Somewhere on the far south coast lies a rock. More accurately, a headland. It stands and presides over a long white beach, it is regularly lashed by wild winds and waves that roll in from the southern ocean. On the other side of the rock a small south coast estuary trickles out into the vast pacific ocean. To most people, this rock and its surrounds would simply be a nice place. There are a lot of nice places. To most people the rock, while beautiful, wouldn’t be special. To me the rock is a special. Its one of the most special places in the world.
Its not its outward beauty that makes it special. It is a beautiful place. Its the memories that me and the rock share. The rock has been with me throughout my life. I first met the rock as a toddler. Dad used to take me there. The rock was dads favourite fishing spot. I spent many hours entertaining myself on that rock or back at the campsite when dad and his fishing buddies had gone out fishing before dawn and left me in the tent to get some sleep. I learnt to make fires by the rock, to be independent. Thats one of the reasons the rock is a special place.
Its also where I learnt to fish. I caught my first fish on lure on that rock as a 5 or 6 year old. It was on my own rod, a kmart rod of dubious quality. The lure was a duplo man dad had brought along for me to entertain myself when I got bored of fishing. Entertain myself I did, probably not in the way dad had expected. After watching a few guys pulling in salmon after salmon on metal slugs I let my childish mind do what it did best. Come up with a solution. I tied a sinker on, then the duplo man and finally a hook and then proceeded to cast it into the wash. It worked. I landed a bunch of salmon on it (probably with dads help) before it was retired. That duplo man is still somewhere in dads fishing stuff, that duplo man is part of the reason the rock is so special.
For me fishing and the rock go hand in hand. Its a place I have done so much of my fishing. A place where I have learnt so much. A place of memories. It was from that rock that I decided to catch my first luderick as a youngster. Dad and Al (dads fishing buddy) were hauling in salmon after salmon. I joined for a while before setting my sights on catching one of the vegetarian fish milling in a big school just off the rock. I spent hours and hours trying to catch one of those fish. I collected some weed, experimented with presentations and finally succeeded. It had taken hours, but I had done it. I ended up catching half a dozen before I went back to catching salmon. That stubborn streak I have when it comes to fishing started on the rock. The stubborn streak that often sees me turn away from easy quarry to chase something new (often without the faintest idea of what I’m doing). I have spent many many hours on or near the rock trying to new things, struggling and finally after many hours sometimes succeeding. My first whiting on popper came behind the rock in the estuary and was once a again was me pitting my stubborn streak against fish that didn’t really want to play ball. Lee and Graz were chasing flathead on plastics. I decided to chase whiting on popper. Four hours into the session, they had both cracked double digits, with a few trevally and bream thrown in to boot. I had caught nothing. I kept popping. Four and a half hours in I succeeded. It was September, the water temp was 14 degrees. I later learnt thats not the time to be chasing whiting on popper, but my stubbornness had paid off. Later that weekend it paid even bigger dividends. My pb whiting, 51cm to the fork, came on popper the day after. Sometimes stubbornness and persistence pays off. Only sometimes.
Those aren’t the most special memories though. The most special memories aren’t special memories as such, at least to other people, they are just memories of time spent in a place. Memories of time spent with people. Memories of quality time spent with dad, with dads fishing buddies ,with my fishing buddies, with good friends. Memories of drinking wine and cheese while watching sunset, rums at midnight, cooking an impromptu lunch on a driftwood fire, eating chocolate, being wet and cold, camping under the stars. Memories of near disasters, of stupidity, like being washed off the rock (twice) as a brash teenager. Memories of uneventful days, sunrises, sunsets, conversations. Memories of being in nature, of schools of salmon being chased by dolphins, whales breaching just fifty meters from the rock, watching sea eagles dive down and struggle off with fish they are barely strong enough to carry. I’ve spent a lot of quality time at the rock. Thats why its special, its not just a place. It feels like home.
I know mum and dad feel the same way about the area. Four years ago they moved to Eden. Eden is not far from the rock. They love it down there, for them, it really is home. When they moved there they bought a house and dad bought a boat, both of which opened new horizons to explore, facilitated different ways of being in and experiencing an old place (espressos before sunrise are a nice way to start any days fishing and sure beats the instant coffee of the old days). Like most good things, that old place can never get “old”, no matter how much time I spend there it always brings me something new. Each visit, each day, each hour. It is constantly changing, constantly revealing new parts of itself. Since then I’ve been quickly accumulating new memories, new experiences. Adding to and enriching the memories that me and the rock share. Feeling like my arms will fall off before 830am after catching kingfish after kingfish, crazy bonito sessions off the rocks, watching dad surpass me as a lure fisherman (fly fishing exclusively for two years hasn’t done much for my skills with a spin rod, that stubborn streak again), watching whales, dolphins and all manner of life doing their thing in the oceans. Time spent with family, time spent with friends, time spent cooking, eating and drinking. Weddings, kids, dogs, parties. Some more stupid stuff, falling in off some different rocks, sending one hundred people down a steep goat track in the dark after a chaotic new years party (sorry Dan). For me there isn’t any place in the world as special as the far south coast. It feels like home.
I recently visited the folks. Some friends joined us. It had been too long, it was so good to be back. This was originally meant to be a fishing report until I started on a tangent sparked by that thought. It isn’t really a fishing report anymore. We spent the week doing all manner of things, many of them were fishing related many of them weren’t. On the fishing front, the kingfish watching was sublime. There were acres of kingfish on the surface feeding on sardine fry for a few days. We didn’t manage to catch any, but the watching was good in and of itself. Being in the middle of back to back kingfish, most over a meter, cruising under and around the boat was just amazing. Watching the orgy of activity that follows such an occurrence similarly so. Gannets, seals, fairy penguins all pigging out, all frantically trying to make the most of an impermanent bounty that could disappear at any moment. Aside from that we caught more than enough fish, squid and abalone for dinner and generally had a ball. Even though the fishing wasn’t great, it is always good to be fishing. It wasn’t just a fishing trip though, and the non fishing was wonderful. Spending time with Em and Ps 18 month old Eli, spending time with friends, 630am whiskeys on the boat, dogs walks on the beach, communal dinners by the pizza oven, falling asleep with the good sort of exhaustion 15 minutes into a movie. Boardgames, saunas, jumping in and out of the freezing pool. It was good to be home.
While I was down there I made sure I visited the rock. I was alone. A calm came over me. I watched sunrise. I had a few casts of the fly rod. There was nowhere in the world I would have preferred to be. We spent a good four or so hours together before I went back to make myself a coffee and enjoy the rest of the day. At peace, happy.