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GIFTS FROM THE GARDEN ROUTE

Fishing along the iconic coastline brings up some fond childhood memories and … cob.

By Anton Haakman

 

SEPTEMBER IS A WONDERFUL time to be in the Garden Route, looking to target cob on the spinner. I am always very excited to fish in the area as this is where I grew up, and as a result, where I learned to fish.

The area holds so many fantastic memories for me that every trip here is special – irrespective of the quality of the fishing. This particular trip was not a designated fishing trip, but I was able to sneak in a session with my good friend and local guru Bradley Sparg. He had already had a wonderful start to the season, with good numbers of fish on most outings. The season had been that good that it was hard for him to say when the last season ended and the new one began – the fish had been there throughout the winter.

So it was with much anticipation that we packed the rods and set off for one of our local hunting grounds. This time of year has nice stable patches of weather, where the sea has time to settle, giving the angler an opportunity to scout the area. It is important to find the structures that fish are holding on and what stage of the tide they will be there

This is where Brad’s local knowledge and past success were of great help. We knew that the fish would be holding on the back of banks on the low tide. Once the tide had pushed for a couple of hours, there was just too much working water, making it very difficult to know where the fish would be. We tweaked our tackle to suit this application, using fast action 10ft rods, 5000 size reels and 20lbs braid, with the lure of choice being the trusted tin round back spinner weighing between 60 and 70g. These combinations allowed us to make the length of cast that this facet of angling requires.

We arrived at our spot an hour before low tide and immediately started walking. We had already assessed the conditions and had a fair idea of where the best water was likely to be. After a solid 20 minutes with our heads down, we found the first area that looked as though it might hold a fish. After 10 or 15 casts we realised that the spot needed a little more water for it to become properly fishy. Before long we were at the next spot casting. On my sixth cast I connected to a fish that I landed fairly quickly. It was not the biggest fish, but my trip was made and anything caught after this would only be considered a bonus. The fish was quickly measured, tagged and released. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a cob hitting your spinner. It may not be as visual as a yellowtail or leerie eating a plug off the surface, but in its own way it is equally exciting.

Unfortunately the spot did not offer up any more fish and we were quickly on our way looking for the next promising patch of water. The day continued in a similar manner, with a fish coming out from every second or third spot, and only one spot delivering a second fish. We ended the day with a handful of fish, which is a reasonable return in anyone’s books. This is a very rewarding style of fishing as you get real feedback from the spots that you select. Once you have made a few dozen casts in an area, you will know whether it is holding fish or not. It is great when you see a spot, make a few casts and get hit, never knowing the size of the fish until it starts taking line. The Garden Route is an incredibly special part of our coastline. We didn’t see another angler for the entire day, there was no litter on the beach, there was an abundance of sea and birdlife, and you were able to reach all of this in less than 20 minutes from your front door.

Probably the best attribute of this area lies in its versatility. There are a huge number of spots that all hold fish consistently. Knysna is my base on such trips, and as a result, I generally focus on the stretch of coast between Knysna and George. The most common spots in this area are Brenton, Goukamma, Swartvlei, Kleinkrantz and Wilderness. One may end up fishing a few of these areas in the same day because, depending on the beach formation and the swell size, they may all hold fish at different stages of the tide. The size of the swell can vary greatly between these areas and as a result, it pays to move between them. Many an outing has been saved by moving from one area to another in the search of the right water.

This time of year is also likely to deliver the odd surprise. Shad and leeries can often be an added bonus and when you do get a shad, it is likely to be a good one. I have heard of a few exceeding 6kg landed already this season. The cob average between 4 and 7kg, with a few bigger ones in between, and there is always the possibility of that really big fish just as the first light south-easters start to blow.

The signs from this season have been very encouraging. There have been great numbers of fish and smaller fish in particular, and on beaches that have not been productive for a number of seasons. There have been quite a few fish below 4kg, which would normally be considered unusual. I am not sure whether this is due to an exceptional breeding season two or three seasons ago or due to seasonal fluctuations, but it is very encouraging to see the number of juvenile fish on this part of the coastline. There have been quite a lot of krill, which make easy meals for smaller fish, washing up on the beaches and this may be the reason for the higher numbers. Cob has to be one of our most targeted edible species and an improvement in their numbers would mean so much for our sport.

We have a shared interest in preserving this species and the only way to do so is to catch one fish at a time. Please be responsible in what you choose to take home. As an old friend always says: ‘Fish are much more fun in the water than they are out of it.’