Recaptured fish: What a joy!

Hi,I tagged a leerie in the Breede estuary on 20 January 2010 (see my catch report below) – 51.5 cm fork length. I just heard that it was recaptured by Shane 839 days later at splash rock in Port Edward KZN – 1144 km further as the crow flies. It grew around 32 cm and was measured at 83 cm fork lenght. Great news – makes up for all the hard work. Thanks for releasing it again Shane – much appreciated.

Ps a small leerie I tagged above Mudlark in January 2013 was caught 30 days later – still in the Breede estuary.”Hi, Made a few casts at Kabeljou Bank near the mouth while I waited for the tide to turn. Caught a puffer fish for my efforts! Then fished the Breede River sand bank on the pushing tide. Started about 400m towards the mouth from the main leeries fishing area and worked my way back to where the boats normally anchor on the sandbank. About 250 m from the boats I started getting chases and hook-ups. Most on a small flipper with a pale blue belly. At times things got extremely hectic and virtually every cast resulted in either a chase or a hookup. Several fish fighting for the flipper – sometimes not sure who would win, the fish or the flipper trying to escape towards the edge of the drop-off. Sometimes the takes were virtually at the drop-off’s edge under the rod tip (don’t stand too close to the drop-off). I tagged 5 here, and am convinced I would have caught more if I did not tag them, as the fish came past in small schools – I like to think of them as hunting packs. By the time the fish was measured, tagged and the card filled in they have moved on. There were some bigger fish too, but they may have avoided the smaller flipper. Mike Dohlhoff apparently caught one of 70 cm+ on a large popper. I then changed to a larger flipper. As the tide was getting high I needed to move on towards a safer area. I stopped about 400 m upriver where the water was flowing fast over the sandbank and into a deep area for a few casts, pushing my luck. First cast and 3 fish going mad for the flipper. A 5c4 cm leerie won the race and was rewarded with a tag and a photo on the FlyTalk website. Moved further along the sandbank, but the water now too high. Had to get out of there. As it was I had to wade chest deep through the water to get to the bank. All the time hoping that the tagged, or untagged, zambesi sharks were elsewhere. Had another take in the small bay at the end of the sandbank, but no hookup. Tried for some grunter on the sandflat, but no hook-ups. All-in-all a very satisfying day’s fishing. Total for the day, 6 leeries 40 – 54 cm with several others lost. And of course the puffer fish! I celebrated with a nice braai and a Windhoek Light. Niel Malan 20.1.2010″


The Day It Rained Mud!

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.
IMG_3497Soon afterwards the grunter was released to fight another day – thanks for coming and bringing the rain! I spent some more time in this bay, but the grunter have now disappeared. Time to move upriver to the next bay. Was this the real Grunter Bay?
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. IMG_3525Later 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!

Who said bigger is better?

The Mullet Outing: Hangklip, Cape Town
I decided it was time to try and target the mullets in the little bays in this area again. Previously I have had moderate success, but now it was winter and there was a large cold front on the way. Nevertheless, it was spring tide and I decided to brave the expected cold water. Both my fishing buddies opted out – no, in fairness they were out of town and busy with renovations respectively. I arrived around lunch time with a pushing tide. While there was absolutely no wind at my house, the wind was howling – ice cold – the sea was fairly rough and mostly very dirty. Was it worth it? Perhaps not, but seeing that I drove all the way I dressed up, took my rucksack and my Sage 0 weight. I did not bother rigging it though as I expected merely a stroll down the coast. On the way I collected a few – well actually quite a lot – of sand hoppers to entice the mullets with if I could see any in the surf. All of a sudden I saw a few cleaner areas of water and my pace picked up. There were three fishermen near the area that we have fished before and they confirmed: “Geen byte nie – hier gaan niks aan nie” (No bites at all). No mullets seen either. About 100 m further I got to my one spot – don’t even ask – and saw a few grey ghosts flirting in the waves. I dipped my hand into the plastic bag, scooped out a hand full of sand and hoppers and cast it on the water. I added a few more just for luck. They are here! I quickly rigged up, stripped into my shorts and entered the water. More hoppers, a few more casts – then I was on. What a fight on my “0” weight, felt like a king fish pulling! The small submerged shrimps I tie were working again. And so I regularly hooked into mullet of 28 – 33 cm.


The fishermen were now taking notice and two decided to come and join me. ”Hel, ek kan dit nie glo nie” (Hell, I cannot believe it!) he uttered when he arrived looking at my little rod and repeated it over and over when I showed him the tiny flies. The one chappie was now eagerly collecting more sand hoppers and the other was asking me for a fly to try with his large rod. I rewarded their optimism with a few mullet for bait / to eat. They were very happy and the one said he is going to take the fly for a “souveneeeeer” to show his friends. Later, I switched to some floating white sea lice I tie and the takes on them were quite potent. Some of them eventually get water-logged and slowly sink, I think the larger mullet grab them sub-surface at high speed. I was having a whale of a time – or is that a mullet of a moment? Lots of fun indeed. At 26 on the scoreboard I decided to call it a day as today I was going to keep a few of the larger mullet and still had to clean them. Fried in garlic butter with lemon – purrrfect.

2013-08-26 20.54.33
Fish, chips, avo and an ice cold Sauvignon blanc!

Which reminds me – I better stop now as there are still a few morsels left in the fridge that “needs sorting out”, so to speak. In retrospect – “hell it was certainly worth it! I will settle for 13 inches any time!” Till next time.

An update on the mullet fishing in the Western Cape

My friends and I have been catching lots and lots of southern mullets, Liza richardsoni, mainly by attracting them with live sand hoppers, Talorchestia capensis, scattered onto the water as the tide comes in. Not only does this seem to get them into a feeding frenzy, well some times, but also keeps them in that general area. However, the hook-up rate was not always that great, except if you could see the take and strike immediately; and often it was fish on as you lifted the rod to recast indicating just pure luck! I have also noticed that often small schools of mullet patrol the water’s edge at high speed, just before high tide, waiting for sand hoppers to wash into the sea. If you can cast at these fast moving schools you often got instant hook-ups. Many people chum for mullets using bread and sardines or, in our case, using live sand hoppers (don’t worry – there are millions of them and the fish enjoy them too – says the person that works for Environmental Affairs – see it as assisted sustainable harvesting). Now the purists will scoff at this as not being fly fishing and not in the spirit of the gentleman’s game! Even I wondered: “surely there must be a more natural and better way to catch these mullets?” Only time would tell.

Yesterday my wife had to work and did not want to be distracted. She suggested that I needed to go fishing, bless her soul. I needed no further encouragement and decided to go experimenting with a new way of catching these mullets. I was fairly convinced it would work, but still needed to test it. I decided not to tempt my fishing buddy as I thought that he has by now undoubtedly used up all his Brownie Points and needed to invest a bit of time with his family – after all, high tide was around Sunday lunch time! The other reason was that it will leave me enough time to experiment without being tempted to go back to our normal tried-and-tested ways of catching these mullets. And yes, I did haul the cell phone out to ring him as I got in the car, but put it down reluctantly. He is going to kick my backside! Again! But when it comes to actual mullet fishing, I still kick his! Well most of the time. Ok, some times. Ok, sort of neck-on-neck. But then again, he is not writing this, so: “he usually struggles and I catch bags full” (fingers crossed that he does not see this)!

As with my previous report, I decided to ignore Wind Guru that predicted strong south easterly winds at Betty’s Bay – after all, there was not a breath of wind in Cape Town and the slight smog layer confirmed it before I left. Hell, but they can be annoyingly accurate! A cold, howling south easterly wind and rough seas made it virtually unfishable at our normal spots. Should I rather turn around and go and try in the Lourens River for some freshwater critters, a fleeting thought crossed my mind? No, definitely not – after all, I had a card up my sleeve and was on a mission: For the first time, I was not going to chum with sand hoppers at all and just sight fish at the cruising fish. I was also going to put on a small wool strike indicator as I felt that we were missing a lot of fish by not always seeing the take and the fish rejecting the flies before we could strike – actually without us even knowing about it! Now I only needed to find a sheltered spot with clean water, and some mullets – and I knew just where to find one – about 30 minutes’ walk away.

Well, well well! The 150 m long sandy bay was flat, clean and largely sheltered. The tide was still fairly low – much lower than the last time I fished here. When I left the car I did not rig up because of the unpleasant conditions and was still scanning the water – sh-one-t, not a mullet in sight! Disappointment; but perhaps they will still come as the tide got higher? The next moment I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, a small school of very active mullets coming at full speed – right up to the water’s edge, and I mean right up to the water’s edge, like 1-2 m from the side in a foot deep water. A hasty retreat to the nearest vegetated dune, rigging up while also taking a sip of water and a bite of last night’s “viskoekies” (fish cakes), after all who knows when I may get a chance again to eat or drink – it could be hours – days even if the fish fever gets hold of you!

Experience has shown that the thinner the tippet the better – I now use Stroft 7x on a 3# rod – just don’t strike too hard, avoid the bushes at the back, the floating kelp and you will be ok – makes a huge difference to the number of takes (although it does sometimes tangle up – leading to lots of frustration and time-delays – especially if the light is already fading). I take a 1.5 m length (stretch your arms out side-ways) and use about two thirds to make a loop, using a double surgeons knot. I then pull the loop straight and cut the one side in the middle of the loop, if you know what I mean, resulting in a short length of line (fastened loop-to-loop) from the tapered leader, then a short tag for the one fly nearest the leader and a longer part for the point fly. I normally use either two floating small hopper flies (tied on Gamakatsu SC15 #8 light wire hooks) or a floating hopper and my sinking “Niel’s mullet shrimp fly” tied on the same hook. I always tie all my flies on with a Rapala knot, giving them free movement – this is the only knot you need to know for tying on all flies! As mention, this time I also added a small woolen strike indicator – pity I forgot to pack the silicone lubricant.

I left the half of the “viskoekie” to eat next week, or whenever I would get a chance again, and rushed down to the water’s edge, ripped line off the reel, made a few false casts and sent the flies out towards the mullets that were now about 20 m away. Virtually immediately the strike indicator dipped and I struck, fish on and safely released! That was easy – must be beginners luck, surely the next one will be a bit more difficult? In fact, using the strike indicator the success rate increased dramatically and at one stage I was hooking up every third cast.

A double-up!


The fish moved around and sometimes disappeared for a while, only to be seen 30 m down the beach, resulting in a quick sprint and a few casts. I landed 12 in about 2 hours before the fish disappeared just after high tide (compares very well with our other trips). There was still the odd small fish around, but they have gone off the bite. I decided to call it a day as I had a splitting headache and felt nauseous from staring into the glaring water – I was feeling really sea sick! Very strange! On my way back I stopped at the shop to buy headache tablets as I was by now feeling awful – but, on the other hand, I was delighted that the experiment worked. The mullets can be targeted without chumming!

Now, the next question is how effective this will be in estuaries? As I said in the beginning, only time will tell – watch this space.

Go well

PS: I forgot to post pictures of the flies! Do you know how you keep a fly fisher in suspense? ……………………………….Tell you next time!

Now, In February 2016 I caught these two beauties in the Garden Route – 58 and 53 cm respectively. The last one on my #3 weight fly rod – pure fun. The first blistering run was some 70 m! Mmmmm, perhaps I need to reconsider the title?


A Kob a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

Jannie and I had a lovely trip to the Breede River  in October 2015. No monsters caught, but we had lots of fun and learned a lot. I caught 4 kob on fly (2 on a surface fly and 2 on a large “sponge bob”), 1 on a paddle tail, 2 barbel on prawn; and many moonies on a floating fly, double bunny fish pattern and even a 4/0 flipper.

Jannie caught a kob, stompies and moonies. Jannie also managed to change the name of the “Canoe” to the “submarine” (he took out a small boat and managed to capsize it – twice!).


We tried for grunter on surface lures for a short while. I also tried for garrick for about 2 hours, but we were really targeting the kob early mornings and late afternoons (apart from the Saturday Sprinbok rugby session) this time.

Early morning at Kontiki
Sunset at Kontiki

All kob tagged and all fish released.