Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Ultimate Challenge-Spotted Grunter (Pomadasys Commersonni)

Photorealistic Spotted Grunter Painting - Image courtesy of Craig Bertram Smith -

-part one can be read here:
-part five can be read here:
-part six can be read here:  
-part seven can be read here:
-part eight can be read here:

The spookiest of all saltwater fish that I have targeted. Recent tag recaptures have shown that fish are resident, with one example being tagged and re-caught 8 years later in the exact same place. This could be the reason for the fishes nervousness. Learned through disturbances and experience.

They can live to over 15 years old and can weigh up to 9 kg. They "blow" prawns out there holes and often be seen tailing. Spawning takes place in the open ocean from July through to December and juveniles and post spawning adults return into estuaries late december, early january.

Grunter feed on crabs, bloodworm, sand and mud prawns, crackers, sea lice and bivalvas.

Personal Experience:

These fish are incredibly easy to take on bait and yet extremely difficult to take on artificial lure, especially in a sight casting scenario. Initial thinking was that the way to target them on fly was to mimic techniques used in bonefishing (crazy charlies fished ahead of lead fish). I tried this for years thinking that it must have been something wrong in my presentation, what is more like a crustacean than a crazy charlie? Limited success was achieved with this method in the Western Cape, particularly in the Breede.

"We used to fish the Mud Charlies for Grunter and they took a few fish. In stead of this pattern I would rather suggest a Baited Breath Fly in Olive/Brown/Tan. These patterns have also taken a lot of Grunter for us, but again the better movement will convince a few Skippies. " MC Coetzer

It was however Athony Kruger and a few other anglers in the Eastern Cape that had the first big break through. By fishing deerhair prawn patterns and small brightly coloured squid skirts will closed cell foam inside they managed regularly take fish.

Jannie, MC Coetzer and August Lohann "cracked the code" in the estuaries of the Western Cape, inventing a new silicon fly pattern called the JAM fly in the process. By drifting prawns over banks to feeding fish, they managed to land over 200 fish in a few seasons.

Unexplored techniques:

Grunter have known to follow a fly and spook when they see it, for whatever reason. This always confused me until I read an article by the Permit whisperer in Belize. They had a similar fly spooking problem until all natural flash was removed from the presentation (hook included).

Goby flies have been tried by a few anglers, also with limited success. But it is my feeling that using the grunters uncharacteristic predation, it may be possible to entice cruising fish. Which are often spotted, but spookiest of all

Goby Fly: (Invented and Tied By Mark Krige)

Jam Fly: (Tied By Mark Krige)

Deer Hair Prawn:

Other prawn/shrimp patterns:

Fishing the JAM fly:

I have only recently tried fishing this method... and there is one obvious problem. When fishing a dead drift, how is a strike detected? The flies are generally sub-surface. The only solution I can think of is to either fish a deerhair prawn above the JAM, which can be used as an indicator, and to keep the fly suspended off the surface. Other than that, maybe a simple strike indicator.


Written by MC Coetzer on Flytalk:

"Hi there guys, Steenbras are actually very easy to catch on fly. As Chris said, the JAM works really well. The main differences between Grunter and Steenbras are that the latter is by far more aggressive, they prefer to stick to the main channels (90% of the time) and they also prefer to eat sand prawns over the mud prawns. On some days the Steenbras will feed on the flats and they do so in exactly the same way as Grunter.

At Die Mond we used to dead drift JAM flies in the main channel. All you needed to do was to fish the fly under an indicator on a long leader, cast down the current at a forty five degree angle and walk with the tide. They really smack the fly hard. The best time of the year is during July/August.

These fish are in the one to four pound range but every now and then some bigger fish come into the system. To have a shot at a serious Steenbras, the best opportunity is at Hermanus. Each year when they open the lagoon, big Steenbras are attracted to the fresh water and huge amounts of prawn washed out to sea. It is very important to get there as soon as possible after the mouth is opened as the fish tend to only hang around for a couple of weeks."


Written by MC Coetzer on Flytalk:

"We used to catch quite a few at De Mond by floating a prawn imitation under a strike indicator on a floating line with a long leader. Simply cast a long line at a forty degree angle down current and walk with the line. No retrieve neccessary. I would concentrate on the dropping tide in the area close to the mouth. Stick to the main channel or along the drop offs. We started doing this for Grunter, but they would never eat the fly when fished like this. We did however catch a lot of Steenbras. Louis Day from Hermanus did the same thing a few years back when they opened Hermanus' estuary and he hooked into a very serious Steenbras. Unfortunately the fish fell off after a while.

Remember that the draining of the estuary acts as one very big chum slick that goes out into the ocean. This attracts all the Cob, Steenbras and Grunter in the bay and they all head for the source of the chum slick. Some much bigger specimens will venture much closer inshore and into the river in order to feast."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

-November 2009-

Change in weather, change in season, change in behaviour.

Qnh: 1009
Wind: NW / 10knts
Temp: 14 deg avg.

The drop in temperature, air pressure, and Northerly wind left us a bit confused as to what technique to use. Established methods saw a few small fish come out of the tail-outs and runs but the usual big fish spots produced nothing.

We went looking for better water, walked carefully over the runs and rapids and discussed our misfortune and bad timing. We would soon find drops of blood below the cliffs-reminding us that we were truly in the wild and the further we followed, the darker and fresher it got. Not wanting to see what was at the end we turned towards a fast deep run in the shadow of the plateau .

I noticed a Largemouth Bass and and joked to Liam about how easy it would be to catch it. I couldn't resist... I stripped ten meters of line, watched my back cast and my loop unfolded right above the bass. I stripped quickly to tease it, hoping not to catch it and ruin my leader on its sandpaper mouth. Then all hell broke loose. A large yellow flashed out the shadow of a boulder and absolutely smashed my nymph, right on the surface. It took off down stream and my reel screamed as a good 40 meters of line vanished. It would be a good 5 minutes before I would land our first decent fish of the trip.

We would catch more fish out of this spot, and not one of them seemed to have read the yellowfish behaviour manual. All chasing fast stripped flies and not spooking, much like their large-mouthed cousins.

The best fish would come out the head of a large murky pool, not wider than four feet.

Friday, October 30, 2009

click to enlarge:

-Bells Fly Fishing Festival-

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

-October 2009-

We returned to the Karoo hoping for a few things. We wanted to prove that Yellowfish could be taken readily at night and we wanted to pursue them in the small fast riffles that feed the fast pools.

We left successful on all accounts. A rapidly decending QNH and front definately affected the size of fish, but not the numbers.

Yellows at night, well over 50 caught fish in a few hours:

Our first attempt at Yellows in very fast moving water. We moved in slowly behind the reeds pictured in the background and held small leech nymphs in the current. Two decent fish would come out this run:

New Species - Mudfish or Moggel? :

In six inches of water, casting at times to individual fish:

Biggest fish of the trip:

Monday, September 28, 2009


There is a place, far away from any city, on a slow moving river. It is a magical, untouched place that until a few moments ago was known for little more than its arid lands.

And then one day two young men traveled to this magical place knowing what should be, but what could quite well not be. They walked virgin water where fish had never been seen, only rumored by the men that worked these unforgivable lands.

And so it would be on the first cast, of the first riffle, of the first day of fishing these waters, as they watched a seven pound fish inhale a dry fly and head for the golden horizon-that they realized they had discovered something truly special.


click to enlarge: