We sat around the dinner table watching the little hermit crabs make lines in the sand chasing our messed scraps around on the sand floor, we were eating Wahoo sashimi, courtesy of Ryan Hammond and Kegan Mattheys day in the deep. We finished dinner and the guys settled down with a few beers on the balcony chatting about the day. And then my ears pricked up
“…..that fish must have been 1.8m” came from Ryan
“Ya, the biggest ive seen. You know when they hit the lure with their tail and come out the water sideways?”
“1.8? You sure?”
Whenever you hear a story of a fish that much bigger than what you thought possible there is always some doubt. An 1.8 sounded unbelievable. Kegan sat quietly, but he had that fire in his eyes.
“Ive got the co-ords”
I was fishing with Kegan tomorrow. And I wanted to see the fish Bud now called “the donkey”. Now Kegan was fresh from Oman, home of the giant GT, so if he said this was the biggest Geet hed ever seen in his life, I believed him.
I woke up slightly earlier and hit the tying bench. Rob, Rich and some of the other guys were up already, some relaxed, some tense. Rich was 0-7 on the Bumpies, and on a mission. Im always last on the skiff. My OCD means that every morning all leaders are re-tied, as well as all backing connections. Bill and Keagan were on the boat wading, when I waddled out holding everything I could. Will have to tie the boots on the boat. Don’t want anyone losing their tempers with me.
Kegan wanted to fish one of his favorite spots. A turtle grass finger flat overlooked by most. Less fishing pressure I thought. Kegan threw the anchor and we hopped off. Its deep. A good 20cm over waist deep. And there are some clouds today. Hmmm. Wont be able to see those Lemon Sharks. All three of us waded away from the boat as the tide began dropping. Safety in numbers. Not 15 minutes from the boat and Kegan shouted
“Geet, your 3 o clock, 50 feet, coming towards us!”.
I was ready for this one.
“Ill put it just to the right of him” – ive got a habit of talking out loud. The added pressure seems to help. Like the shot on black on a pool table.
“Shit, good cast!” Kegan hadn’t finished his sentence when the fish pounced!
“Good fish! Hes on it!” ONNNNNNNN!!!!
I started clearing line as the pitch black Geet ran away from us on the hazy flat. Then the hook pulled. An inspection showed the hook tip bent at a right angle just in front of the barb.
“Hooked him in the bone. Ive seen that in Oman”
I asked Kegan if I should reduce fly size.
“You think this beast is too big for these sub 100s?”
“Maybe, but id rather sacrifice those for that monster we might see”
“Right. Ill be sticking to this.”
The walk continued. Kegan had some questions to ask about the trip id just completed to Kosi Bay. There is serious appeal to a South African GT. Bill must have been wondering what on earth we were talking about. Then I realized, I don’t have another fly. Arrgh. The walk back to the boat. I started back and not 20 paces in Kegan and Bill were doing the GT dance. They didn’t connect. I did the forward moonwalk to the boat in record time. Cut through the 120lb hard flouro and pulled the perfection loop to the point that my hands hurt. Jumped off. Ground to cover.
When I got to the guys we found a section of milky water running the tides direction.
“Fish in there Kegan?”
“Must be a Ray mudding”
“Must be some fish sniffing around there”
“Bill throw a brush fly in there. If those are Rays there must be some Geets around”
I had other ideas. This looked too crabby to not send one through. I stood on the current side of the slick and made 2 casts longitudinally down. Nothing. And there were the culprits. Two rays, making an absolute mess.
Keep walking. Off to our left is the margin of the flat, littered with coral bommies. The tide was pushing from this direction and some dark shapes materialized in the deeper water. Bumpies. Take a shot. Two or three casts made but these guys were spooky.
Just then a Geet came in from the right. Bill had a cast. Refusal. A few paces later and I spotted another two about 130 feet off. Cruising the fringe. I made progress as best I could in the deep water but the fish were too far off. The now 15 knot strong wind directly in my face stopped me from getting those extra 20 feet I needed to get the fly directly in front. The leviathan 550g fly line is pencil thick and absolutely compromised in everything other than fish fighting. But the fly must have been visible and one fish broke off. It chased briefly and then again… refusal. Much bigger fish.
We turned to start the walk back. Conditions had been tricky. But things were changing. Visibility increased as the sun rose and the clouds cleared to make things even better. The water level now knee height revealed a completely differing offering. The Bumpie shoal we’d seen earlier were now far more comfortable, tailing in unison and working the lagoon edges of the flat, slowly working across towards the wild side. I had a shot or two and then got distracted. And then Kegan piped up.
“Pete just keep a look out at that Bumpie shoal, im pretty sure I saw a Golden tail in there”.
A sound for sore ears. Id lost one last time round and wanted one really badly. As we got closer the scene developed. Tailing would be a severe understatement. The goldies were leading the shoal of Bumpies, and going full retard. The water wasn’t exactly shallow and these fish were almost doing hand stands. A very different scene to anything id seen tailing. The tails were the best kind- sickle. The colour –gold. And the behavior- like a shoal of permit on speed. Huge splashes of water that looked like the shoal spooking, then another shaking around, quivering in the mud clouds and mess they were creating. A crabs worst nighmare. A remarkable sight between the oar sized neon blue Bumpie tails. By now a Goldie tail was breaking the surface every second or two, and the entire group was moving at pace.
“Pete, they wont do this for long. You need to get some shots.”
These are conditions I’m used to and I proceeded feeling confident. Lots of wind and lots of chop. The best situation for shallow water sight casting.
My concern was the bumpies spooking and taking my first shot at a trophy with them off the flat. The wind will help disguise that I thought. Bill and Kegan were now at my 10 o clock at 20 feet. The shoal in front at 80 feet. My mouth must have been hanging wide open. Id never seen a display of fish tailing like this. Not anywhere. Imagine 10 to 15 Roosterfish doing handstands. It looked like that. The pace of the shoal continued. Id now learnt that you don’t take a shot at Bumpies inside 40 feet. My primary concern was not spooking these Bumpies. Close behind that was hooking a Bumpie.
The wind was behind me, making things slightly harder. The K-crab would turn over much faster and splash much more.
1st cast. Quick single hand strips ahead of the shoal.
“Perfect cast!”. On my 4th or 5th strip I felt a Bumpie. It missed. Thank god.
2nd cast. In the middle of the shoal. Nothing.
3rd Cast. Nothing. Every now and then a Golden would make a massive commotion and my heart would skip a beat thinking they’d spooked.
Bill and Kegan still on my left. The shoal heading towards us and to the right. I have to get in front of them with this wind. I moved as stealthily and quickly as I could. Maintaining my distance. The wind now quartering on to me from the right. Don’t hit yourself. Reverse casts from now on.
Again. Nothing. Thoughts of a fly change came into my mind. Id heard stories of these fish loving a spawning shrimp. It was a massive gamble. I didn’t know how much longer this would last.
I whipped off my cap. Kyle had given me an EP spawning shrimp the night before. The only I had on the trip. Perfect. No time for an improved Homer Rhode loop. Blood knot. Four turns. As I tied on my fly I kept my eyes on the fish in my peripheral and continued to stay low as tried to keep them at the right angle and distance. Every few seconds I had to frantically pace backwards. Grunter fishing will teach you that. Don’t just stand still. Don’t get bust by the fish.
Then they all turned and came straight towards me. My heart sank. I dropped to my knees and assumed the brace position. My peak barely above the water. Most of my body hidden. The fish came within 15 feet of me and veered right. Amazing. At 30 feet I cut my odds. They aren’t far from the flat edge now. I have to get a few more shots.
5th Cast. At the back of the shoal. I lifted most of the line and put it back in the middle of the shoal. Getting frustrated. Getting desperate. The window is closing.
6th cast. Right in the middle. I cringe as I feel the fly over a Bumpie.
7th cast. I take a deep breath and let it sink. Its now 6 or so feet ahead of where I think the lead fish is. Im slightly behind the fish now. I loudly count to three before I begin the retrieve.
ON!. The fly stopped dead in its tracks and I started hoping. Please let this be a Goldie. The entire mess of some 30 or 40 Bumpies and 15 or so Goldies shot straight away from us, headed for the wild side. My fish in the middle.
“Bumpie? Golden?” Kegan asked.
“Im not sure!”
Just then I felt my leader pass through the shoal. Pinging as it went over two or three fish from right to left. Straight through the shoal. Then to the right. I felt it rub another fish or two. Maximum pressure now. Still not convinced.
With the pressure the fish changed direction to the right. I don’t see dark blue. Theres hope.
Kegan is still convinced otherwise- “Must be a Bumpie, stuck with the shoal”.
He ran in the direction of my fly line. The fish now headed straight for the coral. Turning left and turning right. I wasn’t seeing dark blue… must be….
“Dude it’s a Goldie! Bus! Bus Goldie!” With that I really started stressing.
Bill was now standing to my right. Scared I asked him to step back 20 feet or so. This fish wouldn’t tire. I was shit scared of it wrapping around anything. My leader must be a mess. Kegan is now less than 10 feet from the fish. This is the critical phase of the fight. How he treated the leader and the fit fish would mean success or failure. First attempt at tailing and the fish shot away. Heart beat rising. The nerves. Second attempt, it turns around and Kegan jumps over the leader. This is killing me.
“Its too green still Keegs. Let me fight it a bit longer”. I could feel the fish weaken. Its half way to a bommie. Kegan isn’t happy with the situation.
“Pete, pull it shallow. Im going to tackle this thing”.
I turned the fish. Its now headed left, but the pressure is taking its toll and the fish is getting shallower and shallower. Its now in knee deep water. Kegan cautiously held the leader. “This is it”. The next thing he pounced. Releasing the leader as he grabbed the tail. Then it slashed. He committed and went in completely, wrapping his other hand around the base of the sickle tail. He had it. Breathe. UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn’t believe it. Again.
We quickly lifted the fish and began taking photos. First with Kegans camera. It was the first hed managed to guide a client on to here. And my first. Another one to tick off. Way up my list. Next a few pictures with my camera, as I began to inspect the beautiful fish. Golds, Blue over the back, perfect stripes down the flank, and that hoover of a mouth. What a fish. I got Kegan to hold it and took a few more pics of him with it. It was 50% his after all. We couldn’t have widened our smiles.
It released strong and I piped up. “Guys, you try and get one. I need a second here on my own”. Kegan laughed. I lay on my back in the water. Shaking my head. All smiles.
Right. Now I want to document this. I took out my DSLR intent on getting a blow by blow on Bills next hookup. It didn’t take long. The Goldies somehow avoided his fly but he was quickly on to a Bumpie. The shoal headed for the exact same hole again. This time Bill was less lucky than Id been. The fish got to the coral. Over. Then they appeared again. This time just the Goldens. I snapped away as the precession continued. No hook up this time.
Everything calmed down and we walked back in the boats direction.
“Now all you need is a Trigger!”
60 feet. On the lagoon side. 20 feet in from the coral garden, on the grass. Fourth presentation and the Trigger nailed the fly.
I looked at Kegan again. This is already threatening yesterday as my best ever day. And now this. The Trigger peeled across the flat. And we knew where he was going. I put all the pressure I could on the fish, unsuccessfully. Kegan ran alongside the fly line as the fish ducked under a coral head and broke me off.
“Don’t worry boet. We’ll get another now now”.
It wasn’t 10 minutes and there was a pint sized Trigger, at similar distance, on the same side. This little guy was so focused he didn’t see the first 6 or so presentations. All to trigger standard. Right on the fish. The wind was helping a lot. Now casting into it meant that the fly turned over slowly and softly. Another cast. Well past the fish. Perfectly in its line. If it doesn’t see the fly line this will be right on it. As the fly got about 50cm away the little guys body language changed.
“Hes on it Pete!”
Third strip and mini trigger pinned the fly down properly. The water now barely his body depth. I had already set the hook, rod up high, and the fish is still vertical and splashing around like mad. Probably wondering why it has a crab stuck on his lips.He took off left. “No nonsense this time! this little guy is coming straight in!”. I pulled hard as he veered towards me. Then the fly pulled. Oh well. Two awesome eats. The best take of any fish in the salt. I love those things.
Back on the boat and we headed to another grass flat. The sea side of this area looks extremely fishy. Potholes everywhere in the grass. Triggers are going to love this. I veered into the shallows while Bill and Keegan did the pothole search. They quickly found another fussy geet. Then it started.
“Pete, check that shark! Theres another!”
“Ya, three to my right too!”
“Dude we’re in deep water. This could get interesting”.
Hmmm. We’re surrounded. Mostly teenage black tips. Nothing to stress about. We continued. The potholes were uncharacteristically empty. No triggers either. I started wondering to myself if the fish knew something we didn’t. With all of us starting to feel a little uncomfortable we started back towards the boat. Now blinded by the glare on the surface, except for the occasional wave or trough we could see through.
And just then Kegan and I stopped joking around about the sharks. And for good reason.
“Bro, look at the size of that shark”
“Nope, dorsals too blunt”.
“Boet that thing is 4 meters”
Then Kegan looked to me with a smile.
“Hey, at least its shallow enough that we can jump”. I laughed nervously.
“Bill, in that hole, is that a Geet?”
I looked at the hole. That’s 20 meters closer to that shark. Stuff that. Im staying on this bommie. Bill continued undeterred. He hadn’t seen it. Just then Kegan and I saw it turn towards him. And it vanished into the hole, meters from Bill. Uh oh.
“Bill, theres a shark in that hole. Lets go to the boat rather.” I laughed at Kegan and the situation. There is not a chance he would have looked in that hole if he’d seen that shark
Back on the boat and relieved we headed for a shallower section. Bill wanted a Bumpie. This time broken coral framed with grass. Two shoals of Bumpheads. Bill had a few shots while I sat on the nose of the boat. Looking for triggers. Hmm. No triggers. The guys soon tired of the Bumpheads and we changed tactics again.
Further towards the lodge we started walking another grass finger flat. This time with the tide pushing. We each had a few more shots. Refusals every time. Such strange behavior from a GT. Especially on the back of rays. We asked ourselves wether it was the distinct drop in water temp. Later that night the other groups would confirm similar temperatures and refusals. Frustrated I changed to one of Conrads Leerie Gurglers. And a big gurgler at that. Sure enough I got another shot, and boy did that scare the fish.
Before we got off the flat a massive fish swam up to Bill. Again a refusal. Back to the boat. After our intense morning session the rejection hardly had any effect on Kegan or myself.
“Pete, im going to that Gt.” “Im going to see if I can tease him off the pinnacle”. And I knew exactly what GT. I tried not to think of the odds of finding the same fish in all this water. I sat on the seat just in front, and heard as Kegan zoomed in and changed the GPS pages. We’re here. Looks like deep blue sea to me.
I told Bill that we should make our casts and let our flies sit. I wouldn’t make the mistake Paul and I had made during the Milky hunt. Kegan took the spinning rod out, flipped over the reel and the hookless plug catapaulted towards the horizon. It landed with a splash. Kegan started reeling in at pace. The plug hadn’t got 10 feet when I saw something I will never forget in my life. It started as massive boils, and some white water. Next a massive shape, wider than anything youd imagine to be a GT came out directly behind the plug, submarine style. It vanished again and then the next second it shot completely out the water, sideways. In front of it, and now a few feet out the air is the plug. My mouth wide open. Heart racing ridiculously.
“ITS HIM! ITS THE FISH! ITS HIM!” Kegans excited voice made me start shaking even more. Holding my fly line in anticipation. The commotion still continuing, and coming in at pace. Now 30 feet from our flies. I kept my eyes focused on my brush fly. But then I saw it. Or them. Three GTs. In the middle was the biggest Giant Trevally I will probably ever see in my life. Two fish on the sides, about half the length and height, and much skinnier. Close behind a big Dogtooth. I had completely forgot about my fly. I snapped out of it and stripped twice. All three shot towards it. The plug now pulled free. Perfect timing from Kegan. The fly vanished in a mess of GT’s. Im on. ON!
The remaining fish went for Bills fly, but he was stripping leader and stopped the fly. The fish still lit up and in pursuit. One confused Doggie running around like a Pit Bull looking for its favourite toy.
I have some experience fighting these fish and I knew if this one got into my backing I didn’t have much chance of landing it. I had a fly line with a 70lb core, a 120lb leader, and 80lb backing. I was going to hold on with everything I have. Seconds in Kyle appeared on his skiff with Rich and Paul, and Kegan signaled to them to stay a good distance. We still weren’t sure which fish I had.
I turned my drag knob as tight as I possibly could, and then held the spool as hard as I could. Line jerking off in pulses, me being pulled with it with each run, the top half of my rod slapping the water. Pretty violent.
“Hes almost on the backing”. I knew what it must have looked like where this fish was going. And that’s no place for a fly line.
“Pete, are you sure you aren’t putting to much pressure on?” – a line you wont hear often out here. I was willing to risk it though. Either I made this fish go backwards at least once or I wouldn’t start to win.
In between each jerk and pulse as the fish tried to run I pulled back as hard as possible, the rod now bent all the way into the cork. Into the backing now. Now im not comfortable. During the next run I let three quarters of my rod go into the water. My plan was to do one serious pull the second the fish slowed. It was yet to stop. With the rod bouncing up and down and reel struggling I felt a longer than usual pause. I held my spool tight and pulled as hard as I could. I managed to lift the rod, almost out the water. Maybe 20cm gained. But enough. I knew I had the upper hand now.
I continued this. Now trying to hold the handle completely. Reeling the rod into the water, then pulling it out with all my force. Fly rods are too long to just stand and pull like a jigging stick. So to pull this hard means reducing the angle and retrieving all line using the base of the rod and your space on the boat.
A few minutes later we had colour. I saw the fish and knew it was one of the smaller ones. It was now upside down, coming in in circle.
“Shit you gave that thing a hiding!” Kyle said relieved. He tailed the fish perfectly. Kyle, Rich and Paul erupted, hooting and shouting. So awesome. What a moment to share.
Kegan and I must have done a similar calculation in our heads as we boated my fish. This was one of the sidekicks. And it was a big fish. The biggest of the trip. We measured it quickly at 120cm x90cm. A fat fat Geet. The Submarine or “Donkey” as bud had called it honestly looked like it could have eaten this fish as they swam in together. It was far bigger than the big Dogtooth that tailed it.
“2m Kegan. Its 2m.”
“I told you Pete. I’m so glad you saw it. And it was right at the boat”
We didn’t stop talking about it. Some celebratory beers did nothing to dull the shock.
“Pete, imagine youd hooked that fish. I wonder if its catchable. That fish might be uncatchable”.
“Kegan boet, that would have been the biggest GT ever taken on rod and reel. By some margin”.
I’ve only ever seen a picture of one other GT of similar size -it was speared in Hawaii in the 80’s. They say a 100cm , 12o and then 140+ are all completely different fish. They take on different proportions at different lengths. Well, a 2m fish doesn’t even look GT anymore. And that 198cm fish speared shows striking similarities to the Farquhar Submarine.
Was it better than yesterday? It just might have been.