I stole this pic from The School of Life’s Summer Term postcard – bloody ripper.
Every October for the last nine years I have been doing a dinner with my close friends Arnie and Jo Pizzini at Chrismont, their stunning vineyard in the King Valley. I know it sounds hard cooking for 100 guests over six shared courses of delicious food, with late night wine testing for the menu and a few beers to quench the thirst of the 4-hour trip, but it has basically become an annual fishing, foraging, yabbying and hunting trip. Yep, it’s a tough life but I know Sharlee my beautiful partner understands the stress and hard work needed to keep her in the manner she has become accustomed too, plus I have to send money back home to Yorkshire every so often so my mum can get her regular perm and hair dyed each week.
Planning for this annual trip starts months in advance. Once the menu is sorted and each course married to one of Chrismont’s delicious wines, it’s down to the hard stuff. Spring is early for yabbies but will we get some and, more importantly, what bait should it be: road kill, venison heart, the insides of a wild rabbit or some good old luncheon meat? What stage will the moon be at for good hunting and fishing? Will the trout and Murray cod be biting yet and what lures should we take, or should we simply go with worms? So many hard questions. I lie at night dreaming about the first twitch of my line.
Bringing in a beauty of a brown trout for supper… let’s just say dreaming is all I can do because I’m crap at fishing. I have now lived in Australia for 15 bloody years and caught a total of five fish in about 50 outings. Saying that, the five fish I caught were beauties: a carp from a dingy little swamp creek; three redfins from a mosquito-infested dam where I nearly got bitten by a red belly black snake; a trout from a chuffing trout farm. It’s not that I’m angry with myself or disappointed, it’s that I have just realised that I am crap at fishing, and it hurts.
I wasn’t so bad in England. When I lived I London I fished with my head chef Mike Taylor, successfully spinning for the mighty pike and catching some beauties along with zander, trout and perch. Then I headed to Scotland, where again I successfully caught from spinning and the fly many a trout, sea trout and bass. So WTF happened?
I blame Rex Hunt. Many a night after work in Edinburgh, freezing and hungry, I lay on the couch finishing a Tennent’s Super Extra (500ml can of shit beer – hopefully none of you Scots are reading this) while watching Rex Hunt on TV fish all around bloody Australia catching fish like there was no tomorrow. It’s one of the reasons I came to Australia. I was going to live the dream of catching fish like good old Rexie, but alas I have been hit with a jinx.
I don’t mind not catching fish sometimes, but just one or two every now and then would be great. I don’t know if you fish, but it gives me great pleasure walking up and downstream, listening to noises that we don’t hear that often, the flow of the water, the trees, birds and insects. Enough time to talk to yourself, gather thoughts and find inspiration but also to be at one with nature and fighting in your head against the fish.
So, fish, you’ll be there under that low-hanging tree where the water is deep after coming out of the rapids, flies dancing around the surface. Yes, that’s it, you’re there, come on I know you are there. I would be if I was a fish, oooh to be a fish all smelly and scaley darting through the water…. Come on fish, take the $23 rapala lure that bobs in the water, take that other line with its delicious squirming red worm, go on… But NO.
I don’t know what it is. I’ve been surf fishing with Ben – nothing. I’ve been out on boats for snapper, whiting and flathead – nothing. I was in New Zealand with fishing gurus from Cloudy Bay clams but the engine broke on the bloody boat. I’ve been through streams, dams, creeks, spear fishing, estuary fishing next to bloody crocodiles on my bloody own and my engine flooded and I had to bloody paddle to safety, but NO. And Ben is no better than me. Actually, he’s a smidgen better, but we just recently came back from a holiday in Bali with our families where we went on a sea fishing trip to catch some monsters, but bloody NO.
If you have read this with pity, please take Ben and me fishing to show us what we’re doing wrong. In return I will cook up a feast for you afterwards. But beware. I am cursed, and for that I blame bloody Rex Hunt.