Tributes flow for Canberra fishing icon Bryan Pratt after his death
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Tributes flow for Canberra fishing icon Bryan Pratt after his death

Canberra ecologist Bryan Pratt is being remembered as an icon of fishing, the "complete angler" and a true gentleman after losing his battle with throat cancer.

Dr Pratt was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and tributes flowed after his death on Friday. He was 81.

Bryan Pratt with a Murray cod from the Murrumbidgee.

Bryan Pratt with a Murray cod from the Murrumbidgee.

The respected pathologist, author, fisherman and tackle shop owner was a long-time Canberra Times columnist and passionate about the capital's waterways and is credited as the driving force to Googong Dam becoming a recreational fishing spot.

Colleagues, friends and family voiced their respect for Dr Pratt, who has spent the past 30 years dedicated to passing on advice and teaching young anglers how to fish.

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Long-time friend Les Bullard met Pratt in a tackle shop in Braddon in 1979 and the pair became lifetime friends.

"Bryan had an influence on me straight away and he had a huge influence on the younger generation, teaching them how to enjoy fishing and what to look for," Bullard said.

Science pathologist, Dr Bryan Pratt at the Googong Dam.

Science pathologist, Dr Bryan Pratt at the Googong Dam.Credit:Rohan Thomson

"He taught them the art of fishing. The two accolades I want to him to be remembered for are the encouragement to the young generation ... and making Googong Dam a recreational fishing dam.

"The hard work and the push he did for Googong Dam, with the big Murray cod that are in there ... you just have to look at the people fishing there today."

One of Bullard's favourite Dr Pratt stories? "Everyone always liked to listen to Bryan's tales from his camps and trips he went on.

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"There was one at a place called Corroboree Billabong and he went to lay down on his camp stretcher for a snooze in the afternoon. Someone's pet fox terrier grabbed him on the head and Bryan thought he was getting dragged into the water by a bloody big crocodile.

"That one comes to my mind all the time. It was so funny. He was a terribly funny man, a gentleman through and through, a damn good fisherman and a good mate."

Dr Pratt completed a science pathologist degree at Sydney University in 1959, an honours degree at the University of Adelaide in 1961 and his PhD in 1964.

He moved to Canberra in 1965 to work for the Commonwealth Bureau of Environmental Studies before moving to a new department to set up the ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

In that role he administered fisheries, forestry, city parks and wildlife among others before retiring in 1988 to spend more time at his tackle shops and fishing.

His book, The Canberra Fisherman, is regarded as a "fishing bible" for anglers and he also became the patron of Ginninderra Falls.

Fishing Australia's Rob Paxevanos said: "Bryan was iconic in the industry. He was highly regarded, but not just in Canberra.

"He was held in high esteem right around Australia. He was always approachable, always in the shop ... always up for a chat about fishing, always very helpful.

"He helped put Canberra on the map fishing wise. It was hard to match him in fishing knowledge, he helped everyone from little kids to visiting diplomats. He was respected. A gentleman. And a family man."

Al McGlashan said on Instagram: "I just got in from fishing to hear the sad news Bryan Pratt passed away today. One of fishing’s nicest blokes he was still catching Papuan black bass with @sportfishingpng right to the end- your wit and great nature will be missed."

Tim the Yowie Man added: "RIP Dr Bryan Pratt, a true Canberra icon. Sincere condolences to his family."

Staff at Dr Pratt's tackle shops are hoping to organise a memorial for him in the coming weeks and have already started thinking about ways to honour his life.

One idea is for a plaque at Googong Dam given his influence in opening up the area to recreational fishers.

"I fought tooth and nail to get Googong open for recreational fishing and boating, and it is still the grand experiment in my mind. Other councils and jurisdictions have followed suit," Dr Pratt said in 2014.

Dr Bryan Pratt.

Dr Bryan Pratt.

"Because water goes into tertiary treatment after it leaves the reservoir, it should be safe for the population. There should be no harmful bacteria, viruses or nematodes, or other organisms coming out of Googong."

Bullard said: "Bryan's body was giving out him, but he was as sharp as a tack right up to the time of his demise.

"He was one of the guys who would never lay down easily. People would sit in his shop for hours and listen to him.

"I've lost a lifetime mate. A legendary icon of Canberra. A true gentleman and a damn great fisherman."

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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