Oh I’ve been dreaming of a fish, dreaming until I picked up a guide to saltwater fish of southern Africa…”Prefers depths of 10 – 300 m, recorded up to approx. 600 m…”, Ugh…

‘No chance on fly there’, I thought and lobbed the book back onto the desk. I guess we have to accept that some fish are just not meant to be targeted on fly…

Fly anglers have successfully caught several ray and shark species along our coastline, but they are all generally caught by sight fishing in shallow or surface waters. To get a fly in the right place at the right time for a ray-type fish to take it off the bottom in >10 m of water seems impossible, especially a bottom-hugging ray that loves eating crustaceans in soft sand.

I love fishing for guitarfish with fly tackle and just happened to be part of a group that was recently requested to catch these cool fish on Moonshine rods for a short fly fishing film by Stream and Sea (Pierre Joubert and Chris Walley – follow them on IG and YouTube). We were having a blast chasing guitarfish and eagle rays along the West Coast when I spotted something unusual cruising past me.

“Can that be…No that can’t be…No wait, that IS one!”

I rolled the line out so that the little Clouser dropped ahead of the fish. I slowly drew the fly into position, so that the flat fish would cross paths with it, its mouth ‘area’ potentially making contact with the slow moving fly on the bottom. The ray reacted very positively, just like the guitars, and slammed down onto the little Clouser. I kept drawing the fly, at a slower pace now than before, and the line tightened up. “On!”, I yelped and my dream to catch a thornback ray on fly was history.

Thornback ray eye – photo by Chris Walley (streamandsea)

 

Thornback ray, on fly, in knee deep water…Never thought I’d get so lucky! Photo by Chris Walley (streamandsea)