Towards the end of November 2013 we had a trip planned to one of the best places on the planet, Witsand. The magical little town that sits at the mouth of the Breede river. It’s not only that it’s an awesome fishing destination, its the people, the fresh air, the whole aura the place has. It is one of the few places that you can just… be. I don’t even need a rod in the water it’s just peaceful and quiet. Of course there is no way the rod stays home, it is fishing paradise!
As it goes with pre-planned trips, you can’t order the weather and about a week before we would depart the heavens opened and it rained and rained and rained (something that we can really do with currently). The river was in flood a couple of days later and it was one of the bigger ones in recent times. Down came tree trunks and stumps, boat moorings and even couches and cupboards with the muddy water. If it could float and wasn’t properly secured it was on its way towards Witsand via the rumbling Breëde river.
I asked around and everyone said that we would be wasting our time since the water would be brown and muddy and no fish would bite in such conditions. Unfortunately for us the deposit was paid and it was to late to pull out anyhow. Plus the last time we visited the river was in February and if Whitesands are calling, there is only one thing to do.
Myself and Deon left on Thursday after work and upon arrival we spoke to one of the many friendly locals that said we should rather try and fish the sea. He suggested places like “Tom Se Hut” and “waar die stompe teen die duin lê”. We were very keen and felt like going down to the beach that same evening just to throw something in the water. We decided to rest the Thursday and rather braai and have a few cold ones so that we could be fresh the next day. The plan was to walk the next day until we find salty blue water.
The next morning at five we parked at “Die Blokke” and set out to walk to Tom Se Hut. We had no idea how far it was, all we knew was that we would “see” it after a couple of kilometers. We eventually ended up at a spot that we thought was Tom Se Hut. As it turned out it was actually way past at a place called “Die Skuur”, just about 500km (it felt like that) further than our planned destination. It was sooo far and I got sooo tired that I swear at one stage I saw Gabriel and the Pearly Gates as I was about to climb the long ladder. It didn’t help that I carried half of Somerset Sports yearly sinker stock on my back either.
When we got to the spot it was just about high tide and with the water still brown we couldn’t actually see what the bottom structure was like where we would be casting. We ended up fishing in very rough rocky terrain and needless to say we lost loads of tackle. This was actually a blessing in disguise because if I had to carry all those sinkers back I’m sure that I would have died at a place they would later have named “Blikkies Se Gat… Gesien”!
We didn’t even get as much as a nibble the whole morning. Walking back later in the day at about three was quite a surreal scene. The shore was littered with carp and barbel (the freshwater kind) lying dead on the beach. With the afternoon session we tried on the left hand side of the restaurant, also without success. The only things we caught were two big barbel (the spiny saltwater kind). With the sun disappearing we called it a day and decided to go and rehydrate. We had high hopes for the day and nothing happened. We were down but not completely out.
The next morning we set out again, this time with new knowledge and with our bags half the weight of the previous day. What a stunning day it was, not a breath of wind! With renewed energy and hope and a couple of prayers we took the long walk to tight lines. We eventually got to a spot past “Stompkopbaai” and opposite the stumps that our local knowledge told us about. The water looked perfect apart from being brown and we made our first casts bright and early. It was a tranquil scene with the sun rising and if it wasn’t for the stench of rotting carp carcasses I would have thought I was in paradise.
By 12 o’clock our long faces turned to a “somebody just died” look and with our tails between our legs we kind of leopard crawled back. Nothing again, not even a little bite. By now we were contemplating turning a bad days fishing into a good days drinking! But we decided to go down to the river, pump a few mud prawns and make a throw or two. We could sit back with a rod of no promise in the water and have a few cold ones. This was a fishing trip after all.
We got to the river about 13:00 armed with a packed cooler box and two eight foot rods each. I got down and dirty and quickly pumped a couple of muddies. We baited our circle hooks and made our first casts into the muddiest water I have ever seen. The water didn’t look great and with our self believe the prospects were pretty low. I walked back to open us a couple of cold ones when all of a sudden I heard a screaming reel.
Deon’s first rod wasnt even in the water for more than a minute and away it went with and exiting zzz zzzz zzzzzz! I remember thinking that that must have been one of the most energetic fresh water barbel I’ve ever heard. After a few runs and a couple of minutes a beautiful White Steenbras flashed at two very excited faces. What a wonderful surprise! It still amazes me how one fish can give you hope and a new lease on life.
The next minute went like this, “Where’s your camera?”, “Where’s your phone?”, “Where’s your tagging kit?”. Followed by “mooi man” and “lekker man lekker”. We laughed at ourselves, we were so convinced that we won’t catch anything that we didn’t even bother to bring something to take pictures with.
Then ten minutes later Deon’s second reel took off like a jet, zzzz zzzz zzzz! About five minutes into the fight I looked back to see if everything was OK with our rods but Deon’s other rod was lying flat on the sand. I ran back and as I picked it up away went fish number three in fifteen minutes! “Wow what’s going on?”, we asked each other. Another couple of minutes later I landed his first Grunter of about 3 kg. Deon was still fighting his fish and eventually landed a beautiful 5 kg Kob.
Must say I was a bit green by this stage, not that it was a competition or anything, but he was leading by three to nothing! Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long for my reel to start screaming, another nice Grunter. I baited up and made a cast and as I was about to put the rod down I felt a tap and then the fish just took off! Another good sized Grunter for myself and a bit of a comeback was on the cards. Deon was leading Three – Two.
It went quiet for about ten minutes when suddenly my one rod folded double and my reel started screaming like a pig that’s being castrated. I was standing more than ten meters away but it took me like two steps to reach my rod. Line was peeling of my reel at a serious rate when all of a sudden, snap! My line parted and gone was a really good fish. With a shaking head and a heavy heart I put the rod down and mumbled something like “for faaak sakes”! This was the big one and a change to draw level.
I never caught up with Deon, he was on a roll and ended up with ten fish and seven different species. It included, 1 Moonie, 1 Stumpnose, 1 Steenie, a klipvis, 2 barbel(all of a sudden they counted) 3 nice Grunters and a Kob. I caught six fish and four different species that incuded nice 3 Grunters. When the sun disappeared we realized that we didn’t even have time to open a beer. The cooler stayed untouched until we got home that is. After all, we had some celebrating to do!
We slept a bit later than usual. The previous days took its toll and the celebrations might have gone on a bit later than we thought. We dragged ourselves out of bed and after a very slow roasted coffee we were off to the river again. The day wasn’t as exciting as Saturday but we ended up with two more Grunters each and a couple of smaller Steenies.
All too soon we were in the car and on our way back to reality. We set out to doom and gloom and in the end beat the odds with loads of fun and fish. Just shows you how unpredictable fishing can be. Conditions might not always be ideal but one thing is for sure, you wont catch anything if your line isn’t in the water…