I have never felt so stupid in my life! My five year old daughter (Heila) and newest fishing buddy had just caught her first Steenbras and biggest fish ever. In my effort to wash some sand of the fish to take a better looking photo, the fish slipped out of my hands and with a quick splash of the tail disappeared into the river. Gone baby gone… I felt like a complete idiot!
I was quickly reminded by Heila that the “word” I screamed out of disgust was a swearword and that “juffrou Katinka” said that we shouldn’t swear. I apologized and agreed that swearing was bad, although I felt that in this case it was justified. My wife’s comments (which bordered on sledging) didn’t help either… Why didn’t you “this” and how the “that”! I just looked at my little one and said “sorry my love”. She had a confused look on her face, as if to say what’s all the fuss about. Her reply still gets me all misty eyed, she just said in a soft tone, “it’s OK daddy well get another one”. So proud, so proud!
Minutes earlier our five year old ran to her rod and had to hold on for dear life as the little Steenie took off with the speed of light. The rod bent into a majestic C and the beautiful noise of a screaming reel was interrupted by the panicky screams of “papaa, papaaaaaaaaaaa “! I had to composed myself to not go into my own little screaming fit because this was a “proper” fish and “much bigger” than the previous days small fry.
The coaching started with, “HOLD ON, DON’T LOOSE THE ROD!” Then a little calmer, “Let it run”! Followed by a more furious “reel, reeeeel” when the fish started swimming towards us! Must say it took some real discipline not to jerk the rod out of her hands and play the fish myself. We were on the last day of a four day weekend and all I had to show for all my effort was a couple of sunset pics.
A couple of minutes later a stunning little Steenie was flapping on the side. Of course a few seconds after being caught he was “released” again… I was distraught! It was getting late in the day but I was hoping, praying that we would get another chance of taking a pic with her “first” real fish…
We spend a couple of days in Witsand mid March. The aim was to spend some quality time with the family and to do some much needed fishing. The plan was to fish from early in the morning, collect bait on low tide and then do a family fishing trip in the afternoon targeting the smaller river species. It worked out perfectly and I got to spend some “alone” time next to the river as well as have a great time with the family. We had tremendous fun in the afternoons with the smaller Gorries, Stumpies and Blacktails.
My target species in the mornings was Kob and Grunter but I couldn’t get one single bite. The Breëde seems almost dead at the moment. Fishing is seriously hard work with little to no reward. But, as I always say, it’s not actually about catching fish. Just standing next to the river watching how a new day unfolded was a privilege on its own and good for the soul. The only sounds interrupting the stunning morning silence was the odd fish jumping and the call of a Fish Eagle in the distance. Tranquil.
By late morning I would go home and then we would go onto the exposed reef and look for what ever creatures we could find. I played David Attenborough and gave the family a full marine biology lesson on every thing we caught. This included, rock fish, starfish, different snails, urchins, crabs and even a big octopus. We kept some of the smaller rock fish to use as bait for the Grunters later, but even they couldn’t entice a bite.
In the evenings we would lite a fire and have a few cold ones. Beer and cider for the adults and milk stout for the little ones (only joking). With the fire clacking in the background we would talk about the days events and the big one that shouldn’t get away when we eventually hook into one. Life was good!
On the last day we decided to spend the afternoon at a spot that I haven’t been to for a couple of years. It’s a bit of a walk and with two kids, challenging to say the least. But we decided to pack light and take on the challenge. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we could have made.
We had three rods in the water. My wife’s to the left, mine to the right and Heila’s in the middle. It wasn’t long and Heila was into her first Cape Stumpnose. They are ferocious feeders and didn’t allow much time for the bigger fish that we were after to get to the bait. But it was fun all the same and Heila caught about 4 of them before she got her infamous Steenbras. She was leading 5 to nothing and advised both myself and her mother that we had to do what she did so we could also catch something. Strange how it works some times. Same spot, same bait, only one rod getting all the action.
I saw my rod tip move forward slowly and then it came back, almost as if something had sucked in my bait and then spat it out. I knew from experience that Grunters are very pedantic feeders some times and if they feel anything strange, like tension on the line they will simply leave the bait and swim away. I quickly picked up my rod and gave some slack line. Soon enough he was back and I saw how the slack got picked up slowly at first, then all of a sudden it was tight lines as he screamed off.
At last a proper bite and a proper fight! I briefly gave the rod to Heila to fight the fish. But with her screaming every time the fish went on a run and the wife complaining about loosing the fish, I decided to rather just fight the fish myself. He was feisty and it was a awesome feeling to be in a tussle again. After a couple of minutes and with some coaching help from Heila the fish was on dry land. Eventually after some very hard work we had a something to show for all the effort.
While all the fishing was going on our one year old just sat on her towel and sang “itsy bitsy spider”. She only interrupted herself to point to the seagulls or to complain about sand on her hands. She’ll get used to it! In the meantime my wife got onto the scoring sheet as well with a River Goby and a Stumpnose. The score by now was Heila 8, the wife on 2 and myself with 1. The sun was about to disappear and I knew that it would get much colder and that we didn’t have much time left. Luckily the fishing gods was about to smile upon us one last time.
No nibble, no warning! Heila’s rod just jerked forward and line started peeling of the reel. Interest was lost by that stage and I was left to fight the fish on my own. I didn’t mind it too much though. Was convinced too that the fish was a Grunter until I saw him in the shallows. A perfect looking Steenbras that actually mirrored the one I lost earlier. My wife is convinced that it is the same one.
This time I didn’t take any chances and as soon as the fish was on the side we took a quick photo, gave it a kiss and set it free. I felt much better and the relief was refreshing with a couple of celebratory beers later that evening. It was one of my best days ever. Heila crushed us and won with 9 fish for the day including 3 Steenies, 4 Stumps and 2 Gorries.
Fishing with the family is fun!