JP Batholomew and his GT on fly

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!

Captain Gallop and the Wahoo

Margaruque Wahoo Strike

Margaruque Wahoo Strike

Margaruque Wahoo Strike by Robin Beatty.

Another great catch off Margaruque this time by Captain Gallop (aka Robin Beatty), deep off the islands on an amazing pinnacle full of these angry fish. They destroyed 6 of our live skipjack before we wised up and targeted one or two ‘Hoo. Captain Paul Saayman skippering his boat Shades of Blue got us onto the fish.

Wahoo are reputed to get 75kmh, and their strike is legendary. But once you get the toothy monster aboard, that’s when things get even more crazy.

Trying to get a photo of the wahoo whilst it still had it’s lights on, I hoisted the fish and got whacked in the arm by it’s tiny front teeth, never mind the lashers further back, where my other hand was – trying to control the angry animal.

Get in touch on umzimkulu@gmail.com if you want a fish like this!

Calen Moodley caught and released this Potato Bass off Karridene Beach

Potato Bass caught and released at Karridene

Potato Bass caught and released at Karridene

I was in Danwood Fishing Tackle in Tongaat yesterday, where I came across an amazing fishing story. Young Calen Moodley made this excellent catch whilst fishing with his uncle Annand, down at Karridene this week.

Calen cast his bait just next to some rocks a bit off the shore, and when he brought up the slack, found the reel wouldn’t turn anymore! So, on his own, he started walking backwards to get tension when his rod started bucking about. He continued his backward march until eventually his uncle arrived and helped Calen beach this absolutely beautiful  and rare – Potato Bass.

Calen Moodley and his caught and released Potato Bass, on Karridene Beach

Calen Moodley and his caught and released Potato Bass, on Karridene Beach

The fish was released healthily back into the shorebreak where it swam away with a big smile!

Fly fishing Umdloti with JP Bartholomew

Fly fishing Umdloti with JP Bartholomew

And here we have JP Bartholomew entertaining us again with tales of fly fishing Umdloti, just north of where JP lives…

A final break in the weather and I wanted to get some flyfishing in and especially to see how my right arm was doing after battling with Tennis Elbow which I had been battling with for the last couple of month’s.I hit the Umdloti stretch with my 8/9wt Explorer fitted with a Explorer Orion 9wt Reel with intermediate line using a 22lb fluorocarbon leader.The water was flat with a slight South westerly wind blowing and as always fishing on a pushing in tide.The water was a nice green/blue in colour which was perfect not clean and not dirty the stretch was mine with the odd Holidaymaker Anglers trying there luck. A lot of scattered reef along the shorebreak and open gullies made it that more interesting to fly fish. Don’t you just ever get that feeling that today is just going to be an exciting morning for you not expecting anything big but just hopping for a epic morning’s session and you just wanna get going?  Well this time I had a awesome morning’s fly fishing.

I had set up my fly set up and looked for a fly best suited to try the water’s I was going to be fishing that would attract any rock or sand dwellers in the near vicinity of where I would target the are I would cast towards.I decided to go with a Black Clouser which would stand out and throw more of a dark silhouette and attract some nice Specimen to it.I started peeling off line to begin my assault, I managed to get close to some structure and felt some nice bums on my retrieve but no hook ups so I a slower retrieve and not long a went on tight  getting a few little head shakes I was just not quite sure what it was definitely not a small kingie of sorts, finally got it to surface and I had a little beauty of a Kob I quickly got a pic for my photo gallery and removed the fly and slowly released it back into the water stokked I was on the scoreboard I continued to cast around the same structure as well as bouncing my fly off a small sand bank to my left and slowly allowing it to sink and then slowly bouncing it off the bottom to get a reaction I tried the same retrieve a few times before I went on again.
My rod went tight and this fella was giving me stick which felt so good hoping to see what I had picked up a few more runs I slowly started retrieving the line back and slowly got it to the surface it was a nice size Stone Bream. I quickly got  my buddy to take a pic for the gallery and removed the fly and slowly released it back to fight another day epic seeing how much activity happens when you fish a pushing in tide and the conditions are right and the fish species  are roaming around looking for anything which gets knocked off the rocks or when the waves churned up the sand throwing up all sorts of crustaceans and small sprats allowing anything in tvicinityity to feed freely on them.
After a few more casts I finally moved on  to a different spot as the water was pushing a little more with more white water breaking over the rocks hoping to try target for a kingfish or two hopefully.I had a couple of casts into the white water  before going tight a a nice quick peel on my line zig zaggingfrom left to right very unasual fight after a few minutes I managed to get close to it so I could identify the fish I had hooked into – Eisssh my first a Concertina fish nice size too happy with my catch I just had to get the pic in quickly and release it back as soon as possible which I did.I  carried on for a while hoping for a bigger pick up as the gulley filled up nicely and the waves were still brakeing over the rocks it was still fish able for a few more casts.I slowly started moving out slightly more backwards so I could have a few more casts in front of me towards the bay that had build up in front while I was busy fishing but to no avail.
Fly fishing Umdloti with JP Bartholomew

Fly fishing Umdloti with JP Bartholomew and his Concertina Fish

I moved out and walked more down towards the bigger bays and try for some small Geeeeeet’s hopefully I kept to the Black Clouser why change your fly when you’ve been having such good results with it. I slowly started peeling off line to begin my casting I spotted a nice little gully which came off from a sand bank and dropped off into a nice deepish pool of running white water which is always a exciting spot to target kingfish ambushing sprats or smaller Mullet in the turbulenced water.It wasn’t long before I got smoked by something that just felt like another Concertina fish and yip it was another I safely removed the fly and released it back, carring on and casting into the channel I got a chase and it it my fly but missed the hook up I could only have been a small kingie so I kept at casting in the direction of the chase I got hoping it would give Me another go.No luck after a few more casts nothing was happening so I moved further down where to more of a sandy bay with a scattered reef to see what species I could hook my fly into and attract what ever is lurking along the sandy channels.
Well this would be my final session before my turn around and start to make my way back to my car. Looking to see where would be the best option to start I saw a sandy spot just starting to get water washing over the bank that could only be to My advantage with the water stirring up the sand and exposing small Crustaceans,  Sealice , Sand Shrimp….etc and all I had to do is cast my fly towards the turmoil and white water rolling around.
I gave myself 20min to cast and hopefully catch my last fish before before heading home for some family time….!! Well I started casting onto the bank and dropping my fly down and using a slow retrieve hoping something would see it amongst the sand and white water trying to get away and smash my fly. I just kept at it eventually I felt a bump then another bump and a miss then got a proper pick up and quickly held my line and lifted up my rod to strike I was on Dad finally I got my Species that was playing catch me if you can but with perseverance I hooked the cheeky bugger not knowing what it was it was a feisty fella gave Me a nice little rev retrieving  some line back I could see what looked to me like a little Grunter which landed up being My first Grunter on fly completely stokked at my little Spotted Grunter I took the Pic and released it back and got back to casting hoping for a bigger Boykie if there was one there must be more surely.
I changed my fly to a Brown Brush Fly to try impersonat a Brown Shrimp I casted for may be 15min then totally got Smashed I really thought I had the Daddy  Grunter but landed up being a nice size Stone Bream unfortunately I had to take the Pic of My Boykie Stone lying on the sand quickly removed the fly and released it back safely I got straight back into the channel and kept at it hoping just hoping for that Big Cock Grunter.Boom I was on again and what ever hit me it was peeling line and going for it , it was stripping Me nicely best fight I had all morning.I finally started getting my line back I thought I had a little kingie on but I had hooked a nice size Wave Garrick epic I placed the fella on the sand took the Pic and released it back into the water and watched it swim of into the blue.
Well I called it a morning a gr8 one at that and started heading back to my car and just enjoyed the playback’s in My head on the morning I just had , well maybe I’ll get My kingie the next time round…Homeward bound.
Tight line’s
Happy New Year My Friends have a epic weekend all the BEST FOR 2017…..GOD BLESS….!!!
Cheers JP.
Once again JP, many thanks for sharing your fishing experiences with us. It’s really motivating, educational and appreciated! – Sean
Chris Leppan and his 40kg Zambezi in the Umzimkulu

Chris Leppan and his 40kg Zambezi in the Umzimkulu

Chris Leppan and his 40kg Zambezi in the Umzimkulu

Read all about it – Chris Leppan and his 40kg Zambezi in the Umzimkulu. Last week, fishing right in front of the Umzimkulu Marina.

Chris has become an absolute expert light tackle spinning enthusiast racking up phenomenal catches in the Umzimkulu River in Port Shepstone, over the past few years.

And now this…

Pictured here with sport angling partner Rory Lawlor, aboard one of the smaller attack boats in their fleet, the pair of them are subduing an epic 40kg estimated catch – a Zambezi Shark! The shark was released healthily, and speculation is rife that this fish was part of the same litter being encountered a few years ago, and that the sharks growth rate seems to be about 5 to 8kgs per year! About 20 to 30cm per year.

So the smaller fish we were catching a few years ago, in 2014 and 2015, seem to be growing up fast and healthy, and at about 200cm, will take to the ocean and seek residence on a convenient and healthy string of reefs somewhere up or down the coast from Port Shepstone. Zambezi’s are born alive btw, in a litter of up to 12 pups. They develop fully in the womb and pop out ready to bite and eat immediately. In a lucky estuary near you!

A great catch on light tackle – more details regards Chris methodology coming soon.

Greg Millward is the other member of the team, and excellent spinning angler, and together they have dispelled any and all lazy man’s rumours that there are no fish to be caught in the Umzimkulu. In fact, the fishing is actually excellent in the river, especially this time of year, as shoals of bigeye kingfish and smaller kob maraud up and down the channels.

Fishing off the Umzimkulu Marina bank, guests have been having a ball right now with grunter, bigeye kingfish and perch being taken regularly.

For more information regards the fishing the Umzimkulu River, email umzimkulu@gmail.com, or call +27 79 326 9671 (WhatsApp is best).