You won’t land that fish“, said Piet.  A sense of finality from the first glimpse of the huge shape passing under his canoe. The most bitter sweet fishing event I have experienced.
 
A family trip floating down the Orange river is magical. Relaxed, social, happy. The fishing pretty good too. The water was ultra clear, cool, low.  It looked promising for largemouth yellows, although we catching the back end of a cold front.
 
We saw several good largies as we floated down. At every opportunity I was casting a fly from my canoe, or pulling off at various fish looking areas. A bit rushed and often passing over amazing holds. But, I was happy picking up the odd largies and smallies on Yonkers and muishonds.  This was a lekker trip, rather than a trophy mission.
My dad was not getting much luck spinning with a small 3.5cm lure. Entering the final leg before the campsite I decided to try work out the retrieve, depth etc.  Within 15 min a small largemouth and a good sized smallmouth came to the net. A bend opened up to a fast stretch lined by a deep glide, some good rock structure and a bit of slack backwater. A little bit of everything to hold good fish. Although not the obvious holding place for a big largemouth.
 
Bang. The reel sang as 8lb braid tore off towards the rocks. The spindly spinning rod flat under the strain.  It was chaos trying to get my canoe to the side and out of the fast water. Not sure how I rowed, but vaguely remember an oar half stuck under the arm, underestimating the depth and going chest deep as I jumped off the canoe.
For ages we tussled back and forth. Piet, holding in the slack water with his canoe, caught the first glimpse. “You won’t land that fish!”. Or something to that effect in Afrikaans, together with various superlatives.
An even bigger largie followed this one about. Up and then down it went, myself in tow. Finally, landed quite a way downstream, we got some pictures.
 
A fish of a lifetime for me.  But on lure – the most bitter sweet fishing event I have experienced. A punishment perhaps for picking up a lure rod.  Or was it a reward, seeing a rarity like this?
 

I will never know, but will keep dreaming about what would have happened had my fly landed in the same place. And the second, much bigger fish!