The campsite was silent, save for a few blue wrens rustling the leaves for an early worm. Brad Parkes and I loaded the 4WD quietly and idled down through the peppermints and onto the beach, leaving behind our sleeping wives and children and a hundred other slumbering campers.
Soon, the summer sun would come over the hill and the camp would come alive to the happy sounds of breakfasting kids and whizzing bikes, but for now, only a handful of dog-walking grey nomads shared the sand with us as we headed east along the beach in search of fish.
We were at Parry’s Beach, just west of Denmark, and before us was nearly 7km of crescent-shaped beach, curving away towards William Bay. The rocks at the sheltered western end are a favourite with herring anglers, but we drove eastwards, the sand changing from flat, hard and wide to sloping and soft the farther we went. The water changed too, and soon the calm weedy expanses gave way to long lines of rollers and loads of interesting gutters and small holes.
In early autumn, crews of netters patrol the beach in search of schooling salmon, so we hoped a fish or two might be around.
We pushed on to the end of the beach known as Mazzolettis, where huge holes are sometimes scoured out, right to the base of the dunes. On an earlier trip, we’d taken a number of small salmon before something big started taking hooked fish. I sent out a herring on a wire trace and soon caught the culprit, a feisty little whaler shark, that regurgitated a couple of our fish when it hit the sand.
Sure enough, the holes were there again and Brad soon had a mulie sucking seaward in the powerful rip current. The deep blue water looked incredibly fishy, and it was only a short time before the oily baits started to attract some interest.
I tied on a sardine rig and between us soon had a steady procession of big herring, tarwhine and skippy coming ashore. Now and again, a big sand whiting would find the sardine, providing welcome variety.
Sadly, no salmon materialised so we headed back for a late brekkie of fresh fillets.
Parry’s is a unique campground, not least because of the friendly attitude of the sprightly lady caretaker who by all accounts has been part of the place forever. As she took the embarrassingly small sum of $9 from me that entitled my family, and even the dog to stay, it was a reminder of how campgrounds used to be. There were no powered sites, in fact there was no power full stop, but being able to have a campfire at night more than made up for it.
The Denmark Shire is to be congratulated for keeping the camp as simple, cheap and clean as it has.
For visiting anglers, there are great shore-based fishing opportunities within a short drive east or west. The deep holes I described earlier would be the perfect spot to slide-bait out a live herring, with sharks a constant target and samson fish a real possibility. Given the numbers of small skippy about, and the many patches of rock and submerged reef, I’m sure bigger skippy would be a chance after dark.
Frequent summer winds from the south-east can be negated to a large extent by driving a few kilometres. Parry Inlet is a small estuary system behind the dunes that runs to ocean after wet winters and big swells. The warm shallow waters are home to many mullet, herring and baitfish, and there are good bream in the snaggy channels that link the larger lakes. It’s an ideal spot for a kayak or canoe as my young bloke found out, taking several hard fighting bream to 37cm on little hard-bodies. There is access about a kilometre up the beach, or from the bitumen road leading into Parry’s from the South Coast Highway.
About 9km by beach, or 14km by road, to the east is William Bay National Park. There are a series of spectacular little bays and beaches here that are very popular with swimmers, but that also provide sheltered fishing opportunities for big king george whiting, squid, herring and skippy. You’ll only need a 2WD car too.
A short walk to the west of Parry’s is a great looking beach known as Hilliers. Rock fishers up for a challenge can walk out to the point from here, and expect to tangle with queen snapper, harlequin, skippy and sambos.
Accessible via a challenging 4WD track, is Eagle’s Nest beach. This beach also offers some relatively sheltered beach fishing, and can be a great salmon spot in season. As the name suggests, there is also good raptor watching to be had as the big birds nest on a little island just offshore.
Next along is Boat Harbour, a tiny natural anchorage amongst a wild granite coastline. This is a good spot to take the kids for a swim or a snorkel when the wind is up. Good groper and sambo waters beckon out the front, but be sure to pick your days and fish safe. The Boat Harbour track is also the access to Little and Big Quarram beaches, the latter being one of the few spots where big mulloway sometimes haunt.
Big Quarrum runs round into picturesque Peaceful Bay, and crosses the mouth of the expansive Irwin Inlet, another spot worth exploring on foot or kayak. Peaceful Bay shares a similar reputation to Parry’s as a family friendly holiday destination, and for many is a jumping off spot to the magnificent Walpole-Nornalup National Park and the many spots it holds.
We’re incredibly lucky to have simple facilities like Parry’s still available to us, and it was great to see so many families introduce their kids to the pleasures of camping. Everyone was careful to take their
rubbish to the bins, pick up after their dogs, and keep the music down, and all without a single sign saying don’t do this or that!