Streamside Blog

Grunter On Fly – This is Why I Love Fly Fishing

Grunter on fly

One of the most exciting aspects of fly fishing is targeting a new fish species. Targeting fish that are notoriously difficult or “almost impossible” is even more exciting. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a day fishing for Spotted Grunter in the Eastern Cape, and I had to seize the opportunity.

The South African Fly Fishing Community

An aspect of fly fishing that I appreciate is the community. Whenever I need help, reaching out to our South African community never seems to disappoint! On this trip, I reached out to a true living legend, Marius (Straightstick) Rousseau.

Marius is a pioneer of Largemouth Yellowfish and has spent many years chasing all kinds of freshwater and saltwater species. Visit his Instagram account @marius_straightstick to see more! Marius graciously agreed to fish with me for a day and lend me a 6-weight rod.

Another favor I had to pull was organizing some flies. Since it was the day before the trip, I needed a few flies that would be effective. Luckily, I knew just the guy, Jurgens de Jager.

Baby Squid fly tied by Jurg de Jager

He gave me some baby squid flies he had been experimenting with lately. This fly and its design would have to be an article on its own in the coming months!

The First Encounter

On the day of the trip, I met Marius for breakfast, as there was no rush to get on the water. We would be attempting to catch some White Steenbras (“Steenie”) and Spotted Grunter, and we would need the sun to be high enough to sight fish. Walking and stalking would be the aim of the game – not the easiest thing on a windy morning, I must add.

The game plan was to slowly walk a section of a flat with Marius and learn how to spot fish. After an hour, I felt slightly more confident spotting fish and slowly ventured off on my own.

The first chance I had was a small Steenie swimming straight at me. I intercepted the fish with a long cast and started the retrieve that consisted of short strips. The fish chased the fly all the way to the rod tip but eventually spooked, leaving me with shaking hands and a puzzled mind.

Looking for Feeding Fish

Hours passed with no success. It was a mix of either spooking fish with a cast, walking into fish (that I never spotted), or getting follows with no reaction (or potentially never feeling the take).

Eventually, I gave up on the shallow ankle-deep flats and moved towards tailing Grunter in slightly deeper water, which gave me more confidence. For some reason, their behaviour felt familiar, maybe similar to the large Grass and Common Carp I have targeted in the Vaal Dam and surrounding rivers.

The first few fish showed little to no interest, even though I made perfect presentations. At this stage, the wind was blowing strong, making casting challenging. However, it made stalking the fish a lot easier. They would sit with their heads facing into the waves created by the wind.

Hooking Into My First Grunter

The next pair of fish I noticed seemed to be feeding in shallower water. As I slowly waded into this area, I noticed the bottom changing from silt to fine gravel. This seemed to be a great opportunity, as the visibility of the water seemed to be better in this spot.

The first cast landed perfectly between these two fish. I stripped the fly slowly past them – no reaction. My second cast landed to the right of them, and by the third strip, a third tail popped up out of nowhere. Instinctively, I knew this fish was interested and, with the next strip of the fly, I felt tension – I was in!

The Fight

The fight the fish gave was an unfamiliar experience. It was very cooperative, and I would slowly gain line. As soon as it got close, though, it would speed off, and the whole little dance would happen again. To say I was nervous was an understatement!

I was fishing with a 12- to 14-ft leader ending in 8lb fluorocarbon, which made me feel under gunned at times. Luckily, I managed to get Marius’ attention, and I knew he would be able to assist with a net he brought along.

Eventually, I managed to guide it towards shallower water, and we slipped my first Grunter into the net, making the day’s challenges worth it. An unforgettable experience and a big reminder of why I love fly fishing.

If you’re interested in learning more about Grunter on fly, be sure to join our Social Tying Evening on 5 June.

Eastern Cape Highlands

22-29 April 2023