It might be his Italian background, or maybe it’s because he grew up in a remote coastal town like Marlo. Kyle Dicecco has a unique ability to make the simple look beautiful. While most of us are striving to strip back the layers, he’s already camped there. Need a boat? Rebuild one. Need a bigger boat? Start again. Not happy with the stainless steel bits available on the market? Buy a roller and bender, and fabricate your own. Need to feed the family? Catch something. Even better, why not cook it on a beach with a view of migrating whales? This is the life of Kyle.
Marlo is the next town south of Mallacoota in Victoria’s Far East Gippsland. Blink and you’ll miss the turn-off from the Princes Highway between Melbourne and Sydney. If you do spot the sign, turn south to follow one of Australia’s most famous rivers — the Snowy — meandering through farmland until you get to town. In busier times, wool, corn, sheep and cattle were shipped downstream while building materials, clothes and pioneering tourists came the other way. The first joint you come across in town is a coffee shop that doubles as a tackle shop, aptly named the Snowy River Tackle & Snowy River Cafe. It’s The Captain’s kind of place where you’ll find fat, wriggling sandworms and delicious spicy salami and jalapeño toasties — although not on the same plate. The eatery’s biggest competition comes from the Marlo Pub, an icon in itself.
Since the logging industry wound up in the ’90s, things are a pretty slow here. Many of the local lads now chase work in the mines, in oil and gas or the dwindling logging industry in the region. Nowadays, the economy is predominantly beef and dairy, tourism — did we mention the pub? — abalone and sea urchin diving, seasonal crops — Kyle’s parents own a protea farm, which he grew up on — and, of course, the fishing. We catch up with Kyle at the cafe. He’s a rigger and scaffolder, lucky enough to work local. “I’m born and bred here,” he says. “I love this spot.”
Kyle reckons the fishing crews can be divided into camps — firstly, the old boys who love flatty bashing in 50m then anchoring in close to chase gummies. “They’re the first ones to launch and the first ones to come in to beat the sou’ wester,” Kyle reckons. Then there’s the new school of fisho, buffed up in bass boats or Hobie cats, fishing the flats for bream with thin line and even thinner egos. In fact, the Snowy hosts several notable fishing competitions, including the Vic Bream Classics, Australian Bream Tournaments and the Hobie Pro.
Kyle lets slip a couple of secrets to fishing around Marlo. “The flats in the entrance fish well for bream and dusky flathead on bait and soft plastics and Vibe lures in winter,” he says. “Upstream, the Snowy fishes well for perch, bass and even trout. The beach fishing is off its head for sharks, including bronze whalers, tigers, bulls, hammers, juvenile whites — bycatch, cough, cough —and even makos. They catch ’em by paddling out eel chunk baits connected to Tiagra 50W game reels loaded with 37kg line, connected to 10ft game rods.”
The seafood buffet continues offshore, Kyle says. “In 45m–50m, the sand and bluespot flathead is a sure bet and then, of course, there’s the game fishing.” Kyle says, these days, he’s focused on chasing pelagics, putting in more kilometres for kings, marlin and swordies. “There’s Everard Canyon for a sword, Tamboon Reef for kings, you get makos turning up while drifting for flathead — you can always get a feed,” he says, before adding with a touch of the sentimentals, “I just love the thrill of getting out in the morning and seeing what the ocean’s got to offer.”
The Captain hears you, Kyle. It’s a beautiful thing. On his second trip chasing swords, Kyle cracked a mako. On his third, he landed a swordfish. “We were an hour and 45 on the rod and finally got it boatside,” he recalls. “It was on the Talica 50 with 37kg line. I ran out 60kg of top shot with an offset circle hook. Hooking a sword is something else — I’ve never had that feeling on a rod before. The power they’ve got. As the fight goes on, they don’t seem to lose their stamina. You finally get them up on the top shot and you think, righto, this is it, and then they go ‘nah, I’m going back down.’” And if the local fishing doesn’t satisfy, then Kyle reckons you can always head a couple of hours north to chase marlin and bluefin off Eden.
RACK ’EM UP
Kyle began amassing his tackle arsenal early in the piece. “It all starts as a kid,” he says. “You buy a Shimano reel and you stick with it. The high-quality Shimano stuff is good gear. You get what you pay for with any sort of tackle.”
Being a collector of Shimano outfits, Kyle is already eyeing off The Captain’s new Ocea Jigger 2000NR HG, which hasn’t even hit the tackle stores yet. We reluctantly hand it to him for a feel. Kyle’s verdict? “It’s lightweight, there’s no fatigue, you could use that all day long.”
IN THE CRACKS
The solitude of Marlo is a big part of its appeal for Kyle. “In winter, you’ve got the whole place to yourself. You can have a fish and then have a dive in the arvo,” he says, before donning his Blacklip 7mm wetsuit and plucking a crayfish and a few abs using his home made Hookah unit. “That’s what I love about diving. You’re looking… looking… and when you find a big one, you can’t describe the feeling.”
Kyle follows up his underwater excursion with a mouth-watering beach cook-up that would put a Sydney waterfront restaurant to shame.
He cleans and tenderises the abalone before slicing it into bitesized pieces and coating it in the plain flour, then egg and milk he’s whisked together. Then he dusts everything with breadcrumbs before shallow-frying it in a wok powered by a gas burner. Kyle reckons the secret is to cook it hot and quick, then add salt, pepper and lemon to taste.
He boils the crayfish in a pot with saltwater for 10 minutes plus one minute for every kilo — so 15 minutes for a 5kg cray — making sure not to start the timer until the water is back on the boil after placing the crays. When time’s up, Kyle whips the crayfish out, chills it in cold water, cuts it in half and we rip into it. “The great thing about Marlo is you can always get a feed,” he says. “Here on the south-east corner of Australia, you can usually find a good weather window. And you don’t need a 7m boat to access good water — you can do it out of a tinnie on a good day.”
OTHER STUFF TO DO
The Captain discovers — of course, from someone else — that Kyle is pretty handy on a motocross bike, having competing at national level. He reckons it’s all part of growing up in the expanse of Far East Gippsland. “It’s a good area to grow up, ride a motorbike up the street and no-one cares,” he says. “You can go spotlighting at night for vermin on private property. You can drive into some epic camping spots on the banks of the Snowy with a 4WD. And no matter where you go in Marlo, there’s a beautiful backdrop.”
HAVE A CRACK
Kyle first came to our attention as a reader’s ride in issue #17 of The Captain. Deck Armour man Shane Paton put us on to his customised Haines Hunter V17. True to form, Kyle had never posted a photo of his own boat. “I like the old boats,” he says. “Some of these new boats do nothing for me whatsoever. You look at an old Haines that’s been restored and you think, fuck, that looks good. I bought it as hull-only, then ripped it to bits, moulded a new top deck, extended the back and there it is. It’s a full moulded wavebreaker — I built the shape out of plywood, faired it then flopped a mould off it and made a wave breaker out of that.”
Kyle speaks in very practical terms, but his words are lost on The Captain’s crew, who are having a shared moment as they gaze in awe at Kyle’s two-tone rig with its sweeping lines and stainless steel shimmer. Kyle bought a roller and a bender and did all the racks and fitting himself. “I just had a crack,” he says. (The Captain imagines these words will sit on Kyle’s headstone.) “I couldn’t get the rod holders I wanted, so I had them laser-cut and welded myself. I also made the dive door hinge and latch. I don’t like paying people to do things.”
We launch at The Captain’s favourite boat ramp at Cape Conran, 20 minutes from Marlo. At the edge of a banksia forest, it’s surrounded by sand dunes that run off water into freshwater lakes. Along the beach are rocky outcrops shrouded with orange lichen and tussock. “A lot of people have problems with this ramp,” Kyle says. “You’ve definitely got to pick your day because you can get stuck in the sand quite easily. You’ve got have your wits about you and respect it.”
THE RIGHT FORMULA
Kyle’s other nautical toy is the Formula 233 he built in his shed. It’s at the plug stage, shaped around an inboard-powered Formula he hauled all the way from Rockhampton in Queensland. It cost Kyle $40,000 plus $1200 in freight. He offloaded the old Mercruiser 135s for $7000. “I want a new boat,” he says. “I’ve done a few rebuilds, and you’re just working with shit.” On the built-in hull extension he says, “It’s got the traditional trim tabs built in. I wanted to extend it that extra foot to float outboards, so I continued running the strake to the end to get lift and I’ve increased the angle on the transom so you can dig the outboards in more. The well has plenty of room for big outboards and slimy tubes.”
The plug is currently finished in Duratec surface primer, a high-build, easy-sanding primer. “I’ll block that off, wet-sand it, cut and polish, then wax until its shiny,” Kyle says. “Then I hit it with tooling gelcoat ready for the mould. You can’t do the mould all in one weekend or you’ll get distortion. I’ll start with a skin coat of glass with the chopper gun — make sure that’s OK, then start building the chop up to 10mm–15mm. When I’ve got the thickness of the mould, I’ll leave it in the sun to fully cure. Then I’ll build a steel frame and pop it off. That’s the most exciting part of the whole job.” Kyle has also customised the top deck to suit his fishing. “There’s nothing on the market, so I thought I’d build what I wanted. You can flush-mount the electronics and everything is within arm’s reach — the area for the twin throttles is at my side, where it should be.”
The gunwale tops have been widened for strength, seating and mounting rod holders. “For the deck plug, I started with the original deck, chopped and modified with plywood, glass, and lots of bogging and fairing,” Kyle says. “The transom features a central bait tank with plenty of room for batteries and pumps on either side. I’m still thinking about having bait tanks on the side and putting the batteries and storage central.”
Prime position in town is sitting on the sprawling balcony of the old weatherboard Marlo Hotel on a summer’s night, watching the sun go down over the Snowy or the Tasman Sea, its glassy surface occasionally broken by a thrumming two-stroke tinnie. The interior has recently been decked out with a new timber bar and bistro. “The refit has created ocean views right throughout the pub,” says publican and owner Russell Bates, who comes from a long line of pub owners.
He reckons Marlo sunsets are pretty special, but then the live bands take over. He says it goes off on New Year’s Eve when the town’s population doubles. Meal prices are good and the portions are designed to feed hungry fishermen — those old school flatty bashers. Russell sources his produce locally, including seafood from Lakes Entrance, Pambula oysters and beef. Accommodation ranges from single room to family and executive suites, priced from $90–$220.
19 Argyle Parade, Marlo
(03) 5154 8201
SNOWY RIVER TACKLE & SNOWY RIVER CAFE
4 Marlo Road, Marlo
(03) 5154 8487.
CAPE CONRAN COASTAL PARK