From the Blog

Gone fishin’

I started fishing Tathra Wharf way back in 1988. It was only a few hours drive from Canberra and was the best location to do some ocean fishing where I didn’t have to go out in a boat. Mindful of my late brother-in-law’s favourite saying that being in a boat is like being in jail – only you can drown, I found that the wharf is just the best place to potentially catch some fish while enjoying the head-space that fishing inevitably brings.

Over the years the venue has been very good to me and bringing home a few Australian Salmon each visit has been more common than not. However, the last few years have been pretty lean with many trips down there yielding not only no fish but not even any bites. Well, that changed yesterday.

My brother and I took off early yesterday morning and arrived in time to get a nice spot on the wharf. Actually, the traffic on the highway was pretty abysmal, really, but you can’t go any faster than you’re allowed so we sucked it up and waited most of the time. The wharf was pretty crowded (it was a Saturday morning) and there were lots of hopefuls in attendance.

Now I have always believed that fishing is a totally random affair. Despite tide charts, phases of the moon, water temperatures, wind directions and how you hold your tongue, it has been my experience that you can do everything right and come home empty-handed or do everything wrong and come home with a basket-full. Conventional wisdom on the wharf is that the salmon and kingfish which are the two species that most wharf-ites target are most attracted to either a fast-moving metal lure or a live bait floated under a balloon. I have certainly seen plenty of fish landed using these setups. However, flinging a piece of metal towards the horizon then winding it in again so that I can fling it out again has always seemed to much too much like hard work to me so I don’t use lures much.

Live bait presupposes that you first have to CATCH some so that you can then USE it to catch bigger fish. Again, I can see the attraction but I’d rather cut out the middle-man and just fish for the big fish from the outset. Added to this, yellowtail are stupid fish who, more often than not, swim back under the wharf for safety once you send them out on a line and that’s not where the big fish are either.

So, right at the outset I took the advice of the young man who used to run the shop on the wharf. He maintained that a pilchard, secured on a double-ganged hook and floated out without any sinker was the simplest set-up and the most likely to score a big fish. His advice and my own experience has proven that he was absolutely right. And yesterday was yet another illustration of how keeping it simple is usually the best way.

When we arrived, a kingfish had been caught before dawn but no-one had landed anything since. Less than 15 minutes after we arrived, Paul landed a 2kg salmon on the simple unweighted pilchard rig (see above). In the course of the next few hours he landed another salmon and two Tailor and nobody else on the wharf landed anything (including me, which illustrates again how random fishing can be). The last hour or so of our time on the wharf was spent cheering on a local fisherman who fought a giant Kingfish for nearly 40 minutes before losing him at the last when the fish took a dive under the wharf and snapped off the line on the pylon.

By that stage it had gotten cold and we had more than had our fun so we hightailed it out of there. Did I care that I didn’t have any fish? Heck, no, I can sit there all day and not catch anything and still go home having had a great time. Much like riding my motorcycle, I find fishing to be a very relaxing and therapeutic pastime.

We aimed at Narooma to overnight as we figured that leaving it any later than that would put us in the danger zone for wildlife. With great difficulty we found a pizza shop (seriously, a parachute wouldn’t open after 5pm in that town) and had booked in to a motel for the night. However, there was one thing missing – coffee. We noted the lack of take-away shops to the manager of the motel and he suggested that we try a little dive in the back street of town called The Quarterdeck. Sure enough it was exactly where he said it was and we walked in to find that the place was PACKED as there was live music on the menu. “Do you have reservations?”the pleasant young man asked, “Well, yes we do, but we decided to come here anyway,” my brother answered (he hasn’t read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”). The guy took it as a joke and said that, if all we wanted was coffee and cake, we could come in even though they were fully booked.

He motioned us to two stools at the bar and we ordered. We then turned our attention to the act on the (tiny) stage. A young man and a young woman who call themselves “Hoot and Holler” all the way from, yes, believe it, Nashville, Tennessee in the good old Yew Ess of Aye. And they were good. Totally unplugged instruments, guitar and violin, they are blues and bluegrass duo who have been touring Australia doing music festivals. The previous night they had been in Dorrigo in northern NSW and tonight they will be in Canberra. In spite of the fact that we had not booked, we made our cake and coffee last considerably longer than what it should have until they finished their set.

When I got home this morning I looked them up on YouTube and here is one of the songs that they performed last night.

Note that this video is from Dorrigo on Friday, pretty sharp, eh?

After a good night’s sleep, we threaded our way home (after a pancake breakfast at the pancake shop at Bateman’s Bay) and got home at morning tea time. Fishing will never replace riding as my #1 leisure time pastime, but it’s right up on the list.


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