to the Land Of Smiles" it said on the sign outside
the immigration office at Maputo airport. So I smiled politely at
the nice lady before she ran off with my passport and 25 dollars, and once
she returned it stamped and sealed, I headed for a spot of angling tomfoolery on Isla de
Inhaca - an
oversized mound of sand being sloshed about by the Indian Ocean off the
coast of Mozambique - grinning like a deranged goon all the way, of course...
was good to be back in the world again after going square-eyed at my desk in sunny
Spalding for a few months. After ten hours
wedged into a kiddie's car seat at 30,000
feet between a couple of twitching, farting, snoring,
halitostically-challenged French blokes things were really coming back
to me. By the time I'd landed in Johannesburg, been tucked up for 350 Rand by one taxi
driver for taking me to the wrong hotel, and then turned over for
another 200 Rand by another taxi driver for taking me to the right one (a
mile up the road, meter
wiring by Jacko's Bubbles), I knew I
was well and truly back on the road again. I'm hoping that one day the men in white coats
can work out how eradicate the endemic Taxi Driver Knobhead Gene. If
they can, I reckon world
peace could be but one small step away.
around the city that evening, it seemed to have a certain 'feel' to it -
even though I was in what could
certainly be termed as a nice part of town. I think it was probably
emphasised by the glass shards and
razor wire topping the walls at every house, which didn't do much for
the white-picket ambience. And every other house seemed to be called "Armed Response"
which must have been a nightmare for all the poor Joburg postmen.
The longest string of spit I've seen since India.
finding a working taxi meter, a great steak, a few beers and a straight ten hours of
unbroken sleep, the plane from Tambo Airport dropped us off in Maputo
the next morning. The
lady sorted out a visa for me, and then
eventually a prop plane took the 15 minute hop out to the island, once I'd been nobbled for my excess
bags, which was strangely cheaper when paying by cash ("what
The rooftops of
Maputo soon gave way to the basin, and as the spits,
sandbars and mangroves of Inhaca crept into focus I crossed my fingers
hoping they harboured a few wet fish for me to play with.
went fully loaded with a box of poppers, jigs and trolling lures... For
some reason which now escapes me.
fish in Mozambique, and surprised to wind in a small Barracuda- although
as surprised as the fish when it chewed the jig and shot through the surface
like a Polaris.
Jonah shows off a Green Jobfish snagged from the reef.
checking in at the Pestana Lodge, I went to see the people at the fishing
and boat company down at the jetty with whom I had booked my fishing, via the ever helpful Kerry-Ann at
met Genial Diaan down at the office, who was a nice young bloke who'd
been exiled to the island to front up the operation.
When I'd researched and booked up the trip, I'd
been dreaming about chasing some Yellowfin, GTs and Queenfish with poppers and the like.
As I chatted with Diaan I quickly began feeling that oh-so-familiar-but-no-less-chilling-for-it
"oh arse, not again..." sensation
as the Bulldar started picking up some
disturbing signals. He enthusiastically explained that he'd seen a Yellowfin brought ashore
"earlier this year". He then informed me that it was
"getting a bit cold now for GTs, although someone caught one at 30kg in
2007". When he confirmed (as I admit I knew anyway) that the
"Queenfish have gone now" I found myself casting longing glances back
towards the airstrip.
he ran through the options left available, and we arranged a 6.30am
rendezvous with a view to a dawn start. I could still hardly wait, feeling sure there'd be some fish-based
amusement before I was on my way home - no matter what happened in terms
of nautical traumas. I mean, I'd have been so disappointed if there weren't
any. Though within a couple of days I'd got another motto to add to the
list: "Never book a fishing trip with a firm that does pedalo
Bulldar twitched again in the morning. I think most people going out
fishing with Diaan's boys usually just about manage to hoist their Speedos up from
the pool for a
day's trolling, just to break up their holidays a bit. When I turned up at the jetty
with my heap of
gear, as he rooted through my stuff I saw it in an
instant; just a feint flicker
of a look. A mere fleeting
glance. But a look that
said it all in a nanosecond: "Oh shit. We've got a live one" as
realisation dawned they had a fishing mentalist to deal with.
the sun's rays slipped above the horizon, some light also started to cast
a shadow on a
few other issues too. There was a little indecision about who was
skippering the boat. Initially it was Fernando, but Diaan then added
another of his "most experienced guys" to make sure. Probably in the
light of having a 'live one' on board. I'd also emailed
ahead about needing some sinkers in case of going bottom fishing. But there were
about four available.
Diaan apologised for not getting any and assured me he would bring some back from Maputo in a
couple of days. Ok, this wasn't a great start. But no fuel had turned up
either. I'm not an expert, but I think as far as outboards go, that's
usually a bit of a crippler.
So Diaan and Fernando disappeared to go and
see if a supply of gas could be found on the island, while I sat wondering
how the wheels had already come off without even touching a nut.
10am some fuel had been located from somewhere, and although I had booked one of the
smaller boats with a 50hp engine - which I had been advised was more than
adequate for a lone angler to do all the fishing I could need - Fernando wanted to go out and fish on the
big ocean outside the island. And he'd only go out there in one of the bigger
boats with twin 130s. Ok boys. Just take me to the fishes.
The dawn start had long since shot out the
pipe, but off we went at last, all hand shakes and smiles as we headed to
sea, though I
did nearly chuck myself over the side when I found out that Fernando's mate's name
was Jonah, figuring two of us on one boat can never be a good sign, can
Out on the bright blue briny, Fernando and Jonah both recommended that I
use either surface poppers or jigs to see what hit them. I had a rod
rigged for both, so enthusiastically set about it as we drifted over the
top of the reef. Meanwhile, F & J settled in with a couple of rods
each, both rigged up with Scad from the bait box, and proceeded to pull up
reef fish after reef fish, while I thrashed my jigs furiously up and down
to no avail. Finally, as the bait supplies diminished and their fish-box
under the decks began to fill up (and I began to wonder who'd paid for the
charter) I had my first success when a small Barracuda grabbed the jig and
smacked into the side of the boat without
so much as breaking the upward stroke of the rod. I dropped it back and it
bobbed around on the top wondering what had happened for a minute, before
waddling off with a couple of tentative twitches of it's tail - although this may have been it's
death throes. At least I was off the mark.
of the early days out at sea was chasing the Skipjack Tuna that shoal up
and chase the bait fish in frenzied patches under the swirling flocks of
gulls. It was easy to spot where they were, but a good deal harder to
catch up with them and stick with them. But we managed it a few times, and
eventually I got one or two of them to snatch & snag a Daiwa Saltiga
fun to chase and stubborn scrappers on the light tackle I was
happy cos we have more Mackerel (dinner).
begs the question "What the heck is that then?"
"Variola louti", says the man at Fishbase!
"Just look through here and press this..." I said as I handed
over the camera... "No- not now Fer... Oh bugger."
it felt so good to be doing one of my favourite styles of fishing again
- albeit that the boat looked like a bloodbath in no time. Jonah
& Fernando said they were good for market, and looking at the
state of the deck it looked like being the best place for them, so they
joined the other multi-coloured stuff down in the fish box. The
action lasted for a couple of hours until the tuna and gulls
disappeared with the flick of a switch. But what a fun couple of
hours it was. I love it.
The Inhaca jetty-
focal point for everything going to, from, in, on or around the island.
& J had run out of bait earlier out on the reef, and the GPS batteries had apparently
run out in sympathy. So as not to
feel left out of it the boys then ran out of ideas too. So the rest of the day panned out as a bit of a troll-fest,
since we now couldn't find a mark even if we had some bait to soak over it
anyway. Not my favourite, but a couple of Mackerel made a lunge for the hi-speed
plastic, and a 'Cuda snagged itself on a Magnum before we headed for shore
at the end of the day. So although things hadn't panned out as I'd dreamed,
at least there'd been a few tight lines aboard. I didn't realise at this
point that things were to go quite a bit downhill before they got quite a bit better.
The evening temperatures were about perfect as I sat slurping on
a cold Laurentina and minding my own business. Pestana
Lodge is a very nice place to stay. The staff were always friendly, the
setting amongst the palm trees very pleasant, the rooms were very comfortable,
and sitting out on the veranda that evening for a bit of beer and buffet was as convivial as
it gets. The only problem was
the "entertainment". This was a local bloke playing a Bontempi organ
in the style of Les Dawson, cross-bred with a pissed Louis Armstrong choking on
his trumpet. It was so bad I'd say it actually bordered on brilliant -
until I realised he was gonna be wheeled out
Pesky showboating kids. Yeah, yeah; it's not big and it's not clever.
Hour, Inhaca Stylee, as far as there is such a thing.
The fine line between piracy and lunacy.
As funny as it was initially, I soon began using his trumpet
as the starting pistol for a sprint back to my soundproof chamber in the
room. You might be able to experience for yourself a quick, sharp stab of
the pain inflicted on the unsuspecting tourists every night by clicking
just here... Thacker's
don't try that at home. The trumpet headache became a bit of a migraine
when no fuel had turned up again the next morning. Diaan had gone to
Maputo, so Fernando set off on a fuel hunt. Thankfully he got lucky and a
couple of hours later we were out on the ocean. As we headed for the first
spot, F pulled out the GPS... which didn't work because the batteries were
still flat from the day before. "Ah boss didn't give me no
battery" he smiled. Great. So I gave him a couple out of my flash
unit in the name of finding a spot to fish.
losing a good sized Mackerel on a Fire Tiger Magnum on the way out, we
pulled up over the reef again, and set about a drift. F&J recommended
I do some popping and jigging again, so I set about it, while they set up
two rods each again and set about emptying the reef of it's inhabitants.
And I'll admit it began to irk me a bit. Whenever I asked for a bit of
advice, or asked if there were other good reefs to fish, I'd just get
and a shrug of shoulders in return, usually as another reef fish was on
it's way into the fish box. Whenever I asked to try something different
(that didn't involve filling the fish box), they were bored shitless in
ten minutes flat. Bait gone, we trolled, and it didn't help when another
really nice Mackerel of perhaps 40lbs I hooked came adrift right at the
boat, and another snapped the wire at the hook a few minutes later. A five
pound barracuda (which came to the boat looking as bored as I was) right
at the death didn't really smooth things over, and I went to bed that
evening with with trumpet ringing in my ears and jumbled thoughts rolling
round my head about how to get the best out of the current situation. But...
something always turns up...
had told me that they sometimes found Bonefish down at Hell's Gate at the
southern tip of the island. This is a narrow channel between Inhaca and
Santa Maria Islands, and the whole of the Maputo Basin empties and fills
through this tiny aperture. The result is that the current rips through
there like the Ganges in flood, so I really wanted to go and take a look.
Fernando wanted to take the big boat on the ocean again, but I stuck to my
guns cos I couldn't keep pace with paying for a hundred litres of fuel a
day, every day, and so we took the boat I'd actually booked for a spin out
in the basin.
an hour later Fernando pulled the boat up and pointed to where I should
fish, then yawned, zipped up his coat and went to sleep, while I tried to
get a bait to anchor on the bottom for a minute. Fishing from the Santa
Maria side as the basin emptied into the Indian Ocean, I was shocked at
just how fast it shot through.
Bloody Skipjack. All a bit messy, really.
fish that sparked me off on a quest as Senor Alberto Steptoe proudly displayed his scaly, dried out old Bone for the camera.
intimidating, and I spent the next couple of hours until the tide
slackened right off watching my rod tip bounce as my end rigs were
relentlessly swept round into the boulder strewn edge. By the time
Fernando woke up I was bite-free and down to the last two sinkers,
things weren't looking good.
"Get stretched- it's your turn, fatty".
Two weeks adrift on the Indian Ocean,
and delirium had obviously set in.
the tide turned Fernando told me we should move, and he drove the boat across
the channel, pulled it up in the sand, pointed "out there is good
place", and five minutes later he was pushing out the big zzzzzs again
in the dune behind me. The prospect of a Bonefish obviously wasn't as
thrilling as filling a box with 20 kilos of Snapper.
managed to find an eddy where the rig would hold station, missed a couple
of bites right away (through shock I think), and then waited for another 2
hours for a bite. Suddenly, half way up the tide the switch tripped and
the bite kind of spluttered to life, when I caught a small shark, broke
the hook link on another more solid little number, and then finally set
something quite substantial, which gave me a bit of a run around. When I
dragged it ashore, Fernando couldn't explain what it was in English, and I
was quite excited to have caught something I'd never seen before. White
and silver in colour, about ten or twelve pounds in weight, big lips,
sloping forehead and a mouth full of molar-like grinding teeth. When I extracted
the hook it looked like someone had been at it with a set of mole grips! I
was chuffed Fernando took a nice shot of it, and this proved useful when I
later showed it to some South African anglers, who immediately identified
it as a Natal Stumpnose. It seems that's about as big as they get too,
so it was nice to have a spot of luck at last!
I'd been messing round with and releasing the Stuntcock, a local fella
from the village had slid into position some 30 yards to my right and
lassoed his hand line out into the swirling current. He tied it to a stick
in the beach and laid back to take it easy. This was the most important
thing that happened that day, as half an hour later he sprung to his feet
and ran down the beach like he was being towed before he finally dug his heels
in at the edge.
fat little pig- and look at the size of the Triggerfish.
large Natal Stumpnose. Not to be confused with the Large Naval Stuntcock, which is
something entirely different.
Look at the choppers stuck in its stump- and what they did to a 6/0 Owner
Early morning dew in the coconuts.
minutes later, the 50lb handline had taken it's toll and a nice Bonefish
of about 6lbs was flapping about in the sand and being drop-kicked halfway
up the dune behind us. I approached the other angler to get a photo as we
left for base a short while later. He nodded yes and held up his nicely desiccating
Bone for the camera.
The locals could catch fish no problem, but this poor lad was really struggling
with his kite, bless him.
he posed, I began to notice what a remarkable looking character he was,
seemingly with just one of everything: one handline, one plastic bag, one
set of clothes, one nose in the middle (ok, so that's the usual count),
one working eye and one lonely looking tooth. So I gave him a handful of
hooks for the photo (assuming that he maybe just had one of them as well),
and he gave me a big, monotoothed smile. As we sped back through a stunning
luminous orange sunset I smiled too, happy I now had all the encouragement
I needed to concentrate on catching a Bonefish.
I wanted to go back the next day, Fernando pulled a little face of
disappointment. The reef was obviously where it was at for him personally,
but I had Bones on the brain I'm afraid. The problem was bait. Fernando
was sure that strips of scad were fine, but even they had run out in the
freezer, leaving only bags of half-beaks (Ballyhoo) piled in the bottom.
And so we took them with us. That day I discovered two things. The first
was that the fish only fed in that area on a rising tide, as I found
myself entirely alone until the tide had turned to the up. I'd not had a
bite on the outgoing. Then a couple of lads with their handlines turned up
next to me, and caught three Bonefish... two little ones of a couple of
pounds, then they finished their evening having a kickabout on the sand
with a nice 7lb fish. The second discovery was that Bonefish don't like Ballyhoo.
This wasn't much of a surprise to me, as to be honest I'd never choose to
chuck a shrimp at a sailfish. This was confirmed as I soaked my Ballyhoo
strips without so much as a knock, glancing with envy to my left as the
lads rolled another up the beach: Yup, "All the gear, no
"This good bait for Bonefish, Fernando?" I asked as I slipped
another fresh (ish!) strip of 'hoo on the hook.
"Hmmm. Other bait better sir", he replied. I'd have appreciated
it if he'd mentioned that before I'd lost 6 hours of my life waiting for a
Fernando was dead excited about my quest for a Bonefish... dead, dead excited.
is no Bunfish mon!"
but that is!
waiting for the sun to go down (and the cows to come home).
Punt de Torres, Santa Maria.
local handline fella gave me a handful of these Sand Fleas, which are apparently the
best Bonebait on the island.
I knew the place, I knew the time; all I had to do was sort out the bait
scenario. Having befriended the bloke supplying my Laurentinas each night,
this wasn't too big a problem. There were a couple of early teething
problems (I can vouch for the complete ineffectiveness of squid marinated
in garlic), but
eventually I'd end up with a small package of shrimps and/or squid from
the kitchen each day - until they ran out there too. So I asked Fernando
what we could do to get a supply of bait.
"Do you have 20 Rand sir?" he said.
I put a crumpled note in his hand, and off he skipped. Fifteen minutes
later he was back with a carrier bag stuffed with fresh, silver,
bright-eyed scad. I was well chuffed.
"Where'd you get them from?" I asked.
"My friend in the village fishes them. He was taking
for his lunch, but I made him sell them to me".
"So he's got no dinner now?"
"No sir he is very happy, because he can now buy a chicken
instead". One man's bait is obviously another man's roast dinner.
Why Fernando hadn't suggested a spot of Inhacan free-market economics
before I don't know, cos I'd have bought the whole village Kentucky
popcorn nuggets for a month if it meant a good supply of bait!
now we had the spot, the time, the bait and the technology. All we needed
a plan of action. With the productive couple of hours in the tide occurring
later each day, it was only going to be worth fishing there right towards
the late afternoon. This meant the days could be spent trying other stuff,
which lead to the capture of some interesting reef species like Lyretail
Cod, Emperors and the like, and the discovery of a Triggerfish hotspot
over a patch of reef just behind the waves crashing on the deserted
beaches of Santa Maria. A succession of chunky fat Triggers greedily
snapped up strips of squid (minus marinade) and Berkley Gulp as we carried
out several drifts over it's top. This was loads of fun on a little
was also the odd frustration too, with Fernando still un-enamoured with my
choice of target species and itching to get out on the ocean in the big
boat every day. I think he liked driving it.
"What's the plan today Fernando?"
"I think it is best that today we take the big boat to the reef
This was sacked off in the end after driving round in circles with no
clear direction for the best part of two days, thereby vaporising another
180 litres of fuel into the atmosphere in the name of snagging the odd
Mackerel. This finished with a new bald patch for yours truly and a quite
superb "show-me-the-plan" rant in the style of Cuba Gooding Jr
in that Jerry McGuire film, while Fernando sat in his chair smiling and
looking bewildered. But there were always the evenings...
The nice lady brings the cerveja supplies ashore. That's my girl!
"I know I put it somewhere".
Not the first Portuguese
colonisation round these parts.
this was the best bit. The first Bonefish that took the bait took me by
surprise. The rod had been nodding away quite merrily in a tube in the
sand for some time, with a fillet of Scad anchored to the bottom out in
the rip. The evening's first Laurentina had filtered through the system
and I was dealing with it, so to speak, in the edge of the Maputo Basin.
In a split second the rod was doubled over in the tube and I found myself
running down the sand while a map of India found itself running down the
front of my shorts. Nice.
was worth a wet leg though, as the Stradic squealed and a hundred yards of
20lb braid fizzed from the spool under the persuasion of a tide-assisted
supersonic Bonefish. My heart thudded in my chest, the fish screamed
around the channel, and I prayed it wouldn't fall off or find a boulder.
But after a brilliant fight in the current, some ten minutes later I
hollered with delight as about 6lbs of beautiful silver torpedo slid onto
the sand. Ok, so it was far from the classic Bonefish scenario found in
the Caribbean or the Seychelles (in my dreams...), but it was all good fun
for me and the goonish grin spread
wider than ever as
"Why you wan catch dem fish?" wondered Fernando.
"Because they fight like that and look like this!" says
and Laurentina? At the same time? Yup, "My Life Is Shit".
I held the fish up for a trophy picture and then
watched her waddle off back out into the cauldron. I loved the journey
back to the lodge every evening, as the sky burned orange across the top
of distant Maputo, but after catching that first Bonefish the trip was
even sweeter. I could hardly wait until the next rising tide.
it turned out, once we'd got it all worked out, catching the Bones wasn't
too difficult. They certainly weren't too fussy in terms of bait. In fact
as long as it wasn't a chunk of Ballyhoo or marinated in garlic it seemed
that they'd give it a go. Squid, Scad and prawn all accounted for fish,
but it was one of the friendly handline fishermen who gave me some useful
Bonefish tips. He spoke a little bit of English, and between us we managed
to have a half a conversation. It turned out that his biggest Bonefish
from Inhaca waters was 10 kilos, and his friend had caught the biggest
he'd ever heard of at 12 kilos (yes, that's TWELVE) as he held his hands
about a metre apart. I thought I'd misheard him and turned to Fernando,
who just nodded to confirm. That is one huge Bone, to coin a phrase. He
also tried to explain to me what the best bait was for them, but something
was getting lost in translation.
what I had no problem understanding, was "excuse sir,
is it only one small hook I may be having", which is something I'm
used to now after so much time spent in foreign lands. If any despots or
dissidents (this is a broad church - there is no target audience) happen
to be reading this, then forget oil, guns and diamonds. I'm convinced that
Third World revolutions can be easily financed with multi-packs of Mustad
O'Shaughnessys - you'll save a fortune, and getting them over border
crossings will be whole lot less stressful. I let
him chose the sizes he wanted, but he took just three, so I spooned out a
few more into a gnarled looking hand.
hat. The Bonefish Bonnet scores again.
Now just say cheese, fool.
with his new stash, he nipped off back to the spot where his handline was
tied to a stick in the beach. A minute or two later he was back at my side
with a handful of his favourite bait - a cluster of primeval looking Sand
Fleas. He carefully showed me how to prepare them for the hook, peeling
off the carapace before threading the hook right along the body. He was
right, they certainly worked! Top fella and a lovely bloke.
one evening the Bones went quite mental, and I managed four of them all
from 3 to 4 kilos in one hot hour, which I seemed to spend most of running
up and down the sand after them - probably as much fun as a bloke can have
without needing a tissue. if you like fishing, anyway. Even Fernando got
in on the act one time, when as I baited another rod the first just folded
over in the tube.
"This one is going!" he shouted, as the clutch started wailing
and the rod bent past 90 degrees.
"You have it, mate!" I shouted back (doesn't take long to get blasť
does it?), and he set about having a tussle with it.
"It is still going", he grimaced as the spool began to
a little empty. But despite having a great scrap with the fish, he only
just forced a grin for the photo. I think he preferred Mackerel really.
was during one of the final sessions that I finally got down to the last
sinker. Somehow we'd managed to eke 4 of them out to last over a week, no
small miracle given the state of the underwater topography. Diaan still
hadn't made it back from Maputo (with a few pounds of lead I'd hoped), so
it was with some relief I found him in the bar that evening, a bit
"Sorry about that, I got kind of detained"
when I asked how things had gone, "but I got some sinkers,
so you'll be good for the morning". Good news indeed. The coveted
sinkers, however, turned out to be 2 bags containing half a dozen 10 gram
drilled bullets. I might as well have tied a wing-nut on the line.
I showed the bags to Fernando, he shook his head and clucked.
"Do you have 20 Rand sir?" he said.
I put a crumpled note in his hand again.
"I will be back in 7 minutes sir". This seemed a quite specific
prediction, but with Africa being Africa, I was willing to be flexible.
was probably more like eight and a half minutes before he returned with a
carrier bag, this time with half a dozen brand new sinkers (large size)
"Where'd you get them from?" I asked.
"My friend in the village is making them.
So I buy them from him". I slapped my forehead. I'd waited a week for
some lead to materialise, cherished the two sinkers I had as if they were
made of gold, panicked every time a rig had snagged bottom... and all the
while Fernando could have nipped to the village and kitted us out with a
sack full of sinkers in, well, eight and half minutes. I mean... why the
hell didn't he...? Oh... forget it.
tide rips between the islands at Santa Maria, although on a neap tide it was more Devil's
Ditch than Hell's Gate. The fishing died with the current...
knocks out a few more zeds. It's a dirty old job.
the days clicked over, with the neap tide approaching, the current
had slowed to a mere trickle (in relative terms), and the sport
slowed noticeably in line with it. But on my final evening, one
bite materialised out of the blue, with a Scad fillet being seized
somewhere out in the depths. I struggled to get the rod out of the
tube and didn't even need to strike before the line began to peel
off the spool. But this was no Bonefish. Slowly and inexorably the
'thing' just swam off, and kept going into the sunset. 50 metres,
100 metres, 150 metres, and I began staring forlornly at the spool
just before the leader gave up and snapped. I have no idea what it
was, but it probably didn't stop until it smacked it's snout on
Maputo harbour wall.
had an interesting trip, the fishing was somewhat different to
what I'd dreamed about, getting there a bit too late in the year.
There were a few cock ups and a few moments of frustration, and
it's probably quite fitting that the last fish I hooked at Inhaca
just swam off and flicked the Vs. But there'd been some beautiful
weather and amongst it all there were a more than a few gems.
Those beautiful Bonefish certainly saved the day.
Adios, Isla de Inhaca.