.In Australia, we do not have to invent tall stories about fishing, such as the catfish that swam away with a whole wharf with boats attached. All our stories are true!
Consider my first fishing adventure. My parents and I used to spend the weekends fishing in the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney. Now the Hawkesbury River is similar to the Sydney Harbour, but bigger. It is a series of drowned river valleys that are open to the sea. This means there are lots of those things that starred in Jaws.
Before pollution laws needed to be invented (and, as a consequence conservationists, Greenies and nuisances like that popped up via Spontaneous Generation), all the waters and beaches were pristinely clear. The centres of all the drowned valleys were shallow, sandy (due to the ubiquitous sandstone in this region) areas were you could paddle and swim relatively safely, as long as you kept a weather eye out for sharks.
So picture this Idyllic Blue Lagoon scene with parents in the fishing boat and myself swimming around in clear water over gold sands on a very sunny Sunday.
All of a sudden (pause for Jaws’ music), a long shark like shape circled me in the water. Shrieks from parents in boat were followed by a forceful grabbing of self into the boat. When the panic died down and the parents stopped having hysterical meltdowns, we looked at “Jaws”.
Jaws was not a shark but a very large mullet. Mullet is Australia’s answer to US bass. This particular mullet was behaving very strangely, so I bravely dived back into the water to investigate him (my intrepid Woofess’ traits were showing, even then). He kept swimming around in circles and we concluded he was “sanded”. This happens when fish venture into shallow water and get sand in their innards. It must do something to their navigation equipment, because they go quite bonkers. Anyhow, I paddled up to this massive mullet and caught him in my hands. I wanted to chuck him out into deeper water but the parents had those glazed looks in their eyes, indicative of “Grilled fish and salad for dinner sounds nice, so I concluded that this was an abortive gesture. I sighed heavily and tossed the mullet into the boat.
He was very tasty, though.
Now, how many of you wannabe fishing folk have caught a giant fish in your bare hands?!!!!
My second adventure occurred when I was 15 (never mind when that was, as it is NOT essential to the story!). I had flown to Tasmania to visit my family over Christmas. They decided on a fishing trip to Lewisham. Lewisham is north of Hobart and is a large calm coastal inlet -relatively shallow, with lots of sandy shallow water areas. These sandy patches are spattered with giant iridescent blue starfish, which if you weren’t careful, you stepped on with a resultant squish of yellow starfish roe or innards everywhere – ugh!
The “men” (brother, brother in law and his male offspring) had hired a boat. The “men” decided that no women were allowed to travel in the boat, as women were useless fishermen. The men strutted off with serious expressions and boarded the boat with all the serious fishermen gear, while we females were left stranded on the beach with a couple of hand lines and the remains of the Christmas lunch (baked turkey and ham).
Fish must like roast turkey and ham, because in a couple of hours we caught over 4 dozen fish off the beach- flathead, mullet, whiting and flounder. I know we caught 11 flounder because my small niece insisted she ate 23 flounder eyes. At the time we were mystified as to how she managed to eat 23 eyes from 11 fish. We decided that.one flounder must have been a genuine Tasmanian one with 3 eyes ;)-. Oh and yes we also caught a couple of gummy sharks. At that time, gummy sharks had not been invented for use in “fish and chips” and so were only used as bait.
Three hours later, the men returned. We eagerly looked in their boat. If we had caught so many from the beach, they MUST have caught lots in the boat.
The boat was empty.
The “men” asked us if we had caught anything. We showed them our catch.
No words have ever been spoken between the “men” and us about our catch. In fact, we do not mention that trip to Lewisham in mixed family company.
My next fishing adventure was with my soon-to-be husband and one of his technical officers (TO). The TO was a devout and serious fisherman. He took us miles into the wilds of the Northern Territory (well OK.50 mile up the main road!!) to do REAL fishing with fishing rods. Neither Spouse nor I had ever used a rod before, so TO had to give us a lesson on casting. Spouse’s first cast caused the line hook and sinker to fly backwards and catch some of the bait we were to use to catch the live fish in the river. My first cast flipped sideways and the hook caught the TO in a very delicate part of his anatomy. He swore and screamed a lot.
The Spouse had better luck with his next cast. It actually went into the river. Not only that, but the something grabbed the hook! Very excited, the Spouse reeled in his line. It was big and black! It had to be a monster of a barramundi!
Alas when it surfaced, it was found to be a well-rotted shoe (yes, I know the old proverbial about catching boots, but this was not a boot and I did not make this up! You find all sorts of things in the waterways in the Northern Territory, including dead bodies. It is a relief just to hook a shoe 😉
Having not caught any fish, which apparently was the object of the exercise, the TO gave up on trying to teach us and went to bait his own hook. Unfortunately my dog had taken the opportunity given by the TO, whilst resurrecting his injured dangly bits, to eat what was left of the bait. We went home – in silence.*sigh*
Undefeated, the Spouse and I were determined to catch a fish in the Northern Territory. I succeeded – years later
I cast my hand line into a section of the Katherine River where there were rapids and caught a lovely big black bream. I threw him back though. It was an accident and not real fishing. He swam into my hook as he swam down the rapids.
The Spouse still has not caught a fish and is now turning his attention to catch some gold in our backyard with a metal detector instead 😉