February 88 leaving for The Blow Holes in W.A at the end of April and really itching to pick up one more good fish before I leave to go to the Mecca of Land Based Fishing as far as species go.
Freezing cold nights but warm days for that time of year had me guessing if a fin would be around in the cooler water. The other thing would be if the range would be open. Well only one way to find out was to ring the range first and then make plans.
Luck was with me and the range would be open on the Wednesday the only day for the week. I had no plan “B”. I rang Mark a mate of mine and he didn’t take any convincing that The Gorge would be our platform for the day.
Taking a punt on catching Bung (Yaka’s) down there saw us leave at 2.00am packs loaded t the hilt with food, spare line(1000m spools), 2 piece 21ft Flying gaff, lures spin gear the works,” We were there for finance not romance” one could say.
An eerie mist was over the corrugated road out to The Gorge and the anxiety levels were sky high. Both Mark and I were confident of getting a good fin at that time of year especially with the weather pattern being as it was. Nor Easterly winds with the current pushing slowly south. For me and this is only my opinion it had yellow fin written all over it.
Packs on and meandering down the north side of the of the ravine had both of us jockeying to be the first on the ledge. Believe me this is not a good thing to do getting into Devils. But at that age we all or at least I thought I was bullet proof.
Getting to the mud section saw the both of us come to a dead stop. A lot of the dirt had been washed away with rain from the weekend before. Struth I thought how do I get my little legs to stretch over some of that stuff without going through? It looked bad even in the dark.
Mark being 6’ 4”inches tall (Now that’s tall) stepped across first and used the gaff to help me across. Once over that the race was on again until we got to the slime ledge. Didn’t need help there but certainly a real lot of caution. Around the corner down the rocks and unto one of the best ledges if not THE BEST on the south coast of NSW.
It was 3.30 am and we were burlying for bait. By 5.00am we only had 6 bung for bait. “Bugger it” we thought cut our losses rig up the game rods and get the spin gear out and try for “Big Baits”. There is no better sight than watching the sun rise up from behind the ocean. That Wednesday was no different it was picture perfect. I can still recall it as if it were yesterday.
Lures skiting across the wash at the southern end in front of The Caldron saw Mark hook up on a Bonito about 4lb. I grabbed his Sabre 540 and Penn International and hooked a fair sized hook through the Bonnies mouth and sent it out. Mark worked his bait in and out for over an hour until it finally died.
I had hooked a few fish but managed to pull out and so my frustration levels started to get up around the high point.
Spinning until our arms were about to fall off saw us having a cuppa about 10.00am. We both had Yellowtail out about 60 -70 yards off the ledge and so the talk centred around our trip to WA.
About 11.30 Mark decided to cut up the Bonnie for bait and burly the frame in the wash near The Caldron. I rigged up my Yakka rod with a 1/0 hook and a tiny ball sinker. Flicking a cube into the wash at the gorge you never knew what you might pick up. Options were Bream, Trevally, Pigs or Snapper and any of those horrible “Swallow All” types that haunt the ledges and washes of the coast line.
As luck would have it marks idea worked a treat and we got into some nice Trevally. Bingo, bigger baits and if nothing else a feed we fished until we had about 10 fish and left them biting. It was 1.00pm now and we had got into the tucker again. I’m not sure if it was us or all fishos get on the chew when on the rocks but my excuse was we were growing boys.
Mark put a Trevally out off The Caldron and I opted to put one off the northern ledge. Lighting up a smoke and feeding my bait out I could barley see my home made large Torpedo style Bobby Cork. These were purposely made for using with big baits. I also coated them with a clear fibreglass resin which made them super tough.
The drift would have been close to 100 yards out. Marks drift was in line with mine but hanging south. It could not have been scripted this good. Rolling a smoke (I was a smoker then YUK!) both Mark and I sat back as if we were in heaven just chattering about WA and what we might catch and see over there. It was about 1.00pm when the Inter gave out the characteristic Inter ratchet sound and the spool was I hyper drive. Mark raced over got the dog clip off and was straight into this fish.
He had lost about 300 yards and was way down in the line capacity stakes. Rigging up the flyer and trying to encourage the lad had me guessing what is it Tuna, Marlin? I knew it was no king for it was up high on the water so I was leaning toward a Fin.
After about 15mins our questions were answered and Hammer Head Shark around the 200lb plus mark. I can’t write what was said but we had to get it off the hook some how or just cut it off. The second option was unanimous, we would cut it off. I could not understand why it never bit Mark off but as he got he big shark in we could see the hook was in the side of its mouth.
I could not believe it a stinking shark hooked in the corner of its gob. At least Mark had a good fight got his float back and only lost a hook and trace. Fishing long traces has its advantages but also fishing ledges off the water allow you to do this with no probs.
My bait was still out there and I was hoping not to get one of the shark’s relations.
What unfolded next is hard to believe but I have Mark as a witness. It about half an hour after Marks fish and he was back out with another bait but this time he kept his bait in closer. My bait had drifted south with the current and was hanging off The Caldron not too far from where Marks bait had been snavelled.
I could not believe the noise coming from my Shimano 50 wide, it was literally howling. I raced over picked it up and struck. Not wanting to give “The Shark” time to get it down its throat.
I whacked it twice and hung on for grim death. I was fishing around 8-9 kg of drag which is a fair amount. When I hear people say they are fishing 15 and 16kg of drag a seriously winder if they are on steroids or just over exaggerating.
As line spewed off my reel my digital watch gave its customary two beeps on the hour. Two O’clock I thought but thought nothing more except “The Shark” on the end of the line. Unlike Marks shark, mine when it decided to stop after taking nearly half a spool of line started “Arching” out wide you might say “Sulking”
“Whoops” I thought could this be one of “The Lads” I put my thoughts to Mark and he just smiled. One way to find out I thought my old saying came into play one which over time has cost me some good fish. “Pop him or stop him” so I put the lever past strike and leaned back on the cut down GH 14.
Funny thing about pressure, it pops em or stops em. My eyes fixed on the locked tip I noticed it starting to straighten up. Struth I thought I have managed to break its stale mate its coming.
Two things were evident after that move. One was I could feel the tremor of the fishes tail in the current it was using the current to its advantage; the second was this was no shark but a big Yellowfin.
Pumping and retrieving like a man possessed I hooked into the fish like there was no tomorrow. Gaining half my line back it dug it fins in and just stopped. I wasn’t game to go too much more on me or the line. The 50lb line was singing in the breeze I tell ya.
The fish had been straight out but was now heading north. That suited me as I was away from The Caldron and the corner where I could get cut off.
I ran ahead of the fish gaining as much valuable line as I could, I call it “Walking the dog”. If I can get in front of it’s head I can actually lead it but only if I have the stamina and gear to dictate my terms. I thank God on all accounts.
I kept pumping and the fish kept coming simple as that. I told Mark to get the flyer ready and to tie it off as he would get a chance really soon to pin the fish. He looked a bit nervous but he was big enough to pull a bull out of the mud.
Then something I never counted on, the fish started coming with me. The bad thing about that was the ledge under the water off the front of the northern corner. My mate Jock had lost a huge fin there two weeks prior. Walking backward I tied to change the angle and it was working. My arms felt like they were at breaking point but pain and me go back a long way. “Forget it Bobby Pain is good for me” I heard myself saying over and over. The tactic worked the fish turned and headed along the ledge south bound but put on the after burners half way along.
Easing the drag ever so slightly the fish stopped, stale mate once more. Leaning back the tip started to straighten again but this time more quickly.
I yelled at Mark to get ready as it came closer Mark climbed down over the ledge with the big flyer. I then tried to run with every bit of strength in me north of Mark. This turned the fish once more and caused it to glide past in front of Mark about 15 ft off the rocks.
I yelled “Now” and the big fella leaned out and managed to get the big hook over the fishes head and ripped the pole out.
Well that’s when all hell broke loose. Mark was trapped over the side and one big fish was going berserko. I backed my drag off and ran over to the ledge. Thank God Mark had tied the flyer rope off. I was trying to get Mark out from under the rope and hold the fish at the same time. Mark ended up with a nasty rope burn to his neck for his effort.
With both of us holding on to the rope and screaming and shouting the poor fish was spent. We climbed back up to the safety of the ledge and I asked Mark what the time was. ”2.15” he said. Man all that in 15mins. I know it is hard to believe but I know the truth and so does Mayney.
How do we get this out we thought. We guessed the weight o be about 140lb or 150 maybe but that did not matter at the time. We had to get it out. The helicopter lad was gone a week before and so It looked like the dreaded swamp.
We packed up our gear. We then busted our backs dragging the big fish to the top ledge above where we put our gear (See the Pic) that small thing is a Big Fin. We put the hook of the flyer through the eye sockets so we could pull it up head first. That is the strongest part of the fish.
Mark stayed below and I went up to the Hilux and got as many ropes from behind the seat as I could find and tied them all together. I then drove around through the swamp in 4FWD to the very top of the cliff and lowered all the ropes down. Mark tied them off onto the loop at the end of the flyer rope and then he scrambled up the cliff and over to the swamp.
I got him to drive the car and I would give the signal when to stop as the fish came up the cliff. With the rope being on the cliff edge, I got an old piece of wood and laid it under the rope so as to keep it off the rock and chaffing.
“Slowly ,slowly “ I yelled and as mark moved off the big fin started coming up the cliff. Half way up mark stopped. He told me he would need to gun it to get through the mire. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.
I waved my hand and he gunned it. Well as the fish flew up the cliff face I rolled out of the way just in time to see the wood explode under the pressure and then the fish came up and over the ledge and proceeded to skate over the mud like doing a belly skid and stop about 30 yards away from me. Talk about hilarious.
Mark did a swell job not only gaffing my fish but giving it gliding lessons as well. We weighed the fish on certified scales at Callala Bay and it weighed in at 136lb.