Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A short history of Grunter on fly in South Africa (from a published literature point of view)

As a young fly fisherman obsessed with catching grunter on fly I looked everywhere for literature.  Almost everything I found was in hardcover books basically just saying that catching them on fly is "impossible" and they are only ever caught by mistake as bycatch by guys targeting other species.

Two publications changed my mind.  The Colt Fly Fishing Handbook and the November 1999 issue of the Complete Fly Fisherman.

The Colt Fly Fishing Handbook was released showing MC Coetzer, August Lohann and Mike Dohlhoff successfully catching grunter on fly.  This blew my mind, but unfortunately the inspiration  and new found determination didnt help me catch any fish.  Through it I did manage to meet an inspiration of an angler: Niel Hockley.  A man that knew the Knysna lagoon backwards and caught some of the biggest Skipjack/Ladyfish to be taken in the Western Cape.  Many over 1m in length.  His record in the lagoon was just over 120 Garrick (Lichia Amia) in one day.

click the link (not the image)

link: August Lohann with his first grunter on a mud charlie
link: Article on the Grunter Charlie
link: Mike Dolhoff with a Grunter

The December 99' edition of the Complete Fly Fisherman was the first solely on the subject (to my knowledge) by Anthony Kruger.  He wrote about targeting fishing on floating prawns, squid skirts and other odd methods.  This confused the hell out of me, but eventually I got my first chase in Great Brak on a deer hair prawn just like the ones pictured in the article.  It opened my eyes.  And pre-fishing forum was the only thing I'd really read on the Swartkops.  Today, we now know the Grunter in this lagoon are completely different in behaviour to anywhere else in the country (or world for that matter).  Feeding like pelagic predators, clearing the surface to attack even plugs thrown by lure fisherman.  If you've ever observed a grunter in the Western Cape this seems almost unfathomable.  Its like telling me that you can train a Giant Trevally to do tricks.  But it happens.  Who knows why.

Some have said its because of the presence of swimming prawns.  But they are found elsewhere, so I'm not quite buying that.  I think these fish just have a set of behaviour characteristics specific to the body of water they are found in... For example: In the South Western Cape they will only tail on a high tide and in the Breede they tail on the low tide.  Just another variable to add to the mix.

click the link (not the image) 

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After this an article appeared in the Complete Fly Fisherman written by either PJ Jacobs or Gerard Loubser on catching Grunter in the Knysna lagoon.  I have it somewhere and will scan and upload the pics.  He basically said that in any given year there is only one or two days to target them on fly in Knysna...

February 2011 saw another article by Anthony Kruger.  Not much literature on the subject but some pictures of grunter taken on fly in the Eastern Cape and good general info on Eastern Cape Angling.

click the link (not the image) 


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Still to come: TCFF Knysna article, JAM fly articles, Forum Threads

A fly line under a microscope

Breede River Neap and the Duivenhoks River

Possibly the worst weekend to try and fish a tidal flat... The plan was to get away with the girlfriend and hopefully get a chance to push one tide.

The planned destination- Duivenhoks River.  When we got there we went to check out the accomodation and to be honest it was a little bit spooky... and nowhere near a grunter sight fishing spot.  We took a drive to the mouth.  From an aerial photograph it looked insane.  We got there and were confronted with a gate. "Private Land- NO ENTRY".  And all you can see is cottages.  Apparently owned in some time share scheme where not even friends from the original members can gain access.  This area is called Puntjie.
The Cottages
The Mouth

The whole area has an eerie feel to it.  People dont wave or talk to you.  They pretend you arent there. Deliverance stuff.  The estuary does look good.  The godfather of flies has fished it and says it does produce Kob and actually fishing similar to the Breede but on a smaller scale.  He hasnt seen Grunter tail here.

The only decent accomodation from a fly fishermans point of view is the seaside cottage that has to be booked well in advance.  That will give you access to the flats you see in the pictures.

The only public access is down this ramp.  The road veers right from the gated entrance.

Duivenhoks River Mouth
We decided to make a call.  And there was only one real option- Witsand.  Off we went.  I'm a novice on the Breede so I figured it was time to get some good wading/exporation and spotting in.  I find if my priority isnt to catch fish but to "learn" the estuary I come out with a much more positive view and tend to see more.

We booked into the Breede River Lodge, got a downstairs room and out came the fishing kit.  R100 later for a ferry ride accross to the Infanta side and there I was, on a flat, ready.  I knew the neap wouldnt be strong enough to push the water high on the flat so this was always going to be tricky.

I walked for a while... worried about those notorious monster bull sharks in the back of my mind.  Keeping an eye on shallow areas and possible refuge.  I figured the dead trees on the flat would be good refuge If i got caught out too far from land and with too dangerous a swim.

I managed to find 2 fish tailing.  One with its pectoral breaking out of every little ripple as It blew away for prawns.  By the time I got to each fish they had moved on.   20knts of wind making things less pleasant.  I kept looking and found an area with a shallow channel where fish moved onto the flat.  I tracked a few fish and followed one that swam slowly for about 200m showing absolutely no signs of feeding.  I didnt see any mullet or other fish on the flat which I always take as a bad sign.

I walked around to the Mudlark for my pickup and chatted to the owner there.  A hell of a nice guy.  Told me of the "Grunter Cove".  There is a pic on the wall of some fish taken on an olive bendback some time ago in this spot.  Bind casting.... Not my first choice for targeting these fish.

I hear the best spot is this Grunter Cove and a spot accross the river.  I'll be back with a Freedom Hawk, Loop Pushpole and lots of patience to check it out.  Brent Flack-Davidson has a lot of experience with this lagoon and reckons winter can be as good, if not better for tailing fish numbers.

We'll know in a few months.... I hope to hell thats still the case
My Breede wading experience. Infanta flat.
fly fishing breede river, fly fishing for grunter, fly fishing western cape, fly fishing duivenhoks river, fly fishing puntjie, fishing puntjie, breede river lodge, fishing infanta, saltwater fly fishing