It was the 6th of March 2009. The weather man had cleared the skies for the weekend ahead. Our bosses (including girlfriends) had given us the Friday off. Everything seemed just perfect, and so “The Bass Bugger” Shaun Taylor and I hit the open road, due west towards Boskop dam near Potchefstroom in the North West Province.
We arrived at our destination the only 2 human beings for miles, set up our Ark inflatable almost quicker than the tent, and leapt straight into the fishing. Our first evening session was short and ended with 6 largemouth bass landed, with almost every fish taken on a weightless Stretch 40 by Gary Yamamto, a small Senko-like plastic lure with a short, finesse, ribbon shaped tail. A few were also taken on a watermelon red Super Fluke (old faithful), which is definitely my favourite for targeting bass in water that is clean to clear, such as that of Boskop dam. Once our opening evening’s session had come to an end, we retired to our camp to start a fire and throw back a few cold beers.
The next day’s fishing started off no quicker than that of the evening before. However, it was only in the afternoon that our slow day would turn frantic. It was about 17:30 that Saturday afternoon. The cool wind brushed gently against our cheeks, whistling past our ears as we fished the clear water of a shallow bay, which I had previously had success on almost a month before. A lot had changed this time, with much of the broad-leafed surface vegetation reduced to slimy columns extending to the depths of the dam floor. The fishing seemed slower this time, as if the bass had already gorged themselves for the season on the baitfish that took refuge in the, previously flourishing, plant structure. Slow as it was, we still managed to land a good 11 fish that day, the largest barely hitting the 800 gram mark though.
As we fished our Gary Yamamoto Stretch 40’s slow and tight to the reed structure that sheltered the bay, I couldn’t help but notice the whistling in my ear growing loader and stronger. The usually solid Ark inflatable began to rock slightly on the growing, wind-inspired waves. Then it began to rock a little wilder. The black cloud which seemed dormant just a few minutes before began to move in our direction, seemingly shifting closer and closer each time we looked away to make a cast. Then the lightning flashed in the distance and the thunder grumbled threateningly. Of course our enthusiasm to coax just ONE MORE bass clouded our judgment of the entire situation, and so we stayed just a little longer, just one more cast.
Now, any angler who has ever turned their back on Mother Nature rebelliously, disregarding her warning to move indoors, will be quite familiar with the alarming crack of fork lightning just kilometers away. You know, the kind that makes the hair on the back of your neck want to pack up and leave. That was our cue. “We’re going in now Shaun” I said nervously. We reeled in our lines, pulled up the anchors and began to row back to camp, one oar for each of us. You see, Boskop dam had a recent ban on petrol powered Motors and our electric variety had run flat earlier that day. The trouble was that by this time we had allotted the wind enough time to develop from a gentle breeze into a vigorous gale, which just so happen to be pumping in the exact opposite direction to our proposed bearing of travel. Yes, we were quite literally going NOWHERE, and the blackened sky, whitened only by the frightening flashes of lightning, was rolling nearer and nearer, directly ahead of us.
In a confirmed panic I fashioned my tackle box into a seat, thinking that if I could take power of both oars, I might be able to row a bit more efficiently thus beating the wind. I turned to grab the Bass Bugger’s oar, subsequently bumping my own over board. Our only chance of getting safely back to camp had literally drifted away. We were powerless as the wind blew us deeper and deeper into the bay, further and further from the sanctuary of our camp, and closer and closer to danger. At this stage I was panicked for sure. Natural selection had finally caught up to me I thought, damn you Darwin! Damn you! With lightning moving in and no way back, we were stranded in a potentially dangerous situation. We had only one option. We let the wind blow us to the end of the bay, once we reached the bank, the Bass Bugger jumped off the front of the boat into waist high water and pulled us ashore. The next step was to make tracks for the camp and fetch the car, which we did on foot. After a decent trek along the nearest dirt road we eventually arrived at camp. We started our Opel Utility and hurried back to our lonely inflatable. At this point we could see the lost oar hung up on some vegetation in the middle of the bay. This was the tough part. The wind still howling, we dragged the inflatable up a grassy hill to the bakkie, lifted it up and placed it on the back.
Then we drove back upwind along the bank, we needed that oar. Arriving at our camp again, up wind from our floating oar, we lowered the boat back into the water, lightning still flashing around us, the thunder grumbling grumpily. Defiant of the elements we scrambled on board and pushed ourselves away from the bank. We never bothered rowing. The power of the wind was more than enough to get us back to our precious oar. At the speed at which we were moving, we had one chance to grab it from the water, and we did that magnificently. Now it was time to row back up. I sat on my tackle box and fought the elements. We were gaining ground, inch by inch. After ten minutes we were half way back. Exhausted and sweating, we noticed some fish action in our favourite spot, hmm. The wind had begun to fade, and the lightning slowed. The storm had changed direction and so we decided after our 45 minute ordeal to drop anchor and catch one more fish. And so we did.
As my lure splashed into the water, I could only wonder why we fishermen never learn our lesson. Or is it that we do learn our lesson but that our most primal of human instincts to survive is sometimes short circuited by the overpowering allure of pursuit for those cold blooded waterborne creatures that we call fish. I don’t know… sometimes I wonder whether we are the captor or the captured. We will leave that to you.