I don’t think you will believe me (but I’m going to tell you any way)! I’m struggling to grasp how it was even possible myself. It will sound like a tall tale, a big fish story, yet its true…
The plan was simple. No shenanigans. Upon arrival in Witsand we would collect bait, set up our fishing gear, have one or two beers and be in bed by nine promptly! We wanted to be fresh the next day so we could fish hard and put in maximum effort to catch that dream Kob that’s been eluding us. I’ve had one on but lost it when my hook snoot parted after a thirty minute fight and has been besotted with landing that big mamma ever since.
Well it didn’t go exactly according to plan we only hit the sack at 1’O clock on Saturday morning and subsequently struggled a little to get up at four. Things happened a little in slow motion but eventually we were on the water and the lines were in. Two rods each loaded with a livie on one and a octopus leg on the other. We fished the whole day until about four without any significant bites. We got a few smaller fish on prawn but nothing to write home about.
At home we heard of some big fish that was landed during the day. This took the wind out of our sails since we were convinced that everyone struggled to get a pull. Worst of all the successful anglers were lying just down river from us at one stage. Somehow the big fish all swam past our baits and went for a nibble down stream. We regrouped with a few cold ones and went to bed at a more respectful hour.
Sunday morning we decided to move a little higher up river in search of our dream fish. The lines were in “bright” and early again but nothing happened. We decided to burn some time by trying to catch a Grunter or two. The small fish kept us busy and we caught seven different species that included Blacktail, Stumpnose, Kobbies, Grunter, Barbel, Moonies and Steenbras.
I loaded my 1’O Demon Circle hook with a smallish prawn and made a short cast right next to the boat. It wasn’t long and the 6lb braid was screaming from my Stradic FJ 3000. The fish felt really heavy and swam left at first before coming right towards the Kob lines at the back of the boat. This meant trouble and we quickly had a few pulls as the other lines got picked up. What followed was a mad scramble and a bit of a bob and weave as we untangled the lines.
Luckily then the fish swam right and kept to the right hand side of the boat. He wouldn’t show himself and continued diving under the boat. Every time I vertically gained a bit of line he would dive like the Red October making my reel scream and taking back everything I gained. Then he came swimming upwards and next to the boat surfaced a big healthy looking Grunter. But he wasn’t finish yet, they never are!
He went under again. I don’t know if it was my face, or whether the sun was a little sharp but this guy didn’t like coming up. We wouldn’t see him again for another five or so minutes. I got very nervous because the longer the fight lasts the more things could go wrong. Eventually he came up again and was quickly scooped into the net before he could make another move. It turned out to be my personal best Grunter of 73cm (fork lenght). A beast, a bulldog and a bus in my eyes! The Kobs might not have played along but with a fish like that my weekend was already made.
There was more to come though! Before we left my wife told me that she had dreamed that I would catch two big Grunters. Of cause I said that it was great but we are actually going to catch Kob…
The smaller rats and mice took it’s toll on our bait and the mud prawn stock were quickly devoured. After a few hours all that was left was a couple of stinky dead ones. Usually I wouldn’t even bother with these but I had a dream to fulfill so I pushed on. I took a bigger hook tied three dead prawns on with some cotton and made a cast into the channel.
The bait lied still for a while when all of a sudden my rod dipped and the Stradic went into a screaming fit. There isn’t much that gets the adrenaline pumping like a reel that starts screaming steadily. Then a little faster and faster and then that millisecond pause when the fish realizes he’s hooked, just before drops another gear to sixth and starts peeling line off at a rate of knots. It might not be the sounds of a symphony orchestra, but it’s music to my ears.
I was doing some conducting with my fishing rod as the fish continued down river towards the mouth. In no time I was into my backing. This made me extremely nervous. I trust my knots but you never know! Luckily though the fish turned shook his head a couple of times and began swimming towards us for some reason. I don’t know why he did this, we joked that something bigger was probably trying to have a easy breakfast.
The fish also kept swimming close to the surface which was strange. Grunters normally like keeping deep but this fish was almost on the surface and every now and again would make a big swirl as it tried to free itself. I couldn’t see what it was but was a little conflicted. If it was a Grunter it was something that would look Pavarotti look like an Ehiopian. Maybe a Kob, they eat prawn sometimes and this fish gave some proper head shakes.
The fish came past us and was now headed upstream. Although the fish was doing just what he wanted I continued putting pressure on him. Just enough so my light gear wouldn’t fail while he tired out more and more with every run and head nod. I gained more line and he came close to the boat and towards the surface. Then there was a silver flash of something that didn’t look like a Kob at all. Something completely surprising!
“It’s a Garrick” Deon shouted with excitement! I also saw something looking like a Garrick before the fish dove under the boat but thought that my mind was playing tricks with me. It couldn’t be, Garrick don’t eat prawn and especially not the old dried out rotten ones. Or maybe something small was hooked and then he came to eat it and got hooked himself. I thought it could also be a big Shad since they have been caught on prawn before. Whatever it was I had to be extra careful because the hookup couldn’t have been too great.
The fight must have lasted more than twenty minutes when the fish eventually surfaced and we could see that it was definitely a Garrick. He went for another couple of ducks and dives before Deon scooped him neatly into the net. The fight was won but what followed absolutely blows my mind!
When I move my hand towards the mouth of the fish to remove the hook there was nothing in it. Instead a 1 mm hook snood was dangling from its mouth with a broken swivel on the top end. It that wasn’t my mine and I was dumbfounded to say the least! I opened the fishes mouth and could see a rusted treble hook in its mouth, then the hook line followed and ended in a broken swivel. But that was it, no other hook and no attachment to the strangers line. How did I then reel in the fish I wondered?
The fish was tired but I couldn’t let it go with a treble hook stuck in it’s throat. I stuck my hand in its mouth and unhooked the three hooks one by one, then pushed the hook a little deeper so I could turn it before carefully pulling it from the Leeries mouth. There I stood with rusted treble, 1mm line and broken swivel attached to nothing. We quickly measured him and gave him a number plate before taking a couple of picks. Then he was returned to the river and a long revival process started.
He kept on turning on his side with no movement. There was no sign of life and I thought he was about to die. But I turned him upright and moved him forward to get much needed oxygen through his gills. But every time I left him he he would turn on his side again and the whole process would repeat itself. I was loosing hope but Deon said we should continue trying. I turned him again and gradually he started showing signs of avoiding the bright light. He gave a little nod of the head and then he started moving his tail slowly from side to side. I held him for another minute or so to make sure he was ready and then I let him go.
My personal best Leerie of an 87cm fork length swam away, not so strong. He gave a slow kick of the tail and disappeared into the brownish river with a relieved “YES” from us. We named him Lucky! He was unlucky to be caught but lucky that we removed the treble from his gut and then set him free again. I reckon there’s a 50/50 chance that Lucky would make it but we figured he had a much better chance in the river than on the boat, especially with his luck.
I was still confused and wondered how the hell I managed to fight and land the fish with no hook in its mouth. I moved my eyes up my leader looking for some clue as to what happened. Then I saw a little loop right where my 10lb leader was attached to my 6lb braid. Then in astonishment it dawned on me….
Somehow by some huge miracle my line that is always kept straight had made a single loop and, I don’t know how, got tied around the head of the broken swivel… When we lifted the fish into the boat with the net, there was no more tension on the loop and it came loose just like that. I took my leader in one hand and braid in the other and with the smallest of tugs it broke. I guess when a fish has your name on nothing will stop you from landing it!
Over the weekend I only had one proper “bite” but two incredible fights and somehow managed to land two new personal bests! Sometimes all you have to do is just have a line in the water, and who knows, you might get Lucky…