Bulli is an old coal mining village located 70 km south of Sydney on the south coast of New South Wales. It is a mixture of people, beautiful scenery and industrial compounds. Here the steep mountain slopes sweep down from the cliffs to meet the coastal plain.

During early summer in December it has a mild, sunny coastal climate mostly a mix of clear and cloudy skies with the temperature around 22 C. Often a south-east wind blows up from the Antarctica along the east Australian coast giving a touch of chill to the early morning air. It is just after sunrise the sea mist clouds come in from over the horizon and begin to blanket the nearby mountain range. The darkness has been lifted off the coastline to expose golden sands, azure blue ocean water and velvet green hillsides.

A green, compact, four door BMW, bursts off the freeway. After pausing at the top of the escarpment above the coastline, it growls down the mountain like a predator: sleek, dark, its piercing headlights cut through the lead-grey sea mist which shrouds the last tight bend and then into the town of Thirroul. At the wheel a weary driver allows a small smile of expectation to embrace his face. On the seat beside him lays a Shimano(R) 4000 FB designed with Hyperloop. This provides added smoothness for increased sensitivity a feature which is appreciated worldwide. For jobs like the one he is about to undertake he favors his eight foot six weapon which has a fast action that lets him cast a heavy sinker far out beyond the first line of breaking waves.

The sedan races past the nearly deserted Bulli Township then zigzags its way through the back streets heading towards the coast. Suddenly it veers into the car park situated near Ruby’s café. Life guards preparing for the day lift their heads and give it a second look as it passes by. The darkened windows make it impossible for them to see who is inside, so their attention, which they gave over for a moment, is withdrawn and they return to their more important task of preparing for beach patrol. The driver gets out; his brushed back hair is not disturbed by the breeze. A pleasant but determined face is partially concealed by dark sunglasses as he begins the slow deliberate task of unpacking his gear and with rod and bucket in hand he walks towards the golden sands of Bulli beach.

He pauses at the edge of the dune before entering the beach and takes a few moments to study the surf to see how the waves are breaking, where the whitewash is forming and where the darker blue channels are. He’s looking for gutters, holes, rip areas, drop-offs, and shallow sand banks. He observes the dark blue and green colours of a gutter running parallel with the beach. and this is where he heads.

“Good morning Mr. Fish.” He says.

Total silence. There is no reply from the bubbling ocean and the two sea gulls picking morsels from the sea edge do not even give him the courtesy of looking in his direction. They know that a least fifty men have come to catch Salmon and all have failed. He opens his bait bag and a smile greets the occupant, a fresh prawn. He inserts the hook through the prawn’s anus and out through its head. Then in an explosive instant his outstretched arm casts the line far out into the incoming waves. Fear and panic immediately grips the small surface bait fish but it is too late they can’t resist the allure of fresh prawn and soon a small size sand whiting is wrestled onto the beach. As a self-appointed protector of all small fish especially sardines the whiting is thrown back into the jaws of the whitewash.

Over the next hour or so he walks along the beach and as the tide moves out he is able to increase his casting distance but alas to no avail. The fish are not responding to his bait. Today they are shy and timid. He thought he had the right combination of rod, reel and rig setup but often being a professional does not always guarantee success. Failure is a problem, not from a professional point of view, but from the point of view that he has to tell his family and friends. Crouching down over his bait bucket and fishing gear he lets a moment of silence pass. Then he slowly makes his way back along the beach to Ruby’s café. He may not have caught Salmon today but he will be back because folklore has it that the fish return to the exact spot where they have made a fool of you before.

At the café the mid-morning sunlight sneaks past the curtain of clouds. The soft golden-yellow rays dance on the blue sea that seems to go on forever. The warm coffee and toast provides a gentle touch to what has otherwise been an undignified defeat for the fisherman. He knows his family will want to question him when he returns home and all he can do is appear to co-operate and make up a story of a close encounter. Both parties know he is lying but that’s what lone fisherman do. Fish on your own and have no witnesses to the truth: that’s the motto.



  1. How inspiring and uplifting to see your beautiful sunny ocean pics on a grey day here in France! With aisght like this, I won’t mind any smell…I think?
    You have wonderful 2010 too…with loads of great fishing trips?

  2. Alright, I’m confused. Dazed by the sun glazing off the mirror of blue perhaps. I’m unsure if you’re James Bond, Hemingway, or a friendly Big Bird addressing the fish! Ooo Ooo, is it a multiple choice test? Although I prefer an essay response.

    Wonderful little tail you wag, or is that weave?

    I’ll have to tell you my fish tale – when I have a little more time. And honest, it’s all absolutely true!

    Wonderful story and pictures Sean! As always, thank you so much.

    • It’s Fraser, Sean Fraser…….your words stir me but I’m not shaken…….Ok you can tell your fish ‘story’ but it’s my choice to believe it or not.

      PS went fishing at sunset last night and got 3 bream

  3. Alright Sean, my little fish story for you!

    Once upon a year when I lived and worked in the great American Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon to be specific, I had a work partner who came from the other side of our continent, the ocean-centric fishing haven of Boston and old Cape Cod. Dan, he loved to fish, relished nothing more than a walk on the beach, digging and eating clams, or really, anything from the sea. So when he was assigned with me to the the Pacific Northwest, his delight at the thought of fishing in new abundant waters. Yes indeed – more fish!

    Many in our spare times, fishing we went. Not honestly my big desire, but went because he was my friend. Lake on lake, I rowed, he fished, and I rowed some more. However he wasn’t the first with his thought. Not one fish, not once, did he catch! Everywhere was over-fished.

    Came months more and a new partner came. He a boy grown and raised in New York city, not once had he even seen a cow – much less fish! Weary of rowing I’d become, so that time I gave it a pass, and Dan took the NYC boy with him for fishing along side a hopeful secret creek.

    Knowing nothing at all, Dan did instruct him carefully. Most of all important Dan explained beside the creek, be most quiet, make no noise lest you alert the fish to our presence here! Sssh! Then announced he’d walk a little farther down the creek to try a place for himself. Just remember, quiet please, said he as he walked away.

    So a little time did pass. Then did the boy from NYC get a big whopper of a fish at the end of his line! Big and splashing and wanting to get away! But Dan had never said what next to do! All he remembered was his singular instruction – sssh!, be quiet! Not realizing that the jig was up! The fish already knew what was up!

    So he turns towards Dan, now a couple hundred feet up the creek, and in little more than a whisper, calls, “Dan! Dan! Come help!” Of course Dan don’t hear the whispered shout. So our boy does all he knows about biology – fish breath water, not air, so lift its head above the water, try to cease the struggle going on! As his pole becomes more and more an narrow arch, the line growing tight. Bravely trying to suffocate the fish!

    Now Dan in a moment did by chance to turn, observe, came running with a net, did scoop and land the fish! Now I really really do wish I was there that time – not for the fish but to laugh my head off at the irony! First fish that my partner didn’t catch!

    And yet I do testify because that very night we did all together eat that steelhead salmon, and it was absolutely fine!

    How’s that my friend? Good enough?

    And all good fishing to you!

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