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.


The southern African coastline, as here defined, extends from Pemba in northern Mozambique to Cape Point in the south. This means the offshore fly fisher has approximately 3400 kilometres of Indian Ocean coastline to explore.

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.

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.

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.

Hard Structure

Coral or rock reefs, rock ledges, wrecks and man-made structures, whether submerged or above water, are the most obvious and important in this category. They provide an important and secure foundation to which organisms can attach themselves as well as a safe habitat for a huge diversity of animal and plant species. These, in turn, form the base of the food chain. Most bottom-dwelling species (snappers, rock cod, etc) and gamefish species (kingfish, barracuda, queenfish etc) use these reefs as larders, as well as underwater refuge and reference points. Where currents flow onto a reef, gamefish will tend to congregate on the front edge as water flows upwards against the reef, carrying prey items towards the surface.

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.

Sandbanks and Drop-offs

Tidal currents shape these conspicuous features. When the sandbanks are flooded, small fish and marine invertebrates seek refuge and food in the shallows. On the outgoing tide, the turbulent currents wash these small creatures into the deeper channels alongside, where gamefish are waiting to prey on them. The Mozambique coast has many such areas of large sandbanks and flats with channels winding through them.

Current Lines and Rips

A zone of turbulence forms where currents meet or move past one another. On a small scale, this zone is known as a current line and, on a much larger scale, it becomes a rip or rip current. These rips collect a host of smaller prey items and act as magnets for predators such as queen mackerel, king mackerel, queenfish, garrick (leerfish) and springer (skipjack).

Surface-feeding Activity

This is probably the oldest and most important key to finding gamefish. Baitfishes seek protection in numbers and form dense schools. These schools are usually driven to the surface by relentless attacks from all forms of pelagic gamefish below. In turn, large numbers of birds are attracted to the easy pickings, and the result is a feeding frenzy that can be spotted from a great distance. In attempting to cast a fly into such activity, it is important to approach the edge of the school as quietly as possible – try to position your boat upwind or upcurrent, so that the natural drift will be towards the fish. Use intermediate, sinking or ultra-fast sinking fly lines to position your fly beneath the embattled prey. In such a situation it is often good to 'match the hatch', by selecting a fly that matches the baitfish in size and colour. If the fly is rejected on the first few casts, try different speeds of retrieve, and only if this does not entice a strike, change the fly.

Floating Objects

Floating objects such as drifting flotsam, Sargassum weed, pallets and buoys all attract juvenile fish and crustacean species. This concentration of prey naturally attracts pelagic fishes such as prodigal son, dorado, rainbow runner, and kingfish species. A stealthy upcurrent approach and a well-presented fly will usually produce action. In the same way, slow-swimming whale sharks, particularly off the Mozambique coast in summer, act as mobile shelters and present the fly angler with an excellent opportunity to connect with one of the gamefish lurking below it. It is important not to spook the shark – position the boat ahead of it and use sinking flies and lines to target the gamefish, which are usually clearly visible below the shark. Some of the best flies are baitfish or squid imitations, tied Deceiver- or Clouser-style, on #3/0 to 5/0 barbless hooks.

Submarine Canyons

These mega features are ravines that slice through the continental shelf and you locate them by means of a fish finder and a GPS device. They divert the warm Agulhas Current upwards, which creates eddies that bring nutrient-rich waters to the surface. This upwelling of nutrients attracts masses of plankton which are followed initially by filter-feeding baitfish, and finally, by the top pelagic predators such as tuna and billfish.


In addition to knowing where the fish are it is important to know when and under what conditions they are likely to respond to your efforts. Here are some of the factors that will influence your decision.


It is common knowledge that tidal movement has a major influence on marine feeding activity. During spring tides the tidal change is dramatic, and strong currents in many areas are a critical factor. A broad generalization would be to fish the first 3 to 4 hours of pushing water, and to a lesser extent the last 3 or 4 hours of dropping tide.

Daily Cycles

All piscivores, fish-eating predators, are at their most active at dawn and dusk as they are less easily seen by their prey. For the same reason, gamefish feed more freely under all conditions of low light, such as cloud cover or rain. Other factors may also come into play such as the state of the sea, swell height, water temperature, depth of the thermocline, and so on. Although these generalities may help you to locate fish, it is site-specific knowledge that leads to success. For this reason, you should try beforehand to obtain as much local knowledge as possible while planning your fishing expedition.

Winds and Barometric Pressure

Light to moderate winds are usually preferable to calm conditions, as fish move more freely under a rippled surface. Southwesters which always accompany a low and rising barometer generally bring fish on the feed. Northeasters on a high barometer are also good, but the opposite is true when the pressure is low and falling.


There are two completely different approaches to taking gamefish on fly in the ocean. In the first, and most common, the fly is cast one or more times to the fish or to where it is considered to be. The rod is predominantly a casting tool and its primary purpose is to deliver and manipulate the fly until the fish is hooked. Thereafter, it becomes a fighting tool. In the other method, the quarry is enticed to approach the boat very closely by tempting and teasing it with hookless lures, bait or chum. A big fly is literally lobbed in front of the excited fish and only then does the rod come into play to fight the fish.

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.

Deep-fly Presentation

This method of fishing a deeply sunk fly is deadly for most offshore species, including the common gamefishes and bottom feeders such as snappers and rock cod.

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.

Casting to Sighted Fish

The fish to which you will be casting in this scenario will either be smacking baitfish at the surface or hanging around underneath large floating objects or whale sharks. Here, your casting ability is of paramount importance. The boat should not be positioned too close to the activity for it can easily disturb the fish, and scatter them. It is best to let the wind or current drift the boat silently towards the fish. In all likelihood, you'll have an opportunity to use poppers or floating flies if the baitfish are being attacked at surface by predators such as dorado or tuna.

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.

Specialist Techniques

To catch sailfish and marlin on fly requires highly specialized techniques and tackle, and an expertly trained crew that can lure the fish to within the necessary short casting distance of the angler. To grab the attention of the sailfish or marlin initially, you troll an assemblage of hookless lures, teasers and bait, arranged in a specific pattern, behind the boat. Pride of place goes to a large strip bait in the center. Once the fish is raised, it is allowed a brief taste of the bait, which is then skillfully jerked away at the last moment. This enrages the fish and it lunges forward to within a rod length or two of the transom. At the right moment, the skipper will disengage the engine and shout to the angler to cast his fly and hook the fish. [The October 2006 and April 2008 editions of Flyfishing magazine carry a full description of this technique. THE EDITOR]

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!


The comments on tackle in the chapter on surf fishing also apply to offshore fly fishing. Obviously, there are certain differences that justify further discussion.


A 9- to 10-weight fly rod will handle most fish, but with an 11- or 12-weight you can land the fish faster thereby reducing stress-induced trauma and possibly death. For fish that may exceed 15 kilograms, such as giant kingfish, yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and sailfish, you will need the heavier outfit in any event. This is where a top quality rod that combines strength and lightness comes into its own.


For backing, 300 metres of 15- or 24-kilogram dacron is the better choice as the thinner braids are inclined to abrade rod guides and cut your fingers.

Fly Lines

Forward-taper floating lines are only necessary if you fish poppers, or where specialized techniques call for them. Intermediate lines can handle both poppers and subsurface flies, and are easier to cast than floating lines.

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.

Leaders and Bite Tippets

For all offshore fly angling, a 2-metre leader of monofilament or fluorocarbon will suffice. The strength will depend on the size of the quarry, or whether you're going for a specific line-class IGFA record. As a general rule, a 12-kilogram leader is ample for fish up to 15 kilograms; for larger species you can up that to 25 kilograms.

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.


Fast-sinking flies require added weight to perform properly. For Deceiver patterns, the lead wire is best wrapped around the hook shank. Your Clousers may need larger than normal dumbbell eyes to enable them to sink quickly. An added advantage of having the eyes tied below the shank is that it makes the hook swim point upwards, thereby lessening the chance of snagging on the rocks.

Stripping Basket

A stripping basket allows you to move about the boat without snagging the fly line or stepping on it. It is of critical importance to avoid knots or tangles in the loose running line when a big fish takes the fly and departs at high speed. A large and deep plastic shopping basket fitted with upward-facing spikes or fingers in the base is best


The selection of fishes that follows represents those species that are known to take a fly and which the offshore fly angler is most likely to catch around the southern African coast. They are listed by family, following the same convention as for the onshore species.


The tarpon family consists of only two species.


Megalops atlanticus

Atlantic Tarpon


The tarpon, also known as the silver king, is considered one of the great saltwater gamefishes, not only because of the size it can reach, but also because of its fighting ability when hooked. Tarpon have tremendous endurance and are known for their spectacular jumps, long runs and a stubborn bulldog-like fight.

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.


This family includes some of our premier sport fishes such as the kingfishes, trevallies, jacks and pompanos.


Alectis indicus

Indian Mirrorfish


Mirrorfish are found off Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal south to Durban. They often gather in large schools over reefs that are approximately 15 to 30 metres below surface, and swept by strong currents. Adults feed on fish, squid and crustaceans.

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.


Carangoides fulvoguttatus

Yellowspotted Kingfish


Yellowspots are found from Mozambique south to Durban where they inhabit rock reefs and other structure, mostly at a depth of about 20 metres but they can go as deep as 100 metres.

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.


Caranx heberi

Yellowtail Kingfish


The yellowtail kingfish is an exciting fish to catch on fly, either offshore or from rocky points. It is an extremely hard and dirty fighter, and will break you up quite often. It is found in Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal over rocky reefs in coastal waters, usually at a depth of 5 to 20 metres.

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.


Elagatis bipinnulata

Rainbow Runner


The rainbow runner is found in tropical and in warm temperate seas worldwide – in southern Africa it is common from Mozambique to the mid-KwaZulu-Natal coast. It is usually caught over near-surface reefs in coastal waters, as well as in the open ocean.

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.


Gnathanodon speciosus

Golden Kingfish


This is a challenging fish to catch on fly as it is not only an extremely hard but clean fighter but also because it does not eat fish. Getting it to take a fly will test your skill to the limit. It occurs in Mozambique and south to Cape Vidal on sandy areas near coral reefs, usually in water about 12 metres deep.

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.


Lichia amia

Garrick or Leervis

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.


Scomberoides commersonnianus

Queenfish or Talang Queenfish


Queenfish, also known as 'leatherjackets', have for many years been my favourite fly-fishing quarry. They are renowned as hard fighters in deep water, are capable of long runs and give a spectacular aerial display with high, cartwheeling leaps.

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.


Seriola lalandi

Cape Yellowtail or Giant Yellowtail

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.


Coryphaena hippurus

Dorado or Dolphinfish


The dorado is a true pelagic fish, at home in the open ocean as well as in inshore waters, and certainly one of the most exciting offshore gamefish to see or to catch on fly. It is found in all tropical and warm temperate seas of the world, and is plentiful off the Mozambique, KwaZulu-Natal and Transkei coasts.

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.


Aprion virescens

Green Jobfish


This prolific and strictly offshore species is the fish that we catch most often on fly in southern Mozambique. It has an elongated body, almost round in cross section, and a forked tail. The head and body are dark green to blue on top, the sides are iridescent bluish purple, and there is a distinct groove on the snout below the nostrils.

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.


Lutjanus sanguineus

Blood Snapper


The blood snapper is a denizen of the Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal coasts. It inhabits coral and rocky reefs at depths ranging from 10 to 100 metres but is also found in mid-water beneath buoys and other floating structures.

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.


Pristipomoides filamentosus

Rosy or Crimson Jobfish


This species has the same range as the green jobfish – Mozambique, KwaZulu-Natal and is occasionally caught as far south as East London. It prefers living over deep offshore reefs, but fly anglers usually seek it on reefs that range in depth from 15 to 30 metres.

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.


The prodigal son or cobia is the only representative of this family of pelagic fishes.


Rachycentron canadum

Prodigal Son


The prodigal son or cobia is an extremely strong but clean fighter and is eagerly sought by offshore fly anglers. It inhabits tropical and warm-temperate seas around the world and arrives in South African waters during summer.

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.


The Serranidae or rockcod family occurs worldwide in tropical and warm temperate waters. Fifty-seven species are recorded on the southern African coast mostly from Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal, and fewer in Eastern Cape. Most rockcod are hermaphrodites, as the large females change sex and become males. Because they tend to reside for years in one small area, they are easily fished out and, consequently, southern African populations are threatened by overfishing. All are excellent eating, and come readily to a sunk fly fished over submerged reefs and structures.


Cephalopholis miniata

Coral Rockcod


The coral rockcod frequents the waters from Mozambique to Aliwal Shoal in KwaZulu-Natal, usually on coral reefs. The head, body and fins are a deep reddish orange covered with blue dots. It feeds on small reef fish and crustaceans. One family can occupy an area of 500 square metres and, as they are resident fish, it is essential to release them.


Epinephelus andersoni

Cat-faced Rockcod


This species is endemic from Mozambique to Knysna, but is most common in KwaZulu-Natal. It favours reef areas from shallow water to depths of 70 metres. The head and body are light brown with dark brown spots and three dark stripes on the face. It feeds on fish and crabs and grows up to 9 kilograms in 11 years. It will take flies fished deep over rocky caves and ledges.

Cat-faced rockcod are easily fished out, and being an endemic species, it is imperative that they are released when caught.


Epinephelus marginatus

Yellowbelly rockcod


The yellowbelly rockcod inhabits rocky bottom shores in coastal and reef areas, from Mozambique to Knysna. The head and body are brown above and a yellow gold below, with white to silvery grey blotches on the sides. The fins are edged in white; the top part of the dorsal fin is yellow. Like other rockcod, it feeds on crabs, fish and octopus. Females change sex at 15 years and spawn in spring off KwaZulu-Natal. The yellowbelly grows to a large size and is also in dire need of conservation.

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


There is only one genus, Sphyraena, but several species, in this family of large active fishes.


Sphyraena barracuda

Great Barracuda


Barracuda are found in tropical and warm waters of all oceans and as far south as Port Alfred along the east coast of South Africa. Adults are dusky silver, bluish black on top and have about 20 grey-black bars above the lateral line. There are several large irregular black dots below. The lower jaw projects prominently to form a large snout, with conical teeth. They favour shallow coastal waters over coral reefs, and also sand- or mud-bottomed flats and estuaries. Spawning takes place off Mozambique in summer. Their diet consists largely of fish and they feed at all hours, often in rough conditions. Adults are usually solitary and, in some regions, are considered a danger to swimmers. They can be caught both offshore and onshore and are good fighters on fly tackle. They should be released as they are not good eating and may contain toxins.

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.


Snake mackerels – typically elongated fishes with oily flesh.


Thyrsites atun

Cape Snoek


The snoek is found in the cold temperate waters of Southern Africa, particularly off the West Coast, where its inshore and offshore movements coincide with seasonal prey migrations. It has a long, thin body, large mouth with a projecting lower jaw, large eyes and a forked tail. The head and top of the body are bluish grey, and silvery white below. The dorsal fin is black. The fish grows to 1.8 metres and 9 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.


This family of speedy pelagic fishes includes some of the most desirable angling species, such as tunas, mackerels, bonitos and albacores.


Acanthocybium solandri

Wahoo or Peto or Ono


A premier angling quarry, and reputed to be the fastest fish in the sea, the wahoo is said to be capable of reaching almost 80 kilometres per hour.

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.


Euthynnus affinis

Mackeral Tuna or Kawakawa


This hard-fighting, fly-eating member of the tuna family is ubiquitous in tropical and temperate coastal and offshore waters, from surface down to 200 metres. Euthynnus affinis spawns off Kenya and extends from there all the way to Cape St Francis in Eastern Cape. The juveniles enter bays and harbours.

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.


Katsuwonus pelamis

Skipjack tuna


The skipjack tuna is an open-ocean fish that occurs in all the tropical or temperate seas of the world. In southern Africa its range is from Mozambique to Algoa Bay.

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.


Sarda orientalis

Striped Bonito


This Indo-Pacific species travels in large schools in the coastal tropical or subtropical waters from Mozambique to Cape St Francis

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.


Sarda sarda

Atlantic Bonito


This member of the tuna family normally inhabits the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In southern Africa, however, they extend from Namibia around the southern tip of the continent and as far east in the Indian Ocean as Port Alfred in Eastern Cape. Large migratory schools frequent the Agulhas Banks from Cape Point to Mossel Bay during summer.

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.


Scomberomorus commerson

King Mackeral or Barracuda or Couta or Cuta or Spanish Mackerel


This Indo-West Pacific species is widely distributed in subtropical and temperate coastal waters from near surface to a depth of 70 metres. The southern African range is from Mozambique to KwaZulu Natal, but it is caught occasionally between Algoa Bay and Mossel Bay.

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.


Scomberomorus plurilineatus

Queen Mackerel


The queen mackerel is resident in subtropical waters of the western Indian Ocean. In southern Africa it is found mostly off Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal, but has been taken as far south as Tsitsikamma. It prefers clear water near reefs, and often gathers in large schools just behind the backline.

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.


Thunnus albacares

Yellowfin Tuna


The yellowfin tuna roams the tropical and subtropical oceans of the world, wherever surface temperatures are above 25º C. It is present off the entire southern African coast. Although the yellowfin is a fish of the open ocean it will often move inshore under suitable conditions.

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.


This is a family of large predatory fishes such as sailfish and marlin that are characterised by a long, sword-like bill.


Istiophorus platypterus

Pacific Sailfish


Although the name may suggest otherwise, I. platypterus is native to the tropical and temperate seas of both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is a pelagic oceanic species but is more common over the continental shelf and significant numbers are also found fairly close inshore. Sailfish migrate southward to the temperate latitudes of KwaZulu-Natal in summer, and return to the tropics in winter.

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.




Pemba is situated 1650 kilometres north of Maputo and is accessed by scheduled air flights from there. The town is on the south side of a large and deep natural harbour that is said to attract tuna and bonito, as well as other gamefish. The bay is sheltered and ideal for boating and water sports.


The numerous offshore reefs and islands are home to fly-eating species such as sailfish, great barracuda, king mackerel wahoo, tuna, bonito, kingfish, cobia, rainbow runner and queenfish. It is also possible to arrange charters from Pemba to the famed Lazarus Banks, home to a huge variety of gamefish species, including dogtooth tuna. The best fishing months are December to July.


Visitors can also partake in scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming.


Bazaruto is the northernmost island in an archipelago of five islands off the coast of Vilanculos in Mozambique. The archipelago has been proclaimed a national park which is crucial in protecting the very rare dugong that resides in these waters.

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.


Experienced skippers can choose from numerous reefs and channels and sandbars that produce world-class fly-fishing action. These reefs are recorded on GPS locations, and are close to the lodges. Species such as sailfish, wahoo, barracuda, king mackerel, tuna, skipjack, queenfish, bonito and kingfish are landed regularly.


The long sandspit to the north of Bazaruto is bordered by deep water and is a good spot for several species of gamefish. In the extreme south is Kingfish Alley, a natural rocky pier facing the deep tidal channel between Bazaruto and Benguera Island. From this rocky ledge my brother landed a 12-kilogram barracuda on fly without using a bite trace! The many bays and points on both the seaward and landward sides of the island are all excellent fly-fishing spots.


For non-fishers there is scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking and swimming.


Benguerra Island is situated about 3 kilometres south of Bazaruto. The two islands are separated by a gap of 2.5 kilometres at the narrowest point, known as Kingfish Alley. The spring tide range is about 4.9 metres, and this large tidal movement results in an enormous inward and outward flow through the gap. Guests at the Benguerra lodges can charter a flight directly to the island from Lanseria Airport.


Offshore fly fishing is world class and covers all the southern reefs of Bazaruto, Kingfish Alley and many reefs and sand channels surrounding Benguerra. The best months for sailfish are April to November, and for all other gamefish, from November to May.


The best fishing is from the long sandspit in the north that drops into the deep waters of Kingfish Alley. From this point strong tidal currents carry shoals of baitfish to within metres of the shore where they are pursued by all kinds of gamefish. Fishing is best during slack tides.

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.


If you like scuba diving, Two Mile coral reef, east of Benguerra, is rated as one of the world's best dive sites. The island is a paradise to be enjoyed on its own, but it also provides bird watching, walking, and kayaking.


San Sebastian is at the northern tip of a mainland cape that points toward the Bazaruto Archipelago. To the west it encloses a large natural bay that extends as far as the port of Vilanculos. The fishing lodge arranges air charters for guests from Maputo to Vilanculos.


You can fish the northern and eastern reefs for a wide variety of gamefishes from boats provided by the lodge. November to April are the months for king and queen mackerel, tuna, and bonito whereas the sailfish season usually lasts from May to November. North of the point, on a falling tide, you will also be able to fish the deep channels that drain the warm waters of the bay. Kingfish lie in wait in these channels to ambush mullet and other baitfish. Spring tide is the most productive.


You should also make an effort to target the shallow mangrove sandflats and deep channels in the bay as they provide the ideal habitat for kingfish species, springer, bonefish, queenfish, and sea pike (Sphyraena jello).


Kayaking, swimming, diving and scenic hikes are among the tourist attractions available.


Pomene is 605 kilometres north of Maputo and is reached via the EN1, the main tarred highway from Maputo to Beira. The final 60 kilometres requires a 4x4 vehicle but it is well worth the drive, as the beauty of the huge estuary is without equal on the Southern African coast.


With an estuary mouth that is both wide and deep, a strong tidal current provides a highway for many species of gamefish to enter the channels and to feed on drop-offs and sandbanks in the lagoon. For the offshore fly angler, the boats have an easy launch via the estuary mouth, and from there it is only a short distance to any number of productive coral reefs. You can expect to catch king mackerel, cobia, kingfish and queenfish, as well as jobfish, rockcod and other reef fish. On the surface, anglers frequently encounter sailfish, tuna and bonito species.


Shore fishing from the beach is mostly in the large estuary mouth. In the estuary itself, you can try the sandbanks and deep channel drop-offs for a huge variety of game fish including king mackerel, sea pike, queenfish, kingfish, bonefish and pompano.


For people who do not fish, there is excellent swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

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.


If you're looking for superb fishing, excellent beaches, great diving and first-rate restaurants, then Ponta Barra, about 20 kilometres from Inhambane, is the place to be.

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.


Boat launching at Barra is smooth and easy. The fishing is excellent on the many reefs that are recorded on GPS devices, and are a short ride from the base. Some of the most productive pinnacles are only 12 kilometres away and draw huge shoals of kingfish and other gamefish species that are an easy target for the fly angler.


Water temperatures at Barra's secluded and unspoilt beaches are between 23º C and 29º C. The largely unexplored reefs are close to the beach and offer excellent scuba diving and snorkelling. On the other hand, you may prefer to view a beautiful sunset while relaxing at one of the excellent restaurants or tropical beach bars on the beach. Still not content? Why not enjoy the beach walks, horse riding, sightseeing tours of Inhambane town, and dhow cruises on the estuary provided by the resort?


The annual ski-boat, jet-ski and paddle-ski angling competitions at Guinjata Bay have been well publicised on TV. It is situated approximately 25 kilometres south of Inhambane.


Although the bay at Guinjata is not as big as those at Coconut Bay, Pandane or Legogo, it provides a good boating launch-site, and has a host of excellent offshore reefs nearby, such as Manta Reef, Kingfish Reef, Jangamo Reef and Pandane Reef. All the reefs have been recorded on GPS. Most are between 12 and 30 metres deep, and the crystal-clear water is ideal for fly fishing.

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.


You can fish the bay from the beach but, at low tide, the best option is to wade out on to the ledge until you are about knee-deep. The prevailing southwester, coming from behind, will help you to cast your fly into turbulent water that has produced many big kingfish and giant barracuda, as well as wave garrick, wolf herring and other species.


This enormous reef projects far out to sea and provides a sheltered bay that is almost unequalled for safe boating and water sports. Pandane is situated some 30 kilometres south of Inhambane.


From the beach it is only a few hundred metres to one of the most productive reefs on the Mozambique coast. The reef extends so far out to sea that the Agulhas Current pushes against it and forces nutrient-rich water to the surface. This attracts huge schools of baitfish which, in turn, are followed by legions of gamefish. We have regularly caught barracuda, prodigal son, king mackerel, rainbow runner, kingfish species, queenfish, large bonefish, and even small marlin at this spot. It is also an excellent place to target sailfish, tuna, and giant trevally. There are many other onshore reefs near to Pandane that offer excellent fly fishing; the co-ordinates of most of them have been recorded on GPS devices.


At low tide, it is possible to stand on the reef and cast your fly into really deep water where all manner of gamefish lurk.


Legogo Bay is situated approximately 50 kilometres south of Inhambane. Legogo has one of the larger onshore reef structures, which allows for extremely safe boat launching, and for shore-based angling into sheltered channels. You can catch fish year-round, but the best months are from December to June.


You have a choice of many reefs and rock pinnacles, close to the launch site. All are within 12 to 18 metres below surface and are GPS co-ordinated. The clear water provides excellent opportunities to catch all the common Mozambican species.


From the beach or, at low tide, from the long rock ledge, fly anglers can target species such as bonefish, wave garrick, wolf herring and large kingfish.


Zavora is located approximately 450 kilometres north-east of Maputo and 100 kilometres south of Inhambane. It is easy to reach via the EN1 and is only a short distance off the main tar road. Zavora is home to some of southern Africa's most pristine and diverse reefs and is an ideal fishing and holiday venue, with rocky ledges forming a large natural bay that is safe for swimming and boat launching.


Whereas the rocky ledges and the bay provide good fly angling, Zavora is known primarily as a top offshore fly-fishing venue. You can target all the customary species on the numerous shallow coral reefs but don't miss out on the nearby wreck of the Dutch vessel, the Klipfontein. This ship was wrecked in 1953 and is home to enormous manta rays and many types of gamefish.


The protective reef that runs parallel to the shore creates tidal pools and shallow waters that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Kayaking, scenic hikes, scuba diving and quad-bike trips to the nearby Poelela freshwater lakes are among the other activities that visitors enjoy.


This spot is approximately 400 kilometres north of Maputo and is easily reached by car, as it is situated only 15 kilometres off the EN1 tar road. This is one of the few coastal areas that I know of that still allows beach driving.


Chidenguele is first and foremost big kingfish country. Real monsters roam the many offshore reefs around 8 kilometres off the lighthouse. Other than the many species of kingfish, you can expect the normal complement of fishes. I have also seen several sailfish caught close to the shore in about 25 metres of water. Huge groupers are common, and are often seen chasing hooked fish beneath the boat. About 20 kilometres north of the lighthouse, two excellent reefs named King's Pool and Mermaids, should provide you with plenty of action.


This area has an abundance of reefs close to the shore, and the numbers of giant kingfish that have been caught, or rather lost, here are legendary.


Chidenguele also features beach walks, excellent scuba diving and snorkelling.


The Island of Inhaca, 35 kilometres east of Maputo (Map 9), has some of the very best fly fishing in southern Africa. It can be accessed by air or by ferry.


The island is literally surrounded by coral and rock reefs, and this, combined with the strong currents associated with the tides in Maputo Bay, make for excellent fishing, as numerous gamefish hunt in the currents, and rest in the reefs. There are lots of queenfish, kingfishes, prodigal son, serra (queen mackerel), sea pike, blood snapper, grunter (in excess of 5 kilos), king mackerel, and yellowfin tuna. At times in the evenings the whole ocean surface appears to come alive with shoals of large queenfish, and it is here that most IGFA world records of this species have been landed.

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.


Although the most productive angling is to be had from boats, there is excellent fishing in the deeper drop-off channels along the shore. Santa Maria, however, provides exceptional fishing from the shore, and has been described in the preceding chapter.


You can opt for island tours, scuba diving, snorkeling, and turtle watching among others. There is an excellent hotel as well as other holiday accommodation.


Ponta do Ouro is situated 10 kilometres north of the SA border post near Kosi Bay on the R22 road. The last section of road is a very sandy, four-wheel-drive-only track, but the lodges have facilities to collect guests from a secure parking space located at the border.

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.


The bay allows for easy launching of ski boats or paddle skis. For the offshore angler, there are many nearby reefs ranging from 20 to 30 metres in depth. All are GPS co-ordinated. They provide excellent sport for all the usual species as well as jobfish and other reef fish.


At high tide it is not unusual to see gamefish chasing small baitfish in the breakers. At first light and in the evenings the beach is the best prospect for the shore angler for kingfish, wolf herring, shad and threespot pompano. Around the rocky headland to the south, there is a large flat ledge which is exposed at low tide. From the sides of this ledge you can land good kingfish, large springer, pompano and many other species. The best months for fishing are November to May.


Ponta boat operators provide scuba fans with excellent diving over rock and coral reefs in crystal-clear water. During the holiday season, anglers trying to fish the reefs may be exasperated by the incessant diving activity, so try to avoid peak times.


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 can launch in the shelter of the north-facing bay at Sodwana. There are many well-known coral reefs close to the launch site, in water depths from 15 to 25 metres. They are home to most species of gamefish, including barracuda, king mackerel, kingfish, queenfish, dorado, cobia, tuna and bonito.


Sodwana offers many choices, including the best scuba diving in KwaZulu-Natal, snorkeling, swimming, quad-bike trails, and game drives in the nearby Phinda Private Game Reserve.


Richards Bay is situated 160 kilometres north of Durban and can be reached by road on the N2, or by SA Airlink flights from Johannesburg.


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.


The Imfolozi-Hluhluwe Game Reserve starts about 50 kilometres north of Richards Bay, and Enseleni Game Reserve is only 10 kilometres away.


Offshore anglers in Durban can operate from the harbour or from the ski-boat base at Vetshe's Pier. From either place you are within easy reach of many reefs, submerged wrecks and barges. Most of these structures are between 15 and 30 metres deep and offer excellent fly-fishing opportunities.


Fishing in Durban harbour is only allowed from a registered boat and generally provides excellent and consistent sport. Large schools of springer assemble along the drop-offs of the centre sandbank, from October to February. They strike a fly or popper with gusto and put up a great fight. Along these same drop-offs, garrick up to 20 kilograms have been landed on fly or popper from May to October. If you can crack the code, you may even try to tempt some of the notoriously hard-to-move tailing grunter with a small Crazy Charlie or other prawn-imitation fly.


Reefs such as Umhlanga, Virginia Barge, The Tree, Coopers Wreck, Number One, and many more (all co-ordinated on GPS), are home to large schools of summer gamefish. Kingfish hold station at depth whereas king mackerel, tuna and queenfish hover close to surface.

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.


This large offshore reef, named after a ship that was wrecked here in 1849, is about 50 kilometres south of Durban.

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.


Protea Banks is a reef system located 8 kilometres off Shelley Beach on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. The reef is a fossilized sand dune and has two distinct areas – a northern pinnacle at a depth of 33 metres, and a southern pinnacle which ranges from 28 to 42 metres in depth. The reef covers an area of about 4 square kilometres.

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.


Each year, around July, the South Coast experiences a phenomenon that draws tourists from all corners of South Africa – the sardine run. Black masses of sardines fill the sea to such an extent that even the waves can't break. Following the huge schools in this amazing ocean extravaganza are thousands of common and bottlenose dolphins, hoards of sharks, legions of swift predatory gamefish and countless sea birds.

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.



The 'friendly city' with its many outdoor attractions needs no introduction. Situated in the sheltered and beautiful Algoa Bay (Map 16), the area is fast being discovered for its superb fly-fishing potential, for both shore-based and offshore fly anglers.


You need to go no further than the harbour entrance or the adjacent breakwaters to encounter schools of garrick (leerfish). Also try the Swartkops River mouth and the new breakwater at Coega Harbour. Fish averaging between 6 and 8 kilograms can be caught on flies and poppers from December to May.

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.


There are two tidal rivers to the north of Port Elizabeth that catch the fancy of fly fishers. The Sundays River, 40 kilometres away, is accessed via the N2 highway and the Pearson Park resort. The river offers the usual mix of leerfish, kob, springer and grunter but fly anglers generally focus on the first two species. The best spot to fish is at the mouth.

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.


Port Elizabeth has all the amenities you would expect in a large city. If you wish to venture farther afield, try the Addo Elephant National Park about 50 kilometres inland.


Cape St Francis is situated 110 kilometres south of Port Elizabeth on the N2. This is a magnificent section of coast that offers endless, and largely unexplored, opportunities to shore and offshore fly anglers.


If you fish off Cape St Francis or Seal Point, expect to tangle with the redoubtable yellowtail. On Blinders Reef, off the lighthouse, and on other inshore reefs, it is possible to target geelbek (Atractoscion aequidens) on a deeply sunk fly. Behind the backline at Seal Point and in St Francis Bay, you can take leerfish on flies and poppers. Further out in the warmer current, large numbers of big yellowfin tuna are boated by lure fishermen; you can try for them with a fly, but first draw them in close with chum. The best months to fish this area are from December to April.


There are two rivers to the north of Cape St Francis where you may want to wet a fly. The small Kabeljous River, in spite of its name, is home mainly to grunter and springer. The Krom River, that enters the sea at the village of St Francis, is tidal. Anglers have found that the upper river, approximately 8 kilometres from the mouth, is the best place for leerfish (December to May) and springer (February to May). Both species, as well as kob and elf, can also be taken in the mouth.

The world-renowned surfing beaches stand pre-eminent among all other leisure pursuits available in the area.


Boat fishing in the Cape can be classified in two main categories – offshore and inshore (Map 4). Offshore target species are yellowfin and longfin tuna, occasionally dorado, the odd yellowtail, and, at certain times of the year, black marlin.

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 Angolan coast offers unique and fantastic fishing opportunities but it is remote with sparse accommodation, and fly-fishing opportunities are, therefore, severely restricted. The mouth of the Kwanza River is one of these rare gems, where anglers are catered for at a fishing lodge that can be accessed by flights from Johannesburg to Luanda. From Luanda it is a one and a half hour drive to Kwanza Lodge.

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.


I wish to express my sincere gratitude to David Christie for his succinct and authoritative contribution on fly fishing in Western Cape seas.

Recommended Reading

Black, Bruce. 2007. Fly fishing South Africa's River Lakes and Surf. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Black, Bruce. 2008. Saltwater Fly fishing in South Africa. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Hansford-Steele, Bill. 2005. Salt Water Flies for South African Water. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

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.