Catching SnoekFly fishing for snoek is essentially vertical jigging, but with a fly rod. You are casting a very fast sinking line, with a seriously weighted fly so that you can get to the depth the fish are. A fish finder comes in quite handy to find the depth. If there is a current you need to cast ‘up stream’.
Once you feel your line tighten up as it straightens out, lift your rod and then let the fly sink again. Do this once or twice, and then do one or two long strips, followed by the sink & lift. Finish with long pulls as the fish sometimes follow the fly till it gets quite close to the top.Once you have a fish on, give it a good strip strike to ensure the hook is in. Thereafter give in no quarter, get it in as quickly as possible. Seals love to steal hooked fish.
Tail the fish and get it under your arm, holding the front end by the leader at a safe distance. Use a tool to remove the hook, keeping your hands as far as possible from those sharp teeth.Don’t lose control of the fish, keep the leader in your hand and hook in if you are photographing or killing the fish. Don’t let it drop into the boat, it will eat legs and feet and can do serious damage to an inflatable.Practice catch & release if you can, but if the fish is bleeding badly, kill it and take it home.
To kill the fish, you need to get it under your arm and bend the head back to break its neck. It goes a lot easier if you cut the skin below the gills. Then remove the hook.
Tackle for flyfishing for snoek
Your rod needs to be at least 9wt, preferably 12wt with a decent saltwater reel to enable a quick landing.Sinking line of minumum 7 i.p.s. is required to achieve depth. The most popular line is a head of Rio T17 (10 i.p.s.) connected to a running line, or to a fast sinking line.
A leader of about 40 – 50lb will suffice but a shock tippet of 100lb Fluorocarbon is recommended. Replace after each fish or you will lose your fly on the next one. Steel traces do a lot of damage and fish cannot usually be released.
Flies are usually of the clouser type with the heaviest eyes you can find.
We have custom made some lead eyes as the ones commercially available were not heavy enough. Colours do not seem to be important, but Pink and Chartreuse are popular.Make sure your hook is very sharp.
Snoek is great on the braai.
It needs to be ‘flecked’, which is means it is butter flied open so it stays in one piece, with the abdominal cavity in the centre and the spine to one side.
Just stick it straight on the grip, skin side down and let it cook with a medium heat. You may want to start it off flesh side down so that the thicker parts cook quicker, but only do this on a clean lubricated grid, so it can be turned over.
Apricot jam is popular as a basting sauce.
Cook until flesh is white all the way through. Do not overcook.
Snoek flesh has ‘worms’ in it, but they don’t bother most people, who just eat them. If you are squeamish, eat the top half as it is always wormless and give the bottom half (below the lateral line) to the cat.
The ‘worms’ are a flesh eating Nematode, but are harmless to humans, and some claim it improves the flavour. There are none of these above the lateral line,
Pap snoek is not caused by over playing the fish, or not keeping it cool, but by another bug called Kudoa thyrsites, which causes “soft flesh syndrome”. If a fish is heavily infected, these parasites release an enzyme which rapidly breaks down the flesh. It is still edible.
Left over snoek can be made into ‘Smoor snoek’ which is delicious.
Pushing the envelope
or smashing through the boundary
There is often debate about what constitutes fly fishing and what doesn't. On the one hand there are the dry fly purists who disdain anything other than a dry fly on a stream or river. On the other side of the railway tracks are the blue water boys, who chum and tease huge fish into a frenzy and then casually lob a fly into the ensuing melee.
While both extremes use fly rods, fly reels and flies the situation is far from clear cut, as there are no clear rules. It's a kind of democratic anarchy, as the rules are largely followed, but every man fishes according to his own personal dictates. This situation has allowed fly fishing to evolve from the dry fly only chalkstream fishermen, to the various aspects it encompasses today. All species in the world are now targeted, some more successfully than others, but that makes it a challenge, which in turn makes it more attractive.
These are the thoughts that occupied my mind as I wolfed down four cans of anchovies in the early hours one morning. It may seem to be a strange preparation for my first snoek (Thyristes atun) fishing trip, but prudence dictated that should a heaving sea cause a heaving stomach, my efforts would not be wasted. Thus my early morning brain stumbled upon the first question of fly fishing ethics. If I were to lose my breakfast, it wouldn't really be chumming. Really! It could also be considered 'catch & release'.
The second question was more complicated. The fly rod and fly reel were safe from scrutiny, but what about my line? Twenty five meters of braid, connected to a six meter head of Rio T17 (that's a 10 inch per second sinking rate) may not have been an out of the box fly line, but it was probably safe. This line sinks like a brick, especially with a saltwater DDD fly attached. (The saltwater DDD, with apologies to the original DDD, is a large Clouser pattern 4/0 to 6/0, with enormous dumbbell eyes). It was named "Denton's Deadly Diver" after the man who 'invented' the eyes and pointed out that it had the potential to cause serious harm to the back of a skull, as well as sinking like a sack of hammers.
This was a perfect morning for fishing, a calm sea and a whimper of wind. The good ship "Double Haul" made good time to Buffels bay. My rod was quickly rigged and my 'line' cast into the water. It sank like it should have, and within moments of getting the fly down, and before starting the long strips, the line started moving away.
No smashing take. Just a reassuring solid pull.
I said Ooooh, the fish sped up and pulled harder. A louder OOOO, this was fun. With the 10 weight rod bent to its limit we had a bit of a tug of war, followed by a few to-and fro's. This fish wasn't giving up easily.
With some good advice from Captain DDD, the fish was soon boated, almost a meter of flashy silver with some serious dentition and a kak attitude.
The rest of the morning went well, with a lot of fish lost off the hook. Having a seriously sharp hook was essential, and having a hook hone even more important. [Tip of the Day: Keep your hooks sharp, and your wits sharper]
Despite using a mono (100lb Sufix) shock tippet, only one fish broke it off, just as it got to the surface. For the most part the fish were swallowing the Saltwater DDD's deep, so the tippet was severely tested. One of Captain DDD's fish had the flash of the fly sticking out of it's gills.
The mere suggestion that this is flyfishing, may cause pain in some quarters. When snoek fishing on fly is broken down to its basest components, it is really vertical jigging with fly tackle. It was not nearly as efficient as the commercial guys with bait, but it was immense fun, and no matter what side of the tide you sit, flyfishing.
This is where it gets worse. At some point someone suggested that treble hooks would be a lot more effective (as would barbed hooks). That may well sound like flyfishing blasphemy, yet trebles are quite common when fly fishing a salmon stream.
So where do YOU draw the line?