BLOG: The angling optimist

Its 4:00 pm on a Saturday arvo in the build-up and the north-westerly sea breeze has well and truly kicked in. The spring tide has risen quickly with the water now inside the mangrove line. The window of opportunity to nail any more barra by casting lures at drains and gutters in Darwin Harbour is pretty much closed. Yet the angling optimist deep within us still remains strong, none moreso than in my fishing mate Carl Hermiston. “Hey Pete, around the corner there’s that other creek out of the wind, you know the one with that little rock bar that sometimes works on the incoming tide…”
If I had a barra lure for every time Carl had put a “What if…” scenario to me over the past 30 years then by now I’d have my own chain of tackle stores!

I try not to catch Carl’s gaze but instead look down at my watch as the cogs inside my noggin start grinding faster. My immediate thought is that we’ve done our dash for the day fishing-wise as the best of everything is now behind us. My next thought is if we left right now it’d take 45 minutes to get the boat back to the ramp and onto the trailer, then another 40 minutes to clean it and the car up at the high-pressure wash-bay on the way home. Once home then another hour to clean up all the gear and fish … which all means after that I should be able to have a quick shower and get to sit down with the family for dinner at 7:00pm and catch-up on the what’s happened at home while I’ve been out on the water – Perfect!

I look up at Carl on the casting deck and say… “Will spending an hour on that rock bar jigging plastics for a few small goldies really be worth it, or should we just pull the pin and head home now?”

Carl intrinsically knows that the goldies can wait for another day, but was just doing what switched-on fishos always do: continually assessing the changing conditions and looking to see what other angling options may present themselves.

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Carl Hermiston’s thumping monsoon-busting barra he scored earlier this year on one of those “You should have been there!” trips.

As we get older we trade our youthful good looks for wisdom (that’s what I tell my wife Lee), and we get better at understanding the Law of Diminishing Returns – which is basically knowing when to cut your losses and head home. Yes, stubbornly hanging in there and fishing hard when everything is going against you does show commitment. But over the journey I’m slowly learning that the smarter play is to try and see the end from the beginning (or the middle) and act accordingly. This may mean heading home early when you’re on a hiding to nothing (e.g. the weather gods have turned against you), or when the peak fishing window for the day has closed (and most of us know when that happens). It can also mean working out in advance that a trip being proposed (like it the middle of the current monsoon burst we’re intermittently experiencing up here in Darwin), might be better taken on another day when weather conditions etc are more in your favour.

As fishing time becomes increasingly precious and requires careful balancing with the competing demands of work and family, I am now becoming more choosey as to when I’ll head out for a fish. Mind you, I still seem to put my boat on the water at least one day of each weekend so I guess I’m still a work in progress on the choosey front…

While we don’t like to admit it, resisting a trip that you know deep down is unlikely to be a good one is the smarter call. Like in cricket, letting one go through to the keeper every now and then can be an example of good shot selection. However, you’ll still have to live with the odd one that can nip back off the seam and take out your off stump making you look like a dill. This is usually signified when you get a late night call or SMS from your fishing buddies to say: “Mate you should’ve been there – it went off!”

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