Not your Average Friday

Billy McCarthy is singing to me… The Augustines front man’s soul is pouring out of my Land Rovers speakers, while the early winter countryside along the N2 east bound rolls past my window… the “Check Brake Pads” light on the dashboard  keeps flashing its orange warning at me, but I’m ignoring it… Its Thursday, I’m not working… the city is an hour or more behind me, and I’m rolling, I don’t really wanna use my brakes anyway, so fuck it…

Billy’s singing “I guess you’re either heading’ somewhere or ending’ somewhere“.. I’m hoping its both…

My phone ringing breaks through the music and my mental musings on the beauty around me

“How far are you?” Its Conrad.. waves crashing in the background…

“I’ve just turned off the N2 man, hows the fishing?” I ask, eager for confirmation, information..

“Epic… I’m walking back now, I reckon you’ll probably be an hour or so ahead of me, meet me at the hotel for a beer instead”… Beer sounds like a damn good idea to me… I’ve still got an hour or so behind the wheel, so I switch over to Social Distortion on the iPhone and crank it.. Mike Ness’s throat strains, delivering “Winners or Losers” to my ears… I wind the window down, happy to be off the Highway and down to quiet single lane blacktop…. “it’s heaven and hell here, which one will I live today?

“Epic” he said…. visions of tails in shallow water and miles of deserted beaches and reef flats in my mind strong now..

I’m at the bar watching the ocean for a pint and a half before Conrad arrives… a grin on his face shining through the salt and sunscreen crusted beard… another two pints and the cold and darkening Southern ocean sky chases us off the hotel balcony… supermarket… steaks, potatoes, some greens, eggs and bacon for breakfast and we head to Conrads…

A night spent braaing, laughing, rigging, philosophising, drinking, laughing and breaking in a new hatchet…

2 Bottles of Chocolate Block, a pack of Boerewors and a quality Rump Steak meet their maker on the fire and our plates, along with some greens and potatoes with silver jackets…. desert a Sweet Potato foiled and thrown on the fire, cracked open and loaded with butter and honey…

Zara, one of two of Conrad’s whippets, the youngest and most boisterous, joining in for desert…along with Max the older Whippet, and Blikkies the brak, these legendary Canines kept us warm and entertained…

5:45am’s alarm has me rolling out of bed.. Max the whippet my sleeping companion seems pissed that I’m disturbing his slumber… but soon the smell of bacon cooking has him joining us in the kitchen… coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon, more coffee.. Load the Landy and we rolling through the darkness… small town life just barely starting to get going during the predawn gloom..

A  steenbokkie in the road slows our progress on a pitch black straight…. he’s slow and looks stiff legged as he slowly steps out the road..I guess I’d be slow and stiff legged if I spent all night out in the cold too… the yellow glow of his eyes mesmerises me for a second… then he’s gone into the blackness and we moving on…

Black velvet countryside broken only by the odd lone vehicle, headlights bright heading towards us through the void… farmers and fisherman, up at the devils hour…

Left turn, left again… the roads getting narrower and narrower… The salt tang flooding through the window, I can hear the surf meeting the sand, the sound pushed by a growing South Easter..

Parked up, a faint glow on the eastern horizon, we climb into waders and add a layer.. 5 weights strung up, leaders tied, fly boxes checked and one more cup of coffee..






The walk… winding through the seaside bush, rocky sand stones catching my boots, forcing me into a fully awakened state to avoid a pre dawn face plant…

Conrad following the path he knows so well..a ghostly figure ahead of me , I stumble along behind in the predawn gloom…
The universal “Good Fishing this Way” sign….

One foot in front of the other, step after step… rocky seaside pathways make way to soft white sugar crystal sand that sucks at our footsteps . Then to hard pack sand along the water. My legs thankful for the easier walk at the waters edge…we walk… and we walk… the eastern sky clouded over, dawn creeps up on us slowly, lazy, an old dog not wanting to leave the warmth of his bed..

Step after step after step…Conrad follows the seam between ocean and earth… the path that calls to our subconscious and our soul… automatically we find ourselves walking this line…
halfway caffeine stop… Conrad delivering the goods..

More steps… more steps… and more steps… Dunes alongside a deserted beach… in the growing dawn, miles of reef system unfolding before us… Conrad says ” We’re here”…. I put on a brave face as if trying to say: “Already, I thought we were only just getting started walking”… inside I’m bursting with thanks, the last 2 hours of trekking are taking the toll on my feet in booties a size too big for me.. I need to start fishing to take my mind off the blisters…

We head out over reef and broken rock flats covered in life…Oyster Catchers cast a wary eye in our direction, their blood orange beaks standing out like flares in the overcast morning gloom, before carrying on with their breakfast run… the low tide exposed reefs teeming with anemone’s and urchins.. Conrad pulls a trout anglers trick and flip a couple rocks to show me the life that abounds in this untouched ecosystem… Musselworms, wonderworms, klipvisse, crabs….

“This is why we’ve been walking for a couple hours… because no one else does”

lowtide goodness…

We wade out to knee deep water on the outside… a deeper barrier reef cutting the swell to a quarter of its size by the time it rolls past our legs.. I follow Conrad intent on grabbing a few pics and watching him at work… watching, learning, stealing with my eyes… He strips off line while pushing against the shin deep water…

“Getting his casting rhythm sorted” I think to myself because its obviously too shallow for fish still..

On his 3rd cast his rod bends over and he’s tight to the first of the morning… I’m gobsmacked and caught unawares…

Conrad tight into the first of the day, on his 3rd cast… this scenario repeated itself many times over the next couple hours

5 casts later another 3 fish have come to hand and I finally manage to get my shit together to start putting out  casts.. My 5 weight struggling a little with the early morning breeze, Conrad coaches me that the fish can found all over the vast flat, make your life easy bru, cast down wind… a few casts later I’m tight to my first Blacktail on fly… A dogged little fight, and much hooting and hollering, and a few snaps… stoke.

Dre’s first blackmail on fly… cherries popped are always sweet…

With the last drop of the tide we fish along the outside reef flat waiting for the push, picking up fish with a regularity that alarms and enthuses me… the fish in lose shoals, coming 3 or 4 in a row at times, from a half dozen casts before moving on and we move too…

Conrad with some split screen goodness on a good size Blacktail..
come to pappa

The tide pushing,  we make our way in with it towards shallower water… the fish feeding hard now, the pushing tide ringing their dinner bell and we are  taking advantage of it…. The wind has all but died… the clouds part sporadically like a stuttering vaudeville curtain, throwing shards of warm winter light onto us and the waters surrounding…  an already beautiful landscape turns  almost surreal

A long cast towards a ledge I’m tight with a jolt on something  immediately different to the Blacktail we’ve been catching… Clear my line and get the fish onto the reel just in  time to see it jetting past me in the face of a coming wave… the crystal clear water giving away its convict stripes…

“Good fish?” Conrad calls from behind me…

” I think its a Wildeperd bru”.. having seen its striped flanks I know, but I don’t  want to jinx it… my 5 weight bends, the fish takes  line, and we laugh as the dogged fish makes another run… a few minutes later I slide my hand under the little Wildeperd/Zebra… filled with smiles and awe, we high five goofily…

Wildeperd… these little convict coloured buggers go hard and put up a great fight on the 5 weight…. Dre super stoked with his first..
Not just black and white in colour, the faces of these fish show a massive range of beautiful colours..

We continue catching fish through the push..”Do you wanna go try for them in the skinny stuff?” asked Conrad… Of course I replied in the positive, and we leave  biting fish in the “deep” water and push up into the shallow stuff… soon we start seeing the silver flashing flanks of moving blackmail, and the odd waving tail, like mini bonefish in ankle deep water..

Much more skittish these fish, I end the day with a fish sighted in water barely covering his back that I present to on a long cast… he chases the fly down and crushes it 4th strip and heads for deeper water… amazing way to end an incredible day…

skinny water eater that finished off an incredible day..


final release in the skinny

Strap the rod to the pack, and turn your steps towards home… legs now heavy after a day filled with adrenaline needing more coaxing to put one in front of the other… The tides all the way up now, the only room to walk is in the soft stuff… feet now heavy sink deeper and deeper, every step feeling more difficult than the last… looking up you can just make out the headland where the car is parked… doesn’t look that far…. 45 minutes hard walking later and it looks no closer… 2 hours later, rounding the last corner of the bush path the car comes into view… kick out of sand covered boots and waders…. aching feet pulled from socks and inspected for blisters… key in the ignition, swing past the hotel… hobble to the bar… 2 pints of golden goodness and 2 Cokes.. energy levels slowly returning to normal… I take a long pull on my beer, look up at Conrad and he smiles… “Not your average friday hey?” he says…

“Nah mate, not even fucking close” and take another pull…

I hear Mike Ness’s vocals again in my head ” “it’s heaven and hell here, which one will I live today?“… maybe sometimes you gotta go through hell to reach that heaven…. i did today…

6 thoughts on “Not your Average Friday”

  1. Edward Truter says:

    Nice guys. Nice.

  2. Matthew Cocks says:

    i needed some positive ‘religious’ talk after the last few weeks….thanks man, that was truly awesome!!!

  3. Marius says:

    Inspiring read and great photographs!

  4. Zac says:

    What flys do you guys use

  5. Kevin Cox says:

    Just re-read this again… as one does. Special piece of writing. Awesome. Seems a sin to overlook these little buggers. Nice.

  6. Jovan says:

    Hi, what retrieve do you use? There are plenty of blacktail in my area but they seem to be focussed on the bottom eating green seaweed… I mostley try the charly aswell as other shrims and crabs but I just can’t find that sweet spot.

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