20 000 millimeters under the sea

20 000 millimeters under the sea

It was another ice cold morning of full sunshine in the Cape. My nose was blocked and sinuses aching from a cold I couldn’t shake. I had been a grumpy man for a week. I’d had so many colds and flu’s from the messed up weather that I had forgotten what a normal day felt like. I guess that the lack of sleep from late night fly tying didn’t help recovery.

Nevertheless, we, Jimmy Eagleton and I, got up when the mist was still thick that morning and were now getting his boat ready on a West Coast slip. The locals were also there, smoking home-rolled cigarettes and dragging their row boats, or ‘bakkies’ as they call it, to sea to catch the ‘hottentot’ fish that was abundant in the bay (and anything with fins for that matter).

Two slender chaps with gumboots started pushing their ‘bakkie’, called Op en Wakker (Wide Awake), down the slip while we were still off-loading the last of the fly fishing gear. Impatient to wait their turn, they offered to help us and started grabbing at Jimmy’s boat. When we kindly informed them that we were almost done one of them tuned us that they were seamen, as if us ‘landmen’ had no clue, and that we were wasting their time. So we moved aside and continued to watch them launch.

They were clearly still under the influence as they staggered to the water’s edge where, after jumping into the old wooden ‘bakkie’, they received a proper beating from the shore break. This went on for about ten minutes, which attracted a number of slightly more sober seamen mocking their capability, strongly supported by the name of their boat of course.

After having a good bark at them like a pack of baboons from the side, everyone, including us, idled out to sea to try catch a fish. We ran out of the bay to deep water, leaving behind most of the ‘bakkies’ bobbing around close to shore. We stopped when we reached a trawler in about 35 m of water and lobbed the lead core lines out.

The fishing was slow as we drifted back towards land, getting a tug every twenty minutes or so on the dredge. I suddenly got a decent bite and set the hook with a sharp lift of the rod. The fish bore down and gave an exceptional account in the deep water. In fact it pulled so hard it came off…A few swear words later the Clouser went overboard for another shot at the unknown monsters of the deep.

It didn’t take long for the next bite and I was into a good fish. It came up quicker than the first and I managed to lift a decent gurnard into the boat. Rather surprised at how far out we got this fish compared to the previous trip we continued to dredge the bottom, thirty to thirty five meters deep, with great anticipation. Fish were few and far apart, but the big gurnard were strong and much fun on a nine weight.

Although we didn’t catch a million, the gurnard had proper girth.
A better fish and “prettier than any trout” as Mike Dolhoff would say.

Then, approx. twenty meters deep another ‘beast’ hit the fly and put a proper bend into my rod. I slowly gained line and was very pleased to finally bring a good false Jacopever to the surface. What a surprise! It might not have been as ugly as an elephant shark, or as long as a giant squid, but it was a monster nonetheless and a fish I won’t expect to land again in the near future, if ever?

Ironically, the trophy of the day for me was also the smallest fish of the day.

(The false Jacopever or Cape redfish, Sebastes capensis, is a small indigenous member of the rockcod family that has been documented in a short stretch along the South African West Coast, as well as Tristan da Cunha and Gough Islands. The biggest recorded fish measured a mere 37 cm; it lives on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, 20 – 275 m deep)

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