Fly fishing for guitarfish: Tails slapped and splashed ahead.  Excitedly, we crunched our way forward through shells and the West Coast mist that enveloped everything in white.  This was it – white steenbras tailing on the flats.

“Anticipation gave way to surprise as they morphed into a school of marauding guitarfish”

Guitarfish come alive with the tides as shadowless spectres on the flats. They disappear into the sand during the tidal lull. Wading bare feet is exciting.  There are many areas along the South African west coast where these fish are present in good numbers and can be targeted on fly.

Sight fishing for these ghosts on sandy flats is always exciting.  They can be tricky given that they hunt by feel, have their eyes on top of their head and a small mouth underneath.  A fly twitched as they swim over it is often aggressively taken.  Don’t strike until you feel the resistance and pulling away otherwise there is a high risk of foul hooking them.

We made an exploratory trip in search of any species present along a west coast beach with rocky zones and sand flats.  The tailing guitarfish were an astounding sight.

“There were several guitarfish present in a small rocky tidal pool on a dropping tide”

They would cruise in the pool and every so often, one would tail.  On a couple of occasions this activity would attract other guitarfish and they too would rush in and tail.  On sand flats, rather than tail they tend to burrow down on their prey, or fly, trapping it in.   I cannot quite work out how tailing would help them. In theory being vertical takes them further away from their food, unless it is to get at food between rocks?.

I tried the usual tan/white and chartreuse/white clousers to no avail. Then a variety of crab and shrimp patterns.  No luck and I ended up spooking them.  They fled the shallow pool.

Working down the beach I did have some luck with a small guitarfish cruising the sand flats.  But cannot quite forget those tail strumming guitars and how to tempt them…



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