'I HATE LOCH SPORT' The words were scrawled roughly in the sand. I'd been seeing these signs for several days now and I wondered who would have such contempt for the place I'd retired to. Loch Sport is a small village nestled between Lake Victoria and Lake Reeve in the Gippsland lakes system, Australia's largest inland lake system.
My wife and I had retired to Loch Sport, a quiet little backwater sixty four kilometres from the nearest shopping centre. The climate is mild with only the occasional frost in the winter and the summer heat is tempered by the lakes plus the onshore breeze from the Bass Strait which is on the other side of Lake Reeve. The static population of less than one thousand people comprise mainly of retirees like ourselves, weekends and holidays the population can triple with holiday home owners.
One day whilst walking along the beach I came across the author, a young man viciously scrawling his message in the sand.
"Why do you 'Hate Loch Sport' mate?" I asked, he had been unaware of my presence and looked a bit guilty.
"What's not to hate about the damned place" he belligerently replied.
"Well I could think of a dozen things 'not' to hate about the place; but tell me why have you taken such a dislike to the village?"
"It sucks, there's nothing to do here, my old man's too busy working or building the house, Mum works at the plant farm all day and I'm stuck here on my own. No one wants' to talk to me because they think I'm not all there."
"Oh! why do they think that then?" I queried. "By the way, my name's Tony, what's yours?"
"Lennie, I used to suffer from epilepsy, I had an operation that left me a bit slow thinking ... but I'm not stupid!"
"I'm sure you're not Lennie, I can understand your boredom though, there isn't much for a young person to do here as far as entertainment goes; but surely there's other things to do. Do you go fishing?"
"I've tried but there's no fish out there, you need a boat to get to them and there's not much chance of me getting one of them is there?"
"Dunno about that Lennie, there's plenty of fish when I go out. Tell you what, you be here about four o'clock and I'll take you out in the boat; have you got a fishing rod?"
"Only the old man's surf rod and he don't let me use that unless he's with me."
"Don't worry, I can fix you up with some gear, see you at four o'clock then?"
"Yeah, that'll be great, see ya then"
When I got back to the house, I told Tansie about my encounter with Lennie and that I was taking him fishing this evening.
"The poor lad, I can see how he hates the place given his situation. It's nice that you've taken an interest in him; another stray under your wing." Tansie was having a dig at my inclination of helping unfortunates, both human and animals. My belief is if you can help your fellows, why not do so.
At four o'clock I ran my tinnie up on the beach where Lennie was waiting. "Ready to go gettum Lennie?"
"Yeah, you sure they are out there?"
"Yep, here, put on these waders and we'll go pump a few sandworms for bait."
"Sandworms, are they any good?"
"Sure are, they would have to be the best bait for just about anything around here." When we had on the waders I got the sandworm pump and the floating sieve out of the boat.
"Let's try over here, it's usually a good patch as long as we don't over harvest it. I'll pump and you can pick out the worms and put them in the bait bucket." I started pumping and soon we had quite a few good ones in the bucket. "Want to give it a go Lennie?" I asked.
"Sure, it looks like fun Tony." Soon he was pumping like veteran fisho. With enough bait for the evening we shucked off the waders and climbed into the boat.
"Why do we take the waders off Tony?"
"Good question Lennie, if you fell into the water and it got inside the waders, you wouldn't be able to get them off; if you were out of your depth you would drown. When we get back I'll let you try with them full so as you can see for yourself, like they say 'a lesson experienced is a lesson learnt'."
I started the outboard and motored over to one of my marks and dropped the anchor. "This is usually a productive spot at this time of day so let's bait up and go fishin' mate."
"How can you tell where to fish Tony? this place looks like any other around here."
"Ok, see that big pine tree up on the hill?"
"The one right behind Lundy's place?"
"Yep, see how I've lined it up with Lundy's roof? now look over to the left and see the two white houses lined up? that's how I know where we are. Now days a lot of people use satellite navigation to find their marks but this is as good as any for around here."
Soon we were hooking into the bream and it wasn't long before we had a good bag of fish. Lennie hooked on to a screamer. "Slacken the drag and let him run Lennie, the more line you have out the quicker he will tire, then you can wind him in." Lennie played him for a few minute and finally wound it into the net; a nice size blue nosed bream.
"Wow, would you look at that, what is it, he looks different to the others we caught?"
"That's a black bream, the same as the others, it's just that he's a lot older; see his big blue nose? that shows his age. He would be one of the cock fish, they are the one's that keep up the stock levels."
"If I keep it, will there be others to keep up the fish levels?"
"I would put it back myself Lennie, we've got plenty for a good feed; it's up to you."
"You're right Tony, it's more important to let him breed more fish for later, don't you think?"
"I think you've got the right idea Lennie, it makes me mad to see these buggers taking undersized fish by the bucket load, one day this place will be fished out; putting back that big one will help to push that day further away." We pulled up anchor and headed for the boat ramp, with the tinnie back on the trailer we started to clean our catch.
"There's two ways to clean these Lennie, the hard and messy way and the clean and simple way, we'll do it the second way." I picked up a bream and laid it on the cutting board, taking a cut just behind the gills I sliced a fillet off each side leaving the guts still in the frame. A slice to removed the rib cage and I then flipped it over and run the knife under the skin to remove it, taking my tweezers I removed the epiperal pin bones.
"There you go mate, the 'easy' way, want to have a go?" He grabbed another bream and commenced to fillet it, with a little guidance he was soon doing a fine job.
With the fish all done we cleaned up the remains and fed them to the ever present gulls and pelicans. "Now for the wader test, slip them back on and wade out a bit and let them fill up with water."
Suited up Lennie waded out a bit and sat down to let the waders fill with water, once filled he tried to stand up, the weight of the water made it quite difficult. "Wow, I see what you mean now, Christ, you wouldn't have a chance if you fell overboard, would you?"
"Nope, not a chance mate, same goes for gum boots, when they're full you can't get them off; two no no's for a boat."
I dropped Lennie of at his place, a very happy young man. "See you tomorrow at four if you want to go out again mate."
"Thanks Tony, that'll be great, I had a good time today, thanks again for taking me out."
"Sounds like the young man enjoyed himself Tony, how did he behave in the boat?"
"Good Love, he's pretty quick on the uptake, dunno why folks thinks he's not all there; he picked up everything I told him without any problems. I think it's just because he has a poor image of himself and his slow manner of speaking that people get the wrong idea about him."
"Could well be that, are you going out again with him?"
"Yeah, I've arranged to pick him up at four o'clock again. Do you want to invite him for tea one night?"
"Yes, that'd be nice; I'd like to meet him. Perhaps Monday evening would be ok."
We had another successful fishing trip the next day and as we grew closer Lennie opened up and told me of his frustrations. Because there wasn't any employment opportunities in the town, he relied on a partial invalid pension; that grated on him because in his own mind he was quite healthy. His other option was to go for the dole, that meant he had to apply for jobs which he had no chance of winning because of his lack of transport. He had been saving as much as he could to buy a car but that seemed a long way off to him. All in all he was frustrated beyond belief.
We arranged to meet the following morning and take the tinnie and explore the lakes; something I had been wanting to do since we had moved to Loch Sport. Lennie was just about beside himself with enthusiasm. "Gee that'd be cool, how long will we be out Tony?"
"We'll make a day of it mate, I'll get Tansie to pack us some lunch and a couple of flasks of coffee to keep the inner man satisfied. I reckon we could make a big dent in a tank full of petrol."
"Can I pay a bit towards the juice Tony? I feel a bit of a bludger sponging off you like this."
"Lennie, having you along is good company, I wouldn't be getting to enjoy myself tomorrow if you didn't come with me; as far as being a bludger mate, don't consider it. Without bragging, I'm well off, I sold my company before we retired and we live quite comfortably, so don't worry about being a sponge."
.... There is more of this story ...
True Story /