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How one man’s serendipitous leerie catch can make all others fade in comparison. By Nick Pike


REGULAR READERS OF RSD might recall my man with the golden mud prawn story, about how I caught an unusual leerfish while trolling mud prawn. I was quite pleased with myself until I saw my buddy Justin Freeman’s monster caught on a number 2 (not 2’0) Gamakatsu while fishing for silvies. Justin, now living in the USA and fishing for the odd trout and salmon, is an all-rounder. Any fish, anywhere, any tackle, any time. He fishes fly, bait, artificial, salt, fresh, river, sea, rock and surf – the lot. Justin, aged 40, grew up in East London and has fished all over South Africa. He has guided in the Seychelles and Alphonse Island, fished for a division of the Parks Board and helped with the tagging of fish in marine-protected areas.

He knows the sharp end from the blunt end of a fishing hook. In early May this year, Justin paid a visit to SA and spent some time at one of his favourite fishing spots – Sedgefield, down in the Southern Cape. There are big tracts of water in the Southern Cape and Justin has extensive experience in the area.

On this occasion, fishing with his brother Brenton, they got off to an early start and true to the old adage: the early bird gets the worm. Justin and Brenton were in good water, having seen a good couple of leerie chases that morning and having caught a good four or five leeries a day each, with some grunter in between, over the past few days. On this day, the sky was overcast and the water warm. Justin was fishing with a Shimano Terez Waxwing rod spinning 7.2 and a Shimano 1500 RJ spinning reel loaded with 50lb power braid. For end tackle he used a Bimini twist looped over a barrel swivel and a metre of Berkley Vanish 25lb for leader tied to a number 2 Gamakatsu hook. Get this, he was fishing for silvies while the live bait rods were waiting for the big pull. Justin put in a strike on an unimpressive familiar ‘tap tap’ silvie bite, and in the same instant, the big fish hit. The fish performance bore no relationship to the bite as the beast stripped off massive runs, necessitating pulling up of the anchor. A good 20 minutes later, Justin and Brenton were surprised to find a big silvie pushed way up the line. About 10 minutes later, the boys spotted the trademark leerie sickle and they knew what they were on to. On first proper sighting of the fish, Brenton realised that the landing net he was holding was useless – way too small. He put the net down and waited until the fish was well played out before

grabbing the tail. What a monster, a real crowd pleaser. By this time, quite a crowd had gathered and they had drifted on to a nearby sandbank. No doubt the crowd was pleased to see the fish, as were Justin and Brenton. But even more

pleasing, the trophy was released to swim and fight another day. Justin comments: ‘There is nothing more powerful than the very silent call of a fish.’ These fish call him all the way home to SA from the USA every year. It is a fine man who lets a fish go. Now if I can just get Justin to tell me where his secret

mud prawn bank is on the Quinera Lagoon, then I will forgive him for making my

trophy leerfish look like live bait for his.