Page:Ethnological studies (Roth).djvu/119

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95
THE SEARCH FOR FOOD. PITURI.

and B are the two individuals in charge of the net Z, with pole at each extremity, the net lying parallel with the river-bank, a few feet from its edge. A swims out with one end of the net, sweeping along the water to the extent of almost a quarter-circle, until he reaches C, a point about opposite to B. B now slowly swims along the bank, which he hugs pretty closely, while his companion, making another and larger sweep, joins him at D, a spot about another 50 or 60 yards onwards, may be, from the starting point, where they land. Another method of using the long net is for two swimmers to take it straight across the width of the stream. The Miorli men who make these nets, as already mentioned, on the Diamantina, do not bring them into the district under consideration much further north than Marion Downs. I have neither seen nor heard of any weights, sinkers, &c., being used, their object being replaced by the fisherman holding down the extremity of the side pole under water with the big toe.

In the Cloncurry District the Mitakoodi use the smaller kind of net, the moo-na, which is usually obtained in barter from the Woonamurra. It is from 8 to 10 feet long by 3 to 4 feet wide, the sides being rounded off as before, and the mesh being about 2 inches. Along all four edges are fixed four curved sticks bound together at the corners, those on the two longer sides being sometimes made of two pieces braced together at a very open angle. Four or five of these nets are generally used at a time (as in the diagram Fig. 222), each individual holding two nets more or less on the flat under water, one with either hand. These boys move together in line from the river-bank to some distance out, their companions circling round, splashing about, and driving the fish into the nets, which are then raised horizontally from the surface. Another kind of net which the Mitakoodi use, similarly obtained from the Woonamurra, is the lil-lin-ya. It is about 3 feet or a little more in height and about 20 inches in width, having two strongly curved sticks, fixed loosely at their extremities, attached along the sides (Fig. 223). The fisherman goes into the water, usually its shallower parts, and quietly and slowly gropes along with the net held there in front of him by the sticks: thus, like a folding purse he encloses in his net any fish that may pass in through his open thighs or round his flanks.

125. Independently of nets, another contrivance for catching fish, and one greatly adopted after floods when the waters are going down, is the building of a dam or weir right across the stretch of water. These dams, which may be used again and again, season after season, constructed of rocks and stones, have "breaks" in them (AA in diagram Fig. 224) through which the water rushes on to platforms (BB) built immediately below: these platforms, also on a foundation of and surrounded with stone, are covered with boughs and a top layer of grass which in between its meshes catches the fish as they are carried over the breaks with the receding waters. Instead of, or sometimes in addition to, the platforms, a mali net may be fixed up with two sticks on the lower side of the breaks, and so catch them as in a large bag. These stone dams have been met with, so far as I know, only in the Boulia District.

In the Cloncurry, "Woonamurra, and Leichhardt-Selwyn Districts an artificial movable dam formed of grass, bushes, &c., is worked as follows: In a pretty shallow water-hole, the whole diameter is blocked by all the gins from the camp taking up their positions close together side by side, progressing forwards on their hands and knees, and pushing thick bundles of grass tussets and leafy boughs in front of them (Fig. 225): a "grass" dam is thus formed which shifting onwards and onwards drives the fish before it close on to the banks, where they are easily killed and caught.

126. The practice of poisoning the water by special plants and capturing the fish as they rise to the surface is met with in the Cloncurry and Woonamurra Districts. The Mitakoodi use the too-ta (Tephrosia astragaloides, R. Br.), a blue-flowered shrub growing about 3 or 4 feet high. Its leaves are crushed and bruised, and whole bundles-full thrown into the water-hole which may be waist-deep and 20 to 30 feet in diameter; in the course of a quarter or half an hour the fish come up to the surface where they are knocked over by the hunters. In the Cloncurry, Woonamurra, and Leichhardt-Selwyn Districts, especially with large