The Grunter

When I eventually got hold of a copy (signed nogal by both authors) of “Fishing yourself single” I couldn’t help but start reading immediately. I was into the book like a kid into a KitKat! The chapter by Craig Thomassen about his honeymoon at Wavecrest, especially, had me in stitches. I was reading it on the plane and had people staring at me constantly because on a couple of occasions I burst out laughing hysterically and then I would continue giggling, seemingly for no reason, like some mentally unstable person. Actually all fishermen must have a loose screw or two…

Anyway, the reason for my utter enjoyment of that specific chapter in the book was that I could relate. You see, I too planned a fishing trip on which some honeymooning would take place. We had a restricted budget, so no overseas trip for us. Instead I carefully planned our trip… 3 days at Infanta (next to the Breede river), 2 days in Plettenbergbay (next to the Bitouriver), 3 days at Stormsriver (close to Natures Valley) and then 4 days at Addo Elephant park, to end off a lovely week of fishing…. So, while my wife to be was packing beach hats and sunscreen, I was re-spooling reels, making knots and packing fishing gear. When we eventually left on our long awaited trip, the bakkie was packed to the brim, two thirds of the weight taken up by fishing equipment. The other third by my wife’s bag. What they fit into their bags to make them so heavy only they know!

Fishing was slow on the first couple of days, so the wifey and I ended up spending some quality time together, luckily… When we arrived at Stormsriver I was informed that there was some fishing action at Natures Valley. So we packed our things and set off to the estuary. We pumped a few sand prawns (bloody hard work at NV) and made a cast into the dark brownish lagoon. It took so long to get the prawns the wife even had time for a tan! We ended up catching a couple of juvenile Steenies and a few Stumps, just enough action to keep me happy. At least something was biting…

On the third and last day, nothing happening and we were about to leave when the one rod bent double and the reel started screaming. I jumped up and in my efforts to get to the rod I trampled all over my wife (also on her way to the rod, since it was her turn to catch) and stamped on her foot. I reached the rod just before it got pulled into the lagoon. To be honest, my wife was moaning and screaming, but so was the reel and all I could hear was zzz zzz zzz. Then I remembered it was her turn and I tried to give her back the rod, but she just gave me one of those “F&%# YOU!” looks. I knew this meant trouble, but somehow I was glad and excited, this meant that I could fight the monster in the water while tip toeing around the beast on the side. Eventually, after a brief fight, I pulled in a nice Grunter. I don’t know who grunted the most, my disgruntled bride in the fetal position holding her foot or the poor fish gulping air in search of oxygen. While releasing the fish I tried to assure the love of my life that the next one will be hers calling her “bokkie” and “liefie” the whole time… The second bite never came…

On our way to the car, me skipping, my wife limping, I tried to ease the tension by making a joke or two. I said something in the line of “luckily it was your foot that got hurt, because your feet should be in the air most of the time anyway, this was a honeymoon after all”. It did not go down well and I almost spent my first married night on the couch!

From that day, for the last couple of years, catching that elusive Grunter was a big thing. Whenever we went fishing I would always encourage my wife by reminding her that “this weekend” she will catch her Grunter! But, after about 5 minutes she would lose interest and leave and I would be left on my own with my lonesome self and the great outdoors, next to some pristine piece of water… bliss! And then, eventually I would catch the Grunter! One time she actually hung around long enough and she got stuck into something but after a few minutes she lost the fish. I was very frustrated and bleak!

Talking about the wife, I got lucky! My wife, although not the greatest fishing enthusiast doesn’t stand in the way when it comes to my big passion. She never complains about any reel or rod or lure I buy, as long as she also gets something. She now has plenty of gear… that I use all the time! She also lets me fish whenever I want. She’s supportive when I lose a little one and gets excited when I catch a big one, she’s the perfect fishing life partner!

So, our 3 year wedding anniversary was coming up and what better place to celebrate it than the Breede River Lodge! We left our beautiful daughter with the grandparents and set off to Witsand.

We arrived on a Wednesday and the rods went in before we even checked in. Nothing happened, not even a nibble, no worries, Witsand always produces! The evening we enjoyed a lovely supper in the lodge restaurant. Their oysters are ridiculous, you have to try them. Natural fresh sea oysters… nom nom nom!!!

Thursday I persisted with bloodworm and prawn in front of the restaurant at the sea, but nothing. The evening I tried the river with bait and lures but also just a few small nibbles from the rats. Just before I packed up, with the sun long gone, I reeled in and, bang, something hit my sinker, was on too for a good couple of seconds before spitting the weight. This gave me enough motivation for the next day. By this time though, I was worried, but I knew that somehow, somewhere, something will happen, this was Witsand after all!

Friday was one of those days that you dream of. When I woke up I heard the wind howling outside. Overnight a cold south westerly picked up and was pumping, I considered staying in bed but then I thought of that sinker grabber and I was up and ready to go. The wife however decided to stay in bed…

I got to a nice spot where I could throw a few mudprawns and make a few casts with my lures. The prawns went in and I took my Stradic 4000 and Exceler rod with a coppertruese paddletail and started working him slowly on the bottom. About the fifth cast, bang, on, a lovely 68cm kob! Great start to this miserable cold day! The tide was already pushing hard and I walked back and checked my other rods, I rebaited them and in they went. As I walked back to the lure spot I saw my one rod go into a bobbing fit. I ran over and picked it up but nothing. The bait also came out with nothing wrong. I made another cast and as I was about to pick up the other rod, bang again, and again the fish missed, again the bait seemed to be untouched. Then the other rod went and also missed. I was mystified how the fish could miss, but immediately changed the 1’o J’s to 2’o circles. This made all the difference because from there on it was total chaos. Cast for cast I was in with everything from Kob, Steenbras, Grunter and Cape Stumpnose. There wasn’t any hanna hanna either, they all just went straight sticks! I ran out of tags by 12:00, what a pleasure!

It got to high tide and the action stopped briefly so I moved to a new spot, 10 minutes later and it all started again. I lost a nice Kob at my feet when he literally spit the 2’o circle hook at me. I couldn’t believe it, he was so close that the hook fell on dry sand! It wasn’t a big fish, but big enough for me to drop the same word I used for the referee that blew the Boks game!

My wife joined me in the wind that just picked up even more through the day. I told her, “today is the day, just be patient”. She didn’t have to wait long though, and she was in. This time I was all pussy footing around her, I picked up the rod and passed it to her gently. I knew this was a bigger fish by the way the 6lb fireline tore off the Stradic 2500. Then a quick turn and then off again, Grunter style, they are such amazing fighters on light tackle! Slowly we made progress with the wife reeling and me coaching. When I saw the fish for the first time I must have looked like Heyneke Meyer going “go Willie!”… It was a stunning Grunter. The one we’ve been waiting for, a story three years in the making! I was actually told to shut up once or twice because I couldn’t stop with “stadig”, “gee lyn”, “katrol”, “lig jou stok se punt”, “sak jou stok se punt”… Luckily, this one couldn’t spit the hook and was landed! We were very excited, hugs & high fives all round!

It was a crazy day, we caught 3 Kob, 6 Grunters, 2 Steenbras and 4 Stumpnose, and lost a couple of fish as well.

The evening was spent at the lodge restaurant, celebrating with oysters and champers. My wife made a toast to us and a lovely 3 years spent together and years to come (bla bla bla). I cheersed to the “Grunter” that didn’t get away… 😉

Waiting for a bite in the majestic Natures Valley
Honeymoon Steenie
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Waiting for the bite a view years later…
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The result of patience
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One more picture
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Kobbie selfie
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Wife’s first Kobbie
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Cape stump
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Celebration!

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