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Thread: The Politics Of Fortune

  1. #1

    Default The Politics Of Fortune

    Well seeing as how y'all enjoyed b*tch-creek so much, and so as not to give too much away from the new book before it gets onto the streets, here is an old one from my last book, "A MEAN-MOUTHED, HOOK-JAWED, BAD-NEWS, SON-OF-A-FISH (which incidentaly IS available from Gonzo Fish'n Books and from better book stores everywhere ~ if they aint got it in stock they can order it)
    by Surly Ghillie
    I have always been a lucky fisherman. Truly. Perhaps my clearest memory of childhood

    concerns that wondrous day when first I went fishing. Not just bent-pin-and-pole stuff, but

    real fishing. It was back in 1954 or 1955 and I was almost all of five years old. In those balmy,

    far-off days, inflation was something you did to tyres. Mangroves still grew in Durban Bay, and

    Maydon Wharf, with its train tracks and buttress cranes, was like a finger on the pulse of the

    Indian Ocean with its awesome oily swells.

    It was high summer, probably just past Christmas, for I came to be standing on the wharf with

    a brand-new pistol-grip glass rod in my hand, equipped as I recall, with a crude centre-spool

    reel over-wound with fifty or sixty yards of stiff and brittle line. My trace was simple,

    consisting of no more than a ball sinker running between two knots and a straight, stainless 1/0

    hook baited with a blob of bacon purloined from the pantry. The wharf was lined along its

    entire length with burly fishermen wielding massive surf-casting rods. Their array of tackle

    dazzled me: Scarborough reels, burnished black by leather thumb brakes, and fancy multiplying

    reels; Penn 49s and the like. How I envied them, with canvas tackle bags and razor-honed bait

    knives, and their incredible casts, sending whole pilchards in high-looping parabolas to land in

    silent, far-off splashes, where surely all the big fish swam.

    My ears still sting at the memory of their laughter as I elbowed through to the jetty edge,

    planning an attempt, with a four-foot six-inch flipping stick and bacon blob, to emulate their

    casting. I whipped my rod through some 450 degrees, praying as I released the line that my

    cast might be a thing of beauty. It started well enough, with the line snaking smoothly out

    behind an accelerating trace. As the bait reached its zenith way out over the dark water, I

    jammed the cast and the bait zapped back towards the wharf. It hit the concrete with a

    sticky sound, before dribbling into the water at my feet. The mirth around me doubled as the

    grown men cracked up at the spectacle. With crimson ears and flushed hot, I turned my back

    and plucked ineffectually at the bird's nest on my reel.

    Suddenly an unseen force almost tore the rod from my grip. Clamping for all I was worth on

    the bucking rod, I was pulled off balance and fell perilously close to the edge. Scrambling to my

    feet with the rod bent double and the reel still solidly jammed, there was little I could do

    except to cling to the rod for dear life.

    There is much that the intervening years have blurred, but the memory of that day has stayed

    with me always. Intervention of divine providence, in the form of a by standing angler,

    eventually brought a spotted grunter (Pomadasys commersonnii) of seven or eight pounds to my

    feet. But that's not all. In the excitement, not one of the surrounding throng noticed that

    from the fish's mouth hung a thin telltale line. A tug was resisted by a weight far greater than

    I could deal with and it was left to my benefactor to pull a superb surfcaster and Penn reel

    from the oily water. My spotted grunter had been towing the rig along behind him for ***

    knows how long, while waiting only for my bacon to come along.

    And so it came to pass that my very first cast delivered not only a fish of sufficient size to

    silence the playful mirth of a dockful of fishermen, but also the means and motivation to

    pursue further the gentle art of ichthyoangamy. That day was merely a precursor to the

    chronology of events that over the years has served to confirm my early assessment. Yes, I am

    a lucky fisherman, to a degree that borders upon the supernatural. Hark back, for instance, to

    1963. It was a good year. My family had moved to the Eastern Cape and we lived on a

    ramshackle farm a short spit from Leaches Bay. That summer long I virtually lived on the

    beach, spending every waking hour in the surfline between Leaches Bay and Kidd's Beach. I

    would walk for hours, exploring every rock-pool and gully, occasionally happening upon some

    small bay or other, seemingly cut off from the world of men in its remoteness. I studied this

    world and its denizens with a vigour and single-mindedness that entirely eluded me in the

    classroom. I took that to be a clear sign of divine intention that I should spend more time in the littoral and less with my schoolbooks. With crude but serviceable tackle, I threw redbait and mussels, crayfish tails and fish fillets. And when I had no bait, I tossed spinners, spoons and plugs. From the gullies I took blacktail, grey chub and galjoen, and from the sandy bays I

    pulled steenbras, cob and sharks. Beyond the breaker line I searched for musselcracker,

    yellowtail and leervis, fishing in fair weather and foul. Finally, with my biorhythms synched to

    the east wind and with the tides for my calendar, I confronted eyeball-to-eyeball the grail of

    angling lore.

    Providence. Plain and simple. I say it again with no trace of levity. You see, that entire

    glorious year spent fishing an as yet unspoilt coastline left me with no keepsake dearer than

    the memory of the day I went fishing with Basil. Basil was my own age, the son of a neighbour

    and a regular ruffian. In the manner of boys, we pitted our skills against each other and

    before too long it became evident that Basil had the better of me at most things, from running

    to rugby to arm-wrestling. As we set out with our fishing poles, he made it clear that here too

    he meant to whip my ass.

    Now Basil had been born there and in his thirteen-odd years had done some pretty serious

    fishing, so his confidence seemed not at all misplaced. We walked along the beach in the false

    dawn until the rising sun found us in a little sandy bay not far from the mouth of Hickman's

    River. Basil, very much the senior partner, determined that this was to be our fishing spot. In

    short time we baited up and I stood back as Basil unleashed a majestic cast, his pencil of

    redbait landing almost 100 yards out in the mouth of our horseshoe bay. Then it was my turn.

    The bay shelved steeply and the force of the shore break meant that one had to cast from up

    on the beach. I stood back about fifteen yards from the waters' receding edge and let fly

    with my cast, mustering all the power I could. True to form, the cast began auspiciously, rising

    high and true in the air. Then my over-revving reel caught up with itself and the cast jammed

    solid. Back zipped the bait in a wild cartwheel that ended up on the beach just shy of the

    water. Blanketed by Basil's unfettered derision, I watched as the powerful shore break

    surged over my sorry bait and contemplated the 100 yards of overwind nesting on my reel.

    Backwash tugged at the line as the wave receded until the bait lay high and dry once again. A

    second wave broke and the surging water again pulled at the line. But this time the resistance

    increased until the rod tip dipped as if some flotsam had snagged against the trace. I pulled to

    free it and merry hell broke loose.

    In the calf-deep water my line went berserk, zigzagging this way and that. With the reel less

    than useless, I had few options, so I turned my back on the waves and ran up the sand dunes,

    towing a furious, flopping fish in my wake. Old Basil's guffaws vanished as I hoisted a

    twelve-pound grey chub in his face.

  2. #2


    PART 2

    The years roll on and though they have not always treated me gently, I am dogged, in matters

    piscatorial, by the same dumb luck with which I had made so early an acquaintance. Perhaps my

    birth sign is the coelacanth, perhaps it is my chemistry that has a vestigial affinity with slime,

    scale and fin. Certainly my benefaction is specific to fish and fishing. Spin a coin ten times

    over and I will call heads or tails and be wrong every time. For me to wager on a horse is

    sufficient to guarantee that the poor beast will break a leg, go blind or suffer some equal

    calamity. Make me a gift of some bond or stock and the company will be marked for liquidation.

    But give me a hook, some line and a piece of water, fresh or briny, and all will be well with me.

    Consider this story. There was a time, once, when I was 30 kilometres out of Cape Point in as

    fine a skiboat as ever braved the open sea. The year was 1973 and summer was coming to an

    end. My companion for the day was a Mr Baines and we were fishing for tuna, yellowfin and

    longfin. We found no yellowfins that day, but by noon we had been through a number of

    fast-moving schools of longfin, hooking and boating a good share of them. My satisfaction,

    however, was unreplete. I yearned for a hard pull against a big yellow. Suddenly the radio

    crackled news from a position about six miles to our east. Boats were converging over a dense

    concentration of baitfish and tuna. We upped lines, turned and ran on the compass at full

    throttle until a vast flock of diving seabirds on the horizon drew us to the centre of the action.

    And what action it was: all around were concentrations of birds, schools of porpoises, sharks

    and gamefish, and a pod of orca, fifty-odd strong. The predators were holding a huge shoal of

    baitfish at the surface and everything with a mouth and teeth was tearing at them with

    a frenzy that I have never seen equalled. An armada of boats had gathered in an area of

    perhaps seventy acres, each trolling a full complement of lines to every point on the compass.

    It was unadulterated chaos. A number of collisions were narrowly avoided as tempers frayed

    and temperatures soared. Frenzy-seared curses added to the clamour. In no time we had our

    lines out and were leaping towards screaming reels. Now Mr Baines was, and perhaps still is,

    a complete gentleman, one for whom the play was the entire issue. Not for him the butchery of

    maximum drag or winching tactics. Oh no! He set his drag at minimum and gave his fish its head.

    Never mind that all four rods on the boat were into fish. Never mind the unspeakable orgy of

    anglers, lines and colliding forces around us. He was there for the sport and would not be

    gainsaid. He settled back to see how many lines his fish could weave through as it tore through

    the maelstrom. The water was as clear as only oceanic waters can be and in pockets where the

    shoal parted one could easily pick out details fifty yards or more below the boat. Eventually Mr

    Baines was prevailed upon to tighten his drag somewhat and apply a couple of cranks to his reel

    handle, but by now the spectacular antics of his fish, way below the press on the surface, had

    drawn the personal attention of every ***dam killer whale in sonic range. I watched as in the

    cerulean depths about a dozen or so orcas encircled the thrashing tuna on Mr Baines's line.

    The fish saw the killers and in pure terror, spurted for the safety of our boat bottom. About

    ten yards short of its goal, the leading whale caught up with the tuna and gently breathed him

    in. The killer whale paused for a moment and through the gin clear water our eyes met, and I

    swear, he winked at me. Now I do not recall precisely if I winked back, but I do recall the

    splendour of its dentition and I do recall the image it awakened before my eyes. And this is

    what I saw: I saw that whale, hanging tail up from a gantry on the dockside. I saw headlines

    emblazoned around the capitals of the world. I saw flashbulbs popping as we lounged on the

    decks of my twenty-two-foot skiboat, explaining to a phalanx of media persons how we had

    landed our fifteen-yard multi-ton prize. Mr Baines, however, was far too absorbed in the

    finer points of gentlemanly elegance to have noticed the rapidly developing events in which

    he was destined to play so pivotal a part. He continued to toy with what he imagined to be no

    more than a brave fish. I, on the other hand, all the while looking that whale straight in the eye

    and with knuckles white upon the wheel, gunned the twin seventy-horse outboards and

    screamed at Mr Baines:"Strike! Now, strike!"

    Using the motors to set the hook is a well-established and highly effective technique with

    big-fish anglers and I had every confidence in success. The boat leapt forward until the whale

    gave a playful twitch to his tail. We came to an abrupt halt and the starboard gunwale

    disappeared for a few moments into the water. We popped back up and I steadied the boat as

    its decks drained. This was fishing and I was starting to enjoy myself.

    "Cut the line! Cut the line!" trilled my gentleman companion in a falsetto that would have done

    quite nicely for a lead soprano in the Drakensberg Boys' Choir. I dived for the knife and

    scooped it to the other end of the boat, beyond the frantic clawing fingers of our Mr Baines.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, the next few moments absorbed my entire being as I fought

    the whale using the boat, without the benefit of reel or rod.

    "Cut the line, you freaking crazy son of a she sea-dog," spluttered the gentlemanly Mr Baines.

    I think I might have detected a whiff of girlish hysteria in his voice as he tried to bite

    through the 130-pound test Dacron. The boat bobbed at the end of its whale and time stood

    still. I scooped a bucket of water one-handed over the smoking reel, then reached for the

    short gaff.

    Suddenly the whole boat juddered and the Dacron parted with a sound like a pistol shot. Mr

    Baines slumped back in the fighting chair, shivering uncontrollably and swivelling his eyes

    in their sockets, which seemed a trifle weird as the day was not in the least chilly. I was

    disconsolate, aghast. How could my luck suddenly turn so cruel, curdle so completely? It was

    simply not possible, for I had counted that whale as caught.

    Now, I am not one to hold a

    grudge, but I must admit that as I numbly brought us back to the harbour, my unkind thoughts

    centred firmly on my gentlemanly crew member. I held him entirely and criminally responsible

    for the loss of our prize, which I knew, fate had marked for me. And then it struck me.

    Perhaps Mr Baines was not entirely at fault. The proven caratage of my fishing fortune was not

    in the least devalued. After all, that whale escaped on a technicality. He was a ***dam

    mammal, not a fish at all, and his capture fell outside the ambit of fishing. To test this thesis I

    turned away from the complexity of all my tackle, the boat rods, surf reels, swivels, sinkers

    and down riggers. I put them all away and immersed myself in the simplicity and purity of

    fly-fishing. The intervening years have been full. I answered the call of ecology and sought my

    meat in entomology. I have roamed the courses of a hundred rivers and encircled a thousand

    lakes and estuaries. I am a master of snap casts, roll casts, haul casts and steeple casts. With

    a two-weight line in a twenty knot wind I can lay figures of eight between a willow's branches.

    I know thirty seven ways to calm a spooked trout and can identify, and tie, no fewer than 461

    species of woolly-worm, and can tell to the hour when Trichoptera will hatch or Odonata


    Yet all this is as nothing when compared with my single and prime principal. I give it free and

    tell it true. The only indispensable item in a fisherman's orbit is L_U_C_K.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Cape Town


    Lovely to read it again! I have a signed copy! (Thanks for that by the way, Colleen Robertson got it signed for me).
    "So here’s my point. Don’t go and get your ego all out of proportion because you can tie a fly and catch a fish that’s dumb enough to eat a car key.." - Louis Cahill - Gink and Gasoline

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Dullstroom, Mpumalanga


    Wow, now that is the first time I have read it and I found myself clinging to every beautifully written word. You have certainly wet my appetite for more Wolf. I am looking forward to it. Thanks a lot!
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2006


    Wolf, talking about signed copies, I'd very much like to get signed copies of your previous book, as well as the new one when it comes out. Is it possible to get them direct from you and autographed ?

  6. #6


    Absolutely. it would be a pleasure. just follow this link;

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Dullstroom, Mpumalanga


    Hi Wolf

    I see on your website that you have a hatchery. Do you have any long distance shipping solutions for brown trout fry? For example, about 2kg of 3 to 5 gram fish to Cape Town. Is this a possibility?
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

  8. #8


    hi chris ~ yr just gonna have to come & visit. that's the good news. the bad news is that i have had an horrendous egg cycle with my browns, and regretfully wont be supplying brown fry this season. i do have about 3000 10-12" fish..... if yr really desperate... but transport remains a problem

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Dullstroom, Mpumalanga


    Hi Wolf

    I do have plans to come and visit with my family and I will definitely be in touch. Thanks a lot
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Dullstroom, Mpumalanga


    To my great delight, I discovered 'Mean mouthed son of a fish' in amongst my library of fishing books this morning. I think I must have bought it when I first saw it and filed it for a future read. Anyway, it is now on my bedside table, so is destined to be read over the next few days.

    Please let us know when we can start placing orders for your new book.
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

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