Brian Grobbler catches giant Bluefin Tuna from a ski boat, lands it at Kalk Bay Harbour

“It was a story that could be told to your grandchildren and their grandchildren. But Brian Grobbler died too young to tell that story to his grandchildren.”


I want to tell you about the giant Bluefin Tuna that pioneer skiboat fisherman Brian Grobbler caught from his ski boat in False Bay in the late 1960s.

It happened long ago but I heard the story enough times when I was growing up to tell it.

While we do not have a record of what happened on that day, a blow-by-blow account so to speak, we do have facts.

One is a published photograph of the 226-kg giant Bluefin Tuna, published with Brian standing over it at Kalk Bay Harbour. The caption to the photograph reads, “The author with a 226-kg Bluefin Tuna taken after a three-hour battle from a ski-boat in False Bay. He was one of the pioneers of small boat fishing for giant gamefish at the Cape.” Continue reading “Brian Grobbler catches giant Bluefin Tuna from a ski boat, lands it at Kalk Bay Harbour”

Selling snoek at Kalk Bay harbour for 25 cents each

Long-time Kalk Bay fisherman “Riemhou”.

Many years ago before Kalk Bay harbour was commercialised with restaurants who buy their fish from commercial fisheries in Cape Town, the harbour was a real fishing harbour. Boatloads of snoek, yellowtail and bonito (katonkel) were brought to the quayside for sale from the boats.

In those days there were so many boats in the harbour that skippers had to queue up while the boats ahead of them threw up their catches onto the quayside.

Peter Swart, Skipper of the Freda, outside Kalk Bay Harbour.

One summer in the mid-1970s, I went out fishing with my father on his ski boat for snoek outside Glencairn. The snoek was so plentiful that we all filled the fish hold and decks, ran to Kalk Bay harbour and sold our first boatload. Continue reading “Selling snoek at Kalk Bay harbour for 25 cents each”

How many business formats do you know that remain a sure thing like snoek kop sop?

Long  past the glory days of  100-a-man snoek in False Bay.  Copyright 2016 Chesney Bradshaw
Long past the glory days of 100-a-man snoek in False Bay. Copyright 2016 Chesney Bradshaw

We drove out during the festive season to Millers Point to buy fresh Snoek from the professional ski boat fishermen at the Rumbly Bay slipway.

The Snoek was in very good condition and was a large one with a humongous head. I couldn’t throw the head away because it had so much potential to make tasty Snoek head soup. This delicacy was a staple in our household growing up. Continue reading “How many business formats do you know that remain a sure thing like snoek kop sop?”

Be careful about the advice you give, it may come back to bite you

Fishing off Kalk Bay in January 2006.
Fishing off Kalk Bay in January 2006.

I went fishing in the Vaal River near Parys. We got up early and started out in small rubber rafts at 7 AM. We rowed upstream for about a kilometre and then we anchored the raft below a rapid up river.

It was a beautiful early summer morning with a river otter sighted as well as a leguan lizard, (get spilling from Internet),cormorant birds, yellow finches and the occasional swirl of yellow fish rising to the surface. This time of the year the banks are green with the tall Eucalyptus and Populus trees. Even the reeds alongside the banks are green. Continue reading “Be careful about the advice you give, it may come back to bite you”

What do these people have that others don’t?

 Copyright 2016 Chesney Bradshaw

Copyright 2016 Chesney Bradshaw

Lessons from a Kalk Bay fisherman

When I was a schoolboy growing up in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, during the months of August and September the big Cape storms would create great swells with waves crashing against the harbour wall, churning up the water.

In those days Kalk Bay was a real fishing harbour packed with boats. Anything that could float and get a licence to be moored in the harbour would go out catching tons of fish in False Bay.

During the big Cape storms any boat that was unseaworthy would probably sink to the bottom. Sure, there weren’t many them that sank but the heavy seas would put at least one or more down inside the murky depths of the harbour. Continue reading “What do these people have that others don’t?”

Lost secret fish cookbook of Kalk Bay

Fish cleaner, Kalk Bay Harbour. Copyright Chesney Bradshaw 2016
Fish cleaner, Kalk Bay Harbour. Copyright Chesney Bradshaw 2016

When my mother spotted a house in Kalk Bay, actually between Clovelly in Kalk Bay, she really started preparing wholesome family-cooked fish meals. With a husband who was a keen fisherman and a harbour just down the road, the fish was plentiful and cheap in those days.

She went all out preparing tasty fish dishes for our family including calamari, yellowtail, pickled cob, fried tuna steaks, fish soups, black mussels and, of course, crayfish. Friends who visited at the time loved the fish she cooked and overseas visitors from Sweden, France, Australia and the USA were bowled over.

My mother, Myra, had such a love of cooking fish that she eventually came out with a cookbook of her own called “Myra in the Galley” (which forms part of my father’s book “Fish aren’t Fools). The cookbook section gave the real secrets about preparing fish dishes.

In those days she had learned to cook fish from her mother Thomasina Bradshaw who was retired at Witsands at the mouth of the Breede River (I was fortunate enough to visit both their graves in the Barry Memorial Church which is a National Monument –  built by the original Barry family in 1859) when I was growing up.

When we used to catch the bream in the river, Thomasina would prepare the fish in the morning on a gas stove. I have never tasted such perfect fried fish again. My mother’s cookbook section did well but it wasn’t reprinted and nowadays you’d be only able to find it on one of the international second-hand book websites at a tremendous cost.

But there were many other women in the fishing village of Kalk Bay who cooked delicious fish in the 1960s and 1970s. One year the ladies from one of the local churches prepared a small volume of fish recipes from all the women in the village who wished to contribute.

Now there’s another cookbook with many secret fish recipes but  because only limited copies were printed, you can’t find it anymore. Remember that these recipes were made by ordinary people who cooked home meals for their families. You won’t find fish recipes like these from today’s TV masterchef’s and other cooking celebrities.

These days when I yearn for one of those family-cooked meals from years ago, I turn to the classic South African cook books, “Reader’s Digest South African Cook Book”, “Cook and Enjoy It” and “Indian Delights”. The Indian Delights book is a speciality book that goes deep into South African Indian cuisine.

The other two cover a wide range but don’t go into any depth. Yet, when you long for tomato breedie or waterblommetjie breedie, you’ll find the recipes there. Those two were dishes that in winter my mother Myra would prepare and I can still see the meals, smell them and taste the delicious home-cooked food.

The women from Kalk Bay, including my mother Myra, who published their recipes collectively were the pioneers of fish meals that you could cook, eat and enjoy. A far cry from the greasy, overcooked and unhealthy fish fair that is hastily dished up in restaurants nowadays in Kalk Bay.

Isn’t it fantastic to still have my mother’s fish recipe book where after decades I can still refer to her delicious recipes when I want to cook fish even though she has not been with us for decades now.

Catching harders behind the Snow Goose at night

IMG_2664When I was growing up in Kalk Bay one fish species fascinated us youngsters. The fish was known as a harder or mullet. The big challenge was to catch them on light line with tiny hooks. But even more challenging was trying to catch them in the first place because they were shy fish that didn’t often bite.

At one time my father let me moor his small kreef bakkie in Kalk Bay harbour. My friends from the flats above Kalk Bay persuaded me to row the bakkie out in the evening and lie behind the Snow Goose, a small motorised luxury boat, to catch harders. We would throw anchor behind the Snow Goose and wait in the evening and an hour so after dark for the harders to come. It seemed that there was a large shoal of harders that moved around Kalk Bay harbour or came into the harbour at night.

We would use thin nylon line about five kg with a small Mustard hook baited with a tiny piece of white bread rolled into a ball around the hook. We would cast the spider-web like line towards the stern of the bakkie and wait. We would sometimes clip a float onto the line and watch it with Albatross eyes. At the slightest bob or nibble on the line, we would get ready to strike the harder.

One of the books that my father, Brian, had at home was the magnificent “The Sea Fishes of Southern Africa” by J L B Smith. When I caught fish off the rocks at Kalk Bay from the harbour wall or even the jetty in those days when the harbour still had a wooden jetty, I would go to that amazing reference book and try to identify the fish species.

The fish that we were catching, according to Smith, was the common “Harder” of the Southern Cape. As Smith noted, the harder occurs in abundance on the South-West coast, about the Cape and to beyond Agulhas. In the fifth edition of his book Smith said that millions of harders were landed annually. I still remember at Fish Hoek beach how the trek fisherman would post experienced watchers on the mountain side to check out the movements of shoals. They were pulled ashore using drag nets and as Smith says, “sometimes the mass of fishes is so great that the net has to be held fast until the tide falls.” In those days floating gill nets were used on the West Coast to catch harders. Although these harders could obtain a length of about 16 inches (40,64 cm), the ones we caught were only up to about 25 cm in length.

When the shoal of harders moved in at the back of the bakkie, there was great excitement in our little boat. Lines were checked to see that they were correctly baited, especially after one of the three of us on board caught one. You can imagine what a fight it would put up on such thin line. Sometimes in the early stages of using our hand lines we would have to let out line from the small plastic reels on which the nylon was wound. We never caught more than half a dozen harders but it was especially exciting to catch them. I think it was because very few people knew about the harders and the youngsters from the flats in Kalk Bay kept it a well-guarded secret.

On cold evenings when we were hungry on the bakkie, my friends from the flats would bring a loaf of bread, scrape out the centre and fill it with either barbecued corn chips or chilli crisps. This was well enough to keep the hunger down. The wait could be excruciatingly long and while we waited we would eat from the loaf of bread cut into equal parts with a small pocket knife. Like all other fishermen when the fish aren’t biting, we would chat about all sorts of things, what fish we had caught in the past and what we were still hoping to catch.

When I got home with the harders I had caught, my mother would fry them in butter the next morning and simply serve them with salt-and-pepper. My mother, Myra, knew how to cook any kind of fish and do it so well that when you had finished eating your harder, you felt like another. My mother went on to write a seafood cookbook, which at that time was popular in the Southern suburbs of the Cape Peninsula.

As happens in many things, we eventually forgot about harder fishing and moved on to other types of hand line fishing and rock angling. The Snow Goose remained in the harbour for many years. It was covered in fishing nets to prevent the duiker birds from excreting their white guano all over the wooden cabin and decks. But that never really stopped the duikers and the boat looked white from the mess most times of the year.

I never did find out what happened to the Snow Goose, nor the harders that used to come into Kalk Bay harbour and that disappeared but the excitement of being young and catching harders in Kalk Bay will always remain with me.

Starting something from scratch – fear trip or adventure?

English: ladder and sky.
English: ladder and sky. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes we get trapped in our fears. No place to turn to. Or so we think.

A middle age woman wrote to an agony aunt telling her that she hadn’t been romantically intimate with a man for five years and asked how she could get out this cage she had trapped itself inside of. The agony aunt recognised and acknowledged the woman’s situation. She praised where the woman crying out for help was in her life and acknowledged how difficult it was to get back into relationships and feel intimacy, friendship and trust again. If she continued creating greater mental barriers, the more difficult things would become.

The agony aunt advised the woman to take small steps such as signing up for a dance class where she would be able to hold hands with men and press some flesh, practice talking to strangers, harmlessly flirt with men in appropriate situations and perhaps even sign up to an online dating agency. Continue reading “Starting something from scratch – fear trip or adventure?”

Are you prepared to settle for less freedom in your life?

IMG_2765 (Photo credit: wagaung)

At a street-side cafe in a coastal village a small business owner was telling me about the present tough economic conditions and how they were hitting his business. But what about your freedom? I asked him. “You’ve worked many years to reach the point where you are now,” I said. “You’ve got the freedom to decide how many hours to work a day, when to come in and when to leave work.”

He told me that he reminds himself that despite the economic difficulties he values his independence and freedom to run his business as he sees fit. He says that from time to time he has considered bringing in a business partner but this would possibly restrict his freedom. Continue reading “Are you prepared to settle for less freedom in your life?”

Your doodles could reveal your entrepreneurial qualities

English: Fish seller in Kalk Bay, Cape Peninsu...
Fish seller in Kalk Bay, Cape Peninsula, South Africa Deutsch: Fischverkäuferinnen in Kalk Bay, Kap-Halbinsel, Südafrika (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your doodle can say a lot about your noodle. Handwriting experts say there is much more to casual scribbling than simple boredom. What you doodle about shows hidden signs to your personality and moods.

Circles symbolise harmony and union; boats depending on size tell you if your emotions are tranquil or turbulent. Faces say you are a people person; hearts reflect love and romance; boxes may suggest a self-controlled and perhaps controlling nature, flowers, especially when drawn with round shapes, show warmth, sensitivity and vulnerability; and stick figures show intelligence and analytical minds. Continue reading “Your doodles could reveal your entrepreneurial qualities”