Standing patiently. Staring out across the flowing water of the confluence and my eyes focus on the point where my clear line disappears into its darkness. I hold the graphite pole in my one hand with the tip of my point finger resting gently on the gut that has been traced through the holes on its side down to the fancy reel. The end of the pole is wedged into my hip. A beer makes a home in my free hand. A lit cig is glued to my dried out bottom lip and the second hand smoke stings my dusty nostrils. An intense heat radiates down from the heavens and insects irritate my sweaty skin. Mosquitos dance around my legs. Flies fight for space on my arms and chest. The occasional bee bumbles past my head. My t-shirt is stained with the stench of caked sardine blood and guts. I have been waiting patiently for 15 minutes now. It is peaceful. It is rewarding in its own way. To be fishing brings me some well-deserved relaxation. But it never was like this before.
Teach A Man To Fish And He Won’t Be Bored
Growing up with a family of avid fisherman I use to stick out like a painful splinter. A fish out of water. Uncomfortable and awkward. I hated to fish. It annoyed me. The smell of thawing sardines nauseated me. Bugged out by the bugs. I wasn’t that good at it either. Whilst my father, uncle and brothers relished in the sport I would stare out of boredom at their fun. Whilst they reel in decent size fish I would manage to catch the branches above me, or the rocks at the bottom of the river, or hook my clothes and yank of skin. My reel was always a tangled mess of frustration that infuriated my father more than me because he had to leave his pleasurable past time to sort it out. Over the years of protested hated for it I finally started to come around. My father taught me all the time. Eventually my skill level rose and soon I was able to do my own trace, bait myself and actually catch some fish instead of leaves, tangle free.
Fishing with my uncle, my father’s brother, was always an adventure. Be it a drunken one at that. He is an expert at both fishing and drinking. Throughout his years he grew a steady collection of fishing trophies, swooping up many local competitions along the North coast between Umhlanga and Richards Bay. He also managed to drink every bottle of Vodka along the way too. He made fishing entertaining. When you are standing for hours on end and no one has managed to catch a thing he would be making jokes, singing, wobbling, and doing everything right, as he would be landing fish after fish whilst the rest of us were bare. He knew the spots, how to cast, what bait worked best, and knew what we would catch. Although his drinking took us at times to a place of annoyance and headaches he still kept the fishing trip on point.
We would do annual fishing trips up to Richards Bay at least twice a year. Stay for a couple of days on the coast or by the confluence, not showering, braai’s, my uncle drinking, my father not impressed, my brothers and I fishing come rain or snow, well obviously it never snowed but you get the picture. It was a time where we would be men. Dirty, smelly men catching our supper. Men living of the land and loving it. Every trip we held our own competition where the person who caught the most fish got 500 bucks as well as 500 for the biggest catch of the trip. I think it was the money that got me more interested in fishing than anything else in the first place.
No Crabby Patties
Every trip has its own stories. I have so many to share but will hand pick the good ones in order to keep this post short. So we will begin with the time my uncle manage to land this hefty size crab out of the confluence. This crustacean’s claws were massive and we kept it alive in a bucket to curry up later. My uncle was drunk and began to taunt the already angry creature. Now, things to know about my uncle is that he has had two strokes already in his life but still doesn’t seem to see reason and as a result he can’t feel a thing in his entire right side of his body. Taunting the crab, poking at it with his numb fingers it snapped onto one of them. My uncle did not shout or scream in pain. He just pulled the crab out with his trapped finger and asked for assistance.
In a shock I ran over with a pocketknife to wedge the claws grip open but also a little under the influence I leveraged the sharp side of the knife instead of the blunt side against my uncles trapped finger. He smacked me over the head and said, “Lighty, you know, I might not be able to feel anything but that doesn’t mean you must cut my finger off.” I looked down to see that the knife was engraved into his finger as well. Luckily the crab loosened the grip fell to the ground and made haste for the water. My uncle just laughed with blood trickling down his hand. The pocketknife still stuck. He pulled it out wrapped his finger in his shirt, took a swig of his nib, ran towards the water to where the crab had splashed into. Picked up a pretty big rock and looked at us. He said we couldn’t let it go and threw the rock into the water. He didn’t think properly about it though. He wanted to stun the crab so he could catch it again but instead all he did was flatten it. Its legs detached and floated to the surface. We laughed. There goes our crab curry.
Shark, You Fool!
The whole family is up on this embankment staring down at the wide lagoon that separates us from the ocean. We are braaing the breyani pot on an open flame and dancing to Bhangra tunes. Old aunties gossiping and the ballies playing cards. A couple of the kids got a game of cricket going. Only my uncle, drunk, is wading through the knee-high lagoon water with rod in hand. From the embankment my father spots a shark fin in the shallow water not a hundred meters from my uncle. He screams loud to my uncle in the distance. My uncle doesn’t hear a thing. The squalls of gulls are more convincing. He runs down the embankment whilst the rest of us jump and scream and wave our arms. Finally my uncle looks back to us and thinking we are waving at him waves back smiling. Idiot! My father gets to the bottom and directs my uncle’s attention to the fin. My uncle freezes. He sees the fin disappear under the water. To his left, about 10 meters from him the water swirls in a commotion and bam out jumps this Zambezi Shark with half a turtle shell bleeding from its jaws. At the sight of this my uncle turns on his heels rod in hand, vodka nib in the other and bolts towards the embankment. He was stone cold sober after that.
Lost At Land
There was the spot called Amatikulu. A long drive through the bundu’s to get to the best fishing spot by far. You need a 4×4 to make the trip but we always tempted fate with my uncles’ small Nissan bakkie. As you can see my uncle is the common factor in all these trips. We took the Nissan onto the beach and drove along towards the forest canopy, which is enclosed, by the water of the river on one side and ocean on the other. At low tide you are able to cross the river and get to forest before setting up a spot along the coast. At high tide however the river fills up and that pathway is gone. You are then stranded until the next low tide. We crossed and it was easy. Only got stuck in the sand about five times but with all the man power, my brothers and I, we got the tiny Nissan out in a jiffy. We used to enjoy holding onto the bakkie and be dragged behind it as it went along the soft sand.
After the long day fishing, with not much luck I might add, it was time to head back before our way home was washed away. My uncle has the keys but we can’t find him. Searching along the coast for an hour we started to worry he drown or something. I plonked down next to the bakkie that was parked on the sand. I felt a foot dig into my backside. Low and behold there was my uncle passed out. He had taken refuge from the sun after a whole bottle of vodka. We woke him up and he emerged as the sandman. He had grown out his curly hair and beard. Sand avalanched of him. We got the keys and hurried out of there. The river was already filling up and the path was submerged under water. The Nissan struggled to tear a route through it. We spent most of the time behind it in knee high water pushing it through until finally in pitch-black darkness we made it across and back on the way home.
Fisherman For Life
I have many fishing tales that have had its downsides but I must admit they have been the best times of my life. Just recently I went with my girlfriend to the Olifants River for a weekend and had a great time fishing with her. She is much better than me at it. She is the only woman I know who can land bigger fish than most professionals out there. I prefer the river to the ocean. It is calmer and much more appealing. Fishing has become a great past time of mine. So I stood there with my rod, sipping on my beer, staring out at the beauty of nature very content, relaxed but without a bite. Thats not a problem though. Catching a fish is just the reward at the end of a wonderful day .