When the opportunity came up for us to drive north of Sydney and try a spot of fishing, I think its fair to say we all expected to be pulling Barramundi or huge Bass out of the water until the bait ran out. Unfortunately, and lets put this down to uncle Mikes Rose-tinted memory of the place, The Entrance (yup, thats the name of the town which sits at the point where a large lake meets the sea) didn’t really yield much more than a bit of confusion as to why we were there at all.
Let me explain. On the map, our chosen location looked suitable for a number of good fishing options for the kids to catch a few. We packed up the cooler box with snacks and headed north. We’d all been looking forward to going fishing for ages so we really couldn’t wait to get there. On pulling into the town and a quick drive around, via a great many roundabouts, things didn’t bode well when Mike stated that he remembered the place looking “much better than this“. Anyway our first priority, if we were actually going to catch anything, was to get some bait. As it was touted as such a fishing mecca, we guessed finding somewhere selling bait shouldn’t be a problem. Lucky for us then, that we stumbled across the ‘Bait Barn‘ on Long Jetty road. The guys there were super helpful and served us up a few hundred grams of shrimp. Plus they advised us that we wouldn’t need a fishing licence as long as it was just the kids that were doing the fishing ;-). Right then!! Bring on the fish.
Having been fishing a number of times in the UK, I’m fully aware that there are 5 things you need in order to successfully catch a fish (and my buddies Mark and Simon can back me up on this):
- The right bait
- The right tide
- The right location
- The right tackle
- Little bit of luck
Bait: Well, the happy, helpful chaps in the shop seemed very helpful in letting us poms into the local secrets and correct bait to use, so I wasn’t worried there.
Tide: Water level seemed high enough.
Location: Errr, The Entrance’s somewhat dwindling reputation precedes it, so I was hopeful. But then I saw the shopping trolly semi-submerged in the water in front of our ‘spot’. Whatever. I decided it may act as a bit of a reef and could even attract even more fish!!
Tackle: It wasn’t until we’d arrived at our chosen location that I saw Mike’s fishing gear for the first time. I think the following words gave my eternal optimism a bit of a dent, “I don’t think I’ve used this since I was last here (20 something years ago).”
Luck: At this point I’d take lucky heather if could find any.
So, after setting up a couple of rigs and attaching the shrimp to the hooks, we were ready for the first cast and the imminent arrival of a stack of fresh fish…
The first cast of rod number 1 was in the water. Great! Rod number 2 however, did not look so good. Mike explained that in fact both rods used to belong to his dad, and that he had given it to him when he was a boy. A quick calculation: each rod = approximately 60 years old…… Well, fingers crossed then! With the most gentlest of casts, all but the top and bottom rings that the line pass through, pinged off and caused a slight tangle. Just five minutes later, with precious antique rod pieces stowed in the equally old tackle bag and rod mended, the bait was in the water and Rosie and Ruben were the picture of pure childhood happiness.
Two and a half to 3 minutes later, Rosie decided she was a bit bored and…”just going be over there” (on the big climbing net in the playground). This left me, holding an antique rod, wondering if the local fishing police would fine me for having no licence (has anyone seen Border Control Australia on TV?!). Because of this, I quickly wrapped it around the cooler box and laid it down, reasoning that the weight of our salami sandwiches would outweigh our potential catch.
This just left the hopes of landing something local on Ruben’s shoulders. I was very confident. Ruben has landed some big fish in the past so I had every confidence that he would shine today. It was so nice. The sun was shining and my young protégé fishing apprentice would step up and show the Australians how to do fishing. The water on the lake was glistening and I was sure that through the misty water would be something huge, stalking our $5’s of fresh shrimp…..a somewhat humbling moment between a father and son.
That was until some bogan (hick/chav/redneck) local drove his tin boat 5 feet from the shore and with nothing more than a zzzzzping, the line caught in the boat propellar and stripped Rubens fishing reel in about half a second. I looked across and saw a shocked child not really knowing what had happened. I could see his initial thought, that he’d caught a fish, drift from his mind; and the realisation that all the fishing tackle was wrapped around that stupid boat’s propeller. Sad thing was the dumb*** in the boat hadn’t even noticed, or perhaps just decided he didn’t care. Either way, it was back to the antique tackle bag to re-rig. After all, we still had two tiny shrimps short of 500 grams to use up!!
In the time it took to bodge a reel full of line again, make a new rig and pick out a suitable shrimp- an enormous Pufferfish floated by. It kind of sums up the place really, because the Pufferfish just ‘floated’ by; it didn’t glide gracefully- we weren’t entirely sure that it was alive either. The kids believed it was dead and all three of us were surprised it didn’t get caught in the shopping trolly, so my diagnosis that it was just ‘going slow ‘cos it’s so hot’ seemed to stand up well. Dad points for me. Wahoo. Hmmmm…..
At this point, April and Mike returned unimpressed from their walk around the seafront and town. I could see our day was done.
One thing I’ve learnt from going coast fishing in the UK- and there have been many things to learn – including: How to keep a beach bonfire going in the rain; How to use up a bag of bait and catch nothing; How to have the wrong rig and have your buddy rub your nose in it cause they’re pulling them in; of all these things, I’ve learnt to know when to call it a day and cut your losses. Our visit to The Entrance was one of those times. I’m sure the place has its merits. I’m sure we were probably fishing in the wrong place, at the wrong time of day, at the wrong time, with the wrong bait. But, sometimes you just get a feel for somewhere and know, “this ain’t good”.
However, despite all this, we all had a brilliant day and none of the fishing mishaps could detract from our memories of the place. We laughed all the way home and lost track of the number of roundabouts there were to leave the town. The line of campers and boat trailers lining the lakeside obviously means the area is good for something. But on that day, with that tide and that location (complete with that shopping trolly)……. fishing wasn’t one of them!