Are you a fishing snob?
  |  First Published: June 2004

I WAS watching people on the wharf the other day, as I always do when I'm doing a little maintenance or washing down after a charter, and came to the realisation that there is an excessive amount of snobbery among the fishing fraternity.

The people I had in focus on this particular occasion were a young family – Mum, Dad and the two kids. They had bought some cheap little rods, a bag of prawns and were all sampling the delights of fishing for the first time together. Mum and Dad were pretending to know what they were doing but it was pretty evident that they were only one chapter ahead of Johnny and Jenny. However, the enthusiasm they all had was contagious and suddenly I found myself drawn into their anticipation of a strike and the sight of the delicate little rod bent over and quivering as a fish took the bait.

It was Jenny's rod that had the first strike but it was like they all felt it simultaneously. Suddenly the kids were squealing in delight and Mum and Dad were exercising remarkable self-control not to actually take the rod for themselves. Young Johnny was suddenly the cool expert and was trying to give his big sister instructions like he had seen on Rex Hunt. Mum and Dad were trying really hard not to contradict him, or each other, and Jenny was basically oblivious to them all – after all, she had a fish at the end of the line and that delicate little rod with the very light line was transmitting every movement of the fish into her fingertips. It may have been instinct or it may have been that she had really paid attention when watching Mr Hunt, or someone else, land a fish – she sure was doing it right.

I would guess she was nine years old and this was her first fish but she was lifting the rod with a steady pressure and winding as she lowered the tip, pausing only when the fish made a suddenly more energetic attempt to escape. By some stroke of luck, the drag was set perfectly for the gear and the size of fish and when he struggled that little bit harder he took some line.

But Jenny's steady pressure was the winning factor and after a respectable struggle the fish was landed, to the great delight of the whole family. Little Johnny, in particular, was so proud of his sister, so much so that it took at least a minute before he realised he had to get back to his own rod if he was going to experience the thrill for himself.

A few minutes later the whole family was once again focused on a single unifying objective, to catch another fish together.

While I was watching all this, a few things crossed my mind. Prawn bait, small hooks, last of the run-out tide, fairly clear water, sunshine – hmmm, what could it be? Bream, little pinkie, tarwhine? No, I reckon a little trevally, yep, a trevally. Now let’s see, here it comes ... oh, bummer, only a sweep.

Did the fact that it was ‘only a sweep’ detract from this family's pleasure? Not on your life.

So where did I get the idea that it was a ‘bummer’?

I guess it's because I'm constantly fishing in a competitive (albeit friendly) environment. Charter operators and their customers often compare their catches and certain fish have a higher status rating than others, usually depending on the size, fighting qualities, frequency and edibility (this last criteria is very subjective – some people have very unusual and selective tastes).

Unfortunately, some operators have let this fish snobbery cloud their perception as to why they are out fishing with paying customers, to the extent where they actually refuse to let their customers keep fish that are not of sufficient status, even though the fish is within Fisheries guidelines and is good to eat. And some operators even go so far as to belittle the catch.

I'm sure if these few blinkered operators had seen the family on the wharf and had observed closely the interaction and bonding created by the capture of that one little sweep, they would probably rethink their approach to what fishing is really all about.

Sure, I'm addicted to the challenge of catching the bigger, more ‘meritorious’ fish and learning all the strategies required to achieve that goal but I hope I never lose the simple delight of being under the open sky with good people and just fishing for the simple time out and relaxation therapy it brings.

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