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The Fish Of A Lifetime [Part 2/2]

You can read part 1 of Agostino’s fishing adventure right here.

Day Three – 22 March 2014

The next morning I gladly woke the others at 5am Agostino Pic14with my personal rendition of “I’m Too Sexy for my Shirt”. Grumblings from the bedrooms slowly turned into rumblings and we met in the kitchen for breakfast. But even my amazing voice (note the sarcasm) and a cup of coffee couldn’t wake the diesel engine (Gusty). The rustling of the trees out the window revealed that the “W-word” had finally woken up from her drunken sleep. With a serious hangover. Nevertheless, we didn’t come to sip Earl Grey tea with our pinkies extended, from the comfort of the couch.

Agostino Pic15When we reached the water the extent of her anger became evident. The wind was blowing in a swell from the North which basically restricted our “non-seaworthy” vessels to the bay at the docks. Plus our outboard motor was still asleep, but no doubt roaring like a lion (I’m sure no explanation is necessary here as Gusty’s snoring ability is world renowned).

After an hour of persisting in the gale, Agostino Pic16Rob made the suggestion over the radio, “How does bacon and eggs for breakfast sound boys?” There was no resistance to the notion, so we beached the boats and met Gusty back at base for a good ol’ fry-up. It wasn’t even 9am and we were tucking into our second breakfast (my poor stomach).

Erich logged on to Windguru for the day’s wind forecast while we caught up on some Super Rugby. The wind was predicted to decrease during the day, so we hit the water around 11:30. This time Gusty, now experienced in towing underpowered vessels, hooked both boats to his jet ski for the crossing.

We arrived at the furthest bank, semi-sheltered from the wind. Gusty set off smashing into the waves with Rob behind him clasping for dear life. Agostino Pic17Alone on the boat, I planned a drift with the help of the wind which produced a largie of 1.5kg hunting near some submerged trees. I decided to repeat the drift in the hope for another largie or two, as I felt there was some structure that I hadn’t worked properly. The drift started with little success, until I spotted an absolute monster of a largie cruising about 5m off the bank. I watched in amazement as this beast rose to sip a tiny bug off the surface (this shows that a fish of this size is still content to feed opportunistically on minute prey). I presented the Muishond in front of the fish, instead of on top of the fish and risk the chance of spooking her. The fly landed as expected approximately 1.5m ahead of the fish. The plop seemed to go unnoticed as she just kept cruising slowly in the direction of my fly. As she got closer I started stripping, she followed sluggishly (like an old lady on crutches down the grocery aisle). I crouched low on the boat as she waddled closer. I was expecting a burst in speed to annihilate the fly, instead she politely inhaled it. I tightened up with no initial reaction from the fish. She eventually realised that the Muishond wasn’t lunch, and starting peeling line off my reel.

Agostino Pic18Now might be a good time to mention that Gusty had lent me his Shilton SL6 for the use with my 9wt (as I don’t own an intermediate line). This is a quality reel, but…It was setup for left hand retrieve (and obviously I normally use right hand retrieve). So occasionally during the tussle I was required to use the reel (during which I still kept the rod in my left hand and reached over to retrieve with my right). Unorthodox some might add, visually hilarious to others, but it did the job.

Agostino Pic1915 minutes into the fight and the fish began to show signs of tiring. I brought her within a metre of the boat and caught my first real glimpse of her near the surface. “Oh my word! This thing is huge!” Suddenly the fish turned and the tippet caught her pelvic fin. She gradually cruised towards the centre of the dam (luckily). I was her slave now. There was no chance of me changing her head direction, so I reached for the anchor rope with one hand. Now the fish was well into my backing and she wasn’t slowing down. Unable to pull up the anchor completely with one hand, I chucked the rope over my shoulder giving the weight just enough clearance from the structure and engaged the motor. This part of the fight I am glad no one was around to witness. I sat on the left pontoon, anchor rope over my shoulder, attempting to chase the fish (it was more a zig-zag type approach) while keeping tension on the line with my unconventional retrieve. It was literally a circus act, but effective nevertheless.

I caught up with the fish in the deeper water and relieved my shoulder of anchor duty as Herman and Erich came to the rescue. Erich jumped onto my boat and pulled up the dangling anchor and Herman handed him a bigger net. The battle was still raging on, the wind making it difficult having the ultimate control of the boat. My knees were trembling at this stage (Erich finding it quite humorous). Applying increasing pressure I heard the line whizzing through the water. She appeared multiple times, but the sight of the net sent her shredding line off the reel. Finally she made her last pass as Erich slipped her monstrous head into the net. The stubborn old lady had given in. “Whooooo!” I let out a massive shout and administered high fives all round. This was a shout of joy (and absolute relief)! My fish of a life time had finally come to the net and she was mine to admire for a moment. Weighing in at 11.5kg, with a fork length of just over a metre, she was beautiful.

Agostino Pic20

After a couple photographs, we took our time in reviving her before the safe release. There’s no way I was going to cast another fly again today. And just as Rob had done the day before, I relished the moment.  It takes a lot for me to put down the rod and call it a day. This was one of those situations where I could forgive myself.

Day Four – 23 March 2014

The final day arrived and we were on the water early as the morale was sky high after yesterday’s fish. Myself and Erich decided to probe the opposite bank again as we hoped for another monster. After a 30 minute voyage and 3 hours of fishing we managed 5 largies between ourselves. Erich also hooked into a 10kg plus barbel that got us excited, before showing his whiskers. Unfortunately the hooked popped at the boat as my hand reached out for his lip.

Everything was packed up in a flash and we jumped into the bakkies for the dreaded drive back home. We paid our respects at the dam wall on the way out. What a magnificent dam. We are happy to report that the Largemouth Yellowfish still thrives here. Let’s just hope that this dam can stay as unspoiled as it currently is and that this specie is looked after for our future generations. We will undoubtedly perform our annual pilgrimage to this beautiful piece of water in hope that it can produce more fish of this calibre.

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