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Memories Are Made Of This


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MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS

Having to spend some time in hospital recently followed by a
lengthy convalescence at home did very little for my fanatical
passion for fishing. Unable to walk very far, much less hold a
rod or even contemplate fighting a fish made me realize how much
I enjoyed my sport, even relied on it to keep me sane in a world
that seemed to be going mad. Determined to do something,
anything, to keep me in touch with the world of fishing, I
quickly sorted out my pile of magazines and decided to read them
through all over again. Now this was to be quite a daunting
task, because I have purchased just about every copy of every
magazine ever produced that deals with fishing, and some of the
magazines go back to the mid 1970′s!

Digging deep into the bottom of the wardrobe unearthed a huge
pile of reading material, but tucked away in amongst the various
copies of magazines that advertised 18’6 boats for just $8000,
complete with 90 hp motors that looked absolutely prehistoric, I
came across my earliest fishing diaries. No ordinary diaries
these, at least not by today’s standards. These were written
into exercise books, and while the details as to weather
conditions, tide times and so on were all there, these entries
were each written on the actual day of the trip, and brought
back some fabulous memories of years gone by, of places fished
and long forgotten, and of good times and not so good times,
when petrol was cheap, and $20 bought enough fuel to travel a
long way either by boat or by car, and a weekend away was
expensive if it cost more than say $30. As I leafed through the
pages, memories came flooding back as if it was just yesterday
that we had gone fishing. Here was the day where Pete lost a rod
over the side when a massive samson had decided to gather a
souvenir from us……. we had taken the boat out to a reefy
area where we had caught a few snapper the previous week, and
when we eventually found the lump we watched as the stylus
scratched the story of good fish concentrations on the sounder
paper.

Anchoring up and starting a berley trail didn’t take long, and
the first baits to hit the bottom saw us fighting a reasonable
fish each. These turned out to be snapper, about 4kgs each, but
the next time the lines went down it was a different story
altogether. This time the baits didn’t get to the bottom at all,
and while mine broke off on the reef, Pete slugged it out with
what turned out to be a samson in the xos range. In the meantime
we had cast our floating baits out the back of the boat, and as
Pete was lowering fresh bait to the bottom his floater went off
in a big way. He immediately put the bottom rod into a holder,
and tightened the drag to prevent the line going any further and
hurriedly picked up the floater which was losing line at an
alarming rate. He struck hard, and soon had the fish under
control, but then the rod he had left with a bait halfway to the
bottom suddenly started to buck and jig, and with the drag
tightened up something had to give, and it did! The rod broke in
two with a sound like a 12 gauge going off, and Pete turned
round just in time to see rod and reel going over the side. The
day was not a complete disaster however, because we returned to
the marina that afternoon with “four big snapper, best 9kg, two
reasonable blackarse cod and several samson fish to 15kg” this
of course was in the days when several cats and their owners
enjoyed a feed of samson fish. As the pages turned, these trips
from long ago came flooding back, evoking many a chuckle as I
relived those halcyon days when fishing became such a passion
and a pleasure.

The entry for August 4th 1984 is worth reading here in full.
“Location : About 85 degrees off the water tower, 21/2 miles
from shore, in a depth of about 20m, rising to 12m Weather
(actual) S/SE winds at 5-10 knots. Low swell smooth seas Weather
(forecast) Strong wind warning ENE at 20-25knots-this never even
looked like happening!

REPORT After dodging about a bit we found a lump coming up out
of 20m, so we dropped anchor and fired up the berley bucket with
the new mix of minced mulies, bread, chicken oil and pellets,
This dispersed in a good cloud, pellets sinking to the bottom
while the oil and bread caused a good surface slick.. First cast
and Pete got a nice snapper, followed by a small Jewie which was
returned to the water. Then it started – the berley must have
stirred up a school of snapper, because we were getting hookups
on every cast. The bottom rods never got touched, although when
wound in mine had a big squid hanging on to it, and later on
Pete got entangled with a humungous cuttlefish. In the meantime
every mulie cast out the back was getting eaten by snapper. We
tried fishing light lines and small baits and found that
underneath the snapper were some big hungry skippy, ranging from
1/2 to 1kg, but we didn’t keep many because of all the snapper
we had caught. These were all reasonable fish with the biggest
weighing just under 8kg while the smallest we kept would be just
4kg. Bonito turned up as well, and we switched to lures,
accounting for about eight or so, keeping two and releasing the
rest. Total catch. 28 Snapper(kept 12) 1 dhufish(released)18
skippy (most released)1 squid, 1 cuttlefish and a harlequin.
Back home by 5pm, strong wind warning still on the radio but no
breeze at all as I write this at 915pm. What a magic day” About
the only thing left out was that we had actually targeted samson
fish for that day, but none came around and the other surprising
thing was the lack of stingrays which are prevalent in that
area.

A fishing logbook should tell a story, not just the bald facts
of the day. Another way of keeping information is to cut out and
keep the fishing columns from the local press and that way you
can readily refer to any week of the year at a later date, and
compare your own experiences with those published. It is
surprising how often a pattern will emerge so that at certain
times of the year you can plan to fish area x, and be reasonably
certain that a certain species should be in that area at that
time of the year. This strategy is used by most keen fisher folk
of my acquaintance, particularly those who fish out deep for the
pelagics, but it is of equal value for the Mulloway fisherman
that haunts the river and consistently get good results.

Some of the entries in my old log books are worth sharing, not
because we made fantastic catches all the time, but because they
provide information, such as the day we went out looking for the
twelve mile reef – “set off today to look for the 12 mile, and
took a course of 275 – 280 degrees off the sand patch. The
weather was good, long rolling swells but hardly any chop on the
water. After what seemed like an eternity we finally got into
about 40m of water. The bearings we were given could not have
been too accurate because we eventually found ground in 42m
coming up in places to 33/34m so we assumed we had actually
found the 12 mile reef. A couple of drifts only produced
somesergeant bakers, but then Frank got monstered in a big way.
If we had been up north I would have called it for a spaniard.
The fish just didn’t want to give up, and Frank was in all sorts
of trouble with his reel (the reel in question was an old Penn
4/0, not the high speed version), but he managed to get the
beast under some sort of control and brought it boat side. A
huge samson, it must have weighed close to 50lbs, but before we
could gaff it the leader broke, and the last we saw of it was
fining down ever so slowly. Too big for the icebox anyway. We
anchored up and berleyed for a while but apart from the
inevitable skippy and bakers we didn’t get anything else. When
the wind came up at about midday we decided to call it a day,
and headed home.” I seem to remember that the journey home was a
very wet and windy one, and neither of us were impressed because
in those days the 12 mile reef was one of those places where the
fish were so thick they would take a bare hook, or so the story
went, and we had seen for ourselves some of the dhufish and
snapper that club mates had caught from that area in the past.

It must be remembered that in those days all navigation was done
by line of sight and multiple compass bearings, GPS was not even
a gleam in its inventors eye, and the ability to consistently
catch fish depended a great deal on navigation skills, and
returning to port was the same – the coastal landmarks have
changed so much in the last few years that it would be difficult
if not impossible to return to some of the spots we used then
and returning to the marina at night would be a difficult
exercise without the benefit of GPS. The leading lights at the
marina are almost impossible to see against the background of
twinkling street and house lights at nighttime, although it has
to be said that we are fortunate to have fantastic leads in to
another marina not too far up the coast, which makes it the
preferred launching spot for night fishing sorties. Another
entry in the diary for 1985 mentions this fact, when we were
returning from a fishing trip out to Direction Bank and returned
a little later than usual – “as night began to fall we were
confronted with a whole mass of twinkling lights along the
shoreline, and it was not until we were in about 30m (depth)
that we could distinguish the leads -fortunately we weren’t far
off course and got back to the marina with no drama.” This entry
brought back memories of the first time we ever went out at
night, and found out that dhufish really do hunt in the dark!
And that early morning dinghy fishermen without lights are hell
bent on committing suicide as they come out at full throttle and
forget they can’t be seen because they are so low in the water
and then take umbrage because you are returning along their
course, and they forget that 12 – 14 ft tinnies don’t win
arguments with 18’6 and 1 ton of fiberglass boats traveling at
20 knots.

As I leafed through the pages of these old journals one thing
that stood out was that over the years we had consistently
pushed further out to sea, and inshore grounds were left alone,
yet now with soaring fuel prices putting a brake on long range
fishing activity, could it be that the old inshore grounds would
have regenerated sufficiently to once again sustain angling
pressure? Some months later I determined to find out, and set
off early one morning to try and find some of the old spots that
we had fished all those years ago. Landmarks had changed of
course, where once there was a track in the sand dunes there was
now a suburban road – but an old water tower was still standing,
and the wreck hadn’t moved, (although it seemed to have shrunk a
bit,) and before long the outline of the bottom seemed to take
on a familiar shape and right on cue out of the depths rose a
pinnacle to within 10m of the surface. Quickly marking its
position on the GPS we worked out a drift line then set the
anchor so that we would come to rest close to the top of the
reef. Berley working, lines out, coffee on the go – perfect,
just like the old days….. And just like the old days a reel
began to sing, and a rod to bend, and before long a small but
legal snapper lay in the icebox. He was joined in due course by
a nice King George Whiting, and several other species of fish
including a rather pretty harlequin fish of brag about
proportions. All too soon the sea breeze made fishing
uncomfortable, and what the heck we had a good feed of fish
anyway, and being so close to home we could even get a glimpse
at the footy on the telly with a bit of luck. The fuel pump told
the story best of all however, instead of pumping $60 or more
into the tank, we only had to find $23.50 between us.

Without reading the old logbooks that trip would not have
happened, nor would subsequent trips which still proved
worthwhile in dollars spent and fish caught. Best of all though
it meant that the inshore ground that everyone passed over on
their way “out there” were still in pretty good shape, and if
fished carefully would last maybe another 10 or 15 or 20 years,
providing my kids and their kids with some of the joy that I
have had, fishing from my boat. Yes there are lots of good
reasons for keeping a logbook / diary, but best of all when you
are old and gray you can look back on those good/ bad days and
tell stories to those who will listen about the days when
fishing was fishing and the sea was clean and clear, before
pollution reared its head and we all got bound up in red tape
and bureaucracy was a word you never heard of. Who can tell if
the fishing will decline as the experts predict, or maybe if we
don’t meddle with nature too much things will adjust and we may
still have some pretty good fishing to do right here on our
doorstep. One thing is for sure though, if you keep a logbook or
a diary, you will always have your memories of days well spent,
of tight lines, smiles of happiness and tears of frustration.
but best of all it will help keep you sane in a world that
(sometimes) seems to have gone mad.

Author: Hugh McTavish, http://www.fishingforarecipe.bravehost.com

© Copyright 2005 by Hugh McTavish, all rights reserved worldwide

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  • Posted On August 11, 2006
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