I’ve been stung by wasps and honey bees, survived multiple paper cuts and even listened to a whole Kurt Darren album (on repeat) from the Cape to Port Beaufort. I’ve bumped my little toe on a door frame, stepped on Lego, fell out of a tree (more than once) and broke my collar bone. I’ve been stung by blue bottles, caught the “little guy” (just for the record, he’s not so little) in my zipper and been bitten in the face by a Snoek. I’ve been called not-so-chubby (which hurt more than being called fat), caught my girl friend cheating, snapped an Achilles in a social cricket game and I’ve watched 3 episodes of Glam Guru (don’t ask). I’ve broken a full bottle of craft gin (in lockdown) and I’ve even dropped a brand new Saragosa on the garage floor… But not one, none of the pain from my adventures encounters come close to being stung by a sea barbel. It hurts like a mother fucker!
Full moon spring at the end of October is known as one of the best times to go to the Breede and target Big Kob. Many a anglers dream have come true over this exact weekend. Since we are still novices in mysterious dwellings of the elusive 100lb Duskys we usually just follow the advice that was given to us by one of the old ballies in town. He’s a Witsand legend and every time he starts telling tales of yesteryear we hang on his lips. We know by now that as long as he’s glass stays full, he’ll continue to reminisce away, dropping a few gold nuggets of information here and there. Unfortunately its usually only later in the evening that he really starts “sharing” his secrets and by then we only hear half and remember even less of what was said.
However, full moon spring and octopus leg (or “seekat toon” as he puts it) as bait are the 2 things we did remember. So every year end of October we are on the river zig zagging looking for a hole or a drop off and following other boats to see what they were doing. In 7 previous trips all we had to show for our efforts were one young adult Kob, a proper Grunter and a lucky Garrick. Nothing else, apart from the usual small fish that are in abundance. On the Breede though anything can happen and you never know when your stars might align and you become the next weekend warrior to have his mug framed with a slab of silver.
Friday morning we were up bright and early, fresher than we have ever been. Yup, we were not here to hanna-hanna, we were here to fish seriously. We decided to pull on our 2020 Henties Bay trip jackets. We had them made for our trip that was almost 10 years in the making and then lockdown happened and we couldn’t go! I’m getting all misty eyed just thinking about it now.
We got a few livies and were off to a spot that we thought might produce something silver. Lines were in at about 6am, 2 rods each, 1 with a livie and the other with a “seekat toon”. At 7am with absolutely no enquiries apart from the odd smaller fish pecking on the occy leg I was beginning to feel a little uneasy. By eight I was getting really anxious, this was beginning to look like it would turn out the same as the previous trips. At 8:13 I sent a message to the wife to say all was hunky dory apart from the fact that we have not caught anything, yet. Always remember the YET!
At 8:15 something pulled on my occy toe and the rod tip bent forward but then shot back again. Next moment my livie on the outside rig started getting the shivers and bang, the rod bent over and the Shimano was screaming. After a brief fight where I played the fish as if it was a IGFA world record I landed a 65cm Kobbie to break a blanking streak that was in the double digits. I have to tell you, blanking once or twice is fishing. But when the streak goes into double figures it starts to feel like someone is pulling your finger nails one by one every time you end up empty handed.
Ten minutes later I had released another fish of 83cm. Funny thing was that he did the same thing the previous fish did, he would come in and play with the occie leg and then shoot straight for the livie. With two fish already landed and basically the whole weekend still ahead of us we were feeling a bit better about life. It seemed the fish were only interested in live bait so decided to take off the toe’s and replace them with mullets. Big “mistake”!
My reel screamed for the third time and while I was fighting my mate made ready for the scoop when his first reel also started screaming. Nothing like a Stradic duet on a Friday morning! We’ve had moments like these from the side, but never from the boat. I landed my fish and moments later his was in the boat as well, 80 & 88cm. These were proper fish in very healthy condition. After a few snaps, a giggle and a cheers they were off to grow bigger. I was bubbling about how long its been since we had a double up when my captains rod bent forward again and he was on with his second fish.
It felt like a better specimen and he played him as such, gently but with authority. Then my rod went for the second double up of the morning. Hold that thought, the third rod bent forward seconds later as well for a triple up!!! If it wasn’t for me cursing like a drunk pirate it could have been a lovely melody of singing Shimanos and those beautiful howling sounds tight lines make in a morning breeze. Instead it turned into a angry rap song while I was shouting orders like a Spur manager on a burger special. Do this, do that, take hear, take that! All of this standing with a rod in each hand unable to reel either. Absolute pandemonium 😉
The captain quickly got his fish in the boat and I handed him his other rod. A bit of bob and weave followed since our lines crossed and the kobbies were getting close to the anchor rope. When we eventually untangled the lines we both continued fighting our fish on opposite sides of the boat. By now all of the finesse playing were, down the river… We had to turn into bullies because we wanted to get the fish in the boat as fast as possible. A couple of minutes later we were staring at three fish lying in the boat, 95, 85 & 83cm. Another few snaps, cheers and giggles followed before we released them.
Captain my captain caught another 80odd specimen to bring the score to 4 all. There’s always a competition lingering between fishing buddy’s but I can honestly say that it didn’t bother me at all. I was just happy to be on the mighty Breëde and actually catching fish for a change. After the Kobbie smash it went quiet for a while before I got another fish of 68cm that we kept for the braai.
Saturday served us some humble pie to remind us that we were not fishing gods after all! The day produced nothing significant. The only thing mentionable was a baby Grunter by my buddy and a small Zebra I caught high up in the river (it was my first ever so I was super exited). I also caught a nice Shad on prawn, which was another first for me.
On Saturday we couldn’t go to our previous days spot since it was already occupied by the time we arrived, but on Sunday there was a gap between the other boats and we quickly anchored. The baits went out and nothing happened so we decided to make a few casts with the light rigs to see if we couldn’t entice a bigger Grunter to bite. I hooked into something tiny that turned out to be small barbel…
During the years I must have handled hundreds of them and got stung only twice previously. So I knew that I had to be extra careful. The bigger ones actually handle a lot easier since you can effortlessly slide your fingers under the fishes spines and get a good grip on him before taking the hook out. But this little bugger was just too small to handle properly and he wouldn’t stop flapping. I tried to gently grab him, but he turned and with a perfectly timed flap, stabbed me right between my thumb and index finger of my left hand! The morning tranquillity was interrupted with a very loud “eina jou ma-se-harre”! Other not so glamourous words followed as the pain shot from my hand and hit me right between the eyes. Numbness and swelling followed within a couple of minutes.
I was feeling quite sorry for myself when one of my livies started shivering and the next moment he was gulped up and I was in with the 1st fish of the day and the 10th of the weekend. With my left hand, I grabbed the rod as if there was nothing wrong with it and started reeling with my right hand. Isn’t it funny how quickly one can recover? It turned out to be a tagged fish* of 80,5cm.
The 11th fish of the weekend was a feisty character. He took me around the boat twice and just wouldn’t come up. I actually thought he was bigger but he turned out to be 85cm of pure hard-ass! Then the wind came up pushing us in one direction with the current pulling us in another. This made fishing really challenging since the baits would be dragged along and we would get stuck in debris on the bottom. After some deliberation we decided to call it a day.
We didn’t get the 100 pounder, but we drove off towards the Cape feeling a bit happier about life. A few fish will probably not take away the pain of 2020 but it certainly numbed it a little…
*The Kobbie was tagged on 15 December 2018 at a length of 57cm, it was free for 687 days and grew 245mm in that time. We tagged and released 8 of our fish and also released the fish already tagged. If we continue to release more than we keep I’ve got a feeling that that 100lb dream might become a reality in the near future.