20/07/2009 Brothers of the hunt
They say that hunters form part of a brotherhood. A band of brothers united by a common pursuit, united by the very instinct that has been responsible for our race’s survival since the day we stood upright. For thousands of years we have hunted the wilderness for our food using weapons, techniques and skills that were passed down from earlier generations, thus allowing man and his single-minded hunting instinct to co-exist in perfect harmony. Of course there would have been a few luxuries like a woman to bear his children or perhaps gather fruits and berries, or even having dry fire wood and a tidy cave but that’s about as simple as things were back then.
Step forward a few thousand years where in today’s world of modern conveniences we have free wireless internet in fast food restaurants, free home delivery and ready-made meals waiting on shelves in supermarkets, it’s no wonder our hunting instincts haven’t been given the chance to evolve at all.
My older brother was a better hunter and a better fly fisherman than I was. He once shot an impala which I never did and he started fly fishing long before me. He had better gear than me, always seemed to be invited to fish great locations and he always seemed to catch bigger fish than me. But that’s what big brothers are all about - a person to look up to, someone to learn from, to argue with, and to fight with, but also someone to share a passion like fly fishing with. As kids we taught ourselves fly fishing along the streams of the Natal Midlands and in the dams across the Highveld of the Eastern Transvaal, yet since his untimely and unfortunate passing 15 years ago, those are the first and last memories that I have of fly fishing with him. Two boys, a brotherhood, united forever through an eternal passion for fly fishing and the outdoors.
‘Dude, get your ticket to Exmouth sorted out!’ – The constant reminder I told my lifelong friend Brendan Body every time we chatted on Skype. Brendan and I grew up together in the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg and these days his time is consumed running SA's top skate mag, Session Skateboarding Magazine. www.sessionmag.co.za We’re hardly your typical hunters, but we grew up as part of a skateboarding brotherhood and today we’re still best mates and our brotherhood of skaters stands strong and are all still friends.
In July this year Brendan flew from Johannesburg to Perth and then caught an internal flight up to Exmouth to join me for 2 weeks of saltwater fly fishing nirvana. Domestic flights from Perth to Exmouth are run by Skywest www.skywest.com.au and flights run twice daily from Perth.
Our plan was to base ourselves in a campsite in Exmouth, then make a 4 day excursion across the Gulf, camping in the wilderness under the stars and exploring the shallow flats of the Eastern side of Exmouth Gulf. After 4 days in the wilderness we’d head back to civilization for a shower, the chance to re-stock and then head back out again.
Returning to Exmouth also meant we had time to check out Ningaloo Reef on the Western side of Northwest Cape which plays home to local fly guide Brett Wolf’s True Blue Bonefish operation www.truebluebonefish.com.au
We spent a few days hunting the azure blue flats and offshore options of Ningaloo Reef, by foot and by boat. We had an absolute blast, everything Brendan caught was a new species for him, and I managed one or two myself.
Making two trips across the Gulf became a possibility so that’s where we spent the most time. Once we'd supported the local supermarket, bottle store and fuel station, we loaded the boat with all our fishing gear, a tent, sleeping bags, water, a vice plus some tying materials and made the 22 nautical mile journey across the Gulf. On our return visit I made sure to bring the 6wt for some fun.
Parts of the Gulf are extremely shallow so it’s important to study charts of the area or gather local knowledge on how to get into and out of shallow areas, especially when the tide starts dropping. A local fisherman told me of a time when he was stranded on a remote island after his boat was left dry from the outgoing tide - it took him 3 days to dig himself out by creating a pulley system using his two anchors. No thanks!
Outwitting animals isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time, practice, patience and a dab of luck for the variables to align where the angler or hunter is presented with the perfect shot. Sight casting to a feeding fish in shallow water is brilliant fun but it requires a stealthy approach and the angler needs to act fast or the window of opportunity is lost and one’s left casting to a puff of silt. Being able to quickly deploy a fly in any direction in any conditions, on target and on time is quite possibly the most important and a valuable skill that a flats angler can possess. An angler’s cast is his most important weapon.
Equally important is a decent pair of polarised sunglasses because if you can’t see what you’re casting at, you probably won’t catch the fish. When the opportunity is presented, one single well constructed cast is all it takes and if all goes according to plan, the dark grey shape that the fly landed in front of suddenly materialises into a slab of golden trevally with its oversized rubbery lips and broad profile heading for refuge amongst the mangrove stumps. The angler’s weapon has done its job and now the entire system is put to the test with intricate knots and connections shooting out of the guides, rod bent to the cork and the reel’s outgoing clicker breaking the silence of the flats.
For 12 days of near perfect conditions and with no expectations or objectives we cast flies at anything that moved. Between us we boated over 20 new species, we landed personal bests, talked a mountain of rubbish and basically fly fished non-stop from sun up to sun down.
Two unlikely warriors, two life-long friends pursuing a dream of the ultimate saltwater fly fishing trip, a brotherhood united forever by our passion of fly fishing and the outdoors.
We’re brothers of the hunt.