The people of this area are very poor and almostly exclusively rely for an income on fishermen visiting this renowned spot.
Brazen Head as a fishing spot is made up of three predominant areas: First Ledge, Second Ledge, and the infamous Third Ledge.
First Ledge can seriously produce fish in all shapes and forms, so concentrating your efforts here will most definitely give you good results.
This amazingly beautiful fishing spot, situated in the Transkei, is so majestic and picturesque that it needs an entire section dedicated to it.
Brazen Head is situated some 15k south of the quaint little Pondoland town of Port St Johns, near other well-known spots like Isithonga and Mpande. This particular spot used to be second on my list of ‘best places to visit in the Kei’, but has rapidly moved itself into first place. Some of the easier-to-find and navigate spots of the Transkei are fast becoming over-commercialised. This beaut of a spectacle, however, being a little harder to find and not the easiest to get to (requiring hard work because of the rather steep climb) has remained fairly wild and very much untouched in comparison to other more accessible hotspots. The pure variety of fish on offer here puts it right on top of my list.
To get there, one needs to drive south along the R61 and turn off at the Ngqeleni hospital turn-off. Then follow the dirt road until you reach a junction (the first real T-junction) where a school is situated on your left and a post office on your right. Here you turn left and once again follow the dirt road (or rather, from this point, more of a dirt track), keeping to the right split at the only two intersections you will come across. You will know you are on track when you come to the end of the track and there is a small dam on your left and a few green-and-orange dwellings scattered around the hillside. Usually, at this point, you will be pointed towards Josephine’s home. She will allow you to park your vehicle there, complete with the security of a rusty barbed-wire fence and some rather odd-looking Afrikaner dogs. Trust me, your vehicle is probably safer here that in your own garage at home.
This is the stage at which an article like this may come in very handy. The people of this area are very poor and almostly exclusively rely for an income on fishermen visiting this renowned spot. It is advisable to use the locals to carry your goodies for two very good reasons: one – they need the income and by using them, you pretty much ensure the safety of you and your vehicles to the max; the other reason you will soon discover when you start the upward climb after a hard day’s fishing. Men are pretty much non-existent in this area as they work away in order to earn a better living, leaving their wives and kids to tend the home and animals. You will notice that only women offer you the service of carrying your tackle to and from the rock. Don’t be mistaken, these ladies do this almost daily and are stronger than most men I know. A handy tip I learnt on my last visit is to have a ticket book or duplicate invoice book handy; hand out tickets or slips to those assisting you with the carrying. Miss this and you will learn the hard way as the five you originally had assisting fast become 25 and, no matter how convincing you are at setting the matter straight, you will never win. Basically you pay your porters as they return the ticket or invoice to you. This keeps it all straightforward and above board, and works like a charm at keeping the locals happy.
Brazen Head as a fishing spot is made up of three predominant areas: First Ledge, Second Ledge, and the infamous Third Ledge. First Ledge is probably the most fished spot, as it is easier to get fish into a landable position as well as affording you the various options of the protected bay or deep, open ocean. Second Ledge gives you a vantage point into open, very deep ocean; however, getting to the back off this ledge while tussling a big fish is a little tricky and even the slightest wrong move can result in a deadly fall. As for Third Ledge, well, I have only ever been onto Third Ledge once before, and would not recommend it unless you are an experienced mountain climber. It does, however, produce some good garrick, kob and yellowtail.
I will therefore concentrate my information on First Ledge.
First Ledge can seriously produce fish in all shapes and forms, so concentrating your efforts here will most definitely give you good results. First Ledge itself is probably one of the safest and easiest places in the Kei to fish; the rocks are pretty flat, non-slip and high enough off the water that only a seriously big sea will be a threat to you. In fact, this is one of the spots where you can get fish even in a 4m to 5m swell; in my opinion, this is one of the easiest deepwater spots to land a fish without the use of a gaff.
The fish you can expect to catch from First Ledge range from blacktail all the way through to giant dusky sharks. I will run through the tactics and top baits for each of my favourite species to catch in this area.
Dusky sharks can be wild at Brazen Head, in particular the medium-sized specimens. I have found that they seem to prefer the deeper water, so climbing onto Second Ledge and casting off there will usually result in a dusky bite; You don’t have to stay on Second Ledge – you can climb back to First once you have slid your bait, especially if the south-westerly wind is either on its way or during the first few hours of its arrival.
I have found that duskies seem to prefer larger baits on slides. My favourite bait types would be bonnie, live shad, whole yellowtail or whole chokka slide, in that order.
These fish traditionally prefer slightly cleaner, warmer water; however, after two days of north-easterly wind, these fish often turn on, especially during early summer. I have found that hammers definitely follow a particular feeding pattern, either moving from north to south or south to north, depending on currents, so follow the rips and put your bait near to one. Two predominant rips develop at Brazen Head, depending on the sea. One balloons out of the in a northerly direction, therefore bait put right in the bay will have its scent moved out with the rip, calling the fish from miles away. The other rip pulls out of the small gully between First Ledge and Second Ledge; putting bait next to this rip will have the same effect. Top bait types I have found for the hammers are a chokka slide, a mackerel slide, a chokka throw bait or a mackerel-head throw bait, in that order. One thing to note is that the hammer has a relatively small mouth, so best results and solid hook-ups are made using smaller slide baits and throw baits.
Ragged-tooth sharks can seriously turn on at Brazen Head, particularly when the north-easterly has blown strongly for two days, lowering the water temperature and adding some colour. Generally, I have found that the raggies that hunt here are smaller, very rarely being over 100kg. Some giants have been caught here, but fewer than in other areas of the kei. Favourite bait here would be a whole yellowtail slide followed by a whole bonnie slide, then a big cast soft bait. The water at Brazen Head being relatively deep means that the raggie comes in very close; in fact, the raggies tend to eat 60m to 80m from the rocks. Casting right in the bay tends to get the best results with them as well as allowing you to pull them into the back gullies for easier landing.
On the edible side, one can expect various catches; however, the bulk would be kob, garrick, shad and yellowtail.
These fish are predominately summer fish and can be found in numbers at Brazen Head, especially from October through January, with December generally being the best time. They also take both dead bait and lures in this area, which makes them fairly easy to catch if they are around. A slide mackerel will get the best bites off the rock, while a chisel-nosed popper and a spoon will be the next best thing. I have found, though, that the dead bait works better. Unfortunately, it’s hard to specifically target these fish as there are loads of sharks around, but if they are in the area, a slide mackerel will be snapped up pretty fast. I prefer Second Ledge for these fish but many have been caught off First Ledge, so don’t worry if your nerves get the better of you and don’t allow you the daunting climb across to Second Ledge.
Garrick can be at this spot in their numbers and gobble just about any live bait you put in the ocean. Once again, First Ledge seems to be the place, as the shad congregate here. Using a live shad gets first prize, while a mullet followed by a blacktail will also do the job. In the case of shad, I prefer sliding these on the free-swim clip to casting them, as the water is pretty deep. Securing the shad to the ground with a sinker doesn’t produce as many bites as a free-swimming live bait. May through October seem to be the best times and, generally, when the water is clean and warmer after some south-westerly wind. Another option would be to throw chisel-nosed poppers, which can also get the fish feeding.
These fish can be completely out of control here, and can come so thick that getting any fleshy bait in the water will result in a rapid bite. When they are slower and eating shy, I prefer to drift a whole sardine. Either with or without the top bung, spoons and dropshot also can produce the goods, but if you want them as bait, just use a whole sardine.
There you have my little bit about one of my favourite spots along our coastline. Get yourself out there, take on the healthy climb up and down and have a good one.
If you are looking for a great place to rest your head in the area, the Umzimvubu River Retreat is a fantastic place right on the river bank and within walking distance of a headland holding a few other rather famous places like Skevingtons, Lighthouse Rock, Twin Sisters and The Gap.
A few tips: pack fairly light, take plenty of water, and don’t expect to spend a few hours down on Brazen head – go for a day or more. There is a small cave on First Ledge that can become fairly homely in the dark; it is roughing it to the max but an awesome experience.