I can still feel the sting of the boot to my eight-year-old rump when Dad found me, happily walking home from a bit of night fishing in the King River near home. It was after 9.30pm and he and Mum had been out for dinner, the understanding was that us kids would stay at home while they were gone. Even then I couldn’t resist an opportunity to get out and cast a line into the King River – still can’t really.

In the eighties and nineties, when Pizzini Wines was growing quickly, I was often first in line to put any new technology or time-saving devices in place. I had a reputation for being an early adopter but the motivation for me was knowing the fish are biting when dusk falls, so I’d rather be down at the river with a line in than driving around the vineyards flicking switches, mucking around with pumps or turning taps on and off.

As a kid, fishing was a way of putting dinner on the table for the family. All I had was the discarded tangles of fishing line caught in the rocks that I collected along the river. I’d get the knots out, tie it to a stick and fish off the banks, with freshly dug worms.

We all loved fish. Usually simply fried in butter with a few herbs, but Mum sometimes quickly fried the whole, cleaned fish then put them on a bed of chopped vegetables straight from the garden, poured over some stock and into the oven they went, for an hour or so. My parents would never waste anything and we didn’t have a freezer so they were masters of pickling; even if it was just a couple of leftover fillets they were fried and preserved in vinegar with a bay leaf and a few peppercorns, making the best sandwich filling ever.

In those days you couldn’t come home empty-handed, the river was full of trout, black fish and native bream. These days the fish are a bit harder to come by but I’m more than happy to go home empty-handed. I still fish whenever I can but I’d rather catch and release or catch, mostly release and just bring a couple home if there are plenty around. The King River has always been one of Victoria’s great recreational fishing rivers. Right back in the early 1900s, before our time, the rooms at the Mountain View Hotel were often used by Melbourne doctors and lawyers with a passion for fly fishing.

It makes me happy to see locals and visitors to the King Valley fly fishing or dropping a line in off the Cheshunt bridge, in Lake William Hovell or at any of the other public access points to our beautiful river.

It takes a certain personality to enjoy fishing and just settle in and wait. Dad used to come with me when I was a kid, to make sure I didn’t fall in, but within fifteen minutes he’d be fidgeting and wanting to leave, bored to tears. Our son Carlo was the fisherman amongst our kids as they were growing up and there are a couple of grandchildren who enjoy it, and can handle more than ten minutes being quiet and still. It’s such a pleasure to watch them learn about the river and its fish, and offer the odd tip. So, with the 2018 vintage done it’s time for me to put up the Gone Fishing sign and take off to find a quiet spot.

Note that you need a fishing licence for any fishing in Victoria, unless you’re under 18 or over 70/have a Senior’s Card. Licences are available in most fishing tackle stores or online at www.vfa.vic.gov.au That website also has good information on access points for the King River and the closed seasons for different species. Trout season closes each year at the end of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend until early September and Murray Cod are off-limits September to November, inclusive.

Alfred Pizzini

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