Garrick in Port Elizabeth
WORDS & PICS: THE ALCOCKS
I think that the leerie (or the garrick, as it is known in KwaZulu-Natal), with its never-say-die attitude, is probably the most sought-after sports fish in the Eastern Cape. It is a beautiful clean fighting fish that attacks its prey ferociously.
We target the leerie year round, with the shoals of larger fish coming to us from KwaZulu-Natal in the summer months so, with spring upon us, my brother and I took a couple of days off to target one of our favourite fish.
Now, what tackle to use. We choose my father’s new signature range of medium heavy 6'6 2-piece rods and a 3000 RYOBI with 15lb yellow viros braid. This outfit
is sensitive enough for leadheads or McArthy plastics, has the backbone for long throws with predator plugs and walks the dog fantastically with StrikePros. At the upper reaches of the Swartkops River, we choose a spring tide and fish during the last two hours of the high tide. Lando puts a StrikePro on and I put on a tin leadhead. Remember – when you fish the top of any river, the tide times will be one to two hours later, depending how long the river is. We were there at first light to catch the last of the high tide and first of the drop; we know from past experience that this is a great tide. Lando and I set off to our spot and conditions are prefect for topwater lures like StrikePro, so I swop the leadhead for a StrikePro. Lando casts out towards the dropoff, lands pefectly; there is a little ripple on the water, you couldn’t get better conditions. A few tweeks of the rod tip, then reel the slack in twice – this is the best retrieve for a leerie – it makes the StrikePro look like an injured fish. Tweek and a boil – the leerie boils, pushing the StrikePro away from him. Landos tries a quicker tweek and the leerie attacks the lure, which he thinks is food, so fiercly that I would not like to be his prey. Smash – Lando strikes, and the leerie slashes his head back and forth to try to throw the lure. White water bubbles around the leerie, then he runs for deeper water. Lando keeps the line tight and fights the fish hard so as to set him free quickly. After a couple of runs and surface-breaking headshakes, I grab the tail and give the leerie to Lando so that I can take a photograph. Photo taken, Lando releases the 3kg to 4kg leerie to fight another day.
I see a leerie chasing a mullet just on the dropoff and cast towards it. I retrieve slowly, but no luck. But I know he is in that area, hunting, so I cast again and apply our slow walk-the-dog retreive and get a slash at my lure. I tweek, get a slash and a boil, then I tweek a bit more to make the sound of the rattle in the StrikePro louder and – smash, grab, run and the fish is on. Lando is next to me and says he has just had a boil; his words were not cold yet when he is vas.
After a short but strong fight, I land and release a 2kg fish and Lando releases a similar sized fish with the slow moving tin leadhead. Then Lando, with his jerky retrieve, gets a knock; he feeds his leadhead back and – <ITAL>vas<UNITAL>, but the leerie pulls line off and unfortunately throws the hook. Lando says, ‘That was a nice fish.’ A couple of casts later and he hooks and lands a lovely leerie of about 6kg – an excellent fish. After a quick photogrph, we release him.
We want to move further down below the bridges to perhaps get a cob or grunter on leadhead. We go to the redbait banks and I put on a <GLYPH>½oz McArthy jerkshad and Lando a <GLYPH>½oz Gamtoos special. I throw, let my jerkshad sink and work it along the redbait bank; I get a tap so I feed the lure back and
Vas into a little cobbie of about 1kg. Lando usually outfishes me in this spot, but today Is my day and I get another six cob to Lando’s three. All small fish but great fun to hone our dropshot skills.
Now for the last move of the day; following the tide, we move closer to the river mouth to a spot called Skulpies – what a spot, it has everything a leerie likes – underwater structure, mudbanks that lead to deeper water, weedbanks where baitfish can hide and creeks where the baitfish drain from on this outgoing lower tide. Lando tells me that he is going to throw a StrikePro as there is a little ripple on the water; we've had a great morning fishing and would rather get his fish on a surface lure. I put a grey and white tin leadhead on. Landos is throwing up against the weedbanks and I’m working the dropoffs between the mudbanks. Lando gets a little boil and hooks a leerie just bigger than the StrikePro. They always move in big shoals, so I throw at the weedbank and get a knock immediately. I speed up my retrieve so that the leadhead is higher up and – knock, knock and vas into a small leerie. I could see the others turn away. Wow, even though small, it’s great fun to see leeries in such an aggressive mood. We catch and release another two but want to change position so that we can target some bigger fish. Lando and I move about 200m down and about 50m out to the head of the Skulpies mudbank. After a couple of casts, Lando changes StrikePro colours. This often makes a difference. He puts on a pearl StrikePro. He throws to the middle of the bank, then a long throw to the head of the mudbank. Tweek and stop, then he makes his StrikePro look like as though it is in its death throes and suddenly, the water opens up and a big brute of a river leerie smashes into his StrikePro. This is going to test my father’s signature series.
The leerie runs about 50m and Lando stops him – the Viros braid is so strong. After fifteen minutes, the fish is tired and he only runs five to six metres at a time; we can see the tiny StrikePro in the corner of his mouth – it is well-hooked but there is no time for Lando to relax. After another five minutes, I grab the tail of Lando’s lovely 9kg leerie – a great catch for the river.
What a day’s fishing this was. We have so many fond memories for our family of the Swartkops River, with my father being the pioneer with a few lure-fishing friends all those years ago. You will read this article at Christmas time, and this is one of the best times of the year to target leeries in all the Eastern Cape rivers – whether tidal or blind, we have fished and caught leeries in almost all of them.
If you need some information on your area, give us a call on 041 365 68 68; oh, and have a Merry Christmas and catch lots of fish.