Unless you have a boat or a kayak to fish from, your options for Fly fishing in Durban harbour are extremely limited. The rising crime rate around the whole area has put paid to everywhere that that was once accessible by car years ago, and have all but been closed to the general public. This leaves a small area around the Bat centre, the concrete groin area from the back of the N.S.R.I along the back end of the Yacht club and the Northern sandbank flats that stretch to just past the “Wilsons Warf” waterfront area.
Coupled with that, one must contend with not only seasonal changes (Water temperature fluctuations ) but also monthly tidal cycles as well, so accessibility to this sand bank becomes limited to the two weeks around spring lows, and if all bodes well for you and you can get time off around this period or it falls over a weekend, you also need the weather to be favourable, and if that wasn’t enough to think about, we all know that most fish go off the feed during the low tide anyway….bollocks!!!
With all this in mind I generally have to have a game plan and decide which fish I’m going to target for that session within the season I’m also fishing in. Grunter, Mullet, Springer, Kingies, Garrick and even Bartail flathead Gurnards get a look in. I can get away with using an intermediate for all four species but prefer a floating line for mullet. I only ever take 5 flies down with me regardless of the fish I intend to fish for. Shrimp n crab patterns for Spotted Grunter/Stump nosed bream/Bream and small glassy type baitfish patterns as well as a gurglar/popper type fly for Springer/ Kingies (Trevally), Queenies and Garrick.
Spotted Grunter have become the bane of my fly fishing existence over the last 4 years in the Bay. You very rarely see them tailing and when you do you generally get a split second to present them with your fly before they move on along the sandbank. As sods law would have it, I always tend to spot what might be a SG invariably at times just after I’ve already cast out my line or busy with a decent long retrieve of that said cast which adds immensely to the frustration this fish is affording me at present. I’ve read a lot of articles and chatted with numerous fly fisherman spread around the country that also target this elusive species quite regularly and while some look to be fishing in quite clear water and are successful, others seem to targeting Grunter in quite murky water around River estuarine systems. Estuaries that have regular tidal flow and seem to have a larger population of mud prawns/cracker shrimp than what the North sand bank has these days which can be put down to a total raping of illegal pumping of this important food source SG depend on. Practically every river estuary 80 km either way of Durban is so badly silted up that unless a storm brakes its shoulder there’s very little chance of them receiving a constant tidal flush of saltwater water so really the only place I get a chance to fish for SG is in the bay.
Take Saturday for instance. Conditions were mint, a light breeze, Overcast and an extremely low tide greeted myself and Nick as we arrived at 08h30. Peak low was scheduled for 10h10 so I didn’t expect us to pick up much until then with an outgoing tide. Nick did manage a small “Big Eye Kingie” and I begrudgingly picked up a couple of decent Flathead Sand Gurnards. Then as shit would have it the clouds began to clear and the wind picked up just as the tide began to turn. Yes it made visibility a lot better with Polaroids on and I was able to track the fish moving onto the sandbanks a lot better but were all mainly shoals of Pursemouth and Mullet. I was casting 10 metres out over the drop off allowing the Cracker/mud prawn imitations to sink and then drift back up over it which in my eyes is the correct technique for this area. I tried all the flies I had with me, Dark imitations, cream white with a splash of pink for a hot spot which Rob Pretorius thinks could be the key to cracking this fish and I even used a proper Jam fly which MC Coetzer had tied himself, to no avail…fucking frustrating if you ask me!
From what I gather though from others around the country targeting SG’S, is that some are fishing off ledges into open stretches of water so they’re slightly elevated which gives them a slightly better field of view to spot patrolling fish, while others fishing in slightly murky water are still able to cast to tailing fish…..But the North Sandbank although probably only 900m long is still a very long stretch of flat surface area to cover in such a short window of 45 mins, especially if you are knee deep in water. I wonder whether it’s the constant movement of screaming boats engines that deter the fish from entering the shallows because there were a hell of a lot of ships, Tugs, fishing charters and recreational vessels that morning patrolling up and down the center channel….or is that just another excuse? There certainly aren’t the numbers of SG in the bay these days as what there were 15 yrs ago, but that can be said for all species I suppose! Am I just fishing in correctly? Robin Fick seems to be having a lot more success with surface spun deer hair flies than with more realistic imitations…..Yes SG do take off the surface but I don’t think Durban’s bay conditions are conducive to that style of fly fishing…..Or are they? Water clarity isn’t bad, but it is very highly polluted there. This was evident from the oil band which had formed around my board shorts from the constant wading thigh deep as the tide came in. The only consolation I have is that not one of the Bait chuckers fishing off the bank had caught a single Spotted Grunter the whole morning either….It certainly didn’t make me feel any better, just made me question whether the session was worth it, but more so whether my approach was and is completely wrong for this species for Durban Harbour.