I received a most interesting article from one of the long term members of Stawell Field Naturalists.
“Black Friday”, the 13th January 1939, saw the Grampians burnt from the northern end to the southern end. Although there was utter devastation, one bright side as far as my family was concerned was that now the Wannon river at Jimmy’s creek was now accessible from the Dunkeld Rd without having to bash through the thick undergrowth of bracken fern, titree etc.
In those days the Grampians were far different from today. Most people didn’t have a car and so very few of the visitors to the Grampians went further south than Myrtlebank on Dairy Creek. About the only people to frequent the area south of Myrtlebank were the forest workers/ sawmillers and those who had grazing rights. It was virtually an isolated area of peace and beauty.
Late summer 1939 Dad decided to take the family to Jimmy’s creek for a weekend fishing. This was a real treat for us as we had never had the luxury of Holidays. Mum and dad were too busy working hard to feed and clothe the family. You can imagine our excitement to be going camping for a weekend. No luxuries, not even a tent. We slept under the stars – Beautiful! I can remember making a hammock by opening up the sides of a wheat bag, plaiting ropes to each end to tie it to trees. Then at Jimmy’s creek finding two trees close enough together to tie the hammock to! Sometimes a rope would break or come undone and one would end up on the ground. As far as I can remember our camping equipment was very basic – a blanket, billy, shovel, matches, dish, frying pan and dad’s Coleman lantern (its strong light lit up a vast area). No tents, stretchers, swags, sleeping bags or torches. We had never even heard of torches then -they didn’t come on the scene until well after world war 2. No luxuries such as showers and toilets like at the present day Jimmy’s ck camping ground. There was cold running water to wash in – the river.
Thursday after school I helped dad dig and collect worms for bait – dad digging and me collecting. Friday night when we arrived home from school the gear was loaded onto our A model Ford ute and off we went. I can recall stopping once on the way down to walk in from the road to see a burntout sawmill (Sandersons, I think). About all that remained was the steam boiler. When we crossed Jimmy’s creek we drove in off the coast road through the trees and there were no tracks except the ones we were making. A camp was selected with Jimmy’s ck on the north and the Wannon creek on the west. Hammocks were attached to trees, firewood collected and then off fishing. Our rods were either a length of bamboo or a stick of titree just long enough to drop the hook and sinker under a cork float into the little stream. It didn’t take long to catch enough black fish for our tea. The largest of the fish were about 20 cm long. The fish were gutted, rolled in flour and into the frying pan. When they were cooked the flesh came off the backbone, the other bones were so small and fine they were just eaten,-there was no way they would stick in your throat. The fish were accompanied by spuds baked in the ashes – no alfoil wrapping – a bit of ash or charcoal never hurt anyone.
I can remember my first night under the stars. There were many strange sounds and things that “went bump in the night”. It was the sounds of the roos and other animals as they moved around – not a big bad bogeyman!
All day Saturday and Sunday morning were spent up and down the river fishing. We mainly fished in the Wannon. Apart from the black fish there were the menacing little “mountain trout” which used to sneakily suck the worms off the hook without you knowing. These were a very small fish about 6cm long fully grown. Then there were “prickly backs”. These were like a yabby, up to about 15cm or so, but “prickly” like a lobster. We learnt by watching the float you could tell what was taking the bait. If it was a mountain trout there was a very slight movement of the float. Prickly backs tended to drag the bait and float away, whilst black fish pulled the float down. If it was a mountain trout or a If it was a mountain trout or prickly back at your bait you moved to another spot. Once Mum thought a prickly back would be a change from black fish for her tea so she cooked one but alas there was practically no flesh inside the shell – so no more prickly backs.
It was real fun stumbling along the river bank and over fallen logs particularly after dark when following Dad and being blinded by his Coleman. I doubt if Mum thought it was so much fun – firstly she didn’t like fishing (it was OK eating them) and secondly she had to wash our clothes when we got home. Our clothes were always fairly black after a weekend on burnt ground and pushing through burnt ti tree etc. Sadly our weekends at Jimmy’s Creek came to an end when petrol was rationed in World War II.
I often wonder whether there are still black fish, mountain trout and prickly backs at Jimmy’s Creek. Also wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy those quiet, peaceful and relaxed times again in the Grampians away from the hustle, bustle, cars and hordes of people in a hurry who now over run the area and dash around as if there was no tomorrow without time to “smell the roses”?