Saga of an unsuccessful fisherman
  |  First Published: December 2007

We always hear and see stories from the experts and successful anglers. But here is my story, the tale of a thoroughly unsuccessful but enthusiastic fisherman.

I don’t always get a chance to go out fishing but when I do I always believe I will come home with a decent catch of fish that will make my wife stop laughing at my sad fishing tales.

The last time I went fishing was last holidays. We were staying at Yamba in northern New South Wales and I had noticed the appropriately named Whiting Beach. I had all the right gear, fresh sand worms for bait and a good tide so I felt that I would be set for a fruitful afternoon.

Well, the beach was aptly named but the only trouble was that the whiting were all small, very small and nowhere near the ‘keeper’ size. By late afternoon I was naturally frustrated having walked the length of the beach in search for that one big fish. I was down to the last piece of worm and as I resolutely stood my ground hoping for a bite. Suddenly the line went taut and the rod bent. I’d seen that all before, even when the catch was a small fish. This time there was something different about the way this fish fought.

I gently eased the fish towards the shore and I could see that this was a fish worth keeping. It was legal! I started walking back up the beach to land this prize and with great delight I saw it in the shallows of the beach. Just then, disaster struck. As I pulled the fish on shore a huge fish hawk swooped out of the trees behind me, caught the fish in its talons and flew off leaving me standing there with a bent rod until the line snapped. That was it; I packed up and went home to the usual scorn from my wife. It was different this time, she could not pay out on me because, as I told the story, she was rolling uncontrollably on the floor. Instead of getting sympathy I got laughter.

After that debacle I decided to try my luck again recently but this time I would be prepared. Preparation for another expedition would be the basis for success! I got out my rod and gave it a good wash down and ensured that everything was in good condition. I gave the reel a good clean and made sure that there were no problems with the line. It was starting to be a little rough but I could get away with it this time. I prepared the rig, light sinker and long trace with red tubing above the long shank hook. I started to tie the hook onto the line and because, as my wife says I’m an awkward left-hander, my hand slipped as I was tightening the knot and ended up with the barb stuck in my finger. After stemming the flow of blood and applying a band aid I decided to rig up a soft plastic or two in case I wanted to try for a flathead. This proved difficult with the large bandaid on my finger but I succeeded.

I had arranged to take a mate with me. Up until recently he detested fishing but he had broken the news that he had just purchased a rod and reel.

The great day dawned and I picked up my mate and set off. On the way the Bribie Island I told him about the great bloodworms we would buy for bait. We pulled up in front of the bait shop and were greeted with a sign: “Sorry, no live worms”. I could sense another disaster. We ended up buying some ‘fresh’ prawns. But these things must have been fresh when caught and certainly wern’t now.

We drove to Red Beach, a place where I have had some limited success in the past. Having parked the car we trudged through the sand to the beach. What a sight! The shoreline was a mass of seaweed and there were large dark patches of more weed just off shore. The tide was making so I knew we could enjoy more weed on the lines. To top it off the wind was blowing straight onto the beach.

We decided to give it a go and we went to separate parts of the beach and started fishing. No bites, no nothing but somehow I kept losing my bait. I had just cast out again and looked across at my mate. He was watching another group of people fishing near him and he did not seem to notice that his rod tip was bending. Suddenly he realised he had a fish and proceeded to pull in a good size summer whiting. I can’t say he caught it because I think the fish had already decided on committing suicide.

Anyway, I congratulated him loudly and went back to fishing while silently cursing him under my breath. Then it happened, a nibble then another and I was on. After a short battle I landed another whiting. This poor thing must have been looking for its mother because it was so small. I returned it gently to the water. Next cast I got another touch and again landed a small whiting. Was it the same one again or was this a relative? Well, I spared this one’s life as well.

Things went quiet until I felt another nice bite. I had this one well and truly hooked and when I landed this ‘monster’ I realised it was the smallest tailer I had ever seen. The poor thing was only 5cm long. How it had got the prawn in its mouth I will never know.

That was it, time to move. We set off for another spot I knew and quickly caught two undersize bream. The only other bites we got were from the sand flies. We packed up and went home, my mate with his trophy first fish and me with nothing.

I got home and knew what to expect. I was not disappointed because out came all the old jokes about having the fry pan ready, how we would now starve and what a true champion of fishing I was. To top it off my mate’s wife rang and bragged about how clever a fisherman her husband was.

Well, I am still not giving up. I will return and next time I will bring home a bag full. In the absence of past history all I have left is my self-belief and confidence that one day things will go my way. - Robbo

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