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Hooked on saving lives and angling

ER24 staff are not just passionate about their jobs helping to save lives. Away from the important work they do, they are also winning recognition in other ways. Faheem Essop, an intermediate life support medic and the ER24 Specialised Medical Services Department (SMSD) coordinator for Gauteng, in July 2022 won third place as part of a team in the inter-provincial Gauteng Angling League’s annual awards.

He was fishing with the Fastlines Angling Club, which was part of the Gauteng League of freshwater bank fishing clubs for the 2011/2022 season. At the awards ceremony, Fastlines was also voted the top club in Gauteng for 2022.

Faheem grew up fishing socially with his father, brother and other family members. His father, who taught him how to fish from the age of five, is his biggest inspiration when it comes to the sport.

Unwinding with fishing

“Fishing is in our family’s blood – we all fish and we love it. As I became older, I started to fish with friends and guys from different EMS services, firefighters and friends in the police force on my off/rest days,” he says, adding that he finds it a soothing pastime and a balance to his more intense job.

“For me, fishing is relaxing and a big stress reliever. I love the fresh air, the water, the birds and other wild animals, and just being in nature. Fishing forces you to slow down and enjoy your surroundings, while making special memories and bonding with family and friends. It also has given me a chance to travel and meet different people.”

Faheem’s approach is freshwater bank angling catch-and-release, better known as ‘papgooi’ (translated from Afrikaans as casting with maize, although the bait often includes mealies as well as earthworms, maggots, and a bread-and-flour dough). The fish he aims to catch include carp, barbel, muddy and yellow fish. He mostly fishes in the Vaal and Koppies dams, but has tried other types of angling, including deep-sea fishing in Mauritius in 2013 with family where they caught a 250kg marlin. The largest freshwater fish he has caught was a 5kg mirror carp in the Vaal Dam.

Acquiring new tricks

Faheem never thought he would get involved in competitive freshwater bank angling, but in 2019 he was invited by a close friend to join the Fastlines Angling Club. After two years of mentoring by the club members, he came 15th out of the club’s 50 anglers for the 2021/2022 season and then scooped a bronze in July 2022 at the Gauteng Angling Annual Awards with the Fastlines C team.

While shifting from recreational to competitive fishing was quite a leap, involving changes to tackle, bait and fishing style, as well as the added costs of specialised equipment, Faheem managed to learn “plenty of new tricks, techniques and some of the club’s secrets”.

A highlight for him was being selected to fish the Gauteng league which consisted of seven teams comprising each of 12 members who are pegged in different zones on the water. “After the three matches, we achieved third place overall and my partner and I won a zone. Our club was also awarded and acknowledged at the annual Gauteng Angling Awards as the best club in Gauteng for the 2021/2022 season,” he says, adding that conditions were especially tough in the last season, with the Vaal Dam being 106% full and receiving a heavy inflow of water and rainstorms, “weather we don’t normally experience”. With the new season having started in mid-August, Faheem says he is happy to have been selected to fish again in the Gauteng league in September, October and November 2022.

A catch-and-release approach

He notes that great importance is paid to caring for the fish that they catch.

“We try and conserve the fish, so we mostly release them once they have been weighed.”

When it comes to angling, there is so much more Faheem would like to achieve: “My goal is to be selected for the Gauteng trials and to fish in the South Africa championships. I would love to get my provincial and national colours.”

This isn’t easy when you are running one of the many busy departments within ER24.

Based at the ER24 regional corporate office in Rivonia, Faheem has worked for the company since 2009 and was one of the pioneers who helped start the Johannesburg South ER24 base in 2010, two months before the FIFA World Cup. Until 2019 and his promotion to SMSD, he worked at the site base of the Anglo Gold Ashanti mine in Carletonville as an underground and service medic and at the Johannesburg West ER24 branch.           

“I love EMS (emergency medical services) and caring for others and saving lives,” he says, adding: “I must say a special ‘thank you’ to the ER24 management team, the members of which support my hobby, and to my wife who understands my love for fishing and the free time I spend at the dam.”