If I told you that I took a break from grunter fishing this year, and instead trained some big, wild river carp to eat bread just so I could catch them on bread flies, would we still be chinas? Because that’s what I did. If you can’t tell, 2023 has been a weird one for me, too. 

Yes, bread flies

I’ve long taken my kids fishing at an easily missed nearby river, where they throw little baits at tilapia. And, because Jeremy Wade, sometimes the smallest tilapia will be strung up to catch a catfish. Only very rarely do “conditions align” for a catfish on fly. One day, to my amusement, big old carp started rising to the floating bread bits used to attract my sons’ live baits. And well, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? 

bread flies
One of the bread flies…

City carp

It took a session to learn that I couldn’t land these snag city carp on the usual 8lb tippet and small flies. Could have guessed it, given that we’ve walked this road with the catfish before. I ended up tying a few staunch crust flies on heavy wire hooks, fished them on 15lb tippet, and skull-dragged a few 10lb-plus carps on my trusty old 6wt.

I refined my bread flies to the point where the carp actively chose it over actual floating crusts, and my eldest started fishing white subsurface streamers, unlocking the door to hours of fun catching decent tilapia. That was entertaining for a while, but then distractions happened. I did it once or twice more, but eventually I think the carp were onto me and I was over it.  

Tilapia in hand.

Back to the water

Repetition is not my thing. Happily, and as always with the help of my homies, we’ve come up with some plans that may or may not furnish us with stories that, unlike catching carp on crust flies, can’t not be told. 

Blacktail aka Kolstert.

My mate Jurgens knew just the thing to lure me away from “life” and back to the water: The humble blacktail and its dodgy, dangerous domain. And brother, did it start a thing. Although I’m not a hundred per cent new to it, rock and surf fly fishing is fast becoming my thing, and I did not see that coming. We’ve been fishing some wild places and we’ve only scraped the tip of the iceberg’s surface (don’t mind if I do, dear English metaphors, lol) How many beans we’ll spill remains to be seen. But from what we’ve seen, I have amongst other things, tied these, which by all accounts beat the crap out of bread flies: 

Baby crayfish

Shark flies

Now, ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies, but I think it’s fair to say that the rest of the season is setting up to be something different, even on the grunter flats. At the very least, there’s hope.

2 thoughts on “CONFESSION, 2023”

  1. What an enjoyable read!

    I’ve developed a strong passion for fly fishing in gullies, and it’s truly fascinating to discover what you can catch.

    Regarding the shark fly, wouldn’t it be more advisable to opt for 90-150lb (depending on the shark species you’re targeting) carbon or nylon-coated wire instead of piano wire? I’m curious to hear your perspective. Is there a specific reason for choosing piano wire? I’ve had plenty of experience with both options over the years, especially in Gabon, and I’ve found that the carbon/nylon-coated wire tends to be much gentler on the sharks compared to piano wire.

    • Hey, Mark, thanks for the comment, man! My apologies for the super late reply. Honestly, I used wire because it’s what I had on hand. I will definitely upgrade those traces!


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