Those that were fortunate enough to have been at Umhloti main beach with a spoon and a fishing rod on Wednesday 24th August 2011 will surely agree that it is the best day's spinning they have ever had in their lives.
It started off early in the morning with huge sharks mauling balls of rather large anchovies in the shore break. This was happening along the entire length of the Umhloti coastline. Schools of dolphin then came in and joined the fray. This moved the sharks on and as soon as the dolphins had left, shoals of Eastern Little Tuna smashed into the bait balls behind and on the backline. In the shore break Blacktip Kingies were balling up and smashing the bait.
A couple of locals and a few holiday makers had started throwing spoons on anything from bass rods to big surf rods. Some classic bust-ups and frantic action followed. Slowly but surely the message got out and by the time people like myself had had a call or two describing the action, it was too much to resist. I definitely had some tackle to test and went rushing off to Umhloti. My Shimano Lesath shore game spinning rod, 5000 Stella and Iron Candies have more than proven their worth on many occasions, but loaded on my reel was the very latest in line. Not a braid and not a monofilament. I had been asked to test the latest Berkley NanoFil (Unified Filament Technology). This was the perfect excuse for me to be out of the shop.
When I arrived I couldn't see any action and was starting to wonder whether all the stories were true. Suddenly in front of me I saw what appeared to be a big black patch of rock start materialising out of the white water on a bank. Knowing that there were no rocks there, I realised I was looking at a shoal of fish. As that went through my mind they got smashed and suddenly I was battling to thread my swivel and leader through the guides on my spinning rod. I had to make a conscious effort to control the shaking. More "should be working" people like myself started arriving. Some didn't even have fishing clothes to change into. They went straight into the fray, work clothes, spinning rod and all. Word on the beach was that you must have a tin spoon. Contrary to that and trusting my past experience I loaded up with a Hot Orange Foil Bullet and was almost instantly rewarded with a really fat seven-kilo sized fish. My next throw was my fish of the day, with most people remarking on the nice Couta that I had caught.
I don't think I saw more than five Snoek come out that were less than 5 kilograms. The average size was probably around 7 kg's with some real buses around record size. The South African Rock and Surf qualifying size is 98 centimetres. Last year I was fortunate enough to submit a claim for a fish of 104 centimetres (fork length) and my best fish on Wednesday measured 107 centimetres! There was such a frenzy during the peak of the action that if the fish you were fighting showed itself in the water, it would immediately be bombarded with spoons from both left and right of you. With crossed lines, hit-offs, cut-offs and over's and under's going on at a frantic rate, tempers were a little frayed at times, but overall an extremely fun-filled atmosphere prevailed.
I had been using the Nanofil for almost a month and was incredibly impressed with a number of things. First of all, it is definitely the best line I have ever cast with. Because it is not a braid it does not absorb any water and I have never had a "frrrrt" or "wind-knot" in this stuff. Even with the experience that I have had in the spinning game I somehow managed to get the odd one every now and then with every other braid that I have tried, especially when the action is really hot which is obviously when you don't need it. When part of the action moved down towards the rocks to the left of the car park, I knew I had close to my bag limit of fish so losing one or two was not really too much of an issue. The first fish I hooked at the rocks was a Kingie and it immediately hit the rocks and ran off about fifteen metres almost as if to test my suspicions on this new line. I cranked up the drag and dragged the fish all the way back to its starting point. Not giving up, it turned and took another five metres under huge drag. The line should have parted long ago. Unfortunately I managed to pull the hook out of the fish. Without even feeling the line I threw straight back out and was into another good sized Snoek.
Of the four Snoek that I caught on that part of the beach, three of them had me in the reef and I couldn't believe that the line held out. In fact the last and biggest fish I would have sworn was a "gonner". Most anglers will be familiar with the scenario when the rod is bent double and giving that familiar jerky feel as the line comes back or goes out inch by jerky inch. Unbelievably that fish came out and when I asked somebody to hold my Iron Candy and I tested the line by pulling really hard on the rod, it was as strong as ever. The next morning I tested my whole rig before wading out onto the rocks on the Northern end of Umhloti (the swell was up). Still using the same outfit I went onto hook another huge Snoek and landed a decent Blacktip Kingie, which also went through the rocks. At the end of that session my tackle was still holding out and I was amazed at what the line looked like. It was very badly frayed but in a way that is different to any line that I have seen before. This stuff really is going to revolutionise fishing line.
The day had a very particular significance for me as I don't think there has been a single Snoek that I have caught off the rocks or beach on spoon where I have not reflected on my late Dad. Ever since I can remember he spoke about his dream of catching Snoek off the beach and how a veteran angler by the name of "Jimmy Brinnical" had caught Snoek off the beach at Nonoti on a small thin spoon. Whenever my Dad saw a long thin rod or a new small coffee grinder or a long thin casting type spoon, he would tell me how good these would be to catch Snoek off the beach. I remember him buying a rod, then years later a reel and a couple of spoons, some of which I still have, in particular the Abu Lucas. We tried a few times, him with the coffee grinder, me with my Scarborough, but with no success. All that was missing was the braid. It was the drop shot era that really got me going on developing this style of fishing. When I hooked the first Snoek it suddenly dawned on me that I was living his dream. It reminds me of the song "Dance with my father" by Luther Vandross, except in my case it will be "Fish with my father". If I had a day to fish with him again, this would have been that day. I was fortunate to have shared the latter part of the day with my youngest son when he joined me after school.
What was so special about that Wednesday was to watch the many inexperienced anglers, young, old, ladies and kids and even some experienced anglers, catching their first, second or third fish ever on a spoon or their first game fish off the beach. It was very gratifying to be able to help somebody out with a spoon or to land their first fish or give them a fish if they hadn't caught one. After the action was over one extremely happy angler was telling us how happy he was that he had spent a lot of money on the "right kind of spinning equipment" and that to have a day like this, he would happily have spent ten times that amount! That best explains how special a day it was for those that participated.