fbpx
AdventureTight Lines

FAT BIKES ON THE BEACH

Ever since vehicles were banned from our beaches rock and surf anglers have been faced with logistical problems in getting to their favourite fishing spots, but, in the words of the famous Roman philosopher, Pliny, “out of Africa always something new” – a new style of fishing, namely “fat bike fishing” was conceived which up and down our coastline is growing in popularity, not only as a fishing style for serious anglers, but particularly for family vacations at the coast.

The “fat” refers to the oversize tyres used that provide a wide surface for traction on soft, sandy surfaces, and the “bike” is a modification of a normal bicycle with much wider wheel forks and sturdier frames.  

Fat bike fishing seamlessly suits modern societies’ health and environment consciousness, combining healthy physical exercise with rock and surf fishing. The exercise of course ensures a level of fitness, while the fishing requires knowledge of species, tides and some fishing skill.

To gain some firsthand experience of this new trend in coastal recreation, news editor Charmagne Grimbeek and photographer Tobias Weber recently spent a day on the beaches of St Lucia in KZN with experienced saltwater angling guides Jeff Asher-Wood and Jonathan Webster. The state of the tide was not actually as they would have liked it to be, but it made for an enjoyable, if physically demanding, day of surf fishing fun.

OP DIE SAND MOET JY TRAP!

WOORDE: Charmagne Grimbeek / FOTOS: Tobias Weber

Ons, dis nou ek en my man Jaco, en fotograaf Tobias Weber het die aand in die kampterrein van Cape Vidal gekamp waar ons ’n diepsee toernooi, die Top 10 GFI, bygewoon het, so moes ons wag dat die hek eers om 05:00 oopmaak voor ons St Lucia kon binnery.

Daar aangekom was ons gidse vir die dag, die bekende soutwater hengelgids, Jeff Asher-Wood en sy hulpgids, Jonathan Webster, ook ’n St Lucia inwoner, wel bly om ons te sien, maar het ons gemaan dat die gety nie eintlik voordelig vir ons sou wees nie. Die sogenaamde “beste” tyd vir strandhengel is alombekend, naamlik “twee ure voor tot twee ure na laaggety”, en ’n uur was toe reeds verstreke voor laagwater. Maar met net die een dag beskikbaar moes ons die beste van die saak maak.

Daar was nie tyd vir koffie nie, ons moes inderhaas by ons visvangplek uitkom wat Jeff spesiaal die vorige dag gaan uitsoek het. Groot was my verligting toe ek al die fietse op Jeff se dubbelkajuit bakkie sien wat beteken het dat die fietsrit gelukkig nie by sy huis reeds begin het nie!

Ons is na St Lucia se swemstrand wat die naaste toegang tot die strand is om noord te beweeg waar die fietse vinnig afgehaal en gestel was na elkeen se behoeftes. Ek was voorbereid met ’n fietsrybroek, donkerbril en pet met genoeg sonskerm room aan.

My fiets se sitplek word op sy heel laagste gestel sodat my kort bene net-net die pedale raak. Jaco se fiets het mandjies voor en agterop gehad waarmee daar nodige hengelgerei vervoer word, so ook ons kos en water. Tobias het sy swaar kamerasak op sy rug gedra en die gidse die res van die hengelgerei.

Die fietstrap het toe nie by die parkering grond begin nie – ons fietse is oor die duin tot by die watervlak gestoot waar die laaste stukkie harde laagwater-sand ons begroet het. Ek was opgewonde, maar tog onseker of ek die pas sou volhou. My fokus was om net saam met die span te bly en te trap!

Vinnig op pad na die ideale visvang bestemming.

Met daardie eerste rit kon ek egter nie glo hoe maklik dit was om op die sand te ry nie! Dit was ’n fantastiese ondervinding om in die koel lug van die vroegoggend langs die seewater en golwe wat kort-kort uitgespoel het te ry en net-net die water te mis. Jeff het ons gewaarsku om nie in die water te ry nie want die dikwiele sou die nat seesand opskiet. Om diè prentjie te vervolmaak het die son net-net sy verskyning oor die water, tussendeur die wolke gemaak wat vir die skilderagtigste prentjie gesorg het.

Sommer vinnig het ons die visvang plek bereik wat Jeff uitgekies het. Dit sou baie ver wees om vanaf die swemstrand te stap, so ook sou dit baie tyd vat om die plek te bereik waar daar nog vis is om te vang. Die strand was skoon en ongerep, so asof daar nog niemand daar was nie. Waar jy stop om te hengel word die fietse nie sommer-so op die strand neergelê nie – beide wiele word net effens in die sand begrawe wat die fiets laat regop staan, en staal stokhouers word gebruik om die stok en katrol uit die sand te hou.

Ons gidse Jeff Asher-Wood en Jonathan Webster besig om gerei reg te maak vir die eerste gooie van die dag.

Jeff pak altyd lig, net 8 sinkers en ’n paar sirkelhoeke sonder weerhakkies om die vis maklik te vang en vrylaat. Die Safari Chiller aaskassie is klein en goed ingerig. Vinnig staan elkeen van ons met ’n visstok in die hand, Jaco het ’n lepel gegooi en ’n stewige geveg wat gelyk het soos ’n koningsvis, aangehad en verloor. Elkeen van ons het ’n paar visse gevang op die gewone aasmetode met visstok in die hand, so ook het Jonathan met sy vliegstok ’n hele paar grootkol-pompano aangekeer terwyl ’n ander stok in ’n stokhouer geplaas is – diè het toe ’n rukkie later mooi krom getrek en kon Jeff ’n melkhaai land. Toe dit lyk of die vis nie meer byt nie, het ons maklik en gou opgepak en lekker fiets getrap om by ander plekke uit te kom – baie beter as om te stap! Tussen my en Tobias het ons spelonkbaarse (“cave bass”) en ’n mooi grootkol-pompano gevang.

Jaco Grimbeek gooi ‘n lepel en was vinnig aan met ‘n vis wat na ‘n stewige baklei losgekom het.
Jonathan Webster het ’n hele paar grootkol pompano op vlieggerei gevang.

Met ons eerste skuif het ek nie weer my skoene aangetrek nie en was gou spyt daaroor want kaalvoete is nie gemaak om mee fiets te ry nie! Ons moes toe op die duine ry as gevolg van die inkomende gety, en het ek gou agtergekom dat jy eers goeie momentum moet opbou en sterk trap om bo te kom; die afgaan was egter verspot maklik want jy hoef glad nie te trap nie, en so ’n ruskansie was baie welkom! Met die afry is dit ook nie nodig om die remme te gebruik nie want die dik sand bokant die hoogwatermerk stop jou gou.

Charmagne met ’n mooi grootkol pompano.

Die tyd het ons ingehaal met die opwinding van die visse wat die een na die ander uitgekom het, en teen 12-uur, wat toe al baie later was as waarvoor ons beplan het, het ek besluit om die pad vooruit aan te durf. Die res van my hengelmaats kon my op die pad terug kry, en so het hul ook.

Jeff Asher-Wood with a milkshark.

Met die hooggety kon ek egter net op die digte, los sand bo en langs die duine ry, en na drie valle links van die fiets af, en een val aan my regterkant, gesig in die sand (gelukkig was ek alleen toe dit gebeur het!) het ek maar die fiets verder gestoot. In die hitte van die dag was my water reeds klaar omdat ek sand van die fiets se ketting af moes spoel toe ek geval het, en was ek redelik uitgeput omdat ek skaars geëet het. Gelukkig het Jonathan met ekstra water gery – hy glo dat daar altyd spaar water moet wees, en so het hy my van dehidrasie gered toe hy my uiteindelik bereik het. Dit was ’n bitter moeilike pad terug want die seesand was los, dit was baie warm en my krag was weg. Die les wat ek hieruit geleer het was om eerder meer water saam te dra en nie vis te vang tot in die warmste deel van die dag en dan nog op ’n fiets te moet terug ry nie, veral met hoogwater! Energie drankies en stafies kon ook gehelp het. Jeff het genoem dat hy “bungee cords” gebruik om iemand wat nie die pas kan volhou te trek, maar ek sou hom sekerlik saam sand toe getrek het omdat ek die fiets se stuurstang nie reguit kon hou wanneer sagte sand onder my voorwiel beland het nie.

Daar gaan ek…

Sal ek dit weer doen? Beslis ja. Pragtige visse swem daar waar dit moeilik bereikbaar is. My geveg met die grootkol-pompano het dit absoluut die moeite werd gemaak. Dit was merkwaardig hoe hierdie vis baie lyn vinnig kan stroop, ingebring word en weer lyn te vat. Ek het my gunsteling vis gevang en weer vrygelaat! *Volgende uitgawe: Fat Bike-hengelwenke

Moeilike voetspore…

Oppi Rotse

Na die dag se hengel kon ons ontspan by Oppi Rotse in St Lucia. Hulle het verskeie selfhelp eenhede met aparte braai areas, so ook bed en ontbyt geriewe en gratis WiFi. Alle kamers is toegerus met lugverkoeling. Die volgende oggend was ons bedien met ’n heerlike ontbyt voor ons terug vertrek het Gauteng toe. Besoek gerus hul webtuiste by: www.oppirotse.com of skakel Valerie by 084 980 5641.

Fat Bike Fishing’ great, even for a first—timer

WORDS & IMAGES: Tobias Weber, Photographer

It’s true what they say about riding a bike: you never forget how, but riding on a sandy beach is a very different story!

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and it’s easy going on the hard sand left behind by the low tide. The scene is rife with beautiful images and it’s a joy to ride along the crashing waves. As a photographer I’m overwhelmed by the potential for images. With a GoPro in one hand and my Samsung S9 in the other I’m pushing my multi-tasking ability to the limit attempting to take photos and videos at the same time. I learn very quickly that this is a bad idea as I hit a patch of soft sand and lose control. The front wheel digs in, slides to the side and next thing I know I’m face down in the sand. I then had to clean the sand off the drive chain using my precious fresh water supply.

To try and capture the excitement, glamour and pure thrill of riding a fat bike stacked with fishing gear on a beach, I ask our guide, Jeff Asher-Wood to do a couple of rides past for me to shoot. But the shot just isn’t right, we are heading north, so the sun is behind me and the beautiful, pink-washed sunrise sky is wasted. But being a good sport Jeff does it again, this time coming from the other side with the sun now behind him. The image is much better – with all his fishing gear strapped to his bike the rising sun behind him highlights the adventure we are embarking on. While powering on to get to our first fishing spot I stop regularly to shoot more images of our group in front of the sea and sky that is turning more and more spectacular. To get all the angles I overtake our group every so often to get in front of them.

The result of Jeff’s efforts, a beautiful photo!

After a while however the enthusiasm and excitement of the scenery is replaced by the weighty burden that the heavy camera equipment on my back suddenly becomes – time to focus on getting to the spot and thankfully a short while later Jeff signals our arrival.

 The relief of being able to rid myself of the heavy backpack prompts me to make a mental note for next time: pack lighter! My discomfort however doesn’t last long as the sunrise reaches its most beautiful moment and we decide to get some shots of Jeff’s bike set-up with his rod holder and bait bucket before rigging up. These are the moments that make it worth getting up at 03:00!

The spray and mist from the ocean create an additional challenge for anyone planning to carry a camera along. Saltwater is definitely not good for any camera gear, professional or not. As a result, the smartphones we all carry around in our pockets become our most valued tool. Colleague Charmagne and I both have a Samsung S9 that is waterproof, so getting it wet in the waves is no problem at all and these days the image quality rivals any camera. But take note, if you submerge any gear, GoPro, Smartphone or any waterproof camera in saltwater, be sure to rinse it with freshwater as with time the salt will affect even the toughest of gear.

Being on assignment to get high-res images for the magazine I have no choice but to pull out the big camera and shoot bait set-ups and rigs while our guides Jeff and Jonathan rig rods for everyone. Next thing I know the camera in my hand is replaced by a rod and I’m facing the sea, looking at what remains of the sunrise and waiting for a bite.

Now that all the hype of riding a bicycle along the beach settles down and everyone is focused on fishing, we can all reflect on why this is such a unique way of getting to the spot. Not many are willing to go through the effort, so we are entirely alone, apart from the odd other fat bike enthusiast that is also willing to go the extra mile. True serenity, the only things missing now are the fish!

This being my very first rock and surf fishing outing I have no idea what I’m doing – a proper beginner to put Jeff’s skills to the test! But Jeff is a great guide and talks me through everything and his demo cast is exactly where the fish should be. Minutes later my lesson is interrupted as Charmagne gets a bite way off to my left. Jeff, showing his experience once again, comments, “I bet that’s a Three Spot Pompano she’s got on there”. He sure knows his stuff as moments later Jonathan helps her land the fish, a beautiful Three Spot and a good size as well. After shooting the catch it is safely returned to the sea.

Standing on the beach with a rod in my hand waiting for a bite isn’t very exciting, and I get bored quite fast, but Jeff is very active and we change baits frequently, which gives me time to take more photos while he is busy, making sure to safely store the camera in my bag every time I’m done.

Tobias Weber’s first rock and surf catch ever, a well sized cave bass.

After a long morning, missing a couple of bites and multiple bait changes later, I finally get into a fish. At first, I didn’t even realize there was a fish on – in the current and between the reef I could hardly feel the bite, and it was only Jeff’s trained eye that noticed the movement on the tip of the rod. With some quick help from Jeff I soon got it out, a beautiful Cave Bass, no giant but an interesting fish, nevertheless. Having never seen one before pictures are a must and after some admiration on my part the fish is released. What a cool looking fish it was! Unfortunately, this is my only fish for the day but to me the images I captured well made up for it. A while later it is time to head back, and this is where the day becomes difficult. Riding back to the car in the midday heat is far from ideal, additionally being on a bike that I have never ridden before the seat quickly becomes unbearable and I am forced to get off and push quite regularly. Note for next time: pack padded cycling shorts! In the heat the sand becomes softer and makes riding extremely difficult. Our only option is to ride up the dunes where it’s more compact and then to use the downhills to rest a little.

Struggling on we eventually make it back to the car, but before loading the bikes Jeff makes a point to wash them properly with freshwater at the beachside showers to rid them of any salt, a very important action to maintain the gear. Once back in town with an ice-cold drink in hand I could reflect on the day – it was definitely an experience to remember. Riding along the beach to get as far away from any other people as possible is what made this such a great experience for me. And, particularly for the anglers, having an entire section of beach to yourself is reward enough for the challenging ride and early morning start.

Tags
Close