James and the gaint Stumpnose by Johann Rademeyer

As we were prepping to start our season, Jono and James came through to test the new boat, fish the water, and help refine our product on the Garden Route.

These two came with different mindsets though. Jono was clearly here to sight fish and James was here to chase leeries (or get chased by leeries).

As such the week started with Jono on the bow when we hit the flats, and James on the bow when we were patrolling hard edges and dropoffs.

After a session or two, Jono realized that James was getting a tad bored, so he kindly offered him the spot on the bow as we were approaching a new flat.

James jumped up and took the rod from his dad with much excitement. We had just extended Jono's leader to about 15ft and went all the way down to 4lb. A slight ripple picked up and this made our sight fishing somewhat more challenging.

When it comes to sight fishing, there's nothing more exciting than patrolling a flat, seeing a fish you want to target and already knowing the species and more or less size. Then you make a cast with a fly which replicates their natural food source and watch how he turns, chases and eats it. That's what is considered normal sight fishing. Well, not in James' case...

As we got onto the flat, it was pretty quiet. Almost too quiet. We kept crawling along with the trolling motor and kept saying "we should run into them now, the flat just looks too good to not hold fish".

Approaching a grass patch, I saw a school of Grunter sitting on the grass (or so I thought). With the wind from behind, and us moving onto them, I knew we had a couple of seconds if we were lucky before they saw the boat and spook, taking refuge in deeper water.

I even jumped on the casting deck with James to quickly point out where the fish were, but at this stage, I had already kind of lost hope to be honest. The fish were so close that any movement from us, the boat, or the fly would be the end of this excitement.

Somehow, 11 year old James managed to flick his 15ft, 4lb leader sideways against the wind without having flyline to work with. The leader was already centimeters away from the rod tip and as the fly was sinking down, I saw a different fish come from under the boat, charge down the fly and I could just see the fly disappear. "HIT IT!" I shouted while even tapping on his shoulder so that I was sure he would respond.

As he set the hook, I was focusing on what James was doing and trying to manage the line shooting off. In all this chaos, James looked back at Jono and said, "dad, this is not a grunt!"

Both Jono and I thought, of course it's a Grunter, what else could it be? We were in super shallow water. We saw the fish holding and he ate the fly... So just ignoring James' comment, we kept doing what guides do. Focusing on what's happening and removing any possible obstruction for the angler.

With such an extended light leader, I jumped off the boat and started wading out with the net so that James did not have to pull the leader knots through the guides of the rod.

"Dad, I don't think this is a Grunter". For the second time we kept ignoring the comment, but by this stage we started doubting our own sanity. James fought the fish extremely well and guided him towards me, standing waist deep in the water ready with the net. The fish came closer and closer, and as I were about to put the net in the water I saw what James meant by, "this is not a Grunter".

I look back and shouted, it's a stumpie! With even more pressure now, we really wanted this fish. James guided the fish into the net and the celebrations started!

Being 11 years old, James didn't really take in what happened and didn't completely understand the significance of the situation, but both myself and Jono immediately knew that this was a special fish and could also potentially be something new we stumbled upon..

For the record

Natal stumpnoses are found in the southern Mozambique and KZN areas. Occasionally in summer they'll move down to the Eastern Cape, and the odd ones come all the way to the Garden Route. They aren't very common here and although this was not the first by any means, it was the first sight casted Natal Stumpnose on fly in super shallow water by an 11 year old on 4lb tippet!

Later on, we discovered this was no coincidence. We started identifying numerous schools of Natal Stumpnose cruising the flats. So much so that James renamed the one flat "Steri Stumpi". We saw more Stumpnose on that specific piece of sand than Grunter.

It's an exciting and very special discovery. It's also not our first one on fly. Which means that this is something to spend time on and figure out properly.We look forward to the next Garden Route season and what potential it might hold.