I’m not exactly known to be the chatty type, so I should have known what I was in for carrying my fly rods on the plane from Durban back home. The wheels were barely up when my neighbor in the emergency row tapped on my shoulder hinting for me to take my earphones out.
“So, where did you go fishing?” She asked. And it started..
“Oh! Lovely up there… I went to Kosi Bay once…….”
“Did you catch anything?”
“NO!??!?, How long where you there for?”
“And you caught nothing!? Did anyone else catch?”
“No. We were saltwater fly fishing”
“Confused, glazed look across the face”
I’ve got pretty used to that sort of thing over the years. And as fellow fly fisherman Justin suggested in the lounge before the flight home “Maybe I’m a masochist that this type of thing is so high up on my bucket list”.
The challenge is absolutely immense. A 100cm+ fork length Giant Trevally from within South Africas borders. In the surf that gets you an even bigger cigar. Its been done by less than 10 anglers, and until you stand on a sand bar or reef, close to midnight in a massive rip tide being bashed by waves as a 10/0 black brush fly whips past your head you have little idea of how hard it can actually be.
On the second last night, after feeling particularly moved by the beauty of the setting and the immensity of the challenge I turned to Ben on the wade back across the deep mouth and said something along the lines that this type of fishing is a great metaphor for success in any other aspect of life. -You have to learn to stand and get knocked over by set after set as the ocean tries to wash you into the rip, you have to maintain composure through every cast and every strip and above all you have to stay positive and hopeful. The odds are against you, you will battle fear, uncertainty and fatigue, knowing that only persistence will see you through. So you might as well smile and laugh while you pull that Gamakatsu out your neck or that piece of shell out your knee.
Day three was a special one. The rip developed perfectly and I just knew that I was going to hook up. I think we all know that feeling. The water looks right, the current looks right, the line has the right feel and the fly offers just the perfect amount of resistance. I laughed and mumbled to Ben that today of all the days looks like fish. I wasn’t wrong and 4 casts later I felt three pulls as I set the hook. The fly stopped and rod up and line in hand I waited for the fish to turn to clear the line. Then it jumped. Shit. Not a GT. A 50cm skippy (Elops Machnata) that came unstuck shortly after and then still decided to try and fit the huge fly in his mouth at least another 15 times. He must have felt a similar sort of frustration that we had in the preceding days and I imagine a similar sort of internal debrief took place in his little channel home when he got there that evening.
We returned to the beach to fish the gullies, a different sort up here. Deep holes close-in that make you realize why its possible. The tendonitis I had developed from the 12wt had started to recede, the pain and swelling barely noticeable and I had some good focus going. Then I snagged the reef. Now I’m a stubborn sort of angler and I wasn’t willing to fish a class tippet. I wanted my chances to be best as possible If it did hook up. Class tippet, no-sir-ree. Straight 80lb fluoro for me. But now it had come back to bite me. I got it free- euphoria! With the trademark Gamakatsu snag-tip-bend. Changed fly and next cast strip, strip and hooked straight up with another decent specimen of reef. Now I’m pissed and the 15knts of wind isn’t helping. I start pulling back knowing its my fly line that will part. It does, and I grumble and moan up the beach as I get ready to change lines. And then it hits me. The odd sensation I had felt that cast was my tip on my brand new G Loomis GLX. It had come off. I knew that rod and its ridiculous self loosening ferrule system was going to get me. I honestly had to re tighten every 5 casts.
But too late, it was gone. What ensued was what Ben called the GT Disco. Me and my head lamp scoured every last centimeter of beach for my tip. I eventually gave up and went to sit down. But Kosi wasn’t finished with me yet. My head lamp had caught on end of my peak and as I touched my head it slingshotted straight into the bridge of my nose. Seeing stars and not the good ones, followed by the fantastic taste of iron in your mouth you will only know if you’ve been dealt a decent blow to the head in your youth.
The last day had me back out with new found hope and a new Stealth Infinity courtesy of Ben. Much better. But it would produce nothing as the banks had shifted further covering the reef and making the channels even messier. Of course it didn’t stop up fishing all the way to 11pm in the surf. I did make an interesting discovery on day 4 though. Bones. Almost 100% sure. I would spot these turquoise backed missiles every now and then right in the shore break. Earlier that afternoon I found 3 cruising around the mouth and managed to miss a hook set. Much bigger than any I’ve seen before though. Possibly those notorious giant Zululand bones that have caught us both of the last IGFA all tackle records for the specie.
Well that was Kosi. And it doesn’t know what sort of trouble its got itself into.
Oh ya, don’t ever go on a neap. You need a spring, forcing the mullet out the system on the low and enough water to get predators in on the high. Neap gets you neither.