Christmas cannot be any sweeter for my buddy Mike Gradidge, after making one of the most epic catches on fly I have seen on the South African coast.
We’ve been hitting the suds every night for the last couple of days targeting dusky kob. The kob’s appearance is a regular thing and on some evenings the traffic and competition on the bricks is quite fierce as spin fishermen hustle for position, hoping to pin a kob or elf (bluefish). A few nights ago I noticed a salty dog that seemed to know exactly what he was doing and making casts diagonally behind the first waves and into the white water. Some of the newcomers were not savvy to this approach and were casting for the horizon instead of the working water. Predictably they ended up catching nothing, but they also kept casting over salty dog’s lines. At one point one of the newbies lost his nerve, threw his arms in the air and shouted ‘Where the hell are you casting man!” “The same place I’ve been casting for the last 35 years, mate”, came the reply.
Later on, while gearing down in the parking lot, we made his acquaintance. Brenton Aurette told us that he’s been fishing these waters for more than 35 years and we listened to some really mind blowing occurrences and catches that he experienced over the years. These included stories of massive yellowtail spooling reels, catching 17 kilo leeries off the bricks and schools of red stumpnose tailing in shallow bays. The story that took the cake was Brenton’s claim to have caught two white musselcracker on spoon while fishing for kob. On our way home we debated the probability of this claim but in the end conceded that, however unlikely, it must be possible.
Last night we were back on the bricks, and fierce winds ensured that the crowds stayed at home. We hit the suds just as the sun was setting and after a few minutes Brenton came strolling over the rocks and assumed position next to Mike. It wasn’t long before Mike hooked up, landing a nice schoolie kob on a silicone mullet. Soon after Brenton caught two on spoon. After an hour and a bit Mike and I debated whether we should stay or pack it in, since our evening sessions were never longer than an hour, give or take. “Let’s give it a five more minutes”, I replied.
And then, what could well have been the last cast for Mike, something slammed the silicone mullet and ripped all the line out the stripping basket in a flash. “Headshakes, it’s a kob. Big one!” shouted Mike. As the fight ensued, I kept on fishing but after about 5 casts I reeled in and waited in the shallows to help Mike land the fish. By now it was quite close in, we could see it boiling in the shallows, but Mike seemed to really battle getting it into the skinny water where we could land it.
Eventually I managed to get a glimpse of the fish in the shallows. I almost shat in my waders when I realized Mike was tussling a white musselcracker! I’m sure the shouting and hollering that ensued must have alerted the coastguard! Eventually Mike landed it and while I was photographing it, Brenton walked over to admire Mike’s catch. Adrenalin! It was completely surreal experience to photograph this awesome fish that I have fantasized catching on fly for so long.
At home the rum flowed freely as we tried to take it all in and notified our mates via social media. The replies flowed in, some funny, but most just awestruck and stoked. And many agreeing; probably the greatest fly catch in South African fly-fishing history. Well-done Mike!