John 316 is a very kind man. He's so kind in fact, that he drove an hour to visit someone he'd never met (me) to drop off a Penn overhead game outfit. He'd obviously become as frustrated as me that my recent sojourns into live baiting have led to stories without an ending (viewtopic.php?f=17&t=60850 and viewtopic.php?f=17&t=61061).
Last Friday was the third in the series of stellar forecasts. The wind was below 5 knots all day, the sun was shining and the swell was less than a metre. It would have been rude of me not to honour John's effort by getting his gear wet. So in honour of John316 I launched at Dalmeny ramp at around 10:30am, just as the wind peaked at its forecast 5 knots. I was fortunate enough to run into a stink boater returning to the ramp and was able to glean the location of suitable bait, right where I thought it would be. He said it was a quiet day, only one Kingfish, compared to the five he landed the previous day. It was enough to pique my interest, despite the fact I had no intention of venturing out as far as the 30m reef that he'd targeted.
After returning home for my paddle and flag (it had to happen eventually), I headed off towards destiny, armed with barely sufficient knowledge and guns to be dangerous. But to whom?
I headed for the point below the whale watching platform. I presumed that's what he meant by Yellow Rock. I was too embarrassed to ask given that I've lived here for two years. I could see the bobbing white dots of seagulls from a km away, and the missile mimicking Gannets from even further afield. These bore witness to the information that I'd gathered.
I was not therefore surprised when my sounder lit up black at I approached the bommie. It took five minutes to exchange the trolled plastic for a Sabiki jig and cast into the school. After three casts I had six Slimeys and a hook festooned ball of nylon. I kept my keeper net on deck this time, and deployed it with all but the smallest Slimey, a nice 25cm model.
I managed to lower it over the side and strip out twenty or so metres of nice 25lb braid without it looking like the Sabiki jig. I then swapped the Sabiki for a plastic and started casting around the school. I got a multitude of hits on the plastic, but no hookups. I suspected it was the ravenous green mini-torpedos that filled the water column.
After about 30 minutes of this I decided that a change in location was in order. The wind had strengthened from the south and the current was moving in the same direction. If I tried to head against it I knew I'd succeed only in lifting my unweighted livey to the surface. Instead I headed north to Dalmeny Point, the scene of many heart-stopping moments on my last trip. I knew that too much speed would result in drowning the liveys in my keeper net, so it was with a very slow cadence that I worked my way north, casting the plastic in front of me as I went. My peace was interrupted only once, by an oversized Slimey that managed to inhale the 3/0 jig head. I released it before thinking to take a measure for the comp. It was probably in the high 30s and may have scored well. I refused to let that play on my mind for fear of talking myself into a comp doughnut.
It took close to an hour to travel the 2km north and my Slimey limited snail's pace. The wind had strengthened to 10 knots and a few unforeseen white caps began to rear their heads. It was still far from uncomfortable, especially if hiding in the northern lee of the bommie. I continued to swim my little green bullet lolly and cast my Gulp Jerk Shad in varying directions. The sounder beeped a few times, I hooked up many times, but failed to land anything. Those I did hook seemed undersized, possibly Slimeys or stinky Pike. The livey remained untroubled (other than with the 4/0 that was capturing his cross-eyed attention).
I saw a disturbance off the point. It was an up-welling. I first guessed it was due to the current playing tricks with the underwater wall, but it seemed too far out for that. As I approached I saw bubbles, some fine, some large, billowing up from the depths. As I got closer again I saw a large white underwater shape. It was difficult to determine whether this was simply the bubble cloud. I pedalled around it not wanting to get too close. The billowing bubbles continued for at least five minuted. I didn't want to cast to it and certainly wasn't going to paddle over the top. Was it a seal? No chance, they need to surface every few minutes. Was it a diver? Possibly, but it would have to be a very stupid one given there was no diver's buoy above. Was it a whale? Again that was possible, but it was the wrong time of year and it was remaining pretty stationary and exhaling continuously. Whatever it was it was giving me the creeps. My pulse rate quickened and I suddenly felt very vulnerable out there by myself. The only sensible course of action was to pedal away with gusto and pretend it wasn't happening.
The whole scene wasn't happening. After another 30 minutes I decided to return to Yellow Rock and catch an deploy fresh livies where they were most likely to attract my real reel screaming quarry. I pedalled back, not worried about risking the drowning of my now tired Slimeys. Only two in the keeper net had died, which is not too bad.
Upon return I could see the bait school, and those that fed on it from above, had thickened. The wind was dropping, the surface detritus slicks were forming and the surface action was intensifying. Juvenile Gannets began piercing the water uncomfortably close to me at regular intervals. These are large birds up close, not Albatross size by any means, but not too far off. Their dive speed is incredible and they produce the kind of rip entry that Matthew Mitchem can only dream of.
I kept tossing my plastic for a while, but decided I needed to freshen up the livey. I downsized my plastic jig head to a number 4, and cut a small strip off one of my dead Slimeys. I tossed it out into the school and got an immediate hit. It didn't take many spool rotations to realise it was no Slimey. So there I was again, taking a knife to a gunfight, and the all too familiar fight dragged the rod tip under the water. It took a long time to subdue it, wasting precious time that was meant to be spent live baiting. Eventually I landed the Salmon in the mid forties and returned it after wasting more time with a poor measure. At least I had a comp entry.
More Gannets arrived, more Slimeys arrived and unfortunately so did more Salmon. All I wanted was a 25cm Slimey. All I got were 50cm Slamon. Each one was in danger of being longer than the last, forcing more time wasting with brag mats, cameras and impossible one handed attempts at lap measurement. All the time my pulse was racing to the tune of a beeping sounder, dive bombing Gannets, Slimey washing machines and thoughts of the big pelagics that I would surely secure - once they all got out of my gaddamn way!
I had to get out of there for a moment and calm my nerves. I slowly pedalled out of the school. My now drowsy Slimey was still in tow. I kept casting out the bait outfit trying to attract a solo Slimey that had headed out of the pack and away from the pesky Salmon. In the back of my mind I heard some tapping behind me, but dismissed it as the game rode rocking in its holder. Then it dawned on me that the game rod may be rocking in its holder. I turned around to see a very large Gannet with a stupefied look on its face and a 20lb flouro leader disappearing into its substantial neck. "Oh you stupid bird".
I've never fought a Gannet on game gear before. I dreaded the aerial battle and the associated cries of pain. Fortunately, neither eventuated. It flapped a few times, looked really really stupid, but otherwise stayed in the surface and allowed itself to be dragged towards the yak. Now what? Was I really going to wrestle with a sea-bird that had a larger wing span than me, reach into its throat and extract a hook? I couldn't imagine either of us surviving the ordeal. Instead I planned merely to get it as close as I could before cutting the line. But no more than a metre from the yak, it merely opened its beak wide and regurgitated the stunned Slimey, complete with hook. If ever there was an advertisement for circle hooks, then that was it. I was so relieved for both of us.
Ordeal over, livey shocked into a heart attack, I returned to the school and cast my bait rod. I finally avoided the Salmon long enough to catch an oversized Slimey. The next cast resulted in another slightly smaller model, that went on the circle hook and was deployed. No sooner had I cast the bait rod than I heard a large splash behind me. Not again! Yep, again. The Gannet had dived many metres below the surface to quaff my poor shocked Slimey. As I wrested it towards the yak, my bait rod bent over with another marauding Salmon. This wasn't fishing, it was chaos. Fortunately, the Gannet spat the livey. If only the Salmon did the same. Instead I had another 10 minute battle on my hands, as more Gannets attacked the now dead Slimey behind me. I alternated between cursing at the bombarding Gannets, flicking the twice, no thrice dead Slimey from their beaks and trying to gain line on a Salmon that was overpowering my poor JW.
Then, just when I began to win the battle, a Gannet decided to dive at my Salmon. You're kidding right! That's half a metre of Salmon against one metre of bird. The Gannet lost, but it put the frighteners into the Salmon that proceeded to strip line in an effort to get to the comparative safety of the trees behind Joshs beach. I've never felt a Salmon strip line so fast. It put the fight back another 10 minutes.
I finally landed it, and my worst fears were confirmed. It was larger again, forcing another measure for the comp, this time fumbling the camera one handed under extreme threat of attack from above with armour piercing beaks aimed at my gonads. Are we having fun yet?
In the midst of all this, I started getting work phonecalls. My pulse was racing, there were creatures entering or leaving the water all around me and a bommie that was starting to work in close proximity. The chaos abated for long enough to catch a couple more Slimeys. One was deployed and was soon hit with a few brief cranks of the ratchet. I picked up the rod and could feel repeated mouthings but no hookup. I retrieved one livey after another that died from shock with tooth marks but no prize. I took this as being a sign that the Salmon were taking on more than they could chew. I hooked a few more Salmon on the bait rod, landed one of a similar size (not worth the measure) and Slimeys and regular enough intervals to replace the mortified ones on the game rod. All the while the Gannets dive bombed fish on both lines, gave me whiplash and an increasingly coarse throat to match the language it was generating.
That'll do me. It was getting close to time anyway. I paddled back to gain fitness and composure, before dragging my exhausted body and the fully laden Adventure up the steep ramp and road.
I now know why Olsen wrote the expurgated version.
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