My quest for Africanus, unlike that for a Steenbras in the surf, has just begun. I did my first Tranksei trip hoping for one with no joy but research tells me there are only two spots I should be focusing on;
Pompano, Africa’s Permit.
By: Craig Thomassen
For many years now I have been an avid reader of fishing literature from around the world. One of the fish species that seems to stand out as the holy grail of fly fishing would be the permit. These fish are the cause of much frustration and teeth gnashing by fly fishermen around the globe. In most places these fish are sight cast to, and are very skittish, resulting in few ever being caught. They also seem to be quite fussy about what they eat, rejecting even the tastiest looking flies at times.
In the Indian and Pacific oceans our version of the permit is the Indo Pacific permit Trachinotus blochii, also known as the snub-nosed pompano or long-fin pompano. This fish is targeted by fly fishermen in the Seychelles and in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia. It does occur along the east African coastline, but due to the roughness of our surf on this part of the coast it is not possible to sight cast to them in still water.
I remember fishing for grunter in the Swartkops river about nine years ago with local P.E. anglers J.P. Nichols and Doug Swannell. We were using mud charlies with floating lines and eight weight rods when JP hooked and landed a juvenile snub-nose pompano. I remember looking at it and thinking what an unusual catch it was, especially in an estuary.
I have caught plenty of spotted pompano Trachinotus botla, or wave garrick along our beaches, which is fun on light tackle. They seem to favour very shallow water, especially where there is a bit of a shore break to churn up the sand, exposing their favourite food, sea lice. They are very aggressive in this rough and fast moving environment and they will hit almost any fly quickly and savagely if they see it. I have caught them on anything from deceivers to Clouser minnows and even on poppers at times, although the best flies for them would probably be tan crazy charlies or crab patterns. I have also caught their larger cousin African pompano Trachinotus africanus on bait along the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast while fishing with crabs or sea lice for stumpnose. I have seen these African Pompano swimming up onto the ledges at Cape Vidal to eat black mussels off the rocks. They swim up on their sides with an incoming wave and slip off with the water as the waves recede. This is quite impressive for fish in the six to twelve kilo range. They rip the mussels off the rocks whole and crush the shells with the bony Pharyngeal plates in their throats, swallowing the flesh and bits of crushed shell. As far as I know these magnificent fish have not yet been caught on fly.
Some time back I was enjoying a fishing trip at Linene Island in Mozambique. I was fly fishing off a sandy drop off near the lagoon mouth with my twelve weight rod and a yellow Clouser Minnow. I was using the twelve weight outfit because big ignoblis king fish were around and I was hoping to do battle with one of these brutes on fly gear from the beach, a la Ben Pretorius, only with no reef to spoil the fight. I had landed a fifteen kilo specimen on my conventional plugging tackle just before and had landed a small iggie of maybe two kilo’s on my fly rod the previous cast. I was busy stripping in fast when my fly stopped in mid-retrieve I thought hat this may be the fish I had been waiting for. I line struck and started lifting the rod to check the size of the fish by the resistance at the end of the line. This wasn’t a big fish, unfortunately, so I brought it in fairly quickly. When I got it to the drop off it surged away, showing some strength, but was definitely no match for the twelve weight. I saw its shape in a shore dump wave and realized what it was. I was very excited, hey it may not be the biggest fish around, but it is always nice to add a new species to the list, especially a sought after species like this one. I would obviously still like to catch one the “proper” way, sight casting crab patterns to it on a shallow flat and enjoying the thrill of seeing it tilt up and take the fly, but this little one will have to be my appetizer until that happens.