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The way we lived. 12. (Part 1 of 3) Gone fishing, recipes included!

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

There are many firsts that are readily recalled.  My first serious kiss was at about four years old. I had a crush on my cousin, so I kissed her! It was behind a little granny flat where we lived at my aunt’s place in Simonstown with its wonderful vistas with False Bay in front and mountains behind. It's no surprise the area was declared a White Group Area and my aunt and grandmother were forced to move moved to Retreat on the Cape Flats, where my gran died 6 months later.

The flat was sited where the present day garage is located on the photo. One morning, I had such a skrik[scare] when I looked up and I saw a big baboon, on a tree branch outside the open window. He stared at me, and I at him! We did not exchange pleasantries. Instead, I let out a terrifying Muuuummmm! I made sure that the window was always closed after that.

Equally memorable, a few years later, I caught my first fish at the Simonstown jetty using a handline. My cousin, Dicky Boy [Sedick], and I were on the beams that supported the dock above. The fish was too small, and we reluctantly returned the fish to the water.  It would be many more years before I caught another and was able to fry it!  Till then, the closest that I managed was when I chased them around rock pools on family outings.  Many of you will know, those slippery creatures cannot be caught with fingers or even a bucket!

I used to swim at Jaffer beach, just to the south alongside the Simonstown naval dockyard wall which had rolled barbed wire on the top of the cemented-rock wall. A long rock in the water was Jonah and from there we swam to the rounded Frikkadel [Fishcake] which was close to the wall up which one could partly scramble and then dive back in. One day, on a dropping tide, I was swept out between the Frikkadel and the wall. I was not a good swimmer. I saw my life flash before my eyes[I always wanted to say that AND mean it!], but managed to scramble my way back onto Jonah. Yes, believe me, I was saved by a whale! I gave up the wall dive after that. What did I know about tides?

Later the beach was off-limits to people of colour, as was most of Simonstown, including Long Beach at the station where my mother often took us, just a short walk down the hill from home. In my mind’s eye, this beach is all about sand castles and my mum, Rita, at her most beautiful. 

Long Beach is on the bend in the distance, with Simonstown to the left. The second house cluster, in the middle, up the mountain, is where we lived. In bottom left -hand corner, my brother-in-law, Beau and I, one day, crossed the railway line for some rock-fishing in a little gully. A couple of men were also there. They had dip-sticks, mainly used by the down-and-out. They were chumming in the water and hauling in the kolstert dassie[blackdot bream] hand over fist. Now this can be a  sneaky fish to catch and we had never seen so many caught before. Between Beau and I, with our fancy gear, we caught … none!

Which reminds me of another fishy tale. Strike! is a fishing book gem. Written by S. Schoeman[nephew of a S. African cabinet Minister, way back]. It describes how the author gave an indigent-looking fisherman some blood worm. “That’s the best for steenbras[grunters].” When they passed him on their way home, the man had six steenbras, another sly fish to catch. “See, I told you,” said Schoeman. The man then handed back Schoeman’s worms. “Well, I used hanepoot[Muscat] grapes for mine. It’s better than the worm!” [Another fishing book gem is You should’ve been here on Thursday. In it, EG Webber writes about trout-fishing in New Zealand. My golf is a bit like the title!]

After a Group Areas Act rezoning, my grandmother, Mamma, and aunt Siesie had to sell up the family home with its beautiful views [see above photos]. They had to move out to the windswept Cape Flats where Mamma died a few months later – broken-hearted? Many would say so. I had lived there for two years – we moved to Lansdowne, also many miles from the sea. 

My more serious fishing started when Beau took me fishing while I still courted Zonjia in 1967. Truth be told, she was my first BIG catch. Maybe that’s the other way around??? In any event, she was my BEST catch!! Just gotta say that. [Brownie points, like oxygen, are part of life’s essentials!]

And, yes, there was fish too. Beau gave me a twelve-foot rod, and a metal spool Penn reel that was a bit off-centred and the line would get stuck between the spool and the outer casing, especially when the newbie’s line resembled tossed spaghetti, actually, more like a mess of fine rice noodles. I became an expert at unravelling the bird’s nests that resulted from my overwinds. I had to learn an early fisherman’s lesson – do not cast too hard. It’s like a golf shot, do not force it!

Two years later, with my second salary as an intern, I bought a new  Surfmaster Penn 49 reel which I still use.  <—   Now there’s an item full of memories of yesteryear – its a veteran of fishing in Cape Town, New Zealand, Oman and Australia. Where next?

When he emigrated to Canada, I inherited Beau’s Cortina. So I dragged the young family along to Strandfontein and Swartklip for fishing, but a university student with no income meant one had to be resourceful. Rob, him again, came to my rescue and taught me to dive for sinkers at the natural, large rock pool at Strandfontein. My outlay for a cheap mask and snorkel were soon recovered. I was quite successful at this and, fifty years after, I still have about a dozen of those sinkers in my fishing bag! 

At the same pool, I collected long lengths of fishing line that had broken off when other fishermen’s line got caught on the rocks. I could have up to a dozen knotted lengths of line on my reel.  Different strengths and different colours too.  I became an expert at the double-wrapped eight fold over pattern of knotting two ends of nylon to each other. Of course, indigent students do not turn up their noses at using any of the hooks that they found that were still attached to the line!

Bait was easy to find. An old hammer to chip away at the rocks for coral worm was the way to go. What did we know about ecology in those days? But, it was cheap. Also free, as was the red bait that washed up on the beaches after storms. I loved working with it when fresh, but it was rather pongy when rotten, and one almost poured the liquidised stuff onto the hook. Schoeman said that it was irresistible to galjoen, a fighting favourite amongst fishermen.

Of course one had to try to get one’s cast out to beyond the seventh wave. I doubt that I ever got beyond the third wave. Now, according to Aldrin, you can use a drone to drop the sinker + baited hook out beyond the seventh wave. I wonder what that accessory would cost? It may be cheaper just to buy the fish. Okay, so that’s sacrilegious!

So, how do I fry my catch?

RECIPE 1: My fish frying is basic KISS – Keep It Simple Smartkop! [Smart head!] Whether filleted or whole, I love a prep with Master Foods lemon-pepper and maybe also garlic-salt, but beware, there’s also salt in the lemon-pepper. A bit goes on both sides and also some on the inside of a whole fish. I use a small flour sprinkler to dust the fish on both sides – adds to the slightly crunchy exterior after frying

The pan oil must be hot – allow for a good sizzle with a test piece before frying. Avoid oil that’s too hot – you may be showered in flying drops of oil. The flour coating will help reduce oil splatter from a wet bit of fish. Fry till the outer fish takes on a beige to light brown colour,somewhat mottled with bits of white flesh shining through. If the fish backbone is in, check with a knife tip to see if the flesh separates from the bone. [Ta, Rob for that tip in your caravan home around 1969 in Dale Street.] If it’s a thick fish slice and the outside looks good, I will pop the fish in a microwave to finish off the raw central bit – it’s the way we prefer it.

What you eat with your fish after that may include fried chips [these days I use a no-oil, hot-air fryer], maybe with bread especially if fresh, or toasted if older; maybe with an onion-tomato salsa over the fish or over rice.] See, now I’m really salivating +++!

[Part 2 will follow – again another recipe included. Right now I’m off to buy some fresh fish!]


Sadly, I’m still in search of an agent. They’re a finicky lot! I have just finished Book 2 . Book 3 of the trilogy is underway! It’s a bit of skop, skiet en donder[kick, shoot and thunder – that-s a real dust-up!]


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