It’s been a long time coming but still so sad when it happens.
I have two best mates in life and one of them, Wayne Eccles, “The Vulture”,
passed away peacefully last month.
I met the Vult in 1968 whilst fishing from the rocks at Bondi.
I actually gave Vulture that nickname when he kept poking a long fishing rod at
my arse every time we climbed a long steel ladder at one of our spots.
The Vult, his brother Kevin and I always fished together back then.
We used to fish for big mulloway on northern NSW river mouth breakwalls,
and had some epic sessions.
Pictured is my first cover shot on the old Australian Angler before it became
Fishing World: 24-year-old Vulture with his 67lb jewie from Yamba breakwall.
Vult was always a happy-go-lucky bloke, but he knew how to swing a punch
too and never took a step backwards.
One day, he turned up at a spot we called The Ledge. Kev and I got there hours
earlier and had a net bag each full of blackfish.
Another bloke who used to fish there was Hungry Bill. He was a fair bit older
than us: early middle-aged.
He didn’t know we referred to him as Hungry Bill behind his back. It was for
good reason: Hungry would turn up at The Ledge with a sugar bag of sand
mixed with Botany Bay weed.
Blackfish eat a couple of varieties of seaweed, either stringy grass or tender
leafy “cabbage” as we called it.
Off the rocks at Bondi, cabbage was the standard because it grew round the
edges of rock pools.
However, Hungry Bill would turn up and start berleying with Botany Bay grassy
He was the only one with Botany weed for bait and soon was the only one
catching fish. We all thought he was an arsehole.
So, Vulture turned up that day and put his canvas rucksack down amongst all
Instantly Hungry Bill exclaimed with an irritated tone: “Why’d you put your bag
so close to mine?”
Vulture’s answer: “So I can punch you in the f…ing mouth if you move it!”
There was no comeback to that, and Hungry Bill went home early that day.
When I travelled Oz and settled in Darwin in 1978, Vult visited regularly before
moving up permanently in the mid ‘80s. He reckoned: “That must be the best
fishing Al if you moved there!”
I remember on his first visit in the very early ‘80s, a few of us went down to
Victoria River and camped at Big Horse Creek. It was wild and woolly down that
part of the world back then.
We had two car-top tinnies and straight up on the first day I hooked a terrific
barra in the high 90cm range. It took one of my home-made lures I was carving
No one used landing nets in those days; only gaffs. When the barra came to
the boat, in one movement, Vult gaffed it in the shoulder and lifted it above his
“So that’s a barra eh?” He asked.
“Yep Vult, that’s a barra,” I replied, shaking my head.
For years, Wayne and his partner Noni lived in Jabiru where he operated a
small concrete plant.
He caught some great barra in both the East and South Alligator Rivers.
As a mate of mine said, if you went to the South Alligator and the Vulture
turned up, you knew you were on the money.
Vult was a big lovable bloke who loved life and was loved by many. Always a
prankster, he fished well and partied hard in his earlier days.
In his last few years, he was afflicted with a type of Frontotemporal dementia
and he and Noni moved back to rural NSW to be near his daughters.
Wayne Eccles died at 74, and will be missed by many. He has left a large
extended family, including several grandchildren.
My most-heartfelt best wishes and condolences to Noni and all his family.
I have so many memories of fun times shared in the bush and on the water
with the Vulture.
I wish I could have a laugh and a fish again with you my great old mate.
Wayne Eccles aka “The Vulture” with one of his many big Kakadu barra.
The Vulture with his trademark endearing smile helps young Reif Doig
with his queenfish.
Circa April 1973: Wayne Eccles on the cover of The Australian Angler
with his awesome 67lb Yamba breakwall mulloway.