The 68-year-old has been fishing the Yea River for almost 40 years and shows no signs of slowing up. His love affair with angling began when he drove a grader for the Shire.
“I always made sure I had my rods in the back of the grader and every lunch time I’d knick off down to the river and throw a line in. It was good to bring back a feed after a day on the roads’’.
Up until five years ago he was regularly spotted peddling enthusiastically down the highway to his beloved waterway. “Everybody would look at me on that bloody old bike with two or three fishing rods hanging off, and a net and bag on the back. I’d get a lot of toots from people driving along the highway. People must have thought I was a silly old bastard riding along there. But local kids still come running to my house to check what sort of fish they’ve caught – I guess I’m a good source of information’’.
These days Ray drives down to the river and makes his way to a quiet spot to try his luck.
I’m not a fan of the ocean. I once went out in an old boat as an apprentice and they were throwing blood overboard to attract sharks and I was heaving over the side at the same time. It wasn’t good at all and I didn’t think we were going to make it back to land. I knew that was the end of ocean fishing for me – it wasn’t worth it’’.
The only surviving member of the original Yea Angling Club, Ray is concerned by the declining condition of the river and the drop in the number of red fin that he catches.
“The Yea River has no weirs or locks on it so it should be in the exact same condition as it was 100 years ago, so it’s really frustrating. I have witnessed huge changes to the river. It used to be clean as anything but a lot of it is silted up, parts are full of weed and the carp are taking over.
“I used to take the kids down there every weekend and we’d always catch fish. Now you can go down and sit there all day and you mightn’t catch anything’’.
Ray proudly boasts that the Yea Angling Club has the best clubrooms in the nation.
“We’ve got a bar, kitchen, bathroom, a big gazebo, toilets, showers and a boat ramp. The fellas all get together on Clean Up Australia Day and do a run down the river because rubbish is one of the biggest problems. I have access to many parts of the river that other people don’t and it’s important that everybody does the right thing to keep it clean and look after it’’.
Written by Daniel Clarke, Environment Victoria, July 2008