Where the real boys fish...

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snapper
Posts: 366
Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:50 am
Location: Lowestoft, Suffolk

Where the real boys fish...

Post by snapper » Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:35 pm

I’m heading north to Zululand tomorrow for a bit of jet ski fishing so my aunt decided we had to go get me the right lures from the tackle shop around the corner on the way back from fetching my grandmother for dinner. Previous plans to get hold of a fishing kayak seemed to have come to nowt but suddenly there appeared a secondhand one for sale outside the tackle shop! Best we take it for a test ride then eh?

Forty quid changed hands for tackle and we had secured the loan of this knackered old Stealth fishing ski. I suggested paying a few quid to borrow it for the rest of the week and this idea was taken as a good one so my uncle and I returned soon after and tied it onto the back of the Land Cruiser. Job done, I was in business!

A huge dinner was consumed and with everyone else going for a siesta I put my paddle together, loaded the ski into the back of the bakkie and headed down towards Port Shepstone where we walk the dogs.

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The plan, with the sea a complete mess, was to launch into the river mouth and head upstream to flick some lures in the hope of a kingfish, kob or whatever else may be lurking. Now, this Stealth ski ain’t light; solid and weighing in at many more pounds than my Scupper I had to drag it over the vegetation and down the hill to the beach. It was surprisingly easy and I found myself a nice launch spot.

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Now for the bad news. There has been a couple of big storms in recent days and the clear water I flicked a handline into the other day was now the colour of coffee. Strong coffee. With milk. I knew from the start I’d stand little chance of a hook-up but what the hell! I needed to paddle off some of this food and beer inside me from the last ten days. So with everything in place I pushed away from the edge and set off.

The river was emptying into the sea and with the shallow water, numerous sandbars and current I was making slow progress. The wind didn’t help either and this particular model as well as being heavy is flat bottomed with loads of rocker at the front – like a thick surfboard to deal with launch and landing here on the Kwazulu-Natal coastline. This effectively gave me the speed of half a gazelle even with my Nordkapps and the regular bottoming-out of either the underside or the built in fin didn’t help either. Still, I was happy and I paddled my way up to the bridge supports which hold fish.

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I tried a popper. This was the only thing I could think of that might provoke a take. I worked it for ten minutes, fast and slow but nothing happened so I set off upstream once again. I was in deeper water now and the current eased a fair bit as the river widened too.

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After half a mile or so I had thick bush either side of me; immediate thoughts of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I looked around but could see no monkeys sadly though they have been a regular sight in the garden and on the roadside. Crocodiles were the other thing to look for, a concern as I’d need to return this ski without any more holes in it! Thankfully hippos aren’t found in this river as I’d have not launched if they were, those things are a major danger and my grandfather lost friends when their boat was attacked by one many years ago in the Congo. Oh, and snakes. I would need to keep my eyes peeled for them too as mambas are common here as well as many other venomous wrigglers. For clarities sake I’d just like to point out that I’m not kidding.

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Finally I found a piece of water with a surface that was still. Lots of small fish were topping here and I cast to them but there was nothing interested in my invisible lure so I soon gave up and carried on with my paddle. I soon spotted the first of at least three kingfishers, darker blue than ours in the UK, and some other really colourful birds but each time I stopped to fish I drew a blank.

A couple of miles upstream I could see some more sandbars. As I drew towards them I grounded out. I wasn’t going to get out and pull the kayak through in case of leeches, bilharzia or whatever goddamn nasty shit the river might teem with so had to force my way through the next 300 metres with my paddle pushing through sand and a couple of inches of water. The flow didn’t help much either but I finally got past and carried on upstream, occasionally throwing my popper around in vain.

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Sandbars appeared again soon after and I couldn’t get through this time so I turned and headed back…there was only a couple of hours of light left now and it’s not really wise to be out and about in the dark around here. Africa is not a safe place. I changed over to a Dexter Wedge and tried that for the rest of the way back. I cleared the sandbars again, the flow assisting me a bit this time and continued on my way back towards the sea. As I neared it I could hear the waves thundering onto the shoreline and once I reached the beach I could see the breakers the other side of the sand banks through which this last part of the river flows, I also saw a beautiful woodpecker. I decided that I may as well chance my arm and throw a wedge into the sea for ten minutes here and pulled up behind a sandbar.

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It did me no good though and so I re-crossed the river, landed and dragged the kayak back up the hill to the bakkie.

Though I’d blanked and had a hard time in places it was a memorable paddle and gave me an idea of how the ski handles. There’s always tomorrow after all.
Chatham 17-Scupper Pro-RRRapido
2011 Launches 102

User avatar
snapper
Posts: 366
Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:50 am
Location: Lowestoft, Suffolk

Re: Where the real boys fish...

Post by snapper » Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:36 pm

I’ve had it all on a plate here, game fishing, commercial line fishing, jetski fishing, kickboat fishing, shore fishing, rockpool fishing and having scrounged the use of a fishing ski and tested it briefly up the river it was time to hit the sea; above all else I wanted to get kayak fishing on the sea at least once on this trip. I’d brought my PFD, VHF and paddle with me and borrowed a TLD25 and a short, heavy rod and was all set and ready to rock if only the weather would play ball. This morning it looked like it had; the sea looked smooth enough from the lounge window and I couldn’t hear the waves pounding so I decided to get ready and go; I wasn’t needed for the commercial boat as the current was running at 3.5 knots where we needed to be and the catches, especially after the heavy rain and thunderstorm last night, would not make it viable. Today, then, was my day.

We loaded the Psychedelic Stealth into the back of the bakkie and I sat with it. Duncan was driving and my aunt and mum were in the front with him. It might perhaps be the last time they saw me after all…So down we drove to the ramp, the Sonny Evans Small Craft Harbour and Duncan reversed me down the ramp. It looked doable but I would have felt more comfortable in my Scupper, a boat I knew inside out and that I knew would have the speed and seakeeping I required. Duncan was put in charge of Camera 1, having a good eye and a steady hand, mum knelt down to pray for my soul and Denise briefed me on which line to take through the surf.

‘Paddle out near the swimming pool where it’s more sheltered and look for the waves the other side then, when it’s right, go and go left to avoid the surf and the rocks, don’t cut close, go wide.’

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I took my headcam off and fitted it over the bow; a mistake as it turned out, made sure everything was stowed inside or leashed and launched. Or didn’t, I turned the camera mount the other way and launched again, paddling through the smaller waves as I headed alongside the swimming pool.

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Herein lay the problem though, I couldn’t see over the damned thing. Plan B then. I couldn’t see so would have to rely on the last of the set breaking to give me my time to dash. However, this stealth, being an old, short, wide and heavy one compared to the current models might not get me through in time and I’d be likely to get caught side on and end up on the other rocks. I figured I’d need to cut closer and dash through the white water to the right of the breaking wave. And keep my arse cheeks nipped in.

The set came through and I went…

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…One wave, two, the headcam flies from the bow…tough shit, hope the leash holds, I can’t stop now…

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…three, four five, six and on and on and on and bigger and shit, did I just get airborne? The nose is high above the next bit of water, crashes down with my feet tucked under the foot straps and my arse follows an hour later…

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…more waves, more crashing up and over and crashing down until finally, after a quarter of a mile, I’m through the breakers and sitting in big swell.

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Hmm. No confidence. Somebody must have been worrying about me!

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Right then, breather, shit, lighter is not lighting, spare is wet too. Full pack of cigarettes has been kept dry in its sealed pack but this one isn’t going to light. Okay, hatch open, rod out and I drop a Halco redhead behind me and start my troll south towards Uvongo, St Michaels and ultimately Margate. I’m hoping for Couta (Queen Mackerel) and perhaps even a late Dorado. I set a steady pace, assisted by the current and head offshore and back looking for the colour line between the brown/green and blue water, where the game fish patrol.

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I do this for a while and find the colour line but there is nothing happening. No birds, no baitfish, nothing on the surface and nothing on the lure so I change over to a Super Shad Rap, a gold one. I pull this for a while and in no time I’m halfway down, coming up to St Michaels. There’s nothing for it, I’ll have to catch some fish and put a drift bait out. Lures off, tinsels on and I start bouncing them off the bottom. A few minutes pass and then a bananafish grabs hold.

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Fearsome set of gnashers on that!

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I rig some single strand wire and a 10/0 hook through the bottom jaw and freeline it out behind me. Nothing happens so I tie on a sinker and drop it down. Same result. Okay…I wind in, dispatch it and cut off the rear quarter. The front quarter becomes a flapper bait and I send it down to the bottom.

I feel little nibbles, see the rod tip twitch. 80lb class twitching at mini fish. Then, after just a few minutes, I get a hook-up and we’re off!

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I’m sleigh riding at a good 5-6 knots. So it’s not a gamefish then, it’s a steady, hard pull. It’s what I knew it would be and wanted to hook at some point today anyway. It’s really not that hard here you see, the place is absolutely full up with sharks and big ones too. This is a big one and I crank the drag up a bit so I can gain some line. It’s not easy but it’s off the bottom after a couple of minutes. Should I be frightened? I’m not, after all I’ve seen plenty in my life and a few this trip – the last one yesterday when it tried to steal a Yellowfin from under my nose when we went out on the jetski. A decent bronzie that one, 8ft maybe?

I follow it around for a while, cranking up slightly more line than its peeling off and then it goes slack. I guess I’ve been bitten off and reel in. Nope, all intact. The hook has pulled, my own fault for not striking; just winding down to the fish wasn’t enough. Oh well, I rig the tail and drop it down.

It’s quiet now, takes a while before the next nibbles come. Then along comes another shark and I’m locked in again. A bigger fish this one and I can’t gain much line at all, it’s solid, but moving. I’m moving too. Quite fast and north. I up the drag but still can’t gain any when I lift. I’m on 80lb class tackle too. I try for five minutes before it occurs to me that not only am I running out of time before I’m getting picked up but also that I might be better off not bringing a shark of this size up to see how small and tasty I am. Hehe. I know it’s bigger than this paddleski and I’m over a mile out on my own. I get my knife out, wind up what I can and cut the line.

Right then, best I put the tinsels on again and see what’s about. The answer is not very much. Eventually I pull up another bananafish, dispatch it and start cutting small baits. I have no more wired ones left so just plump for one of my faithful 4/0 wishbones. Down it goes with a small piece of fish and the bites are immediate. Small bites and my hooks are stripped in minutes. Okay, try again…success, a double shot! A pair of small but stunning fish, a Slinger, with its beautiful blue eye make-up and a Dane, vivid and hissing!

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I unhook them and pop them back in the water, rebait and get a phone call. Everyone is at Margate now and waiting for me. I stash my rod and start the paddle in.

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Then I hear a sound, with half a mile to go. Damn, my headcam card is full. My landing isn’t going to be recorded on it. A pity as the water is pretty big. I carry on in, stop to take some film and then decide to stow it, and my hat, in the hold. I look around, it’s safe enough right now but I don’t notice that I’m drifting into shore so quickly. Margate keeps disappearing.

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I’m quarter of a mile out and this wave, bigger than the others, is going to curl and break and I need to react NOW. I turn and paddle for it, wanting to shoot over but I’m not going to make it. TURN YOU BITCH! I get around in time but can’t get the speed up; I’m in the wrong place too and it starts to break as it reaches me. It’s all I can do to lean into it and brace. It consumes me. I am, quite literally, inside the wave. Not tubed or anything flash like that, I am inside this foaming breaker and I’m keeping upright, held in by the toe straps and my coiled paddle leash (kept attached because quite frankly I’m not swimming with sharks by choice).

The paddle leash snaps, my arse comes out of the seat and, shortly afterwards, the ski is ripped from my toes. It’s me and my Nordkapp now and the ski is floating fifty yards away. I glance at what’s behind and start to propel myself towards it with my paddle. I think I can just about make it…I do and climb aboard. I turn her and start paddling in, there is still a fair way to go but there’s nothing over 6ft right now and the confused state of the sea is on my side. I make it in fine, brace, lean and slide in sideways. All in one piece but soaking wet and with a hold hat’s shipped a fair bit of water and those cigarettes, the new pack of which I’ve managed to light just one, is finished. I drag the ski along the beach and Julius comes down to help me carry it up to the Land Cruiser where I get thanked for providing such good, free entertainment. We load up and while the rest go off to town and then home Julius and I grab a coffee before heading off to the estuary to have an afternoon fishing from the kickboats. But that’s another story.

With THAT launch, THOSE hook-ups and THAT landing I can honestly say it was the best three hours I’ve spent paddling in my life. You’ll see the video (apart from the landing which didn’t get captured on camera’s 1,2 or 3) in a week or two so for now you only have my word for all of this but rest assured it ain’t the word I uttered at launch, hook-up and landing!
Chatham 17-Scupper Pro-RRRapido
2011 Launches 102

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