Line was screaming from my reel. I’m not talking about the standard screams of joy when your favourite rugby team scores a try, oh no! I’m talking of the blood chilling screams of a toddler dropping her sprinkle covered ice cream. The screams from my reel turn into moans and growns from me because line just kept on disappearing form my reel.
I knew I was about to run out of 500 meters of 20lb Boss Slick braid and then there would be a big fish with a hook in the mouth and a lot of line trailing him, which wouldn’t be ideal. I started tightening the drag but this had absolutely no effect on the runaway truck. I turned the drag knob again and again with no effect. By now I was just giggling. With almost no line left I had no other choice and decided to lock down (no pun intended) by turning the drag knob one last time and grabbing on to the spool with my right hand.
I took a firm stance, leaned backward and held on for dear life as the rod started bending forward. Something had to give and I was just hoping it wont be my rod or reel. Next moment the rod jerked back resulting in me almost falling on my backside. When I reeled in everything was still in tact and the bait was still looking fine. Luckily the hook pulled. I was relieved but also intrigued so I threw the bait just like that back into the promising depths of the Breede River…
Earlier I foul hooked a cuttlefish that was chomping down on one of my livies meant for a Kobbie. The cuttlefish seems to have become a real pest in the river. In the 7 or so years I’ve been coming to the Breede I have never experienced it like it is at the moment. For the last couple of trips every second livie that is put out gets eaten by a cuttlefish. I don’t know why this is but I’m hoping it doesn’t have anything to do with its natural predators being on the decline.
Out of frustration with the ink-squirting-parrot-beaked-swimmy-squishy-thingy, I thought it would only be appropriate to chop off its head. I needed a new approach. We were moving towards mid day and the live mullets didn’t get any enquiries apart from the cuttlers. I took out a big 8’0 circle, hooked it through the cuttlefish head and made a short cast just beyond the drop-off. It only took about twenty or so minutes until the first trucker picked me up.
We had no idea what I had lost. Previously we caught Diamond Rays at the same spot. But this fish seemed a bit faster than a Diamond and it also stayed on the surface. It could have been a Kob, but I immediately dismissed that thought, no one wants to loose such a fish. Maybe a finned shark like a Smoothy or Spotty. Or even a Raggie pup, but he would have chewd through my 0.60 mm hook snoot in no time. We were about ten minutes into our speculative chatter when the same rod suddenly bent towards the deep like he has never bent before! I forgot to loosen the drag after the previous encounter…
How the rod didn’t break is beyond me but I was quick to loosen the drag. At first the fish swam steadily upstream and I thought I was putting pressure on it since it came easily to the side until it was literally five meters away and just deep enough that I couldn’t see what it was in the murky water. If I think about it now he didn’t know he was hooked. He just sort of swam at a steady pace and then all of a sudden made a 180 degree turn and took off as if a Zambo (Zambezi shark) were chasing him.
We were fishing on the right hand side of a small bay that’s about fifty meters across. He darted left and headed down river towards the rocky point on the other side of the small bay. Holding the rod as high as possible I gave a few very long hastily steps towards the obstacle to prevent being cut off. I just about made it and the fish moved into the main current. This seemed to have activated his turbos and he just swam away faster and faster. What now, do I stay where I was and allow him to run all my line off again? Or should I run after him? It would have been a bloody far run towards the mouth of the river, and in any case, I had a bad hamstring and smoky lungs. So I thought, nah not today!
There was another, much larger bay to our left. So I decided to only run towards the middle of it and started tightening the drag again to put as much pressure on the fish and try and turn it. Slowly but surely he was slowing down. Then he started swimming into the bay and out of the current for some reason. He was strong but in the current he was a freaking monster truck. A steady fight ensued. I would win some line, loose some line and then win some again.
At about fifty meters out I saw something flapping on the surface. I knew then that it was a flat fish, but what kind? When he came closer I could see it had a very long tail but I didn’t recognise which flatty it was. He fought from the beginning to the end, even when I had him close by he would still take off on short runs. With the fish almost on the side I saw that it was a Duckbill. It would be my first ever if I could land it…
With a slight quiver I gave the rod to my mate and slowly started stalking my trophy. I gently hooked her in the mouth with my right hand I dragged her to a muddy beach. She was truly magnificent to see up close. The Rays are all beautiful in their own way but this fish was breath taking. She was still full of fight and I took a mouth and eye full of mud as he continued to flap his wings in anger. We took a few quick snaps and she was promptly released.
I’ve caught some proper Eagle and Blue Rays at Die Lapa in Dwarskerbos and I’ve toiled with some big Diamond Rays in the Breede. But this beautiful fish gave me the best fight by far! They are the true champion of the flattys. I didn’t measure the fish but reckon she must have been in the mid 130’s, not bad for a 9ft rod and 5000 Stradic!