Winter solstice was on the 21st of June, so technically we’ve passed the bend and are on our way to spring. But for practical reasons, I generally consider the middle of July as the coldest, wettest and most miserable part of winter in the Western Cape. Traditionally it’s also a quiet time on the fishing calendar, especially when it comes to saltwater fly fishing in the Cape.
Why bother hitting the brine on the 15th of July, I wondered as my alarm went off early Wednesday morning. Do I really feel like braving the cold for a few blacktail? Mmm, maybe something else might be lurking out there …
Getting up in the dark is bad enough, but scraping frozen dew of my car’s windscreen was something I don’t get to experience that often. Bloody hell, it’s really freezing! The attendant at the petrol station was ogling my steaming coffee with longing eyes and I was glad to be sitting in a heated car and not working outside. We exchanged a few complaints about the cold and the possibility of rain before I hit the road. Half an hour later I had to swap a heated seat for waders and weather gear, soon I was marching through seaside bush as the sun began to make its appearance on the horizon.
I reached the flat well before low tide and took some time to examine the marine life to be found on the rocks and boulders that covered the exposed part of the flat. Apart from lots of small brown crabs, there were also many different species of marine worm. A number of different prawn and shrimps also live here I found quite a few small pink ones that made me choose my trusted Steve Austen blactail fly as the pattern of the day.
The morning was quite uneventful and it took considerable some time before I had the first fish in hand. Very few fish sighted on the flats, perhaps because the water was a nippy 12degrees Celsius. At 1pm I made my way back to the car and soaked up some rays before hitting the road once more.
On my way, Chris Bladen phones. “I’ve just arrived at Infanta and wading the flat for grunter. Why don’t you come over and we fish together tomorrow?” Yes, I replied, we can even go look for kob tonight. “I’m afraid you might be on your own on that mission”, he chuckled.
I have convinced Chris to join me for kob, when our host, Beetle, returns from a day at sea looking for kob on the deeper reefs of St Sebastian bay. Apart from two red roman, it was dead quiet. Beetle has a house on the water and Chris is a regular visitor. As we are gearing up Beetle asks “Are you seriously going to target kob?”. No, we are just going to test some new streamers with slider heads, we tell him. We all know you don’t catch winter kob in the Western Cape.
As the sun started to dip towards the horizon, I could feel the air temperature dropping and realize that it’s going to be a cold session. But arriving at our spot we were met with quite a surprise; big shoals of mullet everywhere. This is looking promising. As we get into position and start stripping off fly line we see mullet flying out the water as they are being harassed. It can only be kob, I thought. Excitedly we start putting out casts and soon we hear the very distinct ‘boof’ sounds as kob suck mullet off the surface. By now we both have the quickening and I almost jumped into the air as Chris cries out and strip strikes. “Missed it!” A massive boil is still visible on the waters surface 5 meters in front of him. I can hardly believe it, but by now I knew that the kob were there and we were going to connect. Minutes later Chris set the hook again and this time it stuck. The kob made one powerful run and everything went slack. “Damn, that fucker bust me off!” The mullet activity was tapering off and silently I feared that we have missed our shots at landing a kob. But thee casts or so later my newly tied slider-head Spongebob (see Matching the hardware part 2) got hammered and within seconds the line was flying out the stripping basket the kob took off on its first run. Massive stoke and lots of whooping and hollering! After a spirited fight, the fish is landed, measured and photographed. Just before we release the fish, Beetle arrives to check out what all the commotion is about. We are all pretty stoked and taken by surprise. Twenty minutes later the kob have disappeared along with the mullet, and the place returned to a sleepy hollow as darkness enveloped the landscape. Time to sit next to the fire and absorb the heat while sharing fishing stories over some good vin rouge.
The next morning I say goodbye to Chris, Beetle and family and hit the road back home. The winter landscape is teeming with animal and bird life. I encounter baboons, springbok and massive flocks of blue cranes. I even spot two Cape vultures next to the dirt road. Dark clouds were forming on the horizon and as I approach Cape Town it started coming down by the bucket. Luckily Chris managed to squeeze in another evening session on Thursday night and managed to settle the score with the fish he lost. He managed two kob before the cold front put an end to all the winter fun.