Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grievous and the Blunty Boys

Nails is always smiling. He unmeshes fish with bare hands.
"Nah, I only ever wore gloves at the beginning of the season when the bream were wearing my hands out."
He has a careless, gappy smile, flattened nose and the feet of a Hobbit. His face appears to still be growing, broader and jowlier, chunkier with every smile.

When I first got into the camp and met Nails, I thought he was another deckie staying to help out Blunty. He stumped out of the dusty caravan, his face opened up to my arrival. His gentle innocence sidesteps the usual combination of bombast and furtiveness of most fishermen I know.
"Doesn't say much, does he?" Says Old Salt.

I didn't realise the two fishermen were twins. "Like chalk and cheese we are," said Blunty. "Nails fishes barehanded and I wear gloves. He never wear sunnies or a hat or a jacket. Leaves all the knots in the mesh too ...'Oh, thought you'd gettem out for me' he tells me! Bastard to set the next time. Twigs and shit in the nets. Knots and shit."
Blunty must have been a stripling when he was young. Now he has a Bombers tattoo on his calf, sand dune thongs on his feet and a buzz cut all over his bullet head. He's been fishing professionally since he was fourteen, alongside his brother, his Dad and his Grandad. He talks machine-gun style - no room for interjections or pauses- or else he withdraws into a head-bent quietness. Neither state is easy to talk through.

Blunty is out setting bream nets, four and a half inch mesh. He is framed by the cliffs at Pallinup, glowed ochre by the setting sun. He's wearing khaki waders over his board shorts. The net rolls out of its nest on deck, coils into the golden/olive wake left by the dinghy.

He grabs the tiller to straighten out the boat. The wind keeps blowing it off the course he chose. "Listen how quiet that motor is. Good poaching motor this one ... if I was that way inclined ... So quiet. Four stroke, just purrs along. Lead core rope on the net too, y'know? No bits of lead wrap-around getting caught up or clankin' over the gunwale. No stinkin' two stroke clunkin'. Net goes out nice and quiet."

There are three commercial fishers working the inlet this year and they take it in turns to net the rivermouth. It's the most lucrative set; a lot of fish swim down the river and into the inlet at night. Tonight Nails has the rivermouth. Tomorrow night it is Grievous' turn. He only turns up when he's got the rivermouth.
"He'll be here tomorrow at ..." Blunty looks at his watch "... five to five. That's what time he's allowed to set. Then he'll turn around and drive the hundred and fifty back to Albany, boat and all. Then he'll rock up here at two-thirty the next morning to pick up. Fucking nuts. Thought he was chucking the shits the first time he did that. But then Nails said he'd gone back into town to check his leathery pots. Works all night. Works all day. Must be hungry."

Blunty sets three lots of net. The four inch mesh goes across another channel, where the mullet come out and then another one out in the middle of the inlet. Then he motors back against the chop, to the camp. Nails is already there, piling up the fire with mallee roots. The jolly roger flag flaps above the caravan, in the hot nor' westerly.                                         


  1. Love the detail the pics are pearler.

  2. Thanks Merc. Those two pics are my favourites from that day.

  3. Another great anecdote. I love these characters. I have net guys like this in my boating life.

  4. They are pretty cool guys, I agree. A lot of people don't realise what a great life they lead. "Wonder how the poor people are doin'?" is something you'll hear from blokes like that, in a tinny on a glassed off sea, at dawn.

  5. I love your blog. You write very descriptively. Painting in words! Loved it!