Dragons in the Northern Cape – day 1

We woke up itching to hit the water, but it would be a false start.  The departing crowd hadn’t filled the water tanks, and the quickly retreating waterline had left the pump high and dry.

Damian in some VD Kloof stockings after wrestling the pump
Damian in some VD Kloof stockings after wrestling the pump.

My OCD requires two showers daily, and after missing one last night, I wasn’t too chuffed with the next one not in sight.

Ewan testing the ablutions
Ewan testing the outdoor throne

We did our best to maintain our sense of humour, and on arriving at the boats we realised they weren’t fueled either.  Ewan and I tend to over prepare, so the bad surprises around each corner were getting to us.  After we sorted that out we finally hit the water and were greeted with a submerged forest only a hundred meters or so from where we launched.  We would pass it today, but made a mental note to return.

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First fishing spot was an island in the middle of the lake closest to camp.  A rocky outcrop, it didn’t particularly look fishy, but we gave it a go anyway.  The wind made for big swell and an interesting landing, but soon we were pulling flies through the depths.  Nothing.  Next.

Ewan was on the boat with Damian and they hit a bank that had similar substrate to many of the Largie pics we’d seen.  I carried on slightly further on to a series of bays, one that looked particularly clear.  Minutes later I would see my first Largemouth yellow in the flesh, cruising past.  I couldn’t get a cast in and continued my hike.  The clear bay had a few tailing Carp in it, which would later become the defining feature of this sort of area in the dam, and I couldn’t resist a few Carp.  No luck.

We moved on to the next larger island.  After the first I wasn’t keen, and continued to fish the bays opposite it.  With no anchor or drogue this was going to be tricky.  I was attempting to cast downwind to allow my fly to sink and the fast drift approached, but frustrated and missing takes I moved on.

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Being dead set on islands, Damian wanted us to head further South, and so we did.  We took control of the landing area and approach this time, as I wasn’t too confident of the flat out to the bank and make enough noise approach.  We had a few casts at some more submerged trees on foot.  The wind was now howling, and I switched to my 10wt S4s, which behaves more like an 8 (I fish it with a 8wt GPX).  In familiar territory now I was feeling confident and headed off further into the clear bay, there were some amazing looking flats opposite me, and I was secretly hoping they’d have some big cats on them.

I found a nice flat rock that gave me access to the bay and began casting a big Game Changer at the various rocks.  First cash and a flash.  Hmm.  Fish in here.  I retrieved all the way in and started wriggling the fly at the end of my rod to inspect the action.  Despite how good it looks, I’d had no success on it, ever.  As I was thinking that a Largie just about summersaulted onto the fly and inhaled it in about 30cm of water.   Fish on!  It was tiny, but it was my first Largemouth Yellow and I was pretty chuffed.  I radio’d to Damian.

“I got one!  We’re on the board!”

fish 1 / selfie 1
fish 1 / selfie 1
pre selfie landscape
pre selfie landscape

Next cast and another.

“I got another!”

fish 2 with the catfish flats in the background behind the point
fish 2

With some Kudu and Eland watching me on the bank, I set up my Nikon on interval timer and tried my best to get a few decent selfies.  On the board I couldn’t resist the flats anymore.  I could now clearly see big shadows cruising around in a pretty Saltwater looking environment.

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I arrived to an awesome sight.  Catfish patrolling a flat with a sandy bottom, under shallow waves.  I put all my kit on the beach and rigged up a meat whistle.  “this is going to be easy” I thought.  And then every single one I presented to charged and then spooked on the fly.  On a few flies.  What the hell.

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the catfish flats in the background

It wasn’t long before Damian was on the radio.

“Ewan has a nice fish!  He’s fishing the cum line.”
Huh?
I had a good chuckle the walk back.  He’d obviously heard Ewan talking about the scum line and misheard. We wouldn’t correct him in a hurry.  It was just too good.

I arrived on Ewans second fish, and what a beauty it was.  Far bigger than my two rats.  This was a proper fish.  He hauled it out the net and we took some pics in what would become Ewans most productive spot of the trip.  A gravel bar between an island and the mainland, defined by the scum line (drop the S in Damians case) that formed in between.

There she is.
There she is.
this remains my favourite type of Largie photo
this remains my favourite type of Largie photo.  Old Shilton a reminder of when backing was arbour.

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Ewan absolutely cleaned up in that spot as I continued around, and he then proceeded to find another equally productive section of water not far away, also defined by a sunken islet.  I wanted to fish as many different types of structure as possible.  We were looking for the right formula, and although Ewan was onto something, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to find another way.

Our trusty guide didn’t quite understand this and continued to radio.

“the fish are here, come fish here”

The anti guide voice of Ray Montoya was going through my head.  Don’t tell me where to fish and where to cast.  Then I continued another hunt, for cell signal.  I had some business to attend to and a few calls in confirmed a deal Id been trying to close off for months, and then an SMS, “Gordon is the new finance minister, we’re saved!”

Shit.  This is turning out to be a great day.

I returned to take a few more pics of Ewan with another good fish.  Pressure building.  I want a good one now.

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And another. Making a pig of himself at this point
And another. Making a pig of himself at this point

There was a talk we’d been meaning to give Damian.  He was used to fishing a few hours in the morning, going to camp for a nap and some relaxation, and then fishing a few hours in the afternoon.  We tend to do things a bit differently.

The subject brought itself up when he turned to Ewan on the move to the next spot and said “alright, one more hour of fishing”.  Ewan quickly explained himself, and a shocked Damian continued on.

We were just getting in the groove.

The final run of the day was long and took us into a bay framed by steep cliffs.  I was less happy with my mini Largies by the second.  I changed back to the Muishond fly the guys swear by, but lucky, it quickly fouled and broke off.  My leader was a bit chaffed, so I tied up another and put the Game Changer back.  Those earlier ones loved it I thought.

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Pushing around the island working structure I quickly came across a tree 40 feet out on what would be considered a reef in the Salt.  Shallow rocky water with a maximum depth of around 5 feet.  My third cast fell right next to the tree, and before I could even strip the Game Changer was inhaled.  It wasn’t a massive disruption, it was just sipped off the surface after it landed.  The first second or two had me guessing, and then it realised it was hooked.  My Scott bent over hard.  Now I knew it was big.  Very big.  And it wanted to get me around that tree.

Not one for enjoying a fight with a trophy fish I cranked down the drag and pulled as hard as I imagined I could on 15lb.  The fish tried both directions, and on its third attempt at the tree I could feel I’d won.  As I got to my leader I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was enormous.  And it had a friend with it.  I pulled my big floating net over my pack but couldn’t get it loose.  Dammit.  Ill grab it.  I ran into the deep water and rugby tackled it.  Like many big fish it was pretty well behaved, but I grabbed its big bottom lip just in case.  I ran to the shore and put it down on the sand.  My god.  What a fish.  It took a few seconds before I could get a scream out, and managed to signal Damian and Ewan to run over.  During the photos I couldn’t help but perve at it.  I felt absolutely honoured to have landed this fish.  It was fin perfect and the barbels on its top and bottom lip reminded me of one thing, a dragon.  An African Water Dragon I thought.

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zoom in on that one

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Day 1.  I wish every trip started like this.

4 thoughts on “Dragons in the Northern Cape – day 1”

  1. Ewan says:

    Haha, the Big D didn’t know what he was in for!

  2. Andre Van Wyk says:

    Fuck sakes thats a sick report Pete… I’d seen some of the sneak peak pics, but had no idea of how it all unfolded,…. Day 1 only too… sheet boy! So good!

  3. Fred Davis says:

    Epic epic epic!!!

  4. Ray says:

    Omg, I spit the grey goose when I read, “cum line” which henceforth will be what I call it. A virtual bukake of large mouth yellow fish! Please sir, may I have another?

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