Lessons in fishing

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Fishing is a good lesson in life, I reckon, because nothing worthwhile is ever achieved easily. You simply don’t go fishing unless you’re prepared to be skunked. Chances are, you’ll come home empty-handed quite often. 

My favourite form of fishing is fly-fishing for trout – sighted fishing with a dry fly is the best. That’s where you spot the fish, stalk it, cast a fly that sits on the water (as opposed to sinking below the surface) and try to fool the fish into rising to the surface and gobbling it.

Wet-fly fishing for kingfish in Sydney Harbour is exciting, too. As long as you find some fish. The key is to cruise around the waterways in a boat and look for birds descending on the water, and disturbances on the surface caused by a school of kingies coralling and attacking a swarm of little baitfish. I spent more than seven hours doing that last week, and for six and a half of those hours we did it tough. The middle of the day was almost bereft of fish – and we covered a lot of water. There was a little action around 7am, and we landed one kingfish which was just under-size. These fish are always returned to the water unharmed.

For most of the day we fished our hearts out, got sunburnt, and made jokes about depth-charges. Heading back to the Roseville boat ramp about 2pm with nothing in the bag we were just a little despondent. Until, about five minutes from home, we saw a massive ‘boil’ on the surface of a small bay we were passing, with sea-birds and fish in a feeding frenzy. We motored over as quickly as we could and began casting into the melee.

My partner and I must have hooked six or seven (we lost count in the chaos). Several got away and some had to be returned for being too small. We kept three, all about 71cm (the minimum legal length is 65cm). These guys go mad when they are in attack mode. Even when you bring one alongside the boat several others will be jostling him, apparently trying to get whatever is in his mouth! The action may only last for 10 minutes, but these powerful fish are so strong that your arms are soon aching for a rest.

Yellow-tailed kingfish are beautiful to eat – raw, marinated, or cooked however you like. We barbecued the fillets and made a béarnaise sauce with tarragon, which worked a treat. And the wine? Hunter Valley semillon, of course! There was a Brokenwood ’14 (tasting) and a McLeish Estate ’13 (tasting) on the table. Heaven!

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