In this country, I am not known for my love of beach fishing; I thrive on rock and rough ground fishing where I can cast into the rough stuff and have a nice, uneven platform from which to cast. Each to their own I suppose! But Namibia is one continuous beach: the Skeleton Coast. The major difference to our country is that out there, very close to the shoreline, lurk some massive fish. Put it this way, if you go with a professional outfit at the right time of year (October to April is best) and heed your guide’s advice, you are going to hook up to a shark, plain and simple. Yes, I did say shark!! Beach fishing for huge bronze whaler (copper) sharks is an everyday activity out there, just as we may wander down to our local beach for a spot of whiting bashing!
There is actually a huge amount of varied shore sport out there, but I do not have the space to deal with it here; instead I want to try and describe the sheer feeling of absolute angling utopia involved in sharking from the beach. If you have any interest at all in fishing for huge fish from a beach, then I really do not believe you can get any better than Namibia.
Yes, you can spend frightening amounts of money on some big game boat where you can spend days and days trolling up and down and the fish may indeed get bigger. But in a boat you can follow the fish. This is in no way a criticism of this kind of fishing, but catching sharks off a perfectly innocent looking beach must be some sort of "ultimate angling", for once you are hooked up to that express train, you are on your own. Sheer determination, luck, stamina, and a dollop of skill is needed, for you can not back the beach up! It is actually very hard to describe the experience, for like all people who go there for the first time, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Sure, you can talk about what you think it will be like, but nothing can prepare you for that first initial take and the amount of line the unseen predator starts to strip from your reel.
I went out there with a company called MolaMola and it was a real pleasure to see how professional the whole set-up is. The Namibians are mad keen anglers and are extremely knowledgeable, competent, kind, helpful and dedicated to giving their clients the best possible trip. Nothing was ever too much trouble.
Don't worry, their methods of fishing are very similar to ours; never forget though that the fish are somewhat larger!
The guides provide you with 14’ one-piece beachcasters that are akin to some of our extremely powerful rock rods, and multiplier reels from the Daiwa stable, normally specially converted boat reels. You may be surprised at this, but a shark fishing reel out there needs to hold a minimum of 350yds of 40 to 60lb mono! I took absolutely no tackle out there at all, yet everything we used was first class and obviously designed solely for the job in hand. Our guide Terence was an absolute star.
You are picked up each day from your hotel, house or whatever, in a 4by4; your guide will have packed a cooler full of ice cold drinks and some packed-lunches for later on. Then it's on the road for a fish-finding mission!! We fished for other species, which I will talk about at a later date, but for the sharks, Terence was always on the lookout for some colour in the water that he said was ideal for the sharks to run very close in. You are fishing off beaches that back onto the oldest desert in the world; seals lie sunbathing all over the place, dolphins cruise nonchalantly past and great big pelicans strut around with not a care in the world. The only thing that moves these animals on is the 4by4 driving past, for you will leave the main (and only) road and drive across the desert and onto the beach.
But enough of setting the scene; what of the shark fishing and how big do they grow?
When you are out there, weights of fish does not seem that relevant, for in truth the huge sizes did not really sink in until I got home. Just seeing these sharks in front of you was quite alarming enough, believe me. All 'bronzies' as they are called, are returned to the water and I saw every fish swim off quite happily. The anglers out there are the most conservation minded bunch I have ever come across.
In all honesty, the average size of the sharks must be close to 150-170lbs. I was very fortunate and beached ten sharks of between about 160lbs and 290lbs - all estimated weights by Terence, and he is not generous. That is not meant to be a boastful comment in any way, shape or form, but they are quite simply, big fish. We all had a fair few fish over 200lbs - that is the sort of thing to expect. It can not be described as normal to us UK anglers, but it is the norm over there. The local record is over 400lbs (!) and there are honest stories of bigger fish lost. You will lose a few sharks, but above the size issue comes the all-important fight factor. Well, let me assure you that these bronzies fight so hard, it is actually quite frightening!
You will be standing or sitting on the beach, holding your rod and admiring the sights, when quite suddenly your rod tip will slam over. You are told to strike fast to avoid gut hooking (all sharks I saw were lip hooked) and then all hell breaks loose. I can’t really compare that initial run to anything, for I had never hooked anything close to them before, but I imagine it would be like hooking a truck!! This "thing" screams off against a seriously tight drag for sometimes up to and over 300 yards. I started off by trying to bully these fish, but your body soon tells you that if the fish wants to go, you have no choice but to comply. However it is essential to hit that shark hard the moment it looks like slowing down or turning.
Please forgive my rather inept attempts at describing the whole thing, but to be honest, I don't think it has all really sunk in with me yet. It was that amazing! How do you try to explain to somebody that my first bronzy was up around 180lbs, the biggest fish I had ever seen, let alone caught!
Put it this way. When, after 40mins, I glimpsed my first shark, as it slowly surfaced about 60yds in front of me, my legs went to jelly and my head went into a sort of quick self-denial! Surely that monster could not be on the end of my line? Imagine the absolute shock when I was lucky enough to beach that shark of 290lbs after about 1.5hrs of quite awe-inspiring power! Sometimes you think your body might just give up and refuse to take the strain any longer, but the angler in you takes over and draws up inner reserves of determination and strength. How often can you say that the simple fighting of a fish has left you completely drained?
On some occasions you will see sharks swimming around in front of you, looking for your bait and making no effort at concealment. On some days I thought my heart could not pound any faster as the adrenaline coursed through my body. You will soon pick up the techniques required to fight these fish, and your guide will always be on hand to offer advice and proffer words of encouragement but the real buzz about this fishing is that once you are hooked up, it becomes a purely personal battle between you and the fish. The shark has absolutely no desire to come in, and sometimes you have to physically bring something to the water’s edge that actually weighs more than you! I am confident I have found the ultimate shore fishing and I will be back as soon as possible, no question about it.
To find out more, look at www.molamola.co.uk and talk/email Steve about it all. He can set trips up for the cheapest prices I could find and the set-up out there is geared towards you catching fish!