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Cracking the code
  |  First Published: November 2014



There are days when catching fish seems the easiest thing to do in the world. There are other days when it seems like it's not the easiest thing in the world.

I can't say the hardest thing in the world, because that would mean it's more difficult than finding an honest politician, or a ref that doesn't dud the Cowboys. And it's obviously easier to catch fish as a Dudd than find a decent ref who doesn't make sure South Sydney wins. And now the Sydney press are happy their Sydney teams have won the Sydney comp, I mean the NRL… anyway, I'm going off the track.

The scene was set beautifully. Exactly the same conditions we'd hit nearly 12 months ago. Run-in tide, shadows lengthening on the flat water as the sun dropped behind the scrubby headland, occasional flop of a baitfish as it tried to avoid something hunting in the mangroves, the odd turtle poking its head out... well, we'd eaten a heavy curry for lunch.

Twelve months ago, there'd been fish everywhere – golden snapper (fingermark), jacks, a couple of barra over or around the 1m mark and a few bust-offs – nothing into our boat, of course, but into old mate's next door. He hadn't been all that happy when we'd pulled up right beside him, but then he'd started to pull in the fish big time and forgot about us. Too bad we didn't get a scale. But we'd seen him in action, and although we'd caught not very much at all, we knew now that we'd cracked the code. And by that I mean old mate in the boat beside us had cracked the code, and if we came back we'd clean up big time. How hard could it be?

Turns out it was harder than a giant hard thing. We'd schemed for almost a year to get back up to our Central Queensland spot. I'd even sent my ‘worse’ half away on a cruise, knowing she'd be coming back to a big surprise. And some fish in the freezer too.

The tide was almost the same, although last time it had been a good run, this time we needed a 12oz snapper sinker to keep a livey on a sandbank. The wind that we'd cursed months ago was now gone, and the sandies and mozzies moved in. Last time, they'd only been able to grab some flesh as they blew past at 30 knots; now they were able to settle, push the off! aside, and get stuck right in. Skipper looked like a piebald horse as a mass of shifting insects moved across his face. Boobies hunkered down over his cigar, hoping the fumes would send the pesky little varmints away. It didn't. They seemed to like a bit of an extra challenge, like a lion keeps a zebra alive for a bit of fun. Except a lion doesn't take as much blood out of its prey as those beggars took out of us.

And all the while, those damn lines stayed slack, those ratchets kept silent, those drags refused to protest. All we could hear was a constant irritating whine, rising into a bell ringing pitch as even more insects bore down on us like a plague from an Old Testament judgement day. So Boobies and I told Skipper to shut up. Unfortunately, we could then hear the insects, so we told him to start whining again, which he did.

Despite the horrendous conditions, we toughed it out. Other less dedicated anglers might have headed in to the safety of an air-conditioned rental, but not us. We had spent a year planning this, not to mention some serious coin, so we were prepared to stick it out for as long as it took.

It took about 8 minutes by my watch, at which point Boobies made an executive decision to head back to the ramp. Although I would have liked to stay longer, my skin didn't, given it was now thicker than a rhino's rear, and lumpier.

Our usual post mortems on the trip back were not up to their usual standard. The sound of scratching made it hard to hear each other. But over the 8-hour trip we decided it wasn't us or our methods that had failed. It was the fish. They clearly didn't know what the hell they were supposed to be doing. Next time though, we knew they'd be doing the right thing, and we'd clean up, for sure.

So that's all I've got to say about that!

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