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Not long after joining a fishing club- the NSW A.F.A (then meeting at Canterbury) we started fishing the rocks and within a couple of months were invited to go 'down' the Mattens cliff with one of the veteran members of the club- Wally McLuckie, who lived in North Bondi.

Wally had been fishing the Mattens for many years and although in his 'veteran' years (his words not mine!) he was still a regular and fished there every week, relying on fresh fish for a couple of meals per week. As reigning Sydney Metro Veteran rock champion (about 7 or so times) he always got enough fish for a few feeds, taking basically what he needed for himself and his wife.

Blackfish were his regular target by day on the lower platforms, but come late afternoon he'd get himself a couple of Bream or have a fish for Snapper. Night time excursions were only about Snapper- anything else was "bi-catch"- why would you stay on the rocks of a night for anything else? was his creed.

Wally pretty much only used three different baits for his Snapper fishing, Garfish he caught himself, Blackfish gut and Squid that he used when the Cuttlefish die and float around inshore after spawning each August (he'd of course use Cuttlefish if he could get a fresh one, but Squid were more readily available).

The Garfish he mainly caught by trolling for them out of his canoe, either around Neilsen Park in Sydney Harbour or down at Batemans Bay where his holiday house was, often catching enough for both a feed and for bait. Squid were usually around at the Mattens just before dawn to pre-sun up and the Blackfish gut was from both his own fish and from everyone else who didn't want to keep theirs.

For the Garfish, a set of 4 x 5/0's ganged hooks, with the gut or the Squid, just a single 5/0 or 6/0 Suicide. No lead ever, no matter which of the several Mattens spots he was fishing, the gut, a whole Squid or a big chunk of rarely obtained Cuttlefish, was always heavy enough to throw out on his heavy hand-line. Yep, hand-line! Whether fishing a low platform or high up on a perch, Wally used an old hand-line for his Snapper fishing. It was 45 lb and pretty thick gauge and as we were to find out later, very stretchy. 

One night, during Sydney's annual rock fishing championships, the sea continued to rise. As the tide got higher, we had to retire to our cave, well away from the sea, as it became too dangerous to fish any of the lower spots. Wally and another guy named Max- of roughly the same vintage as Wally- were quick to realise that of the two high spots, only one would be worth fishing.

"Magpie" as we knew it (others called it "Scarecrow") was a ledge that sat about 50 odd feet above the water, it protrudes out about 20 feet from the cliff wall and you could fish straight down into about 40 or so feet of water. Wally and Max went up on Magpie well before dark and were out of our line of sight.

To get up to Magpie, which was well above our cave level, first off, you had to climb about 8 feet up a single thick rope, dangling freely off an overhang adjacent the cave. There were two big knots tied, about two feet above each other, that you used for "steps" to squeeze both feet around. Then reach above and take hold of the three steel pegs the rope was tied to and pull yourself up. A short scramble over a couple of bits of fallen ledge and follow the wind-eroded natural archway that got so narrow, you had to face in towards the cliff and shuffle carefully along while leaning in- about a 50 ft drop behind you to the sea. Where there were protruding bits of ledge that blocked you seeing your feet and the "path" narrowed to about 7-8 inches, someone in years past had chiselled a hole and cemented a steel peg in, which you grabbed with your left hand, giving at least something to hold onto, then about 4 feet further along a second peg, just in reach after swapping hands during the shuffle.

 Once past the second peg, the path widened to about 2 feet, but there were head and chest high protrusions you had to be careful of, bumping one could send you over the edge. I actually fractured my skull (hairline fracture) on one of these protrusions a few years later than this night, but that's another story!

On reaching the fishing perch, which was just a wind eroded "cut" in the cliff wall, there was about a fifteen foot long by 6 foot wide space, reasonably flat, with just a little bit of protruding ledge against the cliff wall, which acted as a sort of table to keep your gear on. Care always had to be taken moving around at all on Magpie, as there were uneven bits underfoot, and bits of wall sticking out here and there. Definitely not a place to stumble or trip, and a fall would most likely be fatal, even though you'd land in deep water, there was nowhere below to get out for about 70-80 yards and even then, there was the Mattens only "permanent" wash between Magpie and the lowest ledge called "Bombie", where the water was always pulling outwards from the shore.

As Wally and Max (Max wasn't a club member nor fishing the comp) hadn't been sighted for a few hours and we were unable to fish, the rest of the guys and I decided on going up to see how they were doing. We didn't take any fishing gear up, as there's only really enough room for about 3 fisher's on Magpie and no real way of casting anyway with sandstone walls and ceiling all around you.

So eight of us climbed up and shuffled along to where Wally and Max were, to see Wally holding tightly to his hand-line and muttering something about "wrong bloody line". When comp fishing, you always want to be catching fish to weigh-in, so after trying first for Snapper with no luck, he'd put the heavy line away and got his "Bream" line out- which was about 20 lb or so- just thin enough to still get a few Bream when it's rough, but not too thin to haul them the 50 feet up to the ledge. A real nice Snapper had taken the Bream line and after playing it out completely, it was lying on the white-water surface straight below.

On other nights, when not so rough, Wally had caught other big Snapper from Magpie, put his hand-line spool on his arm, shuffled back to above the permanent wash and skilfully washed the Snapper up on "Bombie" ledge and after climbing down, scurried out and retrieved them between waves. He lost a few, but he got plenty as well and they were nearly always big fish. This was a good one, but as the swell was up and Bombie wash pumping out, there was no chance of getting it that way.

We all took turns and had a peek over at it, just lying there on the surface. Must be some way to get it?

Everybody that fishes, has moments of "brilliance" where you manage to work out some way to either hook, fight or land (or all three at times!) fish that you really have no "right" to actually get- yet you do. This night, luckily for Wally, I had one of those moments. I looked at Max's fishing bag and already knowing Max carried all his "everywhere" fishing gear with him, asked him if he had a Mullet jag in his bag. He did!

A Mullet jag, for those who don't know, was about an 8/0-12/0 treble, often with lead wrapped around the shank, which was used for casting out into the huge schools of migrating Mullet and ripped back into them. It was a popular practice for getting Mullet years ago, but rightly outlawed, as it inflicted dreadful injuries on fish and it was equally dangerous for anyone near the jagger's as the hook was "swiped" violently with sideways strokes of the rod, to snag the hapless Mullet anywhere the hook would land.

Max got the old jag out- it was about a 10/0 old bronzed version, with a bit of lead wire wrapped around the shank in a couple of layers. Everyone looked at me, intrigued as to what my plan was- I actually didn't have a plan, just thought that somehow we might be able to "gaff" the Snapper with the jag and haul him up. As for the "gaff" line, we only had Wally's old 45 lb "Snapper" line. I got a big ball sinker from Max and put the 45 lb through it, around the line with the Snapper on it, then back through the ball sinker and tied the treble on.

There's a small "V" shaped bit of the ledge on Magpie and club President Jim Clarke along with Frank T sat either side of the V with me at the point of the V and I slid the treble down into the darkness, you wouldn't read about it, without being able to see the Snapper, I jagged it first go. That was the easy part.

Jim, Frank and I slowly and painfully started getting the Snapper up towards us. I say painfully, because the old line was cutting into our hands and was really stretchy- you'd get about a six inch lift each before whoever's hand was next, took hold below the one above. Without saying much at all, we slowly got the fish up, closer and closer to the V we sat around. Then after about 3-4 minutes of lifting, the fish was just below us. It hadn't even kicked once during the lift, but we all knew if it touched the V it would no doubt kick, which would have been too painful for we haulers, so decided to get it totally through the V before grabbing it. As it came into view, the jag was clearly visible, but not in the fish as we'd thought- it had hooked the front hook of Wally's two ganged hooks! We carefully got the fish through the V and it was secured!

Wally was wrapped! We all marvelled at the fish, before deciding to go back down to the cave for a feed. Wally cut Max's jag and sinker off the heavy line and threw out a whole Gar on gangs (the first Snapper was on a Gar tail and 2 x ganged 3/0's) and we left he and Max behind to keep fishing. 

The sea was too big to fish again, so we were ready to go early next morning and Wally and Max came down from Magpie. 

After we'd left them with the Snapper, before we'd even gone out of sight, Wally got another one. This time, on the heavy line and he fought it out, then pulled it straight up by himself, it weighed 3.4 kg and those two fish and a Bream won him yet another Sydney title. 

 

 

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Another captivating story WazaūüėÄkeep em coming

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Another great Story. More please.

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Great story Waza.

All good rock fishos need a bit of McGuyver in them.

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Another great read wazza. 

Rock fishing is certainly more than just a fishing experience

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20 minutes ago, GoingFishing said:

Another great read wazza. 

Rock fishing is certainly more than just a fishing experience

Hi GF thanks! -Rock fishing is an adventure regardless of what you catch! 

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Another great read Waza, it’s amazing what extremes us rock fishers will go to catch fish, but common sense & knowing your limits go a long way no matter your age to having a fun & at times a great adventure.

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Another great story! Thanks Waza.

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