Some fish trigger an OCD (obsessive catch disorder) in me. Right now I am after a skipjack. I need to catch one on fly…
Skipjack/ladyfish/springer (whatever you fancy calling them) do enter Western Cape estuaries and fly anglers have the opportunity to catch really big fish in fairly accessible places, such as the Knysna Lagoon. However, I was told that the Eastern Cape rivers were the most likely spots to encounter schools of these fish. After chatting to Edwardsiella (Ed Truter) about my crush, he convinced me that Bricky Branfield was the man to contact if I wanted to get hooked up with a ‘lady’ in the Eastern Cape.
The timing for an invitation to participate in a veterinary equine congress hosted in East London couldn’t have come at a better time; after much effort and forced patience, during which time I relieved my obsession many times over internet images of hot ‘ladies’, I managed to get hold of Bricky, tie some flies, pack my bags and eventually jump on the plane to Slumtown (another name for East London; aka Slummies).
Bricky recommended I head to the Nahoon River as soon as I got there, which was exactly what I did. I followed the Feathers sign pointing me in the direction of the north-eastern bank, hoping that it would bring me good fortune and take me straight to the fish. That also worked, ironically, in which case I caught a pretty little grunter in the first few casts on the upper reaches of the estuary. Unfortunately, there was no sign of skipjack on the high tide up-river, so I headed to the mouth.
The neap high had already swung to the drop in the sea and warm turquoise lagoon water was pumping into the ocean at the mouth. I always find the significant delay in tide between the upper reaches and mouth of an estuary fascinating. Predatory fish may still be chasing mullet and herring on the pushing tide at the head of an estuary, while their oceanic family members fill their tummies on the baitfish exiting the river mouth with the ‘coinciding’ dropping tide. Although the delay was noticeable even with the neap tide, spring tides have a greater delay and coastal rivers are also supposed to fish better on the spring high.
I flung a Flash Clouser into the surf where the lagoon water formed a large eddy and a fish grabbed it almost instantly. It was a lovely garrick that disappeared into the foamy waves with my backing after it. The young fish fought energetically and headed for the back line three times before it tired and I managed to glide it ashore with the white wash.
While attempting to push the shooting head over the edge of the green mushroom of river water that gathered outside the mouth, the running line got tangled, forcing me to release it on the back cast. The Clouser nearly cleared the pumping river behind me and plonked into the fast current just short of the opposite bank. As I finally untangled the bird’s nest and started to retrieve the line I found myself fast into a fish.
It was a dogged fight, the fish taking advantage of the current to evade its nemesis. Large white flashes at the bottom of the channel got me excited, believing that I had hooked a decent reef fish. When the bartail flathead finally came to hand, it was not the spines of a reef fish dorsal fin I needed to avoid, but the multiple spines covering its bony head. The hook tip only just pierced the thick upper jaw, which reminded me of a catfish mouth. I stared at the strange animal for a while, keeping it submerged in shallow water before letting it go.
I hadn’t seen any skippies at that stage and the time to attend the conference gala dinner drew near…A shower was priority and I rushed to the car, knowing that another full day’s fishing left in Slummies could well give me the pleasure to hook up with a sexy ‘lady’, regardless of the neap tide.