BRIEF HISTORY OF BAIRNSDALE FLY FISHERS CLUB
The inaugural meeting of the Bairnsdale Fly Fishers Club was held at the Bairnsdale High School Hall (Dalmahoy Street) on Friday March 3, 1967 with Mr. Jim Neville in the chair.
Those present at the meeting were W. Fisher, D. Lee, T. Jackson, S. Davies, R. Palmer, G Bedggood, G. Campbell, J. Neville, J. Donchi, G. Millard, B. Sinclair, R. Edgar, P. Howlett, F. Hall (VFFA) President, T. Riley (VFFA) Secretary and K. Street (Fisheries & Wildlife Dept.)
The business of the evening was to form a Fly Fishing Club, such club to be a branch of the Victorian Fly Fishing Association.
Mr. Bill Fisher was elected President and Mr. Dudley Lee Secretary-Treasurer.
The President of the VFFA Mr. F. Hall congratulated President and Secretary on their election and advised that the VFFA would always be on hand to help wherever possible. Annual subs were $1.
An early project was the construction of a casting platform on the “Mitchell” backwater. The first Club trip was to the McAllisterRiver on April 10, 1967, In August 1970 the “Bert Webb Trophy” was struck for the biggest trout taken in the season and in 1981 Bill Fisher offered his dam for Club use and it was stocked with 300 yearling rainbow. Bill commented that they were settling in well and rising freely.
Meetings were held at the homes of members including Bill Fisher, Syd Davies and Alfie Smith and from September 1970 to 1983, Dudley & Beryl Lee’s residence was the venue. Dudley a Past President and founding member was made a Life Member of the VFFA in 1977.
The Annual Dinner and competition for the “Thing” (Now Dudley Lee Donger) with VFFA continued and continues to be well supported. In 1979 it was moved that the members pay $6 per head for the dinner in lieu of $5 to cover the cost of guests. 8 members of the VFFA attended that year. It was 1979 also that the possibility of a Club building in the Mitta River area was first discussed but obtaining the land was the difficult part. Brian Hopkins was confident that the materials for the building could be found.
By the 1981 season subs had risen to $10, $2 of which was the affiliation fee to the VFFA. Also this year the Club successfully tendered for the removal of a Fisheries Research Building from its site on the Nicholson River. Nicholson Angling Club also tendered but we won out because our club agreed to immediately remove it. When our club members arrived to dismantle it they were met with some hostility from Nicholson members, however Bairnsdale members quickly loaded it onto John Margett’s truck and stored (hid) it on his property at Bruthen. We now had a building but nowhere to put it. Dudley Lee called on Mr. Colin Scott, Omeo Shire President and owner of Hinnomunjie Station and advised him of the situation. Mr. Scott took Dudley to a spot on the Mitta and asked “Would this be OK”, it was perfect.
Under the supervision of Brian Hopkins the first sod was turned on August 16, 1981 and the sub floor framing was completed, stage 1 of the Mitta Lodge was on the way. Unlike the new Lodge the original Lodge was built on site with members travelling to Hinnomunjie on a regular basis. At the 1981 Annual Meeting a $10 building levee was added to the Annual Subs. The total cost of stage 1 was $400 as most of the materials were donated or recycled. Much of the material was donated by Brian.
In April 1983 Stage 2 of the Lodge was commenced Chris Banks took over from Brian to supervise construction, by September 1983 it was ready for fit out and Chris and his helpers constructed 11 bunks and provided a running toilet and shower for the first time. The tank stand was lifted to provide better water pressure. Peter Sandy made the “Mitta Lodge” sign in his blacksmith’s shop. In the 1983/4 year the Mitta Lodge was opened by Club President Jim Neville with Dr Tony Brothers President VFFA and Cr. Ben Buckley Omeo Shire in attendance. Colin Scott was unable to attend due to family illness.
In 1982/1983 Year Peter McGregor was made a Life Member of the VFFA, he joined the Club in 1970, had been Club President more than once. Peter was appointed Treasurer at the AGM in August 1983 a position he held continuously until he stood down in 2000 when this position was taken up by new member Ron Healey who is still Treasurer.
August 1982 saw the minutes typed (not hand written), members were provided with a cloth badge and the first Newsletter was produced by Club Secretary Trevor Stow who held the Secretary/ Editor position until 1987 when he became President for the first of a number of times. Trevor was made a Life Member in 1999. The previous VFFA Life Members Dudley and Peter were also made Life Members of the BFFC following the club forming in its own right.
From July 83 meetings were held at Fisheries & Wildlife Division rooms. Membership now totalled 31. At the Annual Meeting a committee was formed to look into the Club becoming an entity in its own right and not a sub-branch of the VFFA. The Certificate of Incorporation for the Club was finally granted on June 2, 1988. At the Annual Meeting In 2009 changes to the Constitution were passed by special resolution and these changes were approved by Consumer Affairs July 29, 2009.
A comment from Treasurer Peter McGregor in his report November ’85 that the balance of $1006.45 was the first time in the history of the Club that the bank balance had exceeded $1000. A motion was moved that surplus funds be invested in a Bank term deposit and that the club have a minimum of $2000 before any reduction in membership fees took place.
The Mitta Lodge was a great asset for members and there was always plenty of discussion on improvements. The proposal to install a “Windmill” for pumping water was subject of many arguments (it never happened). Water was a real problem in 1993 when floods covered the floor but in 1998 when the river really flooded, water flowed over the kitchen bench. The river rose around 15 feet, the only thing that saved the Lodge was a cable fixed to the frame and around a tree stump when the building was erected. It was cleaned up and improvements made however in the major bushfires in 2003 the Lodge was wiped out.
Fortunately it was insured and work started on planning for a new Lodge - In February 2005 the sub-frames arrived at Crane’s property in Lucknow a organised by Dudley Lee. Over a period of two years dedicated members put in hours of work supervised by Ingomar Matthes and Chris Banks (Builders) ably assisted by "Sparky" Mick Rosenboom and many regular workers completing the new Mitta Lodge for transporting to site in March 2007. The transport cost was $8000, involving 2 low loaders, the total cost of the project was around $65000.
The new location is much higher than the old Lodge site which is fortunate as the huge flood in September 2010 surrounded the Lodge but it did not get wet. Had it been constructed on the old site water would have been up to the rafters. The new Mitta Lodge was officially opened by Marjory Scott (wife of the late Mr. Colin Scott) in October 2007 combined with the celebration of the Club’s 40th Anniversary.
The club has been involved over the years in a number of trout restocking programs including Tambo & Timbarra Rivers as well as river rehabilitation, stabilizing, fencing and tree planting projects on both the Timbarra and Cobungra Rivers.
The Club is proud to have three members Ray Clark, Dudley Lee and Pat Washington who have represented Australia in World Fly Fishing Championships. Ray Clark was captain of the Australian Team on a number of occasions.
In 2003 Life Memberships were conferred on founding Member and past President Bill Fisher for his services to the club and Past Secretary Brian Hopkins a member for 35 years, who had a major involvement in the building of the original Lodge. Dudley Lee was made a Life Member in 1977, Trevor Stow 1999, Michael Rosenboom & Ingomar Matthes 2017.
Over the past 15 years membership numbers have fluctuated between 45 and 54 the current membership is 51 and includes two ladies, seven members with over 30 years service and another 10 with 20 years plus.