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Fishing

28th Apr 2012

Angling! This hobby has linked so many events and friends throughout my life and as I sit here nursing the latest dose of major sunburn; earned while waiting for the thrill of hooking and bringing a fish into the boat I thought I would share some of my experiences.

Top of the food-chain, mackerel (AKA kingfish) in Gove

Dad, Steve, Sue, Alex, Peter, Demetrius, Alan, Ashlee, Michael, Gavin, Nicola, Andrew, Vikas, Hammad and everyone else I have fished with this one is for you. I hope you all can remember a time that we spent fishing together and the circumstances that surrounded the events. They were never dull.

This weekend, I spent a half day fishing off the coast at Al Wakra and musing on the peculiar attraction of this most sublime of pastimes, and the extent to which it has been a theme throughout my lifetime. I cannot report that we caught a lot of fish. That is to come on future expeditions but here are some tales from yesteryear.

My first memory of fishing is with my father on our holidays. Memory does not give me the answer as to where the event took place nor my exact age, I suspect it was at Bateman’s Bay in South East NSW and I think I was probably something younger than 10. I do remember catching small silver bream and thrill of cleaning and cooking the catch for a meal, probably the first time I caught and cooked my own food. Fishing became a regular part of our holidays, and has remained a hobby and pastime to which I have returned time and again in the years since. I have memories of fishing in Port Philip Bay where if we were lucky we caught flathead, a curious fish that I have only ever come across in Australia but which can grow to some significant size, taste delicious, and which were, at that time plentiful in the Bay. Many times we would only catch toad-fish which were also plentiful around the piers and popular fishing haunts at Frankston, Sandringham, Mordialloc and Black Rock. Toad fish are not edible (although I believe they are similar to the prized fugu that the Japanese love so much).

I grew up in the, then outer, suburb of Rowville on Melbourne’s eastern flank. There was lots for adventurous children to do and my friends and I would try our hand at snaring rabbits (an activity that I think is illegal in Australia), trapping rabbits (and the odd cat) with steel jaw traps, yabbying, and fishing for eels in the Dandenong Creek which meandered close to our home on two sides.

Cherax Destructor – what a delicious name – the common garden variety yabby!

Catching yabbies (fresh water crayfish) was probably the most satisfying of these pursuits as I was never keen on eating eels and, despite our efforts, catching rabbits in traps and lures proved to be far more difficult than we ever anticipated.

For anyone who has never “yabbied” the technique requires a stagnant pond or slow moving creek or river that one knows to be inhabited by these delicious crustaceans, a water hole with moderately sloping sides is best. Our technique was to then tie a piece of raw red meet, the bloodier the better, onto a piece of string or cotton which was about a metre long. The other end of the string was then tied to a stick which could be jammed into the mud and the meat, at the furthest extent of the string, thrown in the water.

If your choice of yabby hole is good the string will go taut within minutes as a hungry yabbie tries to pull the meat further into the water. The trick then is to ease the string slowly towards shore until the yabby’s antennae break the surface and then to scoop, with a bucket or net , the delicious crustacean out of its pool.

I cannot tell you how many afternoons we spent at various waterholes engaged in this passtime but I have caught yabbies all over Victoria, and have also caught their the poor NSW cousins. I have seen them in a range of sizes from an inch (about 2.5 cms) long to around 8 inches long. In Western Australia they have a variety called “marron” which grow much bigger than this. They offer hours of fun to catch and are delicious to eat.

Fishing for eels was also surprisingly entertaining and for us they offered a chance to make some pocket money at the same time as one of the delicatessan owners in the nearby town (it wasn’t a city in those days) of Dandenong would buy them from us to smoke for his customers.

We would bait our lines, usually handlines, with large hooks and wriggling fat earthworms dug from my father’s copious compost bins and set these lines for the eels. We would then find something else to do for a while and this is itself was often interesting. I remember once trying to use an old suitcase as a boat… that was a short-lived venture as the manufacturer had thoughtlessly made it of some sort of cardboard which proved somewhat less than waterproof. On another occasion we used birdwire to net dozens of small carp (basically gold fish) from receding flood waters nearby (AKA a swamp) which we then put in a pond near our home, only to see the kookaburras and herons eat the lot within a week.

Occasionally we would catch a carp on our hand-lines and once even caught one with a lamprey attached. If you have never seen a lamprey, look it up on the Internet, one of nature’s more disgusting creatures and one that gave me nightmares for weeks. And more often we would simply catch cold.

Catching eels is challenging, they tend to swallow a hook and bait quite deeply but having pulled them from the water they are tricky to hold to retrieve the hook as they are extremely muscular and strong, and they are very, very slimy. To eat them it is necessary to skin them first and we soon found that the best way to accomplish this was to take a bucket of sand with us when we were fishing. The sand could then be poured over the eel and this made it much easier to hold and to deal with.

October 1982 Mt Anderson Station, near Derby, Western Australia

The earliest photograph that I have of myself with my own catch was taken on Mt Anderson Station in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in 1982. My wife, Suzanne, and I were working on the station as jackeroo and governess respectively (I would not have been a good governess) for around three months. During this time our station manager found that the fish were “biting” in the Fitzroy River and this gave us all a great excuse to down-tools and go fishing for an extended long weekend. Camped on the banks of the river, which during the dry-season, was at that time a series of unconnected billabongs, we carried a 3 metre “tinny” (aluminium boat) , down to the water and trolled along the banks for Barramundi.

These fish are highly prized by sport fishermen. They attack lures savagely and upon feeling the bite of the hook they rise from the water on their tales, shaking their heads from side to side before diving deeply to try to escape amongst the logs, branches, and roots that line the river bed and sides. Occasionally, if the fish is fast enough and the  fisherman not alert, the fish will manage to get in amongst a tree underwater and fish, lure and tackle will be lost for ever. This can be an expensive outcome as, not only are the lures costly, but there is a two or three hundred kilometer drive to the nearest tackle shop.

Saltwater Crocodiles on the Fitzroy River at Mt Anderson Station

Saltwater Crocodiles on the Fitzroy River at Mt Anderson Station

Saltwater Croc in the Fitzroy River

Saltwater Croc in the Fitzroy River

During one such incident the station manager, my boss, cajoled me into entering the water to try to retrieve the lure, this was somewhat foolhardy as the Fitzroy is full of crocodiles, and although you will rarely see them (until it is too late) some are up to four metres long. Despite my efforts I was unable to get the lure back and some weeks later when we flew over the same stretch of water in the station’s light plane, he took great delight in pointing out the crocodiles sunning themselves where we had so recently been fishing and swimming.

The issue of crocodiles is a serious one. There are only two type of crocodiles that I know of in Australia, the Saltwater croc’ and the Johnson River crocodile. Of the two it is the saltwater crocodile which poses some danger to human beings and almost every year you hear tell of some unfortunate tourist who has fallen afoul of these rather frightening beasts. Usually, I believe, this occurs through the stupidity (I’m not sure of another word for someone who ignores signs saying “Don’t go near the water” in a known crocodile habitat) of the tourist rather than through the aggressiveness of the crocodile but c’est la vie. Crocodiles are rarely to be seen, they are masters of lying in wait just below the surface of the water undetected and, as I understand they will attack creatures near the waters edge for two reasons, either they are protecting their territory, or they are hungry. Either way the jaws of a crocodile close with stupendous force and, once nibbled, you are unlikely to be able to return for a second visit.

While we were camping on the Fitzroy (some distance from the water’s edge) I remember hearing that the local aboriginal people would check the water for the presence of crocodiles by throwing a puppy into the water. Apparently the splashing around of a young dog is irresistible  to crocodylus porosus and, if one of the species is present,the puppy will soon not have to worry about how it is going back to make it back to shore. I don’t know how much truth there is in this, we simply kept ourselves and our kids as far away from the water as we could when we weren’t in the boat.

Several years were to pass after this before I again found the opportunity to do some really good fishing although, on the way back to Melbourne we caught nice-sized trout in the Gouldburn River and cooked and ate it on the spot. It was magical fishing where the water is crystal clear and you can watch the fish mouthing the bait and spitting it when it feels the hook. I regret that I have never had the opportunity to fly-fish, but that will come.

In 1985 my son, Alan, was born in Wagga Wagga, and, although I recall in his early life there that he spent a lot of time in and around the Murrumbidgee river, I don’t recall ever having caught fish there. Some years later, we moved to the town of Nowra in New South Wales, we tried a variety of fishing here and disappointingly had little success although this is known to be a mecca for anglers. Most of our excursions ended with little to show for the day’s outing except sunburn and, more often than not, sea-sickness. I do remember though having a great experience spearfishing with a mate at Bateman’s Bay where we were able to bag some good sized fish while snorkelling. This area is renowned for big sharks as well but we were lucky enough not to encounter any of those despite baiting our Hawaiian sling spears with wriggling distressed fish.

Meanwhile, Alan was growing and becoming more interested in the world around him, and so, by the time we went to live in the North West, in the little mining town of Tom Price in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in 1989 Alan was just about ready to handle a fishing rod.

Weekends in Tom Price often included an overnight camp out. One favourite place to stay was the Millstream Station, a cattle station that has been redeveloped as national park about two thirds of the way to Karratha from the town of Tom Price.

1990 My oldest son, Alan’s, first fish, Millstream Station, near Dampier, Western Australia.

Millstream boasts a great swimming hole on the Fortescue River and camping areas that are off the well trodden tourist track and where one can camp out with as little equipment as an air bed and sleeping bag. The weather in the Pilbara is consistently dry, rain being limited to a few days each year, and there is a limited insect population as a result. A genuine oasis in the desert, Millstream also has some great fishing, particularly for cat fish that inhabit the deep clear pools.

It was here that Alan caught his first fish which you can see here covered in the iron-ore-rich red dust of the Pilbara.

But fishing in and around Tom Price wasn’t confined to Millstream, I can recall many weekends away in the seaside town of Dampier on the far North West Coast where Hamersley Iron shipped iron ore for export to, mainly, Japan. In Dampier my children were introduced to raw fish (sushimi) when we some local fishermen shared their catch of trevally with us. And on one particularly memorable weekend, Alan, my mate Alex, and I hired or borrowed a small boat and fished in some fo the local mangrove swamps. My introduction to sandflies and the torment of these evil little buggers which bite you painlessly all over and who’s bites itch like fury a few hours later, when it is too late to do anything about it. I don’t recall what we caught on this particular day out, I do remember cooking the catch on a fire next to the road, sealed in aluminium foil with butter, slices of orange and Jack Daniels bourbon and that it wasn’t half bad.

In Tom Price, our daughter Ashlee was born, and I had another person to later introduce to the delights of fishing.

We once visited Broome from Tom Price and fished from the two-kilometer-long Broome pier. This pier offers the best fishing that I have ever experienced from land and many years later it featured in another fishing expedition. Broome was about 830 kilometers up the road from Karratha and I remember the trip well for two reasons. The first that there is only one petrol station in the middle (Sandfire Flat Roadhouse) and that womens’ underwear adorns the ceiling. We stopped on Melbourne Cup Day to fill up and, even in this remote corner of the country we were obliged to relax and watch the race before anyone would pay us any heed. Those who haven’t been in Australia on the first Tuesday in November may be excused for not understanding that the Melbourne Cup, a two mile horse race, is the one religious event on the calendar that causes all Australians to stop work, and turn to the television every year. You might as well, no one is going to be paying any attention to you unless you are running around the track at Flemington.

Water buffalo near the local shops in Nhulunbuy

Water buffalo near the local shops in Nhulunbuy – to paraphrase C. S. Lewis “he’s not a tame… water buffalo”

Sadly, after our years in Tom Price we had to move on to Mt Tamborine on the Gold Coast in Australia. The Gold Coast offers limited opportunities for camping although some fishing can be done in the creeks and off the many beaches. Unfortunately the east coast of Queensland has never been good for me in the fishing stakes and in 1994 we packed up once more and moved to the far north of Australia, to live close to the sea on aboriginal land at Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula.

Nhulunbuy is, for a fisherman, probably about as good as it gets however its remoteness make it quite inaccessible for most people.  I was fortunate enough to share the experience with my partner, Betty, and children for just over three years. During that time we were visited by parents, friends and family who, I am sure, will never forget the experience and who all had an opportunity to fish.

The only way to reach the township are by sea (about 500 nautical miles from Darwin), by four wheel drive vehicle over around 700 klms of dirt track from the Stuart highway near Katherine, or by planes which fly daily between Darwin and Cairns and stop off, en route, at the Gove Airport.

Alan fishing from a cyclone buoy in Gove 1997

My oldest son Alan fishing from a cyclone buoy in Gove 1997. The life jacket meant that he could thrash around for a while if he fell in. Hence giving the sharks a fighting chance.

To further complicate issues, Nhulunbuy lies in North East Arnhemland, which is aboriginal reserve into which visitors are not welcome without a permit issued by the local authorities. The area has thousands of wild Asian water buffalo roaming it and these can pose a significant threat to travelers, as can the plentiful sharks, crocodiles, and box jellyfish, in season. That said, this is magical country which I will never forget and will always yearn to revisit.

Fishing on the tidal creek near our home.

Fishing on the tidal creek near our home. A small saltwater crocodile in the mangroves.

Great fishing in Gove can be had from the beaches or on many of the numerous coral reefs off shore. Prized fish include Spanish mackerel which can grow to well over a metre in length, coral trout which can grow to several kilos, queen fish, sharks, mangrove jack and myriad varieties of reef fish.  There was one significant “gotcha” in this region and that is a poison that is sometimes present in palaegic fish called ciguatera. Ciguatera builds up in fish through the food chain in and around some coral reefs. the poison has the effect in human beings of change the senses so that hot things feel cold and cold things feel hot. i believe it is very dangerous and can kill in severe cases. So ciguatera is high on the priority list of things to avoid. The trouble is that you don’t know if a fish that you have caught has a high concentration of ciguatera just by looking at it, some may be deadly some may have no problems. In Gove the simple solution was to feed any fish, before consumption to a passing cat.

Now you may think from my previous references to cats that I don’t particularly like them. This is not the case, cats have lovely fur which can be used to make warm and comfortable clothing. Some people like to be kept as pets for cats. In some cultures it is even acceptable to eat cats. A good friend of mine refers to them as “roof chickens”, I wouldn’t know. I do know that if a cat eats a fish that has ciguatera in its flesh the cat will vomit very soon afterwards. This is a sure sign that this fish is not for you! And so… I, and my friends never suffered from ciguetera poisoning.

So fishing in Gove was good and this is where my daughter caught her first fish, well it was shark actually, but she caught it on her own and the photo is at left to prove it.

Ashlee’s first catch, a black-tipped reef shark, off the Gove Peninsula, Northern Territory, Australia1996

Perhaps the most memorable fishing trip for me in Gove was one of which I have no photographs. It was a weekend and a good friend had hired a 3 metre aluminium tinny to go out to the north side of West Woody Island (a complete misnomer, there was no wood on the island). We set off early in the morning, if memory serves me the trip consisted on Alex, Peter and me, and none of us was particularly experienced with boats.

Father and daughter preparing to fish

Father and daughter preparing to fish

One thing that I have learnt over the years is that if you want to stay dry near, or on, the sea, then boats are not the answer. This day was no exception. We thought we were doing very well, as Peter reversed the car and Alex and I rocked the boat so that it slid backward off the trailer into the water. We watched him drive away to park his four wheel drive.  All of a sudden Alex shouted the words I did not want to hear in shark and crocodile infested northern Australian waters “Snox…. we’re sinking”.

Anyone who has done a little fishing in tinnies will know that there is a bung at the back of the boat, effectively a rubber cork, designed to let water out, after you have pulled the boat from the water. Unfortunately, if one does not put the bung in before trying to float the boat the water flows in the opposite direction and soon the boat is not floating at all. Fortunately, I was able to find the bung quickly and insert it before too much damage was done. So, after a little bailing, and wringing out of wet things that should have been dry, we set off for the island.

At West Woody there is a spit of rock or coral that extends northward into the sea toward New Guinea, on this particular day the waves were gently breaking from the East to the West across this spit of rock and, anchoring about 20 metres from it we decided to fish the breaking waves. On the day we were using pilchards for bait. These are small fish, about 6 inches (15 cm long) which we would put onto ganged hooks. As you can imagine the hooks, embedded in the fish make a lethal combination for a decent-sized fish and the hooks are hung from the side of the line using steel fishing trace. This is necessary because the palaegic fish that we were after have sharp teeth.

My sister and brother in law visited Gove to help us reduce the fish numbers

My sister and brother in law visited Gove to help us reduce the fish numbers

The thing about fishing is that quite often it is a waiting game, set the line up, bait it, throw it in and wait. Sooner or later you hope for a tug and then you are on. Not this particular Saturday at West Woody! No sooner had we cast our baits into the water than the fish struck and the three of us spent the next several hours fighting large and hungry spanish mackerel. I have never had fishing like it. These were big fish that would fight hard and take real effort to get into the boat. More often than not we were down to only one or two lines out as we helped each other to bring fish in. And we had to be quick. Several time we would be fighting a fish and the line would suddenly slacken because a shark or barracuda had taken the catch before we could get it to the boat. We ended up with several half mackerel and heads-only as a result.

Our lucky streak ended only after we had lost all of our tackle to fish that were too big or clever to land, or sharks that had taken them from us. The boat was littered with big fish, the cool boxes, having long-since overflowed,  and we headed home to clean them. I recall the cleaning being a bit of a chore. We first fed the neighbours’ cat (without incident) and then cut the mackerel into “steaks” simply slicing them at about 3 cm thicknesses, and wrapping them ready for sharing amongst the neighbours and for freezing. These big spaniards are strong tasting and they are a great fish for barbecuing or curry so didn’t go to waste at my place.

It was hard not to catch fish in Gove. If you couldn’t get onto the big palaegics like queen fish or mackerel, you would do a little reef fishing, simply parking the boat over a reef and letting it drift while you lowered a hand line, or even on one memorable occasion, a hook on the end of a piece of builders string, into the water. The prize fish to catch was the coral trout, a magnificent fish with delicate flesh. This is quite unsuitable for freezing but, cooked fresh, cannot be beaten as an eating fish.

Fishing in Gove was not all about boats although the stories of crocodiles and sharks tended to make us wary of beaches for the first through years. I’m not sure how many of these stories were true and how many were the worries of city slickers transplanted into this rather foreign environment. I do recall once fishing on the beach and doing quite well. I had a bad incident when I left my rod unattended and it was pulled out to sea bout 25 metres by what must have been a fairly large fish 9 must have looked a sight chasing it across the sand!). Fortunately the fish managed to get off the hook and the rod soon floated to the surface, undaunted, I waded and swam out to get it back and I resumed my fishing, casting out into the waves and occasionally catching a good size (2 or 3 kilo) queenfish. These queenfish are great fun to catch, they have large flat bodies and heaps of water reisstance os they put up a great fight and their sharp teeth and vogourous movement make them quite challenging.

A small queenfish - a great sporting fish but of limited culinary appeal

A small queenfish – a great sporting fish but of limited culinary appeal

On this particular day I was in the water up to my knees, gentle waves breaking on the shore behind me and I was wondering about some patterns I could see along the shoreline. Every now and then there would be a sort of circle-swirl in the water, perhaps two to three metres in diameter which would then disappear. Eventually one of these swirls appeared quite close to me and I approached to get a better look. There are some moments in time that make an indelible impression on you, times when you appreciate the fact that you are alive and that you are young enough to jump and run. I think I probably came very close to walking on water on this occasion as I realised that I was looking at a decent sized shark only a few metres away, it was swimming in circles with its dorsal fin just breaking the surface. I have no idea what it was doing and, in hindsight it was clearly not interested in me,  but I quickly lost my appetite for standing in the water to fish.

Alas, all things must end and in 1999 we left behind us the sunshine, bauxite, and beaches of Gove for the verdant green rolling hills, black sand, and fabulous mountains of New Zealand.

My brother, Gavin, with a barracuda he caught at Paramata, near Wellington, New Zealand

My brother, Gavin, with a barracuda he caught at Paramata, near Wellington, New Zealand

We relocated to Taranaki on the West Coast of the North Island. Probably, for my money, one of the most pleasant and beautiful places on earth. Fishing in new Zealand was a whole different game but one that I was determined to learn. There were many occasions when we caught fish, but two are most memorable. One, bacause it was the first, and only, time that I have trolled for trout. This happened on Lake Taupo, about midway up the North Island, not far from Rotorua. Lake Taupo is in a volcanic caldera formed about 26,000 years ago and the lake is immensely deep, more than 150 metres in some places. Fed by volcanic springs all year round the lake is at the head of the Waikato River (fed by the mighty Huka Falls) and it is well stocked with brown and rainbow trout.

Fishing for trout by trolling was a different experience. I don’t think we used bait (memory hazy on this point perhaps due to other activities that were taking place on the boat and which involved intoxicating liquids), but I do recall that we fitted huge weights to the lines which were connected to a secondary line and used to drag the bait (or lure) down to a great depth. I think the weight detached from the fishing line when a fish “struck” and from there the fight was on. On the day we caught a good “bag” of trout but one of the best treats was yet to come for when we returned to our lodge, our hosts smoked the fresh fish which we ate hot from the smoker later that evening. If you have not done this it is not to be missed. Absolutely superb.

Alan with a nice catch - a Kahawai - caught at Paremata

Alan with a nice catch – a Kahawai – caught at Paremata

Sadly I have few photos of lake Taupo and none of fishing there. I am sure my children will never forget the many visits to the area and to the hot volcanic mud of Rotorua but unfortunately I don’t think they got to fish the region.

I could not talk about fishing in new Zealand without reference to my mate Demetrius. Dee and I met in Tom price and have shared fishing experiences around Australia and in many places in his home country of New Zealand including, at his “bach” in Kawhia, and at Picton at the North end of the South Island. Picton was one of those perfect fishing trips and just what I needed as I was going through a fairly rough patch personally at the time. Demetrius, his wife Julie and their three girls were planning a weekend at Picton which is reached by ferry from Wellington on the North Island. They kindly invited me to join them and we hired a cabin overlooking the water in this idyllic little town.

The gang ready to go - Paramata, New Zealand

The gang ready to go – Paramata, New Zealand.

Now Picton is not renowned for having a lot of things to do but fishing is one of the key attractions. To appreciate the event it probably helps to realise that the top end of the South Island of New Zealand is a mass of mountain peaks that rise almost sheer from the sea bed. There are not a lot of gently sloping sandy beaches in this area and hence much of the water ways can only be reached by boat. A quick look on Google Maps will give you some idea. The water is very clean, clear and deep and ready access to both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea mean that fish are plentiful.

On the day in question we hired a small fibreglass half cabin and just sort of chugged northward looking for a sensible spot to cast a line. We didn’t have to go far when a random cast saw us hooking into  a school of kahawai, a common but nonetheless awesome fish for anglers. This was another one of those days when the fish just didn’t let up, it seemed as often as we could cast we would hook a fish and we released many and kept enough for a meal or two before they went off the bite. The day would have been good enough if that had been it, but upon returning to our cabin, Demetrius produced a portable smoker, from where I don’t recall but I will never forget, smoking the fish, drinking Tequila and watching the sun sink, over the mountains into the Tasman Sea.

I promised, that I would tell you about Broome and the incredible fishing there.

Sometime around 2003, a mate of mine in New Zealand mentioned that he had always wanted to do a bit of an outback adventure. A dairy farmer from the Taranki region, he had grown up having had little to feast his eyes on but a pointy little mountain and rolling green hills and valleys. Peter had not had the opportunity to wake up to the call of magpies, the smell of eucalyptus trees, the red dust of Northern Australia, kangaroos outside the window, mangoes in the back garden, and crocodiles on the creeks.

I suggested we get a little group of guys together and head to Broome, on the far North West coast of Western Australia, Broome is about as far as you can get from New Zealand before reaching Indonesia. It is a major port on the Kimberley Coast which is famed for pearling, live cattle export, and fishing. Broom has a wonderful range of characters, buildings and sights, old houses and pubs nestle amongst new buildings in some harmony. Local indigenous people are plentiful and welcoming, the town has its fair share of tourists hanging around the coffee shops, and there is the famous Roebuck Hotel, a watering hole I remember well from the time I spent working on Mt Anderson Station, and which is still frequented by stockmen and local people.

Tuna caught while fishing in Broome

Tuna caught while fishing in Broome

I managed to find one other interested adventurer for our week in the Kimberley, Alex was living in Sydney at the time and he is always up for a bit of fishing so we arranged to meet up in Broome. It took Peter and I almost 24 hours to get there, Australia is a huge country, and we were soon in a taxi on the way to our lodgings at Frog Hollow, a little homestead at a place called Coconut Well. Located about half an hour out of Broome as I recall and about 1 klm from the beach. We arrived fairly late at night and, given the 5 hour time difference back to New Zealand, fairly knackered.

Next morning I wandered out on the back porch to relax and have my first smoke of the day. The scene outside was exactly what a proud Aussie, keen to show off his country, would want to see. A huge mango tree in the paddock next door and lying under it in the shade, not 30 metres from the house, several kangaroos.

But, I digress, fishing in Broome is too easy and a great experience. I won’t bore you with talk about the boat fishing, the sea snakes sunning themselves on the surface of the water, the sailfish we didn’t catch, or the tuna and mackerel that we did. Instead, I will tell you about Broome pier.

The pier at Broome is two kilometers long. For those of you from England, this is over a mile long and it is a chore just to walk out to the end of it, especially when, as is its want in Broome, the temperature is well up toward 40 degrees. However it is not the length of Broome pier that makes it special, it is the massive rise and fall of the tide and the consequent speed of the current under the pier that is special. The tide at Broome pier rises and falls up to 10 metres (more than 30 feet) and, of course, it does this in around 12 hours. It is hard to comprehend the volume of water that is sloshing back and forward under the pier and the speed at which a fishing line is dragged along with it. For this reason you need to use very heavy sinkers, bait your hook well and use special three-way gaff hooks for bringing fish up to the pier.

These three way gaffs consist of three evenly spaced gaff hooks on a steel ring with their tips pointed to the centre so that they can easily open over the head of a fish and close automatically behind the grills to allow you to draw the fish up to the top of the peer. They are lowered on the end of a rope and used for the sort of quite large fish you get on a pier like the one in Broome.

We spent many days from our week fishing from the pier with mixed success, we caught large fish and not many small fish. We also got a fair hammering from the sun as there is not a lot of shade and it is a long walk back to the cafe on the land.

Fishing off Broome Pier

Fishing off Broome Pier

My best memory on the pier was hooking into something that I believe was probably a giant trevally. It took my bait and ran dragging out line at a fair old rate. I tightened the drag on the reel but the fish kept pulling and the line kept going, the rod was bent almost double and all I could do was hang on, it was as if I had hooked a slow moving train. Sadly the run didn’t stop before the line did and the inevitable happened when it got about three hundred metres away, the line snapped, the fish was gone and so was my gear.

Another event at Broome that is worth recounting was the day we decided to take a drive out to Derby. On this journey you pass over a creek that has dried up to a series of billabongs not far out of Broome. We stopped the car here and decided to try our luck with a lure. I wasn’t really expecting much thinking that anything that had ever been in there might have already been caught by other tourists. Not so! On about the third cast I hooked into a barramundi that was probably about 3 kilos in weight and which gave me a great fight before breaking the line.

Vikas and I have now bought a boat, an eighteen foot fishing dinghy complete with Yamaha 50 HP four stroke outboard. I will be bringing all my fishing gear over shortly from the UK, and I hope to be able to share some more experiences from the Gulf. As always any visitors will be more than welcome to share in the fun.

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4 comments on “Fishing

  1. Good set of fishing yarns Snox. I liked the bit about the pointy little mountain. Very interesting. Have you read the Compleat Angler by Izaack Walton. Written in 18th century England. It is a must read for a keen angler. Keep well big boy.

    • Yes Allan and Grant, I have read Izaack Walton. The man was a legend. He couldn’t help being a pom. Sometimes even the roughest ground turns up a gem!

  2. I agree Andre you need to take a steer of some of those ENGLISH authors as the fore bearers to your home land they knew a thing or too (Gay as Out Man). Nice to see you have setteled in and are enjoying your self speak soon and give me a bit more notice as i will get you out stalking:)

  3. […] months on the station and enjoyed a lifestyle that is not experienced by too many people. My fishing blog tells of our long weekend of fishing in the Fitzroy […]

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