The day it rained mud
It all started about 6 weeks ago when my friend, Jannie, and I decided that a trip to the Breede River was long overdue. The fact that there were apparently lots of kob around, and the sauvignon blanc was expected to be very cold, did not scare us too much either! While I have caught a few kob and spotted grunter on fly before, I mainly concentrated on garrick in the past. I felt that the time had arrived to spend more time targeting kob and grunter – the latter notoriously difficult to catch on fly. So next, of course, was to tie even more flies – how will I fit them all into my already over-flowing walk-in cupboard? Mmmmm, I suppose I will have to get rid of some more clothes?? Yep, that makes sense! A few Sponge Bob flies (see Feathers and Fluoro website) for the kob and a few surface and sub-surface flies for grunter.
When we arrived at Cape Infanta, we were informed that there were no grunter, but there were some kob around. So kob it had to be, meaning early mornings and late afternoons to increase the chances of success. I started by catching 2 x 55 cm kob the morning on the SBs, but the fun really started that evening after Attie Louw told us he got some nice kob on surface lures the evening before. It was a stunning late afternoon, wind free and fish activity all around. Mid tide allowed us to wade to just behind the submerged seaweed banks. Not ten yards further we could see dust clouds from grunter and smashes and gulps from the kob and Cape moonies. What was happening? Then I noticed some mud prawns swimming in the water where I was standing – time to try that new surface fly! With the slow outgoing tide a short cast into the strike zone and a gentle “drag free drift” was rewarded with an explosive smash by a kob of similar size.
Quickly tagged and released – just like the others. Not much later, the fly was taken by another kob, but this time it was a gentle sip, much like that of a trout! Wow, this is interesting! The third take was neither a smash, nor a sip – something in-between. Now this was a much bigger specimen! Sadly, it came 😁ff. Several large moonies also eagerly took the surface fly. So it was a good start to the weekend……… Then the wind started pumping for the rest of the time and it became much more difficult. Having sacrificed quite a few flies to the “rock gods” at the ledges looking for kob, I eventually hauled out my spinning rod (please, don’t tell anybody) and tagged a 66 cm kob on a paddle tail – my first on a spinning rod. Nice kob around, but no sign of the grunters this weekend. Eish, may have to wait till next time!
Fortunately, three weeks later I was invited to join Willie Van Wyk and some buddies for a few days at the Breede again. Having cashed in most of my brownie points, we left Cape Town very early and arrived there at 08:00 the Thursday morning. As the weather service predicted, it was an absolutely stunning morning- wind free and sunny. I normally check 2-3 different weather services and they all predicted a strong south westerly wind the next day – bad news, as the locals will tell you, “the wind should blow upriver and not down river”. We expected the fishing to get tougher over the next few days. Better get on the water and make the most of it while it lasted! I looked forward to fishing, for a change, in a sunny, wind-free and rain-free day! Little did I know that it would rain mud later that day! Happy mud indeed! And no, typically, the weather service forgot to mention this. But that is fine – I just love it when it rains mud! Bring it on!
After quickly unpacking, I decided to walk upriver towards Grunter Bay (or Mud Bay, depending whom you speak to) while the rest jumped onto their boats to look for prawns. Today I was going to make a concerted effort to catch a grunter on fly. My rucksack was stocked with all the bits-and-pieces needed for fly-fishing and sustenance. I also had my trusty #7 Sage One 10’ rod, an Abel Super 7 reel loaded with floating line and 13lb Stroft tippet – attached to my floating fly, stripping basket and sunglasses. Now I just hope there are some grunters around today!
As I neared the first Bay I slowed down and started scanning the water …. I immediately spotted 2 – 3 dust clouds made by grunter not 30 m from the side. Great. I frantically stripped off line and slowly waded into the water – eyes peeled. There it was again, some 25 m away. Two quick false casts and then I shot the fly towards the target, expectantly landing it within a meter of the dust cloud. Nothing! Damn, this fly is not going to work either! Back to the drawing board? Two more dust clouds and two more casts. On my third cast the grunter tried to aggressively smash the fly, but either missed it, or perhaps I pulled it out of its mouth at the last moment, or it just refused it at the last instance! Nevertheless, this was very encouraging. A few casts later I had a solid hookup – yippee, the fly is working after all! I took my time and played the fish carefully, all the time slowly walking back until I could beach the fish on the mud – I find that works best for me. Kneeling down next to the 59 cm spotted grunter, I felt a slight drizzle. As I prepared the tag, the rain started coming down heavier, it was falling on my head and chest; hitting me in the face, and largely covering my sun glasses – making it difficult to see. I had to force myself to stop smiling too – this rain was gritty and I had to spit a few times to get rid of the mud. The spotted grunter was flapping its tail vigorously, sending muddy rain everywhere! Unfortunately nobody around to take a photo of this beauty – a quick shot of it lying on the mud would have to do as it would take too long to set up a self-timed photo.
As I walked past the jetty I saw two people trying to catch mullets for live bait and thought to myself. They must think I am mad trying to catch fish in the sea on fly! Yes, sometimes I agree with them – it can be hard work, but then when it all comes together it can be very rewarding! In fact, with one grunter under the belt I felt that anything else will be a bonus – even a puffy or moonie will do. I have achieved my target for the day!
At the rocks near the start off the bay I decided to take a quick rest, stretch the old wonky back, have something to drink and munch an energy bar. I took off my rucksack and placed it on the ground, but before I could sit down I spotted another dust cloud – some 15 to the right of the buoy and in slightly deeper water. I grabbed the rucksack and hastily made it to the edge of the bay, slowly entering the water. Another dust cloud, another cast. Then again another cloud and another cast. BANG. On Dad! This was also another good sized grunter. Not long afterwards I landed a 58 cm grunter and shouted to the 2 guys to please quickly take a picture for me – I at least needed some proof or the rest of the gang would not believe me at the fire! What a nice surprise when I realized it was Rudolph, one of the rest of the fish maniacs staying with us that weekend. As the rain settled in again he took some great photos – thanks Rudolph! Tagged and released.
In this bay, just like the other bay, the water was clear but tea-stained. Ideal for targeting fish – they do not have too much time to inspect the flies. Making my way upriver, I kept on casting at dust clouds and even blind casting when there were none. I caught another spotted grunter of 53 cm and lost 3 more. One of these must have been a bus as it cleared all the fly line in my basket, and on my reel, within 2-3 seconds. Unfortunately, the hook pulled. In fact, the Mustard 34007 hook even bent open slightly. There after I decided to fish with a much looser drag – something that benefitted me the next day! By now the tide has started pushing and by the time I got to the buoy again I saw grunter activity not 10 meters from the side. A few casts later I landed a smaller grunter of 48 cm – shame, it could only manage a mild drizzle! By now my fly was starting to look quite sad, but it has made enough of an impact to ensure that I will refine this prototype for the next trip! I decided to head back to South Winds for a quick rest before making my way down-river to look for grunter and kob late afternoon – perhaps even have a quick go for garrick?
A few rusks and a Windhoek Draft hit the sweet spot and did not delay me too long. With the pushing tide the water was now very clear and I did not spot, if you will excuse the pun, any spotted grunter as I made my way towards Kontiki and the sand spit. It was still a bit early for kob so I decided to have a quick cast or two for garrick. I spent perhaps 30 minutes or so and ended up with 2 small ones – tiny. Only one was big enough to tag. As it was now moving on towards late afternoon, I decided to walk a few meters to the left and started casting into the muddy bay. Virtually no fishing activity around tonight. Nevertheless, persistence paid off and eventually I picked up a small kob on a Sponge Bob. My first Breede River Grand Slam ever! What a fantastic days fishing – now I remember why I fly-fish in the sea! This day’s fishing will help me through the expected next 1000+ casts before the next take! We only lit the fire around 21h00. Lots of fishing stories – everyone did extremely well today, especially Greg Muller (who also caught some fantastic kob later). Penalties for the biggest fish, smallest fish, Breede River Grand Slam, ugliest fish, for arriving early, for arriving late etc…… and so it was after midnight when we got into bed. Perhaps we can get a quick 4 – 5 hours’ sleep before the cycle repeats itself?
As predicted, the weather changed over-night and we woke up at 04h45 to a howling south westerly wind – awful (or is that normal?) fishing weather. I stumbled towards Kontiki to look for kob in the bay, but no kob this morning either, forcing me back to South Winds for a quick cup of coffee and some rusks before I headed up-river again.
It was over-cast and the wind was cold – I was wearing 4 layers of clothes! No grunter in the first bay today. Or perhaps I just could not see them. I moved to the next bay. Ditto here. No sign of mud clouds. The few odd time the sun did come through, you occasionally saw some grunter activity. However, clearly the bad weather has affected the fishing activity. Working my way upriver I noticed another fly-fisher in the distance – I wondered if he was having better luck? I covered that entire bay systematically and it was only when I was some 50 m from the other fly-fisher that I saw some nice dust clouds when the sun peaked through the clouds. This was my chance! I sent out a very long cast and was soon afterwards rewarded with a vicious take and a strong run. Fortunately my drag was fairly loose, and the Abel reel has a fantastic drag system – I really did not want to lose this fish, it may be my only one for the day! This fish seemed stronger than the other fish, but not nearly as strong as the bus that I lost the day before. It really gave me a good fight on my #7 rod and made several strong runs. As I slowly walked back into the shallows, where the soft muds are, I saw the other fly-fisher walking over – it was Willie Van Wyk. He said: “I suppose that is the tenth grunter for the day?” While I was very tempted to say yes, I had to settle for “no, unfortunately my first”. Luckily I could hand him the camera to take a few shots while I tried to wash the mud of the spotted grunter. Yes, of course I was getting covered in mud again! This grunter was 62 cm, or some 8 lbs, and swam away strongly after tagged and revived.
Later Willie and I put the flies right amongst the grunters, but somehow they were not interested in our flies. However, with Willies dedication and time he is prepared to put in on the water I am sure that he will be into a grunter or two on his next trip (he would have caught some the previous day while they were cooking if he did not waste his time catching grunters on prawns)!
The weather was over-cast, very windy and cold for the rest of the weekend. While I did have 3 spectacular grunter refusals in the Kontiki Bay in the very clear water during high tide, the one coming half-way out of the water, I did not catch any more on fly (I did catch another 62 cm grunter on a Rapala X-Rap Walk early the next morning when the wind was just too strong to fly-fish).
Nevertheless, a fantastic weekend with some fantastic fellow maniac fishers. Till next time!
PS: I have since tide up quite a few more surface proto-type flies – can’t wait to try them!