A Big One Down

December 13, 2016

We had a big old gum tree come down in that storm a week or two back and it fell clear across the cod hole.

I thought The Boss might be upset because he likes to drop a line in that spot, on account of it is - or was - pretty snag-free. That seems to be important when you catch a cod, because they can wrap themselves around a snag and work away at the line, until they break you off.

He took me over to have a good look at - he pointed out it was still green with plenty of leaf on the tops but it had collapsed at the base. He showed me some termites (which taste alright, by the way) and reckoned it had probably been stressed during the long drought when the roots were exposed a long time without a drink and let the insects in.

Anyway, it cracked, right at the bottom in the high wind and down she went. Good thing I wasn't taking a swim. And I could have been doing just that - The Boss likes to drop a line in during a storm because he says it gets the cod moving - they figure there's going to be some fresh bugs and litter getting washed down the banks.

That's what he says, but I'm not sure. He says you have to think like a fish to catch plenty of fish, whereas I suspect he thinks more like a turkey. Kind of struts around, sounding off, early in the morning when any composed sort-of -hound is mid-way through a dream.

So, he tells me it is sad to lose a big tree. It's not good for the parrots, ducks and sugar gliders who nest and hide in the hollows. But it's good for the river. That's because the green leaves provide food and cover for breeding shrimp, which provide more food for the Yellow Belly and the Cod.

Habitat, he calls it. Habitat. He reckons the Goulburn is a reliable fishery  because there are so many snags and regular tree-falls in it, which slows the water-flow and  provides good cover for the fish.

It makes it hard to get into and hard to navigate a boat in, of which The Boss approves. He sees all the boats getting towed along the highway towards the Murray and I hear him grunt with satisfaction. 

"They won't bother us here, General," he tells me. "They're more comfortable when they feel like they're fishing in Bourke Street."

He tells me that, 60 years ago, people along the river used to pull the snags and tree- falls out of the rivers with tractors and bulldozers, thinking it was impeding the flow and causing unnecessary flooding.

It didn't take too long to realise nature had figured out a way of its own that worked pretty well. The de-snagging increased the water flow alright, but soon started eroding the soft clay banks. The banks collapsed into the rivers, making them shallower and wider, and as the water-flow increased it washed the clay along, becoming dirtier. The floods kept happening, of course, but came down even quicker.

He reckons good sense returned in the late '70s and early 80s, when river management boards worked out ways to slow the erosion and returned a lot of snags to the rivers.

The Boss says the river is improving gradually, getting over the long, dirty period bit-by-bit. He reckons, when he was a kid, he could find mussels on the bed of the Goulburn when he was diving down and you'd see leeches swimming along the edge in clear water.

He hopes it will get back to that before he dies but I wouldn't mind it sooner than that. If I could see a diving wood duck six feet away under water,  I reckon I could nab it! Woof.

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