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7
Oct 02
Mon

The Weekend

The place we ended up at over the weekend was Bermagui. Bermagui is a small town, about five hours south of Sydney, near Bega. It’s on the coast, and reputed to be one of the best fishing spots in Australia. Our hosts were a couple of family friends, Ron and Betty. Ron is a fishing enthusiast.

It was after dinner, about 9pm when we arrived at their house. It was in a quiet, unlit street, lined sporadically on one side with houses, and a cemetary shrouded in bushland on the other (“So Betty won’t have to go far to cart me!” Ron quipped later on, producing a furrowed brow from Betty.) Ron greeted us, “We thought you got lost! Come in, come in, I just got a fresh batch of nippers for bait when we go out tomorrow!” It wasn’t until we entered his garage that we realised how much of an enthusiast he was. In addition to his large red game fishing boat, Ron owned a second smaller vessel for river runs. It was that boat we were going to go out on the next day, as the ocean was a bit too choppy for open sea fishing. On the roof was a vast array of fishing rods, twenty or so. They all looked pretty similar to me.

“Why’ve you got so many rods?” mum exclaimed incredulously.
“Let me answer that with this: Why’ve you got so many dresses?”
“Oh, because each dress is for a different occassion…”
And that pretty much ended that.

He gesticulated wildly. “…And this is for barramundi. This is for bass. That one is for beach fishing. And these ones,” he paused, finger hovering up at series of around six rods covered with cloth, “are for marlin.” He climbed up a step ladder, dislodged one of the marlin rods, and came down. Marlin rods are big. Well, they need to be, especially when you’re trying to reel in an animal that can be more than four times heavier than you. The reel is a large, bulky clunk of metal, around which is wrapped some 600-pound fishing wire. My arms were getting tired just supporting it. Luckily when fishing, in most cases, the rod is held into place by a socket between your legs, in the chair on the game boat. The weight of the rod is supported by a harness strapped around your body.

“That metal clunk you’re holding is $3000,” Ron said.
“Uh, you better have it back then,” handing it quickly back to him. He chuckled.

The garage wall was adorned with various photos of Ron alongside marlin. One that took him seven minutes to catch. One that took thirty minutes. One that took over three hours. Apparently, on one trip out, he managed to land nine of the critters.

The next morning, I walked out the front door as Ron was finishing connecting the trailer to his 4-wheel drive. A couple of neighbours had come over for a chat. Their tiny three-legged dog, called Bandit, was hopping around with her nose in the bucket where all the nippers were, absolutely fascinated. Occasionally her head would jerk back with a yelp as one of the nippers grabbed at her nose. We fished out a nipper and gave it to her. She retreated off to the front lawn and proceeded to toy with the squirming crustacean, before gobbling it up. Bandit had lost her hind right leg when a tractor accidentally backed over it.

We arrived at the river at the top of high tide. It was an inlet to the sea, so it was a diluted saltwater that made the river. The fishing season was only starting up, so our catch wasn’t as bountiful as other times of the year. Three hours later, we’d caught some bream, blackfish, trevally, some poisonous pufferfish, and a few stingrays. Only five of the fish were above the minimum legal limit, and that was what we added to our dinner menu in addition to some fresh oysters, balmain bugs and calamari. At around 3pm, the tide was retreating rapidly, and threatened to maroon our boat in the river – some parts of which, were only a foot or so deep at that time. We actually did get stuck on a sandbank on the way back and had to jump out and pull the boat over it.

Dinner was a banquet of fresh seafood. We caught the second half of the footy grand final. Ron, being the doggies supporter that he is indignantly pointed out that, “The roosters only won because of the bulldogs,” and then watched The Cider House Rules. We got back to Sydney this evening. There are actually quite a lot of decent places around NSW for a long weekend getaway.

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