Sting Ray

In my last week in Oz, we thought it would be nice to have a look at things south of the Swan river since we'd spent 6 weeks venturing north. Arriving at a camp site beside the Walpole bay inlet, My friend was so tired after the long journey and setting up the tent that she decided to take a kip. Feeling fine myself, I thought I'd get in an hours fishing. All the indications seemed to predict an interesting session. There wasn't a breath of wind, and the water was like a mill pond. Asking one of the locals about the likelihood of catching anything, he told me that there is a variety of species in the area, but due to the muddy conditions in the bay mostly flatfish are caught locally. Unperturbed, I set off with my little rod and a bag of sprats for bait to find a decent spot. Alongside a small jetty not too far away from where our tent was erected seemed a prime spot. After a few minutes, whilst tackling up, two guys arrived in a boat. They carried their days catch of whiting over to a table alongside the water and proceeded to gut and scale the fish, throwing the offal plus the heads and tails back into the water. Almost immediately there was a MAJOR disturbance just under the surface of the creek right in front of me. I could make out two pairs of fins between 4 and 5 feet apart heading at breakneck speed for the tit-bits that had just been presented to them. Thinking it was a pair of sharks I watched in awe as the water boiled. Suddenly I became aware that the space between the fins was full of fish. It was one big stingray about 2 metres long, rapidly chased by another one even bigger. Holy moly. Not wanting to get involved in anything that size with my light tackle, I changed my mind about fishing there and went off to have a chat with the guys from the boat. They told me that these rays swim around the bay in pairs scavenging what they can from the fishermen. There were about 20 of them in the area and they were so tame local kids actually feed them by hand. After about 30 minutes, it all went quiet. Thinking they had left my little inlet, I risked chucking out a line to see if I could tempt anything to sacrifice itself for my supper. Big mistake! Hardly had my bait hit the drink when the water again erupted in front of me. Within seconds I was hanging on for dear life as hundreds of metres of line was ripped off my reel. God knows how much this thing must have weighed, but it was most definitely far beyond the breaking strain of anything I was using. By now I was totally alone on the bank, and didn't know what on earth to do. For nearly 30 minutes I ran up and down the waters edge steering my monstrous catch away from submerged snags. Absolutely convinced I was going to lose all my tackle plus my rod, I yelled out to my friend for help. No response... Tried again even louder. Still no response. She was obviously having a grand snooze. In desperation, and by now with nerves jangling and utterly exhausted I ran behind a tree and wedged my rod between its branches, then legged it around to the camping area to gain some assistance. A woman and her kids came running back with me to see if we could cut it free. To my surprise, the rod was still there. The ray had decided to have a quick breather and had come to rest quite close to the bank. With just a very little effort I managed to ease it over within reach of the gaggle of kids who had collected excitedly beside me. By now the fish was pretty upset with the way his afternoon was going, and started lashing out in all directions with its vicious looking tail. Dragging the children back away from the monster the woman leaned over with my pliers, and with a speedy twist of her wrist managed to extricate the hook from its mouth, freeing the fish and saving my tackle. I was most impressed with this fearless display of dexterity. It later turned out she was an accomplished angler herself. She told me that if I'd caught one of the bigger ones in the bay, I could well have ended up water skiing since some were bigger than their boat (which was more than 10 feet long) OO-ER MISSUS. Now that would have been a story. Running back to my friend, who had now woken God bless her, I breathlessly tried to tell her about my adventure with Godzilla. Needless to say I got the customary cynical look. "Oh yeah, fisherman's tale. How big?" she drawled sarcastically. Furious with her dogged disbelief I dragged her kicking and screaming over to the woman who had just saved my tackle. "Go on" I yelled. "Tell my other 'arf just how huge that pigging thing was" She just spread her arms as far apart as she could, and said quietly "Bloody enormous" "Thank you" I cried. "Vindicated" Suffice to say, that was the last time I fished there.

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