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Wait.

March 13, 2008

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When I was a kid I used to fish with my father. I grew up by the sea and when we fished we fished out at sea in a boat. Anything other kind of fishing was (and probably still is) considered not real fishing and therefore relegated to amusing the tourists.

My father taught me early how to recognize the tourists because they were always better equipped than us and fishing in stupid places i.e. not in a boat on the sea. They would fish off of rocks or on the beaches in the surf or God forbid in lakes or worse in creeks (any freshwater fishing – or fishing in puddles as it was commonly known – is not even to be talked about, such is the disdain us locals had for it) and they would be weighed down with all sorts of crap which made them spend more time fiddling with their fishing rigs than having the line in the water hoping to hook a fish. Also their bait smelled and they wore the wrong shoes.

We had one line which hung delicately over a forefinger with two hooks on the end of it baited with local shellfish and a two ounce sinker attached to spool which stayed wedged under a rubber soled thong. The line was thrown into sand patches between the seaweed which you learnt to spot in the depths of the cold Southern Ocean after squinting like crazy since birth (I have the crow’s feet wrinkles to prove it) and we would wait.

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The prize was the King George Whiting. The only fish which mattered. Sure there were other fish which we accepted into the catch but the King George was what motivated all locals to fish. The flesh is snow white and firm with a taste so delicate any local worthy of the name would happily eat at least one every day and no one ever asked why such a mythical fish would be named after a mad English king.

To catch a whiting is an exercise in patience and fish psychology and is not something you can acquire overnight. In fact most of the other fish we would catch didn’t really amount to fishing at all. They would just dart out and commit suicide on the hook and all which was left to do was to reel the poor things in. Tommy Rough and flathead and the hated trumpeter would all just bluster out and attack the bait so hard and in one hit the hook would embed itself in their heads. Any self respecting fisherman wouldn’t consider this to be fishing. But the whiting is a different story and any patience I possess today I owe to thinking like a King George whiting.

A whiting will come out of the weed and try to suck the bait off the hook. You could feel them down there moving on and off the sand patch waiting and circling and little by little they would play with you. The line which is balanced over your forefinger will tug ever so gently like little Morse code taps. One or two at first then they stop. Has the bait been sucked off the hook or do I wait? Move the sinker an inch on the bottom to make the bait come alive and wait. One tap, two taps and pull. If you are lucky all hell breaks loose and the line goes haywire. Right to the end you must pull the whiting in as smoothly as possible because the fact that they suck at the bait means you tend to jag them in the extremities of their mouths, or lips and if you try to yank them in too quickly they unhook themselves and disappear.

I haven’t fished for twenty years but last night whilst tossing and turning in a night of fitful sleep I remembered fishing for whiting. And what I remembered most was how to wait with the degree of respect we had for those dumb fish.

Sonia of Remarkable Communication posted about the annoyance of being bombarded by contemporary clutter especially by those who have no idea of what it means to wait and Naomi of Itty Biz writes about waiting and analyzing the Y’s and E’s in the road (read the post you’ll get it) and it seems like in an era of me, me, me, now, now, now I’m happy my cerebral cortex thrust me back into a boat off the coast of South Australia.

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Sometimes waiting, for those who know how, is the best thing you can do.

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