The Joys Of Light Tackle

By: Rob Scott • Tourette Fishing

My earliest and what will always remain some of my fondest memories were exploring the gullies of the Pondoland coast. I would set out with an arsenal of 2 dogs, minimal tackle and my trusty bass rod. My quarry was always the same, the “ignobilis of my childhood”, the mighty blacktail. It was along these forgotten stretches of the Transkie coast where the stage was set for titanic battles of boy versus fish.

A selection of images from Bartholomew Diaz, Mozambique

Countless blacktail were hooked, but I must admit that more fish were probably lost than landed. Fish that snapped the line only got me more intrigued with the awesome power of my chosen prey. Returning to the family cottage late in the evening, I would recount the day’s adventures, vowing to return to the same gullies at first light due to unfinished business with the monster blacktail. The smiles from those carefree days are forever etched in my memory.

Drifting Baits for Couta (King mackerel) of BD Island

As I grew older I progressed from the gullies that once seemed so big. My trusty bass rod was swapped for a 6-ounce surf stick. The time usually spent outwitting blacktail was depleted chasing kob, musselcracker, garrick, shad and sharks. Throughout the endless pursuit of bigger fish, there was however always time to get out the light tackle and do battle with the giants of my youth.

Packing the gear for a recent sport fishing safari to Bartholomew Diaz on the Mozambique coast, I could feel the small boy inside me grinning. Bartholomew Diaz or merely BD, is best described as a sport fishing Mecca. With an estuary that can only be fully appreciated by those who have visited this remote destination. The mouth is approximately 3 kilometres wide. Hectares upon hectares of unexplored mangrove labyrinth await the adventurous. Rock and surf potential is huge, both off BD point and BD Island, where couta and big kingies can be targeted confidently from the shore. With all the fishing available in such close proximity, some visitors don’t even get the chance to visit the offshore reefs. Knowledge of the quality fish that inhabit the waters around Bartholomew Diaz, combined with the fact that clients had requested a trip where emphasis was on targeting a large number of species on light tackle, evoked a feeling similar to that of the night before Christmas for a young child.

The first morning began early, arriving at BD point as the sun climbed over the horizon. With 14 lb bait casting rigs, artificial lures where used to work the drop-off on BD point. This drop-off starts 2 meters from the shore and drops almost vertically down to 8 meters. The mornings outgoing tide bought with it a rich array of food washed down from the mangroves, including shoals of baitfish and prawns. Both of which could be seen erupting out the water in desperate attempts to avoid their pursuers. Bucktail jigs, small spoons and surface plugs were quickly put to work. Everyone working a different lure or colour to try “match the hatch”. Two minutes later and there were two rods bent double, 2 screaming reels, and two euphoric anglers. Although the fish were not huge by any standards, the battles that ensued on light tackle were nerve racking. Both fish making numerous hard, fast runs before succumbing. George and Nick, both avid freshwater anglers, were delighted with their giant Kingfish. Each fish tipping the scales at 3,5 kilos before being released.

Pompano readily take drifted prawn imitations on fly rods. 10wht fly rods are needed to land these feisty fish.

Not more than three cast later, and George’s chartreuse bucktail was hammered on the retrieve. A small bluefin Kingie, around 300grams, was soon brought up to the beach. As the kingfish was about to be pulled in with a small wave, there was a swirl and a flash of silver. George’s rod bent to the real seat, the Abu Garcia baitcaster screaming like a mosque on a Friday afternoon. Within seconds George was running along the shore, trying to keep up with the silver bullet. By the way he was looking at his reel it was very obvious that his line was disappearing at an alarming pace. In a final attempt to slow the blistering velocity of the first run, he tightened his drag. Still the fish ran. Seconds felt like minutes as the spool appeared through the line, the fish slowed and turned. Five meters were gained, ten were lost. Slowly 10 meters were put back on the reel, and the fish stole 15. The battle was won after15 minutes. The “defeated” , a 9kg pickhandle barracuda. Another quick photo and the fish was revived and released, followed by high fives all around like we were an under 13 rugby side having just scored a try. Fishing resumed shortly thereafter, at times 3 or 4 anglers into fish simultaneously. Bluefin, giant, and yellowfin kingies, more pickhandle and even the occasional shoal couta were deceived by the elated anglers. All taken on light baitcasting tackle and fly, often hitting the artificials literally at our feet.

Pickhandle barracuda off BD point

One of the biggest dilemmas anglers face when fishing BD is the sheer diversity of fishing to be had. Normally it would be hard not to return to the same spot where the day before we had such tremendous fishing. But it was time to explore the mangroves, and target the cuberra snapper of Southern Africa, the rock salmon. Live bait mullet proved most deadly, but fishing with bucktail jigs, and surface lures was an incredible experience. Baitfish take shelter along the mangrove banks, and as the water recedes, these fish are flushed out to where the predatory fish wait. Casting virtually into the mangroves and retrieving the lures over the mud bank drop-offs achieved great results. Watching rock salmon of 3 to 5 kilo’s, smashing the surface lures, and then the subsequent panic of trying to keep them in open water with only 12 lbs of turning power was astonishing. Of course some of the larger fish were lost, due to the inability to turn these dirty fighters in their first strong runs.

After 2 days of sublime light tackle fishing it is hard to conceive that some of the best fishing was still to be had. Changing tactics and moving towards fishing with bait as apposed to artificial lures, proved to be an exciting move. A simple trace, running sinker, barrel swivel and 2/0 hook was all that was required. With a bait box of prawns, sea lice and ghost crabs we set off to fish the numerous channels and drop-offs around BD and BD Island. The sheer numbers of quality fish as well as the overwhelming variety of species was mind blowing. Kingfish, pompano, pickhandle barracuda, stumpnose, rock salmon, scavengers, r
ays, juvenile bridle bass, grunter, and even ox eyed tarpon were landed.

Being spoilt with great angling in the estuary and surrounds it was with an uncharacteristic sensation of slight trepidation we decided to head off shore for the day. Although there are a couple of reefs fairly close to the estuary mouth, to get into any remotely deep water one has to travel a fair distance. A good spread off reef, approximately 26 km’s out, was to be our destination for the day. Fishing 20 • 30 pound rigs, drifting dead and live bait’s we were rewarded with a good number of couta, the occasional prodigal son, and the unexpected bonus of a juvenile black marlin. Superb fishing by any standards.

Sitting around the campfire on the last evening it was fantastic to hear the banter and spirit the variety of fishing was causing amongst the anglers. Everyone commenting on what an enjoyable time it had been. Sometimes I think we as fisherman have to stop and remind ourselves why we love this beautiful sport so dearly. Bigger is not always better. There is no doubt that if we had been fishing with heavier tackle, or spent more time off shore, there would have been photos of much bigger fish. The excellent strike rates, combined with the assortment of fish species caught using light tackle in the estuary was however far more enticing. Sitting around that campfire listening to the colossal battles being reencountered, watching the smiles and laughter, it reminded me of a young boy I used to know. He had a passion for exploring the Pondoland coast and chasing his beloved blacktail....

Rob Scott • Tourette Fishing