Catching Garrick on fly with JP Bartholomew
I’ve often wondered why I have this obsession for catching Garrick on fly, maybe it’s those heart stopping chases and the fight as they they try to smash your fly on the surface which play a major role in driving up my adrenaline levels.
Throughout the year I spent My time chasing Kingfish,Snoek and other Game fish, but come May when the first Garrick start arriving with the Shad- and hopefully the annual Sardine Run – we all get excited.
Garrick are found right around our South African coastline, in summer they prefer the cooler Cape water’s ,but in winter the arrive on our doorstep in KwaZulu-Natal ,and stay here until they spawn in spring before undertaking the long haul back to the Eastern Cape in summer.
They prefer sea temperature’s between 17’C and 23’C and they are able to tolerate water’s with low salinity levels like Estuaries where they spawn.
Garrick rank high on the list of gamefish and can be targeted from beaches and estuaries . They like deepish channel’s just behind the shorebreak around rocky drop-offs where they will pass through to bays and sometimes enter river mouths to ambush and feed on Mullet, Shad, Pinkies & Karanteen which are some of their favourite prey.They especially like the clean,blue waters where they’re hunting takes place in the surf zone.
Garrick will often give themselves away by viciously smashing and thrashing their way through schools of Mullet and baitfish in the shallows with great swirls and splashes.
This feisty gamefish can be targeted off KZN from May to November, but I’ve found September and October to be the most productive month’s for me.
By that stage they’ve often spawned already and are extremely hungry and very aggressive and will virtually smash at anything that is thrown in front of them.
Don’t try targeting them after a cold front or change in weather temperature as they go off the feed in those kind of conditions.I find it best to fly fish for them on a pushing in tide, ideally in the early mornings or the late afternoon when the sun is starting to set – that’s usually when they are most active and aggressive.
When the conditions are right I wade out into waist- deep water to get to the sandbanks and target the Garrick from there ,otherwise fly fishing off rocky ledges is also a great way to target these magnificent Gamefish.
In September I flyfished a stretch on the KZN North Coast from the Tongaat River Mouth to Salmon Bay . It was a beautiful morning with a slight South westerly wind blowing – perfect because Garrick like to feed on SW.The water conditions where ideal too – the water was clean and the tide had just swung to a pushing tide.I had My Stealth 10/ 12 Wt Rod fitted with My XPLA 11 9/10 Wt Reel filled with Rio Tropics Surf Intermediate line.My favourite Garrick flies are the Lead headed – Ass Mullet tied on a 5 / 0 Mustard Hook,with a lead weight hidden in the Bucktail hair to ensure it sinks and to get that extra distance when you’re casting into the strike zone.I like using a red faced fly with Orange body in extremely clean, clear waters,and a grey-faced Lead headed – Ass Mullet with black body in less clean waters,a darker fly gives off a better silhouette in less visible water’s and more easier to see and smash it.
Just before 06:30am on this day in September I started stripping line, preparing to cast.ON my walk down to the beach I’d Spotted a small sand bank which I thought would be a good spot to start.I was hoping there would be some Garrick around in the channel just in front of the sandbanks and determined to get a Garrick that morning.
I cast as close to the sand bank with the channel right in front of it and allowed my fly to sink before bringing it up to attract any Garrick that might be swimming around looking for bait fish . Before long I was picked up by what I was hoping would be my first Garrick on fly for the season,that morning,but as quick as I was on the fish came off which can often happens targeting Garrick there top and bottom jaws are hard boned and if you don’t hook them properly like in the siccors of their jaw you bound to loose your Garrick.Its always good to remember when get smashed or picked up by a decent size boykie you should keep your Rod tip down and strike sideways as to get your hook to set in the scissors of the fish’s mouth to successfully land your Garrick onto the beach.
I cast again, hoping for another strike from a Garrick – I knew they were around because the Mullet were very unsettled with the odd Mullet jumping and skipping away.After a few more casts my fly was picked up and , in a swirl of water and some splashing, I was back on! He took off and I slowly tightened My drag to slow him done, being careful not to over tighten causing the braid to snap or straighten the hook.
I slowly started retrieving some of My line back and trying to turn the Garrick around.I eventually got to land My mornings Garrick a good 27 minutes later what a beauty of a Garrick to my adrenaline levels high I was happy it was over . Garrick like to use the waves to there advantage by positioning themselves sideways in the wave, making it more difficult to bring them in.
Patience plays a important role in landing a Garrick – especially if it’s your first for the season – so make sure you keep your tempo and hold your Rod high and firm so that you don’t loose your fish.
When you’re fishing for Garrick in bad light or very foamy or discoloured water, your best opinion would be a No 2 Pencil Popper or a NYAP fitted with a 4/0 or 5/0 Mustard hook,retrieved very quickly along the surface of the water . Last year while fly fishing the Gamtoos River Estuary I landed four Garrick on a No 1 Pencil Popper,what fun it was.
When you target Garrick it is a good idea to retrieve very fast every third or fourth cast so that the fly or Pencil Popper skitters across the surface of the water.Doing a slow retrieve with a whipping action from your rod can also be very affective and should catch thee attention of any fish in your fishing zone . Garrick are clean fighter’s and do not purposefully try to cut you off on reef or structure, that’s why they also get called the Gentleman of the sea . Garrick can be targeted with light tackle outfit’s which is always that more exciting.
When walking your stretch and if you see fish movement such as are smash or a chase try and get your fly ,Popper into the immediate vicinity as soon as possible.These fish are very aggressive and will usually chase your fly,giving you a awsome fight and a great adrenaline rush and a Garrick on fly that you’ll never forget….Practice Catch and release and let your fish roam free let go let grow……!!
I hope you enjoy my story I’ve had the pleasure of telling you and experiencing it at first hand…..Tight line’s Readers
Cheers JP Bartholomew.