Friday, February 09, 2007

Well, well, well, live is full of surprises...

I was “forced” to take a long break from work (January to end of May) and this seriously messed with my reviews that I had lined up since I left all my CD's at home. Almost left the laptop there as well.

Those of you who know South Africa will also know that we have one of the worst internet infrastructures in the world making it impossible to get connected if you are not at home with your fixed land line. I'm trying to update this blog with a GPRS connection from a cellphone at 9Kbps! And they want to host the soccer world cup here in 2010? Yea right...

Anyway, time is not wasted however and I did do allot of fishing the past few weeks, one of my favourite pastimes, and instead I'm going to give a little feedback on that rather.

We have mainly 3 types of species targeted by bank anglers in South Africa that you can find in any dam or river throughout the country, the Carp, Barbel and the Yellowfish. As we know the Carp and Barbel can get huge (over 40Kg for both species) but the Yellowfish, indigenous to this land, is far more scarce and smaller in size, but one of the best fighters on light tackle!

To catch the fish one would of course need specific bait and tackle for each species. For Carp you can use a normal carp fishing rod with line of 5-10lb breaking strain and an assortment of “off the shelf” baits available everywhere. The reason for the light line is two fold, the lighter the line the further you will cast and the carp does battle, but not close to what you could expect from a barbel.

It is possible to land a 8-9kg Carp with 8lb line if you are patient and “play” the fish into the landing net. So it is not necessary for overly strong line.

For Barbel you need a bit heavier tackle as it is not uncommon to land a monster at over 10kg and chances are that if you fish the right spot you will eventually land one that big! Here you could use line of 15lb upwards depending on the size you are targeting. I landed an over 10kg barbel with my carp tackle (8lb line) after it took the carp bait and it took me 40 minutes to land the sucker! It would peel off the line and then it was a battle to win back the line lost until it tired a bit and I was able to land it using the landing net.

Usually they prefer a bit of a meaty bait and because of this I do not target barbel (I do not like the mess of preparing the bait, carp bait is much cleaner) and if I catch them it is a complete bonus. The most common bait used amongst bank anglers are chicken livers, dead day old chickens obtained from hatcheries and fish head.

Yellowfish is enormous fun on light tackle and boy do they fight! Most people use lures to catch them since they are hunters, from fly fishing to spinning tackle, it all goes and you normally get them in the streams and rapids where there is bit of faster moving water. You could try your hand at bait and some people have caught monsters of over 6kg with bait, but your success rate will not be as high. You could use the carp tackle and also present them with something meaty, like a cricket, grasshoppers or flying ants, just be warned that barbel will also take this bait, so if you see the barbel turning the water, steer clear!

There are some other species also targeted by anglers in our rivers and dams, but they are not widely spread throughout the country and are specific to a region, under these you find trout, kurper, tigerfish, etc.

Lest take a bit of a look at carp fishing and the traces and bait most commonly used by myself.

First we have our trusted Rietvlei trace.

As seen in the picture you have two hooks, one above the ground bait/lead and one below. The hook length of the one on top must never be longer than the distance to the lead at the bottom. This is important since when the ground bait dissolves the hook should be right in there for a better hook-up chance. The one at the bottom should be the same length as the first and usually we attach a floaty to this to make the hook drift right above the ground bait. So if the carp are feeding on the bottom, the first hook will come into play, if they feed on the floating particles, then the second hook will do the job!

I'm only going to explain how to make this trace since there is only basic variations in making the different traces, the basics stays the same. What you need is two lines, one of a breaking strain of 20lb+ (I use 25lb) and the other the same as the leader line (15lb for me with a 7-8lb mainline). The reason I use such a heavy line to attach the ground bait and weight to is to help with the abrasive nature of the lead used on the line. Most anglers only use a line of the same breaking strain as their leader, but I have lost allot of tackle due to the trace breaking at this point after a few casts and therefore I opt for the heavier line here. It will also be almost impossible to cast this weight of, that is to say if the leader line holds!

You will clearly see that the centre line is much thicker than the hook lines. The hook lines is the same as the leader and is used to attach the hooks to. The top hook line must never be longer than the distance to the ground bait/lead and is attached to the same swivel as the line used for the ground bait/lead. The bottom hook line should be the same length. The reason for this was already explained. Note the beads on the line, this is to protect the knots from damage caused by the ground bait/lead.

Normally you would use as light as possible tackle, swivels from size 12-16, hooks from size 1-6. Remember that the smaller the hook the more chance there is of the hook straightening under pressure, specially if you hook a large enough fish, so if you use a small hook and you feel a monster on the other end, play the carp into the landing net to avoid loosing the fish because you were too anxious, take your time and your tackle will hold!

The disadvantage of this trace is that because the hooks are fixed at certain lengths you sometimes get a “double” hook-up. As the fish fight with the one hook in the mouth the second hook could land up in the body of the fish. If this happens allot then it is time to consider the next trace.

The gliding Rietvly trace.

Everything remains the same except the top hook is attached to a swivel making it glide along the line. This will reduce the “double” hook-up and give the same performance as the above trace. It is however important that once you bait the hooks you hook the top hook into your ground bait, this will ensure that it will land closer to the ground bait once in the water.

The next one is the baby shoe trace.

As seen from the picture it has two hooks attached to the bottom. This is a less favourite but it can be that the fish would prefer the bait a little distance from the ground bait and floating.

The bait used to catch carp includes such a wide variety that it would be impossible to name them all, but here are the basics:

From front left right:

  • Floaty in assortment of flavours, this being a cinnamon flavour.

  • Competition floaty, same as above but much smaller. This being a plain floaty.

  • Maize pips. From normal no flavour to anything imaginable.

  • Ground bait/bom dips. This is to add a little flavour a colour to the water once the ground bait hits the water. Hopefully attracting fish and get them to feed. Banjo is a banana flavour.

  • Muti dip. Used to dip your hooks and bait into to add that extra flavour and colour needed.

  • Also an assortment of various dougs (not pictured).

This is basically what you need to catch some carp, but the most essential is knowledge. Knowing your area, knowing where the fish feed (looking for rising fish), experimenting and knowing what they would prefer on a warm or colder day, etc. And this comes from experience and getting to know your angling spot. Do not be afraid to ask a neighbour what he is using if you see him having success. I have know anglers to also give me some of their bait to try. This is a great sport and everybody enjoys seeing someone else caching a good sized fish, we pat them on the back and shake hands and tell the story as if we caught the fish ourselves. Mostly all bank anglers are very sociable and you can make great friends just introducing yourself and asking advice.

Remember, if you are not going to eat the fish, release it to fight another day!

Hope you enjoyed this blog post, here are a few photos to end it all off with!

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