When I was about 6, me and my dad were fishing close to the Kaaimans river mouth, on the Victoria bay side at a place called “die plat bankies”. I couldn’t cast a multiplier and dad used to reel in, change bait and cast for me. All I had to do was hold the very heavy glass fiber rod and strike. Being the very enthusiastic fisherman that I was, I used to strike at everything, mostly waves though. Then I proceeded by reeling in with all the line bundled up on the one side of the reel. This frustrated the hell out of my dad because he had to go through his routine every five minutes or so. After the umpteen time of striking at nothing my father demanded that I stop fooling around or else he’s going to take the rod out. I responded by saying that the fish were biting, upon which he replied that it was only the waves. I pondered on this for a while and then asked, “So, hoe weet ek dan as ‘n vis byt?” His irritated response was, “Jy sal weet as ‘n vis byt!” No truer words has ever been spoken…
We used “rooiaas” as bait and I had a few actual nibbles so my dad asked that I hold his rod so he can change my bait. He was busy baiting my hook when all of a sudden something jerked his rod right out of my hands. The sheer brutality of this fish was unbelievable. The rod bounced on the rocks, luckily not breaking and I grabbed hold of it on my second attempt. My fathers drag wasn’t loose enough and a brief tug of war began with mister bruiser on the one side and me on the other. I held on with everything I had but it was a no contest with me being dragged right up to the edge of the flat rock. All I could do was scream “PAAAAAAAAA!” all the way. My panicky screams was interrupted by a terrible crack of the wip sound as the line snapped, probably saving me from a cold winter swim. I was in awe, shocked and a little bewildered! All I could utter in a sort of shivering whisper was: “nou weet ek hoe voel dit as ‘n vis byt…”
This is just one of the stories that we have gathered over the last thirty five odd years of fishing together. My dad showed me the ropes and taught me how to fish. In the early days he did everything for me and my only real responsibility was not to fall in the sea and to keep quiet. We lived in George and I had the amasing privilege to cut my teeth at places like “skuinsklip” and “plat bankies” between Wilderness and Victoria bay. My love for estuary fishing was probably born fishing for Steenbras with earthworms in the Kaaimans river, every now and again even the odd Kobbie would grab the “mostly” freshwater bait. The Grootbrak, Kleinbrak, Wilderness, Swartvlei and Knysna estuaries were where I spend my weekends. All I spoke about in school orals was fishing and all I draw in art class was fish, I was besotted with everything fishing.
As I grew older my priories changed and I briefly gave up fishing for chasing tail. What else was going to happen if you released a Lambertsbay “visvoet” into the wild night of Stellenbosch. There was still the odd expedition though, like the one when we went to Henties. It was a trip that we were dreaming of for years. All the stories of thousands of Steenbras and Galjoen and Kob created an almost surreal dream of just pitching up and catching the fish with your hands almost. We drove up all the way in one trip, 22 hours straight. I had the wheel for the last couple of kilometers between Swakop and Henties. It was in the early morning hours and remember being so tired that I almost fell asleep a couple of times, but as soon as we drove into Henties I was wide awake! We had to wait for the place where we stayed to open, but the anticipation was too much, so we assembled our rods and started fishing right there.
Four days and many kilometers later, and we didn’t even have so much as a nibble. We used to go out early mornings drive to our preferred spot for the day, fish (or try), move, fish, move, and then we would come home for the afternoon before moving out again in the evening until night fall. On the third day we hired a “Giellie” to see if our luck wouldn’t change but still nothing, we literally couldn’t buy a bite. I asked him what he thought was wrong but he just shrugged his shoulders and said “swael water, basie, swael water”.
On the evening of the fourth day we were sitting around the fire braaing the last of our meat, (we didn’t bring much for the ten day trip since we would be eating fish every night) when all of a sudden my dad started laughing. Now this wasn’t any laugh, I’m talking uncontrollable out of the stomach giggling. He laughed so hard that tears were rolling from his eyes. My grandmother always said: “van lekker lag, kom lekker huil”, I thought this was a classic example. It was contagious and we joined in but after a while I wanted to know what was sooo funny. My dad would try to explain, but then he would burst out laughing again. It was crazy and at one stage I thought that sunstroke had got the better of him. Eventually he calmed down enough to explain to us what was the reason for his mad amusement.
He said that in the weeks building up towards the trip and for all of the 22 hours on our way to Henties he sat in the bakkie trying to construct ways of how he was going to get me away from the water on a daily basis, after we reached our quota of fish. Catch and release wasn’t part of the forte back in the day and once the fish was biting, getting me away from the water was impossible. He most certainly didn’t fancy sleeping in a Namibian jail. Now here we sat (he started laughing again), four days later, gatvol, sunburnt and dehydrated with not even a bite to show for our trouble… (I suppose you had to be there)
Over the past weekend my parents visited us from the West Coast and since the Ballie has never fished Bettys I thought I will go and show him what a lovely place it is. Personally I only “discovered” Bettys as a fishing destination a year ago. My first five visits to the place I blanked and I thought its a beautiful place with loads of promise but nothing more. Then, somehow I caught my first couple of fish and has since I fell in love with the place.
On Saturday we were on the beach at 4:30. It was quiet for the first half an hour or so when my dad had the first pull down. After a couple of minutes or so he beached a beautiful tagged 99,5cm Spotty. Just before the sun broke the horizon I had a good inquiry and went “vas” with a small Kobbie. My dad was next and landed a nice 45cm Shad and just behind him I also landed a Shad of the same school. We were busy for an hour, but just after the sun came up all went quiet. Because it went dead I rebaited with some wonder worm hoping for a Steenie or Belman, but a nice Gallie came along, a lovely 35cm fsh that was tagged as well. Before this passed weekend I have never caught a tagged fish, so I was very chuffed. In the end we caught 5 species that included Kob, Shad, Galjoen, Banjo and a Spotty. The evening was spend over a cold one and a freshly braaied Shad.
On Sunday it was more of the same except the Shad wasn’t biting and the bigger fish was around. The ballie had the first bite but missed the fish. Just after that I had a proper “sak”, I hit and the fish was on. After a quick fight I landed a 66cm Kobbie. I rebaited, made the cast and as I turned to face the sea, bam, on again and another 66cm fish. My dad had another inquiry but unfortunately missed again. I changed our baits and in went the rods. About 15 minutes went by when my rod dipped again. I thought it was a much nicer fish because he gave me a bit of stick. After a few minutes I landed another 67cm Kobbie. Eventually my father got stuck into something that picked up his bait and started swimming away at a steady pace. After a good ten minutes tug of war he lost the fish and we can only speculate as to what it was, my guess would be Spotty!
When we got home my dad called my mom over to tell her what a great weekend he had had. He said it was the fishing he had always been dreaming of. You see, I changed his bait, made his casts, cleaned his fish and “braaied” it, all he had to do was set the hook! It seems we have gone full circle…