When the weather is good and the tide is right, Joe goes fishing. He settles himself by the stretch of narrow water that flows towards the Westgate Bridge, at a point where the mouth of the Yarra River meets Port Phillip Bay.
There, in the shadow of the Newport Power Station, Joe sits upon an upturned bucket and casts his rod into the murky water.
On a day of fair weather, Joe (pictured) will be one of a dozen or so fishermen perched on the river’s western edge like meditating Buddhas, watching their lines, baiting their hooks.
The tide today is barely discernible. The river is calm, even languid. Now and then a small passing boat sends ripples of water radiating from its hull and the morning sun shimmers in the corrugated pattern of its wake. The slow, rhythmic sound of the chugging motor gradually fades, leaving behind a strange, exquisite silence.
Joe likes the familiarity of his chosen fishing spot: its view across the river to the shipping docks and container cranes; the imposing sweep of the Westgate Bridge; the tall clump of bright pins that stand in the distance, signifying Melbourne.
Joe lives in Footscray. He runs his own business and finds that demanding. He was born in Indonesia to a family of Chinese descent and as a boy, he was taught to fish.
In the few hours that he has to himself at the end of a working week, Joe takes his place in this semi-industrial landscape and fishes for whatever’s biting – like flathead, mulloway or pinky fish.
Does he eat his catch? Sometimes. Mostly, he throws it back or gives it away. Joe made friends some time ago with two Greek fishermen, one of them aged 86. Joe says they taught him that you never stop learning how to fish – but Joe’s not here to perfect his hobby. Joe’s here to relax.
“I come to sit and think about nothing,” he says, cheerfully. “I sit for a while and my brain is clear. Then it’s back to work.”
I leave him to his rest: a sane man in brilliant sunshine; a seagull hovering at his side.
First published in April 2014 in my column, ‘West Side Stories’, Metro West magazine.
Image: Paul Bateman, 2014