I remember being in Sodwana Bay about a year ago, sitting around with Mark Rogotzki from the Johannesburg Dive Factory after quite an unproductive day on the water. I was feeling slightly dismal seeing that we’d been on quite a few trips before that, that hadn’t exactly produced amazing amounts of fish. Either that, or I always strategically managed to not go on the trips where the guy actually did get stuck in. (Don’t you just hate those emails full of fish photos from the trip you couldn’t join in on?) It was then when Mark told me to just keep on going, because one day, everything would just come together… and I’d have one of those days when the water’s clean, the fish are there, with great weather and we right in the middle of it all. A day when it’s just ‘on’. Well, it finally happened for me, and this is a story about what happens when two Vaalies hit it when it’s ON.
Over the past two years, Mark and myself have began specializing in impulsive, last-minute, no-nonsense spearing trips down to the South Coast – bumming rides on boats where we can and otherwise just shore diving like madmen in pretty much any conditions that present themselves. Our spearfishing mantra has become “Nothing is impossible for Vaalie!” and believe me, if it’s wet, we’ll dive in it!
Our last trip down South of Durbs had been in May and it was just too epic! We’d spent four days camping at Rocky Bay with absolutely perfect weather, crayfish on the braal on every possible occasion and decent fish in abundance. Besides shooting my first shore dive Couta, a highlight of that trip was going out with Wayne Duncan on his boat. Blue, for an awesome day’s spearing in the amazing, untouched waters off Port Edward. Mark and I had got stuck into some really decent reef fish and I also managed to shoot my first Poensikop. If you’re ever in Port Edward area, hook up with Wayne for a spearing charter… I can guarantee it’ll be awesome. But, I digress. You want to hear about what happens when the Vaalies hit it when it’s really on, don’t you? Well, this is how it goes…
On a Tuesday evening early in September, Mark phoned me and said: “Hey, let’s go dive this weekend before the bug season closes… we might not get another chance! I look at my non-existent schedule and in about 3 seconds Nat replied “F*@k Yeah! Let’s go dive!” (You must have sussed out at this point that it doesn’t take much to to convince me to go diving. Birthdays, weddings, Bar Mitzwahs – nothing is too sacred to miss for a good spearing mission. Trust me on this, once upon a time I even used to have a girlfriend)
Friday morning arrived and the Vaalies were on their way to their usual camping spot at Rocky Bay. We hadn’t even checked the weather or viz reports, we were just stoked to be heading towards the big blue! On our way down on the speedtrap haven AKA the N3. Mark made a quick call to a diving friend. Alan Potter, and just like that he’d organized us a trip out on Alan’s duck the next day. Lekker!
After dealing with the formalities of setting up camp and drinking way too much red wine (I blame you Mark) we were up at daybreak to meet Alan and his great little duck at the Rocky Bay launch site. We decided to go to Aliwal Shoal to see if the Northern pinnacles were holding any fish. I was a little apprehensive about diving the shoal, seeing that I’d never had any truly amazing diving diving there besides getting some good reef fish, but heading out over the glossy ocean with the sun rising and whales breaching in the distance, something in the air felt different, as if there was a strange tension hanging over us. Of course I just dismissed the feeling as a slight hangover and held on, angrily anticipating the day’s first dive.
Arriving on the shoal, Alan gradually let us Vaalies have the first dive of the day (probably because we were both foaming at the mouth) and with a cry of “Kit Up” we were in the water. I dropped my flasher, loaded my gun and saw Mark head down to stretch his lungs. Not to be outdone, I did a very quick breathe up and dropped down to my minor ball flasher hanging at about 10 meters for my first warm up dive. The water was quite dirty and I was rather disappointed, and decided to head back to the surface. Before ascending though, I turned around to check if I missed anything behind my back, and there, out of the haze I saw the most beautiful thing in the world: a Sailfish, swimming, diagonally towards my flasher. Without any hesitation or thought, my arm extended and I planted a shot right in the middle of the bulk now speeding past me.
The Sailfish sped off like blue lightning and I watched in amazement as the dynema flew off the reef of my 1.3m Rob Allen signature Carbon gun. I managed to clip the gun onto my belt reel just as my gun’s spool emptied and was ripped out of my hands as I broke the surface! Thank you Rob Allen! I am not ashamed to admit that at this point I started screaming “Sailish! Sailfish! Big f*&%ing Sailfish!” to Mark and Alan in a voice that any 12 year old girl would be proud of. I know those of you who’ve been in similar situations will understand.
The series of events that followed is pretty much a blur of my belt reel being stripped, me swimming my heart out in hot pursuit of one angry Sailfish, my pulling, gaining line, losing line, being pulled (read: towed) out to sea, pulling again and then having the whole process repeated, with the dynema getting fouled around the outboard thrown in for some added spice. Good times! When I finally managed to reach the fish, it was completely lit up and much bigger than I initially thought: it is a sight that I will never ever forget. The battle, the fish, the moment… everything was just epic. Mark swam up to me, put in a kill shot, and it was all over. Grabbing onto that fish’s bill and swimming with it towards the boat must be the highlight of all my time spent in, on or under the water.
But wait there’s more! While I sat on the boat admiring my fish in awed disbelief, Mark and Alan did a few more dives on the shoal but nothing else seemed to come through. So, we decided to head over to Green Point to see if we couldn’t pick up a Garrick or something interesting in the shallows. Again, I volunteered to bakkie and Alan and Mark took to the white water around the rocks on the point. About 20 minutes later, Mark was swimming quite erratically all over the place and when I approached him, I could see a massive silver flash underneath him. After a very amusing surface wrestle and some serious splashing and fin-face-slapping, Mark lifted the biggest Garrick I had ever seen out of the water and slid it into the boat. We were all smiles! I started laughing like a madman. He shot the beast in about half a metre of water on a rock shelf! Everything was just too good to be true. Could it get any better?
I decided to get in and check out if there was anything left for me around the rocks and the whit water. After about 15 minutes of not seeing much, I was lying on the sand in about 4 metres of water and suddenly spotted 3 sharks off to my right. Hang on, I thought… sharks? Just make sure… Well, you know, us Vaalies, we shoot first and the questions come later – that’s just how it goes in Joburg! Long story short (and quite a tussle later), now completely full up and with no more room for divers or fish we had to make the call to return to Rocky Bay. So, triumphantly, we headed back all smiles, laughter, and disbelief… and it was only about 10am.
After weighing the fish from a makeshift gantry, the tally for the day was: My first Sailfish of 45kg, Mark’s best yet Garrick of 19kg and my first Prodigal Son of 13kg. My only wish was that there could have been a film crew on call to capture Mark and myself trying to gut and pack the massive fish on the beach in front of a crowd of very confused onlookers. (Just as an aside, all that fish made for lots to eat, and I can now say that Sailfish sashimi is delicious) And that, friends, is what happens when the Vaalies hit it when it’s on!
Thank you Mark for all the incredible trips we’ve had together, and special thanks to both Mark and Alan, for being there to share in the highlight of my spearfishing career. I wonder what’ll happen on the next trip?
After all… “Nothing is impossible for a Vaalie!”