Art lure fishing used to be my preferred type of fishing for all fishes for many years. The Western Province competitive fishing season consisted of tournament leagues scheduled monthly at all the major state reservoirs in the Western Cape, which provided a different water to fish each month. Points were mainly allocated to the number of fish species caught on lures in one day; extra points were given for the weight of each, individual fish species, but these ‘bonus’ points were a minor contribution and prevented ties between participants. It was an addictive type of fishing in which the angler had to plan his/her day according to the prime feeding hours of the fish species available in a particular water body. For instance, one would start with the bass, smallmouth, largemouth and sometimes spotted bass, first in most dams – unless trout or witvis were available; then either catfish, witvis and/or bluegills were next on the tick-list; the day would usually (if all went according to plan) end after the afternoon carp, banded tilapia and mosquito fish session(s). On a good day, seven fish species could be weighed in and would also be the tally of the top competitor.
It may not be difficult to catch more than say ten tropical saltwater fish species in one day, but to land more than five freshwater species from the same water catchment area is a different story. I realised this not too long ago when I ventured out on my first multiple freshwater fish species mission on fly and boy was it a mission!
On that particular day, I got up at 4:30 am to target brown trout in a stretch of river that is known for holding big fish. I got skunked there twice before and was therefore a tad unsure about my plan and threw in a 6 wt and 10 wt outfit in addition to the 3 wt trout outfit in case the browns didn’t show. The browns were absent, but after landing a decent smallmouth bass in the early morning hours I decided to have some fun for the rest of the day and target different fishes in the same water transfer system.
Several hours later and after a lengthy hike up a smaller stream, I caught a lovely brown trout. It was nearly noon by then and I still had to cover several kilometres to get back to my car. The banded tilapia, largemouth bass and carp were caught much later in the afternoon and although I spotted some big catfish where I ended the day, I could not get a take from these fish. I had caught only five fish species for the day, but had visited three different sites and had walked more than twelve kilometres; I was completely buggered.
When I explained my latest fad to David Karpul over the telephone, he keenly agreed to join on the next outing. We started the day similarly, but this time the big browns were home. David had spotted the first fish but the take was incredibly subtle and unfortunately the fish was missed. We subsequently spotted two more fish in the same area and I was lucky enough to hook and land one of them on a cdc Klinkhamer. It was a wild fish, 19 inches long with a pretty butter yellow belly. I saw it as an early Christmas present and certainly due after three previous visits the week and two years before, respectively.
We gave the pool a good rest and then landed two more big fish from the school of seven browns that we counted in the early morning sunlight. After that, both of us caught a smallmouth bass each, which came quickly to a big purple Woolly Bugger swung through a pool upstream of the trout and then we moved on to try a stretch of the same waterway for carp. Fooling a carp on fly in clear river water can be tricky. They can be as skittish and selective as large yellowfish, and although the lunkers we saw showed some interest in our offerings, they did not eat the flies. Instead of the carp, we found a school of bluegill sunfish and that was fish species no. 3 for me. We eventually ended the day fishing for rainbow trout in a tributary cascading down a steep valley before entering the main stem. We had hiked a similar distance and fished for the same period compared to my previous mission, but only caught four fish species (brown trout, smallmouth bass, bluegill and rainbow trout). Therefore the personal challenge for me to catch more than five freshwater fish species from the same water catchment area in a day is still incomplete and would be the aim of my next mission this season.