The Kosi Bay Experience
As the name dictates, this is not your average fishing trip with manicured lawns, leather sling bags and a #16 Parachute Adams. Kosi Bay for those that have not been, is a place of beauty and is far more than just another fishing trip…. It’s an experience! Steeped in history and tradition and still under the rule of a king, it is a place that has been left behind by modern man. It is a place where water and electricity is a scarce commodity, where tyres run deflated and the diff-locks engaged, where speed humps are replaced by tree roots and sand dunes, where your biggest concern is what the tides are doing and if there will be ice for your gin and tonic.
Located in the most north-eastern corner of our country on the Mozambique border, Kosi Bay is the main attraction for the serious saltwater angler looking to do battle on the South African coastline. It is where dreams can be made and where spirits can be broken. Consisting of four lakes and the adjacent surf zone littered with bays and the promise of big fish. Notorious for its century-old fish traps and the tropical fish that we target.
Mavungana Flyfishing recently conducted our annual saltwater clinic over the prime New Moon springs of the favoured month of February. This coincides with the “Marula Tide” which is THE biggest spring tide of the year resulting in a tidal variation of 2.3 meters. As you would imagine this translates into the system being in serious turmoil dislodging baitfish from their safety, flushing out the various crustaceans from their holes and the flooding of otherwise dry bankside. This puts most of our target species into overdrive looking for an easy meal. The downside of these conditions is that they are generally associated with strong winds, heavy rips and general tough fly-fishing conditions. Never-the-less, it is safe to say most who dare tackle SA surf on fly need a good helping of skill and proficiency, a dash of luck and a seriously good sense of humour!
After arriving at our camp, guests settled in and adjusted to their surroundings. We quickly set up, loaded the vehicles and headed down to Kosi Mouth where we would be focusing our fishing for the next 5 days. It always amazes me how this particular mouth chops and changes so regularly with new sandbanks and channels developing all the time from the ebb and flow of the tides. After identifying the key target areas, guests who were all fairly new to the salt were positioned and set off to work and dust off the casting cobwebs which usually takes at least a session to get into the groove and come to grips with the environment. Trips of this nature and Kosi especially is a place where you need to be on top of your game, casts of more than 20 meters off both shoulders usually into a strong wind is par for the course. There is no place for trout striking and figure-of-eight retrieves. It’s fast-paced and physically demanding, where line management, double-hauling and double-handed retrieves at break-neck speed are the order of the day. Countless times I have seen guests arrive and get the shock of their lives on day one when they see what they are up against, fishing into an onshore wind on a shore-break pushing tide. The kind that punishes an average cast by depositing the fly at your feet before you have begun your retrieve. It is tough fishing in tough conditions which requires hard work, determination and patience and funnily most of us wouldn’t want it any other way. Without exception by day two and after a bit of guidance, anglers are covering water and putting themselves in a position to catch fish.
The next couple days that followed was what can only be described as a comedy of errors combined with some challenging fishing conditions. The surf zone this season has been tougher than normal with days of very little action interspersed with some days with the fish being a little more active in the tidal zone. The good fish were around but being very fickle. Clients had shots, but not being able to convert, left many an interesting story later back at camp. Big Bluefin Kingfish being fought in the bricks only to come undone just before being landed. Bonefish in the estuary making blistering runs only to be left with a slack line and a jaw on the floor and unidentified silver slabs reefing leaders. Suffice it to say that it kept things interesting and everyone had their encounters that on another day could have been a very different story with a “happily ever after” at the end. One interesting encounter was when Andy Killick – a 65 year old retired geologist that is fitter than most and has an uncanny similarity to Indiana Jones had just had a Springer spit the fly on the jump while fishing a sandbar on an outgoing tide, when all of a sudden noticed a mullet float right by only to be smashed by what he could only explain as something with a dark fin. After a second attempt the job was done and the mullet floated no more! A stark reminder of the food chain that was at play. Begging the question as to where we fit into the picture?
By the end of the trip we had managed to rack up 6 different species of fish, with countless others being lost. We had big fish chases and witnessed some interesting smashes, were treated to some stunning sunrises and made some new friends along the way. As always and despite all the “ones that got away”, Kosi Bay never disappoints and you leave with fond memories, an improved skill-set and a sense of enrichment that is hard to beat.