I try and fish at least once a week. It’s not always possible though and with family and social commitments taking up most of my free time, fishing sometimes takes a back seat. Everyone knows the one with the diamond ring always has shotgun. But when the wife said she wanted to go to the Kruger Park with the in laws and children my brain went into overdrive. A fishing trip was on the horizon! It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy staring at a lion lying in the tall grass sleeping off some Zebra he chawed an hour earlier. It’s just that seeing the king of the jungle in all his glory has no comparison to the sight of the sun rising over the ocean.
I couldn’t decide on a destination but after about a week of forwards and backwards and considering all options I decided on Struisbaai. It’s actually ridiculous to think that a little more than four years ago I had never set foot on a Struisbaai beach. It’s such an amasing place with lots of potential, offering a number of different fishing options. The only places that I am really familiar with are De Mond, Die Plaat and Brandfontein. There are loads of other places as well, but not being too adventurous myself I usually just stick to the places I know.
I made a call to one of my fishing buddy’s and he didn’t need much convincing. His fiance did however (Young love, it’s so beautiful) but luckily she saw the light and the trip was organised. In the weeks leading up to our fishing adventure, bait and beer was sorted and after a very long wait we were off.
On our way in the dark hours of the morning the fishing plans were finalised. De Mond on day one. Brandfonfokkentein day two and then De Mond/Die Plaat again on day Three. On day four, our last day, we could fish wherever. Werner didn’t know too much about De Mond but with the success we had the previous couple of weeks I made myself coach and my mouth was very big. I was guaranteeing personal bests and talking fish so big that their photos won’t fit in frames made of sleeper wood.
Day 1: Humble Pie
To say we were properly psyched is a bit of an understatement. We almost ran the last couple of meters to the ocean and made our first casts with our nostrils flaring and steam blowing form our ears. I almost shouted “FREEEDOOOOOM” with my bait as it majestically flew into the ocean!
Now if you are ready for action and nothing happens you have a problem. At one stage I was doing stretches and push ups to get rid of some of the nervous energy and adrenaline pumping through me. I kept on fidgeting in anticipation but it was all in vain.
The day dragged on and the steam blew off and eventually we were throwing long shadows over a very lonely beach. Have you ever seen a dog with his tail between his legs? Have you seen a big mouth stuffed with humble pie? Fishing does that to you, nothing is ever certain. Not a single fish, not a single bite. Nothing the whole bloody day.
I had to take a few big sips of the black poison to help me wash down some of the humble pie still stuck to the roof of my big mouth. Staring into the fire, clutching a glass filled with inspiration we were very philosophical about the “unsuccessful” day that was dying on us. We didn’t catch anything but were lucky to live in the Cape and privileged to be “fishing”. Life was good (most of the time)! We gazed at the sunrise pics on our phones and cheersed on the fishing that could only get better…
The plan was to fish Brandfontein but I suggested that we go and try De Mond once more. If we didn’t get anything by late morning we would still have enough time to run down to Brandties and fish the pushing tide.
The walk was a bit slower but the fresh air of the Overberg brought with it some much needed excitement and inspiration. The sea was up a bit more than the previous day and I was hoping this would bring about some inquiries. The tide was going out and to our left was bank that was working nicely so we decided to make our first casts right there.
It didn’t take long and my rod dipped and after a brief fight I landed a nice teenage Steenie in the 50-60cm range. This made me feel a lot better. I was busy releasing this beauty when I saw Werner striking and by the curve in his rod tip I could see he was in as well. He landed a fat black tail.
On my second cast I caught another junior Steenie and followed it up with another big black tail. Things were looking up and we had four fish in the first hour. After the action of the first couple of hours the fish went off the bite and we decided to move.
About 500 meters to our right was a sandbank that was kicking up some sand. The tide was just about to start pushing and We were hoping that with more water on the bank there would be some hungry silwers around. As it turned out there was enough water on the bank already and we started catching fish from the first cast.
I was in first and after a brief fight lost something in the shallows that looked like a big Galjoen. Werner was next to get busy. I was scratching in my bag and when I looked up he was doing the “I’m into something” shuffle toward the ocean. It turned out to be a stunning Kobbie. With his very next cast he was on again. It seemed like a much better fish and I was thinking he’s putting too much pressure on it. I was about to shout to him to take it easy but I was too late, his rod jerked back as the fish came off. The circle hook (very expensive brand) had bent open.
With his 3rd cast he caught another stunning Kob. By now I was getting a little uneasy. I was supposed to be the coach but instead I was getting all the coaching. Luckily it didn’t take long and my lighter setup had a nibble. I saw some movement on my rod tip and put in a slow jog towards my rod. The jog quickly turned into a full sprint (if you can call it that) when my rod started bending in the right direction towards the sea with the fish screaming away.
It was a strange fight at first. The fish gave a couple of head nods but came relatively easily until he got to the lip. That’s when the fun started. I had a new grapnel sinker on and the bloody thing continually got stuck in the sand because it wouldn’t clip over. I had to wait for the fish to swim it free, then I would gain a bit of line until I got stuck again. To make matters worse I got the fish over the lip a few times but then with the waters surge it would wash right back into the gully again. I had a few hart stopping moments but eventually my partner was able to grab him by the gill plate and drag him to safety. A stunning Kobbie of 87cm!
The fish was in a feeding frenzy and almost every cast produced a pull. It was Kob central for a while and we landed 7 stunning fish before they went off the bite. In between we even landed another Steenie that was a debatable 60cm and a Gallie in the mid 30cm range. At one stage I said to Werner I need to take a break. We literally didn’t have time for anything else, it was a mad dash of fishing and rebaiting. But as you know if the fish is on you have to make the best of it. Theres no time for hanna-hanna, tomorrow (like our previous day) you will wish you fished harder when you had the opportunity.
By now it was mid-day and I jokingly suggested that we stick to our plan and leave for Brandfontein. If looks could kill, I would now be six foot six! The fish went off the bite again and we got a bit of a breather to get some much needed fluids and food into the system.
Werner decided he was going to change his approach and made a nice pilchard bait to see if there wasn’t any shad about. I was persisting with the “Steenie” baits. He was in for 30 seconds when he looked over to me with a smile and said, you can change baits. I rebaited and just like that it changed from Kob central to Shad central.
Every throw would produce that familiar tap-tap, then we would reel the bait in slowly, followed by the bang! It was the one Shad after the other. Nice fish to in the 1-2 kg class and it wasn’t just hook and pull either. Every single one put up a incredible fight. You would hook into the fish, followed by the rod standing still in your hand, vibrating hard ass shad into your bones. Then the fish would come forcefully, madly shaking his head back and forth. To get them over the lip was relatively easy but it was as if as soon as they saw sand below them in the shallower water they went mad. Some of them literally stood on their heads trying to spit the hook.
The first couple of fish was awesome and exiting to reel in but after a while it started to hurt. I know you might think that I am over elaborating but these fish were no roll overs and you had to pull them hard to get them out. My left arm and shoulder would burn from the point of engagement until the fish was on the side. I might have been hurting but I wasn’t about to stop fishing. It was the good kind of sore, the type that you can’t get enough of.
It was getting later in the day and the water seemed to turn a deep dark green colour in the lower light conditions. It was high tide as well with the water working and foam everywhere in the hole in front of us. It looked perfect for BIG fish. Fish that would devour the “small fry” we were catching. I had the fishing gear but not the will any more to get dragged around by a monster.
Although I was completely spent I couldn’t stop fishing either. Just one more cast I said to Werner who already had both his rods on the side. He was just smiling by now since it was my third or fourth “last cast”.
When the fish hit my rod I could feel there was something bigger on the other side. He just took off and wasn’t fighting like the rest. He kept low and swam slower using the slight drag in the water to his advantage. Even though I was excited, the burn kicked in and my body was retaliating. It felt like the last 50 meters of a 400 meter race. He never gave in and with the last bit of energy I had left I dragged a nice 62cm Shad to shore. It was the cherry on the cake of an epic day! One of the best fishing days I have ever experienced.
We caught 1 Galjoen, 2 Blacktail, 3 Steenbras, 7 Kobs and 10 Shad all of which was the legal size limit except for two Steenies.
At home it was two tired men staring into the fire. There was no thinking and no talking, just satisfied staring into the fire. We only came back to life after the second double and by the fourth we were ready to go for a night mission on the harbour wall. Its amazing the power the black poison has.
On an epic day we set out to Brandfontein but ended up in Brannewynfontein.
Day three: The little bird
I don’t know who said what to who but the next morning it looked like the ticket box at a One Direction concert. Personally I have never seen De Mond so busy. Normally it’s just one or two vehicles, three at most. But on this Sunday it looked like the whole congregation gathering as if it was communion.
Personally I prefer fishing with the least amount of people around. I’m at my happiest when it’s only myself and a couple of mates on a secluded beach somewhere. Then again the sea belongs to us all and it was good to see some familiar faces and catch up on some long overdue chats. We were all chomping on the bit to get stuck into something and couldn’t wait for the gate to open.
The previous day we shook the monkey off our backs and we were looking forward to a nice relaxing day of fishing, and relaxing it was. There was a couple of fish around but nothing compared to the previous day. It was an awesome day on the beach and we caught another couple of smaller fish that included a 60 odd Steenie and Kobbie which we returned.
The evening we had another braai and ended a incredible weekend with a cheers to many more epic trips together!
On the Monday I received a call from a fellow fisherman regarding all the fish we supposedly killed on the Saturday. I really appreciated this, because unlike others at least he was mature enough to ask rather than just assume. Apparently we had to hide all the fish in the sand there was many.
I don’t know if it was a case of one guy telling one story and then the next guy adding a bit until it grew to utter bull, but it almost soured a amazing trip. Regarding the hiding of the fish, I always bury my fish that I keep under sand. It keeps them fresh and prevents seagulls from pecking out their eyes and stomachs.
For the record, we kept 2 Kob, 6 Shad and 2 Blacktails on the Saturday. This might seem excessive to some but it was well within our rights. On Sunday we even caught size fish that was released because we felt we had enough already. Unfortunately the little bird wasn’t there to witness this. Not that he would have said anything, it’s much easier to sing a song of envy…