “c’est la vie” said it all. A handshake, a smile and back upstream to fish. Shamus shaking, having ttrroouubblle, kknnottiinngg onn fflliieess.

Somehow the 3lb rainbows Bernard caught later didn’t seem so exciting. That afternoon, after “one beer”, Bernard looked wistfully at the “taxidermies” on the tackle shop wall. He’ll be back, I’m sure. For one beer, Brigitte Bardot – and taxidermy.

“See you on the river,”