I am sure we’re all familiar with the old line about early birds and worms.
This notion of first-in, best-dressed is also frequently applied to angling. There’s a widely held belief among fishers and many folks in the broader community that you need to get out of bed well before sparrow’s fart in order to consistently catch fish. I’m here to tell you that this ain’t necessarily so…
Don’t get me wrong. As a passionate recreational angler I’ve seen way more than my fair share of sunrises over the years, and I’ve enjoyed many memorable mornings on or beside the water. Dawn can be a truly remarkable time to be alive and outdoors: a period of rebirth and creation that’s often filled with a glowing promise of great things to come.
However, I’m also on record as having expressed my opinion that – while sunrise is a wonderful and impressive institution – I just wish the powers-that-be could organise to stage this spectacular event a little later in the day… Around nine-ish would be nice.
It may come as a surprise to some of you to learn that, despite being a fanatical fisher, I’m really not a morning person at all. Those nearest and dearest to me know better than to ask me any difficult questions before 8am. “Would you like another coffee?” is about as complex a query as I can field before the sun clears the treetops, and my response is likely to be a monosyllabic grunt.
Interestingly, I’m not alone in this. My mate Kaj “Bushy” Busch – who was a fellow presenter on the Rex Hunt TV show through the 1990s, and with whom I co-designed the Squidgies range of soft plastic lures – is the fisherman I most admire and look up to. The guy is a freak, and I reckon he could catch fish in his own bath water. Yet, Bushy is also no fan of early starts.
Bushy’s idea of the perfect day (and it’s a scenario he repeats with groundhog regularity) is to drive a short distance into town at around 8am and enjoy a leisurely brew at the coffee shop while catching up with news and local gossip. Then it’s home to hook up the boat and off to his chosen waterway to cast a line. He’s typically fishing by what we jokingly refer to as “the crack of 10”, and he’ll usually be off the water and headed for home well before dark.
Despite his preference for these “gentleman’s hours”, Bushy catches more fish and does it with greater regularity than just about anyone else I know. There should be a clear message in that…
Don’t get me wrong: we are pragmatic enough to get up early when we really need to… We’ll do whatever it takes to catch fish! But it’s surprising just how often “whatever it takes” doesn’t include a pre-dawn start. In fact, I’d love a dollar for every time I’ve hit the water at sunrise, but not started hooking fish until mid-morning!
For me, the most common genuine justification for being out of bed early is more often than not weather-related. Dawn is frequently (but not always) a calmer period of light breezes and flat seas. This is especially true along the south-east coast of Australia during late spring and summer, when those cursed north easterlies so often kick in by mid-morning and strengthen through the afternoon.
Making an early start at such times provides respite from the nagging sea breezes: a few hours of gentle grace before the big blow inevitably kicks in.
It pays to be familiar with regional variations. Up around Broome, in Western Australia, the prevailing pattern is almost totally opposite to the one I’ve just described, at least during the Dry Season. First light at this time is regularly accompanied by a stiff (and surprisingly chilly) blast of wind travelling from the arid interior out over the warmer sea.
Conditions offshore can remain ugly and unpleasant for the first few hours of daylight, until a strengthening sun warms the night-chilled land and eventually creates equilibrium. Early afternoons are often delightfully benign, and represent a wonderful time to be afloat on the ocean blue… It’s the perfect scenario for a self-confessed dawn-o-phobe like me!
So, don’t be sucked into believing that the key to fishing fortune is climbing out of a warm bed in the wee small hours… There’s more to it than that!