|It's a wonderful photograph. How do they do it?|
‘My brother is building a tourist lodge in
Africa, by the way,’ my
brother Micky informed one of his German neighbours recently.
‘Well, Angola Tom says the sport fishing is world class’, he told him.
And it is. Fishing Planet Earth – An Angler’s Guide to Fishing the World’s Trophy Hotspots put out a survey in which they reconciled world record fish with the countries they were caught in. I was more than a little surprised when I discovered there was only one country, and only one place listed for
Africa. My own back yard here on the Barra de Kwanza
in . In a sense, this is misleading,
suggesting as it does that nowhere else in Luanda Africa is worth
fishing. Anyone fishing off Mozambique
or Kenya would be outraged but this survey was based on record fish, the
quality, not the quantity and out of the top 150 location ranked by trophy
fish, the only African country that made the cut was Angola. had three
locations, one of them being England . I know where I would rather fish although
there are pubs in that part of London serving a better
pint of beer, I’ll give them that. Canvey Island
My Father always used to say that ‘Work’ was merely the tiresome means by which a chap earned the money he needed to engage in the pursuits he really enjoyed. Generally I suppose that is true, but there are those lucky enough to stumble upon a way to both enjoy their vocation and get paid for it. Gary Burger of the Kwanza Tarpon Lodge is such a man.
The Kwanza Lodge is a fishing lodge in an idyllic setting at the mouth of the
in Kwanza River just where on the
West African coast it, with a wide sweep overlooked by the Angola and its elephants,
empties into the Quissama National Park Atlantic Ocean. Fortuitously, The Great Architect of the
Universe in his infinite wisdom decided that this should be the place where
the cold northward flowing Benguela current collided with the warm southward flowing
allowed for a rich marine bio-diversity and the Kwanza Tarpon Lodge boasts
countless (thirty at least) IGFA world records as a result of its blessed
position. Even if the trophy fish are on
holiday, the fishing is still excellent.
Pitch into a weed line from the river out at sea and you’ll be hauling Dourado
until yer arms fall off. Personally,
once out of sight of land I always seem to be re-acquainting myself with my
breakfast which is a terrible waste of good malt whisky, but I understand the
bill fishing is about as good as you get and the records support that. Even the billfish like the place. One was tagged off Angola Puerto Rico and turned up here, 4,776 nm from where
it was tagged to gamely gnaw on some
sport fisherman’s lure. I prefer
going after Tarpon, they hang around the river estuaries, and so does my oldest son Dominic who aged 11, hauled in a 90 kg specimen. Or was he only nine? I don't recall, they grow up so fast these days.
I follow a number of Huntin’ and Fishin’ Blogs so when I saw a review by Albert Rasch about Fish Creek Spinners’ hand made fishing lures, I flippantly posted a comment suggesting I would be willing to write a review of them if I could fish them in these verdant waters. Naturally, in order to do so I would need a slack handful. I never expected a reply; I never get replies when, fortified by distilled grain I launch cheeky comments into the ether. But, blow me down with a feather, this time I did.
John Delaney of Fish Creek Spinners sent me a message offering a few spinners.
I am a keen fisherman but by no means an expert, so I thought I had better check with
about the sorts of
lures we should test from Fish Creek Spinners extensive offering so that they
were given a fair crack of the whip. Besides,
I needed to use Gary ’s boat. I strolled over to his place and gave him the
address of Fish Creek Spinners’ website.
The next day I was sipping an afternoon gin and tonic by the lodge
swimming pool when Garys shoved a bit of
paper at me with a few product codes scrawled on it. Gary
‘The Armadillos look good’ he said.
Armadillos? To me, an Armadillo is an odd looking animal that local lore says can be cooked inverted using its own carapace as a pot. I could hardly imagine employing one as a fishing lure.
‘Tell the guy from Fish Creek to forget the hooks and send the lures over just with split rings so we can mount our own hooks, his look a bit lightweight’
‘I’ll tell him’ I said.
‘And tell him that whatever he sends, it’d better be tough, some of the fish here’ll straighten out a butcher’s hook’
‘I will’, I replied, wondering how a bloke as slight as he could hang on to a demon fish like that without being pulled overboard and going waterskiing instead, especially since Nice Paul, built like a brick shithouse and also a lodge skipper, had embarrassingly been heaved out of his own boat gaffing one of these monsters, leaving his astonished and very inexperienced client to work out for himself what the man overboard drill was.
So I passed
’s advice on and
this is the advantage of getting your lures from someone who makes them by
hand, in this case a father and son team based in Gary , about as far as
you can get in the civilised world from Colorado . Angola
‘No Problem,’ came the reply by email, ‘we’re very busy at the moment so give me a couple of weeks.’
I was getting these things for free so I could hardly complain. Not that I would have complained anyway. These are bespoke lures. Have you noticed how long it takes to have a suit cut by a reputable tailor nowadays? Besides, I live in
so I am used to
waiting. In queues mainly and it is
always encouraging to know you are getting something from someone who is
busy. Since most people vote with their
wallets, clearly this was good kit if I had to wait for it. Angola
I also had to figure out how to get them to
. ‘It’s a postal service, Jim, but not as we
know it’ sprang immediately to mind. The
safest way would be using DHL as they have offices here, not just agents acting
on their behalf. But that kind of service
It always pays to be nice. My place isn’t even built yet but when I see a few lost souls wandering around the wonderful countryside surrounding the confluence of the Kwanza River and the Atlantic, I always have a cold beer and something on the stove to offer them so long as they do not mind dining in the middle of a building site, and so I met Tom from Florida, here to build a power station. I spent three years building power stations across
over in the site office with a heart attack so clearly Tom has balls the size
of planets. Believe me, when you have
the Governor of a State five hundred miles away spitting expletives down the
phone at you at four in the morning demanding to know why the lights have gone
off in Lubango, it is wearing to say the least.
Earning my living feeding people and taking them out fishing like Lucky
Gary and Nice Paul seemed infinitely preferable which is why I have retired,
accepted that I will be forever poor and am building my own lodge instead. Angola
So I emailed Florida Tom and asked him if he could hand carry a few lures to
next trip. Angola
‘No problem’ he replied. ‘I also have the junior softball kit for the kids’ he continued.
Blimey, what a bloke. We were well through cracking a case of beer when I mentioned that I really wanted to get the street kids here together and teach them softball (playing baseball I was a steady hitter but deadly at short stop). It would get them off the streets, give them something to do and, most importantly, it’s a team game with all its social benefits. And he’d remembered.
What is it about Americans? They’re so laid back, they have gravel rash on the backs of their heads. Except those, thinking about it, who wear razor shades, carry everything in Velcro pouches and talk in calibres. They’re arseholes.
No surprise then, when I received a phone call from Andy ‘The Hammer’ Mallet, Tom’s English colleague based here in
, saying the lures
had arrived and he would be driving down to my place on Sunday. Andy is decent like that, he gives me enough
notice to fill the fridge full of cold ones and rattle the pans so he can help
me empty them. Angola
On their website, Fish Creek Spinners categorize their lures by, among other things, weight. Two ounces, if it were Gold, is a respectable weight but for a lure? I wasn’t so sure. Mind you, I have never weighed a lure before. Even
had used the term,
‘a bit lightweight’. First off then, I
was surprised by the size of the package.
I was expecting a padded envelope, instead here was a stuffed carrier
bag, its contents neatly ensconced in bubble wrap. Gary
I unwrapped a couple and, man, they looked good. Don’t ask me to qualify lures by build quality, as I said, I am not an expert even though I have seen and used more than a few in my time, but even I could tell that these were something special. Down to the tiniest detail, they were beautiful. So much so that I had to quickly pack them away again as my three year old son was so entranced he was busy stealing them off the table by the pool (another good reason to ship lures without hooks when sending them to inattentive parents).
|Unpacking the bag from Fish Creek Spinners|
|Suddenly bored with the lures his father was so keen on, Alex decided there were more pressing matters requiring his urgent attaention|
I took the bag around to
‘Where did you get these from?’ he asked so I explained they were hand made in the United States and how I had flippantly, no, cheekily suggested I write a review of them being wetted in Angolan waters thereby scoring a few.
‘Can I borrow them?’
I hesitated. After all, I ought to take a load of artfully staged photos as they came out of the box and then be there when, after such a long journey, they finally went off the back of a boat.
It is a question of ethics, though. If I have received the very generous gift of these superb looking lures, how can I be impartial when reviewing them? I really, really wanted to be the first to put these lures to use but if I am to write about them, better to leave them in the hands of experts, don’t you think? After all, a Ferrari is a great sports car but let one loose in the hands of a novice and it will end up in the kitty litter with its driver complaining vociferously about its handling. So, ever so reluctantly, I did the decent thing and handed these over to the experts to see what they would say. Then, and only then, will I have a go.
So I was very pleased for them, and the Delaney´s (junior and senior) that is was another father and son team that with first splash had a nice little Kingy jump onto the lure.
|'Lucky' Gary, Fish Creek Spinner dangling from the mouth|
Clearly, this article has a way to go and will only be concluded after some serious fishing. I want the Father Son action too so I am waiting impatiently for Dominic to arrive and then we’ll be out on the water. In the meantime, they don’t call Gary ‘Lucky Gary’ for no reason. Here are a few snaps of a fraction of his haul over the few preceding days….
It is seriously hard not to hate a guy like him.
Rich divorcees of any nationality (we aren’t racist here in Angola) should address all enquiries to Gary through my blog but I warn you, he seems to favour tall, slim, dark haired types so lanky Hispanics will jump straight to the front of the queue.