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Incompetence 101
  |  First Published: April 2016



Applying yourself to your hobby to try to achieve a result is a nice feeling. It’s even better when you manage to get to where you wanted to go despite setbacks. Not that I’d call fishing a hobby. Maybe a sickness, a passion, an infatuation, a love affair, a sordid secret, a sad addiction or a problem depending on whether you’re talking to me, my significant other, or members of my extended family. Or the Dudds, in which case, fishing is a distraction. It allows the Dudds to get away from their ordinary lives and into a cycle of early mornings, late nights, late mornings, early nights, talking over past trips, arguing the relative merits of Bobby Lindner v Gary Larson v Dallas Johnson, cut hands, sunstroke, heat stroke, hangovers, lost fish, snagged lines, busted gear, broken boats, and sheer incompetence.

Sometimes when you’re least expecting it that incompetence gives way to something else. Recently, I ran across a few examples of prawns caught around the place on social media. Even given that a fair percentage are from trollers trying to muddy the waters by posting false reports, it became obvious over the course of a couple of days that there were a good number of these tasty little crustaceans being netted by amateurs in the creeks and rivers around the local area. Intriguingly, although I’d done a heap of prawning in the past, I’d never tried to find them on a sounder before.

Now, throwing a cast net can be tough work, especially when you’re getting one prawn every five casts, and your bag limit is maybe a couple of hundred, depending on their size. The strain quickly adds up, and you find that 5kg net feeling more like a 44 gallon drum of sump oil until you eventually give up. How good would it be to find the prawnies schooled up, so I’d get my bag limit in ten throws? All I had to do was learn how to find them on the sounder.

A sounder isn’t like a television. It’s basically like a doctor’s ultrasound machine, so it can be hard to identify what it is you’re seeing on the screen. As these little contraptions become more complicated, they get harder and harder to interpret. Even my little unit, plain and low powered as it is, would have given Mr Squiggle a migraine. “Yes Miss Jane. Yes Miss Jane. I can see, oooohh wait, no I can’t…. and that line over there could, Bill, if you say Hurry Up once more I’m going to jam this pencil up your smokestack… no… wait a minute, that could be a …no it can’t. Oh f*#@ it, Miss Jane, I’m going back to the moon.”

But I stuck at my task, and some very kind people put up pictures of what I could expect to see on my sounder if prawns were around, and over a period of a week or so, I became pretty confident that I could pick them up if they were there. Now, to some people, that might not be a big deal, but to me it’s a real achievement, and I set off down the river to where there had apparently been reports of some decent catches. It was my day off work, so there were very few boats around, the wind was down, and tide was right. Things were looking good. I was confident. Until I slid the boat off the trailer onto a shallow rock and broke the transducer off. Several hundred clams worth of damage, and no sounder. Absolutely no way to watch that screen for prawnies. Five hours of throwing a cast net for eight or nine prawns (depending on whether you count the one I caught that jumped out of the tank). No crabs. One undersized fish. Repair bill when I got home. Life just continues to trow those curveballs. Stupid, stupid hobby. Addiction. Whatever…

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