Fishing in our small creek
We did not often go fishing. During the long months between floods, the only water left was in the deepest holes. This became stagnant, and muddy. If we did catch fish then, they would taste of the mud they filtered through their gills. So our fishing times were usually after the water had been freshened by floods.
We caught three main types of fish in our creek – ‘yellow bellies’[ie golden perch]; ‘jewfish’; and ‘bobbies’, even smaller perch. Sometimes we accidentally caught freshwater tortoises, but these we always released. And sometimes we found ‘mussel shells’ in the mud beside the water, and used their flesh for bait.
We had two methods. The first was the ‘set line’. The line was attached to a sturdy stick about thirty cm long, which was anchored in the mud beside the water. The line itself was a few metres long, ending in a hook, usually baited with a wriggling worm. Just above the hook was a small lead ‘sinker’. But about fifty cm above the hook, we tied the line around a piece of cork. When we flung the line out over the water, the hook with its worm was suspended in the water, while the cork floated on top. Then we sat on the bank, and watched the cork. If it disappeared below the water, we knew that a fish had taken the bait, and was trying to swim away.
‘Look at the cork!’ someone would yell. ‘You’ve got a bite!’
Then we pulled in the line, hand over hand, until the fish could be lifted out of the water. That was fishing in a small creek.
Our second method involved a pole. This was usually a young flexible tree, no more than two or three cm in diameter, and about three metres long. Once again, the line was attached to the pole, and there was another cork fifty cm above the hook. We used this rod by ‘bobbing’, that is, continually moving the rod up and down, so that the tip moved just a few cm each time. That of course translated into similar movements of the baited hook below the surface. When a fish pulled on the baited hook, the line tightened, and the tip of the pole was dragged down. Then we landed the fish by flicking it over our heads and onto the bank.
Dad was not keen on fishing, but could use the pole. He would wedge its base against his hip, and then use just one hand to keep the cork ‘bobbing’. I never learnt how to do it so easily.
Sometimes a deeper flood left pools of muddy water, in billabongs and gullies near the creek. Then Max and I fished for ‘yabbies’ (fresh-water crayfish). Our fishing lines were lengths of sewing cotton, the hooks were bent pins, and the bait was a lump of raw meat -- I don't know where that came from, maybe it was begged from Mum.
We just dropped the baited pin into the murky water, and the yabbies, newly awakened from their drought sleep, latched onto the meat with their strong front claws. When we pulled the thread up out of the water, they were too hungry to let go, and would dangle below the meat lump. Then we pushed a billy-can underneath, and they eventually dropped off into the can. In one afternoon, we caught a dozen or more, ranging in size from ten to twenty centimetres long. We took them home in triumph, to show them to Mum and Dad, but then let them go in the swamp.
No-one even dreamt of eating them in those days! That was our way of fishing in a small creek.