So you have a super spooky fish, considered almost impossible to fool on any artificial. Not surprisingly it becomes a highly sought after species. Then you hear some totally outlandish story, about that specie feeding carefree on some ridiculous fly. Permit on floating crabs, to Spotted Grunter on floating prawns.
The floating prawn story isn’t a new one. Anthony Kruger, Chris Shoultz and the Port Elizabeth crowd have been catching them this way for ages, but the Western Cape has had few such stories, the Breede River has represented the few accounts.
I was never lucky enough to experience this sort of fishing, until recently. A Western Cape estuary was seeing some remarkable feeding activity, and news of a Grunter caught on a Rapala was enough to send me packing. Ian Kitching had been there first, and had been absolutely murdering fish…. on a floating prawn.
After years of really struggling to crack this fish, I just couldn’t picture them talking a floating prawn. I mean, what self respecting grunter would feed that way right? I knew I would need a watercraft, and I ended up buying a SUPfisher, designed and built by Ian himself (I will come back to that in a later post).
Over the next few days I would learn more than I had locally in years. Not just about grunter, but about prawns and an entirely new fishing method. Drifting a massive floating bug with current pulling one direction and wind another with varying depths and currents is a tricky feat, and to be honest I never thought Id be mending a 10wt saltwater rod any time soon.
As I paddled out on the first morning I noticed something in the water, mud prawns swimming all over the place, the pieces fitting together now. Could this be the infamous prawn walk? We anchored and were straight into the action. My first fish launched itself completely out the water, and although I had seen a shiny grunter-ish silhouette in the white water, I told myself the entire time It couldn’t be a grunter. Ive chased these fish for years, they don’t do that. Well it was. And I was even more confused than before. But the learning didn’t really start until I started missing fish, lots of fish. Ian has had as many as 40 misses to 1 take. Those are some scary odds.
We learnt some interesting things. Not surprisingly fish were most aggressive and our hook up rate was best where a small flat met a deep drop off, these fish absolutely smashed the fly, and it had to be dead still, one chance for a mend and the start, not more. Shallow flats a long way from deep water meant a steady retrieve, a perfect uninterrupted “V” wake coming off the back of the prawn was well rewarded.
Three colours of fly, silhouette is the name of the game. Almost black for very low light, Root Beer Red for broken cloud, and tan for overhead sun. And they can be picky as hell, even when gorging themselves. When on the dark prawn the sun would break, and that would be the end of any interest until a change of fly. I experienced exactly this on my favourite flat. A fish feeding aggressively before heading back to deep water. Lazily I stuck to my dark fly and after a few passes decided to make the change. My first presentation was absolutely inhaled, and after 9 minutes (which were videotaped) I landed my personal best fish. Elated I netted it and headed straight to land for photos and measurements. 67cm. The first grunter I’ve caught on the long rod that I’ve kept. Ive been meaning to do a Gyotaku print.
Oh yes, not any floating prawn would do. Foam, furry foam, you name it, they rejected it. They only wanted deer hair. Not sure why the hell that is.
As the days passed and the action slowed I realised we may have indeed witnessed something remarkable, either a prawn walk or some other reason for prawns to pack up and head out. My luck seemed to change and after me taking from the river, it took from me. My camera, cell phone and car keys to be exact. This morning I managed my last two fish before hitting the road, and now Ive got this missed take story taped. Those missed takes are mainly small fish, and a surface version of the Frankenstein Prawn was tied and upped my hook up ratio 100%.
Im honoured to have experienced it, and I think I’ve got the prawns and Ian to thank for introducing me to an entire new way to fish for the fish I love the most.