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U3A Writing: The Cod Caller

Merler Parkin tells a fabulous tale of a girl who could charm fish.

"Everything has a love-call," insisted my mate Tommy, "If we could find out how a lady codfish sings her siren song to get Big Daddy out from under his log, we might be able to lure him upstream to the competition area on the day."

"Ziggy's sister Rachel can get the carp swimming all round her legs," said my young brother Matt. Ziggy is Mart's playmate.

"Show me the way to the lady," warbled Tommy, who in spite of his acne, has a way with the girls. It took him no time at all to convince Rachel that if she helped us to win the speedboat that was first prize in the National Cod Catching Championships, we'd take her water skiing.

Meanwhile, we went in the tinny to an isolated bend to see if she realty could call up fish.

"I don't actually call out to them," she admitted, "It's just my static electricity or something. They come all round and I can tickle their tummies."

"O.K.," she said when we told her we were going to a quiet spot, "But any hanky panky from you crowd, and I'll drown the lot of you!"

"It's only the fish we're interested in," said Tommy, and Rachel roared laughing and said, well now she'd heard everything.

She slipped straight into the water when we got to the spot, and because it was a hot day, we went in for a dip too, a few metres away. After a while, Rachel called out to us to come quietly to where she was standing neck-deep in clear water.

Well, you never saw anything like it. The carp were there all right, slithering round her legs like pet house cats. We all helped her tickle them, and made so much noise that most of them cleared out again, but we were convinced.

"Let's take her up to Big Daddy," demanded Matt, who's bossy for a ten-year-old.

Big Daddy is quite a legend around where we live. He's a monstrous Murray Cod that lives in a deep hole where a gigantic old red gum toppled into the river years ago. Only the roots are above water - the fallen trunk disappears into the murky depths, and Big Daddy lives somewhere in the shadows where the current eddies round his log. He's been hooked a couple of times over the years, but nobody has managed to gaff him and get him into a boat.

"He's fifty pound, at least," said the last bloke to hook him.

"More like eighty!" said his fishing mate, who'd seen Big Daddy spit the hook and fade back into the deep.

We all saw it! Rachel had been swimming round on the surface for a while over Big Daddy's deep hole, when she complained she was getting cold, and came towards the boat She was just reaching for the side, when the water boiled behind her in such an immense swirl that she looked around. A fin half the size of a dinner plate broke the surface, and a fishy backbone rolled over in a lazy dive that seemed to go on forever.

Rachel levitated back into the tinny, and no amount of persuasion would get her back into the water.

"It's bigger than a shark!' she said, as we set out for home.

We'd gone about a hundred metres, when Matt said quietly: "It's followin' us."
We all looked to where he pointed, and sure enough Big Daddy was following in our wake. Once, we thought we'd lost him.

"Trail your hand in the water, Rachel," said Tommy.

"Get lost!" answered Rachel, hugging her towel around her.

Matt reckoned he saw Big Daddy break the surface while we were putting the tinny on the trailer at the boat ramp, but we didn't reckon he'd have followed us that far.

*

In the days leading up to the competition, we tried and tried to find Big Daddy, hoping he'd follow the tinny. Matt even brought Ziggy along, but Ziggy obviously didn't have the same electricity as his sister.

Rachel refused utterly to have anything more to do with cod catching. Ziggy said she'd bought a season ticket at the Olympic Pool, and even there, she had a darned good look before she dived in.

We caught a few carp on the day of the competition, and lost a few hooks and sinkers. The only cod caught on the big day - by a lady tourist - was a tagged specimen released the night before.

Big Daddy has probably found his way back to his log, or maybe he's hanging around the boat ramp, waiting in vain for Rachel.

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