Teach a man (or daughter) to fish…

Dave Blog 4 - Shark Bay Twilight


I am mindful from the gracious feedback that Kim has received about the blog that many who are digitally dropping in on our adventure do so primarily to read the sage and honest mothering and life advice that my dearly beloved offers in her every post. This probably means that I will be at something of a cross-purpose (or perhaps just downright irrelevant) if I use this forum to start banging out stanzas on how incredible the fishing is over here, complete with detailed technical information about rigs, target species and localities.

So maybe I will try a different approach – trying to capture, in words, some of the more ethereal aspects of the pastime that Kim has often referred to as the ‘other woman’ in my life. I might add that such attempts have previously failed dismally in moving the needle even a fraction with Kim, although perhaps that is because it has occurred in the context of me seeking a leave pass approval for ‘not another fishing trip’.

Fishing has been a passion of mine since I could barely walk. Apart from a brief hiatus during my teen years, it has also been a constant presence. When I travelled around Australia with a mate as an 18-year-old, it would not be much of an overstatement to say that the search for the next fishing spot (made all the more difficult by the fact that we were boat-less) propelled me forward like a sail in a stiff trade wind.

At the risk of torturing a cliché, I think I can honestly say that the actual catching of fish is no longer my primary objective. No doubt it still matters. But, it also doesn’t. At least not for reasons that fall into the category of bragging rights, chest beating, or proof-of-manhood. I think that an early morning session during our time at Monkey Mia makes a reasonable case-in-point. The day got off to an epic start when Kim rolled over in our luscious cloud-like bed in the van and gently roused me, saying, ‘Dave. It’s morning. You’d better wake up. Aren’t you going fishing?’ I know I’m biased, but can I just say as an aside, WHAT A WOMAN!

Rushing barefoot the short distance from the van to the beach, my veins pulsed with a giddy anticipation that never seems to dilute, even after many hundreds (thousands?) of similar outings. With energy reserves that are somehow absent at the same early hour on a work day, I pushed my little vessel out into the breathlessly calm water and drifted for half a moment before yanking the start cord on the weathered old outboard, which sputtered to life with the comfortingly familiar smell of 2-stroke.

With only me onboard, the boat effortlessly rose to the plane and I was soon skimming across a mauve mirrored surface. Even before the first slither of the rising sun had crested the horizon, I was overcome (in retrospect, seeing how silly it sounds, I’m going to stick to such a description from which involuntariness can be inferred) with the desire to yell with joy at the top of my lungs. And so I did. No one around to hear it, so why not? Certainly can’t do that amidst the frenetic pace of a Phillip Street morning on the way to another day in court.  

After a fifteen minute or so run (equivalent to about half a kilometre on Military Road in the T3 Lane during rush hour), I cut the motor and began fishing. Not much happened at first. That seemed, somehow, like the way it should be. Then, at around the time when the morning sun was bright enough to warrant digging amongst the strewn pile of gear for my polarized sunnies, my rod doubled over and the line began to evaporate off my spinning reel. I instantly knew this was a good fish. Still gets my heart thumping as solidly as it ever has. Slowly, and with a palpable mixture of calmness and excitement, I worked the wild creature on the end of my line to the boat. It appeared in the translucent water about 15 metres off the boat’s stern and revealed itself to be what, in NSW at least, would be classed as a near-trophy pink snapper. At that otherwise crucial moment, it was unnecessary to grapple with questions of life and death as the current closed season on the species in Eastern Shark Bay to preserve this precious resource called for a release without removing the fish from the water. That still gave me the opportunity to marvel, through the lens of the glistening water’s surface, the iridescent pink, purple and neon blue markings on the fish; to snap a couple of photos that would prove wholly inadequate in capturing same; and to temporarily feel its sheer strength pulsing through the tail wrist before it gave a sharp kick and swam back to the depths from which it came.    

DaveBlog4 - Shark Bay Pink Snapper
Shark Bay Pink Snapper

To many, this might all sound like utter bullshit. (Kim, who read this entry after I finished writing it – commented when she got about halfway through the preceding paragraph, ‘Now you’re starting to crap on about fishing a bit.’) For those who so designate, I only hope that a comparable, albeit perhaps completely different, connection with the natural world can be (or better still, has already been) discovered through other means. For me, it was another beautiful reminder that I am part of a living world that has been made in an expression of infinite creativity, and entrusted to us fallible humans to steward.

It is probably completely unsurprising that I have sought to fan the flame of my fishing passion with both Olivia and Mia. It remains to be seen whether the embers will catch. Already, it has been interesting to note how they are expressing at least some level of what I choose to interpret as genuine interest in completely different ways. Olivia has become quite adept at tieing flies. Not only is she quite proud (and rightly so) of her own designs but is diligent in quizzing me as to what species of fish I think her hooked inventions will be most likely to fool. Mia, on the other hand, most loves the physical combat of battling a fish (even if it is only a 20cm bream). She wants to turn the handle of the reel against strain and feel the bend in the rod. Upon landing a fish, she is ever keen to touch its scales and even eyeballs! I have told them both, perhaps setting the bar unrealistically high, that a goal for me on this trip is to help each of them to land a fish approximating their own size. Watch this space for news of success or failure (assuming, of course, that Kim permits me to pen another blog on fishing).   

Dave Blog 4 - Morning Wake on Shark Bay
Morning wake on Shark Bay

That leads me nicely to an important postscript. In the months leading up to the trip I anticipated that a likely Achilles heel of our adventure would be too much persistent nagging by me to go fishing, and the correlated impact that would have on Kim’s sanity. Turns out that hasn’t been even the slightest problem (at least so far… touch wood). Nope, what turns out to be a far more potent Kimbo Kryptonite is the driving of long distances where not much happens for hours on end. Perhaps she will try to articulate her state of mental acuity during these ‘travel days’ in her own blog, but I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to detail one particular example of the evident temporary insanity she is enduring. Yesterday, the decision was made to crash at a motel room upon our return to Exmouth, rather than the frankly uninviting prospect of setting up the van in the late evening. I entrusted the job of booking appropriate accommodation to my reluctant wing-woman. She proceeded to do so by way of an online booking on her iPhone. Having successfully done so, she even bragged to the girls that she had found a place to stay with an indoor pool. Yippee! It wasn’t until we were nearing Learmonth airport, when Kim, seemingly reanimated by the prospect of coming back into mobile reception, blurted out, ‘Oh no. I’ve booked (and fully paid for) a hotel room in Exmouth… in the UK!’

It didn’t take long to see the humour in this 21st century travel faux pas, and I couldn’t resist at least a gentle probe into how it had come to pass that my limitlessly talented wife had booked a lovely BnB called ‘Devonshire’ for our family to stay in tonight on the other side of the planet! Even in her frazzled state, Kim joined me in fits of laughter and conceded, somewhat sheepishly, that she should have heard alarm bells when the tariff (which was great value, I might add) was quoted in pounds rather than the good old Aussie dollar. Needless to say, Kim has now firmly resolved that all future accommodation reservations will be by way of that arcane communication method – an actual telephone call.

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