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Surviving


wazatherfisherman
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The usual rock fishing trip planned for the weekend had been 'up in the air' due to a fair sized groundswell, but with an enormous high pressure system moving right over the centre of the country and a forecast for really strong westerly winds overnight, we decided to at least take the drive to Dover Heights and have a look at the sea. The only reasonable weather forecasts back in the 70's and 80's were "only a guide" to what conditions were proposed to be like and often were simply worded "slight, moderate or rough" in regards to sea and "low, moderate or large" in regards to the swell- didn't really provide any decent detailed information like today's forecasts/surf-cams etc do, so going and having a look was the best guide to whether or not to proceed.

For the record, the forecast stated "slight to moderate seas on a moderate swell"- which would normally have kept us home, but the forecast big westerly would quickly flatten the sea, leaving conditions that are always productive, due to plenty of food being washed in.

A variety of species should be around and usually hungry to cash-in on the food washed in from the wave swept ledges. Weed and cabbage, crabs and "weed worms"- a small marine worm similar to a tiny bloodworm and found amongst the cabbage and cunje- all get washed in, on rougher days cunje also is added to the mix of natural food, in fact anything living on the rocks is food for one species or another. Different small fish species often shelter also, taking cover under the foamy wash and the ever present Pike would be darting around, presenting themselves as attractive big fish meals and the predators would definitely be in search of easy pickings, able to hide in the wash themselves. So the first day of an abating sea, is just as attractive to the rock fisher as it is to the fish.

The route to the cliffs took us past Bondi Beach which would give us our first view of the ocean, however, looking at the sea from Bondi was never really a good indicator of what the swell on the rocks would be like unless the ocean was dead flat. Going past Bondi though, had become part of the "ritual" for all of the crew, as we all lived from Sydney's inner-west to the western suburbs and all were as eager as always to go for a fish. Sighting the ocean always raised excitement and expectation.

On arriving at the cliff top park and walking over to the "view" spot, near Liverpool St, we observed there was still a fair sized swell coming over the rocks. Might be too hard to fish towards high tide in the night, however as we were going down for the afternoon and night and not returning until midday the next day, we had a chat at the view spot and decided we could always go down and fish "high", on a small perch above the water known as Magpie, if it got too hairy on the lower platforms. Besides, three more of the guys were going to come down and join Ross, Bob and I, somewhere around midnight.

So down we went. Uneventful climb down, but arriving at the bottom of the cliff, closer to sea level, it was evident that the sea was a little bigger than as observed from above. Looked like only high level fishing, at least until the westerly arrived, with it's flattening capabilities. So off on the 800 odd meter scramble to the southernmost end of the area, where we'd base ourselves in our cave, which was both well back and high enough up from the sea to provide a safe camp.

After initially having a fish off the only lower level spot that was fish-able, due to the swell, we decided to go up high instead. So up to "Magpie" we went. Fishers from different clubs have different names for Magpie, such as "Scarecrow", "Dropsy" or "High Rock", but as our mentor and initial guide to the area- Wally McLuckie had fished the location for nearly 60 years and he called it "Magpie", then Magpie it was.

Magpie is a small perch of a spot that consisted of about a fifteen by six foot bit of ledge, carved by wind out of one of the natural cliff-side archways, sitting about fifty feet above the water and also some twenty feet out over the sea above the cliff wall. You could fish straight down below you or flick a cast out, the spot is only about six foot wide from cliff wall to the edge with a ceiling about seven or eight feet above, so not much room to cast "side-swipe" style with long rods. Fish up to about 4-5 lb would be winched up, anything larger needed to be either cliff-gaffed with a purpose-made gaff on a rope or more commonly, walked about thirty yards back to the north and then washed up on a lower ledge, but this was a difficult maneuver, so winching up the common method for smaller fish.

To get to Magpie, first you had to climb about eight or so feet on a swinging rope that was dangling from the next level of ledges above our camp cave. It's a thick rope about an inch and a half in diameter, with two large knots tied in it, one about three feet above the ground and the next about two feet above the first. You put a foot each side of the knots and squeezed each side, using the knots as steps, then reached up and took hold of the three steel pegs the rope is hung from and pulled yourself up. Then a short scramble over some fallen ledge and follow a natural archway that had been eroded by wind out of the side of the cliff face.

The "dodgy" part was where the ledge became so narrow, about halfway along, you had to face the wall and lean in as you inched along, with the footing becoming as narrow as about seven or eight inches and you couldn't see your feet while crabbing along sideways. About a fifty foot drop at your back. At the narrowest part as you moved along, there was an old iron peg about thumb-thick, that was cemented into a chiselled hole and it stuck up about three or four inches. You took hold with your left hand and shuffled along carefully, making sure you didn't bump either your head above, or your shins below on an any of the uneven bits sticking out from the sandstone wall, then swap the left hand for your right and another old peg matching the first was about four feet further along. Same again, shuffle and swap to the right hand and the path widened slightly to about two feet across and you naturally lean in cliff-side as you turn and face forward, left hand side to the drop as you to move the last few yards towards the perch. The danger along here is there are multiple protrusions of sandstone jutting out from the wall, many chest to head high, so careful along this bit and then you're on the spot.

Great spot for Tailor, Bream and particularly Snapper and exciting spot to watch a bobby cork with a whole Garfish suspended on a set of ganged hooks. A favoured rig off here was a large running cork, sinker, swivel, 18 inch leader, a set of four 5/0 ganged hooks with a Garfish bait and a single 4/0 hook attached to the bottom ganged hook with an eight inch piece of either wire or 20 lb line. Amazing how many big Bream would take the piece of bait on the single hook suspended below the full Garfish. Also accounted for plenty of Tailor if you used the wire option when they were around in numbers and enabled catching a second fish on the one rig.

On this trip, due to our prior knowledge of a fair sized swell running, we had actually taken a small metho stove, tinned soup and tea, as we would be possibly sitting in the cave for much of the night and Bob, who had only been down a few times, took a sleeping bag- a luxury item to carry down the cliffs. Most trips, it was sandwiches, a pack of biscuits and the old favourite space food sticks, if we had hot food, it was fish caught on the trip and cooked on a hot plate permanently cemented on four steel beer cans wedged up against a boulder the size of a shipping container, but fish eating was usually done some time after sun-up.

We actually had a great rule for eating fish- whoever caught the second fish for the morning had to be the cook if we were going to eat any. I still love a fresh Tailor, bled, filleted and cooked on the hotplate- Blackfish were cooked whole. Bigger fish were taken home as "evidence" was needed in some households!

After having a fish on Magpie for a couple of hours, we decided to go back down to the cave for a feed, so we left our rods and tackle up on the ledge and just took the fish and the bait back down with us. You couldn't leave anything edible alone on the dry rocks, even these tiny ledges on the cliff wall would have rats sneaking around looking for food only minutes after you left. So back to the cave for a feed of hot soup and a sandwich. We used to leave a torch on in the cave, thinking it would deter the rats, but over time, realised it probably just aided them in their food quest rather than put them off. Before we went back up to Magpie for our second fishing session, Bob dropped his torch and busted it, no amount of mucking around with it got it going again, so we salvaged the globe and the batteries. This left us with only two torches and as we wanted to leave one going in the cave while we were gone (we hadn't worked out at this stage it wasn't putting the rats off) we decided to just take one up to Magpie.

So up the rope and off to the path again. This time, as Bob was the least experienced, we let him have the torch and we worked our way out to where the path narrowed and the hand-hold pegs were. Ross edged across first with Bob shining the light for Ross from behind, then Bob edged along and when he was across to the wider bit, he turned and shone the light for me. I inched along, got past the two pegs and turned to face the spot, made it about four feet and then Bob turned the opposite way with the light! Instantly disorientated, I yelled for some light, but as Bob turned back around, he inadvertently shone the light straight at me and in my eyes- it wasn't a deliberate act, just reactionary, but it blinded me and I lost balance. Knowing the edge was on my left, I instinctively dived inwards to the right, but there was a sandstone protrusion about chest high and my head collided with it.

I remember hitting it in the darkness and falling in towards the cliff. What happened next was almost the end of me- unconscious from the collision, I slumped down and then rolled sideways, I'd turned around 180 degrees and ended up with my right leg hanging over the 50 foot drop. Out cold for a few minutes, I woke to find Bob holding the drop side of my jumper and saying "don't move man"- I was too groggy to move, and realised my leg was hanging over the edge, but was unsure of where to move it for fear of going over the drop and into the big sea below. I think my wool jumper got caught on the sandstone and it was the only reason my momentum stopped, otherwise over the edge and into the swell smashing into the wall down below. 

I was too disorientated to do anything and the boys couldn't move me- it was just too precarious. I remember putting my head back down and then woke again a few minutes later as Ross was trying to climb past me- no mean feet considering the narrowness of the spot; he managed somehow and was back a few minutes later with the pulley rope, which we sometimes took off the pulley and carried down to the fishing area for a safety line in case someone got washed in.

Still shaky, I put my head back down and woke up some time later to find my left leg tied to something in one direction and my left wrist tied to something in the opposite direction. Ross had used the pulley rope and tied the rope to me and the cliff sort of longways in one direction so I wouldn't roll over the edge, he and Bob were sitting holding the rope in the other direction. It was all they could do until I was conscious enough to move by myself, as there just wasn't any room to move or anything stable to grab hold of. Probably around half an hour or so passed before I regained full consciousness and I had a shocking headache, I felt really thirsty and dry and for some strange reason the idea of dropping over the edge and down into the water came to mind- which of course was absolute lunacy on my part, however that was my thought at the time.

Awake now and feeling both hot and cold at the same time, I just wanted to get away from the edge and have a drink of water, but as I had the shakes really badly, agreed to stay put while we worked out a plan to get me along the narrow part and back to the safety of the wider ledges above the cave. Ross made the decision to re-tie the rope around my chest and then he and Bob could get up against the cliff wall either side of me and guide me/pull me in towards the cliff if I became unstable on my feet. This worked out OK and they guided me past the narrows and pegs and along to where the ledge widened right out. Only then could we all get together and they got me to the short rope without saying too much. Bob got down first and I followed, but didn't make the proper move over the top knot in the rope and I knackered myself on it- lucky the rope is free-dangling! Down the rope and I was at the cave, with it's perfect seat-height flat ledge, Ross down a few seconds behind me.

When I sat down on the flat sandstone, the boys came over with both torches and started checking out my head. I hadn't realised this whole time, that I'd bled pretty badly from the top of my head and the blood had flown from my forehead through my hair and down the back of my head and neck, it had stopped bleeding by itself and congealed blood had dried and matted my hair. As it had stopped bleeding, the boys decided to leave it alone and then we all started talking about what had just happened.

Both Ross and Bob said that it almost happened in slow motion, both said the sound of the thud of head and wall was really loud, followed by the fall and roll, if my jumper hadn't got caught I would have been over the edge and into the water below the spot. As I was unconscious, no doubt I would have either drowned immediately or been smashed against the cliff wall by the big swell. In either case, I would have been killed if I'd gone over- man was I lucky I wore that particular jumper that trip- the usual sloppy-Joe probably wouldn't have caught like the wool did. Even if I had regained consciousness, with the big swell, I wouldn't have been able to get out if I did manage to swim in and if I did make it to the ledge, undoubtedly would have been swept back off anyway.

The tiny first-aid kit I carried permanently in my backpack, consisted of some Savlon antiseptic cream, tweezers, some Styp-wool to assist stopping of bleeding, a few cloth band-aids and one crepe bandage. It was the only time a crepe bandage ever got used for an injury in over 22 years of rock fishing, they came in handy for various purposes, from makeshift belts to shoelaces and backpack 'repair' cords, but it was the only time anyone needed one on an injury and boy I was glad it was a permanent addition to the tiny kit. Add a handful of Panadol tablets and that was it- not much I know, but handy on plenty of occasions.

They Savloned and bandaged up the wound, stuck-hair and all, then put me in Bob's sleeping bag, but we knew not to let me fall asleep, with concussion in mind, so we just made some more tea and I sat up in the sleeping bag. All thoughts of fishing were gone for the night, until we spotted lights coming down the side of the cliff in the far distance, it was the other three mates coming down to meet us. By this time it was well after midnight.

It took Wayne, Ben and Frank nearly an hour to come around the bottom level instead of the usual fifteen to twenty minutes, as they had to scout right around the back of the bay of boulders between us and the climb, due to the swell reaching right up into areas water didn't generally get to. It was nearing high tide and it was a big tide that night. By the time they got to us, they knew we'd probably all be in the cave, as there's only a limited appeal to fishing "high" and we only ever went up for a few hours each session before retiring back to the cave's 'comfort'.

On seeing me bandaged and hearing the tale, nobody was real keen to go back up to Magpie that night and we sat around in the cave from then until dawn, sipping tea and eating all the food we had with us.

The sea meanwhile, had started to succumb to the effects of the big westerly wind, which according to the three later arrivals was absolutely howling up top- of course it was totally wind-less under the cliffs, and being a completely cloud-less night, there was no way we could tell if the predicted wind had arrived.

As light approached and the tide was getting closer to low, Frank decided he wanted to go and have a few throws off the front of the 'lake', which hadn't had any water even splash over it from when we could first watch it in the pre-dawn light, a far cry from only about four hours earlier. The westerly was absolutely howling and blowing in the opposite direction to where the swell had come from, flattening the sea in the process. So over he went while we all watched from the cave.

Well, after rapidly catching three fish in three casts, it didn't take long for the lot of us to put our rock plates on and race over to join him. Over the next hour and a half we pulled over eighty fish between the six of us. Bream,Trevally and small Reds came out one after another and we had enough fish for a couple of feeds each. 

Around 7.45 am the guys decided we should get going, as they still had to help me up the cliff, so we cleaned the fish and packed for the return journey. We were able to take one of the lower routes on the way back, which suited me, as my head started 'thumping' again while scrambling around the rocks and I was dreading having to do the rope climb. There's no other way up other than the ropes, so they put the 'safety rope' around me, tying it under my arms with a bowline knot and two guys manned the safety rope, half hauling me as I climbed the big wall. By the time I got off the ropes a few minutes later, my head was really pounding and by the time I finally got over the cliff-side fence at the top, I was feeling pretty lousy. Sitting in a car never felt so good.

 When they dropped me at home around 10.45 am, there was a note to say the family had gone out with the relatives and they'd be home late, so I put the fish in the fridge and went into the bathroom to remove the bandage. I had to soak the bandage to get it off, but the dried blood with hair matting stayed solid.

I only lived about 600 yards from the old Western Suburbs Hospital, so I thought I should go and see a Doctor up there. After waiting about four hours in the old casualty waiting room, I got tired of waiting and walked back home. Got home and my Mum rang to let me know she and my brother were going to stay the night with the relatives, so I thought I'd wait until she was home to talk about the accident. Then I went to sleep for over twelve hours, waking the next day with the same shocking headache as I had down the cliff. All the Panadol had worn off and I felt really lousy again, so I walked back up to the hospital for the second time. The reception nurse recognised me from the day before- probably due to my bloody, matted hair and grubby appearance- I hadn't even had a shower as I felt so drained- she insisted I come straight in to see a Doctor and he gave me several needles on the top of my skull and then used a scalpel to cut all the hair and dried blood away, before saying "where are your x-rays?" I replied I hadn't had any done, so off to x-ray.

The scans revealed a hairline skull fracture and the Doctor decided I had "delayed concussion", so after giving me another half dozen needles and 8 stitches to the cut head, he made me stay for a few hours and I finally got home in the afternoon, completely exhausted.

I continued fishing the area for years after that trip, but if the sea ever got rough enough to drive others up to Magpie, well, I went home.

I'm SOOOO lucky to have survived that night, and it reinforces some of the hidden dangers of rock fishing.

 

 

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Another good story, and those are the dangers of rock fishing. Climbing down ropes hanging over the edge, and crawling along edges and under overhangs, was not my idea of fun. I once looked over a ledge to see the way down, only to find the ledge was about 4 inch thick sandstone, then heard the others yelling at me to back up slowly.

Regarding the bream taking the small bait, an old timer told me he used to fish with a large bait on a 6/0 hook, and almost under that was a 2/0 hook with a small bait, and most fish took the 2/0 hook. I never tried it though, as outside I fish with 2 hooks, equal size, same with the bait size.

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2 hours ago, Green Hornet said:

With all these near misses down there Waza, did you ever get the feeling a greater power was trying to tell you something?

Another great story and glad you're still around to write about it.

Hi Pete every one of all the old crew had at least one "incident" happen to them. I was talking to my mate Fraser at Sawtell about the years we spent down the cliff and he said the same thing, that we are pretty fortunate to have come through those years pretty much OK.

Still, I wouldn't have swapped those times for anything, many of the best times of my life having adventures down there and as for the fish, there's nowhere like that place anywhere else I've ever been or heard of. Not having to fish shoulder-to-shoulder with others like most of Sydney's other good spots was pretty special also. Not many places you can leave rods, reels and gear rigged up and know they'd be there next time you arrive either

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1 hour ago, Yowie said:

Another good story, and those are the dangers of rock fishing. Climbing down ropes hanging over the edge, and crawling along edges and under overhangs, was not my idea of fun. I once looked over a ledge to see the way down, only to find the ledge was about 4 inch thick sandstone, then heard the others yelling at me to back up slowly.

Regarding the bream taking the small bait, an old timer told me he used to fish with a large bait on a 6/0 hook, and almost under that was a 2/0 hook with a small bait, and most fish took the 2/0 hook. I never tried it though, as outside I fish with 2 hooks, equal size, same with the bait size.

Hi Yowie funny you say that about the thin ledges- in the Sydney Metro Rock Championship when we gaffed Wally's Snapper with the treble and fishing line, it was from Magpie and there were about 8 or 9 of us (only 2 fishing) up on the ledge. Years later, after I stopped climbing and started fishing there in a boat, we went in real close there and had a look from below- it's a wonder that the thin ledge held up the weight of the lot of us that night- could have been a major loss of life if the ledge gave way as it was a wild sea that night too.

The two hook rig became standard for bobby cork fishing in many locations and the Bream still took the trailing bait even though it was often attached with wire instead of mono. 

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5 hours ago, wazatherfisherman said:

Hi Yowie funny you say that about the thin ledges- in the Sydney Metro Rock Championship when we gaffed Wally's Snapper with the treble and fishing line, it was from Magpie and there were about 8 or 9 of us (only 2 fishing) up on the ledge. Years later, after I stopped climbing and started fishing there in a boat, we went in real close there and had a look from below- it's a wonder that the thin ledge held up the weight of the lot of us that night- could have been a major loss of life if the ledge gave way as it was a wild sea that night too.

The two hook rig became standard for bobby cork fishing in many locations and the Bream still took the trailing bait even though it was often attached with wire instead of mono. 

It was about a 50 foot drop from that ledge, before a sudden stop on the rock platform. I looked up from down below, and thought, f### me, the sudden stop would hurt a bit.¬†¬†ūüėā

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It's kind of funny how "things" happen to us when we were younger, really bad things from doing dangerous stuff, but with the "super man" courage of youth, it seemed almost normal, and didn't put us off doing something that nearly killed us.

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26 minutes ago, noelm said:

It's kind of funny how "things" happen to us when we were younger, really bad things from doing dangerous stuff, but with the "super man" courage of youth, it seemed almost normal, and didn't put us off doing something that nearly killed us.

I think we did think what we were was completely normal and it would never have crossed our minds when young that there was danger involved...probably considered it a challenge. I am sure however that our parents (as we are now as parents and grandparents) were the ones that were concerned about what we did...thats if they knew what it was we did!

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1 hour ago, Mullatt said:

I think we did think what we were was completely normal and it would never have crossed our minds when young that there was danger involved...probably considered it a challenge. I am sure however that our parents (as we are now as parents and grandparents) were the ones that were concerned about what we did...thats if they knew what it was we did!

Hi Mulllatt funny you say that- my Mother has only just found out a lot of this stuff now from reading these stories on Fishraider! I would have been barred from going is her take on it! The fact that we started going down in the first place through an organised fishing club and our mentor was 67 when he took us allowed us to go, but the danger was never obvious at home

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Thanks for the story Warren -  getting up to the Magpie ledge sounds pretty scary but you would also have to have your wits about you when you got there and started fishing.   I would be worried a big drummer or groper would pull me over the edge if I wasn't paying attention (which is not that uncommon according to my wife).  Also must have been crowded with 8 or 9 guys all with 12' rods in the pitch black.  

Maybe in your next story you could give us a bit more background on Wally - sounds like he fished down there for decades. Get the impression from your earlier stories that he fished with a hand line - no rod even for blackfish?  

When you use garfish under a bobby cork how deep did you run the gangs?  I mostly did slowly retrieved unweighted pilchards when chasing tailor - my guess was that the tailor were only a meter or so below the surface but maybe that was wrong.  Caught a few snapper spinning this way with pilchards and am wondering if a bobby cork with the pilchard/garfish set a bit deeper below where the tailor were feeding might be worth trying.  

One last question - did you see many salmon in the 70's / early 80's?  My recollection is that they were pretty scarce (all caught down the south coast by the canneries?).  We certainly caught far more tailor than salmon in fact I can remember catching my first one in about 1980 checking the pictures in the fishing books to double check what Aussie salmon were supposed to look like.  

Enjoy the stories about the old days of blue collar fishing and fisherman - look forward to the next chapter.  

DY Jim

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1 hour ago, Dee Why Jim said:

Thanks for the story Warren -  getting up to the Magpie ledge sounds pretty scary but you would also have to have your wits about you when you got there and started fishing.   I would be worried a big drummer or groper would pull me over the edge if I wasn't paying attention (which is not that uncommon according to my wife).  Also must have been crowded with 8 or 9 guys all with 12' rods in the pitch black.  

Maybe in your next story you could give us a bit more background on Wally - sounds like he fished down there for decades. Get the impression from your earlier stories that he fished with a hand line - no rod even for blackfish?  

When you use garfish under a bobby cork how deep did you run the gangs?  I mostly did slowly retrieved unweighted pilchards when chasing tailor - my guess was that the tailor were only a meter or so below the surface but maybe that was wrong.  Caught a few snapper spinning this way with pilchards and am wondering if a bobby cork with the pilchard/garfish set a bit deeper below where the tailor were feeding might be worth trying.  

One last question - did you see many salmon in the 70's / early 80's?  My recollection is that they were pretty scarce (all caught down the south coast by the canneries?).  We certainly caught far more tailor than salmon in fact I can remember catching my first one in about 1980 checking the pictures in the fishing books to double check what Aussie salmon were supposed to look like.  

Enjoy the stories about the old days of blue collar fishing and fisherman - look forward to the next chapter.  

DY Jim

Hi Jim only a maximum of four guys could fish Magpie and that was really one too many. When the big group was up there, only two (Wally and Max) were fishing- the rest of us went up to see how they were going as we could no longer fish any of the lower platforms due to a constantly rising swell. If it hadn't been the annual Sydney Metro comp we would have gone home early. No need to worry re getting pulled over, mono stretch from that high was considerable.

Where they cliff-gaff the Pig is a wider, much larger spot ("Bombie High") that could easily accommodate more guys and had more casting room by far, but didn't produce anywhere near as many fish and not many Snapper (the big attraction for high fishing at Magpie) even though it was only about 50 yards away from Magpie.

Wally was a rock fishing legend who won the Veterans title in both Luderick and the Rock Championships in the Sydney Metro division of AFCA club competitions, multiple times as well as the AFA club veteran's title heaps of times. He basically just fished with a Butterworth MT 4144 rod built up for an Alvey or Grice and Young "Golden Eagle centrepin. He used the 'pin for Luderick but took a 650 A5 Alvey (drag-less) down during comps to fish for Tailor etc.

As for Snapper fishing, 95% of the time he used a 45 lb hand-line and not just from up high, his favourite spot was actually on the low ledge directly in front of the cave- to the left of where they get the Groper in the movie. Most of us caught our biggest Snapper there, often while Tailor fishing with Gars or occasionally Pilchards. Wally "trained us" to always put our fish frames and guts in this same corner and had a throw for Snapper before leaving almost every trip. Average size Snapper in this spot was over 10 lb. He probably got one about every fifth or sixth trip, but wouldn't fish there if there were guys he didn't know fishing nearby-we knew almost everyone after a couple of years, however if they weren't in the inner-circle, he didn't want to give away the secret spot as it was pretty unlikely (everyone else thought!) Snapper water- calm and pretty close in.

He washed all the big Snapper up without using a gaff etc, as did most of us fishing the location. In the movie, a Port Jackson shark is caught from the spot.

He also only used three or four baits for Snapper, the most common either Luderick gut or Garfish he caught himself from a canoe at his holiday house at Batemans Bay. He actually trolled for the Garfish which were the largest ones I've ever seen. Squid were bait of choice number three.

Rig was usually just a double strength suicide (Mustad 92554) in 5/0-6/0 for the gut and 4 or 5 ganged 5/0's (Mustad 8260 "Limerick") for the Gars. He often got smaller Snapper off Magpie on a piece of Garfish while after Bream. Using either the gut or ganged Garfish he never used lead from the low spot and only a small sized ball on the hook from the high spot. A lot of vermin species such as PJ sharks, big Wirrah, Sergeant Baker etc were caught in the "Snapper spot" and that put many of the guys off fishing there, however Wally persisted with the rubbish fish and got some great fish there.

Wally also fished with an even heavier hand-line using live bait for Jewies in October each year and in years past caught plenty of them also. I lost touch with him when I left the club (as did many of the rock fishing guys) but last heard he retired to Batemans Bay after his wife passed away at North Bondi. That was many years ago now. He was still climbing the Mattens at age 78 (I think until in his 80's) and we once took a Sun Herald journalist John Webb down with us who did an article on Wally that was in the Sunday paper- two pages from memory. We caught a heap of smaller Kingfish that day and John Webb had both his spinning reels gears stripped by fish, before catching one on my Alvey outfit. Perhaps the Sun Herald archives might provide more info or at least the article.

When bobby corking Gars we usually fished them about 6-8 ft under the cork, but most of our Gars were just cast and retrieved same as yours. Different tide stages would see the Tailor at different depths, although generally dawn and dusk they were within the top 6-10 feet of the water column. They of course rise when plenty of baits are in the water and the more fishermen, the more action usually. Retrieved bait out-fished "sinking" bait virtually always, whether that was simply because of the movement attraction I couldn't say. Most bobby corking was done from high spots as low level fishing was mostly cast and retrieve. Often the Snapper seem to be just under the Tailor schools, the sinking bait not retrieved accounted for plenty

Most of the big Snapper caught (other than Wally's) were caught on unweighted bait while Tailor fishing, although I used to get a few smaller versions 3-6 lb long distance casting with a sinker between 2 swivels above the hook leader and fresh Bonito strips as bait, purposely fishing for them- just never a real good one in the location we distance cast onto the sand. I reckon the bigger ones are more prone to be over reef and bombies.

In my opinion, Garfish are miles more a superior bait than Pilchards for Snapper, Tailor, Bream and particularly Kingfish, not just because they are more hardy, but simply because they seem to prefer them. Having said this, when Snapper fishing at spots like Curracurrang Bay, Striped Tuna and Bonito always caught the most fish, even more than Gars.

As for the Salmon, yes they weren't as common a catch to us, you'd only get the odd one and then it was mostly a large one on a live Yellowtail set deep for a King or a Jewie. My mates up the far north coast had never seen one until we went to Wooli when the Sydney Olympics were on and we caught a heap on lures off the beach, which was a real novelty for the guys who'd never seen let alone caught one. Since the banning of commercial fishing for them past Stockton Bight (I don't know if that still applies) they seem to have extended their distribution (in numbers) to the far north coast virtually to the border. For several years (until the last year) they seem to have become far more prolific than Tailor, although it was heartening to see good numbers of Tailor re-appear recently.

Glad you have enjoyed the old stories, they have re-connected me with several mates from the past. 

Regards Waza

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another amazing read Waza & thank god you were wearing that woolly jumper & your mates were there to keep you safe & get you out okay 

That video that @JamoDamo¬†put up really puts into perspective the great fishing & inherent dangers associated with your stories & love of fishing the stones ūüėé ¬†¬†

‚ÄúRespect‚ÄĚ

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5 hours ago, 61 crusher said:

Another amazing read Waza & thank god you were wearing that woolly jumper & your mates were there to keep you safe & get you out okay 

That video that @JamoDamo¬†put up really puts into perspective the great fishing & inherent dangers associated with your stories & love of fishing the stones ūüėé ¬†¬†

‚ÄúRespect‚ÄĚ

Hi Dieter thanks! The video shows many of the spots I talk about, including Magpie (referred to as Scarecrow by these guys) they don't show our two favourite locations down there however, but it's brought back plenty of memories for many of us. It really is an amazing place down there.

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On 8/8/2020 at 10:46 AM, JamoDamo said:

Thought you all might enjoy this its set in the mattens really cool to see what waza experienced all the way down there

 

Jamo thanks for posting the movie mate, it's great to see the old place. Spent a heck of a lot of time down there!

The spot pictured there is called the "Sedges" which is short for straight-edges.Next rock along is called "Suicide" as you had to jump TWO rocks to get away from a wave! Next rock towards the "lake" is called "Pig Rock"- no mystery about what species lurked along there!

Edited by wazatherfisherman
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Hi Waza - this might be a bit off topic but you have really captured the atmosphere and feel of rock fishing around Sydney in the 70's and 80's and it has got me thinking about how things have changed.  Could you talk a little about the transition that was happening around that time from bait fishing for bread and butter species like bream, drummer and tailor to lure fishing for pelagics?  I assume before high speed reels became available tuna and mackerel were just an occasional by catch?  Once the gear became available were you able to spin up tuna and mackerel from the Mattens and the other eastern suburbs spots or did that mean going to different locations more suited to this type of fishing?  You have mentioned the club competitions that seemed to favour catching lots of fish in a defined time period (landing 100 fish off the rocks in a 24 hour window seems like incredibly tough work!).  The LBG scene that was big in 80's seems very different - a lot of time and effort spent chasing a single big trophy fish.   Was there a generation gap between the older guys who were brought up on alvey reels and rangoon cane rods and the younger crowd who needed to get high speed retrieval rates?

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4 hours ago, Dee Why Jim said:

Hi Waza - this might be a bit off topic but you have really captured the atmosphere and feel of rock fishing around Sydney in the 70's and 80's and it has got me thinking about how things have changed.  Could you talk a little about the transition that was happening around that time from bait fishing for bread and butter species like bream, drummer and tailor to lure fishing for pelagics?  I assume before high speed reels became available tuna and mackerel were just an occasional by catch?  Once the gear became available were you able to spin up tuna and mackerel from the Mattens and the other eastern suburbs spots or did that mean going to different locations more suited to this type of fishing?  You have mentioned the club competitions that seemed to favour catching lots of fish in a defined time period (landing 100 fish off the rocks in a 24 hour window seems like incredibly tough work!).  The LBG scene that was big in 80's seems very different - a lot of time and effort spent chasing a single big trophy fish.   Was there a generation gap between the older guys who were brought up on alvey reels and rangoon cane rods and the younger crowd who needed to get high speed retrieval rates?

Hi Jim I don't know that there was ever really a "transition" period then, it was a time when (like now) there were vast improvements in technology- tackle wise- plus the growing trend towards "sports-fishing".

High speed spinning for pelagic fish had already been around for many years, stemming in part from the advent of reels like Seascape, which came into larger scale production from the mid fifties-early sixties, enabling land based anglers the access to fish species that had previously only been seen to be available to boat fishers, who mainly trolled lures for their Tuna etc.

A growing number of fishers, after either reading magazine articles or witnessing captures, decided they'd like to try spinning for "something bigger" than table fish.

Higher speed overhead reels like the Seascape, made in Australia were not expensive, rods the same basic cost as any general rock/beach rods and with the new "hollow fibreglass" made light enough to be casting for much longer periods than the heavy old solid glass models, this form of fishing became more realistic.

Also one of the most successful lures- the "half by quarter" another inexpensive item was responsible for continuous big catches of fish like Striped Tuna and Bonito. There were other lures of course, such as lead fish, arrow types and similar chromed bar-type lures, then Ron Calcutt and Joe Gausephol (unsure of the spelling!) made the classic movie "Spinning for Spaniards" and that really got a lot more guys into the spin scene. Irons, Mavericks and WK's became go-to lures for rock spinning and Werner Kossman who was a club member of my old club and owner of WK brand, was constantly trying new designs. He often donated lures for the weekly club meeting raffle.

So in effect, high speed spinning was already a "thing", especially on the central coast of NSW and places like Avoca, The Skillion at Terrigal, Tomaree at Port Stephens etc all had lure fishers catching stacks of fish- anything from Bonito to Longtail, Cobia and Spanish Mackerel were regular catches.

Down this way- Sydney- we caught Bonito, Mack Tuna, Stripey's, Tailor and Salmon and won enough battles with Kingfish to keep the excitement levels up. Casting a lure pre-sunrise was always appealing as it meant fast, exciting fights with hard running fish and on good days, the action was fast, with anything liable to get dragged out on a fast retrieved metal.

Having said all this, it was actually slow-"speed" spinning that became more appealing to most of our guys. Reason?- Kingfish were our main targets and we discovered that big minnow lures were more likely to get fish and these of course could be successfully worked with Alvey tackle. Add to this the fact that using sidecast reels from the rocks was by far a better option for landing fish, often without the aid of a gaff. Reason for not often gaffing? "Tailgating" an already hooked fish is a surefire way to get another one and it was common practice to wait for a fish to be brought in range and everyone else would cast well behind, often resulting in some spectacular multiple hookups. Nobody was keen to be spectating and holding the gaff unless absolutely necessary.

We found that big minnows like Speed King XSP, Rebels, Killers and Nilsmaster Invincible's were great fish takers, you just couldn't cast them as far as metals, but that didn't seem to matter. Bright Orange and matt Pink were the choice of colours that provided the most attention. White also was a really good colour, in fact many of the mackerel pattern and more natural coloured lures just didn't get the same attention of the "un-natural" colours. I've since learned that the mackerel pattern in particular is really more of a camouflage colour scheme, for protecting the species from predation- doesn't make sense to use lure colours that help to hide the prey.

Overall, spinning is just a natural progression from bait fishing and some days produces heaps of fish, however when fishing for food, bait produced more "eaters" barring Kingfish.

Live baiting was seen as a better way to catch big fish once the dawn period had ended and the sun was higher in the sky and we sometimes just set the live bait out and took turns monitoring the rods, while the rest fished for something else. Live bait also meant Mulloway were available, as they hadn't been "discovered" as a lure target, bar fishing "chair-leg" lures or giant feathers on the north coast breakwalls. Having a deep set live bait accounted for plenty, especially when the discoloured water from Bondi murk got pushed into the rocks during southerlies.

More on the club scene etc to follow.

 

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