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Picking up a hobby: Fishing

Photo of the author holding up fish caught with a pink lure.


Fishing has been one of those quintessentially human activities that our ancestors have been doing since... well, for a long time. We all know that we need water to live but after discovering how good the creatures that come from the water taste when cooked (or raw) it turns out we figured out that it's worth trying to catch these creatures for sustenance. It's interesting to note though that it's called "fishing" not "catching" as someone said sometime ago because catching the fish is not guaranteed -- otherwise it'd be farming, harvesting, or akin to raising cattle. There's a number of surprising things that came to me once I started doing this activity and I thought I'd write out a few of those in case you were looking for one too.

NOTE: Before going out on your first fishing trip, be sure to read local laws and regulations. In NSW where I'm at, you need a valid fishing license and must be familiar with the restrictions on where fishing is allowed, quantity/size/kinds of fish you're allowed to keep. Remember that safety must be your priority so avoid going out there alone especially if you're new to this.

Gear

It turns out you can get buried in the technicalities involved with buying the gear to get started. You can start with as little as $60 for a starter pack (includes a rod, reel, and "rigs") and can easily spend your way to thousands of dollars' worth of gear for "precision" gear for different conditions. When I got started recently I opted for the minimal costs, then decided I'll invest more as I gain more experience. A search for "Fishing Rod Kit" on Amazon for example yields one priced around AUD $61 (by ShinePick) which includes a bag, lures, line, hooks, and ways to organise the gear. If you're looking to get started there's nothing wrong with starting cheap and building up. I personally started with just a Jarvis Walker telescopic rod and a 300-piece tackle box kit.

Knots

Tying knots turns out to be one of the the most interesting technical bits of this endeavour. I've spent hours and hours preparing specialised "rigs" so that I can swap those in/out while I'm out in the field. Learning and internalising how certain knots are done also helps when repairing line when you get inevitably snagged onto something at the bottom of the ocean or the river. If you'd like a start, try three:

  • Improved clinch knot: great for securing hooks at the end of leader line.
  • Albright knot: great for tying braid line onto fluorocarbon leader line.
  • Non-slip loop knot (AKA Kreh loop): great for tying jig heads or lures at the end of leader line.

You can easily spend hours reading up and learning the various kinds of knots out there and if you're into that kind of mastery, then you'd love field-tying these knots on fishing trips. Another option is to get a handy guide with you. Here's one that's waterproof so you can bring it out in the field when you need to look up how to tie a knot when out fishing.

Technique

Perhaps this is where a lot of the mastery and fun comes in for me. Learning to cast, to put action on the line and hook or lures, or even just how to operate the reel. I can link to a few YouTube channels which provide a lot of the content that I've learned from and that have been helpful to my improvement over time:

Of course there's no substitute for repetitions and experimentation so when you do decide to get into this hobby, be prepared to try new things and change things up while you're out there. Treat it like a game, a sport, or a past-time activity rather than putting the pressure on yourself to catch something.

Catch and release

If you can at all help it, consider releasing the fish you catch unless you absolutely want or need to consume it. That legal-sized fish you caught could be caught by someone else again later and enjoy the same experience as you did. Use your judgment on how much you'll need and when to call it quits.

Note that there are areas in Sydney in particular where fish caught must be released and not consumed for health and safety reasons. For example, fish caught in the Parramatta River (west of the Harbour Bridge) should not be consumed due to high levels of dioxins in the fish. Check your local government resources for more accurate and up-to-date information.

Have fun and if you do get started, I'd love to hear how you go!

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