The wind had died down and the setting sun was shimmering on the oily surface of the Olifants River. I was stalking a large Clanwilliam yellowfish that I spooked earlier in the day. Big Clans can be territorial, so I decided to head back at last light to give it another shot.
Fishing around its hide out, I managed to place a small nymph centimeters from a big clump of palmiet under which there was a deep undercut. The indicator drowned slowly a few seconds after the nymph had reached the desired 1.5 m depth, that classic big fish take. I lifted into the fish and it just sat there, shaking its head violently so that the tip of my rod bowed with every shake. “Man this is a good fish” I thought as I started to pull harder on the rod and line to get it away from the undercut.
Then the big smallmouth bass launched into the dim, evening light…The adrenalin rush disappeared instantly. I was gutted. I flipped the 2 kg smallie on its back and broke its neck for my father in law to smoke the next day, he loves a smoked fish.
I made a few more desperate casts to the palmiet’s edge, but I hooked three more smallmouth bass, cursing every one of them as I shoved the alien predatory trash into the plastic bag as well. Then I had to head home because I couldn’t see the indicator anymore and my chances to hook that trophy yellowfish was gone.
A few months before that I was fishing the Doring River and something similar happened. I was told about a spot, the tail out of a pool where a huge Clan was apparently lost on a spinner. Slowly drifting into position with my float tube, I started casting to a line of reeds that had a fallen tree on the edge here and there; perfect structure for patrolling yellowfish.
Get Leonard’s hat!
My approach was to drop a #2 Ginger Ninja to the bottom and then strip it back slowly so that I felt the fly bumping the rocky bottom on the way in. On about the third cast there was a dull ‘thud’ at the end of my line and I set the hook with high hopes. I watched in dismay as a biggish spotted bass cleared the water seconds later…”Vermin!”, I cursed the fish and left the spot.
A few hours later, fishing a beautiful deep channel along a steep bank in a big pool further downstream the streamer got smashed on the drop. “This is it!” I thought excitedly only to watch a big largemouth bass propel itself into the air. “Ugh…More vermin”, my heart sank.
More recently I started catching bass while targeting carp in the Boland area. I’d spend the greater part of a 4 h fishing session working out the feeding patterns of the carp before finally getting the fly in front of a bus slurping at ‘stuff’ on the edge of a weedbed.
Everything happened perfectly, getting close to the fish without spooking it, placing a gentle cast 15 cm in front of its nose, again not spooking the giant feeding fish; the animal sees the fly, twitches its fins, I get ready to strike and…And a smallmouth bass shoots out of nowhere and grabs the fly, spooking the carp in the process.
I leave the paragraph of swear words that followed up to your imagination. Before I completely lost my cool, it struck me how odd it actually was to catch 1.5 kg smallmouth bass in an earth pond? I didn’t catch any of those carp in four weeks, but walked away after catching a couple of fat, farm pond smallies on every session.
By the end of spring I realised my friends and I had caught more bass than anything else, without even trying…Like a bunch of spoilt brats we didn’t even acknowledge these fish. I guess I should at least be grateful that we never ‘blanked’?
Final note: We have been removing bass (a destructive alien invasive species in South Africa) from sections of Cederberg rivers for the last 5 years where they prey on baby Clanwilliam yellowfish, sawfin and sandfish. My gut feeling was that we saved at least one yellowfish for every bass we killed (not to mention the number of bluegills we also removed from these rivers); it came as a huge surprise when a freshwater ecologist, Mr. Gary Shung King, told me about a school of baby yellows he saw this year, in one of the sections of river where we’ve been actively targeting the bass. This is unheard of for that part of the river and enough proof to me that we can make a difference with rod and line. Release your bass in lowland waters such as Clanwilliam Dam, but don’t be that fool to put a bass back in the upper reaches of the Olifants and Doring River systems, that is where they have hardly any angling value and where they are causing the most damage to our indigenous fish stocks.