Estuary, Stuff we've learnt

Catching over fishing: manifesto of a fishing girlfriend

I can’t stand fishing. I know the proponents might find it relaxing or stimulating or something but not me. After about 2 months of being dragged around by my boyfriend to likely ‘hot spots’ and dragged upstream by likely branches that my hook invariably got caught in, I had made up my mind. Fishing is to walking, as yoga is to napping – a good way to ruin it.

However, that was fishing, not catching. Catching provides a surge of excitement similar to that provided by Nine West on sale. Catching means that instead of buying flathead for $30 a kilo it is yours for the pleasure of dangling a reusable lure in a lake for 15 minutes. Catching means learning something new about the environment we live in, and discovering a whole new ecosystem in a whole new way. Catching is great!

So after trips of catching nothing but weedfish, after stickfish, after thongfish, hooking my very first flattie was super exciting, and this is how I got him.

I was fishing out of a tinny on Wallaga Lake using a gold soft plastic lure. I love soft plastics – no tying involved (provided you are rigged up), if you get bitten off you can just slide another one on. I also love their natural look – you are just bound to catch a fish with them! I usually use little fish looking ones, but can’t go past a small prawn one around Christmas.

The typical style when fishing for flathead in shallow waters is to cast out and let your lure sink to the bottom before lifting your rod tip and giving a wind, then letting it sink again. You can tell you are on the bottom when your line goes a bit slack. As flathead feed on the floor, they will be attracted to the lure which looks like a little fish swimming off the floor when you wind in.

What I have described was how my boyfriend had told me to do it – which simply didn’t work for me. I couldn’t seem to time the rod tip lift properly with the winding, and would end up winding in way too fast, so I developed an alternative technique. Rather than lifting the rod tip, I just give two reasonably quick winds. This technique is far easier for beginners because as long as the lure has hit the floor, timing doesn’t matter, and I can just about guarantee your immediate progression to a catcher!

First flattie!

One other point which will obviously sound ridiculous to a seasoned catcher, is that you may be a catcher without having known it. Having spent so much time fishing for weed, I had got used to having weight on the line and when I finally pulled in my first flathead I didn’t realise it was a fish until it was almost in the boat. It was a remarkably sluggish fish, and didn’t fight at all when I was hauling him in. So don’t despair – your next weed fish could be a ripper! Go catching!

Mini mackerel

Rachel Clarke, July 2011

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