FREMANTLE: LEMON TREES AND FISHING
Lemon trees. The Italian tells me to load up the soil with copper bits and pieces to make it grow. Bang copper nails into the trunk. The Australian woman tells me to pour Epsom Salts around the base and water it in. My lawnmower man tells me to severe those wild shoots taking off left and right across the insides of the tree instead of straight up, water it plenty and all will be well. Others tell me to go to Bunnings or some gardening place to get lemon tree fertiliser. The Australian bloke tells me to pee on it.
Fishing for herring. The Italian bloke tells me to mix pollard with a handful of flour and hot water and fish oil and squish it into a wire cage, two small hooks with squid or prawn, a little sinker and that’s it. The Chinese woman tells me to buy the rig from a fishing tackle shop with little plastic-coloured butterfly things on hooks and no bait. My High School Principal tells me to get that burley and cage happening, no fish oil, no flour, just warm water to mix and squish and longneck hooks covered with thin white plastic straws, no bait and the herring, if they are running, will bubble and break the surface and you’ll haul in one after the other. He’s getting me one of his rigs to show me how.
Early one morning before school at Fremantle’s South Mole, the old Irish man, who’d just come out of hospital after an operation, told me to stand on his flat rock at South Mole, cast to the left to land above the reeds with a handmade cage packed with burley, a handful of flour and leftover oil from roasts and grills mixed in and, maggots on hooks.
This is how you grow the maggots. Fish heads in an ice-cream container placed in a warm spot, no lid, watch it and when you spot about six black dots, fly eggs—no more, for God’s sake no more, ‘cause you’ll end up with multitudes’—place them into a bucket with pollard, lid on. The maggots will hatch and grow and crawl out of it into the pollard and feed and fatten—can keep them for weeks in jars in the fridge. Perfect. “Herring love ‘em and you’ll get bucket loads. Nothin’ like natural.”
Years in Australia, he’d not lost his broad Irish accent and when he told me this, I couldn’t help but wrap my arms around him as he did with me, then off I went to the classroom.
There’s something about fisherman isn’t there—so generous with their knowledge. Biblical. No wonder fishermen feature in Jesus stories. They don’t hang onto knowledge like it’s some big thing to elevate them selves, dominate and squash others. They share and they know why they are there, to soak up the ocean, the rising and setting sun, the clean air as they hope and dream. Stories. Connections.
Last week I met a bloke, a big country bloke, new to the area. Squid rod and jig in hand. Expensive thing. I didn’t know about squid rods and jigs before I met two young Asian blokes a few weeks ago. University students. Why the hell were they throwing lines into the water, like flick out and quick flick up and down? I didn’t know because all I’ve known is how to catch fish and eels in rivers with bits of meat from my mother’s soup bones.
At the end of their lines were these fancy little coloured plastic fish-like things with multiple hooks at the end. I asked about them and one of these young bloke reached into his bag to give me one of these beautiful things and I felt like Christmas. Have to try that, I thought. I told that big country bloke about it.
He didn’t feel safe on South Mole rocks, painful knees and such, fear of falling, so I told him to try in the harbour near to the Maritime museum. God knows if I got it right. Thing is, you have to pay to park there to fish. He had no coins so I gave him some to chuck into the machine. So happy. God knows if he got any squid.
Thing is, in the fast-moving changes to make Fremantle more beautiful, more attractive to tourists with those square coloured boxes housing sick trees on the main drags, just about everyone I’ve met on South Mole and in the harbour, have been out-of-towners from Western Australia and overseas, families and friends who quite simply want to throw a line into the water and soak up the quietness, the beauty of the place.