A couple of years ago ESA had some sort of presenter search or something. The west coast leg of this thing was held at Die Lapa Dwarskersbos, and I decided that I should go and throw myself into the mix as well, you never know what can happen.
When I arrived the morning there was an ESA team busy filming one of the episodes. The fisherman, think his name was Arno, used small live mullets as bait that he rigged weightless on a Daiwa Exceler 10ft rod and 4000 Exceler Z reel. He then made about a 10 meter cast from where he was standing in ankle deep water. Then with all might these flat fish would smash him and all hell broke loose as his reel started screaming. I think he caught about three or so, when I couldn’t help myself any more…
For this ESA event you had to do a presentation of some sorts. All I really knew, was how to do a Grunter “strop” with a sliding ball sinker. Not much of an presentation, but I was banking on my sparkling personality to shine right into each and every fisherman’s living room… Anyway, because of this simple hook snood all I had with me was my light tackle setup at the time, a Daiwa Exceler 2000 loaded with 10lb Rovex Viros braid and a 8 foot Shimano Vengeance rod. I rushed through my filming debut and couldn’t concentrate properly because all I had in my head was catching one of those flat fish.
I didn’t have livies but decided to try some sand prawns as bait that I pumped earlier for the presentation. I waded, made my cast and was in within a couple of minutes. It was a flat fish, but unfortunately not the kind I was looking for, a damn Sandy. I learned quickly that you to be patient and fish through these peckers because very now and again something bigger will come along. It does help to have livies though, the Lesser Sand Shark picks them up as well, but they are a lot more keen on sand prawns, believe me! I had a proper pickup but after a few mad screams from my reel the flatty dropped the bait. The fish was thick and you could almost site cast to them as they came swimming past us in the knee deep water. One of the fellow presenter candidates standing next to me, even got spooled by something that wouldn’t and couldn’t be stopped.
With my next cast I got stuck into a big flat fish and was properly pulled around. I thought that my 2000 Exceller would fail any minute. There were a couple of guys fishing and we had to do a couple of overs and unders before I had the fish under some sort of control. One of the guys offered to help me and walked in to waist high water to try and grab the fish by its mouth and drag it out. I think he saw I was a bit under gunned! Halfway to the beach the Eagle gave a mean flap, turned its head and my helper lost his grip on the fish. The fish took off and my Grunter “strop” popped. It was an amasing experience trying to land these powerful fish on light tackle. I was in awe of the strenght these majestic flat beasts had. Even with proper tackle they would give you a pull and a half, not to mention the light gear I was using.
The next morning I was back and ready. My gear was the same except for my hook snood that was made with a 0.5mm flouro carbon. The fishing was slow with the odd sandy being interested. The day dragged on and I was about to leave when my reel started screaming.
This was an even bigger fish than the ones I had on the previous day. I don’t want to lie but I reckon it was about a 30 minute fight or so. The fish took me for a good 500 meter walk left, then back all the way right and then left again. It was exhilarating! Every time I thought I had him won he would go into another gear, absolutely incredible. Eventually he started to tire and I had him in my sights. Slowly but surely I reeled in the last of my braid and had the leader at the tip of my rod. The fish was huge, by far the biggest I have caught on light tackle.
I got a little over exited and went into a bit of a panic. I reeled in the leader, grabbed it with my left hand and dropped the rod cold so I could hand line this thing onto the beach. I pulled him closer with the help of a little swell and then grabbed onto the hook snood and pulled him to almost between my legs. This was my first time handling a big Ray and it was a struggle to get a good enough grip in his mouth to start dragging him onto the beach. Next moment, my line broke and every thing started going into slow motion… Should I dive? Yes, No, Yes! What about the spines? Don’t be the next Steve Irwin!
I stood there, dumb struck and all alone as the fish slowly drifted away into the deeper, darker water. I’ve been heart broken before, like when my varsity girlfriend left me, but not even that could compare to the sorrow I was hit with. Emotions boiled up inside of me from deep dark places I didn’t even knew existed. My face turned pale and a single lonesome tear appeared as I was overtaken with heartache. It was really sad man! After a minutes silence, I sighed, wiped my face, gave a sad snotty sniff and went home. I swear you can still hear Celine Dions “all by myself” in the back ground…
The next weekend I was off to the Die Lapa again. This time however I wasn’t going to be fooling around. Out came the big guns, the Exage 110H and 20/40S with 40lb line. The wife decided to join and she had a 12 ft Loomis Sharkey with a Penn Fierce 6000, also with 40lb line.
The wife was quickly into a fish. I don’t know who screamed the most, the Fierce or the wife. Halfway into the fight she begged me to take the rod from her, I refused, only because I knew the reward of fighting and landing a fish without help would be so much greater. After a good couple minutes shouting and screaming, l lip landed my wife’s Eagle. What beautiful majestic fish they are! After a few snaps we released the fish to fight another day. Now the pressure was really on, if I had to blank after the previous weekends disaster I wouldn’t recover.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait long. Although the odds was stacked in my favour with the heavier gear it was still a great fight. I set the hook and this glider just slowly swam away. That was until he realised he had a hook in the mouth and really flew away. WOW! He made a couple more runs but after a few minutes he was within reach again. This time I gently passed the rod to my wife and took my time. I slowly stuck my hand into his mouth, made sure I had a firm grip and proceeded to walk backwards and drag him onto the beach. A stunning fish with a 107cm wing span was flapping on the side.
I looked at the wife and gave her some happy screams, The! Eagle! Has! Landeeeed!