Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June O'Clock at Pallinup

This morning was nasty cold.
Old Salt said, "It's bad gettin' out of bed. It's bad even thinking about gettin' in the boat. But you know, once we get in the boat, everything will be great."
He looked at me for confirmation. I just nodded and snuggled closer to my cup of coffee. The rain started, again. Both of us looked down the hill to where the dinghy lay in the water.
Old Salt began the lengthy process of donning his waders.
I could hear Unruly start up his outboard and buzz out to the rivermouth.

byzzzzerrrp ... then blurp blurp blurp ... as he lifted his motor up over our net.

There is firewood galore since last week's storms because most of the trees that went down were rotted through their trunks and whole limbs of dead wood crashed into splinters through the camping grounds. We only needed to go a few metres from my camp with the chainsaw to find enough fuel for the night's cooking and warmth. Old Salt cut up the branches in the headlights of the four wheel drive after we set nets last night. We lit a fire. I stood with my back to the flames, looking at the stars as they come out, thinking about what to cook for dinner, my bedroom at home, the warm funk of my woolly doona.  The wind (actually it is not even a wind, it is a creeping cold that seeps down the river from the chilly heights of Bluff Knoll) worked its way right into my kidneys or my chest, depending on my orientation.

This morning's wind worked into my wet gloves, making them behave like a Coolgardie safe against the meat of my hands. Old Salt backed along the nets and I picked up, handing him the close-to-undersize black bream to be measured and the tangled up surf crabs. The sky, far from a brilliant shepherd's warning, was the colour of cold steel. We worked in silence. The nets were easy to pick up because there were no fish and this situation usually calls for silence - even when Old Salt and I are getting on okay. There were no mullet songs from me this morning but here is one I prepared earlier:

Mulletty mulletty mulletty joy
'Tis a mulletty morning, this dawn.
All shining and bright
'cause they meshed in the night,
cowl-eyed, those mullet o mullet
are a fisherwoman's
briny delight.

(Blogger still doesn't recognise 'fisherwoman' as a legitimate occupation in its spell check function, dammit. 'Washerwoman' is my only option apparently.)

Anyway. Nasty cold it was and not enough fish.
"Do you wanna go home today?" said Old Salt.
"Oh yes please. But first let's see what the river mouth net gives us."
There was not much going on there either.

We pulled in beside Unruly as he packed fish into the back of his ute on the shore of the inlet.
"Yep, it's all over," he said, all swarthy and weathered and grumpy.
The wind rips into this side of the point. I'd watched Grievous' brother load his boat, nets and boxes the previous day. He'd said he was over the inlet. Until more rains came to wash the fish down, or something else happens, he was off squidding, he said.

Unruly filletted a big yellow eye mullet on a length of wood at the bow of his boat. I commented that it was an eyeless yellow eye. "Yeah. I reckon the crabs took 'is eyes. I'll get no money for this one. Breakfast. Damn good breakfast too."

He didn't scale it first. He cut off the fillets in smooth sweeps with his knife, threw the frame to the pelicans, cut out the ribs, then slid the knife along the underneath to remove the skin. He washed the meat in the waters of the inlet. Then he set to work on the finger bones.
"I know where all the mullet have gone," he said. "They've gone right up the river, by the pools there. They won't be back for a while."
"Where are you fishin' next week then?" asked Old Salt. He likes the idea of having the inlet to himself.
"Dunno. Maybe Irwins, if the undersize crabs have settled down. Maybe squidding. Give us a ring on Sunday mornin'. I'm usually home then. By Sunday arvo, I could be anywhere."


  1. Bleak sort of cold this. I had to drive the 60 kms to work in cold rain yesterday morning, spend all day in a warm classroom (venturing out only to the toilet and the office on several occasions), wait for a 3.40 dentist's appointment - then back in dimming light, more rain and puddles across the road. The water settles into the ruts the log and wheat trucks press into the tarmac. It was tricky in places, so difficult to assess whether the water was deep or shallow. All I wanted, from the time I left, was to get back home!

  2. I had that washerwoman/fisherwoman problem once. It may have even occurred in a text I sent you. Time has blurred the context of the memory, but as I recall I was writing a text and the damned auto-correct went all sexist on me and decided that there couldn't possibly be such a thing as a Fisherwoman, for that is a time honoured male profession, and insisted that I denote the occupation as Washerwoman...
    We have certainly come a long way.