Under the Bridge – fishing the upper reaches of the Umzimkulu Estuary

R750,00

Under the Bridge – fishing the upper reaches of the Umzimkulu Estuary: we took the top right off ‘Good to Go’. She looks a bit bashful, but she will get used to it. And so will we as access opens up to the entire estuary. All 9kms of it!

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Under the Bridge – fishing the upper reaches of the Umzimkulu Estuary

Under the Bridge – fishing the upper reaches of the Umzimkulu Estuary: we took the top right off ‘Good to Go’. She looks a bit bashful, but she will get used to it.

3D Fishing - knowing exactly where to be in the estuary with Umzimkulu Adrenalin
3D Fishing – knowing exactly where to be with Umzimkulu Adrenalin. We run 3D scanning equipment and scan this entire estuary before we even think about a trip with guests.

And so will we!

As we fit right under that dumb designed low-level bridge this winter, giving us access to 6 more kilometres of the Umzimkulu Estuary. Right to the rapids at St. Helens Rock. There are huge holes here, with massive boulders and complex structure. The 3D echo sounder we run here shows plenty of fish and bait, every time. We have mapped the estuary and man oh man does it look like Disneyland down there. 13m In one place! The last flood literally emptied the river. As opposed to the previous one, which deposited loads and loads of sand and mud, that is now – gone!

We need a neap tide to pull this mission off. Starting early on the low, we can sneak under that dumb design bridge. And then head on up, trolling a spread of specially designed and chosen estuary lures. We may have had the wherewithal to also be tagging along some live baits.

Target species

We are always fishing for rock salmon. They are voracious enough to smash a surface lure or a dropshot. But a live prawn or mullet will consistently get you into trouble. You will need top tackle and all fresh leaders and knots, plus some serious drag to stop him from getting back inside cover and breaking you off. Or straightening your hook. The upper reaches of the estuary also play host to the ox-eye tarpon. Another blazingly angry gamefish that will smash your well-presented lure or fly. There are some holes up top there that will astound you. And just wait until you see what is on the 3D scanning equipment. Fish! And baitfish! All milling about this amphitheatre of a hole under the towering St. Helens Rock. Perch. Malabar Rockcod. And even kob could be on the hit list up there where the salt kind of runs out. It is very interesting water as the tide pulse and flood pulse battle it out non-stop for supremacy.

Here is our itinerary…

The bridges rapid

This wasn’t really a rapid at all before the last flood. But now it is, and it drops about half a metre when the river is flowing. We can negotiate this rapid at low tide as long as it’s not a spring low tide. This is very serious structure where it drops from the top to 4 and 6-metre depths. All rocks from when the bridges were built. We have taken tarpon here. And the kingfish love the Disneyland type structure down bottom. Wrecks and all.

Luckily we have 3D scanning equipment and we have mapped the whole lot.

St Helens Rock in 3D - and the very top of the estuary waters
St Helens Rock in 3D – and the very top of the estuary waters

First Rapid

As long as the tide is high, we can easily climb up this first major obstacle. If the water is too low for the engines, we pagoda up easily enough.

Second Rapid

This rocky area must be full of fish but we just don’t know yet! You can see this obstacle bottom right in the above image. Easily navigable this one.

St.Helen’s Rock

Just past the infamous pump station, is St. Helen’s Rock. With its crazy bathymetry. See the deep dark blue hole in that corner!

Third Rapid

The river pinches real closed at this point and it’s often as far as we can get. But if we do…

Tarpon Bridge

It took a long time to work out that this is the bridge we heard all those ox eye tarpon stories of old. On fly! Yip! There was a community of fly fishers who used to make the trek all the way up here, to target the tarpon.

Ox eye Tarpon on Dirty Prawn Umzimkulu Estuary Special by Sean Lange
Ox eye Tarpon on Dirty Prawn Umzimkulu Estuary Special by Sean Lange

As I came up here for a scan a while ago, I surprised 5 or 6 monsters on the bank under the bridge. Ideal tarpon territory with deep channels and boulders, hemmed in by shallow sand. They hold on the sand and attack into the depths.

Bring your fly rod!

Upper rapids

This is kind of where we are stopped by most boats. Although we have been up at full tilt and at a time when the river was really pumping. And when the mouth closes (a very rare occurrence in wintertime only), the water floods back far enough to easily get over these normally hectic rapids. And right up into the top corner, where no man goes.

Ever.

There are different species of fish up here. Freshwater ones. Scalies. Yellowfish. And even trout! Carp are caught not many kilometres further up the river from here.

Papgooi anyone?

Historical site

It will take a full high tide to explore all these amazing places. There is history lying all about too. This was the central trade depot to the hinterland, back before road and rail. Ships were the only means of transport between Alfred County, and Durban. Unless of course, you took the beach. Braving shark-infested river mouths.

And the cannibals of Umzumbe!

Let’s goooooooooooooo!

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More fun app and things to do…

Umzimkulu Marina – self-catering river facing units for rent

Fish on the River – delectable seafood for decades

Spillers House  – BnB and Backpackers on the water’s edge in Port Shepstone

The Port Captain feat Garlic n Naan – Halaal Egyptian food on the Umzimkulu River

The Sardine News – neva miss a single sard!

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