Although my fishing mates and I have managed to catch grunter throughout the year in the Western Cape, it’s the early season grunts that I look forward to the most. Why? Well, maybe because you never know what you’re going to get and it might, just might, be shit hot. Like three seasons ago, when the grunter showed up like clockwork on a certain sand flat and allowed us to make pigs of ourselves. Last year was also good and we found fish tailing in deep water on the sand and allowing us to cast at the ‘pancakes’.
This year we were ready for those early season fish, but like all good things, their predictable appearance seemed to have come to an end. This meant that we had to target them on the ‘difficult’ sand flats, casting to singles or pods of cruising fish. Naturally the grunter guru’s, MC Coetzer and Jannie Visser, enjoyed a fair amount of success and even made it look easy on certain sessions. I wasn’t so lucky and got skunked. So much so that I decided not to waste time with sight fishing on the sand flats, but focus on the mud flats instead.
I certainly was not disappointed and the sheer number of fish aggressively having a go at the deer hair prawns made it worthwhile. I will remember some remarkable sessions with several big fish coming to hand. I was happily boasting with my good fortune on the mud, when Leonard Flemming threw a spanner in the works by asking; ‘Yes, but when last did you sight fish and catch a grunter on the sand?’ Being at the water at the time, I looked at the tides and weather and decided to hit he sand the very next day.
And as luck would have it, I had a mid day tide and not a cloud in the sky. When I walked onto a particular sand flat that I was quite familiar with, and with the sun high, I felt hopeful. Not sure why, because I’ve never pinned a grunter on that particular flat before. But there I was, all on my own, with a good amount of anticipation and a bit of optimism to boot. I saw the fish straight away. Somehow they just showed up as darker shapes on this specific day. I knew for sure that this would be difficult, despite the good visibility. The fish seemed to be aware of my presence. They weren’t spooking bat-outta-hell style, but just keeping a distance of 30 to 40 meters between us. What made things worse was the howling South-wester. It meant that I had to present doing reverse casts. I fucking hate that. After a couple of Hail Mary casts, I decided my only decent shot would come if I overtake the main pod sideways and from far away, allowing a normal forward presentation. I really did try to do this as unobtrusively as possible, but the fish were having none of it. They kept outrunning me. After an hour, I was running out of time and space. Luckily I seemed to have herded them into a corner next to an exposed sandbar.Theyseemed to carry on feeding with me about 40 meters away. I took my time and approached ever so slowly. I started making casts. Reverse casts. Which meant that most were off the mark. Then I managed some close ones and I also managed to spook a few. Properly. After a while I got the hang of the reverse presentation. I managed this by not taking my eye off the fish. Not easy.
But the fish seemed to show no interest whatsoever. I had them swim onto the fly. I stripped it into their faces. I threw it on their heads. Nada. I was ready to throw in the towel (this was, after all, a very normal day on the sand, catching fokol) when a fish turned and followed the JAM fly. For quite a distance.
This had me amped. After a few more good shots and refusals, I noticed a rat making its way towards me. The angle was right, and the fly would drift into position perfectly. I made the cast and let the fly settle. The little fucker swam over straight away. On the fly. Yes, eat it! Please! And just when I was sure it was going to happen, it turned away and swam off.
I made a halfhearted cast to its wayward brother without thinking. Can’t really remember the follow but the next thing I know I feel a slight tug and instinctively strip set. And then I saw it; getting the fright of its life and trying to charge off the flat. A brief fight, and I caught myself looking around to see if I can spot any of my mates to share my stoke. I remember that I was alone, but that didn’t take the smile off my face. After a quick fish portrait I released the little guy. Caught myself trying to figure out how to do a high five on my own.
A grunt on the sand. They don’t come easy, but when they do, it’s pure bliss.