The drive down to the Inland Sea is best taken at first light. There’s an incredible beauty to be found in the wastes of sand and salt flat that, no matter how you twist them, words and photos can never quite frame. And after the dog days and nights of the Arabian summer, despite the dusty orange sunrise, there’s a coolness in the air that hints at the coming winter.

Autumn is my favourite time of year here. Between the suffocating depthless heat of midsummer and the madness of testosterone driven dune buggies and suped-up land cruisers that invade these wastes during the cool of winter. At this time of year there’s haze in the air in pre dawn light. A strange mix of fog and dust that seems to dull even the splashes of your initial foot falls across the shallows. It also seems to slow the air, giving the water the appearance of oil coated denseness only broken by the mess of baitfish being pushed to the surface by hyperactive queenfish. Or the tarponesque head and tails roll of a milkfish…

The Inland Sea is, geologically speaking, a bizarre place. A huge tidal body of water that is connected to the Arabian Gulf via a sand bottomed channel almost 15km long. It’s surrounded completely sand, in many places the shifting dunes drift right to the edge of the water. What earthly upheavals caused this place to exist? Who knows? But it begs a question when you stand on its shores… It is a very strange place…

But the fishing is good too; we initially came down here with spinning and took advantage of the unruly queenfish with topwater hard baits and small spoons. It was an amazing spot to escape the madness of the city. But then my reasons for the journey south changed.

We always knew there were milkfish here. And big ones; like oceanic sized ones! Then that one day we found them wall-to-wall. They were so thick you could bounce a bucktail off their backs without it getting wet. Never have I regretted not having a fly rod with me as I did that day. And that vision of endless fins and tails is forever seared into my skull.

Since then I’ve been walking out to the flats in hope of a repeat of that day. It will happen. An escape from the city has become a pilgrimage of hope…

But this strange body of water secrets away many other denizens. And after a morning that has almost become routine; with the milks only showing themselves for a moment as they pretend to be trout, rising in the deeper off the dropoffs.

So, after lots of time waiting, watching and walking. I tend put on a little DNA baitfish or popper and head to take my frustrations out on the every willing whipping horses, the queenfish.

Majority of the fish run around 40cm. Amazing fun on a 7 weight and endless fun on popper. They’re like easy to please Leervis that have a gymnastic problem. There are spanish mac, barracuda and grouper hanging around with the odd Golden Trev too. I’ve also seen photos of my old nemesis, Africanus, having been catch on bait.

But in between the hit and run squads of juvenile queenfish, you get the bigger girls. Lonely, angry and very happy to bend your rod. These fish cannot be faulted for putting up a scrap. They run fast, get aerial and fight clean!

Then, when the sun gets too high, it’s back to car for a beer, a swim and the long drive home…

Or we stay and braai…



Photos: Gregg Davis, Freddy Styles, Danielle Nortje, Google and me.

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