Mission Rocks, then. This, clearly, was where the St. Lucia debacle would be
forgotten, where the Indian Ocean surf would yield magnificent prizes. Only,
what could kingfish possibly be?
One day the
United Nations or somebody is going to have to standardize the names of
saltwater game fish, and, until they do, traveling anglers are going to be in
trouble. As far as I can make out, every sea has its own species they call
kingfish, and they are all different. To many American anglers, kingfish is
Scomberomorus cavalla, or king mackerel. There are plenty of king mackerel
along the South African coast, only there they happen to be called, guess what,
barracuda. They get real barracuda as well, only they call them sea pike.
In the end I
discovered that South African kingfish equaled the American jack crevalle. Only
not quite. The Indian Ocean kingfish, though it bears a close family
resemblance to the jack (and, in fact, is certainly one of the Carangidae) runs
a lot bigger. The all-African record is a staggering 122 pounds—from the
Zululand coast, incidentally. Like the jack crevalle, it is taken in saltwater
lagoons and big estuaries as well as in the open sea.
All this I
learned back at the lodge from Professor J.L. Smith's monumental work, The
Fishes of South Africa
, all 12 pounds of which I had carried with me from
London, incurring excess-baggage charges for just such moments as this. Feely
came over when I was thumbing through Smith, and I could tell that his interest
was becoming aroused. "If you're not very happy with the tackle," he
offered, "I could hunt around and try again for you."
I retired with
Smith and Charles Home on Salt Water Fishing in Southern Africa, so that I
wouldn't miss a trick if and when Feely returned with the gear. All the sounds
of Zululand came lazily through the mosquito screen that stretched across the
veranda. Crickets, the belling of bullfrogs. From Chief Jobela Dumeguthe's
kraal, a little south of the lodge, I could hear the rhythmic throb of his
transistor radio. The Zulus are restless tonight, Carruthers, I said to myself.
The chief's son, Johan Dumeguthe, worked as a game warden on the ranch, and now
he put his head around the door to ask if I would like some tea. "That
would be nice," I said, and the comforting thought occurred to me, not for
the first time, that this was not 1879, when the impis of Cetewayo, arguably
the finest light infantry the world has known, covered 40 miles a day on foot
to carve up a column of British regular infantry, supported by cavalry and
artillery, on the bloody field of Isandhlwana, 100 miles west of here. Johan
returned and served the tea. I picked up a book called The Washing of the
Spears by Donald Morris that Jim Feely had left on the table. A few pages left
me in no doubt that a simple cleansing of the Zulu assegais for the sake of
appearance was not what the author had in mind.
Johan came in
again to clear away. I gave him a keen, searching look. "Everything all
right, sir?" he said, somewhat puzzled. "Fine," I said. I could
hear Jim Feely's VW revving and coughing up the rutted track. The relief
column, pushing up for Pietermaritzburg, had arrived. A few hoarse cheers went
up from the survivors in their tattered uniforms.... Jim bounced in, very
pleased with himself. "The real thing this time," he announced, and he
was right. He'd been all the way to Mtubatuba and borrowed a couple of good
surf-casting outfits. "Mission Rocks in the morning," he said, rubbing
his hands. "This could be it!"
Before dinner we
went out in front of the lodge to introduce Jim to a little casting technique.
Two eland and a blue wildebeest, so tame that they were almost pets of the
house, broke away from the drinking trough and tore panic-stricken into the
bush. Johan, fascinated, watched our actions for a while from the veranda, then
called us in for sundowner drinks. He moved silent-footed about the lodge.
"You'll be O.K. here with Johan tonight, won't you?" said Jim. "I
have to go over to Hluhluwe."
we'd eaten (nyala steaks with barbecue sauce), Feely took off. I read a few
more pages of The Washing of the Spears, yawned a little and told Johan that I
was going to bed. He came in with a small oil lamp and told me he'd give me a
call in the morning. I moved out, carrying a lamp which cast huge shadows on
the walls hung with zebra skins. In my bedroom the night noises of the bush
were clearer. I moved a massive rhino-horn doorstop so that it kept the door
closed, then got into bed and put out the lamp. A thought occurred to me, and I
tried to light the lamp again, but nothing happened. I had turned the wick down
too far. I dozed. A short time later I was yelling for fresh ammunition as yet
another horde of screaming Zulu warriors headed by Johan Dumeguthe reached the
pathetically frail redoubt of mealie bags that we had managed to throw
I sat bolt
upright in bed as the images vanished. A demon laugh had seemed to come from
right under the window. I didn't get up. The next minute there was an enormous
sawing, rumbling noise. I got up and shoved the rhino horn with its heavy base
more firmly against the door. The earthquake noise came again, then ceased. I
looked cautiously through the window. Nothing but the black Zulu night. I tried
to turn my mind firmly to techniques of catching kingfish. I must have dozed
again, for the next thing I was aware of was a scraping noise as somebody tried
to push the rhino horn back. Whatever this was, I had to go out and face
It was Johan,
smiling, with early-morning tea. "Mr. Feely is here already," he said.
"He thought you'd want to make an early start."