My Friend Murphy
I guess we all have seen the videos of the Matt Hayes, Jan Porters and Rex Hunts of this world. Going to waters with only a rod, reel and a small bucket of bait and within no time at all a carp or other fish that could make your eyes water is slipping into the landing net. Full of hope and dreams you do the same only to find it doesn’t work that way in real life. Nope, I do not suggest that these fishing shows are fake or set up in any way, rather that they won’t ever reflect the true nature of the sport. They can’t show the hours of waiting for the reel to start running and they most definitely wont show the failures or gremlins getting into a well planned fishing trip.
I have a friend; Murphy is his name. Whenever I do a thorough planned fishing trip he invites himself along. Being a small fellow you don’t always see him, not until it is too late that is. Well, to be honest a well planned fishing trip for me is to make sure all the basics are covered, like all required equipment is packed and don’t forget the salt – not again – as well as the kettle, no fun boiling water in an empty coke can.
I started my plan by getting together all the stuff I wanted to test. I did plan to purchase some new rods but got a call from David Watts of Shanbrook Tackle who informed me of some South African rods that they import called Purglass that I just had to check out. I was quite surprised that I didn’t know them but later found out they actually manufacture more sea rods than freshwater rods. Their blanks are actually used by various local rod producers under different brand names.
After a bit of searching for a local dealer that stocked them I went to have a couple of test casts with them. I attached both Shimano and Mitchell reels and both felt extremely well balanced and in sync with the rod. Well, seeing that they cost a bit more than what I bargained on I delayed the purchase of the new rods until I have enough funds to purchase two Purglass rods. I was also armed with Hutchinson boilies, popups, dips and pellets in Scopex and Monster Crab flavours. Also on test was Kryston Snakebite Gold, their leadcore as well as Meltdown PVA bags. Yep, I took the plunge and moved up to the advance class in the art of specimen angling. Not being a fool I also took the trusted old paste bait and sweetcorn along as well, with a couple of earthworms to round everything off nicely.
The weekend before the 5 day trip I went down and pre-baited the planned swim with some seeds – also a newbie – containing chickpeas, peanuts, birdseed, hemp and a drop of tiger nuts, and of course some maize. Although all seeds have been imported they were in my opinion unfortunately of poor quality with some bugs leaving me just with the shells of the seed. Anyway, everything was set. I was ready and couldn’t wait for the following Sunday. The week was spent making new rigs with the Kryston products I have purchased and experimenting with different knots. Tying braid isn’t all that easy if you have fingers like mine, but I managed.
The Sunday morning we were packed and on our way. There was a strong wind blowing and as soon as I hit the rise leading down to the river my heart jumped. Not for joy but rather in dismay. The strong wind had churned the water quite heavily, the river was silty and I knew this would only make my task more difficult. This didn’t deter me however as I had a prepared swims which should be active by now. Okay, that was the last of the good ideas. My swim was taken over by another angler; surprised at the good action he had, he decided to stay two more days. That’s when I looked over my shoulder and saw old Murphy smiling at me.
Another swim was chosen and we started to set up camp. I was in no hurry because I knew it was a daunting task that lay ahead. Still positive however, so I just threw Murphy a wry smile and set about my business. By afternoon I had my strategy planned. Two rods would be taken out to long range, one with a PVA bag filled with pellets and broken boilies with two boilies attached as hook bait. The flavour was Monster Crab for this one and Scopex boilie was attached to the other using the Method consisting of mixed seeds and crushed maize. This was taken out with the baitboat to about 300 meters.
Then I hooked my new Fox marker float to another rod and started plumbing the swim in front of me. After about an hour and a half I still hadn’t found a very good spot and decided just to put down the float as a marker and started pre-baiting around it. It was while I was pre-baiting that it felt as if the distance was getting greater with every cast. Putting it down to a tired arm I didn’t take any further notice and went about preparing the hook bait for the second two rods. One rod was set up with a single hook and a tiger nut as hook bait. The other rod was prepared with sweetcorn and some paste bait on a double hook rig in the baby shoes (? – ed) configuration. Going through the casting preparation and turning to look at the marker float I was ready to hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately someone hid my nail from me. No marker float in sight. There I was standing with the rod at my back ready to cast and I had no target. Scrap one brand new Fox marker float. I could hear Murphy laughing behind me. Well that was two nothing. What to do but cast and get in the general direction of where you think it should be. That completed I skipped coffee and poured me a strong Sundowner.
That evening I was sitting in front of the tent and staring into the fire as it slowly crackled away, contemplating the events of the day. Murphy was still up to his usual tricks as always. First the two new bite alarm batteries disappeared, then all my earthworms decided to leave the party early. Oh well, I told my wife, this all adds to the enjoyment of fishing. Besides it was a lovely quiet African night and I looked up to the heavens above. The stars were shining bright and then to my horror I saw it. Slowly creeping over the horizon, growing ever more each passing minute.
Yep there is was, the biggest, brightest full moon any romantic can wish for. Now I am not one to debate the affect the moon has on fishing, all I know is from my experience is that I do not catch fish when there is a full moon about. Yep it does happen but so rarely I put it down as a fluke when it does. An even deeper sigh left my lips. Now that is something I really should have noticed or checked before planning this trip. Murphy was leading three nothing. It would have been three to one if I could have drawn any comparison between the Springbok victory over Argentina and my fishing. Oh well, we will try the following morning.
The morning started afresh but old Murphy had no rest. Somehow he managed to let me leave the baitboat’s remote unit on. So needless to say when I wanted to re-bait the long distance lines I knew I was in trouble. The meter was low so my distance was drastically shortened. With the nearest town almost an hour away I let it go. Not deterred I re-baited and cut the distance to 200 meters. Same set-up as before.
The two close range lines were changed and I used Scopex-glugged tiger nuts and brown bread as hook bait. During the morning things were starting to look up with small fish round 2.5 pounds hitting the brown bread and one 5pounder on the tiger nuts. All common carp. Still the two distance lines were quiet. It was round four that afternoon after Murphy has let one of my gas cylinders spring a leak. While I was attending to this one of the deep lines was slowly starting to pull from the reel. It was slow, just a few clicks of the ratchet, then quiet. No slacking of line, just a stop-start affair. I knew that is was a cat. And I knew that it was still playing with the bait. The hook must have caught in its mouth but I wasn’t sure that it was properly sucked in so I left it to play and swallow further. Besides, there was a fire to be made. It went on for about twenty minutes. All of a sudden the reel screamed. I covered the 25-meter distance from the camp to where my rod was in a second. Almost flattening my four year old in the process. But Murphy was there, oh yeah and he had the biggest smile ever. The reel was still screaming when I picked it up. But then it went quiet. The line dangling from the tip of my rod. Somewhere, somehow the line snapped. I prodded the water right in front of my rods about 5 meters into the swim. The culprit was an old sawed-off tree stump submerged in about a meter of water. The line must have hooked itself somewhere along the stump. I was fast losing count between Murphy and me.
After another eventless night I was at the end of my tether. I replaced the lost line on the reel and moved the rod to a new location in the swim. The batteries were failing fast in the baitboat’s remote and the distance was cut to 100 meters. I did not replace the Scopex popup on the second rod but left it as it was. In the meantime I was taking pictures of the rigs I have used as well as the ground bait and general scenic pictures for this article. The article was supposed to be completely different however. I was re-baiting the cast lines for the second time when the Scopex rod suddenly came alive. The bait alarm gave on last agonising cry before the battery went and it sounded like an old WWII air raid siren before being silenced for the last time. Immediately from the pick up I could feel this was a beauty. With that distance and using a centerpin reel it took quite a while before the fish was landed. Two things struck me when the fish came close to being landed. The first was that I actually realized that my landing net was way too small for this size of fish – mental note: have to get me one of Hutchy’s landing nets – and the second was how small a 18mm boilie is compared to a the size of a carp’s mouth. With a big struggle the fish was landed, unhooked and put into the weigh sling. 12.19 pounds the scale measured. Still a long way from my personal best but a beautiful mirror none the less. After, my wife did the honours with the pictures and I slipped the fish back into the water.
The day past with nothing else happening and I finally thought Murphy had found some other place to play. The evening was spent chatting about the final two days that lay ahead. Plans were made and tactics discussed. The baitboat’s batteries finally gave in but that didn’t matter. I was starting get some action on the tiger nuts and was looking to further investigate this avenue further. Tomorrow will be a grand day I whispered to myself before drifting off to sleep.
The following morning session went well and I concentrated on various baits in the by now prepared swim in front of me. Reactions were good and when I started employing the Method the takes came with much more regularity. Still nothing of the big fish close in but I was satisfied. Then Murphy played his final cards. First the camera with my valuable pictures fell. The film door popped open exposing the film. Scrap one holiday film with it some good memories. Then my four year old fell and sprained his ankle while playing with his ball. That was the final straw and it was pack up time a day and a half earlier than planned.
Although different anglers view success in different ways, to me this trip had been a good one. I didn’t get to fish in my prepared swim as I wished, I didn’t get to go out as much as I wished on the distance lines and I don’t even have pictures to show for the couple of days. Still it felt good and even old Murphy couldn’t dampen my spirit. I know he will join me again, but still he won’t ever dampen the joy and love I have for the sport. So when you see old Murphy around your bivvy or fishing spot, give him a smile and don’t give up, Lady Luck is much bigger than old Murphy will ever be.
Tight LinesLeon ForemanSouth Africa