Report: Kids go fishing!

WHILE Easter has a huge religious significance for many around the world, the resulting annual holiday in Australia also provides a great opportunity for family and friends to get together before the onset of winter.

Such was the case this Easter for my immediate family. My sister Michelle and brother-in-law Brett had driven up to Sydney from Canberra with their three boys to spend a few days with my wife Robbi and I. We’re fortunate enough to live in an old sandstone house situated on the banks of the Georges River system south of the city. It’s a great location for family visits, in good weather… Stepping out the front door has you only a few metres from the water where you can go for a swim, paddle a kayak or jump in a tinny. It’s also not a bad place for a leisurely fish.

Wetting a line from our yard isn’t what I’d call “serious” fishing. It’s more something we occasionally do when visitors call in. During past visits my nephews – 10-year-old Connor and Nathan and Ryan, seven – have been fairly keen to fish. This latest visit though, their enthusiasm to wet a line was dialled up to 11. Especially young Ryan. “Uncle Mike, can we go fishing?” was virtually the first thing he said when the boys arrived. Ryan’s keenness didn’t waiver for the next three days. He was pumped and so were his brothers.

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The boys expectantly wait for bite. There’s not an iPod or Gameboy to be seen…

Fishing from our yard is back to basics stuff. No complicated techniques or flash gear. The target species is the humble bream, or as some less complimentary fellers I know call them, “rats with fins”… Suitably true to this unflattering moniker our local bream have a liking for most baits, natural or otherwise. Bread, cheese, bacon rind, chicken, steak scraps, prawns and squid have all proven enticing in the past. These bream occasionally eat lures but wise up quickly, especially if one of their numbers is caught and released.

As well, the odd flathead and an estuary perch has seen the above water view from our yard.

Last weekend the fishing started soon after our visitors arrived. While the other “oldies” set up a tent for the boys to sleep in I was kept busy rigging rods and baiting hooks. Offering to cast for the boys though was usually met with a pleading “I want to do it.” Rigs consisted of a small amount of lead shot about 30cm above a long shank hook. The barb was squashed for easy hook removal and minimal damage to the fish.

Young Ryan revealed his casting prowess early on. I’d set him up with a little closed face ABU reel I thought he’d like and tied on a practice casting plug. In no time he mastered the little push button reel and trigger grip rod and was firing out neat straight casts. The other boys’ casts were a little more erratic. Some went high and short, others a little wide. Overall though they were all in pretty good form for a spot of yard fishing.

Typical of many youngsters, the boys’ initial enthusiasm waned when they hadn’t had a bite in the first ten minutes. Like Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams I explained that the tide was heading in and if they were patient, “the fish would come”. Thankfully they did…

Connor’s rod had been propped against the sandstone wall above the river and was starting to buck and its butt was lifting off the ground. Just as the outfit looked like going for a swim Connor grabbed it as line tore from the little reel’s spool. While we don’t catch many big bream from our yard it looked like Connor had hooked one. The strong fish made a beeline for our neighbour’s pontoon. Connor hung on, winding the spin reel in vain. The bream had holed up under a floating eucalypt branch, snagging the line and earning its freedom.

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Connor (left) and Ryan looking suitably proud with a couple of nice bream that took a liking to their bacon rind or bread baits.

Losing that fish only made the boys keener. Wild eyed with excitement they intently watched their rods for bites. Ryan was next to hook a fish and watching him in action was entertaining. With a look of determination he worked the rod like a seasoned pro, pumping and winding as if fighting a large gamefish. While the bream was soon beaten, Ryan was still cranking away and had it skipping across the surface toward him. With rod bent impressively, Ryan wound the bream up over the wall. At around 35cm, it was a nice fish and he beamed as we took photos. He was even more excited after throwing the bream back and it darted off.

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Pajama party – Nathan(left) and Ryan with the spoils of an early start.

And so it went for the next couple of days. The boys camped out in the tent with their dad and were up at first light to start fishing, in their pajamas.

After the success using bait, the boys were keen to cast lures and were soon picking out hard bodies from my lure box. While I’d explained that “our” bream don’t bite lures as readily as bait the boys didn’t mind. They preferred this active form of fishing to sitting around waiting. While they didn’t hook anything on lures they were firing out some consistently good casts.

There were a few funny incidents. Bored one morning the boys walked away and left their lines in the water unattended. You can imagine what happened next… Brett luckily spotted the rod that had been pulled over the wall just as a nice bream tried to drag it further into the river. The outfit was retrieved before it went any deeper and amazingly a nice bream was still attached.

It was a busy and fun few days for us. The boys were just sad that they had to eventually stop fishing. They’d virtually fished up until they had to leave. Notably, on reflection I don’t recall seeing the boys playing on their iPods once since they’d arrived. Getting more kids outdoors and into fishing can only be a good thing for the future of our favourite pastime.

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