Fishing: More to it then catching fish

When fish don't matter

By Russell Hood Penn

Over the last ten years or so I’ve been lucky enough to fish in some of the most spectacular places Australia and in particular Western Australia has to offer. I’ve also landed some amazing fish, more often than not with my beautiful wife Naomi by my side. Sometimes the fishing is just absolutely mind blowing and like any sports person will tell you, when your on top of your game, you can become totally single minded. Nothing else matters, tunnel vision sets in hard, hours pass like minutes and the only thoughts that enter your mind are winning at all costs!

The flip side of the coin of course is when the fishing is slow. The tides may be wrong, the barometer may be dropping and you couldn’t even buy a fish even if you were standing in the middle of Billingsgate Market with a fish full of ten pound notes! These are some of the most trying times as an angler but if you stop to smell the roses they can also be amazingly rewarding. If you can only bring yourself to put down the rod for a couple of hours and take the time to look just a little bit further than your next cast, you might be amazed by what you find.

I was discussing the feeling of landing a quality fish with a friend the other day and how it left you on a high for days afterwards. I could honestly say that when Mother Nature decides to raise the curtain just a fraction and you bear witness to something that is so amazing it leaves you speechless, the feeling can be just as profound. I’ve seen dogs swimming with sharks at One Arm Point; I’ve had turtles hatch while we’ve been fishing at Dirk Harthog Island and seen a flock of emu’s bathing in the ocean at Cape Range National Park near Exmouth.

In this article I’m going to open up my photo album, or should I say hard drive and take you on a visual adventure, detailing some of the most amazing natural experiences I have chanced upon while fishing.

Picture 1: Dogs swimming with sharks

This was one of the most amazing things that I have ever witnessed while on a fishing trip. We were staying at Cape Leveque a couple of hours north of Broome and decided to have a look around the Aboriginal community of One Arm Point while we were there. One of the locals informed us that if we headed down to the boat ramp at high tide we may be able to see the local dogs swimming with the sharks. What? This must be a wind up! Sure enough, there at the boat ramp as promised were two of the toughest looking roo dogs I’ve ever seen, rounding up six and seven foot lemon sharks as if they were sheep.

I was lucky enough to not only photograph the event but also record the whole thing on film. I uploaded it to YouTube for my mates to have a look at and within a couple of weeks it was going viral. The video went on to be the highest viewed Australian video on YouTube in 2011. I was also interview by both international and national reporters, was interviewed on radio and was also appeared on channel Sevens Sunrise program via live hook up from Alice Springs. The attention the video received was unbelievable and it has now gone on to have over five million hits on YouTube. Not bad for something I posted just for my mates to check out.

Picture 2: Sunsets (Cover photo)

One benefit of being located on the west coast is the stunning sunsets that we get to enjoy virtually on a daily basis. There is nothing better than having a line in the water and a beer in your hand on a warm summers evening, while a blazing sun is extinguished below an orange juice coloured horizon. Red turns to orange, orange to yellow, yellow to mauve and finally the last glow on the horizon retreats before an inky black sky while the ancestors of the gods shower the heavens in millions of sparkling diamonds. Poetic I know, but these are the times that the fish really don’t matter at all.

Picture 3: Low tide in the Kimberly

The Kimberly is probably the most amazing place I have ever been lucky enough to spend  time. There is a reason why thousands of people from all over Australia and the globe travel to the Kimberly every year to experience all it has to offer. Obviously as a fisherman I spend a disproportionally large amount of my time fishing and walking the waters edge and there couldn’t be more of a stark contrast between our southern coastline and the spectacular colours of the Kimberly. The full ochre palate is on display, reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and whites. If you have never been to the Kimberly then I would suggest planning a trip now, it should be on every Australians bucket list. Imagine if you can - A warm orange sunset illuminating burnt orange cliffs, which over millions of years have been eroded by a turquoise ocean to reveal their bone white sandstone insides – This is my own personal image of a typical Kimberly beach.

Picture 4: Hatching Turtles

When I visited Dirk Harthog Island for a week in 2010 I was expecting some amazing fishing but what I wasn’t expecting was to have baby Turtles hatch and then proceed to march directly through our pile of tackle bags and gear while we were enjoying a nice sunset fishing session. There ended up being about three lots of six to ten hatchings that over a period of about three hours clambered over our gear and instinctively ploughed head long into the water to begin their life at sea. With a wow factor of 10/10 I feel truly blessed to have experienced this remarkable act of nature.

Picture 5: Quad bike fishing

Sometimes just getting to the fishing destination is an experience in itself. I’ve paddled my kayak across a very choppy mid west river mouth in the black of night to have the pick of the fishing spots in the morning; I’ve charted a chopper to target landlocked barramundi in the Kimberly and I’ve pushed through tracks in my four wheel drive that I don’t think anyone had been crazy enough to try for about 30 years and I even picked up some custom pin striping for my efforts!! But most recently I’ve been really enjoying quad bike fishing. On one particular trip last year we took two custom fishing quads across the Murchison River in Kalbarri on a purpose built barge that was built for only that purpose. Once across the five of us set off on a journey that would see us travel over 20 kilometres north to reach fishing grounds that are basically untouched, fished maybe once or twice a year when people with the right equipment have the right conditions. Five mates with a crazy fishing itch to scratch, two of the best set-up fishing quads in WA and virgin fishing grounds. The say life is about the journey and not the destination….well this time it was about both!!


SEE PICTURE 1: Dogs swimming with sharks


SEE PICTURE 3: Low tide in the Kimberly


SEE PICTURE 4: Hatching turtles


SEE PICTURE 5: Quad bike fishing