It was a yelp I remember well. Not exactly a scream, more of a sort of question, a ‘What the h*** do I do next?’.
I had heard it many times before, such as once near Deal Island in the middle of Bass Strait, when we encountered a major tidal stream and associated turbulence off one of the headlands and another occasion landing in surf on an Easter trip on the south coast, when a bigger than usual set picked her up and started to propel her towards the beach like a rocket.
That yelp will be familiar to many people in the club, as it came from our illustrious past president, Elizabeth Thompson, commonly known as ET, sea kayaker extraordinaire.
On this occasion we were in the passage between Bowen Island and the mainland, in Jervis Bay, and a few minutes earlier we had launched at Murrays Beach for a leisurely paddle around the said island and beyond.
As a light north-westerly was blowing I recommended ET put up her sail which she had only used a couple of times before and which she was still quite cautious of. Then she asked about the fishing line I had made up for her the previous evening, a handline with a ‘Maccers straw’ on a nylon leader, with sash cord main line, designed to pull in fighting fish like Australian salmon and tailor and be used as a troll line. ‘Of course put it out,’ I said, thinking it would be a little while till any action happened. So just as we headed through the narrow, shallow gap between Bowen Island and the point, where the sea always tends to stand up, making it a notoriously rough section, she had her first hit.
I could see a large salmon leaping in the air directly behind ET’s boat and I could hear the yelp. Unfortunately I could not do anything about it, as I suddenly found myself in exactly the same predicament, my line leaping and pulling, the boat suddenly quite unstable under the triple influences of a sail, rough water and a large sea creature fighting like mad to avoid capture.
Behind us Mike Snoad and Rose were also coming through the gap, neither encumbered by sail or fish, so all I could do was call back for assistance, while I handled my own problem. Soon I had a large salmon on my deck, but ET had lost hers. She even seemed happy about this. I mean, what was she doing? But she did seem quite relieved!
Around the corner things quietened down a lot, just a slight chop, sails were lowered and fishing lines re-employed. Almost immediately Mike had a hit and pulled in another nice fish. Then ET had a strike, lost it, but quickly hooked one more and proudly pulled the gleaming, flashing silver torpedo onto the deck.
Soon Rose also had a fish and as we worked the point our tally increased till we knew we had enough protein to feed the starving hordes back at ET’s beachside cottage for the party that night.
For ET and Rose, this was their first successful fishing experience and they were delighted with themselves. This really was a great introduction to the sport for them — constant action, lots of exciting moments in a now calm environment and a non-stop supply of fish. For Mike and I the tally continues to grow and this is an ideal way to enhance the excitement and food supplies on many a long trip.
PS: Please note that in NSW you need a fishing licence, that bag limits apply and that some areas are zoned no fishing or belong to marine parks, so do some homework before you go out to try this.