“It’s still gloomy outside, but in the predawn darkness I take refuge under a streetlamp next to my car and start gearing up. I follow the usual routine; first inflate my float tube, then rig up my fly-rod and finally I get into my neoprene pants and splash jacket. While I’m busy doing my thing, two ‘ouens’ in a bakkie pull up behind me. They’ve got an Ark inflatable in the back, along with all manner of fishing gear. One of them walks over to me, while the other one starts getting their stuff together on the pavement next to their car. He asks me what my target species are. I reply that I’m going for kob. ‘Watse aas werk die beste hier?’ (What bait works best here?) he asks. I hadn’t rigged my rod yet, so I reply that I’m a fly-fisherman. He responds with a condescending snort and returns to his chommie. While I finish up I can hear them laughing, probably about my fishing from a float tube, or perhaps the futility of fly-fishing for kob.
“I jump across the low wall that separates the beach from the road and walk to the water’s edge. As I paddle out I can see them launching their Ark inflatable a few hundred metres behind me. At this stage, I focus on the fishing and start planning the morning’s session. I decide to hit Bermuda Triangle first. Bermuda is a spot consisting of three rocks about 30 or so metres from each other, that break the surface at low tide. There’s a nice foamy hole in the middle of Bermuda and more often than not, a kobbie or two hanging out in it. When the kob are about, you will often get a take within the first five to ten casts and, if you don’t, you can move on to the next gulley until you find them.
“I launch a cast and land my fly in the sweet spot. As I start the retrieve, the line is almost jerked from my hands, and I tighten up on my first kob for the morning. It’s not often that one gets a fish on your first cast, and wanting to share my stoke, I decide to show the two ‘papgooiers‘* that fly-fishermen do actually catch kob out on the False Bay reefs. I turn around to look for them. I spot them about 60 metres away from me, thrashing in the water next to their capsized inflatable boat, with moderate surf rolling over them neatly distributing their floating gear across the surface of the water. It’s a shit show. Papgooier number one is trying to turn the boat upright again, while papgooier number two is trying with all his might to climb on top of the craft, thereby nullifying his comrade’s efforts. The reason for the hysteria, of course, is their fear of sharks, something that I’m all too familiar with. Eventually, they manage to get the boat turned upright and clamber back on in a flat panic. After trying to salvage a few items, they start making their way back to shore with a single oar.
“I turn my back on them and continue fishing. It’s early dawn and the horizon has turned from dark grey to a bright pinkish hue. As a single oar floats past me in the light south easterly breeze, I ponder the phenomenon of people’s unreasonable fear of sharks. The first comment people make when I mention fly-fishing for kob from a float tube on the inshore reefs in False Bay, is the danger of shark attacks. Most people will make some dismissive joke about such a foolish pursuit, while others will express their deep concern for your safety and try to dissuade you. My buddy, MC Coetzer, who is one of the float-for-kob clan, told me with much glee that one of his oldest friends and an experienced saltwater fly-fishing guide said that if there was one thing that he will never do in his life, ever, it would be to fly-fish from a float tube in the open sea.
“A comment from our esteemed editor when he finally agreed to join me for a session on the float tube and went to buy a pair of neoprene longs was, ‘I tried to get them in a bright colour, because I thought black ones would leave me looking like a seal.’ I rest my case. (ed. In my defence, have you ever seen a luminous orange or green seal? I also rest my case…doos).
“If you consider the number of surfers and swimmers in the water in and around Cape Town every day of the year, and the frequency of shark attacks, I really find this perpetual fear of being killed by sharks irrational. Are there sharks in the water where people surf and where we float tube? From my experience after 20 years as a spearfisherman, the answer is most certainly yes. Sharks are very aware of people’s presence in the water, they are simply not particularly interested in people as a food source. If the sharks automatically attacked people, there would be shark attacks every day.
“A recent encounter with a shark out on the reefs is a good case in point. We were out on our tubes, fishing for kob around a mid-day low tide when I spotted a very large dark shape moving over the shallow, outer part of the reef we were fishing. ‘Seal’ I thought but changed my mind almost immediately. It was too big to be one of the seals we see around here and it wasn’t black like a seal, but rather dark, brownish-grey. A while later it approached me horizontally from a completely different angle, when it was about ten metres away it turned and swam directly towards me. Only then did I get a good look at it in the murky water; a bronze whaler with pectorals spread beautifully to the sides of its wide trunk, it swam straight towards me and when it was about six metres away it spooked and hauled ass into the deep, like a neurotic grunter who had a JAM fly tossed on its head on a skinny sand flat.
“The fact is that the chances of being attacked by a shark are just too slim. By comparison, most other sporting activities seem extremely dangerous. Like mountain hiking for instance. My friend, Denton Ingham-Brown, who volunteers for Cape Mountain Rescue, tells me that there have been more than ten fatal hiking accidents on Table Mountain in 2021 alone.
The sad fact is, that sharks are the true victims in this scenario, considering that people kill more than one hundred million sharks per year. Go on, Google it.”
For the rest of this story and a ton of other great features, get stuck in to issue 27 of The Mission below. As always, it’s free.