Vic McCristal, living legend
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Vic McCristal, living legend

Not many people stopping by the north Queensland town of Cardwell to stock up on supplies for their yachts would give a second glance at the lean octogenarian with the thinning hair getting around town on a motorised scooter. But let it be known, that bloke is a living legend, my uncle – Vic McCristal.

I am much relieved to report that the legend is still living after Cardwell took the full brunt of a storm the size of Queensland, and reading news stories like this -including reports that most of the old houses had been blown away.

It must have been some kind of storm for Uncle Vic – who normally reacts to cyclones like the rest of us react to an unfortunate run of traffic lights – to describe it as ‘scary’, but the great news is both his old house and the old bugger who resides in it have emerged unscathed. I’m told he lost a small shed in the backyard, but the little 1960s brick house and even its television aerial faired much better than dozens of other dwellings in the town.

Uncle Vic is a legend – and not in a drinking 50-cans-of-beer-on-a-flight to London kind of way – but in a let’s make a DVD about him kind of way.

Vic is described in some quarters as the father of sports fishing in Australia, but for me will always be a legend for being able to go fishing in the Whitsundays, take some photos, punch out a story on his old typewriter, and call it a living.

Uncle Vic thought about many things to do with fishing – like catch-and-release, using lures, and targeting new kinds of species – that many of those people who own the (sadly) smashed up yachts now take completely for granted. Better than anybody, he captured the freedom of fishing (and hunting) in Australia in the 1960s, (for example, he took this picture). He also did as much as anyone to demonstrate that these activities could be approached intelligently, and to rally together outdoors enthusiasts as a group with common goals and interests.

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Most enduringly, Vic is a brilliant writer – the closest thing Australian outdoor journalism ever had to a Hemingway – and is one of those people you can appreciate for his artistry, regardless of the subject matter.

His books are out of print, but still have many admirers, and a quick google reveals that although long-retired, his magazine work is still spoken of with reverence in fishing forums.

Here’s to my Uncle Vic – Cardwell’s living legend.

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