When you see photos of fly-caught garrick, they seldom depict big and/or adult fish (and that’s also relatively speaking because there seems to be a lack of scientific data related to sexual maturity in these fish and www.fishbase.in suggests a question-marked >60 cm?). In fact, most of them are little more than hand-size models with a white flipper or a small chartreuse and white Clouser in the mouth. I’ve caught my fair share of these eager baby garrick, because it’s fun to target them and they also often take a fly meant for something else; heck, they’ll even smash a floating prawn imitation twitched along the surface to entice a grunter.

Nowadays I pity them and no longer target them; I’ve noticed that many of them are damaged badly, and probably fatally, with that relatively large single hook in a fly. I’ve torn baby garrick jaws apart, hooked them through the inside of the eye and worst, had the hook mess up their gills, properly. I couldn’t ignore the blood on my hands and realised that it simply could not be good for the stock if so many baby garrick (that are relatively safe from predators in their estuarine nurseries) are caught and accidentally killed, for fun?

So I started to focus on bigger fish, hoping to find/see fish around that magic meter mark (fork length of course…) and reality hit home. There aren’t many of those in our favourite garrick honey holes, or at least the ones we access on foot. But by simply spending time thinking and talking about, and looking for bigger fish made me learn quite a bit about these mysteriously ‘temperamental’ fish.

While I used to think that by finding the right spots, I’d come right, I watched how a bait fisherman pulled out an 8 kg garrick that ate a 40 cm live shad on the end of his line, ‘right at our feet’ and in an area that we had flogged with all the flies in our boxes. We saw no chases, but the fish were there and they clearly wanted big meals. This was later confirmed over a braai conversation with JD Filmalter and in his words: “Bigger lures have produced bigger garrick”. Away with the standard Clousers and out with the >15 cm poppers and baitfish patterns…

Another myth that got busted while fishing for kob, was that I always thought that I couldn’t retrieve fast enough to entice a take from a big garrick. Hello, wrong again. Some of my personal best fish were caught on slow, jerky, and sometimes also even deep retrieves. I was relieved that I didn’t need to come close to tearing a triceps to catch a decent size garrick.

Juvenile garrick often take a fly fished deeper and slower while targeting kob in estuaries; this little Goukou go-kart latched onto a zonker Clouser swung through a deep hole at dusk.

Then I also gathered, after getting many chases and hooking the odd fish over reef, that garrick do not only hunt along sandy beaches, that I always associated them with. Moreover, they are found along the entire South African coastline, nevermind reef or sand, they enter river mouths as far as the Orange River on our West Coast and beyond Cape Vidal on the eastern side of our country.

So here’s a summary of corresponding tips to catch bigger garrick from numerous trusty sources:

  1. Fish bigger lures/flies
  2. Vary the retrieve (don’t burn your arms out on every strip, slow down too)
  3. A sharp jigging or darting/wiggle action works well
  4. Flies with white in them work well
  5. You want lots of movement in the fly (in other words, use materials that produce a lot of movement in the fly)
  6. Flies with very little or no flash have produced bigger fish more consistently
  7. And last, but not least, big garrick want live bait, so stop messing around with fly tackle…

Chris Bladen with that dream Ferrari on fly, from shore…He says that this garrick gave him a really hard time, using the outgoing current to its advantage.

Since I’ve put in time and focused on methods and places for bigger garrick, several better fish have come out, but none close to that desired and much respected 1 m fork-length size caught from shore…