Photography by Nompilo Mthethwa, 2021
Story by Thabisile Gumede
Spending time together is one of the greatest gifts families can give to one another. Not only does quality time strengthen and build family bonds, but it also provides a sense of belonging for everyone in the family. Add fishing to the mix and you have a winning formula. At least that is Layla’s viewpoint on the matter.
Known affectionately as ‘Aunty Layla’ to the fisherfolk, she has managed to become a successful subsistence fisher for the past 28 years whilst nurturing a strong family unit alongside her husband Bob, who has been reeling in fish for the past 35 years. With her husband as her astute yet affectionate teacher, Layla learnt how to fish with hand lines in the Bay of Plenty where she tried her hand at catching small fish before advancing to the bigger fish. Once she had mastered her technique, she was ready for fishing at the beach.
Although fishing was an exciting pastime for Layla who learned the ropes at 17, there were more life paths to explore so, she and her husband who was 27 at the time, decided to take a break from fishing to find work. When they resumed fishing, it was a family activity joined by her mother-in-law who would eagerly watch them fish. Perhaps it was beginners’ luck, but Layla would always catch bigger fish than her husband, to the amusement of his mother who would tease him endlessly as the student was becoming more skilled than the teacher.
Bob remains the fishing teacher in his family as he has taught his grandson and daughter how to fish. Their grandson is nineteen and manages to fish even though he is partially sighted which speaks to the calibre of a teacher he has in Bob. He also teaches little children; he takes their line and he makes them traces. Layla graduated to fishing on the piers and learnt to fish with a rod and how to make a trace. Today she teaches other people how to do it.
Fishing has sustained Layla and Bob’s family throughout the years and has enabled them to put food on the table and educate their children. “There are many ladies who fish as well for the same purpose. We brave thunder, lightning, heavy winds, tormenting rains, burning sun just to feed our children,” says a proud Layla.