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||Surf Casting and Angling Club of W.A. (Inc.)
Return of the Jonahs. - June 1960.
Member "A C Gull" published this report in the Club magazine "Reel Talk" in October/November 1960 - over 40 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 July 1959, June 1960, June/July 1961, and April 1963
In an article entitled "Jonah's Journal" which appeared in last November's issue of Reel Talk, I threatened to write a sequel to the dismal chronicle of the "Sad Sacks" which was set out therein. An opportunity has now occurred to carry out that threat and without making any apologies I set about the task.
In order to leave no stone unturned, no hook unbaited and no lie untold, the trusty Holden which had served us so well on our Murchison adventure was, in view of its limitations, passed over in favour of an equipage which had practically being rebuilt for the purpose by Jonah Jr. And which was guaranteed to go over, on or under any set or combination of conditions we were likely to encounter.
That it did all this, I readily acknowledge with the greatest admiration for its power, terrifying ability and tenacity. The foregoing guarantee however contains no warranty, implied or expressed, concerning the comfort, protection or safety of its occupants. In this redoubtable vehicle loaded with spare parts, spare fuel, a kangaroo jack of the kind used for levering large stumps out of the ground, a hydraulic jack of the pattern used by the West Australian Government Railways to deal with derailments, a shovel, food, fishing gear, high hopes, ourselves and 30 dozen scaly mackerel, we set forth about 7:30 am on Friday morning following our annual social.
The description of the scenery will be much the same is that detailed in the original article except that most of it was not clearly visible due in part to heavy fog encountered between Bindoon and Moora, but mainly due to intense nervousness induced by the speed at which we traveled, which in turn set up in me an overwhelming compulsion to close my eyes tightly and pray fervently. To make matters worse, as if infected with the joyousness of the occasion, our space capsule expressed its exuberance with a violent, continuous and nerve racking wagging of its tail, due, according to Jonah Jr. to a combination of faulty loading, specific gravity, centrifugal force and a tendency for the inside front wheel to rise against the camber.
If Mr Khrushchev imagines he is way out in front in the rocket racket, our Jr has a surprise in store for him. The only slight edge Khrushchev may have conceivably in this matter is that his missiles are guided. Anyway, next time I'll set off on a bicycle a week in advance and meets the others up there. But there was much worse to come. Much worse.
In next to no time we pulled up for a snack a mile short of Watheroo. You know the place, "T for U at 142". After sandwiches, sausage rolls and coffee, Jonah Jr decided to refuel from the supplies we were carrying. As the transfer preceded it was evident that what was going into the tank was not all remaining there, and an examination disclosed some alarming facts, i.e. the petrol tank was leaking, some fencing wire had become jammed between the leaves of the rear spring and in doing so had caused a broken brake cylinder. The net result of all this was our fuel capacity was limited and wastage was unavoidable, the wire had to be removed to obviate breaking a spring, and we had no brakes.
Nothing daunts our Jonah Jr. Having effected what temporary repairs he could and throwing caution to the winds for the second time that morning, we were soon roaring up the road again at supersonic speed, swaying dizzily from side to side in a kind of nightmare skater's waltz. Oncoming traffic never hesitated for a moment - it took to the bush immediately we hove into sight.
In a matter of minutes we were bearing down on huge petrol tanker making a turn into the oil depot in the main street of Carnamah, and were only saved from certain destruction by Jonah Jr making what he termed a racing change from top to first and skidding around the tanker. This sudden interference with the laws of force and gravity caused a shower of camping gear, provisions, scaly mackerel and such like to be hurled from the rear of the utility into the driving cab.
By the time Jonah, Secundus and myself had righted the effects of this confusion and I had retrieved my dentures from the wreckage, we were pulling outside Coventry Motor Replacements in Geraldton. This usually reliable firm was unable to provide the spares needed to fix our brakes, but referred J.J. to a shop down the road which would be able to make the part in no time. Having ascertained that J.S. had some loose silver, J.J. hailed a taxi and settling himself comfortably in the back and left J.S. to entertain the driver with his usual flow of topical small talk. This chatter gave way to a torrent of abusive and invective a couple of hundred yards further on where the trip terminated and J.S. was called upon to pay two shillings flagfall and two shillings per mile or part thereof. The position was not improved when it was learnt that the shop could not finish the job in time to be of any use to us.
Having completed the inevitable last-minute shopping and J.J. having succeeded in sealing off the defective brake, thus leaving us with three in operation we thundered off again and narrowly missed a bus making a turn into the hospital, we were at Kalbarri shortly after dusk and were soon offloaded, fed and settled down for the night.
Since our previous visit the whole conformation of the mouth of the river had altered completely. The river, swollen by heavy rains, had swept away a large sandy peninsula and much of the beach in the vicinity of Chinaman's rock, and deposited the sand on the outer reef which faces the southern extremity of Oyster Reef. Subsequent strong northwesters apparently had swept up the sand again and dumped it on the end of Oyster Reef appreciably reducing the depths of the outer channel in the process. The net effect of this was to cause the tide to rush in and out at a tremendous speed, so much so in fact that 4 1/2 ounce spoon sinker, which was intended to assist an attractive bait to probe the channel for kingies, just fluttered on the surface with the sheer force of the water's movement. This movement with the attendant turbulence, produced a murky appearance in the water, and probably had an adverse effect upon fishing in the vicinity of Chinaman's.
Early on Saturday morning we were at our favourite spot on the back beach and it was not long before the air was filled with the familiar hunting cry of J.S. "I got one" "I got one" ... "no must have been a bit of weed" .. "felt just like a bite, ruddy big one too," ... "yes I got him, thought I had" .. "0h blast, I have lost him, weighed a ton too, what a $#*$*, no he's still there, what a beaut," and so forth. J.S. is never certain whether he has a fish or not until he can see it on the beach. Anyway there it was, a nice one too of 6 1/2 pounds. J.J. was soon engaged in beaching a similar specimen and the morning's excitement eventually terminated with J.J. and J.S. bagging a brace each and myself not getting a bite. The afternoon session followed a similar pattern.
On Sunday morning we were invited to join a party of four leaving in Mainwaring's truck at 7 am for a point south of the bluff where it was expected snapper and jewfish would be taken. The track we followed ran parallel to the sea and at one time formed the summer road between the Murchison and Port Gregory. The surface alternated between deep soft sand and stretches of limestone outcrops and could not be classed as comfortable. After possibly 6 or 8 miles through sparse scrub we pulled up on the edge of a very steep hill and gazed on a scene the like of which is often depicted on postcards received from friends touring the Swiss or Austrian Alps.
Enormous snow capped mountains descending steeply to a small valley in which nestles a tiny village complete with church and steeple. In this case there was no snow and village was replaced by a broad rocky ledge some 200 feet below and 60 to 80 feet above the sea. The descent down the mountain side was over limestone reefs and outcrops and was veritable rock and roll alley.
At the bottom you stood on the sheer cliff above the sea gazing straight into beautiful rainbows formed in the spray dashed from rocks ten fathoms below. The locals had moved around and down on narrow dizzy ledges and all we could see was an occasional head far below. We were eventually brought up by a fissure running sheer down to the sea, which had to be skirted via a narrow and sloping ledge on which one false step lead to eternity. I managed to get across with my stomach performing the antics depicted on TV screen when changing from one channel to another. J.J. who thrives on such situations had no difficulty in all while poor Secundus, who had a nasty moment when a foot slipped became petrified and refused to go one way or the other.
We finally decided that any nerve we once might have had now lay in shreds somewhere between Perth and Kalbarri, so deciding against fishing, we heaved ourselves slowly up the mountain again and spent what was left of the morning reclining amongst sweet smelling herbaceous plants bathed in warm and pleasant sunshine and contemplating the sea some hundreds of feet below.
Our companions eventually returned with four nice snapper and a really big tailor. There were no blowies at this spot, their place had evidently been taken by wobbies. Having loaded the lorry we were soon on our way home to a belated lunch and another visit to the back beach and Chinaman's where we took some tailor.
During the evening of Sunday and the early morning of Monday, heavy rain fell and conditions were miserable. Having risen and breakfasted at our leisure we decided to go up river and have some sport with the black bream which were reported to be big and plentiful. A professional fisherman we met the previous day advised us to go as far up the river as we could get or at the very least three miles. With advice from such a source we imagined we were in for a good day's sport. We were.
We set off along the very rough and sandy track and were soon inside the boundary fence of the nearby station where soil conditions changed completely due to the presence of an appreciable proportion of clay. Before long we arrived at a point where the road dipped steeply to cross the dry creek bed, the bottom which had been scored deeply into ruts by countless vehicles during previous wet periods. The rain of the evening before formed a largish pond in the depression, which without hesitation, examination or caution Junior charged like an infuriated bull at a matador. What J.J. did not know was that there was a couple of feet of water in the pond, and a good 18 inches of thick sticky mud at the bottom of it.
The poor old capsule did its best - it charged down the incline with a roar, throwing a bow wave high into the air with steam hissing furiously from the belaboring engine. The combined effects of the submerged power unit and rear wheels impotently churning greasy mud way down below proved too much for the gallant old warrior and she settled down by the tail in cloud of vapour and gave up the ghost. Jonah Secundus skipped nimbly to the ground and promptly went head over turkey in the treacherous bog. Having addressed himself with considerable heat and competence to conditions in general and J.J. in particular and selecting himself a comfortable perch from which to direct operations, he came up with the brilliant suggestion which was that we knock the bottom out of the ruddy thing, get inside and run along with it.
Being a bit more practical, J.J. got his kangaroo jack while I endeavoured to dig away enough mud to provide the necessary clearance. This was like trying to empty the Canning Dam with an eye dropper. However patience prevailed and with cunning manipulation of the kangaroo and railway jacks Junior eventually had the wheels emerging from the glug. The idea was to get them high enough to permit laying a pretty solid track of logs, timber and any other suitable material which would promote traction beneath them.
In the circumstances in which we found ourselves this meant heaving them a hell of a long way. This critical height was just about to be achieved when with a rumbling crunch the vehicle shuddered and slowly settled down in the bog again with the kangaroo jack emerging through its body. To cut a long story short, some 2 hours later and after much hard labour, bad language and a pretty thorough mud bath, we all emerged looking and feeling much the worse for wear.
Having gone some three and half miles and finding a suitable position which had every appearance of being productive, we commenced fishing but instead of black bream we found ourselves plagued with tailor about two inches long. The journey back was also an epic with Secundus, myself and a couple of sacks playing a nimble and herculean part but I will spare you that. Our advice to anyone contemplating a visit to the Murchison is to do your bream fishing at Crawley.
The balance of our time was spent mainly in pursuit of tailor and was divided between Chinaman's, the back beach (blue hole) and Red Bluff. Chinaman's, the most convenient and usually a very reliable position, did not come up to expectations possibly owing to the conditions already described. What with the rip and the wind as often as not, it was impossible to feel the weight of the scaly or to judge its position in the water, and it was largely a matter of luck whether you felt a bite at all let alone feel it in time to set the hooks. Nevertheless we yanked several nice tailor from the hole, while to provide variety JS added a sizeable snapper.
The blue hole at the back beach never failed to provide us with thrills and excitement. Here too, conditions were rendered a little difficult by a permanent strong northerly drift which caused a good deal of slack line, snagging and lost fish. A cork painted white and fastened three feet above the scaly helped to avoid snagging and also to fix the position of the bait. From this fertile channel I suppose we averaged half a dozen nice fish per visit and from it came our noblest specimens, an 8.25 pounder and one of 6.625 pounds both on government tested scales and caught by J.J. and myself respectively. Also one slightly over seven pounds beached by JS.
JS also cajoled from the rocky depths of this cornucopia a fish which was so black as to be beyond description or comparison. The eyes were bright but conveyed no reflection of the thoughts conjured up in the nightmare skull. The nose comprised two wide distended openings in the middle of the face while the capacious mouth was furnished with lips which looked for world like a couple of those black puddings which used to be so popular a decade or so ago. It was variously identified as a slimy cod and young jewfish but I won't tell you what JS called it when he first saw it. However it proved to be quite tasty.
It would be as well perhaps to counter any skepticism about the weights by detailing the manner in which I'm able to present the densities of our catches in such an explicit manner. Those weights carrying the stamp of officialdom were calculated at the shop and represent the means of the weights determined on two sets of scales. That determination in relation to the non-government tested scales was more complex. The only scales we had was a humble "de-liar" given to JS for a Christmas present in 1927. The sand from many seashores encrusted it like icing on a cake, while any endeavour to extend the weighing column produced a noise like the self starter in junior's Moonbuster.
The mean of a number of tests using a 1 pound packet of dripping disclosed that this delicate instrument had a discrepancy of 33 1/3% in the shopkeepers favour, so taking the average of a number of weighings and making the necessary adjustment it was a perfectly simple matter to arrive at a base* weight, so there you are. (*In my dictionary base means low, mean, contemptible, of little value.)
This chronicle would be incomplete without a description of our experiences at Red Bluff, a steep rocky headland situated some three miles south of the settlement via a rough tortuous track paved with the loosest, deepest, least tractionable sand it would be possible to discover. How we got there and returned to tell the tale I will never know. But what we found when we did get there is another story.
Wide flat ledges of rock protected from the sea by more flat ledges of rock, protrude into very deep water with a bottom of rocky pinnacles which harbour no end of exciting quarry. On our first visit we arrived just before sundown in time to meet up with a small school of hungry tailor, and we were soon listening to the echoes of "I got one" "I got one". In all we took probably nine or ten tailor together with sundry miscellaneous rock fish,and with the exception of a smallish one caught on the beach later, not one of tailor would have been less than five pounds. In addition we were all broken up at least once, while on occasion as I stood with my bait floating on the surface waiting my turn to cast, a snapper streaked up from the depths below and made a grab. I was to nonplussed to take advantage of the occasion and lost it
After dark we fished a lovely channel flanking the main mass of rock. JS got a tailor and was later broken up and I beached a sizeable wobbegong shark. We were soon driven off, however by the intense cold which was a feature of the evenings and early mornings throughout our stay, and one which put a severe limit on our fishing time. We camped at the bluff that night in order to be on the rocks first thing in the morning. I can't remember ever spending more wretched night anywhere in my life. JS who can normally snore his way through anything, spent the best part of the night collecting firewood and ensuring that no one else got a wink of sleep. In the morning we caught nothing.
We tried one more afternoon trek to the Bluff but without a reward. Given a suitable vehicle to handle the track and bearable night and morning temperatures this venue could provide unlimited excitement and can be strongly recommended.
A couple of chaps building a cottage alongside our billet very kindly gave us permission to use a dinghy they had brought with them whenever we felt inclined. We decided therefore, on the last evening of our stay to pay a visit to Oyster Reef, and fish in a fabulous hole which had been described to us and said to contain lots of everything, or failing that, making a few casts from the sand spit which now formed an appendage to the reef. On the way across J.J., not satisfied with being a racing driver, was intent on pressing upon us his prowess as a racing oarsman and in the process broke an oar.
Having become inured to adversity and doing things the hard way, we eventually got over this hurdle and landed upon the reef. After a brief reconnaissance it was decided it would be much safer to fish the sandbank where eventually "I got one" got one. As usual, Antarctic conditions drove us home shortly after dark.
Having arrived back on our side of the water, J.J. and myself decided that as a gesture of goodwill and to soften the blow about the oar, to give JS's fish (which he was at that moment cleaning in the icy water, with teeth chattering and every manifestation of a man dying of intense cold and exposure) to the chaps who had lent us the dinghy. I'm sorry to recount that J.S. refused to take a reasonable view of our diplomacy, and it took us some little time to win him over. Apparently he did not mind parting with the fish so much but he took a dim view of us waiting until he had cleaned it before making the suggestion. Luckily everything ended on a happy note.
The owners were expecting the oar to break any day and had a new one in stock in case of emergency. They were also pleased to have a three pound tailor all ready for the pan for breakfast. The only dissatisfied customer was you know who.
The following morning we were about bright and early and having packed our gear and wrapped our catch of fish (nicely frozen) and a swag of purchased crayfish (also frozen) in the glass fibre insulation which had transported our scalies so efficiently, we were soon on our way home. Needless to relate, despite a marvelous pork chop and fruit pie at a farm on the way back and the intervention of the traffic cop at Moora, the journey back was no less nerve racking than the trip up.
Anybody have a bike for sale?
A. C. GULL
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This page last updated 20 September 2001.
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