The morning of the 11th of April 2015 began just like any other morning, waking up to the sound of the ocean lapping the shore and the cat meowing for food. Carlos and I were in a bittersweet mood- happy to be heading back to South Africa, for a week or two, to see family and friends but sad to leave our home and our kitten. It was about lunch time, whilst packing our bags, when we heard Rod Haestier shouting frantically for assistance. Carlos poked his head out our door to see what all the commotion was about… only to find Rod with a buckling rod and near empty reel attempting to get his camera out of his room. Carlos then began bellowing. I ran out only to get shouted at and sent back to get my rod. A massive, shimmering bait ball had gathered on our doorstep and was getting smashed by a shoal of leeries.
I raced down to the beach, and started trembling with excitement. My first cast was nothing other than a total disaster, it was as if I had two left hands! I managed to land my plug nowhere near the bait ball that was stretched out for at least 50m in front of me. A little story on the side, whilst learning to cast properly the only way I got my rhythm was by singing to myself (Lana del Rey was the hit!). I knew I had to get my nerves in check so I reeled like crazy, took a deep break and started singing. From here on, everything happened in slow motion… my plug flew perfectly landing just behind the bait ball. Few quick winds and my ‘Flamingo Special’ plug was skipping along happily. The next moment a massive bow wave started coming from behind, then the biggest explosion I had ever seen. This repeated itself over and over as the leerie was so aggressive he couldn’t get the plug in his mouth (or I had stopped singing, lost focus and was winding like a crazy person!!). Just as I thought I was running out of water my plug disappeared into a massive mouth, not even 15m from my feet. My rod jerked, my Stella started screaming and just like that I was on!
Meanwhile, Carlos had managed to land Rod’s fish. After a few quick photos, the leerie of about 20kg was returned to the sea. Now all of a sudden I had a lot of ‘expert advice’. The fight lasted for about 20min. The flat, clear waters and my new set of Costas made it possible for me to see the fish for the entire fight- something thats etched into my brain forever! After a few tense moments, Carlos managed to tail the fish. Only when he picked it up and passed it into my trembling arms did I realise what a beauty I had just landed. Once the moment had been captured, I waded waist deep into the water, held her until she was ready to kick off. Feeling the fish kick out of my hands and seeing her swim off strongly was even more satisfying than catching her!
As our fisheries are under immense pressure all over the globe (even in a remote area like Angola) it is very important that we all do our part. Every fish released helps the cause, especially those big breeding females.
Quick tip: always have a camera ready before you land your fish as it wastes valuable time fetching it once the fish has hit the beach. Fighting a big fish takes a lot out of it and every second spent out of the water reduces the chance of a successful release!