JP Bartholomew and his GT on fly

JP Bartholomew and his GT on fly

JP Bartholomew and his GT on fly is written by JP, after an incredible encounter up on the north coast of KZN, South Africa, a while back. Enjoy the well written and entertaining account below…made me want to got fishing straight away!


“My day started like no other day on the North Coast, it was Saturday 5th of September I started my morning on the Tongaat River Mouth / Zimbali stretch also known as Long Beach, plugging for Garrick. The sea was choppy, the tide was going out and there was a slight SW blowing, perfect for targeting garrick; which unfortunately bought my morning session to a close with no garrick attacking the plug. I left for home where myself and the family were staying. I thought to myself ‘this afternoon I’ll park at Salmon Bay and walk the Zimbali stretch from north to south but this time with my fly rod catching the pushing in tide’ with the hope of catching  a garrick before the day was up.

So Saturday afternoon I parked at Salmon Bay with my gear which consisted of my Shimano tackle back pack together with my 8/9wt Explore rod fitted with My 8/9wt reel with intermediate line using a 22 kilo leader fitted with a Black and Grey Lead Ass Mullet fly with a 5/0 Mustard Hook.  I started my assault along the Zimbali / Long Beach, heading south this time towards  the Tongaat River mouth. The stretch I was doing had a lot of structure with some nice deep drop off’s which, with a pushing in tide, made it that much more exciting and challenging with a nice SW slightly blowing.

I wasn’t even 200 meters when I saw some action just off a rocky ledge which formed into a nice covered bay where I always saw mullet and karratine shoals hiding away from those predatoryal game fish like GT’s,  Garrick etc… I started stripping line from my Explorer 12 Wt fitted with a Lead Ass Mullet fly with a 5/0 Mustard Hook and started my descent on the area of water where I saw the mullet jumping. Was it garrick feeding or some other species? Never the less I started casting my fly towards the rocks where all the action was happening. I slowly built up my casting distance to where I wanted my fly to land in the strike zone, hoping to pick up whatever was terrorising the mullet. I was into my 9th cast slowly retrieving the fly towards me, changing to an erratic fast action to try and catch the attention of the fish that was scattering the mullet.

Not much longer into my retrieve I felt a bump. Not sure if it was the hunter or the hunted bumping my fly. I continually cast straight into the strike zone again, happy with my cast, I retrieved quickly from the start… Bang bang I was picked up with such force I nearly had the rod pulled out of my hands. I actually didn’t realise what had just happened it was so quick. I knew straight away I was into a buster of a kingfish, which species I could not say at that point in time, as I hung on for dear life as not wanting to lose this fish that had attacked my fly so ferociously on my retrieve. This boykie was not letting up! He was pulling my line quickly, before I knew it I could see my 150m of backing starting to disappear in front of me.

Not being equipped with a heavier set up which would have been my 12 Wt, I knew it would be a do or die situation. Deep breaths and patience was going to be my strategy and I was hoping my equipment would hold up to the pressure this beast was applying on both myself and my rod and reel. I was slowly having some say in this fight, managing to retrieve some of my backing and slowly getting some of my line. My hands and back were starting to feel the pressure and I  just kept thinking ‘no pain no gain’. This could be the fish of a lifetime for me, I just bit the bullet  and kept at it.
Just as I was starting to get more and more line back what I was not hoping for happened; my 9wt Explorer locked on me, it seized, which meant I could no longer retrieve anymore line! What do I do? My equipment has failed, which was fully understandable as it was totally out of its depth with the size of whatever was on the other side of the line. Two options came to mind very quickly, give up which I wasn’t going to do or brace the moment and pull this boykie out by hand.

I quickly grabbed my line and wrapped it around my hand, thank goodness I had my Stealth hand gloves on. I started pulling slowly, moving backwards and at the same time retrieving my line wrapping it around my hand not wanting to pull too hard and risk the chance of losing this boykie, I had come too far for that. I slowly started to retrieve more and more moving up and down the beach, having a good work out at the same time. Finally the beast surfaced; it was a huge GT! My adrenaline picked up when I knew what it was and if I did land this beautiful specimen of an Ignobilis GT, it would be my best catch on fly, I was on cloud nine. Not on cloud nine yet I quickly got back into action wanting to get this boykie onto the beach as soon as possible as I was tired and I could see he was getting tired too but he still had a lot more kick in him. I just had to pick up my pace and keep up with him. I kept  pulling at him slowly and wrapping more line around my hand and walking up and down the beach stretch; I had carved out a path with the continuous up and down while pulling him in and retrieving more line each time.

I finally started seeing more and more of the ignobilis which was a good sign that I was slowly getting closer to beaching him. Finally I was at a stage where I could feel myself starting to lose grip of the line and it was as if the man above looked down and threw me a lifeline; a wave appeared out of nowhere and helped bring this buster of an Ignobilis a little closer. I saw my son,  who was with me, run into the retreating water and grab it with both hands, with the help of some of the bystanders. Finally seeing my trophy ignobilis safe on the beach, I fell backwards tired, shacking and with one very sore right hand. I just looked up and said thank you…..!! Trying to catch my breath and the bystanders shaking my hand and congratulating me, my son said “You did it, Dad, a whopper!”, as I laughed at him and thanked him for his contribution in helping me. Finally landing it safely 57min later,  according to my son is how long I struggled and battled with this exceptional GT that gave me my best fight yet.

Getting my breath back I knew this boykie would be exhausted too. I had to get him back into the water as quickly as possible and revive him so he could return to the sea healthy, but first I wanted to tag him before returning him. I got my son to get my kit from my bag while I dragged him closer to the waters edge so that I could get  the sea water to pass over his gills reviving him back slowly. I measured him quickly, measuring at a 106cm and then tagging him. My son and I got him into an upright position and carried him into deeper water holding him up so the water could pass through his gills even faster. 10min into reviving him I could feel him getting stronger, eventually his tail was starting to get movement back and in no time he was on his way back into the blue.

When we got back from our weekend up at Salt Rock that afternoon and finished unpacking and cleaning up, I sat down with my Length- to- Weight & Identification Guide to Southern African Angling Species Booklet by Chris De Vries, I went straight to the Ignobilis page to check out the size of the trophy GT I had caught Saturday afternoon. Running down the weight chart I finally got to see the  size of the Ignobilis GT I had caught, which had seized my reel and gave me the fight of my life.There it was 106 cm and the weight was my best yet sitting at 23.2 kilos of solid muscle. Wow I was amazed, I had finally conquered my most sacred fish. Knowing deep down inside I had just conquered a piece of the Holy Grail and knowing that out there there are Ignobilis’s of up to 50 kilos and heavier waiting to fight and challenge any angler that crosses his path; the fighting passion that a Kingfish of that size can give a person is so pleasurable if set free to fight another day. So remember always let the big boys go to secure our breeding stocks for the younger generations to come and enjoy the moments that you so treasure, the memories of that big GT buster that didn’t get away on that special day where you got the privilege to earn a little piece of that sought after species of the Holy Grail.

JP Batholomew and his GT on fly

JP Bartholomew and his GT on fly

Tigh Lines and let your fish roam free….

Cheers JP.”


Once again JP, many thanks for putting a huge smile on my face, as I read about you releasing such an amazing catch. And you caught it on fly? Kudos!

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