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Pongola Game Reserve Fishing Report
|Temp (Gorge):||27 + degrees|
|Temp (River):||23-25 degrees|
|Water Clarity:||50% river stretch * 100% Main dam|
|Fishing Area:||Opp Nkwazi Lodge, Houseboat, Hydrilla Flats, camp site, up to bridge|
|Average Size:||250g – 3 kg|
|Artificial Lure:||Rapalas trawled between 4-7m (white variations colors), red spinners|
|Bait:||Live Bait, sardine, barbell fillet, and chicken liver/hearts|
|Fly Fishing:||7.7 kg fly – (Outside guest) Clousers and Poppers|
|Biggest Fish:||4, 5 kg Pumlani, 4.4kg Gavin Loveday – 4, 2 Barry Gerber|
|Skipper of the month:||Robbie – just cos he’s new|
Well, it’s been a good fishing season and its slowly coming to an end, or should I say tapering down a hell of a lot since about mid April. Unfortunately we have had a couple of consecutive cold fronts which have brought down our water temperature to about 22 degrees in the last week of April. We have landed some really nice fish, over 12 in the 4 kg range but with a lot of patience and hard work. Well done to those guys who have put in the extra effort, especially the skippers who are continually been asked the “why, where” question.
The methods of fishing have been continually changing, with one day all the takes coming on sardine and the next all on trawling. It’s actually been quiet interesting seeing how the different groups results differ, some coming in with 5 fish and the others not even a strike. I have been out quiet a bit with clients (on their own boats); especially when they are struggling to even get a pull. I have been testing the different rapalas colors; depths fished and speed of trawling on these outings and its quiet interesting especially when out of the blue a 4kg jumps out the back on something one would not expect a decent tiger to take. A little bit more of this later.
The reserve has been really busy with all the public holidays and the skippers seem to be on top of the fish most of the time, though at times even the most experienced suffering from a bad day at work. The areas producing the most fish seem to be around the campsite area, specifically on the drop off just east of the launch site. I personally have been particularly lucky on the bend opposite Nkwazi Lodge and Shayamoya boats, fishing the 4m range. Drop offs close to the bank seem also to be another important area to target. I have also started fishing the reed banks, literally parking the boat up against the reeds and fishing just behind the boat. During the month some good fish have also come out in the 7 m range , with guys like Erlo Beneke landing some good fish in the 2- 3,5 kg range. A lot of patience is needed in these depths with long waits in between strikes.
Bait sizes also seem to be quiet an important part of the fishing at the moment, with most successful results coming on bite size pieces ( just enough to cover hook), though I know some clients are still using full sardines to target the big one’s. The skippers have been mentioning inside out sardines seem to be working better than the silverside. A lot of blood and chumming seems to be also quiet important too. I have very successful with trawling live bait and sardines too, and have even being trawling Couta rigs. Chicken hearts, livers and fillets are still working well, just not sure what we are going to be trying next, but if it’s working, go for it. Live bait are still very successful, especially with the water temperature dropping , and a livie on the cork just short of the reeds has not got a long life expectancy.
Artificials are definitely coming back well, with more clients going back to these methods. Duncan and Cheryl Mackinnon have been with us for a week now and have been banging tigers from 300 g to 3 kg’s , sometimes out fishing the best of the bait fisherman. Effzett spoons and spinners worked at all depths, with a fast retrieve again seeming to be the best method. Structure, structure, structure is the key. They mentioned that the barbell have started running too in certain places around the dam, and a spoon thrown in and around them seems to get the tigers going around them. Apparently the barbells are co operatively feeding, working the bait fish against the bank on the Lebombo mountain side and always worth following them. As mentioned earlier I have been trying out different rapalas, sizes etc and quiet excited with their performance. The white variations are definitely tops at the moment, with the fire tiger close behind. Combinations of blue/ pink and gold are also getting knocks, with only bright orange not working at the moment. I did a training day with the skippers at Nkwazi the other day and only allowed 2 lures per skipper. Well it was an overcast day, so ideally dark rapalas (according to book), but exactly the opposite happened. All the strikes and fish landed were caught on bright colors trawled at about 2500 rpm, in the 4 -7 m range and with the casting and retrieving method just off the weed banks. On another occasion coming back from a boat cruise with the Ehlers group, we had some great action on buzzer bait specifically top water lures including frog patterns. We did not land any fish but had a strike every 20 m will slowly cruising back to the lodge along the deep rock faces just short of Nkwazi at sunset. I remember the old adage of never watch your top water lures as inevitably one will pull them of their mouths, just must remember to apply this rule.
On the where to fish question? Trial and error. I personally think one needs to find the fish at the moment, but if you want to relax and have a beer or 10, you are going to wait a while. Sakkie Gerber is a prime example, where he sat in 7m of water at the dead trees just short of the main dam for 6 hours without a strike, BUT when the one strike happened, he landed a beauty of 4, 27 kg. JA NEE! Well done Sakkie. Otherwise fish have been coming out everywhere from 1m to 13 m, remember when the fishing is tough you have to try the entire spectrum. Dumi has been working areas for an hour at a time and coming back to these areas twice sometimes three times a day. Fishing’s tough guys. Another prime example that the chill is setting in is the amount of Silver Barbell and eel coming out. Remember to watch out for the barbs on the Silver barbell, otherwise you not going to be fishing for a while.
On the fly side, we are also working hard. I was out with Kevin and Mark Wells the other morning, and although fishing was tough, at least a 1,5kg came out on my famous orange whistler pattern. We were working shallow water around any structure we could find, and even though there were follows they were reluctant to take the fly. We eventually realized the fly had to be retrieved super fast and thrown just under their nose. Where possible allow the fly to sink as far down as possible before starting the under arm retrieve. Gavin Loveday was out fly-fishing again and although nothing decent landed had the same issues with the tigers. The Taylor’s were also out and really working the fly. I managed to have a few words with them will on water, and apparently had a fantastic time losing a couple of nice fish in the weeds and reed banks, and if not mistaken landed one good one. Alex Neves was also again at Nkwazi and mentioned while out fishing chatted to a fly fisherman who landed a beauty of 7, 7 kg in the gorge (around the entrance). He did see the pic on the guy’s phone and said was a fantastic specimen. Deep water fishing. Well done, definitely a Jozini record on fly. Sorry guys did not get anymore info on this catch.
Big catches for the month.
1. Pumlani (Nkwazi gardener) – 4, 5 kg on sardine – Nkwazi bend – first fish !!!!!! –Released.
2. Sakkie Gerber – 4, 27 – sardine – entrance to main dam- released.
3. Gouws from de Bruto family – 3, 97 kg (call it 4 kg – ha ha) – main dam opp. WE lodge – N/R.
4. Zogby Group – 3, 5 kg sardine – river stretch – N/R.
5. Jason Wright from Wells group – 3, 7 kg – trawling live bait – Nkwazi bend – released.
6. Standard Bank – 3 kg – sardine – pump station – released
7. McCauley group – 3, 3 kg sardine – river stretch – released.
8. Dave Rainbird – 3, 5 kg – sardine – camp site – released.
9. Erlo Beneke – couple in 3, 5 kg range – dead live bait – released & N/R.
10. Barlow Group – 3, 3 kg – sardine – river stretch – released.
11. Landazakis group – 2, 5 kg – live bait – river stretch – released.
12. Kobus v.d. Westhuizen – 3kg – sardine – main dam – released.
13. Hannes Hamman – 3 kg – sardine – river stretch – released.
14. Chris – 4, 8 kg – sardine – Nkwazi bend – released.
15. Leon v.Heereden – sardine – Nkwazi jetty – released.
16. Vasanth Sonaal – 4 kg - sardine – campsite area – N/R.
Not such a bad catch for the month. Anyway must mention about Pumlani our gardener/maintenance man. We were out doing maintenance on our pump at Mpalane and as always a rod has to go along. Long story short, big take, I struck, passed over rod. Fought like a barbell and when getting to the boat, we saw the silver flash, jump and then the fight began. All the odds were against us, no net, bogo; fish swam into the anchor rope but finally was landed and released. Really a fantastic fish, everyone was happy except Pumlani who had to release the fish. Poor guy, afterwards he said wish was a barbell so could have kept it to eat. Murphy’s.
Again –“Please release your tiger’s guys”
Basic list of what to bring follows:
1. Any bass rod – 6 to 7 ft ideal, rigged with coffee grinder or centre pin reel.
2. Line strength – 8 -14 lb. Braid also good if have fished with it before.
3. Hooks – chemically sharpened from 2/0 – 5/0 ( Mustad, Bass hooks, circular – best quality )
4. Steel trace – made up traces (35 cm) or roll of Stealth wire which you can make up own.
5. Bogo grip – or good set of pliers to take hook out.
6. Floats – to suspend bait
7. Ghost cotton to secure your bait
8. Leader line – 40 cm of thicker line as shock tippet (fluorocarbon not a must).
9. Sardines or any bait mentioned above
10. Sun cream/hat.
11. Competency certificate/ skippers ticket any other paper work needed.
1. Anything from 5 -9 wght rod.
2. Intermediate and sinking line.
3. Leader line – definitely 8kg plus (take off the old trout tapered leaders).
4. Flies – selection of Clouser minnows/zonkers/whistler patterns. Bring couple of trout flies too.
5. Steel trace – No 1 piano wire ideal.
6. Bogo grip – long nose pliers.
7. Gloves for stripping – unless you have some calloused hands.
8. Sunglasses and hat – safety issues.
Tight Lines till next time. Sorry about no pic of the 9 kg, still trying to trace a decent pic down.
P.S. If anyone has some photos of tigers caught here, please email Marietjie them at firstname.lastname@example.org. . Oh, I am difficult to get hold of at times, so if you can’t, please try George for any info needed.