He was an interesting character – old rugby top tucked into antique jeans – jeans that were gathered at the waist in such a way as to suggest that he was once a larger man or that he didn’t buy his clothes with any degree of care. The legs were tucked into white Wellington boots. The overall effect was topped off with a heavy dusting of fish scales. He sparkled in certain angles of early morning light.
He introduced himself with the famous line, ”Just park over there, but not under the light. The pelicans will shit to cover your car.”.
Right then and there, I knew we were going to catch fish. You see, when you are fishing, like in marketing, nothing beats good sound local knowledge.
And the prediction proved to be quite true – in 4 hours, we’d modestly bagged 20 Whiting, two big Leather Jackets, a Tommy Ruff, a Flat Head and a 5 Band Coral Fish – all delicious profit for fun.
And I was right , it was local knowledge that did it.
Years ago I had caught fish off the coast of Kangaroo Island. A couple of kids took us out in a tinnie. We cruised out several hundred metres and with surf reels on short boat rods we dropped a line over the side. It seemed like ages before the tap-sized lump of lead hit the ocean floor. And I settled in for the long fisherman’s wait.
A few minutes later, I learnt the first secret of ‘real’ fishing If the fish don’t bite, move on. We had waited less time than it took to wind the lines back in again. And we were off to a place they called Elephant’s Arse. They explained that the Whiting grounds were all mapped by trigonometry. Their grandfather had mapped them all out in a sketchbook they showed us later. This part of the coast had not changed for 60 years. He returned to these spots by lining up land marks on the far left and lining others up on the right and projecting the lines across the water. We fished where they intersected. Hence the reference to the Elephant’s Arse from the shape of the large rock and tree combination used to locate the spot to fish.
Even our fish scale covered guide today used trig points to find his favourite spots. That, a GPS and a sonar fish finder. Things had changed a little, except the fact that he too never let us stop in one area for more than 5 minutes without a bite.
Now I mentioned marketing before, and as I stood on the back of the boat waiting for a nibble (or a jerk at both ends as Robert Hughes describes it) I watched the other charter boats out in the bay. Like Advertising agencies, each has it’s clients on deck kitted out with the stuff we give them, fishing for a result.
Some boats were big impressive looking things with aerials, fly bridges and foredecks. Others like ours were fast little runabouts with big outboards and wise heads at the wheel.
When we asked if he ever desired a bigger boat, the reply was an emphatic ‘no’.
“I like the agility of this one. I like the way it is quick into position. Quick to anchor, Quick to move on if the fish don’t bite. The other thing is I can place it very accurately over the valleys and gullies where the fish live. The big boats can’t react anywhere near as quickly when the fish are biting.”
”There’s more people on board to share your catch with. ”
”And they are bloody expensive to run…” he added as he ground another Razorfish under his white rubber heel. Tossing the resulting slimy mess over the side to attract more Whiting he concluded, ”It is more fun on a small boat.”.
As we cruised back past one of the larger charters, I noticed its name was Rubicon, and the analogy between fishing charter boats and advertising agencies was complete.
The Whiting we caught was delicious with a little butter, white wine and lemon.