Let me begin by saying that the following is my opinion only. It is based on the reasons I kayak fish. I understand that other people are free to disagree with me and do whatever they like on the water (as long as it is moral and legal!)
Many of you know my story by now (providing we have had a chance to talk about it or you read my previous piece on mental health). For those of you that don't I started kayak fishing as a way to deal with chronic burnout. In short it is working too hard for too long without down time. For many years I worked 60, 70, and even 80 hour weeks and that wasn't even factoring in home life or looking after my kids. Suffice to say this left little time for recreation or leisure. I work in an industry with competetive expectations, more so than many others, where the amount you have to do to climb the ladder is more than could reasonably be expected of most people.
One day while out riding my bike I saw a guy kayak fishing and thought "I'd like to do that". So I did. I found Yak Hunters shortly after and here I am today.
I fished as a kid like many people. I had also fished in between though infrequently. I used to fish on an annual trip to Alaska but they ended ten years ago now. So in reality I had not been fishing for about 30 years, and it would be an understatement to say that things have changed a lot. Braid was only just becoming a thing, and plastics weren't common. As a result I started out a "filthy baito"!
So when I started kayak fishing I didn't really know anyone else who did it and thus had no idea what gear to buy and how to use it. I bought cheap combos because I didn't think there was much difference between those and quality gear and I bought plastics but didn't know what was best or how to use them either. I'll admit now to taking a yabbie pump with me for that donut saver!
Many of my first trips I came home wet lined but empty handed. It didn't seem like there were no fish there - others sure caught them around me but I didn't seem to be getting any on the plastics I had. So I tried other plastics and still had no luck.
I started doing some reading and watched a ton of videos. I bought fishing magazines but these just frustrated the hell out of me seeing people catching massive fish!
When I joined Yak Hunters I sat back and watched the amazing knowledge of the fishos in this group. I started asking questions of the people who were catching these great fish in good numbers. I started asking other people if they would take me out and I responded to "who wants to come for a fish tomorrow" posts with a YES!
Initially I found it really frustrating having spent all this money on all this gear and still not being able to catch fish. It drove me nuts to be honest.
I notied more than a couple of times that I had taken up this sport for some rest and relaxation and it was anything but. I questioned my outlay on a kayak and gear, and more than a few bags of plastics. I thought about selling the lot. Stick with it my wife said. Focus on just being out there on the water she added.
So I started doing that. I stopped worrying about how many fish I had caught (to be more accurate, the amount I hadn't caught) and just enjoyed being out there. I started enjoying my trips up Talle Creek more (stunning spot if you haven't been lucky enough to go up there yet). I also started exploring a little more widely by going down over the border. I loved it so much I decided to buy a new yak I had been looking at for a while and on my birthday I went and bought my Old Town Top Water which is with me still just a little over a year later (and I just ordered an Old Town Sportsman!)
By this time I had been lucky enough to go out with a few legendary fishos who were awesome enough to show me a few things. Things like where to target bream, flathead, trevally, and other species. Retrieval techniques. How to cast properly (I was to find out I was really bad at it). And even some great advice about what gear to buy.
I found I really liked finesse fishing and also found out I just liked to fish, rather than just targeting one species. I took whatever came along.
Using all this new information, I took my new Old Town for a spin up Talle. Really keen to put this new information to the test I took that and some new gear out. I rigged up a ZMan paddle tail in Opening Night and threw it out the back while I headed for some ground I wanted to try. Going through "bream alley" I started peeling out line and grabbed the rod in both hands. I cranked down the drag and held on for the ride. While I didn't have much to compare it to in the past, I landed a 42cm bream which made it a PB. That's one!
Continuing further up and around the corner I saw some weed and knew fish often hung around in there. So I started casting at the edges and ZZZZZZZZ again. This time it was a pike. Another PB because it was a first of species. That's two!
Going further around the bend again I found a little rocky edge, overhung with trees, with some deeper green water in spots. This is exactly where I had been told to fish for bream. I took my ZMan grub with a 1/40th jig head on it and skipped it under a tree right into an emerald spot of water. The lure had just disappeared out of sight and ZZZZZZZZ here we go again. This felt like a decent bream and being April 15th I knew it wasn't likely to be a jack. It had been unseasonably cool the last couple of weeks and everyone was telling me the jack run was pretty much over now anyway. I actually had this exact same chat with another yakker about ten minutes earlier. So you can imagine my surprise when I got it to the surface and saw it's red body. IT'S A JACK!!! I yelled to no one in particular. I landed it and it measured at 38cm. So another PB and another new species!
This was the best day of my life!
I fished on for a couple more hours and landed an even dozen for the day. This was the most fish and most species I had caught in a single session until that point, which was about three months since I had started. Every time after that I set out to beat my new record. I had a dozen, I needed 13. I got 13 and needed 15. I got 15 and needed 20.
I started freshwater fishing around the middle of the year and found I had some good success with bass fishing in the local lakes. I still hadn't ventured to a dam but that was soon to come. I'd get 5, them 10, then 12, then 15. One day I managed to nail 24 bass in four hours with three going mid-40cm. I was hooked, pardon the pun.
I found out I wasn't enjoying fishing as much again, especially when I would pick the wrong day to go out and come home with a donut. Wrong tide, wrong spot, wrong lure, wrong moon phase. Whatever the reason when I donuted I felt frustrated and didn't enjoy the trip.
I had forgotten why I was going out in the first place. The idea was rest and relaxation. When it became a competition - either against myself or against someone else - it completely destroyed the serenity and peace of just being out on the water seeing amazing things.
So I stopped counting.
Sure, it's hard not to count if you are only pulling in single digits but after I had caught a few I'd just think of random numbers in my head until after a while I had forgotten how many I'd caught. When someone asks me how many I caught now I will often say things like more than a dozen or I got some bream, a flattie, and a few trev. Honestly most times I don't remember how many but I will always remember what I caught.
And I will always admit a donut, though these are few and far between now I have my gear and my techniques sorted. But if I get a donut now I don't really care any more. I'm there to be on the water, emjoying the peace, tranquility, and time with some new good mates. Don't get me wrong catching fish is a bonus, and I think we can all agree on that.
But focusing on there being a catch distracts the focus from just being there. And that's what is important.