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Gianmarco Gualdi, fondly nicknamed Johnny Africa, with a kokanee caught near Anderson, California.

Howdy everyone!

The sports-show season is now over for me and it’s always a strange bittersweet ordeal. On the morning of the last day of the last show I am raring and ready to get out of town, I’m ready to be done, I’m absolutely 100% finished mentally and physically and then suddenly boom, it’s over.

In that moment, I wander the grounds aimlessly and without purpose. Within an hour nearly everyone and everything is gone and a strange feeling of malaise and sadness overcomes me. For five weeks we band of gypsies spend much of our time in close quarters. We are all part of this conglomeration of personalities, products and more that are constantly interacting with one another as well as the amazing public that comes out to see us and our wares.

At the end, suddenly, our switches are flicked back to the “normal” setting. Or what passes for normal for some of us.

Oftentimes friendships are formed. An example of this is renowned guide Jody Smith. A few years ago we got to know each other and formed a friendship and to this day it’s a decision I regret. Speaking of which, Jody and I are going surf-perch fishing this coming weekend and are going to stream it on Facebook for everyone to see what I have to deal with.

This year we got to know a character from South Africa who offers safaris and photographic tours. His name is Gianmarco Gualdi and, as we have no idea how to properly pronounce his name, Jody came up with the moniker of “Johnny Africa.”

Prior to our arrival in California for our final show of the tour Jody put together a kokanee fishing trip for the three of us. We used a great local guide in the Northern California area, www.thetrinityguide.com and Alex, the owner, took us on our kokanee safari for the morning.

Alex is extremely knowledgeable, well equipped and it turns out that catching these fish is more akin to an art form than anything else and this guy had it dialed in. We fished the Whiskeytown Lake Reservoir, a beautiful body of water about 20 minutes from Anderson, California.

As a side note, Alex was wearing a hat from a down-rigger company called “Scotty” and a coat from the “Simms” company with its name festooned on the back and Jody started referring to Alex as “Scotty Simms.” By the time I started writing this article I completely forgot what Scotty Simms’ real name was and had to look it up. This is the type of thing you have to deal with when interacting with Jody.

After about 15 minutes of the slowest trolling I have ever done — something in the range of a mile an hour or something — we started hooking up. Scotty ... er ... Alex had put us on the kokanee. Using light tackle and rods and reels we had a blast reeling in these tasty little morsels one after another until it was time to go — after all, we had a show to attend.

We let Johnny Africa reel in most of our quarry, as he had never caught a fish in America and we wanted him to have as much fun as possible. In fact, we have since declared him, with all confidence, “South Africa’s foremost expert on Kokanee fishing.”

While we were on the water, we saw a few other boats out fishing but didn’t see a single one landing fish, yet we ended up with bags full of fillets after only a few hours on the water! When you have both Alex and South Africa’s top rated kokanee expert on board these results are inevitable.

Wait, what is a kokanee you ask? Well to be honest I had the same question and other than something trout-like I couldn’t tell you before the other day. It turns out a kokanee is essentially a sockeye salmon that will not go out to sea.

In other words, sockeye salmon will travel to the sea and back to fresh water while a kokanee does not despite them being genetically the same. In some scientific circles people with advanced degrees and pocket protectors claim them to be two distinct and separate species, while most disagree.

I personally think this can be settled by the two groups having a fishing contest and the wining side gets to declare the scientific truth — or plain old fisticuffs.

Feeding on plankton for most of their diet, kokanee grow from about 9-12 inches in length and have an average weight of about a pound but these numbers can vary from water body to water body. The largest known kokanee was caught in Washington state and weighed 6.25 pounds! These fish are tasty, mild and amazing smoked which is undoubtedly is why people fish for ‘em.

Check out Johnny Africa’s website at www.dreambigafricansafaris.com and Dream Big African Safaris on Facebook, as well as Scotty’s website at www.thetrinityguide.com.

Whether fishing with South Africa’s foremost authority on kokanee or on the beach for surf-perch I hope to see you out there.

Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle (www.basintackle.com) in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888-FISH, on Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or email basin_tackle@yahoo.com.

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