At the end of February, I escorted six anglers to the Skeleton Coast of Namibia in the hope of doing battle with the huge bronze whaler sharks that can be found in its waters. Some of these anglers had never fished from the beach before so this really was going to be a baptism of fire for them. Our chats leading up to the trip were full of speculation about the monsters that may be caught – little did we know how big and punishing the fish on this trip were actually going to be.
We were booked on an evening flight from Heathrow to Johannesburg so after making sure everyone was present, we settled down for a few drinks at the bar in the departure lounge. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed so we had to settle for the snacks and drinks put on for us by the airline whilst we were waiting to embark. After a while, the call to board was made and we all settled down into our seats for the 11 hour flight ahead of us. With some great entertainment from the in-flight videos, it was an enjoyable flight and as morning broke we touched down in Johannesburg. A short journey through the airport later and we were waiting at the departure gate for Walvis Bay in Namibia for our final leg of the journey.
After a two hour flight, we touched down in the small desert airport of Walvis Bay and after boarding the transfer minibus, we were on our way to the guest house in Henties Bay. It only took an hour and a half to reach the guest house and that included a stop at the garage for snacks (you have to try the local biltong, it’s delicious). Our first impressions of our lodgings were fantastic, with our hosts for the week greeting us with big smiles and ice cold beers.
One of the anglers on this trip asked if there was any chance we could go fishing and in the blink of an eye, the bait was chucked in the back of the 4×4 and we were off to one of the local beaches. With no fish caught, we ventured back to the guest house for a superb evening meal of braai’d (BBQ) meat and chips. With full bellies, we settled in for a good night’s sleep in preparation for our first full day.
The next morning began with a buffet-style breakfast with toast, cereal and eggs and bacon on the menu – all washed down with as much tea and coffee as you could physically drink. After breakfast, we boarded the 4×4’s and made our way to the first fishing mark. Big blood-filled fish baits were chucked into the water, not very far out at all, with most casts being under 80 yards. These fish really are in that close. All the anglers were relaxing on the sand waiting for a bite when the guides decided that the first spot was not happening, so we upped sticks and moved to another part of the beach.
Again, baits were lobbed in and it was not long before one of the rods folded over in the rest and it was fish on! The man first in line to tackle this big toothy beast was John and it did not take long before a beautiful bronze whaler was on the beach. After some photographs, we sent her back on her way into the cold swirling waters of the Atlantic ocean.
That was it for the first day with no other hits from bronze whalers and only a few smaller fish caught on the scratching rod close in. As darkness drew closer, we witnessed a fantastic sunset over the Namibian coastline. This in itself is something that has to be seen to be believed, it really is stunning and you can actually see the sun falling through the sky before it disappears, producing some truly phenomenal colours in the sky. We were soon on our way back to the guest house, cold beers in hand. After a shower, we were treated to yet another gorgeous meal before the night descended into fun and frolics with the brandy and whisky flowing freely.
While the fishing was good at most marks we visited, we didn’t hit a true monster of a fish until we were taken to a mark called Mile 100. The guides had warned us that this deepwater venue had a habit of producing some cracking fish and leaving anglers battered and bruised. The rods were cast out and the big baits were left to soak in the waves. As well as the big offerings, we also fished rods with smaller baits looking for any of the wide variety of species that inhabit these waters. Whilst waiting for one of the shark baits to rip off, we had great fun catching kabeljou, steenbras, St Joseph sharks and, of course, the ever-present Namibian barbel. These smaller species kept the rod tips twitching and, on the lighter tackle, gave the anglers a fantastic fight.
It was Nick who was first into a shark. With his rod tearing off and line stripping from his reel, he steeled himself for an epic battle. The fish really tested his endurance with a lengthy back and forth tussle before appearing in the surf and being slowly guided by the guides onto the beach to be landed. This fish was just over 300lb – a colossal specimen that was a sight to see. After some quick photographs, she was guided back into the waves and swam away strongly to fight another day.
An hour or so passed and then Rob’s rod bowed over and the line started to peel off at a rate of knots. Rob lifted into the fish and it was obvious this was a very big shark; a titanic fight ensued.
The tide was ebbing and a large sandbank a couple of hundred yards offshore was starting to show itself with the white water. This beast of a shark spent the next couple of hours making its way back and forth over this feature.
One minute it would look like she was beaten, then she would produce another turbocharged run into the distance followed by many laughs from those of us who were watching Rob do his best to beat her. Over three gruelling hours later, she was finally subdued and the guides landed her on the beach. What a fish! A true monster going well over 320lb in weight. She was photographed and released and Rob slumped back into his chair, exhausted but made up that he had managed to get such a beautiful powerhouse of a fish to the beach.
The fishing continued to tick along nicely, with some great fish being caught by all the anglers out there. We spent a morning fishing for spotted gully sharks at one mark and it was carnage, with quadruple hookups and fish hitting left right and centre at one point. With these fish going up to 60lb in weight, the action was electric. I even managed to land a big gully shark on a light tackle set up, fishing for smaller species.
We continued to catch more bronze whalers but none of the huge sizes that were caught earlier in the week. There was even one that Kieron managed to pick up for a picture but not before the shark tried its hardest to take a chunk out of his arm! It made for a great photograph though.
Louis the guide is a match angler at heart and loves nothing more than a competition. He lured me into a game which basically involved me fishing with light gear and trying not to catch the local pest, the Namibian barbel. The deal was that for every barbel I caught, I had to do two shots of the native homebrew but for every other species that were caught, then he would do a shot of the evilness that is the Ogogoro drink. Suffice to say, it started well for me with some great bites… then it happened.
Winding in, I could feel the weight that I dared to hope was a sand shark before two barbel slid out of the surf. The rod was quickly packed away and at dinner that night I was presented with a cup full of this foul-smelling, high percentage drink which was rapidly dispatched with a grimacing face. If you do head to Namibia, ask Louis about the local brew and I am sure he will be happy to pour you a glass to try.
With the week nearing an end, we were still catching some big fish and the group of customers that were on the trip had all become great friends. The banter both on the beach and back at the guest house was great and everybody was always laughing, joking and smiling. The food at the guest house that is cooked for you every night is one of the highlights of this experience.
Every night we were left with bellies full of amazing food like antelope steak and chips, all you can eat Lamb chops, steak cooked to perfection and some fresh fish dishes that were so good that the whole room routinely fell silent until people had finished eating.
All the anglers on this holiday agreed that the hospitality we received from both Louis and his wife Anneke at the guest house was fantastic. From start to finish they make you feel like you are part of the family and nothing is too much trouble to ensure that your stay is as perfect as it can be.
This truly is a fantastic place to visit: big fish, big food, and guides that work as hard as I have ever seen guides work – they put every bit of energy into finding the fish that you want to catch. On behalf of all of us, I would like to thank Louis and Andrew, our guides, for their hard work on the beach and Louis’ wife Anneke for her amazing hospitality.