The circle of life – let the Leeries live

The circle of life – let the Leeries live

Ah the garrick, aka ‘leerie’. It’s like the starter game fish that gets so many hooked on the light-tackle and fly game. And then, even as other species take preference, somehow keeps giving almost as a default back-up of sorts, year on year, season on season. Or not…

Alarming recent reports of kills in the Breede, coupled with a lack of tales of any number of big fish coming out from St Francis all the way down to Strand, has had me puzzling over the population stocks of this migrator.

There are plenty of juveniles around in the estuary systems up and down the Eastern and Southern Cape coast at the moment, to be sure, but of proper size fish I’ve heard only the odd story here and there.

Perhaps my network is limited? Or the anglers are keeping their catches quiet, or, is it simply a ‘weak’ season for the species?

Closed system colours
Closed system colours

Or, do we need to be more concerned?

Dawn saw me again probing for them on the tongue of the tide in a local estuary, in need of opening the catch account for the year.  There was the odd mullet being chased and it seemed that the 30 – 50cm range of which had been the staple for the past six weeks or so were present. These were damn fussy and non-committal too and I drew no action. Not so much as a look on the NYAP, pole-dancer variation, various baitfish patterns and even near fail-proof clousers.

Staple estuary-sized juvi

Blank. More is nog ’n dag… Anyway, life and work commitments were calling so I couldn’t stick around for when the bite did turn on. I started the wade back to shore and my bakkie, already tasting the McMuffin I was going to sink on the way home.

The dazed little junk-food, drive thru, breakfast fantasy was short-lived however when I noticed (what I thought) were the tell-tale signs of a marauding shoal of moonies smashing everything in sight over a submerged grass patch, about a foot or so deep. Positively boiling it was.

I’m never without a chartreuse flipper-cum-foam-beetle type of thing in a size 6 or 8, just in case there are any Cape Moony (kitefish, batfish / Monodactylus falciformis) around. I have a soft spot for these windgat (arrogant) little critters. They’ve got proper game. Adaptable but moody (I like to think of them as grumpy), they box way above their weight and – when they do come on the feed – they’re like pack of hungry teenagers let loose on a high-end buffet. Shameless little gluttons.

Good for the stoke level on a 3WT.

Cape Moony
Cape Moony

Maybe there is a bus in there, I thought. Like 20cm! I fumbled with my tipped and tied down to something thin enough to fit through the eye of the beetle-bug. I felt kinda kook-ish throwing something that small on the 8WT, but I had to see what was in there.

Plus, about that blank; and, the river – seemingly having emptied of holidaying boat, cast-net, foot, kayak, and anything-else-that-floats traffic – was deserted, so no-one was watching.

A dead-drift with the occasional plop works well for the moonies, so I flicked out the bug and let the tidal flow carry it into the milieu. The first flick strip drew an aggressive (if tiny) swirl and I sped-up the retrieve. Another violent little take and the little pony was off to the races.

What was on the other end though didn’t gallop like a regular moony (of darting side-to-side) though and rather tried to make for the drop-off and open water. Being as gentle as I could on the bullish 8, I quickly brought to hand a flash of iridescent spots in yellows and blues. It looked not unlike something you would encounter in an equatorial jungle freshwater stream, yet had the distinctive dorsal and anal fins of a leerie. All in a 10cm package.

Micro leerie
Micro leerie

This little guy, along with the who-knows-how-many in the shoal had surfed the Agulhas Current all the way from the KZN coast and made his way into this perfect little nursery. I admired him for a brief moment before sending him back to his mates. I flicked one more cast with the exact same result, before deciding it best to leave them be to fatten on sprats and grew big and strong to one day hopefully continue the cycle of life.

About his parents though, one can only but hope that not too many breeding adults get taken out, and, that the reason not too many good fish have been caught recently is that they’re in other systems, or off-shore.

Or – as someone pointed out when I brought up the ‘slow season’ notion – maybe I’m just a kak fisherman.

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