Next to us surfaced the biggest Kob both of us had ever seen. Of course in magazines and on social media we have seen bigger, but never before have we had one on a rod and reel this close to us (the one I lost last year was bigger but he never came this close). Don’t get me wrong, the fish wasn’t huge by its own standards, I mean Kob can grow in excess of 60kg, but for us it was enormous. A dream fish, one of those that you fantasize about!
It was almost the end of an ten minute fight and although the fish was tired he was still full of kick. We didn’t know what to do, gaff it or try and scoop it with our carp net? At one stage I even thought of throwing my cast net over the fish, but I quickly abandoned the idea when I realised the damage it might do to my thin braided line. Neither myself nor Burtie had experience in the handling of bigger fish. I really didn’t want to loose this fish after my previous disappointment last year, so I suggested that Burtie scoop his head into the net and then I would grab him by the tail. With this tactic at least we would be able to get him into the boat. Deon thought we should gaff it. Probably the better idea, but with much higher risk since the gaff was home made with a barbless 10’o hook fastened onto an old kitchen mop. If he missed he might gaff my line off and it would be bye bye dream and hello nightmare. I could already see the swearwords, flying fists and a big fight on a small boat. The termination of a good friendship was hanging in the balance!
Only after I was reassured that the home made gaff-“thingy” would do the job did I decide to bring the fish closer to the boat. I slowly reel the leader onto my Stradic 5000 and dragged the fish in the direction of Burton with my rod. The plan was to gaff the fish in the lower jaw to secure it and then we would lift it into the boat for a few quick snaps before releasing it. “Wait, be patient, wait till he opens his mouth”, I mumbled to Deon. Everything turned into slow motion as the anticipation grew in the wait for the fish to give Deon a chance to set the gaff. He briefly opened his mouth… “NOW”, I shouted! Burtie gaffed… and missed… and with one big boil, huge splash and slap of his tail the fish disappeared under the boat and into the murky water…
We launched early on Saturday morning. The previous evening we tried to keep it as civil as possible and when we hit the water on Deon’s new rubber ducky we were as fresh as one can be at 5:00 in the morning. We quickly had enough livies for the day and was off to our selected destination for our first drop. By six the lines was in and the waiting started. The tide just turned and was going out and I was hoping that some hungry Kobbies would come past our baits while swimming with the tide towards the mouth.
It was dead quiet! Now when I am on foot, next to the river I can at least keep myself busy with doing “stuff”. But on a boat there is no where to go and no where to hide. When you get exited about going onto the Breede with a boat there are certain things that you don’t consider. Like what do you do when you have a number two? Number one is easy, but number two is a bit of a complicated situation. You can use a bucket, but then you will have to ask your captain to look away, and that just seemed too girly. In any case no man should make eye contact with another man while he is strangling a brown bear… Or you could go overboard with your backside. This however has the disadvantage of your ding dong hanging in the murky water, and I don’t know about you, but have you seen the size of the Zambies swimming in the river. I will much rather offer a leg, thank you very much!
The day dragged on and we pulled anchor every hour or so to see if we could move with the tide towards the mouth. We didn’t get any bites though and we decided to pump a few mud prawns to see if we could at least catch a Grunter. I was lucky enough to get one to bite and after a brief fight I caught a stunning Tiger of 62cm. Deon got pulled flat by a fish with some real intent but unfortunately his line snapped. This was very frustrating because on a slow day you only get one or two bites and you have to make them count.
After the only two bites of the day we decided to move upstream again to see if there wouldn’t be some fish coming in with the tide. But nothing happened. One of my friends inquired through WhatsApp how the fishing was and when I said that there was “blou fokol” going on he replied with some encouragement. He reminded us that we just had to push through because persistence always pays on the Breede. It’s true, if you put time and effort in at Witsand you will always be rewarded. It was getting late though and we decided to make our last drop before we would head home. The whole day we actually saw big fish swimming underneath our boat with a fish finder but they weren’t interested in our baits. You would see a big fish coming past and then the livies would develop serious shivers, but then the fish just continued on their merry way. Not even a bump of hope, it was frustrating to say the least.
Deon suggested that we go home to go drown our sorrows but I thought we should make one last stop, just for 5 minutes (its never only for 5 minutes). Now this sounds a bit like one of those fishing stories on the tele where they always manage to get stuck into a big fish in the last minute of a two week trip. A bit of a push over try in injury time, but on this day it happened exactly like that.
It was almost 19:00 and I hooked a smallish livie through the top lip with a Mustad 5’o hook and made my last cast. A couple of minutes later and sure enough my rod tip started vibrating again. I was thinking that this was just another bit of false hope, but then my rod dipped and line started peeling of my reel. I struggled to get my fishing stick out of the rod holder, but when I eventually managed I could feel that there was something special on the other side. At first the fish went right and picked up another line but then came left and luckily didn’t get tangled up. We quickly reeled in our other lines to avoid any mishap and enable the fish to swim in any direction without obstructions. Most of the fight was behind the boat and after about ten minutes the fish surfaced next to the boat.
…After Deon missed I thought for a brief second that Mr Kobbie was gone, but as luck would have it, my reel gave another little scream to install reassurance that he was still on. I pumped my rod and within a few minutes or so he was right next to the boat again. Burtie suggested I gaff the fish myself, he wasn’t taking any chances. I grabbed the leader with one hand, dropped my rod and took the gaff from my shaky partner. I was shaking myself but tried to keep calm as I slowly pulled the fish closer. In one movement I gaffed the fish and then pulled him into the boat. I ended up on my backside with the fish on top of me. Both me and my captain were in awe and lost for words, there was a couple of seconds of quiet astonishment.
We are average weekend warriors and fish like this doesn’t come past us every day. I’m sure we will catch bigger in future but for now it was our best catch ever. The fish measured at 122cm beating my previous best of 106cm caught earlier this year. After we tagged him and took a few quick snaps we hooked him in the lower jaw and slid him into the river. I moved him back and forward to get some much needed oxygen through his gills. This was a dream fish and I was really hoping that I could successfully *release him. We had a bit of chit chat while I revived the fish. Deon had a jab at be for thinking that he would fit into the net, we laughed. Then the fish gave a kick and I knew he was ready to go. I jerked out the gaff and released my dream…
*I had a teacher at school that always said: “Werp jou brood op die water, en na vele dae kom hy terug met botter en jêm op… ” (cast your bread upon the waters and after many days you will find it again, with butter and jam on). If we get into the habit of releasing fish it will surely pay dividends in future. We should actually release all the bigger fish we catch because they will ensure that we all can have happy fishing days for years to come. If we continue to kill the breeding stock it wont be too long and we will be stuck with only stories of days gone by!