PROBABLY one of the Bathurst district's most popular fishing spots in the 1920s and 1930s was at or above the forge on the Macquarie River. The forge is to be found roughly about midway between Bathurst and Hill End. Our photo this week is of a postcard sold by J.R. and A. Jones, stationer, of Bathurst. Four men can be seen with their fishing rods. The image was photographed by Mr. H.C. Beavis, professional photographer of Bathurst.
It was quoted quite early in the 1830s that fish caught in the Macquarie and other local rivers provided a reliable food source for the early inland European settlers and local Aboriginals.
One account from 1828 stated that the bream could be taken in all the rivers in the Bathurst district.
As bream were a fast biter, they were easily taken, the fish being of a similar size to the saltwater variety.
In 1859, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that native fish were originally abundant in the slopes zone.
Other early accounts describe an "inexhaustible supply of cod, perch and bream".
The main forge rapid itself has a 10-foot drop and is set within a rocky gorge with the waterfall flowing between several large boulders.
Fishermen would sit on top of the boulders, commanding a good view over the river. The depth of the water was from three to 15 feet, with sheets of water in section over 120 yards.
Fishing excursions were popular in season with fishing parties looking out for a spot to spend a weekend.
When the fish were biting, you basically dropped in your line and almost immediately would land a cod.
Fresh worms were popular for bait and these were usually brought from the garden at home.
The native fish caught around the region could vary, but some of the popular ones included the cod, which could grow to up to 50 or more pounds.
If the fishermen caught a large haul, the fish were gutted and hung up to dry before being relocated to the inside roofs of their huts.
The Macquarie perch proved to be profuse in the tributaries of the upper Macquarie River, especially up to the 1880s.
Blackfish were another variety to be caught. It seems the catfish could usually be found downstream of Bathurst.
It seems that the trout cod were more widespread - in both the Macquarie and Turon rivers and especially in the Hill End area.
Several early newspapers mention various varieties, including trout cod, Murray cod, golden perch, silver perch and Macquarie perch.
When it came to the forge, it seems that it proved a barrier to the movement of fish.
In the 1880s, the knowledgeable fishermen knew that they could catch five types of fish, however, if they fished above the forge, there were fewer varieties taken.
The only time this would change was after a high flood.
The National Advocate, on February 9, 1907, records the adventures of a fishing party that was able to catch around 200lb of cod.
Their weight varied from two to 20 pounds over three days of fishing at the forge.
In the Bathurst Times on April 4, 1922, the newspaper told of the attempts to improve the fish passage by blasting rock. It proved unsuccessful.
It went on: "Bathurst fishermen who frequent 'The Forge' are delighted with the work carried out by Mr. H. Chick in widening the channel considerably which enters into the Pot Hole. Previously the opening was extremely narrow, and it was the census of opinion amongst good judges that if the fish were able to come nearer to Bathurst a much greater opening was imperative.
"The work has now been completed to the satisfaction of practically all anglers. At present the fish cannot pass the Pot Hole owing to the water being too low but as soon as the fresh occurs they should experience no difficulty in accomplishing the hitherto impossible task."