I actually outforecasted Old Salt on the weather front yesterday.
He rang from the salmon camp. "There's salmon all around the bay. And mulies and birds working them. And there is mullet too, in the pool, right in front of me. The weather's great. D'yer wanna go fishin'?"
He did this a few days beforehand - texted me with "There is salmon everywhere out here." Just to let me know, while I was lugging freezers and wardrobes onto the trailer ...
"I can't come out today," I looked at the sky. Mares tails and mackerel scales. "I'll come out tomorrow but it's looking like it might blow up by then." Tall ships with shortened sails.
"Nah, it'll be fine tomorrow. Bloody gorgeous out here right now. Can't do a shot for mullet anyway. Too much weed on the shore at the moment."
So why did he ring me with mullet stories if we can't even catch them? I think he was just teasing. He knows well my penchant for sea mullet.
This morning was wet and howling with a dirty sou-easter that turned around to the south west and started making a mess of the foreshore in town. The whole harbour was a creamy slush and seagulls fought the wind like scraps of paper on their daily flight from the rubbish dump to the new entertainment centre.
"Never known you to be so wrong about the weather and me so right," I texted Old Salt. "No thanks. Maybe on the weekend." See? These days I go fishing when I want to. And I can give some lip. A few months ago this behaviour would have earned a very different outcome.
"Weather shithouse out here," he answered, then slapped me down anyway. "Don't get too smug about 4casting. Once in 5 years is no einstein stuff."
I think Old Salt is 75 this year and he knows his weather. The only time I've heard a bad forecast from him is when he's trying to keep me out at sea in order to get the nets picked up. "Oh the wind will drop at sunset," is his usual line when he's trying to bullshit me into staying out late on an onshore bay, so more fish will mesh in the nets. Bah.
The whole point of the salmon camp is to catch salmon in huge seine nets. Between early February and Easter schools of salmon push against the Leeuwin current along the south west coast. When a school comes into the bay, the fisher men and women row a boat around the school, spooling out the salmon net. Then they use tractors, four wheel drives and bare hands to drag the net onto the beach. It is hugely exciting getting involved in this process. Big trucks from the processing factories drive onto the white, kelpy sands of the beach and are loaded up with salmon. The problem is that the market has crashed for this cheap, coarse fish. People are importing Asian fish or just not liking the flavour of Australian salmon. So Old Salt's camp has morphed into a kind of village for retired salmon fishers.
The last few years we've taken the dinghy out from the camp and hooked a few. Sometimes we head out to Forsyth's bluff (remember The Eyes) and troll for salmon where the waves crash onto barnacled granite. The 'heads', where the granite protrudes from the land to form separate bays is always a good spot. In behind Migo and Hartman's Island we caught salmon on lures ... that sure yank against nylon, fingers raw (I keep forgetting my gloves) the blue heads of the rest of the school circling my prey ... Arripus trutta
Maybe we'll get out there on the weekend.
Last photo courtesy of the Mitchells.