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Specimen Joy At Kwaggahoek

By: Luigi Gamberini

In life any break away from the hustle and bustle of work is a huge blessing and can become an opportunity that could yield many fruits, especially when your favourite syndicate dam suddenly has an open booking available.

Early in January this year a space at Kwaggahoek Dam was advertised on the SACS Facebook page and I immediately had to jump on the opportunity as I’ve been longing to return to this multi-personality venue. I posted an invite on a WhatsApp group and it wasn’t long before my good friend Sean Tucker jumped on the invite. The 4-day trip was booked and what followed was to be one of the best sessions of my life.

We began our planning well in advance and viewed catch reports with a close eye to gain as much info on what seemed to be an emptier than usual dam. The planning quickly had to change as the rains had started to fall in the Limpopo province, which would inevitably result in a big rise in the water level. At this stage we started mauling over the possibility of colder water temperatures, inconsistent air pressures, influx of natural food sources and most of all where the fish would be in the midst of these varying conditions.

At this stage we sought some advice from a few legends, a title given not purely because of their successes, but as a result of their desire to help their fellow anglers. Ryan Matthysen and Neville Barnard provided a few vital pointers that would be reviewed and amended during the session. These pointers coupled with a variation or two ultimately yielded what could be described as a “session of a lifetime”.

The road leading into Kwaggas showed signs of rain as the path was undulating from the erosion. Arriving at the water’s edge it was evident that the levels had risen substantially and that our fears could become a reality. I had high hopes of getting lines in first thing but due to mother nature’s powerful lungs not allowing boat rides I started setting up camp instead. By 10pm the winds were still pumping although a window was provided here and there for a trip out on the water. During one of these windows I headed out for the first line drop. The initial drop lasted about 40 minutes with various U-turns and prayers as the winds picked up once again. After the drop I decided to rather succumb to the beating and turned in for the night with only one line in the water.

Knowing that Kwaggas could be very temperamental, we decided to alternate runs between us in order to afford us with equal opportunities. This tactic is not often practiced by anglers but we knew that fishing as a team in such a difficult venue would prove more fruitful. After the lines were set we got comfortable with very few signs of activity on the surface.

The air pressure at that stage was not in our favour and we were feeling a bit concerned but hopeful. This all changed shortly after midnight when Sean’s alarm indicated that one of the relentless residents was hooked on the other end. After a battle that seemed to take ages Sean’s account was opened with a long lean 11kg common. Our tactics to search for the deeper holes had paid off. The early morning came and went with only the spotting of the resident crocodile. Shortly after seeing the croc my account was announced by a “one-toner” just before 7am.

Another victim from the deeper water and the first mirror of the session coming in at 7kg. Photos were taken shortly after and both specimens were returned safely to their sanctuary. Even though the barometric pressure was doing flip-flops on the weather apps, fish continued to fall victim to our tactics. Tigernuts topped off with various visual attractors and soaked in N-voke’s RR10 range or Psycho Baits’ pineapple flavour. These hookbaits presented on a German and the basic knotless knot rigs seemed to be doing the trick. Every run we had was a mystery up until landing was imminent as these fish simply refused to back down. As the afternoon sun rose high we had another screaming take and this time it was my turn to strike it.

The fish fought for a good few minutes and right before the landing net it made its first appearance, both Sean and I knew that something spectacular had just happened and both our faces lit up when I said “PB Mirror”! This fish turned out to be the very highly sought after Big Kwaggas Mirror that many anglers have targeted over the years.

With its last known capture, it weighed over 17,7kg and a few years ago before a crocodile attack even passed the 18kg mark. Unfortunately, this fish had lost its pre-spawn weight and pulled our scale to 15,4kg which was still a huge upgrade to my Mirror PB. As custom dictates a bucket shower would follow for the camera to prove that the specimen was landed and that I had indeed been dunked for the prize. That Saturday saw five fish gracing our cradles which included a proper 11kg potbelly, a few other commons between 11kg and 12,5kg and the big mirror. After our last fish on Saturday, the action seemed to die down to a halt until the next morning at 3:30am when my alarm lit up the camp with a purple hue.

The rod was picked up and our last visitor, an 8kg potbelly, succumbed to Sean’s superior “boxing” skills. We hoped for 4 fish each, and that was exactly what we got. Our bakkies were packed shortly after 9am and our journey back to Pretoria began with smiles, rested souls and satisfied desires, proving that when an opportunity to catch some big carp presents itself, it’s never a bad idea to take the chance.