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Jonah's Journal - Kalbarri July 1959.
Member "A C Gull" published this report in the Club magazine "Reel Talk" in November 1959 - nearly 42 years ago.
This report of their trips to Kalbarri is one of at least four published in the Club Magazine "Reel Talk" covering trips in 1959, June 1960, June/July 1961, and April 1963
Friday. At last the great day had arrived. For weeks past we had been overhauling gear, making additional scalie rigs just in case, putting together a couple of extra heavy tailor rigs to take care of the monsters reported to be prevalent, with the jewies, snapper, spanish mackerel, kingies, yellowfin tuna and suchlike which we were led to believe made frequent visits inshore. Everything had been checked, cross checked and rechecked and no detail had been overlooked, or at least only one - the inclusion of a few whiting hooks and some small sinkers. As I waited impatiently for Jonah Secundus to arrive and pick me and my gear up, the eastern sky was assuming a pale rosy tinge.
He arrived at last. Quickly loading on my swag and tackle we set off joyfully at 6:30 to pick up Jonah Junior, who we found completely organised and as keen to be off as ourselves. After a final and exhaustive checked of essentials, which included a bulgy wad of cloth which was to be used wrapped around the fist to shatter the windscreen should the need arise, and a four gallon jerry can which we completely forgot to fill with fuel as a reserve, we heaved JJ's gear aboard and were underway by 7 o'clock.
The journey produced much badinage, merry quips and boastful prognostications.
"Did you bring your rifle" inquired Jonah Secundus
"Too right" answered Jonah Jr. "And a bundle of ammo."
"If we get tired of fishing" mused JS, "we can get plenty of good shooting. I believe there are numbers of wild goats and pigs just on the outskirts of the settlement, we could use a tender sucking pig now and again, couldn't we?"
"I'm not sure I fancy the idea of you roaming around the neighbourhood with a gun" remarked JJ
"You could always keep your hat on so I'll know you" retorted JS.
And so in this light-hearted vein, we sped through the clean green verdant countryside bathed in bright warm sunshine on this lovely July day, bound for the mouth of the Murchison
Up and over the bold steep slopes of Bindoon hill with its peaceful and lovely vistas on either side, across the gentle populations of New Norcia, where the energy and vision of the great Salvado has created a lasting and lovely monument to his genius. Through the vale like fields of spring corn surrounding Moora, up through Coomberdale, Namban, Watheroo, Marchagee, Winchester, that pale and shabby shadow of its noble, haughty and ancient English namesake. On through Carnamah, Three Springs and Mingenew.
Lunchtime found us with some 245 miles of splendid road behind us a little to the west of this thriving centre where, on a hilltop commanding a wide and sweeping vista of developing crops and pastures, we enjoyed ham sandwiches and tea. Following this repast, we pushed on through the beautiful and bounteous Greenough flats to Geraldton where we arrived at 2 pm.
Thirty minutes later, having taken on a supplies of bread, 12 of the loveliest gardies I have ever seen for bait, and attended to the needs of the trusty Holden, we were again heading north through the broken rolling countryside, so typical of this locality. On through the outposts of our pastoral empire where the nomenclature lent colour to the rural scene. We could almost smell the dung of sheep and cattle as we sped through White Peak, Howatharra, Oakabella, Northampton, Ogilvie and Binnu. Finally some seventy miles from Geraldton, we reached the rabbit proof fence and the end for us of the well maintained, if somewhat narrow macadam road, which had allowed us to cruise steadily at between 50 to 60 mph with perfect safety for nearly the whole of the journey.
Here we turned west and following an earth road in good condition, were soon at Ajana, some three miles distant. Although marked on the map in the manner of a small town, as far as we could see Ajana comprised one house, a few sheds and a number of petrol drums. Continuing on we quickly found ourselves in typical coastal plain country where, through stunted scrub battling to win meager existence from the sandy semi arid soil, the wide, well formed and in the main firm surfaced track climbs to the summit of interminable succession of small elevated ridges, a new one appearing with monotonous regularity on the horizon the moment its predecessor was surmounted.
It may perhaps have been due to a measure of natural impatience to reach our haven after some 400 miles of almost continuous monitoring which caused us to regard this portion of the journey as monotonous and uninteresting, and it was with a sigh of relief that we swept downhill over a dry creek bed and swung around a bend into sight of our destination. The time was exactly 5:30.
Kalbarri lies in shallow sandy saucer-like depression, with the estuary sweeping from behind the shoulder of a low hill lying to the north-west in a broadening arc towards the narrow channel providing access to the sea. The great flat reef which forms an extension of the rocky coastline to the north stretches like a causeway across practically the whole width of the river mouth and it is past the southern extremity of this reef that the river empties into the sea via a deepish channel which was not more than thirty feet wide at the time of our visit.
Overlooking the mouth and abroad expanse of Oyster Reef is a rocky headland which flanks the channel leading to the sea and from this vantage known as Chinaman's rock, many splendid fish have been brought to gaff.
The estuarine coastline comprises an almost unbroken stretch of reef with potholes here and there which should provide excellent fishing wind conditions generally are favourable. Dominating the scene is Bluff Point, some three miles to the south, the reefs of which are said to harbour "Jewies" in exciting sizes and numbers.
The settlement comprises a store, a park containing a dozen or so caravans for hire, numerous huts and small cottages, and what is probably the smallest school in the country and stretches along the beach, on a small ridge overlooking the river.
Having located our small cottage, which comprised two bedrooms about 10 feet square separated by kitchen cum dining cum living room of similar proportions from which extended a small porch which apart from providing entrance, also housed a shower recess furnished with a chip heater and a corner to shave and wash in. A double burner primus stove did duty for cooking, while a single pressure lantern worked hard to perform the impossible task of providing adequate elimination. Furniture and ancillary equipment were modest but sufficient for our requirements. A kero fridge was a veritable godsend.
In very much less time than it took to describe our temporary home, we had off loaded our gear, prepared and despatched a tasty repast of toast and tea and were on our way, complete with tackle to join Mick Lee and party who we were told, were fishing on the back beach where they had had some considerable success the previous evening.
Being the elder of the party, I battled bravely and with all the energy I could command through the cloud of sand and dust created by the haste and excitement of my companions, and arrived choking and breathless at a spot where a character from the USA named Al Kabay was doing a deafening wild western hilly billy corroboree around an 11 pound tailor which lay flapping on the beach. A regular prince among fish.
Having assisted Mick to retrieve and brush the sand off his eyes, which had popped out so far in wonder and dismay (his the fish was only five pounds) that they had dropped onto the beach, poured a billy can of salt water over JS, who wild eyed and trembling was savagely biting the heads off our beautiful "gardies", and who was obviously in need of reviving, and admonished JJ for his language. I was quickly making preparations to get the bait where it could do the most good.
Two rods at this particular spot a would have been reasonably comfortable. Without actual violence six were quite impossible. Not being violent types, Mick and his party were soon on their way home. Besides they had to make preparations for the return to Perth on the morrow. On the other hand they may have been shrewd, we never had a strike all night.
Saturday. With high hopes and a feeling of tense excitement, we were back at the scene of Al's triumph before dawn. We were gratefully heartened by JS landing a nice six pounder. During the course of a long and disappointing morning, he got another of 3 1/2 pounds. Which unselfishly and as it turned out inadvisedly he cut up for bait. Junior landed a three pound skippy and a 3 1/2 pound tailor. I assisted to the extent of catching some miscellaneous rubbish from the rocks not far removed in reputation from buffalo bream.
The rest of the morning we spent in making a reconnaissance of the southern beaches where we found a particularly attractive looking hole but all I got out of it was a drenching. On our way back to camp we had a look at Chinaman's rock and the river mouth generally.
After a meal which might well be described as brunch we had a nap to fortify us for the toil in the evening which consisted of plodding back again to the scene of Al's triumph and returning dejectedly some hours later. You know why.
Sunday. Spent the morning fishing on the edge of the channel for whiting, as our bait was finished, and we need a meal of fish anyway. Having neglected to bring suitable gear for this purpose, we were not very successful. JS finished the morning with a few small ones while I caught one whiting and three blowies. We continued our endeavour to replenish the bait supply during the afternoon but without much success. In the evening we tried Chinaman's rock where we lost a few baits - to whiting!.
Monday. A wet miserable morning was spent in another fruitless endeavour to obtain a supply of whiting for bait. On the way home for lunch, we paused to have a word with three splendid sportsmen who had arrived from Bunbury, and taken up residence in an adjoining cottage. They were equipped with, among other things, a large International utility, and a dinghy with outboard motor, the latter already having excited our envy. They told us that a chance acquaintance, also a neighbour, who was on a visit from Geraldton and who professed to have considerable knowledge and experience of the area had volunteered to guide them to Bluff Point and show them where they could hook a "jewie" every throw. We were invited to join the party which was due to leave in an hour or so. We accepted with expressions of pleasure and gratitude.
We set off in due course in a state of considerable excitement and expectancy. Mal, the guide and a new Australian who hailed from Lancashire, a grand chap named Ted, were in the driving cab, we three and Tom in the rear. We had not gone far more before we sank dismally and with an air of finality deep in a patch of soft sand. Having let some air out of the tires, the passengers arranged themselves in suitable positions to give a heave, when Mal let the clutch in. There were no half measures about Mal. With the engine roaring at near maximum revs, he slammed the clutch in and I who was stationed at the back fell flat on my "puss". Scrambling onboard I knocked my shin of a pipe contraption erected to carry plaster boards and I had a lump the size of an egg in a matter of minutes. After much difficulty of a similar nature, a false trail, and a good deal of pushing we got within a reasonable distance of the Bluff. It was a perfect place for fishing, and with a wide expanse of low flat rock overlooking clear deep water. Just the place for skippy, jewie and snapper and suchlike but all we could catch were a number of pop eyed fish called sunny jim or moonfish by our guide, and a few rock cod.
On our return we spent the evening fishing from the dinghy anchored in the channel near the moorings used by the cray boat. We were told that black bream and big kingies haunted the area but we did not catch any. Junior got a very small tailor.
Tuesday. Our Bunbury friends landed us on Oyster reef and left us there while they explored the upper reaches of the river. It was too rough to attempt to fish from the reef, so we just poked around a bit and ended up a broad sand spit from which we bagged 18 nice whiting. After a nap in the afternoon we paid another fruitless visit to Chinaman's rock.
Wednesday. With the Bunbury boys we searched the reef along the beach for crays but as the tide was high we did not find any. Ted collected himself a good haul of periwinkles and other edible looking shell fish. Following this venture I have another go at Chinaman's but without success.
In the afternoon JS went up river with our neighbours to see about that suckling pig he spoke so confidently about at the start of the journey. All that expedition yielded was a fox which had taken a 1080 bait.
I will not continue with this chronicle which would just be a repetition of what has gone before. I hope it has served to provide those who have not yet been there with a sketchy picture of the ease, comfort and safe speed under which the journey can be made, what you find when you get there and what you could catch if you got there at the right time and under the right conditions.
Despite the mainly melancholy atmosphere which hangs over the picture I have endeavoured to sketch, there were some bright and merry moments. The warm and soothing embrace of the winter sunshine went far to dispel the "jimjams" which frustrated and disappointed anglers might have been prone to under the circumstances. There were oysters aplenty for those who are patient enough to prise them from the rocks, and fiddle around in an attempt to open them.
Most days we found a pile of crays on the porch left by one or other of our neighbours who had been out in the cray boats. Meeting up with friendly and interesting folk like the Bunbury boys, the schoolteacher and his wife who were on their way back after a caravan and Land Rover tour around the coastline of Australia with tales of fantastic fishing along the northern coastline of the continent, brown and grizzled farmers enjoying quiet relaxation by the seaside, the quiet genial government bloke who will I hope shortly be one of us. Fish or no fish it was good to be there and well worth the effort of travelling all those miles to get there.
I propose to write the sequel to this, and it might be called "The return of the Jonahs", and I trust it will not be long before the opportunity arises and we set off to gather the necessary material.
A. C. GULL
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