Mobile Musings

I was fishing with my mate Peter at Tullaroop Reservoir recently. When I say ‘with’, he was out of sight, and quite possibly still working an inlet where I’d left him over an hour earlier. Meanwhile, I’d marched onward, driven by a desire to see what was around the next corner.

Although I fish Tullaroop several times a year and have done so for decades, the lake is large enough that there are still parts of it which I may go many seasons without visiting, and the area I was exploring was one of these. As half-forgotten features came into view, I became increasingly confident I wasn’t far from a big, marsh-lined bay where I’d caught some nice browns years earlier.

I rounded yet another headland, and yes! There it was, looking as fishy as I remembered.

By now, I was at least a couple of kilometres from where I’d left Peter. Feeling a bit guilty that I was about to start fishing the best looking piece of water I‘d seen all morning without him, I thought I should at least call. I pulled the mobile phone out of my pocket and… no signal. I walked up the hill a bit… no signal. I even backtracked a little to the apex of the headland… no signal. Hmmm.

Good-looking water: a shallow marsh with a nice drop-off close by. 

Oh well, I thought, no harm in having a quick fish anyway. So I went back down to the lake and started casting. The water looked superb. It was much clearer than other parts of Tullaroop we’d recently investigated. It covered a recently-flooded margin of grass and weeds in a foot or two of depth, before gently shelving out to what looked like a significant drop-off. I soon caught a small rainbow, but that only added to the sense that I should let Peter know about the great spot I’d rediscovered. I had a few more flicks before my conscience got the better of me and I decided I’d better retrace my steps until I found Peter – or at least enough signal to make contact with him.

A rainbow from the bay on a lightly-weighted Magoo – better contact Peter…

About two headlands back, there was still no signal, but then I saw my mate in the distance, pacing intently around a small corner. This wasn’t the look of someone who was missing out, and I immediately felt some relief. A shouted conversation (aided by the windless conditions) confirmed Peter had enjoyed some action. Having made contact the old-fashioned way, I felt free to return to my idyllic bay. However, the clock was ticking towards lunchtime, so rather than double back, I continued walking towards Peter. Yes, he’d caught a few small rainbows like mine. We fished together for a bit longer, and then headed back to the car for some overdue lunch.

On the last few steps up the hill, the elusive phone signal evidently returned, because my phone started chirping away with missed call and text notifications.

All this reminded me that mobile phones are a mixed blessing on a fishing trip. If there’s signal (a big ‘if’, given it’s often missing – even in spots quite close to civilisation) mobile phones can be handy for communicating with your fishing partner. And they have undoubted value for checking forecast weather and water levels. Rain radars are especially useful. On a Snowy/ Monaro trip last year, we were able dodge the deluge engulfing most of the area, and salvage several extra hours of good fishing, by reading the radar on our phones.

A hole in the rain on the Monaro – saved by the weather radar!

However, the mobile phone downsides are many. Besides the bleeding obvious point of the many types of calls which are a mismatch with the mindfulness required to fish well and enjoy the experience, a pet hate of mine is weak phone signal. This is when there’s just enough reception to receive a text message, but not enough for a voice call. It’s a scenario which plays out time and again when I’m fishing, and yet it seems to be an entirely unfamiliar concept for the more urbanised segments of the population.

A text will arrive from Scott at the garage, asking me to call about my car service next week.

“Sorry Scott,” I’ll text in reply, “I’ve hardly got any signal. I’ll have to call you later.”

“Oh, okay,” replies Scott, and you can almost hear the cogs whirring. “How can you text me if you don’t have signal?”

Well, if I only had a dollar for every time I’ve dealt with that one, I could afford my own satellite and matching sat. phone. While one bar of signal can allow a simple text to crawl its way out of an Eildon valley, Tasmania’s central highlands, or a typical west coast estuary, any attempt at a voice call will at best result in a scattered nonsense of words, for example, “Car…. radiator… a… tyres… 59 dollars.” Or, just as likely, a silence broken only by the occasional crackle, or the beep-beep-beep of a failed connection. Trust me, if you don’t want phones smashed in frustration, you’re better to leave the voice call for when you have at least two bars, and ideally three.

Ah, the serenity! No signal allows complete focus on the fishing. 

Mobile phones give the impression that, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you can be reached. I’m not sure that’s an entirely healthy concept. I started fishing long before mobile phones were even invented, let alone something everyone has. The expectation was that you could catch up when you got back to your accommodation that evening, or failing that, when you got home. I rarely recall feeling put out by that – at either end of the line.

Are we better off with mobile phones? I guess so, but if you wanted to mount a contrary argument, I’d be easy to persuade.