Offshore fishing, as it is normally understood, entails fishing the deep blue-water areas of the open ocean that are found at the edges of the continental shelf, major ocean currents and over submarine canyons. Inshore fishing, on the other hand, means fishing from a boat in near-shore areas such as bays, harbours, estuaries, and the like. Western Cape is the only region in South Africa where fishing from a boat at sea is differentiated in this way – elsewhere all fishing beyond the surf zone is rather loosely referred to as offshore fishing. One reason may be that, more or less from Port Elizabeth north-eastwards, the Agulhas Current is so close to the coast that anglers fishing it find themselves in an offshore situation while still only a relatively short distance from land. In keeping with prevailing local custom, the boat fishing discussed in the following chapter includes inshore as well as offshore areas. THE EDITOR.
As anglers we are extremely fortunate, for this is a region that is without equal in the world, with unique geographical and oceanic features and seemingly endless stretches of unpopulated and pristine coastline.
In the words of the late Prof. J.L.B. Smith, 'There is scarcely any other region with so wide a range of variation in both climate and oceanic conditions in a relatively restricted compass, nor any which can show much greater variation in the creatures that inhabit the waters.'
Enter the fly fisher!
The Agulhas Current is a great river of warm water that sweeps down the east coast of southern Africa, across the great Agulhas Bank, and on to its rendezvous with the cold, northward-flowing Benguela Current at the southern tip of the continent. From here the Agulhas Current retroflects eastward in a flow that is both complex and significant in its effect on world weather and temperature. Recent research has revealed that a deep counter-current flows below the Agulhas Current, one which carries nitrate- and phosphate-rich water back up the KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique coasts. The upwelling of this nutrient-rich water contributes greatly to the food supply of our fish stocks. It is interesting to note that the crystal-clear water in Mozambique is typically very low in nitrates and phosphates, hence the need for replenishing them with nutrients from the upwelling green-coloured water.
OFFSHORE TACTICS, TECHNIQUES AND TACKLE
It is indeed a large ocean. The question of 'where, when, and how to fish' is a wide and daunting subject. It is my aim to provide fly anglers with these answers in as much detail as space will allow.
READING THE WATER
Getting down to the specifics of 'where to fish', you must learn to recognize the following fundamental structures, objects and phenomena to which fish are attracted to meet their needs.
In many places along the Mozambique coast, there are bays in the lee of rocky points that strike slightly east of north. By continuing in the same direction as the point where it disappears under water, you can infer where it should be farther out. Of course, a fish finder and a GPS device will enable you to locate the depth and position very accurately. You can store this information and the position of any other productive reefs you may discover on your GPS unit for future reference.
In the casting approach, the fly can be fished either deep down over structure or cast to sighted fish at or just below the surface. I shall describe these two basic techniques as well as the highly specialized chumming method in greater detail below.
A long cast is not necessary. Generally, you are using short leaders and big weighted flies in order to get the fly to the bottom quickly. To achieve this without line drag is not easy and requires practice. Assuming you are over the reef you intend fishing, you first observe carefully the directions of the prevailing wind and current and infer how they are likely to influence the drift of your boat. Now position the boat in what you think is the correct spot and, if your deduction has been correct, your drift across the reef should be spot on. Cast your fly up and slightly across the current and immediately shake out about 20 metres of line to create the necessary slack for the fly line to sink unhindered.
Start the retrieve at the exact point where and when you think the fly is at its greatest depth, but before the line starts dragging. Be prepared for a violent take and react immediately – there won't be any time to dawdle before the fish blasts off! It is vital that you guide the loose line out of the stripping basket, until the fish is on the reel – only then can you relax and enjoy the contest! If you don't get a strike soon, try varying your retrieve from say single-handed to double-handed, and if that doesn't produce, try a fly of a different size and/or colour.
The essential requirements to perform this technique competently are a correctly-positioned boat, the appropriate fly line and fly, and the ability to place the fly in the path of the fish.
We also use similar techniques to catch big yellowfin tuna off Cape Receife near Port Elizabeth. As soon as we hear that tuna are in the area, we first search for water with a temperature of 24º C or more, and then look for feeding birds to pinpoint the fish for us. Once the tuna are located, we troll two hookless Rapalas until we have a strike. When that happens we immediately throw out handfuls of pre-cut pilchards as chum, turn off the motors, and cast fast-sinking flies behind the boat. The flies are allowed to sink for about 30 seconds, and then stripped in rapidly – often with excellent results.
Around Cape Point, fly anglers first locate feeding tuna, and then chum the frenzied fish up to the boat, at which point they cast a Deceiver tied to imitate a pilchard into the melee. Needless to say, this requires stout tackle!
A sinking line with a sink rate of 13 cm/s is suitable for fishing the top 2 to 4 metres of water. However, for most offshore conditions where you have to fish at considerable depth, you need a good supply of the fastest sinking lines, such as the Airflow Depthfinder, or the Rio Deepwater. A cheaper option is to make your own shooting heads from 8-metre lengths of lead-core line, which is commercially available in bulk spools. They do not cast well but are extremely effective in getting down to depths of 20 metres, moreover, they are inexpensive – an important consideration when you may lose several lines in an outing.
Bite tippets (the steel traces of old timers) are only required for gamefish with sharp teeth. Twenty-five centimeters of single-strand, stainless steel wire, in sizes 5, 6 or 7 (depending on the fish size) should take care of most situations. Do not bend the wire otherwise the fly will not swim correctly. Attach the wire to the hook with a haywire twist, and to the leader with an improved Albright knot. A Centauri knot is better for tying carbon-coated wire to the hook as well as the leader.
If you intend going for a world-record fish, make sure your leader conforms to the very strict specifications laid down by The International Game Fish Association (IGFA). For fly fishing, the line-class tippet and shock tippet should comply with the following specifications: the line-class tippet must be at least 38 centimetres (15 inches) long, measured between any knot, splice or loop, whereas the shock tippet can be no longer than 30 centimetres (12 inches), including all knots, splices and loops.
The normal rig for an IGFA fly-fishing leader is a loop-to-loop connection between the fly line and the monofilament leader (which can be any length); a loop-to-loop connection between the mono leader and the line-class tippet (for which the loop at either end is preferably a Bimini twist), and finally, a loop-to-loop connection to the shock tippet.
Generally, for tying a leader to the hook, I recommend the Centauri knot or the non-slip mono loop knot, but there are many good knots, so choose the strongest one for your particular application.
As the name implies, the tarpon is a fish of the Atlantic Ocean, confined largely to tropical and subtropical regions. In the southern African region, it extends as far south as the Angolan coast. It frequents coastal waters but readily enters rivers and lagoons.
Due to the large mirror-like scales on its sides, the colour is a brilliant silver grading to greenish or bluish on top. The large mouth is turned upwards and the lower jaw contains an elongated bony plate. The last dorsal fin is much longer than the others, reaching nearly to the tail. The swim bladder can be filled directly with air and acts as a primitive lung. This allows the tarpon to survive in oxygen-poor water where it is often seen rolling on the surface to exchange air. The diet consists largely of small fish, crabs and crustaceans and spawning takes place in coastal waters.
Megalops atlanticus can attain a length of 2.5 metres and a mass of 160 kilograms. Tarpon are extremely bony and not considered good eating. In America they are protected, and catch and release is enforced.
The IGFA fly-tackle record on 10-kilogram-class tippet is 91.85 kilograms.
The body is an extremely bright and silvery mirror colour with hints of purplish sheen. It is a thin, angular fish with an extremely deep body and a forked tail in which the dorsal and anal fin rays are greatly elongated in juveniles.
Mirrorfish are caught on #2/0 to 3/0 Clouser Minnows fished very deep on drifts over reefs. They are said to be good table fish, but their numbers are decreasing and it is advisable to release them.
There is no IGFA record for this species.
The head and body are silver. The upper body is blue green with numerous yellow spots. Adults have two to five large black spots in a row at the back of the body and a forked, yellowish tail.
They feed on small fish, crabs, shrimp and squid and are caught onshore and offshore over deep structure with #3/0 to 4/0 flies. They fight extremely hard and are good eating.
There is no IGFA record, but we have landed many up to 14 kilograms on fly.
The head and body are silvery blue, the lower body is yellowish and the tail is yellow with a black tip on the top half.
They feed aggressively in small shoals at dawn and dusk on reef fish, anchovies, squid, shrimp, crab and crayfish. Since they have a restricted home range, it is recommended that you release them to avoid depleting the stock. The best time to target yellowtail kingfish on the KwaZulu-Natal coast is in summer. You can catch them on a popper or on a deeply sunk fly.
I did not find an IGFA record for C. heberi, but we catch them up to 10 kilos on fly.
This elongated fish has a large deeply forked tail and is strikingly coloured with bright green to blue above and pure white underneath. The body has two powder-blue stripes along the sides, separated by a wider yellow stripe. It preys on small fish, squid and crustaceans and often gathers in large schools.
Rainbow runner are fond of submerged streamers which you can fish on sinking lines over deep reef structure or on intermediate fly lines when they are seen to be attacking baitfish. They often shelter beneath whale sharks and floating debris.
The flesh provides excellent eating, and is used for sushi.
The IGFA fly-tackle record is 8.24 kilograms.
The mouth is protrusile (able to be extended when feeding) and is used to suck up sand which is then passed through specialized gill rakers to filter out small food items. The adults have no teeth. The top half of the body is silver with scattered black blotches and dark vertical bars. The lower body is golden.
Goldens will take a #2/0 to 3/0 Clouser but prefer a small squid or shrimp imitation fished on the bottom.
They are not worth eating and should be conserved.
The IGFA record for G. speciosus is only 2.26 kilograms, but we have caught many over 10 kilos and even up to 15 kilos on fly.
The speedy garrick is a spectacular and relatively easy fish to catch on the fly, both offshore and onshore. For details see the onshore section.
This Indo-West Pacific species spawns in tropical waters north of Mozambique, and migrates south in summer as far as the KwaZulu-Natal coast. It is found at a depth of about 15 metres in the coastal waters around reefs or wrecks, on drop-offs associated with channels bordering sandbanks, and at the mouths of estuaries. It also enters harbours.
The head and upper body are blue grey and there are five to eight characteristic dark-grey oval blotches above the lateral line. The body is compressed with a silvery white to brassy yellow sheen on the sides. The mouth is noticeably large. The dorsal and anal fins are mildly venomous. The common angling size off Mozambique is 6 to 10 kilograms.
Adults feed on a variety of fish, squid and swimming crabs. They travel in large schools and readily take either a deeply fished fly or a popper. Sizes 3/0 to 4/0 Deceivers and Clousers in chartreuse and white are the norm, but squid patterns also produce. Queenfish feed actively at first light, but more so just before sunset when schools of feeding fish rise to the surface and aggressively hit flies and poppers. Queenfish are not particularly good eating, and may be easily harmed during landing and handling. Use rubber gloves and hold the fish with one hand while it is still in the water, and use the other hand to hold the leader and remove the barbless hook.
The IGFA fly-tackle record on 10-kilogram-class tippet is 9.45 kilograms.
CAPE YELLOWTAIL, GIANT YELLOWTAIL, ALBACORE, YELLOWTAIL AMBERJACK
There are anglers who maintain that the yellowtail has no equal among the sporting fish of southern Africa. They see it as the strongest and dirtiest fighter in our waters, surpassing, in this regard, even that other infamous carangid, the giant kingfish (C. ignobilis).
The yellowtail is a pelagic coastal species that occurs in huge schools, from close inshore out to a depth of 110 metres. It is abundant along the West Coast, from Namibia south to Cape Point, and eastwards into Eastern Cape. It visits KwaZulu-Natal only while following the migrating sardine shoals northwards.
The body is elongated and rounded, with a heavy head and a deep, forked yellow tail. The head and upper body are bright blue to greenish olive, with silvery white undersides, and a yellow to bronze mid-lateral strip with yellow fins. Altogether a beautiful fish!
Yellowtail feed on fish, squid and crustaceans. They spawn on the Agulhas Bank and up the East Coast from October to March. At this time they are often seen swimming in tight daisy-chain circles and show little interest in a fly, lure or bait.
Catching a yellowtail on fly is a memorable event – it is not easy to target this strong, obdurate and cunning adversary and, even if you manage to hook one, it will show only contempt for your fly tackle. Try tempting them with large Deceiver or Clouser-style flies, tied on #4/0 to 6/0 hooks, and fished deep over 15 to 30 metres of structure. Under the right conditions, they also take surface poppers that are stripped in very quickly. Chumming with pilchard chunks will probably improve your success.
The IGFA fly-tackle record is 25.2 kilograms.
The dorado family, also known as dolphinfishes, consists of a single genus, Coryphaena. Dolphinfishes should not be confused with dolphins, which are mammals.
DORADO, DOLPHINFISH (USA), MAHI MAHI (HAWAII)
It is a spectacular fish, bright greenish blue above, yellow on the sides, and has the ability to flash purple, chartreuse, and a wide range of other colours. The body tapers sharply from head to tail, the anterior profile of the head on an adult male is nearly vertical, whereas that of the female is rounded. The single, dark dorsal fin extends from just behind the head to the tail.
The dorado has a short life span, approximately 5 years, but it is a prolific breeder, grows rapidly and has all the qualities that make it a prime fly-fishing target. Younger fish gather in large schools, whereas the old 'bulls' and 'cows' travel alone, in pairs or in small groups. The average fish caught weighs between 5 and 10 kilograms but they are known to reach 35 kilograms.
Dorado are particularly fond of sheltering beneath any large floating object such as drifting flotsam and Sargassum weed, or anchored buoys and Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), so finding them should be a cinch. They are aggressive predators that feed on a variety of fish, mackerel and squid, and respond readily to chum to draw them close to the boat. Deceivers or Clousers in a variety of colours, and tied on a #3/0 to 5/0 hooks are a good bet. At times, poppers can be absolutely deadly.
The IGFA fly-fishing record is 26.08 kilograms.
A family of fishes generally known as snappers. All members of this family are bottom dwellers and are taken readily by offshore fly anglers.
Green jobfish inhabit the seas off Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal, occasionally penetrating as far south as East London. They live at a depth of about 15 metres over inshore reefs but have been found, reportedly, at a depth of 180 metres. They feed on fish, shrimp, crabs and cephalopods, and spawn from January to May. Search for them by drifting slowly over a reef and retrieving a #3/0 generic streamer or squid imitation on a fast sinking line along the bottom. They fight extremely hard, repeatedly making short fast runs. Most of the fish we catch are between 3 and 7 kilos and they provide excellent eating. The best time to fish for them is during summer.
The IGFA all-tackle record for A. virescens is a fish of 15.4 kilograms taken at Cape Vidal.
It is a striking, scarlet fish with silver belly and red fins. The inside of the mouth is yellow. Adults have a prominent hump on the head and horizontal grooves and lines behind the eye. They mature at 6 years and spawn in tropical waters, moving south during summer. They feed on reef fish, crabs, squid and zooplankton. The blood snapper is an exceedingly strong and stubborn fighter. It will take a fly fished deep on a high-density, fast-sinking fly line. Clousers or squid imitations tied on #3/0 to 4/0 hooks are the favoured patterns. The average weight is 5 to 7 kilograms, but it can reach 20 kilograms and it is excellent table fare.
There is no IGFA record.
This is a very beautiful fish and the illustration does not do it justice. The body is a silvery red or pink above and pure white below. The dorsal and tailfins are pale blue with red margins. It grows very slowly and takes 16 years to reach a mass of 18 kilos.
Rosy jobfish feed on fish and amphipods. They are fairly easy to take on small to medium streamer or squid imitations tied on #2 to 4 hooks. Fish your flies on fast-sinking lines starting as close to the bottom as possible and working up to the mid-water level. Their presence on a reef is a healthy sign as the rosy is the first fish to succumb to angling pressure – all the more reason for conserving them vigorously.
Although the SA record stands at only 3.1 kilograms, we have caught rosy jobfish from 3 to 6 kilos on fly in Mozambique inshore waters.
There is no IGFA record.
It is a long, slim-bodied fish with a broad flattened head and a protruding lower jaw. The overall colour is dark brown, especially when viewed from above, and anglers frequently mistake it for a shark. A prominent, dark lateral stripe runs from the eye to the tail, with a pale band just above and below the middle, and the underside is pale beige. It can attain a mass in excess of 50 kilograms.
Prodigal sons have a penchant for wrecks and reefs, and they frequently seek shelter beneath buoys. On occasion they may even try to use your boat for this purpose, making it difficult to present the fly. In the open ocean they often accompany whale sharks and large rays. They feed on crabs, shrimps, fish and squid.
They are partial to Clouser-style flies, tied on #3/0 to 5/0 hooks, and are excellent table fish.
The IGFA fly-tackle record on 10-kilogram-class tippet is 14.28 kilograms.
Cat-faced rockcod are easily fished out, and being an endemic species, it is imperative that they are released when caught.
The SA all-tackle record is 26.7 kilograms; there is no IGFA record.
Other species of rockcod that are caught on the fly:
Yellow-edged lyretail – Variola louti
Orangespotted rockcod – Epinephelus coioides
Blue and yellow rockcod – E. flavocaeruleus
Malabar rockcod – E. malbaricus
Barracuda prefer #3/0 to 5/0 flies or poppers, fished on or near the surface. Use either a bite tippet or a circle hook – Ben Pretorius has landed several on circle hooks without any wire tippets.
The IGFA all-tackle record is 38.6 kilograms and the fly-fishing record is 21.7 kilograms.
During winter and early spring, snoek commonly travel in very large schools as they migrate down the Atlantic seaboard on their way to their spawning grounds west of Cape Agulhas. They feed on pelagic baitfish, pilchards, anchovies, redeyes and crustaceans.
Offshore fly anglers take this popular angling and table fish on fast-sinking fly lines and weighted #2/0 to 3/0 Clouser Deep Minnows, preferably in orange, black and purple.
It is found in all tropical and subtropical seas, mostly in the open ocean, but it ventures fairly close inshore at times. It is common along the Mozambique coast and has been caught as far south as Aliwal Shoal near Durban.
The body is elongated and round with an extended beak-like snout and jaws, and a forked tail with two keels at the base. The head and body is iridescent blue green above, and silvery white below, with 24 to 30 dark blue bars on the body. It is a solitary predator and it feeds on a variety of fishes and squid.
Wahoo are caught on fly offshore, but catching them is difficult because of their solitary nature and speed. Your best bet is to target them on #4/0 to 5/0 Deceivers at first light over a shallow reef.
The IGFA fly-tackle record is 30.05 kilograms.
The kawakawa is a bright, silver fish with a distinctive pattern of broken diagonal stripes on the upper sides of the body, and two to five dark spots above the pelvic fin. The head and body are blue on top. It is streamlined and has the typical crescent-shaped tail of a fast-swimming pelagic fish. The diet consists of a diverse range of prey that includes sardines, mackerel, squid, crustaceans, and zooplankton. It attains a maximum size of 1 metre and can weigh up to 14 kilograms.
If you are trying to locate kawakawa, one of the most reliable ways to do so is to find a flock of terns that are reeling and diving over a shoal of baitfish. Almost without exception this is telling you that hordes of kawakawa are savaging the hapless baitfish below and driving them to the surface where, in turn, the terns are attacking them from above. Stealthily approach the shoal and proceed to fish for the kawakawa as you would when casting to sighted fish. It almost goes without saying that Deceivers or Clousers tied on #2/0 to 4/0 barbless hooks are your top flies.
The IGFA fly-tackle record is 8.6 kilograms.
As in all tunas, it is round and torpedo-shaped and built for speed. The head and the top of the body are dark, purplish blue, and the lower half is silvery white below, with five or six dark longitudinal stripes.. The skipjack feeds on a variety of small fish, squid and crustaceans. It spawns from May to September in subtropical waters.
Skipjack are most active at dawn or dusk. They generally travel in large schools at the surface in offshore waters, where feeding birds usually betray their presence. You can catch them on a #2/0 to 3/0 fly fished near the surface on an intermediate or sinking fly line – cast the fly into the mass of feeding fish and retrieve it quickly.
The IGFA fly-tackle record is 7.3 kilograms , but fish over 20 kilograms have been caught on other tackle.
The head and upper body are bluish grey dorsally with five to 10 oblique dark stripes. The lower half is silvery white.
They feed aggressively and visibly on baitfish, squid and crustaceans, often in the company of other species of tuna. You can take them on #2/0 to 3/0 flies near the surface from a drifting boat. The IGFA fly-tackle record is 4.62 kilograms, and 10.7 kilograms on all tackle.
The upper half of the body is dark blue, and has five to 10 oblique dark stripes. The lower body is white. They feed on small baitfish, squid or crustaceans.
Bonito can be caught on the surface using #2/0 to 3/0 baitfish imitations.
The IGFA fly-tackle record is 4.75 kilograms.
The body is elongated and compressed, with large eyes and two keels at the base of the tail. The head and body are bluish grey on top, white on the sides and below, with numerous wavy, dark bars on the sides of the body. Adults are said to reach 2.3 metres or 70 kilograms. They may be seen in large schools of like-sized individuals, feeding by day and night, mainly on anchovies and pilchards and many other fish species, as well as squid. They spawn from Kenya to Mozambique from October to July, and migrate south in summer.
King mackerel are excellent sport fish, with a fast and long initial run and a clean fight. They are easy targets for fly anglers, both from the shore and offshore. They go for #3/0 to 4/0 streamers that imitate baitfish. Bright colours such as red and white work well. Look for them over reef or other structure in water that is 8 to 30 metres deep.
The IGFA fly record is 19.3 kilograms and the all-tackle record, caught at Aliwal Shoal, is 45 kilograms.
It is similar in build to the king mackerel. The head and body are dark bluish grey above, with white on the sides, and the mid-lateral part of the body has many horizontal black streaks forming interrupted black lines, with numerous black dots. The tail is deeply forked, with two keels at the base. It feeds mainly on fish, squid and shrimps and spawns in the Zanzibar Channel from August to September, and off Mozambique in the summer. It can reach 1.2 metres and 12 kilograms in 6 years; the average angling size is probably between 3 and 8 kilos.
The queen mackerel is a popular target for fly anglers as it is relatively abundant and fairly easy to approach within fly-casting distance. It can be a finicky feeder so start with #2/0 to 4/0 red-and-white Deceivers or Clousers. If the standbys do not produce, switch to another pattern, size or colour.
The IGFA all-tackle record is 12.5 kilograms.
Like all tunas, the yellowfin is built for speed. The head and body are dark, electric blue above, brassy yellow mid-laterally, and silver grey below. The fins are bright yellow, the tail deeply forked with two keels at the base. It is a fast-growing fish that can reach 2 metres within 5 years and can weigh more than 200 kilograms. The yellowfin feeds on pelagic fish, squid and crustaceans. It is a schooling fish. The schools have the habit of herding their prey to the surface and then using their great speed and agility to charge in and maul the tightly balled baitfish. Invariably, the frenzied activity attracts hundreds of sea birds that participate avidly in the carnage.
Fly fishing for yellowfin requires heavy tackle, at least 12-weight or more. Large streamers, tied on #4/0 to 6/0 hooks to imitate the local baitfish, are cast directly to feeding fish. Chum is often used to draw the tuna closer to the boat.
The IGCA fly-fishing tackle record is 48.6 kilograms.
The body is elongated and compressed, and the first dorsal fin, which is actually the metallic-blue sail, is covered in numerous dark dots. The head and body are a dark bluish violet on top and silver below, with about 20 vertical lines formed of pale-blue spots. The snout and upper jaw are greatly elongated, forming a long spear that is that is used to slash at rather than spear its prey. Spawning takes place in tropical seas.
The sailfish is one of the fastest of all fish species and feeds on a variety of pelagic fish, squid and crustaceans. It is known to hunt co-operatively in packs and to herd prey. The sail and fins can be folded into grooves in the back in order to increase its speed. When hunting, the sailfish erects its sail to startle and confuse the prey, and then charges into the school and kills or maims the baitfish by thrashing with its bill. This allows it to return immediately afterward and eat the dead or injured fish at its leisure.
The specialist techniques required to capture sailfish on fly have been described earlier.
The IGFA fly-tackle record is 58.96 kilograms.
Bazaruto is 32 kilometres long and 7 kilometres at its widest point. Air charters from Lanseria or Durban fly directly to the island, or you can travel by car to Vilanculos and from there charter a boat – a very lengthy process. There are several fine lodges on the island, all of which cater almost exclusively for the angler. The best fishing is in summer when the water temperature is 28º C or above.
On the southern tip of the island, a similar sandspit forms the gap between Benguerra and Magaruque Islands. It is possible to fly fish here, but the water is shallower. The deep inshore current that sweeps the flat rocky ledges on the western side provides fly anglers with excellent opportunities.
The following four venues are all within 50 kilometres of the town of Inhambane which lies on the EN1 highway about 500 kilometres north of Maputo. Inhambane has customs and immigration facilities and is served by a regular air service from Lanseria in Gauteng. With one exception, all four venues can be reached by passenger car using the EN1 as the main access route. You can also expect that the range of activities available to holidaymakers at Ponta Barra will be more or less the same at the other three.
The final 8 kilometres of the road to Barra could be sandy, and so a four-wheel-drive is recommended, although the lodges usually assist in this regard.
You can expect good numbers of sailfish, marlin, tuna, all kingfish species, and reef fish. During summer you should see many cruising whale sharks with gamefish in attendance.
The 250-metre wide Santa Maria Channel that separates Inhaca Island from the mainland in the south is another great spot. It carries an enormous volume of water through a narrow gap and during spring tides the flow of water is so strong that very few fish can hold in the channel. From a boat, you can fish either the channel or the reefs on the seaward side of the mouth. Although Inhaca has year-round fishing, the best catches are made from November to May.
Fly fishing here can be excellent, both from the shore and from boats. Ponta is basically a well-sheltered bay, tucked away in the coast and protected by a rocky point and a high headland.
SODWANA BAY Sodwana Bay, on the northern Zululand coast, is accessed via the town of Hluhluwe. It lies within the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, and is managed by Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife.
Ski boats launch at the Meerensea Boating Club in the harbour and have easy access via the harbour entrance to many exciting reefs. To the north, you can fish the Mapelane Reefs, and, if you head south, you can try the reefs and pinnacles off the Mtunzini River mouth.
Expect to catch king and queen mackerel, barracuda, queenfish, dorado, prodigal son, and several species of kingfish, mostly on fast sinking lines over the reef pinnacles. At times, you may also come across tuna and bonito species engaged in surface feeding frenzies.
If you want to catch a large kob, try fishing Virginia Barge with a fast-sinking line and a large Clouser from a drifting boat. At first and last light, large shoals of feeding bonito cavort on the surface, and particularly over the extensive Number One Reef.
Queen mackerel and garrick hold behind the backline off the Bluff beaches, particularly off the uMgeni River and Rocket Hut Beach. They take a surface fly avidly.
The prime offshore fishing months in Durban are from January to May.
Durban is a popular holiday city offering great beaches, accommodation for all budgets, entertainment for all tastes and attractions for all interests.
Aliwal Shoal is approximately 5 kilometres long and 500 metres wide and is situated 6 kilometres out to sea off the KwaZulu-Natal coast between Umkomaas and Scottborough. Parts of the reef have recently been declared a marine reserve, and so fishing is restricted to certain areas. Make sure you know where they are before doing any fishing. Boats launch on a daily basis at the Mkomazi River and at Rocky Bay. The depth of the shoal varies from 6 metres over the northern pinnacles, to about 27 metres off the outside drop-off. Expect to catch wahoo, king mackerel, tuna, bonito, and several species of kingfish.
You'll also want to check out Aliwal's two other wrecks: the Produce, a 2000-ton vessel was wrecked in 1974 and lies at a depth of 30 metres off the north-eastern point. The Nebo sank in 1884 and lies on the inner edge of Aliwal in 26 metres of water.
Scuba diving is Aliwal's top selling point and Jaques Cousteau has rated it as one of the world's top-ten diving sites. The highlight on the diving calendar is the period from June to October, when large numbers of enormous ragged tooth sharks congregate on the shoal to breed. You can also see humpback whales, loggerhead turtles and dolphins, during the winter months, particularly during the sardine run.
Boats launch at Shelley Beach Boating Club. The ride out to Protea takes about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the sea conditions. The current is generally set towards the south and averages about 4 knots.
Although conventional fishing at Protea Reef is world class, fly fishing has not been fully explored. Should you wish to do so, try for wahoo, king mackerel, large kingfish, rockcod and jobfish at the deeper levels and expect surface action from yellowfin tuna, bonito, wahoo and king mackerel.
In an amazing spectacle of combined hunting skills, large bronze whaler sharks and dolphins team up by herding portions of the sardine schools closer to the beach, where gannets, cormorants, gulls and terns all vie with anglers and frenzied holidaymakers for a share of nature's bounty.
But why are the sardines here and where do they come from? It is a phenomenon that involves a complex interplay between coastal topography, sea currents, and prevailing weather patterns and scientists have only recently unlocked the answers.
There are two sardine populations off the South African coast. About half of the stock is found in the cold Atlantic waters. They spawn south-west of Cape Town, and the eggs drift up the West Coast and hatch in the area of Cape Columbine. The second population is found in the southern part of the Aghulhas Banks, and this group migrates to the waters off Mossel Bay.
Off the coast of Port Elizabeth the continental shelf becomes much wider, and the Agulhas Current, which hugs the edge of the shelf, is much farther out. Prevailing easterly winds push the near-shore waters away from the coast thereby creating an upwelling of cold water that is rich in algae and zooplankton (a phenomenon known as the Ekman Drift). The 1- and 2-year old sardine classes make use of a series of inshore counter-currents, to drift north-eastward. During summer, the coastal region around Port Elizabeth is the eastward limit of this migration. However, the upwelling of cold water and the onset of winter storms prompt the sardines to resume their migration until they reach a point off Waterfall Bluff Bay, north of Port St Johns on the Wild Coast. Here, spotter planes first notice them and keep a daily watch to report on their further movement.
Along the KwaZulu-Natal coast, from Port Shepstone to Waterfall Bluff the continental shelf is only 12 kilometres offshore, leaving a rather narrow strip of inshore water. As the strong Agulhas Current flows southwards it creates a counter current in this inshore strip. Under the right conditions, given a favourable mix of northeasterlies with cold upwellings, and strong southwesterly fronts, the sardines follow the colder inshore current from the Transkei coast into KwaZulu-Natal. The Sharks Board constantly monitors the progress of the schools and as they approach the South Coast they lift their shark nets in preparation for the onslaught.
When the word finally goes out that 'the sardines are in', shops and businesses close, and everyone rushes to the scene: women and children run fully clothed into the surf, scooping up the silvery fish in hats, towels, shopping baskets and any type of container they can lay their hands on!
The sardines spawn from June to November; thereafter the Agulhas Current carries the eggs southward to the Agulhas Banks, thus completing the cycle. How does all this activity affect the fly angler? A good question!
For the shore angler, there is always the opportunity to fish the edge of the shoals, by braving the breakers, or by walking out on nearby rock outcrops or ledges to cast into the melee. Shad usually fall easy prey, but it requires persistence to hook queen mackerel, garrick, bonito or kingfish. Obviously, care should be taken to avoid hooking a frenzied holidaymaker!
Offshore fly fishers operating out of one of the many ski-boat launch sites, such as Shelley Beach, Rocky Bay, Umkomaas or Amanzimtoti, can follow the masses of sardines on the surface and cast streamer flies into the action. A sinking line would be first choice, as gamefish such as king and queen mackerel, cobia, bonito and kingfish all tend to patrol and attack from below the schools.
To follow the daily progress and news of the sardine schools, there is a dedicated Sardine Hotline on 082 284 9495.
Because of the holiday season, it is advisable to plan your sardine experience well in advance.
For those wishing to do battle with the mighty yellowtail, it is a short boat ride from the Noord Hoek ski-boat base to the shallow waters off Cape Receife Lighthouse, where yellowtail, bonito and shad (elf) feed around the wreck of the 'Capi'. The large Thunderbolt Reef, a few kilometres to the west, is another excellent spot. It is best to fish the deeper water to the south and west of Thunderbolt. Farther out, to the east of the lighthouse, the Riy Banks, rise from a depth of 60 metres to a 20-metre plateau. Yellowfin tuna can be chummed to the fly in the deeper, warmer current farther out to sea where birds feeding on schooling baitfish almost invariably reveal their presence. The best fishing months are from April to September.
The Swartkops River, 40 kilometres from the city, has often made the headlines with great fly angling for large springer, kob and grunter. During September, the Swartkops witnesses an event which local anglers call the 'prawn walk'. At this time, the mud prawns leave their burrows to spawn and literally cover the riverbed. Fly anglers make use of the opportunity to wade the shallows and stalk feeding fish, which they tempt with prawn imitations. It was on just such an occasion that Doug Swanell caught his 35-kilogram kob on fly.
In the south-eastern part of the city, near the Humewood golf course, there is a well-known shallow gully area known as Flat Rocks. Here you can wade the shallow surf and fish for springer and kingfish, but keep an eye out for sharks!
Travelling west on the N2, you can hardly miss the beautiful Gamtoos valley and the wide Gamtoos River. Huge kob are caught in the mouth and adjoining surf, as they enter the river to spawn during winter. Grunter and leerfish are also taken when they put in their appearance but, by and large, the Gamtoos rewards the conventional angler rather than the fly fisher.
Offshore, we generally fish the drop-off on the edge of the continental shelf where water depths range from 290 metres to over 1000 metres. The canyon, farther south, is also a productive area. Typically, you can expect to travel up to 35 nautical miles offshore. Because of this it is important to go fishing with recognised operators who have experience, know the local weather and whose boats are properly equipped for the local sea conditions. The Cape Charter Boat Association sets local standards for the industry, so operators who are members would be a good choice.
The season for offshore fishing is March to May and again from October into December. Some years you may still catch the odd yellowfin in January. Most charters target tuna with heavy conventional tackle, but there is one charter out of Hout Bay that has had great success in regularly landing tuna on fly-fishing tackle. To date, their two biggest yellowfin on fly weighed 80 and 76 kilograms respectively.
Inshore, the predominant target species are yellowtail and snoek. Yellowtail are caught throughout the year but fishing is generally best between September and April. The snoek is a winter fish and best catches are normally from June through September. During the past few years, however, good catches have been made in summer whenever a strong southeaster has blown. Yellowtail and snoek are generally caught on lighter tackle or on fly from boats operating out of Hout Bay.
You can charter boats in Hout Bay, Simon's Town or Gordon's Bay. Hout Bay provides the most direct route to the tuna grounds whereas boats running from Simon's Town and Gordon's Bay take much longer to get there. Hout Bay is also best for winter snoek fishing as the schools congregate at several locations nearby. Simon's Town and Gordon's Bay both give direct access to False Bay where you can do bottom fishing for most of the year. Periodically, snoek move into Buffels Bay just inside Cape Point. During summer you can also catch kob and geelbek off Strandfontein Beach. Yellowtail are most often caught on the reefs around Cape Point and on the current line en route to the tuna grounds.
The Kwanza River is several hundred metres wide, and is permanently open to the sea. The water is usually discoloured. Most fly fishing takes place in the vicinity of the river mouth but good fishing extends for several kilometres upstream.
Although you can take kingfish, leerfish and river roman, the real attraction is the giant Atlantic tarpon. Experienced fly fishers have taken tarpon over 95 kilograms, but most anglers use live bait and conventional tackle.
The best times to fish are early morning and evening, especially if this coincides with the high pushing tide. The flow of the river is strong enough to overcome the force of the incoming tide and the accepted method is to drift outwards in the river mouth, looking for tarpon activity. Tarpon show themselves as they roll on the surface, and then emit a stream of bubbles as they submerge. The angler has to cast to his fly about 2 metres ahead of the bubbles. Another tactic is to work the 'colour line' about 1 kilometre out to sea. This seam, where clear salt and fresh water meet, is a recognised haven for all manner of prey, and a favoured hunting ground for predators.
Black, Bruce. 2008. Saltwater Fly fishing in South Africa. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town. www.randomstruik.co.za.
Hansford-Steele, Bill. 2005. Salt Water Flies for South African Water. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town. www.randomstruik.co.za.
Heemstra, Phil and Elaine. 2004. Coastal Fishes of Southern Africa. National Inquiry Service Centre and The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity.
Meintjes, Malcolm and Pedder, Murray, Editors 2005-2009. Favoured Flies and Select Techniques of the Experts. Flyfishing Publications, Johannesburg.