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John Lee's Kalbarri Story.

In November 2002 I made my usual annual two week trip to Kalbarri staying at the Club's house.

I wasn't able to go up last year because I was too crook so it was nice to be there after a two year break. We did our usual thing on the Saturday of departure and got a very late start, leaving Perth around midday. By the time we made Lynton Station it was 1830 hours and although not super bright, the light wasn't that bad. I never speed on country trips, usually just touching 90ks and 100 down hills.

I was negotiating a very gentle up slope not far north of the Garnet mine when a roo hopped out of nowhere and zigzagged in front of us. I was probably only doing about 80 but barely missed hitting the dopey thing twice as it jumped to one side then back again. I always tell Angela (notwithstanding that I have a roo bar and that I was actually talking about birds and rabbits) "whatever appears in front of you - just hit it".

The Club owns an air conditioned holiday house at Kalbarri which is available for rent to the public and club members at competitive rates

The theory was sound but since the last time I clouted a roo was about 25 years ago, I'd become a bit complacent. Not helped of course by the fact that I was towing a trailer, tried to swerve and almost lost control of the 4WD. By the time we reached the Kalbarri National Park we were both decidedly jumpy and seeing hoppers behind every shrub.

Once at the house we spent the first day or two just relaxing, observing any changes made to the townsite and marveling at how inexorable housing development is - even at a place as sleepy as Kalbarri. At times like this, I do the usual babyboomer thing and think to myself "I remember the days when.......!"

Anyway, according to 'the Bureau', the weather for the better part of the first week was promising to be fairly unrelenting - 25 to 30 knot southerlies and big swells. And so it proved. On my first excursion to Wittecarra Creek(club members used to call this "the cutting") I tried in vain to get a bait into viable water but didn't come near to clearing the dirty, weedy, soupy white water. Well they do call us "Surfcasters" - surf being the operative word.

By the second week, the swell had abated somewhat even if the tree bending southerlies continued and anyway the tailor had started to co-operate so I was reasonably happy. The bite rate was fairly slow so bag limits would have been hard work to achieve but, my intention was just to enjoy myself and not to fish flat out in any case.

While on the subject, (sorry I can't help myself) I've got to climb on my favourite hobby horse for a minute - each time I've been to Kalbarri between October and Christmas I've made a mental note of the number of female tailor I've caught that are fully roed in comparison to the total number of males.

The percentage is very close to 75% female, 25% male. I therefore do not attempt a bag limit during the spawning period but put most females back in the water. If you're wondering how it's possible to know which ones are females, it's very simple - just look at the condition of the fish in the region of the lower body near the anal canal and you will know. Although not ideal, if you need proof, just cut a couple open and I guarantee their egg sacks are bloated.

I've sent many letters and emails to Fisheries urging that a closed period be declared in the northern part of the mid west (Kalbarri) during the spawning season just as they do with Pink Snapper in Cockburn Sound. However my plea seems to fall on deaf ears - no one wants to bite the bullet and make a tough decision. Anyway, that's another story.

One afternoon about 1700 hours or so, the wash was again extensive and as I was sick of having the left side of my face sand blasted, I walked further south at 'the creek' to within 200 metres of Red Bluff. My mind went back to 12 years ago when big bombers were also breaking and I fished the same spot for many bust ups and two nice Mulloway.

Well lightning sometimes does strike the same place twice and yes you guessed it - by 1730 I had a nice Mulloway flapping on the beach. I'd left my own little spring balance home, but I found one in a kitchen drawer - a little worse for wear perhaps but good enough as a guide and when weighed, the fish went 7 and a bit kgs.

I tried twice at Lucky Bay for zilch. The first time in a southerly sand blizzard at the only bay that didn't have a metre of weed piled up on the beach for a complete white out. The second time was amazing. It was only blowing about 20 knots (calm by local standards) and I was fishing, as I nearly always do, at the northern end of the bay immediately in front of the settlement. By 1730, all I had to show for my troubles were two tailor. Then I got a big strike and as I was very close to a reef I thought "I'd better hit this fella pretty hard or I'm going to lose it."

So I gave it everything at the same moment in which a surging wave broke in the same spot. As a result, my roughhouse tactics stung a very green Mulloway into making like a Marlin and leaping clear of the water with a rolling motion which thereby caused the line to wrap around its body. It broke off of course and I just stood there with my mouth open, completely stunned. It was worth it though just to see a species that most would term bullocking but sluggish in its efforts to escape, resort to gamefish tactics in order to gain its freedom.

Actually, many years ago, I had the same thing happen at a place some of you may remember on the south coast at what we used to call Flinder's Bay or Emu Springs.

To have it happen twice in a lifetime is incredible. Anyway, after recovering from the shock, I rigged up again and cast into the same spot. Again I got a big hit but this time it was uncontrollable. Obviously a good shark but using only 9kg line in the vicinity of reef soon saw another bust off. So, with hands on hips I shouted "I'd like to see you do that again", rerigged with heavy trace and cast in.

I don't have to tell you what happened next - oh I managed to hang on for a bit longer due to the heavy trace but the mongrel cheated and swam out through the gap in the reef and turned north with the inevitable result. After that anything that occurred was going to be anti climactic. Of course, everything went quiet. So with tail between our collective legs, Angela and I retired to Kalbarri to lick our wounds.

It certainly wasn't the most productive trip (fishwise) we've ever made to Kalbarri but it was relaxing and I had a lot of fun when I managed to get a line in the water. After all, that's what life is all about isn't it - having fun.

PS. Next year I hope to take my boat up so hopefully I'll have a few more tales to tell.

John Lee, from the Club Magazine "Reel Talk", February 2003.

Copyright © 2001 Surf Casting and Angling Club of W.A. (Inc.)

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This page last updated 31 January 2003.

Display of this page was updated on 21 January 2013. Contents updated as above.

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