We recently headed to Umngazi River Bungalows for a week long family holiday. The weather was sadly not ideal (for a family holiday) with most days being overcast and drizzly, with the added benefit of a few spectacular evening storms. On the up side it generally only rained in the afternoons and, despite the clouds, it was still warm enough to enjoy the beach and the pool. Conditions were also good enough to grab the fly rod and head for a quick fish (but then when are conditions not right for fishing?).
The water was dirty from recent rains and chats with other anglers weren’t promising as nobody had caught a fish. But you can’t catch without a fly in the water so we took a small boat (with it’s small 5hp engine) and went in search of a spot my dad had fished years before. Stories were ripe with oxeye tarpon under majestic cliff lines. I was excited to say the least.
We immediately had issues when just a few hundred meters upstream we did a few safety checks which didn’t yield promising results. There was very little fuel in the tank, we had no oars, and the engine often wouldn’t engage meaning we were left fiddling for up to 5 minutes before we got the boat running again. However despite discovering these issues we forged ahead as it was already late and returning to the jetty would delay us by at least another half an hour. Probably not a great decision, but thankfully it all worked out in the end – the fuel lasted and we never got stuck upstream with a faulty engine and no oars. This was almost disappointing as I’d already begun stretching for the jog home, and any trip without a story is not what it could have been.
It took us roughly 20 minutes to reach our spot (under the cliffline) where we both opted to fish poppers due to the poor water clarity. A popper pushing a big wake would surely be more visible than a clouser in a chocolate milkshake. There was also a fair amount of surface activity which was promising and again pushed us towards surface flies. It took about 30 minutes of dedicated fishing, wondering if the water was indeed too dirty, for my dad to hook up with a beautiful pickhandle barracuda. With the pressure off we fished more confidently and not long after that I connected with a beautiful giant kingfish (giant trevally). It was all action and we had multiple chases, missed a lot of fish, and lost even more. I personally dropped a beautiful springer while my dad missed multiple others fish. But the good news is that the fishing was on and we had an energetic session.
The second day’s fishing followed a similar pattern with lots of activity, multiple chases, and many lost fish. On route to our spot we even had a bullhead mullet jump into the boat as it leapt from the water – we hadn’t even reached our spot and we were already a fish up.
At one stage my dad and I almost doubled up on pickhandle after finding a shoal. Sadly I missed the take and my dad was bitten off, but it was an exciting moment non the less. This was followed by my dad landing two beautiful springer at which time we realised we had no net, forcing us to improvise by using my stripping basket. Sadly we only thought to use the basket after losing the first fish next to the boat while trying to land it by hand (which resulted in me taking a hook in the thumb as it ejected from the springer’s mouth at speed). I had a slower session but thankfully picked up another GT on route back to the bungalows.
Sadly on day 3 things fell apart (after boasting to the other anglers about our prime spot). The 2 large, evening storms we’d experienced had further muddied the water creating vastly different conditions. The surface action of the 2 previous days was gone, and so were the fish. But hey, that’s fishing – you win some, you lose some. And we’d had 2 great days in the water. Definitely a venue worth returning to, both for the fishing and for the family.