24 to 27 September 2015
It was the morning of the second day; we were cruising to our first spot with the sun rising on the horizon. Each of us were excited about the fishing lying ahead for us as we wondered what catches would show its face today – especially, since the previous day produced a 19kg catfish and this was merely our first day on the water.
We decided to fish new waters rather than head straight back to the river. The wind was pumping, which caused the pan to be covered with unpleasantly big waves. Thinking back, I remember how the wind fooled us all into thinking that the pan was not going to deliver any fish on this particular day and we all (except for my dad) was aching to head back to the river inlet. My dad held himself stubborn and kept exploring new areas in search of any signs of fish. The problem with Barberspan is that most of the pan looks the same with little change in structure; mostly the pan exists of shallow sandy or muddy banks with no structure in it except for a few reed beds of which most of the reeds are outside of the water. The game changing thought when fishing venues with little structure and awful weather, is that fish will always feed somewhere in the dam. So, one just need to keep on covering water until you find the fish and then you might be lucky enough to experience great fishing in the crappiest weather. This was one of those days when a good mental attitude made a massive difference. My dad kept on staying positive while we were quite quick to write-off the pan.
After covering some water with little signs of live we came across a bay with a few schools of catfish feeding on the surface. This is a good sign as such areas usually hold much more catfish than you can actually see and the ones you don’t see is usually the bigger ones and are actually easier to catch than the schools of cats feeding on the surface. When small schools of cats feed on the surface with their whiskers out of the water they are normally notoriously difficult to catch and require accurate dipping with small leadheads to be caught. We pulled out the boat on the sand in the area and secured it the wind made it difficult to fish this spot effectively. We commenced wading down the shore each a few 100 meter from one another armed with our calling rods. Michael was the first to go tight with a good size catfish on calling. Soon enough each of us caught a few small cats on calling in between the big waves. I also came across catfish cruising in pairs on the surface – might be preparing for the spawn. I also caught a few of these cats by dipping them on the whiskers and it seemed that they were more aggressive than the ones feeding in schools on the surface.
I decided to change my direction and worked in the opposite direction (into the bay rather than on out of the bay) as the catfish I was catching was generally small and I fishing was a bit slow for my taste. It turned out that the inside of the bay had a lot more cats on offer and there were better sized specimens available – one just needed to work through the numbers to get the quality fish. Amongst the four of us we hammered the catfish catching loads through the afternoon session with a few cats of up to 13kg coming out.
Michael also managed to catch a few carp on dipping with a carp leadhead with a Berkley Powerbait Wiggler trailer. At the end of the day we went back to the river section and here Michael landed his new personal best catfish of 18kg on calling with a Madpumkin – a great catch for such a young man!
On the third day we decided to hear back to the bay were we nailed the catfish the previous day. Fishing was much slower which might be due to the morning being colder than the previous morning; quite a chilly morning indeed. My father dropped me off on the shore while he decided to fish from the boat. A called in very shallow water (about 40 cm deep) and went tight with the first cat; a small specimen but at least my account was open. I waded further down the bank and tried a new spot to call. After a few minutes of calling I saw the water swirl which was followed by a mighty hit! The catfish started pulling line of my reel and I knew I was on with a better fish! The fish swam out about 60 meter of line and gave a few runs; it gave a few solid head-shakes and I could feel that this was a heavy fish! Eventually the fish tired and I guided the fish towards the boat to get a few photos and weigh the fish. It turned out to be a decent 15 kg catfish.
The rest of the morning went slow with few cats coming out. Parrish and Kyle joined us on by now and Parrish was lucky enough to land a fair size cat on calling. Michael also landed a nice 13kg job.
As the cats were not really playing along I decided to follow in the footsteps of Michael and try my hand at some carp fishing. Michael was targeting carp on dipping with. I decided to try for the carp on my fly rig, but though I started with a Black Zulu fly I noticed that the carp which were tailing in the shallows were struggling to see my fly. I therefore decided to rather rig a small Wolf Lures carp leadhead on my fly rig.
Fly rig for targeting tailing carp in the shallows:
- Greys XF2 Streamflex 6 weight fly rod (9 foot)
- Greys GX300 fly reel
- 20lb Power Pro braid backing
- Greys 6 weight floating fly line
- Straight 10lb Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon line
- Wolf Lures Carp Leadhead
At first I tried to cast the leadhead with my fly rod, but with the wind pumping and such a heavy “fly” I soon decided to rather dip the tailing carp as I spooked less this way. The carp were feeding aggressively and if one stalked the fish stealthily one could get quite close to them without spooking them. The water visibility actually helped with this as you could spot the carp tailing by their tails piercing through the water surface, but the water was dirty enough to prevent the carp from easily spotting me. I decided to work a bit deeper than Michael which helped me catch a bit bigger specimens as the shallows were full of smaller fish and a bit deeper the 4 kg+ fish were feeding. Often they kicked up dust clouds and some of them even blew bubbles as they were feeding which assisted in acquiring the position of their head (a difficult task in such murky water). With most of the carp I would first observe the fish for a while before dipping it to ensure that I knew exactly where its head was i.e. where it was feeding. It was crucial to place your lure very close (5 cm) in front of the carp to get the hook-up as they wouldn’t see your lure if it was dipped further away. They also wanted a super quiet presentation. I managed to catch 5 carp in an hours’ time with all 5 fish giving awesome accounts of them – they ran me into my backing with several long runs and I was impressed by their stamina. I caught one carp below 3 kg, the rest I would estimate between 4 and just under 6 kg.
My dad was very lucky to catch a 20 kg catfish on calling later that afternoon which put up an impressive fight! Michael and Aubrey as well as Parrish and Kyle nailed the catfish that afternoon catching several on calling from the boat in deeper water. Kyle was lucky enough to also push up his PB cat.
In the evening my dad and I decided to try a new stretch of water. We stop at a random piece of shore and decided to wade in different directions while calling for catfish. I just started calling when I noticed something truly spectacular! As I splashed my lure I noticed a movement to my right side – a catfish was storming towards my lure creating a massive wake on the surface as it came rushing to inspect the noise I was making. I got a heavy dose of fishing fever as this was a 20kg plus job; truly massive! I splashed my lure for the cat and he grabbed it miss! I splashed again with my heart in my throat and the cat engulfed my lure! I could feel my adrenalin pumping as the catfish stormed away, but as I set the hook my excitement changed to utter disappointment as my Madpumkin came loose and the monster disappeared in the deep. I was crushed! My dad heard me and asked what happened, I cringed and only kept repeating the words “it was sooo big, it was sooo big”.
I caught a smaller catfish before we called it a day and I was left to deal with this traumatic experience for this night. I remember thinking how I have missed my opportunity at “the big one”.
In Part 3 I experienced some better luck, watch this space as I share what happened on the final day during our half day session.