Big Swell, Oh Well


We planned a family (fishing) weekend in Struisbaai. As you know when a fish… I mean family weekend approaches you start following the weather at least two weeks in advance. If the conditions don’t agree with what you deem to be good for fish… sorry, family, you find a way to convince yourself that it will be just perfect.

To be honest if it wasn’t for the fact that the accommodation was paid for already, I would not have even tried to make the effort. Conditions were not great. The swell was big and predicted between 4 and 4,5m with 15 second intervals, which would cause a big surge and strong currents. Very dangerous for kids swimming and also, poor for fishing. If you could get your bait to stay in the zone long enough, you had to hope and pray there would be a fish that was strong enough to hang around.

Low tide would be around 8:00 and the hope was that maybe we could get some fishing done in the front gutter before the big waves started pushing strongly over the sand banks, making it unfishable. What can you do, when life gives you lemons, drink Gin and Tonic!

Friday evening was real family time with marshmallows in the fire and everything. In between I was making traces and sipping a delightful premium klippies and real cola.

DAY 1 – Saturday

On Saturday morning both Heila (9) and Lara (5) decided that they wanted to join us for the mornings fishing. This required a bit more planning and carrying. Kids need to eat and stay hydrated. But I have to say that it turned out to be one of my best days on the Struisbaai plaat ever. I’ve said it many times, God had a good day when he made the Overberg and having my children with me and being able to share that piece of heaven with them was an absolute privilege.

My first rod went in with a bloodworm intended for a Steenbras. The second with a tjokka bait for a late Kob or maybe a Steenie, they love tjokka. It didn’t take long and my bloodworm rod dipped. I could see that it wasn’t a big fish so I gave the rod to Lara (youngest first). Now when I say give, I mean I gave her the opportunity to reel like crazy while the rod was still standing in the sand spike. The gear we use in the surf is a bit heavier that the usual river setups we use in estuaries and leaving the rod in the stand helps to absorb the weight of the rod.

Next moment the tjokka rod dipped as well. It was a proper take and I was convinced that it was a better fish. I ran to the rod and took it out of the stand, much to the dismay of Lara. “Pappa!”, she shouted, “kom help, die ding is sterk en my bene is moeg”! I handed the rod (pushed it back into the stand) to Heila and it was her turn to reel like crazy. When I ran back to Lara, Heila started screaming. My buddy, Greg was having a chuckle when his rod bent forward as well. Beautiful chaos! All three fish turned out to be banjos aka lesser guitarfish or sand sharks.

With the pushing tide the drag in the water became worse and getting your bait to stay in one place was an issue. But even with the strong sea we somehow managed to get fish. The banjos went off the bite and we managed a couple of small steenies and a big blacktail during the morning.

Later in the day we moved to a new spot a couple of hundred meters down the beach that looked promising. The shad came onto the bite and we managed to get a couple of solid fish, I caught a real nice one of 65cm. My bloodworm rod was neglected for a couple of hours and the current had pulled the line sharply to the left. I decided to take the rod out of the water and as I was about to pick up the rod, it went from bent over to bent straight!

The fish took a couple of meters of line and then stopped. I could feel that it was heavy and there wasn’t any real headshakes so I suspected it to be a ray of some sorts. Then it started swimming down the beach and and I had to follow it. I couldn’t pull too hard on the fish since the 3’0 thin wire Mustad Demon circle hook I used tends to open up under pressure. Every now and again the specimen would shake like a fish and vibrate some silver positivity into my arms. Then it would just be heavy again and doubt would set in again.

It took me for a good 100 meters walk down the beach but with each retrieve, it got closer and closer to the side. I still couldn’t see what it was and the surge wasn’t helping either. Every time the fish came close, the foamy water would suck it right back to where it came from. My drag was set very light, I wasn’t prepared to loose the fish so close. Patients was key, you just have to wait for the right wave and walk your fish out with it. Luckily this was exactly what happed and after a few prayers I landed a beautiful 89cm slab of a Kob.

If the big Elf didn’t make my weekend the Kobbie certainly did! Saturday evening we braaied elf, drank dirty cokes and sang “I feel so alive” (POD), until ALL the kids passed out.

DAY 2 – Sunday

It would be hard to top the previous Saturday and with the monkey off our back we strolled to the beach. We thought that we would go down and fish for a couple of hours and then return to pack and head home early. The swell dropped a bit from the previous day and conditions was a lot more fish friendly. I decided to stick to my guns, 1 bloodworm and 1 tjokka bait.

The way the Steenie took off would have made any Steamtrain dad proud. I mean this thing pulled my rod horizontal in the sand spike, no jokes. The new Shimano Spheros screamed like a kid that dropped his triple decker chocolate chip ice cream. I literally stood there in awe for a second just admiring the awesome power of the fish, before quickly running across and picking up the rod.

Hindsight is a perfect science and I should have handed the rod to Heila, but by the way the fish took off I was convinced that it was one of those 100cm plus monsters. The fish kept coming not putting up any resitance what so ever and I thought that I had lost it a couple of times. Turns out the stunning 66cm Steenbras burned his whole tank in the first go and had nothing left to give.

Maybe it was confidence, maybe even borderline arrogance but I just knew I was going to catch another fish. We knew there were some shad around from the previous day. I built the perfect bait and made the perfect cast, into foamy white water. As the bait hit the water I told Heila, this is going to produce a fish.

My rod dipped 60 seconds later, I jerk back the rod to set the hook and all hell broke loose. I didn’t loosen my drag properly and was pulled forward. By some miracle the hook didn’t pull and I had time to loosen the drag whilst shuffling toward the big blue. I knew that it was a good fish by the aggression and power of the bite. The bigger ones don’t ask questions, they own the reef, or sandbank in this instance and they just smash and grab.

I love catching Shad they fight like crazy. From the moment you get stuck into one you know it. It’s headshakes and panic stations all the way, a duel to the death. Sometimes they might sort of relax until you get them over the lip then they really become feisty. I have seen them stand on their head trying to shake the hook in ankle deep water. Some even jump out of the water, which is no mean feat, considering that they have to drag a 5 or 6 ounce sinker behind them.

The fish was heavy and I was weak in the knees. I knew he was going to be special but I had no Idea that I would equal my personal best Elf. I played it as well as I could and before I knew it a 75cm Shad was flapping on the side. What a beast!

I ended up catching 4 fish that would have made my weekend on any other occasion. This in a rough sea that you wouldn’t think can produce anything. It just goes to show if you fished the “conditions” on the weather apps all the time, you might miss out on some pretty awesome fishing. The most important rule in fishing is, and always will be… Get a line in the water!

While walking back Greg said you better write a story about this weekend and I agreed. He asked “what will you call it”? I replied with a big smirk and with my shoulders pulled back said, “how about… Big Swell, Oh Well”?

This was the weekend of 15-17 May 22

Enjoy the photos

89cm Kob
65cm Shad
Soupfin Shark
66cm Steenie
75cm Elf

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