Your mother’s ass

2013-06-11 00:00

I DON’T know about drawing lines on people’s behaviour. Never have known. Yet it has always been my fate to attract people who draw lines about my own, in such a manner as to suggest they are pronouncing some ancient natural law of great morality. Like Mother Nature is moral and I’m unnatural or what?

Now I’m on the rocks near the old harbour mouth at Port Shepstone, and I’ve found one of those sweet little gullies where the water has a nice chop to it, a handy refuge from the heavily pounding surf that makes life difficult for both angler and prey. But not too placid; for some reason shad don’t like calm water, I dare say because it makes them visible to the little pinkies and things on whom they wish to feed. Yet you’d think by the same logic that they should thus like the wild seething surf, for that should conceal them from the big kob and sharks and things that wish to feed on them in turn, but it is not so. That’s another thing I don’t know about. I mean do know about: it’s shad that don’t know about logic.

Well, anyway, there’s nobody else around on such a nasty windy day and I can pick my best spot at this dinky little bay, with back of me a handy little cleft in among the basalt rocks, just deep enough to get filled by an occasional slosh of spray but not so big that I’ll have trouble grabbing my shad again if I park them in there to stay alive till I’m ready to pack up.

I reckon on using a small lure, a spoon, rather than bait. That’ll need skill, but I have it, and rig a small centre-pin reel on a light rod with a three-kilogram line, and sure enough SLAM! at cast six or so. I work her into a corner of the rocks and grip her in the gills and launch her into the little freshness-pool.

This is specialist angling, you couldn’t do it with normal surf-shad tackle, it’s far too heavy, in fact what I’ve got here is freshwater dam tackle. So I’m really cocky now as I ply my craft, and after an hour or so I’ve got four in the puddle and one on the line, my permissible maximum.

I go to the puddle with #5 and ... and ... and my fish are gone! There’s a flabby mid-aged woman standing nearby, wringing water from a cloth hat. Did you see who nicked my fish?! I cry. She looks at me down her schnoz and flares her nostrils. I draw the line on what you have done here today, she declares with pursed-up lips like she’s drinking vinegar through a straw, I released them back into the wild where they belong. Release them back be buggered, you stupid old cow, I cry, you stole my shad! Furthermore, she declares, I draw the line at the foul language and insulting imagery that you have just used.

But stay cool! There are other shad and there will be other days.

So I’m back at P Shepstone another day, on the beach this time with me old mate Don’t-Delay Pillay, and he’s got a shad as live bait for a big simonfish or a garrick; it’s threaded through with a steel trace and a five-oh hook, he’s got 400 metres of 15 kg line on his heavy surf rod. This shad is swimming about 100 metres out beyond the white water looking edible to something equally edible but big, big.

Down the beach a bloke with lighter tackle is trying his hand with a spoon, suddenly he gives a mighty strike and starts playing a lively fish, and pretty well at the same time DD gets a pull and waits for the garrick to get the live bait well in its jaws before striking. But when he does he realises this fish is not behaving normally, it’s swimming backwards, and when he hauls it into the shallows he sees it’s his own live bait that has taken the spoon of the bloke down the beach.

You’d think it would be physically too stressed to go looking for lunch with all that ironmongery in its flesh, but there you have it: a shad is only a system of reflexes, teeth and guts. Dumb, frenzied.

So there they stand with this lot suspended between them and claim possession of the shad in a gentlemanly manner. I am in the middle in the role of Solomon, to dispense justice and wisdom on the dangling fish. And as I ponder this lot I notice a certain khaki uniform and bush hat approaching along the beach. I loosen the slipknot on DD’s line because he already has his permissible five shad beside this one, which is to say this one goes to the other bloke, and DD snarls at me; but he’s a sharpish sort of fellow, is DD, and grins when this Conservation Officer comes up to Other Bloke and asks to see his fishing licence and counts his fish. Other Bloke cries foul and points at DD.

The dreadful flabby woman with the cloth hat appears, unnoticed as the debate flares she picks up the shad and pulls all the hooks and things out of its flesh. Officer doesn’t know what to make of things, he’s mighty confused. He suddenly notices her. Madam, says he, is that your fish? Yes, she says, I am about to return it to the wild, where it belongs.

Madam, says he, it is dead and you were about to eat it. It is unlawful to be in possession of shad unless you have an angling permit.

He writes her name in a small book. DD grins. Her nostrils flare. I draw the line on what you have done here today! she cries. Madam, says DD, why you don’t draw lines on your mother’s ass?

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