Diehards rule
  |  First Published: July 2004

COLD mornings, numb bums and frozen hands, that’s what this month is all about.

Only the real diehards get up in the early mornings to fish at this time of the year. It’s not that the fish aren’t there, it’s just the cold.

Screaming flat-stick across a waterway in a boat, the wind is so cold you need somewhere to hide your face and your hands are nearly frozen on to the tiller.

The fishing has really slowed around Newcastle and my regular sources are saying it’s terrible. Hopefully by the time you read this it will have picked up.

Instead of saying the fish are thick and all the regular hoo-ha, I will tell you a few little things I have seen over the Winter months and share a few other things with you.

We fishing writers don’t know everything, nor have we seen everything, but most of us have a good history around the water and have learnt a lot. We do a job for the community and, don’t forget, all the info comes from a range of people – friends, neighbours, tackle shops and the like. It isn’t just what we think up at the time!

I worked on the water for eight years as an oysterman’s offsider and also on the snapper farms offshore, where we would spend two to three days at sea living on the boat.

On the oysters we had little choice as to what times we were out putting trays on the racks; the tide determined that.

When the low was at 3am or 5am, the chill factor was sometimes almost unbearable. Even with the stacks of trays to hide behind, the cold was at times bone-shattering.

There were times when I would see a boat full of anglers in the twilight hours and the crew would be there with gloves on, drinking from thermoses and looking as if they weren’t really enjoying themselves.

We used to pull up sometimes to see if the frozen fishermen had caught anything. At times a few would say, “No fish, but it’s the best time to be out on the water, the foggy sunrises are a must to see.”

Yes, some mornings the sunrises were really awe-inspiring, but what really got me was most of the fishermen that were out on the worst of the mornings said, “Hey, we just love being out here and the fish are really a bonus.” That’s what I call diehards.

On the snapper farm, Winter was a different ball game. With a little swell and slop you got very wet and shivered uncontrollably but you had to keep working anyway. Sometimes around 3am you would see boats heading offshore fish their favourite reefs before sunup! Is it something we are born with or do we grow a love for this sort of thing?

At nearly 40 years old, I have backed down my fishing a little so I can enjoy it more. That’s not to say I don’t go out fishing on wet mornings any more but I try to work the tides and lunar cycle and keep an eye on the schools of travelling bream, tuna, tailor and such. When the time is right and the fish are on, I get as diehard as the next bloke.

I sometimes am told, “Yeah, but it’s all right for you, you get told where all the best spots are and when the fishing is really red-hot!” I won’t lie and say it doesn’t help, but I’ve also passed on as much info as I can to you through these pages.

As for just shooting out there to see the sunrise, well, I’ve seen my share and firmly believe that for me, catching fish is a must, not just a bonus. I like to catch fish, even if I do let some go – catching fish is the aim when I leave the boat ramp, no matter how cold or wet it is.

As you can tell, the activity on the water at this time of year has really slowed and there isn’t much to report but don’t despair, I am sure over the coming months the fishing will get better.

I am on the move into the heart of Newcastle to be closer to the Hunter River, where I have fished for more than 20 years. Coming from the Northern Territory to the eastern seaboard at first wasn’t easy, the fishing was nothing like I was used to and, like a new kid at school, I had to learn the fishing was what I made it.

My love for the water and fishing reaches far beyond making a dollar, so I guess I’m still a diehard at heart.

No 1

Although the mornings and nights are freezing, the days are warmer and the salmon are fun on light lines from the beach.

No 2

Time to put on the beanie and gloves: A typical sunset over heavy industry on the Hunter River.

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