Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Ultimate Challenge part 3 - Spotted Grunter (Pomadasys Commersonni) - The Swartkops River System

Three days in the Mecca.

-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 Swartkops river is where Anthony Kruger, Doug Swannel and a handful of other anglers based in Port Elizabeth became the first guys to consistently take Spotted Grunter on fly.  Initially on a Mud Charlie, then on a Chenelle Bodied Prawn, then a Deerhair Prawn and then a strange breakthrough.... Squid skirts.  A small squid skirt with a small piece of closed cell foam inside threaded on to a leader with a small hook on the end.  Like a tube fly.

Grunter fishing is done differently here.  The guys fish after spring when the spawning sea run fish re-enter the lagoon hungry or they fish during prawn migrations or "prawn walks".  They cast out from their drifting boats using floating prawns or the floating squid skirts and dead drift the patterns and wait for a "tap" when the fish take.  They go after schooling hungry fish, and dont target tailing fish or at other times of the year.

I decided to fish it.  And fish it hard.  This is where its been done time and time again so I figured if it was going to happen.  It was going to happen here.

Day 1:  Faced with the challenge of a new lagoon I didnt know where to start.  So I began walking the place down looking for something good.  Mud and sharp reeds didnt make it easy.  No success.  On the edges of the channel, with about 20knts blowing into my face I stood on a few sand sharks, each time screaming like a little girl.  At one point something massive flashed right in front of me when I was chest high in at the water.  I keep telling myself it was a Kob.  I hope.

Day 2:  Time for a change of tactics.  I could see fish working around spots of weed on the shallow edge of the channel.  For the whole day I dropped casts out in between these weed beds and stipped back..  First with Jam flies and then later with a Goby immatation.

A full line away from me a solid take and something went aerial in a big way. It took about 50 meters of backing and I ran out and across the channel watching this thing jump and shake its head.  I  was trying to figure out what on earth it was and thought it could only really be a Mullet or Skippy. The fight was incredible and about 20 minutes later I was shocked and slightly disturbed to see a massive saltwater catfish at my feet. It must have been 5 kilos.  Trying not to touch the slippery spikey creature I slid it onto the bank and as I did about 20 little saltwater catfish popped out its mouth.  Strange.

It was like a scene out of big fish. I released it and it went on its merry way. Must have thought my goby fly was one of its kids.  I still cant believe the fight.. On conventional tackle my experience is they always just swim straight to you.

something similar found on  The little ones were more developed than this with tails/fins/etc.

Day 3: With the advice of a few locals I headed to a spot called Modderspruit, which is apparently where guys get Grunter from the shore.  There is a small bay where the tide pushes beautifully over a sand flat.  Through the chop I began to see plumes of sand where the Grunter were working.  With lots of other bait anglers running accross stalking fish would be impossible.  I tried drifting and casting at a few plumes.  I would say I had 5 real shots at fish.  This was encouraging, the first time since targeting these fish that I felt I was in the right place at the right time.  But no cigar yet.

I stayed at an awesome little place called Pirates Lodge.  They were extremely accomodating and the food was amazing.  The owners' son is an avid fisherman and knows the place back to front.

Pirates Lodge:
View from the room:


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    Best of luck.

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