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Take 10 – Fisho Q&A

1 Name and birthplace?
Jim Harnwell, born in Sydney, NSW.

2 When did you first start fishing?
I don’t recall exactly but I have vague memories of falling off a wharf at Sussex Inlet when I was about five and losing my new rod and reel, so I guess I started at a fairly young age.

3 When did you start writing for Fisho?
I was employed as editor of Fishing World in 1995.

4 What’s your favourite form of fishing?
I honestly like all forms of fishing but probably am keenest on floatlining and soft plasticking for snapper, casting hard-bodies for bream and bass, cubing for tuna, livebaiting for marlin, surface fishing for bream and whiting and fly-fishing for trout.

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Jim enjoys most forms of fishing and especially likes heading offshore to chase snapper, tuna and marlin.

5 What do you enjoy about writing for a fishing magazine?
I really enjoy being able to communicate new ideas and techniques to readers. It’s fantastic when someone emails or writes to me to say that they enjoyed an article or found something I wrote to be interesting and useful. I also think it is important that Fisho be an unbiased and credible news source about angling issues. Writing and publishing news stories on the environmental and political issues influencing recreational fishing policy is something I feel pretty passionate about, especially when you look at the misinformation spread by anti-fishing groups in the mainstream media.

I also enjoy the process of “making” a magazine – the planning, editing, proofing, selection of images, creation of paginations and so on is a craft I’ve spent my journalistic career trying to perfect. And the opportunities with new media – websites, e-newsletters, digital editions, online TV, videos and so on – are really exciting and help keep me interested in what I do.

6 Who do you most admire in the fishing media and why?
Ron Calcutt, the founder of Fishing World, is probably the key person I admire and respect. Ron, who sadly passed away some years ago, had a great vision when he founded Fisho in the late 1960s and I have tried to maintain that legacy during my time with the magazine. Key identities like Rod Harrison, Vic McCristal and Ted Clayton also did much great work in the early days of sportfishing publishing. Currently, long time Fisho writers like David Green, John Newbery, Dean Butler and Pat Brennan deserve credit and praise for their ability to keep things fresh and interesting, especially Greeny who manages to produce really high quality writing every month despite having an immense work load with his “real” job in the medical field.

I also admire writers and editors from “other” magazines, notably Steve Starling, WA Angler’s Scott Coghlan and Fly Life’s Rob Sloane. Fly Life is a great magazine – very nicely put together. Doug Olander, the editor-in-chief of top US magazine Sport Fishing, is probably the most accomplished fishing magazine editor around at present and I constantly (and largely unsuccessfully) strive to get Fisho to the high standards that Doug has set.

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Enjoying some Murray cod action on a river in western NSW.

7 What do you reckon is the best or most satisfying article you’ve written for Fisho?
I like to think that a few editorials I wrote in the late 1990s about the destructive impacts of estuary netting helped set the scene for the creation of the recreational fishing havens we have here in NSW. Some articles I wrote about the Pew anti-fishing campaigns I think were pretty important, especially given the dearth of material published by the mainstream media on this issue. I really enjoyed writing a piece about fishing at Bluey Vaughan’s camp in the Kimberley during a cyclone and I like to think that a little piece I wrote a year or so back on popping for whiting was technically pretty accurate.

8 What camera gear do you use?
I use Canon 40D and 20D SLRs with three different lenses – a 10-20mm wide angle, a 17-80mm telephoto and a 70-300mm telephoto.

9 What advice can you give anyone wanting to get into the fishing media?
Commit yourself to crafting well written, concise and technically accurate articles, learn to watch, listen and observe, train yourself to put down the rod and pick up the camera (bloody hard!), learn about all the new media options and understand that your independence and credibility are all that counts. Also, you need to read constantly in order to improve your own work and to get inspiration to evolve as a wordsmith. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a gun angler to be a good fishing writer. In fact, many of the really good anglers I know can barely string two words together. The key to being a good fishing writer is to observe things and then communicate them simply and clearly so the reader can apply the techniques you are describing in their own fishing. Finally, always be humble.

10 What’s your favourite fishing destination?
I have many but the main ones are: Jervis Bay, the Kimberley, New Zealand, Mallacoota, the Tiwi Islands, St Georges Basin, Cape York, the Shoalhaven River and the Macquarie River.

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Jim was understandably rapt when he landed this “golden” black jew on a recent trip to Melville Island in the Northern Territory.

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