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  Gone Fishing  Stories

Wrong Species

This story relates to a time in June '95 when Chinook and I went to Brown's Beach in Innes National Park, on the Yorke Peninsula for a stint of salmon fishing over one weekend. Coho couldn't make it. Can't remember why he couldn't come, but it either had to do with family commitments, or he had to stay home and care for his dog, who just got neutered !! Good excuse I suppose.

It was winter time, and chances were that the weather was going to be wet. So rather than pitching a tent in the national park, we booked a little stone cottage called Shepherd's Hut in the national park for our accommodation. Anyway, we arrived at Shepherd's Hut, unpacked all our gear, got the rods and tackle ready, and headed off to Brown' Beach with confidence of a good fishing session.

One of the first things we do at any fishing site is to reconnoiter the place, have a tinny of West End Super, see how everyone else is going with their fishing, have a tinny, look at the weather and tides, have a tinny, then after you've done all the initial hard work, have another tinny. If you haven't noticed, we enjoy the amber nectar, and now drink out of cans, not bottles. It's easier to crush the cans and take them back with you, rather than the bulky breakable bottles. Plus cans get colder quicker !

The car park, which sits up on top of the cliff face, is ideal for viewing the coastline where you are going to fish, so a strong set of binoculars is handy for spotting any large black areas moving in the water, any gutters, and viewing closely the surf. While we were doing the final settings on our rods,rigs and checking our backpacks, we started to converse with a bloke (can't remember his name) who worked at RAAF Edinburough. He was an NCO, and he was telling us how this was his first time at Browns, and that he had never caught a salmon. After all the formal introductions were made, it was decided that he could tag along with us to our favorite spot, past the main lagoon. For the sake of this story, we will call him NCO.

For those of you that don't know Brown's Beach, the beach posseses a large lagoon where at high tide, the salmon come in to shelter and chase the small fish at the northern end, and exit the south. Check out "Hot Spots" for Browns Beach for a great narrative ! The length of the lagoon I would estimate to be about 2km, and walking to your spot can be a hard slug, because the sand is so soft and your shoes just sink into the sand. A tip, follow your mate's footsteps in the sand. He has already done the hard work and compressed the sand for you. It doesn't help though if he is 6'6", and takes much bigger steps than you.

After a 30 minute walk, we staked our beach claim some distance past the lagoon, and cast our bait into the ocean, waiting for any bites. We usually fish beyond the lagoon around 2 hours before the high tide, hoping to catch any fish running in a deep gutter and hole we spotted from the car park. We would then normally work our way back to the lagoon, about half an hour before the high tide mark.

On this occasion, we decided to stay beyond the lagoon, and it paid off. It was dark, except for a small tilly light we had buried in a deep sand hole. Doing this throws most of the light upwards, rather than onto the shore line and water. Salmon can get easily spooked by sudden bright light at night. Hey, that rhymes. Anyway, I was using Salmon Rig No. 2, with chemically sharpened 4/0 triple ganged hooks with a pilchard bait.

Chinook's Abu 7000 ratchet drag started making itself known, then my Silstar Baitrunner let me know it had company. I eventually landed mine, and seeing that NCO had never seen an Australian Salmon caught close up, decided to take the hooks out of my salmon. While holding the fish and trying to unhook it, the fish suddenly jerked and struggled, and as a result, one of the snelled ganged chemically sharpened hooks went straight thru NCO's thumb, just below his finger nail, in one end, out the other.

I quickly cut the line from the hook to release the line tension on the hook, and all three of us started debating whether it was possible to take the hook out with as little discomfort to NCO. During our debate, NCO's reel starts to spin against the drag. Being a true fisherman, NCO gets up, quickly runs over to his rod, and somehow, with hook in finger, strikes the rod, reels in and lands the first salmon he has ever caught in his life. Then he abruptly sat down, tired and with the onset of shock, didn't look to good.

We decided that we would leave all our rods, backpacks and tackle hidden in the sand dunes, and to pick them up the next morning. We buried the fish in the cold sand to protect them, and we started walking back to the car park to take NCO to the hospital. We stopped at Pondalowie Bay Camping Ground for the nearest phone, and Yorketown Hospital was made aware that we were bringing in our wounded.

You think that's the end of it, well no, you're wrong. Imagine three guys, all dressed in wet weather gear, waders and beanies. They haven't had a shower or shaven for a day, smell of fish, bait and guts, and walk into a public hospital that's usually closed at one o'clock in the morning. To top it all off, as we walk in, the nurses are instantly apologetic to us about the doctor on duty (who had to be especially called in), saying that he is very grumpy and complaining about being woken up early in the morning for the third time that week. The nurses are to be commended for their compassion and professionalism at that time of night. As far as the doctor is concerned, I now know who not to see if I have an accident. His manners leave much to be desired for.

Anyway, we returned to Shepherd's Hut and suggested that NCO should stay the night, as a precaution. The next day we returned to pick our tackle and rods, unearthed the night's fish and unfortunately had an unsuccessful session that morning.

We definitely gained something from this trip. Overall, we caught about a dozen salmon, we know where Yorketown Hospital is, and that chemically sharpened hooks are very sharp.

We haven't seen NCO since, but at least he has a war wound that will remind him of the first salmon he ever caught.

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