We all lose fish. It’s a fact of fishing like death and taxes. No fish is ever won until you have him high and dry. This thing that touching the leader counts as a landed fish is just to sooth our egos. I have personally lost a couple of fish that was right therewithin touching distance, so close you could smell them. All it takes is a flap of the tail or one last shake of the head and he’s gone!
I hate losing fish and can remember every single one that gave me the sad goodbye. It’s not just the ghosts they bring but also the doubt they install in your mind. All of a sudden that trusted hooks you’ve been using for years don’t install the same confidence any more. The traces, lines and knots all has to get an overall.
Nothing helps for the pain either. Personally I feel that a big fat West Coast curse keeps me sane for at least a minute afterword’s. If I didn’t curse, I would probably throw my very expensive fishing rod in the water. There are no words of sympathy that can make you feel better either. Definitely no words of “you should have done this’’ and “I told you, you shouldn’t that”.
Worst is when you lose one without knowing what it was. You will speculate and wonder about that one that got away for years to come. You will lie awake at night tossing and turning and with each turn the species will change. You will wonder about what could have been and if you will ever get another chance to land that trophy fish…
September 2015 I was fishing in a well-known fishing spot in Bettys bay. We were targeting Galjoen and the bait I used was white mussel on a 1’O hook. We caught a couple of Gallies early in the morning and if I remember correctly there was a small Kobbie or two in the mix as well. As the day started breaking the fish went off the bite and it became very quiet. I changed bait to wonder worm and made a cast onto a sand bank that was about 200 meters to our right.
My rod dipped without warning and when I hit all hell broke loose when something steamed off with all might. To this day I can still see the Shimano 110H rod jerk forwards and backwards as line was screaming of the Torium 14 reel. All I could do was watch and hope I get a chance to recover some line.
The fish stopped for a brief moment which allowed me to gain some line but then it got another gear and proceeded to take even more line off than on the first run. It stopped again and then I could feel my line shaving on something. I was a bit confused since there was no reef in sight. Then my rod jerked back and it was all over.
I didnt even swear, I was in shock and bewildered. What just happened? When I reeled in my 0.50mm hook snoot was shaved off 5cm from the swivel and my leader line had some proper shave marks as well. I just stood there in awe! What could it have been?
In the years afterwards we have had a few suspects. Spotted Gully Shark, Steenbras, Kob or maybe a Mussel Cracker. The fish didn’t have enough speed for a Spotty I thought. But will Steenbras actually swim you into structure? Mussel Cracker would but they don’t eat on sand banks. Kob maybe, but they give proper head nods and probably don’t swim as fast. This fish just took off! It was a total mystery and one I have thought about with a sore heart, more than a couple of times.
On Friday I was on my way home from work. I thought about the weekend and realized that we didn’t have anything on the evening. We were supposed to braai but with the kids being sick it was cancelled, so the schedule was cleared. I looked at the weather and saw the wind blowing east at 24-28km/h which I thought would be manageable. A quick few hours next to the sea was all I needed after a very long week. So I sent a WhatsApp to the wife “Gone Fishing” and didn’t didn’t touch my phone until I was in Bettys!
On my way a mate phoned and suggested we try one of the older spots we used to fish. I didn’t mind, all I wanted was a rod in my hands and salty air in my nostrils. The spot he suggested was the same spot that I lost the fish described earlier. I swear the firsts thought that came into my mind was, “I wonder what that was”!
With the Gallie season drawing towards a close I wanted to get one more for the braai and was fishing a sliding trace with a single 3’O Mustad Tuna Circle on a 0.45mm hook snoot. Wonder worm was the bait of choice. On my first cast I caught a small Steenie and another with my second cast. With my third cast nothing happened and I moved a bit to my left where it was even more quiet. Then I moved a couple of meters to the exact same spot where I lost the fish and made a cast onto the exact same bank.
The wind was pumping now and it even started raining. I thought to myself that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all. Then I contemplated to move to the first spot I had in mind before I was persuaded. I looked back at my fishing buddy in the hope that he was getting anything. He was rebaiting so I thought at least the fish are still biting. Then I felt a hard bang on my rod, followed by a brief millisecond pause before line started peeling off my reel.
This time the Sustain 10K was making the music to a very agile fish running and dancing for his life. My drag was set quite high and I thought for a second to loosen it a bit, but then I remembered that parted hook snoot and I decided to leave it just like it is. The fish ran, paused and then took off on an even stronger run. When he stopped he even gave a few head shakes and then took off again. I screamed to my partner to come see this spectacle and help land this beauty.
There I stood, same spot, same bait, same buddy and maybe even the same fish on the other side. They certainly had resemblance in the way they took off and fought. When he paused again I tightened up on the drag. There would be no reefing no one today, I thought! Then I started pumping the rod, not too hard, just enough to keep maximum pressure on the fish. With each wave he came closer, with each meter gained I was closer to closure.
In the shallows I loosened the drag again. If he goes on another run the hook might pop and I might die of heartache. But luckily not this time, a wonderful small wave came rolling in and with me walking backwards we beached a stunning 76cm White Steenbras! I screamed in delight and with that released a few ghosts.
I can now put that lost fish behind me and the mystery is solved since I have no doubt that the one I lost was from the same gene pool, although probably bigger 😉
On Friday night I slept like a baby. Sometimes all you need is a quickie…