OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF FOSAF
March/April 2020 Vol. 34 No.177
Contents - March/April 2020 Editorial - Andrew Savs...................................................................................................................................................4 The usual editorial guff and a little more First Bite - Andrew Savs ..................................................................................................................................................6 A regular witty column on all things flyfishing and beyond The Teller the listener - Andrew Savides.......................................................................................................................9 Catching up with Wolf Avni A World of Champions - Brett van Rensburg..............................................................................................................24 South African take on the best The Life and Times of John Beams - Tom Sutcliffe.......................................................................................................37 And a trip to the Moon Heritage Flies : Part 6 - Peter Brigg..............................................................................................................................50 The Wolf Spider and its origins Blonde Flashers - Rob Pretorius...................................................................................................................................60 Tiffindell Ski Resort, Eastern Cape Highlands - Andrew Allman...............................................................................67 SAFFA B Nationals - Andrew Clark.............................................................................................................................77 Weed eaters - Terry Babich........................................................................................................................................82 Cut to the chase Branksome and Ed's Hopper - Ed Herbst..................................................................................................................87 The Shilton CR Series- Terry Babich...........................................................................................................................94 New Generation touch FOSAF News - Andrew Fowler ...................................................................................................................................98
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Picture credit: Andrew Fowler
SOUTHERN AFRICAN FLYFISHING: • Available free of charge online at www.issuu.com; • Published bi-monthly; • The official magazine of the Federation of Southern African Flyfishers (FOSAF); • Africa’s original flyfishing magazine LAYOUT AND PUBLISHER: Southern African Flyfishing Magazine (Pty) Ltd Registration No. 2018/356867/07 www.saflyfishingmag.co.za firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORS: Ian Cox (082 574 3722) Andrew Mather (083 309 0233) Andrew Savides (081 046 9107) CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE: Andrew Allman, Andrew Clark, Terry Babich, Peter Brigg, Andrew Fowler, Ed Herbst, Rob Pretorius, Andrew Savs, Tom Sutcliffe, Brett van Rensburg COPYRIGHT Copyright in the magazine reposes in the Publisher. Articles and photographs are published with the permission of the authors, who retain copyright. The magazine and content may be hyperlinked and downloaded for private use but may not be otherwise hyperlinked or reproduced in part or whole without the written permission of the publishers. DISCLAIMER While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this magazine, the publishers do not accept responsibility for omissions or errors or their consequences. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publishers, the editors or the editorial staff. Cover photo: JP Gouws.
EDITORIAL The Conference of the People or COP 25 conference on climate change that took place in Madrid in December last year was an unmitigated disaster for countries like South Africa. South Africa is warming at double the global average and has been designated a global hotspot. Our Climate Change Bill was drafted on the basis that the major economies would reduce their carbon emissions and provide financial assistance to hotspots like South Africa to assist them in doing the same. Neither is likely to happen any time soon. As Greta Thunberg pithily put it, the conference “seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes.” This is not good news for trout fishing. Research conducted in in the Eastern Cape in 2018 applied climate modelling to predict the future distribution range of trout in the region. The picture is bleak with the likely range being reduced to less than half the existing range. Though specific research has still to be conducted in other provinces, it seems likely that the position in the Western Cape which is also becoming drier will be similarly bleak. Sadly, while there is an increasing amount of much needed research into what South Africa will look like in the future, this has not stopped environmental authorities from continuing to argue that trout pose a major risk to biodiversity in South Africa despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary. This backward looking ideologically driven approach to environmental management is likely to misdirect and hamper the very real efforts that will be required to enable South Africans to successfully adapt to what is going to be a rapidly changing world. So, it is perhaps apposite, as we face the end of what has been a golden era of trout fishing in South Africa, that we recognise the end of another great era in South African flyfishing. Yes, the great and much-loved Tom Sutcliffe is putting away his wading boots. Arthritis is increasingly robbing him of the ability to fish his beloved small mountain streams as they ought to be fished. This news has added poignancy for me as I remember the day, when my father at much the same age as Tom made a similar decision. That was some ten years ago and like Tom, Dad continued to fish still waters for a while, but it is not the same. On a happier note, my father is still around some ten years later as Tom undoubtedly will be. South African flyfishing and Trout Fishing has such a rich history. Tom has been an integral part of that history for longer than I can remember. We at Southern African Flyfishing look forward to enjoying the benefits of his wisdom and stories for many tears to come And yes, trout fishing is going to become increasingly restricted in the years that lie ahead, but that does not mean that it will be any less enjoyable or that flyfishing itself will suffer. Even I, as a died in the wool trout angler, acknowledge and enjoy the fact that there are many other species that rise to the fly in this country. I only hope that we do not lose those fisheries to the twin scourges of pollution and over abstraction of water that are presently devastating so many of our rivers. Ian Cox
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MY PRECIOUS Savs I was driving into the setting sun in an unfamiliar city and the steady stream of incoming messages to my phone was playing havoc with my ability to follow the GPS. “Yi-sus” said my colleague in the passenger seat in his Bloemfontein accent so thick that it sounds like a parody of the real thing, “someone love you stukkend today neh?” We pulled into the car park and I checked the messages. Kehla, in Canada, was messaging me to tell me that he’d found me a rare Hardy Neroda ‘Kenya’ fly box that he thought, in an uncharacteristic display of sentimentality that left me slightly wary, would be perfect for me. It was apparently mislabeled on eBay and had gone unnoticed by the usual horde of punters. The reserve was low and the auction closed in a few hours. An easy peasy score, to paraphrase him somewhat. “I’m on my way to entertain clients over dinner”, I shot back, “I don’t have the time for this” and I muted my phone. Let’s just make one thing clear, I’m not above throwing a week or two’s wages at an item that catches my eye and I have a drawer full of mostly expensive, but altogether useless, knickknacks as evidence of this. With my phone vibrating incessantly in my pocket and my curiosity piqued I excused myself after a socially appropriate period and nipped into a toilet stall to check it. Between anguished appeals for my immediate and undivided attention was a description of a similar item from the original catalogue and an excerpt from a magazine article on the boxes. The short and somewhat generalised version of their history is that Hardy made, or should I say commissioned, the boxes directly from Bakelite to replace their tin boxes as they had issues with the durability of the Japanned finish. The early boxes, of which is was one, are some of the first items to made from what was in its time a revolutionary product.
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Hardy would receive the moulded boxes from Bakelite’s subsidiary, Redmanol Ltd, and would then send them out to Wheatley to have clips or fuse wires fitted. Available in oxblood or tortoiseshell colours they are items of great beauty and utility.
For the most part though, old tackle is just old tackle. The reason that it sat in the rafters of your wife’s uncle’s neighbour's garage for all that time is that it wasn’t terribly good to start off with and it got set aside never again to see the light of day until you found it. This of course isn’t going to stop anyone from believing that they’ve lucked into the means to a comfortable retirement, or at least an extended vacation somewhere tropical, when they lay their hands on a bit of misshapen Tonkin. At least weekly you’ll see a “what is this worth?” post on social media.
I sent the eBay link to The Supermodel, asked him to bid on my behalf, resolved to ignore my phone for the remainder of the evening, designated my colleague as driver on the trip home and went back to a decent red, a fantastic steak and engaging company.
Granted, there are some fantastically valuable items lying in an attic somewhere. Just don’t get all pissy when you’re told that the rod that grandfather fished the Mooi with in the forties is worthless and is a wall-hanger. Its sentimental value is enormous and if nothing else it reminds us of a more gentle time when things were crafted slowly and meticulously by hand.
Now it’s worth mentioning in the context of this piece that the collector is a strange subset of the angling fraternity. They tend to shun anything that is new or represents any level of technical advancement in materials or design. That they cling to the habits of yore is I suppose much how you can describe practically any marginally odd peccadillo; an aesthetic choice. Like any other subset they have developed their own code and language and in their instance the black modified rubber side plates of a reel somehow become known as ‘ebonite’ and arguments over the winding check on a split bamboo rod can rage for days with combatants, without a shred of conscience, sharing compromising personal information about their opponents mothers.
Despite all of this we’ve almost all dabbled at some time in a misguided attempt at collecting. Doc owns a forest of older plastic and grass rods and has some wonderful reels to go with them. By modern standards they mostly have the sort of build quality and fishability that place them squarely in the realm of ‘old crap’ - but they’re cool and I envy his collection. Still, this sort of mindset
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goes right back to your choice of gear, hat, car, wife or bathroom wall tiles reflecting your personal aesthetic. And that's cool by me.
he wanted, English and reasonably hefty reflects the danger of looking into this stuff the more you see the more you like. I doubt that he’ll wake up one morning with a dozen unused vintage cane rods propped up in the corner of his bedroom, but I’ve seen it before.
The Supermodel is something of a collector. Let’s just say that when something catches his attention he really, really commits. But the bug is passing through his system and he’s busy offloading some moderately interesting and other quite noteworthy items. That he’s taking a hiding on them is something that I should have empathy for. But I don’t. I’ve done rather well out of his follies and have landed a few bargains.
As for the market on antique fly boxes, it’s anyone’s guess. I ended up paying a fair amount more for the Neroda than it was listed at. You see, while I was the only person on the planet trying to buy it I was not the only person bidding on it. The Supermodel followed my instruction and while I was sipping wine over dinner he was engaged in a furious bidding war with “some guy in Canada”. They fought each other, each on my behalf, in one dollar increments right up to the closing hammer. In retrospect perhaps I might have foreseen this eventuality, but it makes for a good story.
The Sensei is typically pragmatic to a fault. When he adds a rod to his arsenal he rids himself of another. It’s an approach that manifests in his reel selection where he uses only three reels, all of the same model. When he finds a better reel all three go at once. Look, it’s not exciting, but he carries half the gear that I do and always knows where to find it. I’d tell you that he’s missing something important but I’m speaking existentially - he never misses anything of real importance.
As it turns out I secured a rare bargain in the world of vintage or collectible tackle. My box, a waistcoat model with foam rubber inserts never featured in their catalogue and is, although I’m open to correction here, the only one in existence. It might not exactly be the Penny Black of fly boxes, but it’s probably not far off. I’ve been offered enough for it to cover a tropical vacation somewhere, but only for a week and provided that I don’t order from the cocktail menu.
When he called me up to say that he’s looking for a good bamboo rod I was caught off guard. We did finally narrow it down though to a Western American style rod in the eight foot range and with hollowed sections. It’s proving to be difficult to find but he’s already bought a reel and a line for it so he’s clearly resolute.
That the box is still being held in the arthritic death-grip of Kehla somewhere in the Great White North is something that I really should have anticipated. Collectors, , hoarders and doomsday preppers alike don’t give up the goods without a fight.
However, and here’s the funny thing about the rabbit warren of vintage or collectible tackle, when last I saw him I left him with a six foot Farlows “The Elf” two-piece made by Sharpes of Aberdeen that came up for a pittance on a used tackle page. He was still wiggling it appreciatively when I looked at him through my rearview mirror. It’s a nice pole. The corks are good, the blank immaculate, the whipping is ok and the ferrule is tighter that the Scotsman that planed it.
Like a scene out of The Lord of the Rings he knows that he has to one day let go of it and, to extend the analogy, it seems I might need to go round his place and bite his hand off to get custody of it. As for the offers of purchase that I’ve received for it - they’ll need to bite my hand off before they get my precious.
It’s not a bad buy at only three figures, South African. That it’s two feet shorter than www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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THE TELLER, THE LISTENER CATCHING UP WITH WOLF AVNI "I get to sit like an old yogi under a banyan tree, plotting the lines of latitude and longitude of the human navel. Turns out it is as marvellous or mundane, as inspirational, or as depressing, as fine or as futile as one chooses to experience it." I walked through to the lounge to find my father sitting on the couch holding a copy of Wolf Avni’s first book, A Mean-Mouthed, Hook-Jawed, Bad-News Son-Of-A-Fish on his lap. He was wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. “This guy”, he told me, “is clever. He can really write.” That stayed with me., the fact that we recognised the same thing from the writing - a sense that while it was entertaining it was challenging and, well, clever.
SAFFM: Hi Wolf, I need your help, or at least a little of your time. In every edition of Flyfishing we profile someone involved in the sport. We would really like to include you in this issue. We can meander where it takes us? Wolf Avni: Y o u r c o n t a c t s e t m e reminiscing. When did It start? 1954! It started in 1954. Fuck me! Never thought I’d live to be a million. Sure. Let’s weave another narrative of it. Never read one yet woven tight enough yet to keep the inside in and the outside out. Nothing but the facts. Make ’em up as we go along. Change them to protect our innocence. The teller, the listener. We travel through time in circles. Round and round and round we go.
Wolf has been a part of the South African flyfishing landscape for as long as most of us can remember. Some will know him as a newspaper columnist and others as an angler, host, photographer, writer, ecologist, trout war campaigner or breeder of quality fish. He has a mind and a wit sharper than a Minora blade and doesn’t suffer fools. We are however grateful that he made an exception and suffered this one over a conversation that lasted several days. It left me profoundly touched by his wisdom, intellect and authenticity.
Think we are up for challenge? SAFFM: I do enjoy a challenge, but let’s get one thing out of the way right up front. Have you ever put a rifle round into the bank above a chubby Greek guy who was poaching the Umzimkhulu on what he thought was a quiet weekday?
The South African flyfishing fraternity is richer for Wolf’s participation in it.
Asking for a friend, you understand.
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Wolf Avni: Was that a chubby Greek? Could have sworn it was a rabbit. That scope must need replacing. And anyhow, my stewardship here is on the Umzimkulwana, a mere tributary of the river you speak of. It’s miles away, downstream. Out of range. SAFFM: along.
Fortune”? Can’t remember, but it actually started before that, on Oupa’s farm in the Zeerust, trying to catch goldfish in a cement dairy dam, still a toddler. I don’t fish too much now. Got to a place where felt I’d caught anything of value I was ever going to by pulling a hook through the water. That hoary old chestnut? The fish are incidental? Turns out they really are, but it took me a couple of lifetimes to get it, viscerally. Being there is the thing. Whether by fly rod, camera or keyboard, they really are just devices. Pretty crude ones at that.
Ok then, let’s move
You’re a farmer, photographer, fisher, writer. I first ran across you through your first book and I was gobsmacked that someone could write of fishing so differently. I think of you as a writer but I’m also a weeping, screaming, panty-throwing fan of your photography. Are you all things at once or do you have to consciously break from one to the other? Do they talk to one another?
Fishing of every kind has served me well in that it provides a wormhole between the mundane and the magical, a portal by which to enter into a rich universe of the broader ecology, which we are integral to, and yet, somehow deeply alienated from in our material lives. In an age of obedient consumption and industrial efficiency as measures of aspirational value, fishing is one of very few avenues of connection with ancestral, genetic memory.
Wolf Avni: D o y o u r e m e m b e r t h a t number... “every day in every way, learning more, the more I learn the less I know about before“? I’m not sure the stuff we do necessarily defines who we are? At its end, what we did probably counts for less than the how we did it. All those things you name are merely arenas in which creativity, for its own sake, chose to play.
But then I guess you could say the same about photography. Or writing for that matter? SAFFM: I get what you mean. Where somehow the things that one does are not ends in themselves but are vehicles for something else. I think that creativity generally, music or art are like that. Fishing certainly. The process is more revealing than its outcome.
I wish I could offer a meatier substance. Some fairytale of clear intent. Lifelong vision of high purpose. But the fact is most of what transpires along the way is more the result of grace than any real mastery. We travel in circles and right now photography is proving very satisfying. I left commercial photography back in the 80’s, to come to the farm. But back then, the mysteries of trout and their proper husbandry were the things. SAFFM:
Maybe this is some of the allure in trout fishing? Trout have an aura or something about them that is deeply captivating. I mean, a lot of it is bullshit, but there is something there. It’s not like many carp fishermen feel compelled to compose flowery prose about them - and they’re a lot harder to catch.
1954. Where did it all start?
Wolf Avni: I caught my first fish from Mayden Wharf in 1954. A spotted grunter, Kyphophus bigibus or something. There is an account in ‘Meanmouth’ - "Politics of www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Why trout? What is it that draws us to their capture, conservation and husbandry? This perplexes me. 10
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Wolf Avni: Outcomes are unpredictable and destinations are over-rated in the sense of where we focus. If it is true that I only can see what I look at, can only find what I look for, then surely it follows that the further down the road I fix my point of focus, the more my immediacy is filtered right out of awareness, and into superficiality.
Wolf Avni: Of course. Which is why dictatorship always comes with censorship. It’s a futile attempt to perpetuate itself in the face of subversion. What makes it subversive? Its insistence that freedom of thought exists sovereign unto itself. You may attack its manifestation in one or other entity, but though you destroy the material entity, the energy of it cannot be contained or undone. Nothing of itself is significant beyond the significance we imbue… which brings us back to that we do this shit not because it is so terribly important, but because the range of available options presented as worthy of engagement, are all so terribly unimportant.
As to why trout? How do they become a metaphor for all the aspirational longing of the essential inner savage? And..... GO! Tom has had his say. I’ve had my say. In fact, every Schmutz who ever wafted a fly has thrown a hat in the ring, some with a soucance of wit, some poetic, some lyrical. Mostly it’s hyperbole and plagiarism though. Intimately we all tell a same story, be we anglers or be we not. Just that each of us tells it in an own unique language, as individual as a fingerprint, no two identical.
In its own way flyfishing is just a quixotically elegant act of civic subversion. Like the fish itself; regenerating by swimming against the flow?
In its own way flyfishing is just a quixotically elegant act of civic subversion.
SAFFM: Do you think that you’ll ever find the perfect photon or arrangement of them? Your recent images, those mistdrenched landscapes are breathtaking in their simplicity. You’re using a lot of technology. Does this change the process?
SAFFM: Yup. I, for one, know that I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by a thousand guys far more competent than I am.
Wolf Avni: As to the perfect photon? Same as the perfect note. Will you ever strike one perfect, pure, eternal note.... or will you only ever reach for it?
Wolf Avni: Things change. I remember one of the better Dylan interviews, when looking back on the influence of his music on the environment, he made the point that whatever individual works may, or may not have meant, with the passing of time and the warping of space, the meaning changes. Creativity is not unlike Higg’s boson. It cannot be pinned down, its appearance in one or other place cannot be predicted, but its path can be followed by measuring the influence of its gravitational waves on the particles whose orbit it cannons through.
Every photon is already perfect. Every note too. One reaches for it through the experience of one's own circumstance of less-than-ideal. It is the reaching itself, rather than any grasping of it. SAFFM: The trout wars. The fight seems to have been re-framed as a contestation of ideologies. Is this all it ever was? It must concern you more than most. For me it’s just a form of recreation but for you it’s a livelihood. Wolf Avni: It was always ideological. The trout are completely incidental.
SAFFM: I like that. Creativity as the ultimate expression of rebellion. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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Itâ€™s part of a broader thrust of ideology which intends to vest all rights of all resources in government. Each and every activity will be by way of licence, which, while ostensibly available equally to any citizen, practically will be by way of patronage and affiliation with structures of power.
fight is being won or lost, I do know. The biological purists present constructs based on emotive and ideological interpretations with no basis in evidence. Of course there are elements of truth in the PC construct. Nothing is ever entirely one thing or another. Layers, nuances, contexts are dynamic. Where there is evidence of destructive impact of course responsible stewardship demands action, but all the so called evidence for the invasiveness of trout in South African water is based on work done in foreign places which in no way translate.
The trout war is just a little preliminary skirmish in what is actually a concerted attack on the essence of the constitution. How it ends I donâ€™t know. That it must be resisted with every available resource, completely independent of whether the www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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ÂŠ wolfavni Do trout have an impact? Undeniably. But any impact trout have had in the streams and catchments they were put into happened a hundred years ago.
changes to the ecology of a system, in the context of recreational angling... behaviours and associated activities all contribute to aggregations of change in utilisation, which may be destructive.
Are they responsible for the destruction and denudation of riverine habitat and ecologiy? Sure! But on the scientists own list of ecological factors, alien predator fish appear as number eight on a list of ten prioritised threats.
Surely you have followed the points of debate in this over the past twenty years? Cox has unpacked it, Lax has unpacked it, Iâ€™ve had a shy at it. Have you been under a rock, or what?
In and of themselves their presence is neither good, nor bad, but as an indicator of associated human activity which brings
The remarkable thing is that for better than seventy years the indigenous ecology existed in state of stability WITH trout in.
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When the cumulative effects of catchment change, including logging, water extraction, nitrification via agricultural practices, industrialisation and infrastructure development is when the rivers began the process of eutrophication.
Wolf Avni: Trout farming? In Africa? Before climate instability it was a challenge. Salmon fishing in the Yemen has nothing on us! SAFFM: Yes, I saw a photo of your dam earlier this year and my heart shrank. At what point does it become unsustainable? Trout range in the Cape has diminished in the last decade or so. I don’t think in KZN that we’re headed yet to the stocking practices of some provinces?
Ironically enough, in this regard the trout might be said to be an indicator species. They are among the first to show deterioration of stream ecology. Trout only do well in healthy waters
Wolf Avni: T r o u t r a n g e h a s s h r u n k drastically, not just in the Cape, but KZN, Mpumalanga and everywhere else in Southern Africa. It gives a lie to claims of their invasiveness. In this country their survival range continues to shrink, not expand.
The crux of the battle with DEA is more about their complete disregard for constitutional process and good faith engagement with legitimate stakeholders and civic structures. I’m so bored with that whole civic engagement role. Give me a day and I’ll troll through files and find you a quotable soundbite. SAFFM:
At its most narcissistic, the SA trout “product” is as plastic as a McDonald’s foot-long offal burger. An army of aspirants demanding manicured access to instant gratification is met by an army of willing sellers, not quite sure of what it is they are selling, but it is a space easily occupied by carpetbaggers and shamateurs.
Apathy is a powerful force.
Wolf Avni: We create narrative and then fall so in love with it, that we forget we are mere figments of our own imagination, made in the image of whatever it is we exalt. We exalt some weird shit.
SAFFM: Your dam in Giants Cup Wilderness Reserve is considered especially difficult.
SAFFM: How did you land up in Underberg farming trout? Did it just happen or was it planned?
Wolf Avni: Part of what makes our dam so technically “hard” is that it is not a dam at all, but merely a vast hole in a river. The fish respond to the perpetual changes, which occur on an entirely different energy budget to a usual water impoundment - more dynamic, over a wider spectrum. Food forms include all the usual suspects, but in broader diversity. Every time you think you have cracked a code it up and becomes something else.
Wolf Avni: How does anybody land up anywhere? I guess an arbitrary intersect between opportunity and preparedness? I have plausible narratives, but in looking back, such things come to fruition not through any particular cleverness, but despite its absence. Grace, as always, plays a hand. I had a vision of a life for myself and my family a little more meaningful and real than I could ever aspire to as a conceptual photographer servicing corporate needs for persuasive and manipulative imagery. Saw a half an opportunity and took the gap. SAFFM: Trout farming? interest, opportunity, fate? www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
SAFFM: How much has changed in your four decades in the industry? In terms of the fish as well as the angler. Wolf Avni: That’s the kind of question it’s easy to throw a glib answer at and it would be equally easy to get entirely consumed by the devil of detail.
What was it, an
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When I came here a lifetime ago, my own vision for it was pursuit of an ideal founded in an idea where perfectly wild fish would fin their lives away in a perfectly healthy, well balanced, natural ecology surrounded by unspoiled montane grassland catchment. Eland and oribi would roam the hills, raptors would patrol the skies and we who angle would gravitate towards the archetypal ideal so eulogised in a literature going back two thousand years.
It’s not much. It’s only everything. SAFFM: minute.
I need a
Wolf Avni: One thing has changed. I have. Turns out when I came here I knew next to nothing and little of what I thought I knew remains. I have learned an extraordinary amount about the biology and environmental exigencies of teleosts in general and salmonids in particular. I have gained a working insight into aquatic ecology and the principles of how energy flows through and is stored in natural systems and I have watched how we each weave narrative based on an inner personal mythology, each unique in itself, populated with its own heroes and villains, inflated and conflated with all the hubris and nonsense we can breathe individually into the images we hold of ourselves.
The eland are still here and the hills are still roamed by an ark-load of wild creatures. Fish eagles, lammergeyers , black eagles, et al still soar the thermals and nest in the cliffs. Shadows glimpsed of yard-long rainbows still surface in tales taken away by passing anglers. I digress. Nothing has changed, yet everything is different. The broader landscape has eroded into an entirely different planation along entirely predictable and visible fault lines. The opportunities are not the same, nor are the challenges. I look at our early visitor books and read entries from hands that are four out of five either dead, or now living in Aus, NZ, or Canada. Where once our guests were 90% angler and 10% ‘other’ we now have far more birders, hikers, photographers and trail bikers. (One would think cyclists are quite hated enough without needing to go vegan or infest the wilderness, but no.)
Nothing has changed. We each come charged with an infinite potential, and we each come with an own arsehole in default working mode. Now that the kids do all the heavy lifting and day to day grinding, I get to sit like an old yogi under a banyan tree, plotting the lines of latitude and longitude of the human navel. Turns out it is as marvellous or mundane, as inspirational, or as depressing, as fine or as futile as one chooses to experience it.
Trout have gone from hero to zero, from being a metaphor of nobility to a becoming a symbol of recidivism, invasive colonialism. In the national-socialist corridors of invasion biology the trout has become the Jew and DEA have their plans for a final solution.
This life is perfection.... only never ideal. Long live DESPITE! SAFFM: Do you think that social media is driving behaviour as much as mirroring it? Things change and it’s just a reflection of the change?
So nothing has changed. I’d like to say that innocence has been lost, and while that is no lie it’s not the truth either. No one comes to the table with hands entirely clean, none of us gets out of it alive. Which brings us full circle - we have at best an illusion of control, or influence over how the winds blow but we do get to choose what sails we travel under, and how we shall set them. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Wolf Avni: For me fishing has never been a particularly social arena. On the contrary, for me it plays at it purest as a solitary communion rather than from a pew in a church choir.
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ÂŠ wolfavni www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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Seeing the narratives that others tell of filial bond and deep companionable experience it becomes evident that for some the benefice is in the sharing of it, rather than the experience itself. For me it was always more about unconditional immersion, presence in the present. Or at least, aspiration towards that. Same with writing, same with photography. It simply is just not one thing with a clear identity, the rod, the fly, the camera... language itself... these are just devices which the universe uses to play with us. And we then elevate ourselves in terms of whatever mythology we base our telling on. SAFFM: You getting out any time soon? The rivers will be wonderful into autumn, I would think. Wolf Avni: You are missing Henry David Thoreau - “Many men go fishing all their lives, never knowing it is not fish they are after?”. SAFFM: I’ve read Thoreau. He’s an interesting guy, in his way. I relate to a lot of it, not at all to some of it and the rest leaves me wondering. Wolf Avni: one truth
Just an agile mind. There is no
SAFFM: My philosophy of life has been distilled to “try not to be a dick”. Wolf Avni: The delusion stems from a consciousness rooted in a perceived duality to everything. We want things specific, an either or an or, whereas the true nature of all things on the most material of levels is you don’t get one without the other. No light without dark, no good without bad, just energy caught in particulate dances. We are always the significance we so desperately strive to find. If nothing else the universe has a muscular sense of humour. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Understand that dicks are very useful and can be highly desirable too. Just try and be the same dick so at least you don’t keep springing nasty www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
surprises of despicable on yourself called integrity I think? SAFFM: damnit?
Are you fishing this autumn,
Wolf Avni: I shall watch others fish and blank and fish and blank and fish again. I shall even reach for my rod and think to subjugate another Leviathan, but in the end my hand will fall rather on a camera and I will cast my line at photons, I guess. It is a less predatory engagement, though the hunt just as fierce and the challenge, fiercer. How many fish must I catch for it to be enough? Dunno. Lost count. Gave up trying to be smarter than a fish. Don’t have the cranial capacity for a fair contest? We reach, whatever the instrument, for one pure, absolutely free, perfect note. The reaching is the thing... everything else is so arb... so incidental. Fishing really is a perfect metaphor for everything... down to the snap of fragile tippet in every mismatch. SAFFM: SA trout is now an ‘industry’. It always was one, I suppose, but there are a lot of people with their livelihoods pegged to it now. Wolf Avni:
In 1598 by Thomas Bastard we read: “Fishing, if I a fisher may protest, Of pleasures is the sweetest of sports the best, Of exercises the most excellent. Of recreations the most innocent. But now the sport is marred, and what ye why? Fishes decrease, and fishers multiply.” - Seven Books of Epigrams SAFFM: I love that one. We abhor crowding but see ourselves distinctly apart from the crowd. We forget that we are never in traffic, we are traffic. Wolf Avni: More! Every poetic alliteration we let loose on the world serves to create and direct that traffic. Go figure. Return to contents
SAFFM: Why is Maggie’s Farm playing on repeat in my head? Wolf Avni:
niche taking on the available biomass. To phrase it differently; if my water can support ten kilograms of apex predator fish and I have ten fish the average weight will be one kilogram. If I have a hundred fish the average will be one hundred grams and if I have one fish it will average ten kilograms. This is a bit linear but it makes the point.
The ironies are the deliciousness?
SAFFM: Music. Did you ever put some strings on that lovely old Yamaha 12 string? Wolf Avni: Yes. It came in from exile and now lives in the bedroom. Indeed we travel in circles.
SAFFM: Understood. With the exception of what I think was called your ‘Gropper’ the one thing I can’t remember you writing about much is the tying of flies. Do you tie much?
To be focused on the content, rather than merely skilled at conjuring an optic puts one at odds with modern currency. It marks you as a strange fish, ever swimming against the flow. The conflict arises in inescapable contradiction between the hardwired need to belong like any old sheeple, and yet to grow and feed the creative unique own godhood.
Wolf Avni: I w r o t e a p i e c e t h a t w a s published in the first or second FOSAF 'Guide To” books. It was a bit of satire. I presented the WWWWW or Wolf’s Wonderful Weighted Wooly Worm. I get a bit irritated at all the derivation and adoption of styles and techniques presented as conceptually original and tagged with a personal claim.
SAFFM: Belonging is a fundamental human need. Wolf Avni: Yeah until go along to get along becomes life’s song. What price integrity? I see us in the plains Indian construct. Each of harbours two inner beasts. A wolf of light and a wolf of dark locked in a fight to the death. Which one wins? The one you feed.
SAFFM: I’ve designed dozens of new flies only to discover that they’ve existed for a few generations before me. Wolf Avni: I tied some killer patterns, invoking principles rather that checklists of ingredients. I took a spectacularly pragmatic view of tying and tied not for any particular love of it, but because it was the only way to access the things I wanted to fish. These were the sparse, tiny creatures the fish were feeding on. I found bought flies mostly too bulky and disproportionate.
SAFFM: Let’s get back on track. After the last drought you were outspoken about not reseeding rivers. As I understood it this was a natural selection type argument where the ‘fittest’ fish remained alive and are good for the gene pool. Wolf Avni: Yes. The pattern is predictable. and if the river gets to a point where it cannot bounce back, well, it may not be appropriate to have trout.
You can just look them up. It was volume one of ‘Favoured Flies and Select Techniques of the Experts’. The irony is they got someone else to tie the patterns for the photographs and his version of the fly was nothing like the samples I sent. The essence of the pattern is sparseness and proportion, which he entirely just did not get. He tied his fly.
My position isn’t exactly as you frame it, but in broad terms a system will support a biomass appropriate to the niche it fills. If numbers are increased the average biomass per unit will perforce decrease. If numbers decrease, the average biomass per unit must increase. Thus after a drought and natural reduction in numbers the remaining fish fill the available www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
SAFFM: I guess that’s creativity, you throw it out into the universe and need to let it find it’s own way.
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Wolf Avni: As you say, you just have to let it go, find it’s own way in the universe. Generally opportunity is continuous. But without some kind of preparedness in anticipation, the opportunity may present, but is not recognised, except in retrospect.
SAFFM: We’re supposed to be talking about fishing. Wolf Avni: I k n e w I h a d m o v e d o n somewhere else when I gave my son my Orvis XLS, 3 weight, only ever fished once when I bought it early 90’s. I liked it just fine, but it didn’t stand a chance against my Orvis Western 9’3” 3 weight. Gave it to him last xmas
SAFFM: I remember the articles that you did with macro photography of flies and bugs. Is this just a convergence of two interests or would you be interested in either of them independently? I ask because you speak of the essence of your fly patterns.
My favourite river rod is a 7ft Orvis Otter. That Western punched a full 3 weight line straight through the wind. Perfect for Natal still waters. Caught me a good couple 75cm fish on it. The Otter though, a different, delicate stick.
Wolf Avni: The photography was its own thing. It just wasn’t the only thing. Just all a muscular curiosity... I guess? SAFFM: It’s a real deep dive into it for just a reflexive curiosity. I hear Latin words and run screaming.
Wait. Back up. 75cm?
Yip! - once upon a when.
Wolf Avni: I w a s j u s t r e s p o n d i n g t o opportunity. Trying to think of something insightful to say but I’m fresh out.
But I’ve given up on trying to make the case that the fish enjoy it as much as we do.
© wolfavni www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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TREGARON TROUT LODGE Mooi River, KZN
A trout fishing haven situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains, 20 minutes outside of Mooi River. The dam is a 10 hectare dam with many interesting areas from which to fish â€“ the jetty, dam wall, off the island as well as all around the perimeter. It is a 4 bedroom (all en-suite) unit and also has a loft area which has 2 single beds. A maximum of 10 people can be accommodated.
The dam has a perennial fresh water stream keeping it full and it is stocked with rainbow and brown trout. As well as being a fishing destination it is great place for friends and family to relax & unwind.
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Cell : 0824111856
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A WORLD OF CHAMPIONS BRETT VAN RENSBURG
Few things in this world are more thrilling than representing oneâ€™s country. I know a long-time dream of mine was to be the starting flyhalf for the Springboks in a Rugby World Cup final. Sadly, I am undersized and lack the basic skills to fulfil that dream.
Every second of the experience is special. The travel, the fishing, the competition and mostly the camaraderie of the team. Imagine stepping onto a bus with thirty of the worldâ€™s best fly fisherman, everyone sitting quietly focused on the task at hand, arriving at a piece of water you have never seen before and having to assess how you are going to go about your business. Then picture competing head-to-head for three hours against the best; every fish swaying and changing the leaderboard. Frankly, the whole experience is just exhilarating!
I have however had the honour of representing our wonderful country at the passed World Fly Fishing Championships hosted in Tasmania, and wow was it special!
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The Championship was hosted in Tasmania, Australia, from the 30 th of November to the 8th of December 2019. The competition was fished over five sessions, one session per day, in five separate locations, allowing competitors the opportunity to fish the perfect fishing window on both the lakes and rivers.
Anglers from all over the world compete against each other on an individual and team basis. This means that you are constantly fighting for every inch on every fish. This competitive atmosphere is what sets the Fly-Fishing World Championships apart from any other. Tasmania itself is a land lost in time in every way. The towns feel drenched in an exotic history long forgotten, the landscape moulded by the tough weather conditions and the people friendly to their core. A drive through Launceston reminds one of a better way of life, one with less stress and a whole lot more focus on lifestyle enjoyment.
The venues used were Penstock Lagoon, Meander River, Woods Lake, Mersey River and Little Pine Lagoon (which featured in the 1988 World Fly Fishing championships). Each angler is assigned a three hour session where the length of their trout landed are measured and scored by officials. The fishâ€™s lengths are scored in total millimeters.
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As you exit “city life” you begin to feel the Wildness that Tasmania has to offer. Driving is a new experience as every animal is always ready to leap into the road from behind some shrub. This made driving complicated and something we did not do at night. Walking brings its own challenges with the abundance of snake and spider life. Never before have I ever seen so many snakes, and not any old snakes but some of the most venomous creatures the world has to offer. Yip, walking your river section becomes a life and death exercise with these critters around just adding to the experience of fishing this untouched part of the world. I can certainly say Tasmania is like no place I have ever visited.
1850’s. The climate and landscape are perfectly architected for the survival and growth of large brown specimens, making Tasmania a dream destination for any trout fisherman. It is common for 10lb tout to be found in rivers and lakes in Tasmania. Taking a drive along one of the main interstates allows you the opportunity to view lake after lake after river after lake and river again - you get the point! The waters are endless and untouched, providing the perfect backdrop for some world-class trout angling. As a team we spent eight days practicing both rivers and still waters in the Highlands region of Miena. Describing Miena is difficult but I will do my best. Imagine a lake district high up in the mountains surrounded by rusty old fishing huts scattered along the banks of each fishery. No shops, no luxuries, no technology, very little cell signal, just the stories of a “good days” fishing around the evening fireplace
One thing the country doesn’t lack is an abundance of water. Everywhere you look one can see rivers and lakes, each of these waters teaming with wild brown trout. These fish are not indigenous to the land and were introduced by British settlers in the www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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Along the banks of the water the animals watch your every move and even more scary is when they decide to join you in the water. On more than one occasion I found myself taking evasive action from a tiger snake that decided I was a tree in the water and a good place to rest for a bit. The weather and wildlife certainly added a level of complexity while fishing the championship however they also took you back to another time, a time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, a time away from technology and deadlines, when the world was wild and untouched, ready to be explored.
complete gentleman, sharp as a tack, always ready to share his Australian fishing knowledge and show us a trick or two. As a team we spent many hours on various lakes perfecting a new style of still water nymphing designed to be used when the wind is up. This technique served us well in the competition and while testing it back home more recently I have realised that it is a serious weapon to have in hand for those blustery days on South African water. More to come on this technique in the future. The five day competition itself was plagued with “Weather from Hell”. Every session anglers found themselves fighting below-freezing temperatures, winds up to 80kms per hour, hail, rain, snow and fog.
Our guide, Stewart, was a character. We found it difficult to take him seriously at first considering that the moustache he was sporting could only remind you of a 1940’s South African “speedkop”. It was every bit as wild and untamed as the man himself. His dress code was uncomplicated - most days sporting a pair of “thongs”, shorts and an old fishing cap. Shirts were often optional, even in the cold. The doctor’s (yes, he is in fact a paediatrician) scruffy exterior did not sum up the man, he was a
At times sitting on a boat was unbearable with little to no feeling in both hands. Feeling the tug of a trout was often impossible, never mind fighting it to the net. On many occasions nets were blown clean off boats by small wind tornados, leaving competitors in a very difficult position without a way to land fish.
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This year the South African team found themselves in medal contention right up to the last session with only a handful of points separating the top ten teams going into the last day. As a collective we felt it only right to throw personal positioning out of the window and chase risks on the last day for the betterment of the team.
lacks are the enormous amounts of time other competitors spend on the water. The experience gained through these thousands of fishing hours is all that sets us apart from the rest of the world. This understanding and belief places us in good stead for the future watch this spaceâ€Ś The final team results finished with France, Czech Republic and Spain taking up the top three spots in that order. Because of a few tough results on the final day South Africa found themselves finishing in 11th position with very few points separating them from a top ten result. Individual gold was one by Howard Croston representing England in his 16th World Championship, proving that itâ€™s never to late to be on top of the world. David Garcia Ferraras and Kristian Sveda from Spain and Slovakia rounded out silver and bronze positions respectably.
The night before the final session various plans were hatched to be executed on the following day. Each of these plans were risky in that they did not follow the standard that most anglers would use on a final day of competition, however as a collective we needed points and a chance at a medal required some out of the box thinking.
Next year the Championship moves to Finland and the Protea boys are excited to create a stir on the world stage once again.
Sadly for the team our tactics did not pay off and we fell short of the intended goal. But as a team we grew. For the first time in a long time a belief has been born that European anglers are not invincible. As a collective we can see that the gap is closing and our abilities as a country are catching up with the top nations. A massive shout out must go to Daniel Factor for his stellar performance throughout the tournament finishing 11th overall and proving once again that as South Africans we can excel on the big stage! The gap between South African and international anglers is closing and with a bit more time and experience we will start to find ourselves consistently in medal contention. As a country our skills and abilities are showing at an international level, all that www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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"The Life and Times of John Beams and a trip to the moon. Tom Sutcliffe When all is said and done, we don't really know a great deal about the early, or even the middle days of trout fishing in South Africa. Andrew Levy TCFF Magazine, December 2015.
John Beams was a powerful force for change in the history of South Africa fly fishing yet his life remains largely unrecorded. Mark Mackereth, an angler from the same era and from the same crucible of streams in the Western Cape has had more recognition. I fished with both during my student years, grew to like and respect them, learned from them, and after I had left Cape Town for KZN in 1968 I sent each a regular fishing letter, like a soldier on a distant battlefront sending dispatches to High Command. In my regular www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
reports I naturally went on a bit about KZN's big stillwater trout. Mackereth was little impressed. After all, these weren't big trout taken from quick streams on dry flies. But my letters caused Beams a serious itch, which he eventually had to scratch, and did, on a famous visit to Natal in 1970, when we fished the Old Dam and one or two other cosmic spots, caught heaps of trout, some large, even a few browns, and he was smitten. 37
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A 'Fra Diavolo' tied by Gordon Photo by Tom Sutcliffe
Like a piscatorial undertaker A few months later, in August 1971, he packed up his house and moved to Maritzburg in KZN, which may sound like a www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
journalistic elaboration of facts, but it's not. That is exactly why Beams left Cape Town for KZN; to pursue big trout. 38
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Beams was a great fisherman, a good fly tier (no more than), a very competitive angler, an artist, an excellent writer and an accomplished photographer. So far, so cut and paste. Just to add that I once said if I had to fish for my life against anyone in South Africa I'd fear John Beams most. I have never changed my mind. He was very much the thinking angler to whom competition came not as a daunting challenge, but as a galvanising elixir.
of him as a man possibly hovering on the edges of undisclosed genius, and I choose my words very carefully here safe in the knowledge that no person outside of his family knew him better, or fished with him more, or was more in his social company than I was, from 1971 until he died in 1984, by when, to me, he was entirely that genius. Which is not to say he was perfect. Insecurities easily broke through his outward veneer of confidence, causing him to snap a sharply sarcastic tongue at even slight provocations, most especially when people got things plainly wrong, or when they showcased unwarranted virtues, like plain snobbery. So, naturally, he was less popular in some circles than in others and, again to word it carefully, he was a man never short in his life of a few committed detractors. So naturally we used to joke among ourselves that with his social unpredictability and his total absence of airs and graces he was always going to be a very risky guest to invite to a tea party with the Queen.
Early on in John's KZN days I realised that faced with the prospect of catching fish he demonstrated a number of mental deficiencies. Not least was his determination to catch as many as possible, no matter how, especially big fish, and especially big bags of big fish. And that was when it was still PC for anglers to squat behind their assembled corpses for an ego-drenching photo shoot. Magazines treated you to countless pictures of live anglers and dead fish, the angler being the one smiling at the camera with shameless pride, like a smug piscatorial undertaker. That vogue lasted until the tree-huggers found us out, or maybe until we discovered the obvious benefits of catch-and-release, and though pictures like this are no less common now, they nearly always have an unwritten text that tells you, release imminent.
John was born in the Midlands of the England and, at just eight years old, in September 1940, was sent overseas by steamship to escape the bombs raining down c/o Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe. As it happened he was one of 212 children sent to New Zealand, where he was prepschooled for five years at Nelson College in the city of Nelson, South Island, until his return to the UK in 1946. That was the last formal education he had.
But let's rather talk about the man behind the pictures. First, I remember John in many ways other than as an angler. I remember him as superbright and knowledgeable, despite an ultralight formal education and, perhaps as a consequence of his scant education, a man who found the need to prove himself on every run and pool in later life. For example, he was uncommonly well informed on subjects you would least expect; like astrophysics, classical music, literature and chess. So much so, that I sometimes thought www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Back in London he got work as an apprentice signwriter, mindlessly painting Eskimo Pie ice cream logos on countless tea room windows, until he eventually rose to the rank of commercial artist. Thus equipped he immigrated to South Africa in 1964, got a job with a Cape Town ad agency, lived happily in a small rented house in Tamboerskloof with his wife Hilda and daughter Hedda, (where I 39
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occasionally visited him), and joined the Cape Piscatorial Society. He spoke of how warmly Mackereth had welcomed him to the club and how he'd introduced him to the liquid temples of the CPS High Church, rivers like the Smalblaar, the Molenaars section of the Smalblaar, and the Holsloot. He recalled too the immediate respect and fondness he felt for A C Harrison, the CPS's iconic secretary of the time.
wherein he said, '...one of the country's best anglers and an articulate and at times provocative writer.' (I'll just add, you know then, Bob!) In his writings John's grasp of semantics was unsurpassed and he never lost a chance to police my stumbling prose, especially my misuse of pronouns and my often casual disregard for commas. But I learned a lot more from him than just semantics; I learned about the creation of the universe and black holes in space; the music of composers like Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Saint-SaĂŤns, Mahler, Rachmaninoff; the Sicilian Defence and countless other gambits in chess, and, importantly, I learned about fly fishing from him, just at a time when I was most receptive to instruction and at a time when instruction wasnâ€™t yet a commodity.
From then on (like a lot of us back then), John was consumed with mastering the art of dry fly on fast water and was the first person to mention the word drag to me, in the sense of it being a technically contrary event in dry-fly fishing, referring to it at the time as 'the dreaded skate.'
Mark Mackereth on the Smalblaar
One of the defining features of John's approach to fly fishing (aside from the fact that he was very good at it) was the time he spent carefully reading a piece of water before fishing it; down to studying each run, or each fish, long enough to think he might have a touch of OCD, anyway long before thinking of lifting his fly rod. That has stayed with me forever. Then, often just when I was thinking he should give up fishing a particular run, it became clear that he had only just started! At the time I couldn't pace myself down, only up, so that lesson also sunk into my DNA. I recall his frequent intonations, 'So what time does your bus leave?' What bus? I ask, begging his dry reply, 'The one you're trying to catch right now.' We all noted how little store he placed in pattern as opposed to purpose. Meaning if it was a nymph he fished it exactly like a living nymph, never mind what pattern of nymph; ditto for emergers and dry flies.
There was nothing cold, robotic or dreary about Beams, least of all in his angling. Bob Frean, a Pietermaritzburg journalist of the time, wrote the foreword to John's book, Introducing Fly Fishing in South Africa, www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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So a certain five words stayed have with me for all time; pattern is less than purpose. Which is maybe why he never was a great inventor of flies himself. To him a dry fly was a dry fly, no matter if it was an Adams or a Wickham's. What did matter if it was a dry fly was whether it was a sedge or a mayfly, and if it was, say, a sedge, that you fished it like a sedge, with moments of skitter across the surface and always in short, staccato-like drifts.
Duckworth. On KZN streams, especially brown trout streams, he favoured small, as in size 12, unweighted, wispily-dressed Black Woolly Worms, of the sort Tony tied back in the 70s, flies that hovered anywhere between a dark-coloured, sunken Wickham's Fancy and a well-hackled nymph. And he fished them, as he describes in his book, as free-drifting or swimming, but always as living insects. Pattern, purpose.
Mike Harker on the Old dam
On stillwaters he was drawn to structure like a nail to a magnet; to a line of reed beds, or to a drop-off, or to some long-submerged streambed, or to the shallows. Never without a plan, he consistently out-fished everyone, even on the Old Dam in the testing company of notable stillwater sages of the time, like Tony Biggs, Hugh Huntley, Neil Hodges, Mike Harker, Taffy Walters and Bill
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The Old House, Old Dam
Old Dam Grandads foreground with the Blockhouse behind
Taffy Walters and Landel Train on the Yarrow stream, Karkloof
Bill Duckworth on the Old Dam
Two notable stillwater sages at the Old Dam
You could never fish with Beams and be far removed from his humour. One day we fished a pretty mountain pond set in the fringes of a natural forest when bugs were hatching like a small rainstorm and nothing was taking our dry flies. In fact, the fish were not taking our flies with such intent that they seemed to be making a point out of not taking our dry flies. Fishless over coffee I asked John if he had any bright ideas and he said we should revert to Schwiebert's Second Strategy. Puzzled, I asked what Schwiebert's Second Strategy was? And he said, 'the eeny, meeny, miny, moe one'. (I later remember asking him what Schiebert's First Strategy was and he said, 'Haven't you read Matching the Hatch yet?')
You may have noticed that through some weird twist of anthropomorphic distortion a monster fish can at times look a lot like the angler who just caught it. This once prompted John to send a photograph to AC Harrison for the Piscator journal, with a caption that read, 'The angler is the one at the back ...' John had been a keen coarse fisherman in England from the age of six. He once told us he was fishing a small pastoral pond in the dead of a moonless night when he hooked (and for a long time fought) the fish of a lifetime. It turned out to be a very pissed-off moorhen. There were a few characteristics to John's fishing that he never so much spoke about as slowly gleaned, or just came to understand. Here follow what you might call Five Commandments roughly extracted from the scriptures according to Beams, at least as we got to understand them:
It might well have been in similar circumstances when we were again fishless that he suddenly turned to me with a look of high wisdom on his face and announced, 'There are only two vitally important things in fly fishing. The first is Faith,' then added, 'Sorry, I can't remember the second one.'
Beam's Five Commandments One: If you were out there to fish with him then that's what you did. To the exclusion of all else. Including randomly intrusive sexual fantasies. He hated any slacking or idleness on the water. Two: You banished any hint of self-doubt. He hated that more. Three: You morphed your determination to catch fish into a belief you will catch fish, no matter the odds. Four: You never doubted a barometer. Falling, and you stayed home. Rising, and you called in sick and headed for water. Five: You respected the fish and you respected the land. Full stop.
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But in one instance, despite all the above, Beam's default catch-as-many-fish-as-youcan setting nearly brought the great Tower of Babel down on his head. Here is a synopsis: It happened one day that John kept 'x' number of trout from a well-known Natal Fly Fishers Club stillwater. Problem was it was 'y' number over the bag limit – and he got caught by the riparian owner. Trouble. Serious trouble. Biblical-sized serious trouble. His detractors, thrilled at the prospect of this incoming bonanza leapt with Orwellian haste to steer his ship to the rocks. The word going round (in a few circles, anyway) was expulsion. They might also have wanted the government to declare a day of national mourning, I can't remember, but either way it was going to be a disaster. Beams had argued that he was technically under the bag limit because his fishing companion hadn't hooked a fish all day, which was a fact. The committee meeting that followed was the most extraordinary I have ever been in. For a start it was unusually stilted and ceremonial, a lot like you'd imagine a Pope's funeral to be. But remember this was the founder of the club and its first chairman we were sitting in judgement on. And so the committee presided and pondered back and forth, and then pondered back and forth some more, and finally agreed on a brief period of suspension only, rather than expulsion. At this point, member 'z', a known Beams detractor, got up in a huffing pique and making for the door, announced with extravagant flourish that if that was the case he was leaving the meeting! Whereupon www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
member 'w', (alright, Taffy Walters actually), stood up and with equal flourish told him to fuck off to the moon. A stunned silence fell across the staid gathering and for a moment I saw the secretary (Edith Combes), pen poised in midair as if about to faithfully commit the statement to her minutes, possibly even wondering how to spell the word, then she suddenly realised what had just been said, sheepishly dropped her pen and folded her arms as if to say, 'Now what?' This account will never appear in any pages of the NFFC's written histories. But now you know it, and one or two members of this illustrious and wonderful club who were there that night, and who are still alive and who may read this, will certainly remember it – with a smile, I hope. It was said, in some circles anyway, that Beams had effortlessly risen above a bunch of people who he considered too dumb to help themselves. This was not the case. Beams was very sobered by this event, very contrite and very indebted to the people who had stood by him. To some though, it was strangely as if he gained a sort of added bohemian appeal from the saga; almost the aura of a fly-fishing dictator-for-life, especially among younger anglers whose default position is anyhow nearly always set to anti-establishment. This wasn't anything like a prevailing sentiment at the time and most of us just saw him as a great angler with his own peculiar orthodoxies and certainly a man still worthy of great respect. He prevailed. So there he is. John Beams. Undoubtedly among the very best minds I have ever known; an angler so focused, so committed, such a master of detail and persistence that his presence on any trout water was always influential, no matter the company; a man with an insatiable appetite for the sport; a Return to contents
time, and a man I am very fortunate to have called my friend.
John Beams at his tying desk
And so it is that among my most valuable treasures is a photograph that Tom Burgers took of John at his tying desk. On it, he inscribed: To my Guide, my Philosopher and my Fishing Friend. John. John retired from business in Pietermaritzburg and moved to his new home, Gone Fishing, in the lovely hamlet of Nottingham Road where he and Hilda lived until he died.
Sketch of the Old House on the Old Dam
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John Beams synoptic Bio Together with Mackereth and Biggs, Beams helped to develop and popularise fly fishing on Western Cape streams in the late 60s. Cover artist for many Piscator journals and contributor of the very popular 'Natal Letter to A C Harrison' from the early 70s until AC died. Founder of the Natal Fly Fishers Club (1971) and founding member of the Hogsback Trout Angling Club. From 1982 the first South African trout fishing guide (to my knowledge), operating from his home in Nottingham Road. Author of 'Introducing Fly Fishing in South Africa'. Edited by RH Frean. Top Farmers Publications. 1974. The angler depicted on the Transkei First Day Cover: 15 January 1981. Developer of the Red Butt Woolly Worm (sometimes referred to as simply as a JB Woolly Worm - Piscator 79, Sping 1970, page 61), a few stillwater snail patterns and the Snipe Fly . A man who was offered honorary life membership of the Fly Fishers Association (FFA, Durban) and turned it down, saying he had not earned the award. Heaviest river fish: Rainbow hen 6lb 1 oz, Belmont Pool, Dwars River Ceres. Heaviest bass: A one-time record for the largest South Africa smallmouth bass caught on standard fly tackle. Vogelvlei Dam, Western Cape. Favourite game: Chess, with an extensive library on the latter. Favourite player, Alexander Alekhine (Russia). Influenced by: South Africans: A C Harrison, Mark Mackereth, Tony Biggs. UK anglers: John Goddard, Frank Sawyer, Tom Ivens, Oliver Kite, John Veniard; US anglers: Al McClane, Lee Wulff, Winslow Homer (artist); American Fly Fisherman and Fly Rod and Reel magazines (he was deeply influenced by both). Favourite fishing spots and places Glenfern, The Bend and Riverside, all upper Mooi River beats. Stagstones on the Little Mooi. The lower Mooi River in mid-winter above the village of Rosetta. Stillwaters: the Old Dam and Highmore. Granddad's Cottage, the Blockhouse and the Old House on the farm Heatherdon alongside the Old Dam.
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John Beams synoptic Bio (cont.) Favourite authors: Ernest Hemingway, Roderick Haig-Brown, Negley Farson and South African satirist Robert Kirby. Favourite music: Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on Themes of Paganini, Variation 18. https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjqkkuhRt_M) Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, often described as a right of passage for every concert violinist. https://houstonsymphony.org/mendelssohn-violin-concerto/ John once said, ' Come the revolution and both these compositions will be compulsory listening for all citizens'. I suggest you listen to either, preferably both. Postscript: In August 1984 I did an interview with JB. It was two months before his death, at a time when his brain carried the metastatic bullets of advanced cancer and he was bloated from cortisone. It was filmed by Dr Rob Buley at John's home. It was also shortly after his last sojourn to the Old Dam, when Mike Harker and I literally had to prop him up so he could cast. He died barely three months later. Some excerpts taken from that interview; 'If you haven't got the determination to come out tops when you are fishing with any bunch of anglers, you are never going to make a top fly fisher. ' 'If you don't eat, dream and read chess, you are never going to make it as a player.' 'Fly fishing has helped me to enjoy my life.' 'My most memorable waters are the Smalblaar and Mick Kimber's Old Dam. That is a place I will never forget.' 'Mark Mackereth was the first person I ever saw using a nymph. He taught me to tie flies. He taught me to really look at a river. He was an artist with a fly rod and fortunately he had a genuine enthusiasm to teach.' 'The English mystique and cult around fly fishing is now dead.' 'Your skills as a South African angler likely come on the back of knowledge borrowed from, sadly, mainly not-South-African-masters. The rest must come more painfully, from your own blood, toil, tears and sweat, as Churchill put it.'
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Heritage Flies - Part 6 The Wolf Spider and its origins Grizzy Hackle Imitations of particular spider species are relatively unique to South Africa for the techniques and materials used by a number of local fly tyers. Perhaps there is no better example than that of the local Lycosid Wolf Spider that is found throughout the country and fairly often spotted in and around structure close to the streams as it searches for prey close to the waters edge - the result is that some, not by choice, end up in the stream struggling to make it back to the safety of terra firma.
the expenditure of energy it also required a ‘big chunk’ i.e. a food item that would provide a lot of calories and a ‘sitting duck’ i.e. a food item that looked vulnerable and was not likely to escape. The original Mackereth Wolf Spider and subsequent three imitations possess these triggers. The earliest documented imitation was in the 1960s. A fly which symbolised a radical change in fly fishing technique as it was then practised in South Africa. The Caribou Spider was tied by a British expat, Mark Mackereth. It was probably the first local fly made of spun and clipped deer hair and the first tied specifically to imitate the Wolf Spider. In the light of the significance of this first Wolf Spider pattern and Mark Mackereth’s contribution
In his milestone book, The Dry Fly – New Angles (Globe Pequot Press, 2001), Gary LaFontaine wrote that a trout holding in deep water and strong currents would be most tempted to rise to a ‘wide’ fly. To justify www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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to fly fishing generally, it is felt that it may interest readers to expand a little on who he was and his role in changing a mindset.
wound around a post of red chenille which made it easier to follow on the water and a hackle fibre tail was added. It floats like a cork, is easy to follow in the most boisterous of currents and has proved successful for half a century.
Prior to Markâ€™s arrival in South Africa it was customary to concentrate on the deep pools and to fish big wet flies like the Mrs Simpson downstream, often on a sinking line. Mark fished the dry fly upstream on a floating line, concentrating rather on the runs, riffles and pocket water.
Mark was born on Christmas day 1907 in Stillington, Yorkshire but grew up on a farm in the nearby town of Pickering where he fished for trout and salmon. His parents reluctantly conceded to his decision to choose music rather than farming as a career. The outbreak of WWII interrupted his musical studies and he saw action at Dunkirk and in the subsequent Normandy campaign. After the war, while doing guard duty at the Tower of London, he met a South African woman, Eileen Watkins, who was a friend of the family of the Officer Commanding the Tower and who introduced them.
The Caribou Spider had no tail and the parachute was constructed by tying the stripped quill into a loop which was held upright by a gallows tool. The hackle was wound laterally around this quill loop, the feather tip was then threaded through the loop and the quill was pulled to tighten the loop around the feather, leaving the tip of the feather pointing forward. Later commercial versions saw the hackle feather
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For South African fly fishers it was a fortuitous romance. The couple left for South Africa in 1951 after Mark had been offered a position as a double bass player with the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra. Ten years later he took a transfer to the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. Mark joined the Cape Piscatorial Society, and discovered the Smalblaar which, in issue number 53 of the CPS magazine, Piscator, he described as a “delightful little river”.
when he was interviewed for the DVD, A South African fly tying journey with Ed Herbst and friends that it was learned how Mark developed the fly to imitate the wolf spider which was common on the banks of the Holsloot and Smalblaar streams near Worcester and that it therefore did not have a tail. On the DVD Tom ties the modern version with a parachute post. He described how Mackereth’s sister, who lived in Canada and was due to visit Mark and his wife in Cape Town, was asked to bring out any fly tying materials she could find. She brought with her a piece of caribou (reindeer) skin. It spins beautifully and Mark combined a spun and clipped body of caribou with a parachute hackle wound around the feather’s looped quill. Mark apparently said at the time that the inspiration for the fly was American – possibly the original Rat Faced McDougal with grizzly hackle tip wings.
Perhaps his most significant role was as mentor to a new generation of CPS Young Turks who were chafing against a decadesold regimen of tactics prescribed by the luminaries of the day such as Sydney Hey and Fred Bowker (Kingfisher), the manipulated wet fly, often based on gaudy salmon patterns and fished under tension across or downstream. One of them was Tom Sutcliffe. It was only www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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Tom recalls “Mark’s quest for the ultimate, wide, glossy and cleanly barbed free-range cock hackle was insatiable. “During his time in Johannesburg he befriended Leo Rosettenstein, then owner of the iconic hunting and fishing shop, Arms and Ammunition located in Bree Street in the city centre. One night after dinner at Leo’s house, Leo mentioned to Mark that he had a small collection of game cocks that he used for hackle. Mark insisted on seeing them there and then. Armed with a torch, Leo showed him a few birds roosting in a peach tree. In a flash Mark grabbed the bestlooking fowl by its feet and marched it inside where he divested it of a heap of its prime neck hackles. This story was related to me by Leo himself.”
Gevonden just before Rawsonville for, as Mark put it, 'a little inspection'. Folk would be going about their business around their cottages, but when Mark stepped out of the car he was instantly recognised as the feather man’. The farm yard would erupt into a cacophony of screeching roosters as men, women and children chased the better birds Mark pointed out, the red, ginger and white game cocks, but only the ones with the longer spurs. He’d take envelopes and a pair of scissors from his shirt pocket and in five minutes he’d snipped off the best of the neck feathers and handed over a rand or two. His parting shot was often, ‘I will be back’. I’d see them in the rear view mirror as we left, staring incredulously at the money they had just earned for a couple of feathers – and no doubt hoping he would be back!”
“Mark and I frequently fished the Holsloot River and along the road we passed close by a number of farms. We often stopped at
He was recognised as a consummate expert steeped in the tradition of gentlemanly conduct on the water, coupled
original version Original RAB tiedTVN by Tony Biggs www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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with a deep respect and appreciation of nature and living things. He was only too willing to share his vast, intuitive knowledge and techniques.
Fifty years later three fly fishers, Fred Steynberg in Rhodes in the North Eastern Cape, Leonard Flemming in Stellenbosch and Peter Brigg in Durban developed their own patterns after realising that wolf spiders are taken avidly by trout.
It is said that he will be remembered forever for his gentle dexterity and control of his split cane rod, an irresistible presentation of the fly, adjusting his cast for any situation, gently coiling the fly line in the palm of his hand and playing and landing the fish.
But Mark Mackereth was the first. His role in closing a chapter on the past, popularising the upstream dry fly and in inspiring a new generation of fly fishers who were, in their own right, to impact massively on the evolution of South African fly fishing and fly tying, deserves recognition. His ashes were scattered on his beloved Smalblaar stream.
An entry in Piscator, journal of the Cape Piscatorial Society dated 29 November 1974 aptly sums up this fly and its creator: “Smalblaar – Boundary to weir pool. Eight rainbows. One of 1lb, two of 12 oz. and five of about 8 oz. on a much used Caribou Spider not changed although bitten by very many undersize fish.” www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
As Pieter Cronje fellow member of the Cape Piscatorial Society put it: “Such a mentor original version Original by Tony Biggs comes butRAB oncetied in aTVN lifetime.” 54
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Fred’s Wolf Spider
“The black Wapsi body – which has a tortoise-shell shape - is tied as an extended body at the bend of size 14 to 16 fine wire sedge hook such as the Tiemco 206 BL, the Grip 14723 BL, the Gamakatsu C13U or the Varivas IWI T-2000 Terrestrial. To make the fly more visible a white or brightly-colored post is tied in slightly behind the hook eye to provide the support for the partridge and dun rooster hackles which will be wound around it, parachute style. This stands out and contrasts nicely with the black foam behind it. I use translucent ethafoam packaging material although, it could substituted for a brighter material. The thorax of the spider is lightly dubbed with black or b ro w n C D C d u b b i n g t o a d d t o t h e buoyancy of the fly. A black or dark dun cock under hackle, is first tied in around the post. This hackle should be sparse – no more than two wraps – and the fibres should be just longer than the gape measurement of the hook.
Fred says “This imitation of the wolf spider combines the movement and seductive speckling of a parachute partridge hackle, with the gleam of a black or blue dun hackle tied beneath it to strengthen and support it. The idea of a small, stiff rooster hackle behind a bigger one is attributed to Dr William Baigent of Northallerton in England who died in 1935 aged 71. Baigent started using these flies around 1875 on Yorkshire streams and his idea was to create an illusion of movement. “The term halo hackle was used as far back as in the November 1984 issue of the British magazine, Trout Fisherman. It was in an article by John Ketley called, “Tyings to Test a Saint”. Ketley had modified Baigent’s idea by winding the smaller hackle through the bigger one to reinforce it.
original version Original RAB tiedTVN by Tony Biggs www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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“The legs of the spider are imitated with a brown Hungarian Partridge hackle tied in by the butt and sparsely wrapped with a single turn around the base of the post and it is necessary to tie it in with the shiny side of the feather facing upwards so that the hackle tips droop enticingly into the water. The legs
should be about 15 to 20mm long. “The most salient feature of this pattern is a parachute halo hackle which combines a small rooster hackle beneath and supporting a partridge hackle, a development which I attribute to Tom Sutcliffe.”
Leonard’s Wolf Spider
After first observing a trout take a wolf spider, I came up with an imitation that I found to be exceptional and equally successful on streams throughout the country."
Leonard says "I recall an incident while fishing a small Cape stream during the late season. Settled next to a decent pool I found myself fumbling in my fly box after a 10 inch rainbow had refused my fly. After selecting a fly, I watched the pale figure of the trout glide to and fro in the current while tying the fly to my tippet. A movement to the right of the inlet caught my eye and almost instantly the trout leapt clear of the water and grabbed in midair a long-jawed water spider that was dangling by its silken thread from a streamside bush. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
”This Wolf Spider pattern suits my criteria of a good dry fly; it sits low in the water (due to the parachute), yet it drifts well and is sufficiently buoyant to serve as an indicator fly with a nymph suspended beneath it. It is highly visible on the water and imitates the natural well, but also everything in general. While some arachnid imitations utilise rubber legs, I find that pheasant tail is a better choice because they hold their shape and original version do not clump Original RABtogether." tiedTVN by Tony Biggs Return to contents
The abdomen is black foam covered with thin layer of hare’s ear dubbing, with Egyptian goose (or partridge) chest feather fibres folded over the top (tied in first, at the bend of the hook). Eight pheasant tail fibres make up the legs tied behind and in front of the parachute post with two pairs each side facing backwards and forwards,
respectively. The post is Egyptian goose chest feather fibres or white yarn. The hackle is formed by using a single grizzly hackle feather (wrapped in first), followed by a brown hackle. (Wet the base of the post with varnish before spinning the hackle around the post).
Pete’s Spider Peter says “Anatomically, the wolf spiders, Lycosidae, like most spiders, are fused into two sections, the cephalothorax and abdomen, and joined by a small, cylindrical pedicel. They are air-breathing and unlike other insects they do not have antennae and no muscles in their eight legs which are operated instead by hydraulic pressure; pretty neat, but that is one aspect you won’t need to imitate. Spiders rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms and are
found worldwide except in Antarctica. They have become established in nearly every ecological niche around the globe with the exception of air and sea. “All of this got me thinking about creating a spider pattern of my own and acknowledging the limitations of the dexterity and nimbleness my ten thumbs, simple seemed to be the answer. And, I have found that the fish are not particularly fussy about size, number and length of the appendages. In fact it seems that bigger is better and the longer the legs, the more attractiveRAB they tied are TVN toby ourTony original piscatorial friends. version Original Biggs Return to contents
“What I wanted was a fly that would be easy to tie, durable, float well and low on the s u r f a c e , h a v e a d i s t i n c t i v e p ro f i l e recognisable through familiarity as something that exists in stream environments, something that has been eaten and enjoyed before. My first attempts were a little messy and quickly lost their shape. Being such an important element of the design, it was back to the drawing board."
our waters and similar in profile to the Wolf Spider. They feed by sensing vibrations of struggling prey and chasing after it by running across the water." “I have been through a number of variations and materials based on experience, and without compromising the profile, but to find the best combination to improved durability. The front legs of Pheasant tail or similar feather fibres have always been the weak point usually being damaged after a few strikes or loose their position. I have settled on a pinch of squirrel tail hairs in a fan shape over the hook eye as a good substitute. This variation has proved it’s worth and is far more durable. Experience has shown that this latest variation is no less effective at fooling trout than the original with its feather fibre front legs."
“My variation of the Wolf Spider or as Tom Sutcliffe called it, Pete’s Spider, in his wonderful new book, Yet More Sweet Days, is also a good searching pattern even when the fish are being less than cooperative. Importantly though, it has an easily recognisable prey profile and can be effectively fished anywhere on the stream, although experience shows that drifting the fly along the edges of the banks and below over-hanging vegetation where they are most likely to first end up on the water brings the greatest success. It is also worthwhile to twitch the rod tip occasionally and skate the fly over the surface to imitate the behavior of another fairly common aquatic species of spider (Dolomites), the Fishing Spider found in
For detailed tying instructions to tying Pete’s S p i d e r, see https:// callofthestream.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/ tying-the-wolf-spider/
original version Original RAB tiedTVN by Tony Biggs www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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Blonde Flashers Rob Pretorius If you are as fly fishing crazy as I am, you will understand the following article. This is a tale of my introduction to the seductive, sexy little blonde flashers, otherwise known as Natal Yellow Fish or Scalies. If you go down to a stretch of river holding these beauties, you are sure to find them flashing their blonde sides as the African sun catches their reflective scales. Each one tempting you as they feed on nymphs close to the bottom of the river bed. I was very late to the game with these indigenous fish. Being a self proclaimed trout snob, living in an area with some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the country, it took me a while to target other species. But now that I have branched out no finned blonde beauty is safe...
I was incredibly lucky to be introduced to scalies by one of the best in the fly fishing community with a wealth of competition fishing experience. I jumped at the invitation from Shaun Dickson to fish for these indigenous blonde beauties. Like going to a strip club for the first time it helps to go with a friend who is more experienced and knows the ropes. I was in Durban visiting family at the time and they understand my fly fishing obsession so it wasn’t difficult to get away for the day to satisfy my fishy fetish. I drove through to Shaun’s house in Hillcrest and left my car there. We jumped into his car, dubbed the “Bunny”, and were off for my first blonde flasher experience at a secret spot with the expert.
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What more could a person want? It didnâ€™t take us long to get to the spot because of the good conversation and Coke (the cool drink) fuelled drive. We met up with another inexperienced Scaly fisherman, Josh Hackland. Both Josh and I were not really geared up for this style of fishing, we both had hopelessly short rods, flies that were too fat and light and no two tone indicator mono for Euro Nymphing. Shaun to the rescue. He helped us construct appropriate leaders and gave us a bunch of his beautifully tied euro nymphs (which were like cash in a strip joint, simply priceless). The blondes were flashing all around us. I couldnâ€™t contain myself. It was like being in heaven surrounded by these beautiful fish. The trouble now was trying to cast these heavy nymphs and getting them down to drift past the blondes. I really battled to get www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
these flies to go where I wanted them to. It was like not being able to get that ten rand note to the thong you are looking at, and probably one of my most frustrating fly fishing moments. Luckily, Shaun was patient and like a good pimp to these blondes, he knew exactly what they needed to get them to cooperate. After some advice and a pep talk from Shaun I plucked up the courage to approach these flashers. This time I had success! I hooked into a beauty at the head of a long pool and my tiny 3wt click paw reel screamed with ecstasy as the line peeled off. When I eventually brought her to the net I was over the moon with my first scaly, she was beautiful and bigger than I could have hoped for. After breaking my Scaly virginity there was no stopping me. It was like a fishing orgy and we fished late into the dark, even getting a few on dries. 61
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After that first blonde flasher experience I went on to try and improve my skills. I attended at Scallie clinic at Highover on the Umkomass near Richmond hosted by the Natal Fly Fishing Club. To really make the most of the trip Jayson van Skylkwyk and I came to the venue a day early from Underberg to try get some more fishing in. We had a blast catching small Blonde flashers almost everywhere we cast our euro nymphs even had a few threesomes aka double ups. We tend to fish two nymphs one on a short tag coming off the main line with a double surgeons knot and another fly on the main line at the point. These greedy fish would often eat at the same time as each other and you would end up hooking and fighting two fish at the same time. After some great fun on the water we made our way back to Highover to await the other participants of the clinic that was being presented by Jacques Marais from Hunter www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Fisher Safariâ€™s. Jacques was a true magician on the water managing to find fish in the most unlikely of places. In the evenings we had lectures from Jacques and he took all my annoying questions in his stride. We looked at leader construction, fishing techniques, river craft and of course flies. My buddy Mike had come up from Durban to attend the clinic and after dinner the three of us sat and tied flies for the next day and drank way to much beer. The next day we put some of our new found knowledge to the test and had even better results than the day before. We also managed to catch larger fish as I like to think our river craft and moves with the blonds improved from Jacques coaching. It was a great weekend and Mike, Jayson and I improved our skills and met some great fly fishing folk. 62
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The lure of these blondes never seemed to go away. So whenever the conditions were not conducive to catching trout (high water temps, low rivers etc) I would make a plan to fish for them. This meant a trip to the Umkomaas, which was fun but a bit of a drive and not convenient for a day trip. I was lucky enough to have a chance meeting with a local Underberg farmer, letâ€™s call him farmer Brown for the story. He told me that on the stretch of the Umzimkulu that flowed through his property you could catch both blondes and trout, as the natural barrier (waterfall) to the blondes was upstream. This sounded too good to be true but then it got even better, he invited me to come fish for them when I got a chance.
to get to the quarry. After finding the spot without getting lost, which is a testament to his directions more than my navigating skills, I rigged up and had a fantastic time euro nymphing for these indigenous beauties. The fish to me looked slightly different from the ones I had caught before and as the drainage systems are distinct from each other and do not meet before they reach the ocean this makes sense. I have been back a few times to this special spot to try fooling these blondes. I have even managed to catch a few trout in-between the Blondes. Itâ€™s a strange thing when trout become bycatch to a trout snob... I have a very understanding girlfriend, almost all of my time off I use for something fishing related. Whether it is fly fishing, fly tying or fly rod building or my actual work trying to keep hatchery trout alive it is all fishy. This trip away was no different. I managed to convince her that we should go to Highover for a weekend away, of course this was because I wanted to see my beloved Blondes but I did not make that obvious, she knew of course. This trip was a little different than normal, the water was clean and cold, we had the whole of Highover to ourselves and there were new managers running the place and the stay was fantastic.
Of course I took him up on this and fished the upper most reaches of the Umzimkulu where the Blondes can get to. It is a truly beautiful stretch of river that you can only access via a labyrinth of farm gates, a strenuous hike into the gorge and a scramble down a small slot in the rock walls. On my first trip to find these blondes of different lineage, I went alone as Farmer Brown was not available to join me. He sent me screen shots of google earth maps on which he had drawn the route to get to his private joint for blondes. It was like following a treasure map
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There is a good fishing spot in the tribal land above Highover where a pump house has been erected on a deep pool that you can drive up to. So we took a drive there to start fishing. As we got there we came across two Indian guys from Pietermaritzburg bait fishing. They had been fishing there all morning and had very limited success only two small blondes in their keep net to show for their efforts. I made contact with the two www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
fishermen to see how friendly they were and if I could join them at the spot. Like most fisherman they were friendly, shared some fishing stories and spoke of massive fish they had caught there before. After feeling them out for a bit I asked if I could fish next to them. They had no problem with that but you could tell they had very little faith in the effectiveness of flies to catch Blondes. their faces. 64
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Catch and release is a strange concept to most and if you think about it a bit from an outsiders perspective it just seems silly. I know my girlfriend, a blonde flasher herself, finds the idea of catch and release a bit cruel. Their excitement evaporated as the valley heated up and I caught small blonde after small blonde under their noses. Figuring that the blondes willingness to eat my flies was starting to make the other fishermen feel a bit left out in the cold, I moved up river to give them their pool back. Here the fishing slowed down considerably, from my experience this tends to happen when the water is cool. Blondes are warm water fish and become less active when water temperatures are down. They retreat to the deeper pools until the water temperatures have improved.
normally with distaste. Partly I think this is due to the Eurocentric mindset that was held at the time and how man endeavoured to tame the African landscape to resemble more of what he was accustomed to in his home country. Blondes were not easily caught using the fishing techniques of the time because of the way they feed compared to trout. The status bestowed to trout was not the same for other fish so the Blondes were seen as inferior. Of course the aim has also changed. In the old days most fly fishermen kept fish for the pan, Blondes are very bony and do not taste great in my opinion so this would negatively impact their perceived value. Today the Natal Blonde is a prized freshwater game fish that readily takes flies and puts up a great fight on fly tackle. I still have trout as my mistress but Blondes are a close second and might therefore be my side chick (to use a modern equivalent). But because I see her so infrequently, she would more likely always be... just a cheeky flasher.
What I find really interesting about these fish is how, over time, the fly fishermenâ€™s perspective of them has evolved. I have been reading some old texts about fly fishing and if they do mention the Blondes it is
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Tiffindell Ski Resort Eastern Cape Highlands by Andrew Allman
Up where we belong… I recall the opening lyrics of the song made famous by Rocker Legend Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes: Who knows what tomorrow brings In a world, few hearts survive All I know is the way I feel When it is real, I keep it alive… Up we go …
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Driving along the gravel road leading up Carlisleshoek Pass (2563 m) and leaving behind the small hamlet of Rhodes, I am overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. It is kaleidoscopic and leaves one feeling uplifted yet somehow betwixt and between.
and green. I am happy that the rains have finally come but wish they would cease or even abate for at least a week. There is also the WTA festival later in the month but by then, I will probably have left. Water seems to leak from every crevice and cranny and there is one magnificent waterfall that stands out for all to see. My wife, ‘oos’ and ‘aahs’ in appreciation as she points out each splendour for me to see. There are a few causeways and they all have running water about ankle deep covering the crossing and I shudder to think of the consequence of yet more rain…
Both grateful and relieved at the same time. Relief to be here, after the 10hour trip down from Johannesburg with an overnight in a nameless hotel in Aliwal North and then the morning drive through to Barkly East, onto Rhodes and beyond. To have finally made it to the Eastern Cape Highlands after more than a year of planning that saw this trip postponed time and again. Awesome to be high in the mountains with no plastic bags bordering the roadside and rivers. Yet, feeling a little blue at sight of the turbulent waters below, darkened from the run- off from the recent rains and with the prospect of more bad weather in the offing; I ponder going home with little or no reward for my efforts.
I wonder whether it is wise to drive up on my own or to catch the shuttle to the Resort from Rhodes. Too late, I am at the base of the steep incline with little or no cell phone reception. I consider that the damp road conditions can make the pass more difficult to handle than in drier periods. My wife reads my thoughts and becomes quiet. There is a sign that advises one to walk to the top, if difficulties are encountered… a telephone number is provided...
Peering out the side window of my ’All Wheel Drive’, I marvel at the unbridled space and the sense of tranquillity that it brings. It is the month of March and everything is so lush
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I swallow hard and the Diff. lock automatically clicks into play as we slowly move up the meandering route until we safely reach the crest. The reward on the top is of one of the most glorious natural sights in all of South Africa.
and a zest for life. It is clear to see that Tiff runs in his blood and his passion is what makes the difference to this little gem of a resort, perched high up on the slopes of Ben Mc Dhui 3001m. One only has to flit through the gallery pics of an accommodation site, featuring Tiff to see the beaming face of Maarten holding aloft a monster trout; to understand his second passion in life.
The outlook here is picture postcard perfect and the silence is palpable.; an expanse of green, dotted with a myriad of red, white, yellow and orange flowers. It is simply too beautiful for words and the pics may not do it justice.
I am a very average fly fisher who gains most pleasure in relating my experiences to you through these pages, and hopefully imparting some jewel of a tip(pet) that may indeed benefit you when you do decide to visit one day. I happily accept the offer of Maarten, a reserve Springbok fisherman, and WTA guide, to act as my buddy during my stay at the Tiffindell Ski and Alpine Resort. I reason that one of us has to catch whilst the other captures the moment.
I stop to take it all in, breathe deeply and at the same time metaphorically, pat myself on the back.
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
Tiffindell Ski Resort I am here as a guest of Tiffindell Ski Resort, the highest resort in all of SA at 2720m and my host is non- other than the amiable Maarten Den Heyer, the General Manager. Maarten is a bear of a man who could easily wrestle the Yeti if it were found in these parts, whilst he has the skill to handle and revive a freshly- caught trout. Maarten is best described as having a humble personage
â€œSki resortâ€? my mind screams, is this not a fly fishing experience? I rationalise that snow skiing may be the greater attraction in the winter months of June, July and August when they do have snow here (and they make it, if there is not enough). But this is March, after all and one of the better months in which to fish.
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Aside from skiing, guests also come here for the eight mountain passes that traverse the region; to enjoy relaxing family times together with great accommodation and dining, alpine fresh mountain air, hiking , grass skiing, quad biking, botany, birding and some of the best high altitude still water fly fishing in all of SA. We all know what clear, unpolluted, well oxygenated water does for trout …. and if you don’t know, then please join me on this trip, whilst I show you all that I may…
light and awesome views with many doublepaned glass windows to ward off the biting cold. Gas is piped into the chalet via wall heaters and there is a toilet/basin and shower on ground level. Under the stairs there is a tumble drier and washing machine and loads of space for storing hiking, fishing kit and any other equipment that you may bring along. Upstairs you have the master bedroom which is en’ suite with a bath and another room with two single beds. We decide to eat out on the first night and the pub serves up a great three course meal that would not be out of place in any of the eateries that I frequent. The restaurant itself is closed, only open in the busy months. The staff are friendly and have a ‘can do’ attitude, which is such a pleasing change from the city that I feel I must mention it here.
We are booked into a self- catering alpinechalet which is equal in standard to any 4/5 ‘star’ graded establishment, that I have previously visited. Our accommodation is a wood framed double story with the lower section for common usage and the upper for sleeping. The lounge and dining easily seats 6 adults. There is a TV having a few selected channels but not DSTV. (If you want that you need to go to the pub in the lodge where there is a big screen). The kitchen is well appointed and the whole area breathes in
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It rains during the night and in the morning the three resort dams, are the colour of last night’s vegetable soup. I try a few casts in the early morning with sod- all luck.
As my vehicle has now stopped working, Maarten and all his merry men gather around and try to find the source of the problem. With modern day vehicles being as they are; and especially with autos governed by sophisticated computers, I begin to feel rather www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
gloomy at the prospect of getting safely off the mountain. Maarten suggests we try some fishing, possibly as a means to cheer me up and we set off for Loch Ness, a WTA governed still water. 73
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back into the water. Loch Ness Maarten is first on the board and happily records the only score for the day with a nice 5lb Rainbow cock trout. Mike and I are thrilled for him but determined to challenge that score the next day.
The rain has stopped and the sediment begins to settle in the late afternoon cool, but water is still flowing profusely into this large lake that is surrounded by mountains with many streams flecking the slopes. We walk through waterlogged grass to get to the water’s edge and then wade on in, in order to cast over the thick weed. You need more than a fair decent cast to get into a deep channel .No waders are necessary for Maarten as he goes in ‘boots en al’. Fishing conventionally from the dry of the wall is not recommended as the weed is quite prolific and should you indeed hook up, then you will most likely lose the fight through trout seeking refuge in the weed. We are joined, lakeside by Mike Visser the LAN Manager for the resort who is also a dab hand at fly fishing.
We end the day with drinks and snacks served from the back of the bakkie as we swop fishing stories fortified with our suitable liquid refreshment .I can’t think of another place that I would rather be at this particular time, with my fishing companions and the sun going down over the mountain, it surely does not get better than this. We head back to the pub for a wind- medown and another scrumptious three- course meal which strangely champions a speciality trout dish. I reflect on my many strikes of the day that heralded absolutely nought and almost feel justified in enjoying the tasty flesh, perfectly baked in the ovens below and by a chef who has been with the resort for 20 years or more.
We all have a go, but agree that it is my role to capture the moments on film and to put words to the activities that we are experiencing. I follow Maarten, as he pushes through all manner of obstacles to circuit the lake in his quest to find a most suitable lie from which to execute his plan. He suggests that I follow him with a rig that is made up with a large Mrs Simpson, dressed with all it’s razzle dazzle; atop a much smaller but yet very visible nymph. The dropper could change depending on any hatchings, bearing testimony to what works and what doesn’t.
I go to bed nicely satisfied ; but I can’t sleep for worry, and toss and turn at the thought of my confounded car, inoperable and stuck up on the mountain .With the prospect of more thundershowers on the weekend, I play out the options that are open to me . Final Day Our time in the mountains is cut short as we decide to get down to Rhodes before the bad weather really sets in. Maarten jumpstarts the vehicle which sets off an array of different coloured lights. Turning the ignition springs the engine into life and some of the lights remain on, others disappear and few new ones light up the dashboard. We make it safely down and arrive in Rhodes and whilst still leaving the engine on, I bid Maarten farewell and press on to Barkly East.
The takes are massive, savage thuggery actually; resembling a recent video where a leopard is seen snatching meat from the closed jaws of a crocodile. Unless you were fully conscious you ended up with a broken hook, tippet or worse. We were all using light tackle and an unwritten rule has passed amongst the three of us, to persevere with that and not change down to a lower(X) tippet/leader strength. It was up to the fisherman’s expertise to hook, net and release these monsters, unharmed Return to contents
There the vehicle finally dies a death.
We arrange a tow to Aliwal North, stay overnight in the same non- descript lodgings as for the downward trip and then leave early, the next morning for the car dealer in Bloemfontein. My wife and I leave the car there and hire a vehicle to take us back to Joburg. Final Analysis Tiffindell is well worth a visit. Next time I will consider the shuttle option especially in poor weather conditions and then one you can really â€˜let goâ€™ in very beautiful surroundings .The accommodation we stayed in is luxury and there are so many options available that you need to check this out with the resort itself. If it is fishing that interests you, then I would suggest you go for around 4x tackle unless you are feeling kind or lucky. Nymphing seems to be the way to go but I would consider a float tube as the weed can be a hassle. Possibly the WTA could do something to make the weed less
of a challenge? Whether it be fishing or skiing or just plain relaxing, the staff will surely make your stay a pleasant one and I would use Mike or Maarten as a fishing guide. Maarten has been with Tiff for a little over 22 years and is a qualified alpine skier, professional ski instructor and is qualified in the art of snow-making. He wants his guests to enjoy and have fun and leads a fine team, by way of example. I am indeed grateful to all those at Tiff for making my experience so memorable. This fishing was good and the people were great. I recall the lyric made famous by the late Joe Cocker and am thankful to all those whom I met along the way. I get by with a little help from my friends
Will I return? Do fish swim?
SAFFA B-NATIONALS BARKLY EAST ANDREW "OTTER" CLARK
A very successful B National event was held in Barkly East from the 12th to the 15th of February 2020. We had a lot of rain the week before and many of the rivers were not fishable. Barkly East however is a natural beauty with a lot of available water and we always have something to fish. Two days before the event we were still changing beats and rivers. The Barkly East Angling Society has over 450km of water to choose from and there is something for everybody. You can catch five different species of fish in one day. We have rainbow and brown trout, small and large mouth yellowfish and the mudfish in our rivers. You can decide what you want to fish for and what type of fishing you feel like; dry fly, euro-nymphing or old school streamers in water that ranges from easy to very technical. A total of two thousand and forty eight fish were caught by fifty five anglers in three days of competition comprising five sessions of three hours each session. The rivers fished were the Saalboom, Vaalhoek, Ruitjisvlakte, Karenmelkspruit and the majestic Kraai River. The Kraai lived up to its name as everybody kraaied (cried) because it was so full and dirty.
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Wednesday evening was the opening ceremony at the local golf club. This was the base camp for the whole event. Everybody got together there every morning and had supper every night after a wonderful days fishing in our area.
and pull him around where ever he wanted to go. Luckily they breed them big in our area. Thursday was about serious fishing and I won my sessions and placed well. Due to the time you spend with your group traveling and fishing personal ambition fades away and a fishing fellowship evolves amongst the competitors. Friendships are made and we will always look forward to meeting up again. Lunch packs are eaten under trees in the most beautiful settings and laughter echoes down the valleys as fishing stories are told.
Thursday morning was hectic as everybody needed to be sent out to their beats. I had the honour and privilege of fishing with a disabled guy in my group. Douggie Wessels from WP has fished national events before, but was never allowed to fish a river session due to safety reasons. The Barkly East Angling Society saw this as a challenge and accommodated him the whole weekend. He got to fish every session on the rivers and never blanked once.
Friday and Saturday are more about fellowship with your new friends and offering encouragement to the few that are struggling. Every night flies are swapped and advice is given to each other over a few beers and a couple of Jagermeisters. After sessions a few beers and biltong next to the river with the local
I have not seen a guy enjoy himself so much in a long time as he caught wild trout and yellowfish out the river from his wheel chair. A local, Cameron Cronje, became his personal assistant and had to carry, wheel www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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farmers represented the sort of hospitality that not many people could comprehend.
We had a great turnout and it was a great event. Honours in positions four through eleven were as follows: Gauteng North 2, Western Province, KZN, Gauteng North 1, Mpumalanga 1, individuals, Central Gauteng and then Mpumalanga 2. The Barkly East Angling Society with the Eastern Cape were privileged enough to host the junior national event in September last year. The Czech team was here and members caught their first yellowfish on fly. Those kids can teach us a lot about fishing. The tournament was a huge success and a total of nine hundred and eight fish were caught. On just the first day of fishing all five species of fish were recorded.
The local Eastern Cape first team won gold on their home waters. Gauteng North thirds took silver and the Eastern Cape seconds won bronze. Eleven teams took part and a fantastic time was had by all.
The A Nationals will be held in Barkly East in March of 2021. We look forward to accommodating them and sharing our beautiful waters and area with all of the teams and their supporters.
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WEED EATERS: CUT TO THE CHASE Terry Babich Ponders Grass Carp I have been chasing grass carp in the Vaal dam for more than ten years now.
amount of food in the water for carp and cats by dropping more insect and seeds in the water.
These fish seem to have a bad reputation, maybe even more so than my usual quarry, the catfish. I don’t think it is all doom and gloom as so many seem to think. There is a lot of well known documentation about how they are used to maintain water quality in polluted dams. Years back municipalities used to stock them in their dams on a regular basis to maintain a good water quality.
The other way grass carp feed is to pull the roots of plants out of the ground. This method most definitely makes more food available for other fish species. Carp and cats can be seen feeding side by side with grass carp. Again, just bear in mind that this is only when water levels are on the rise and only when the grass has had chance to grow after the winter die back. If you had to check out these dams at the end of winter before the rains come you will become very much aware of the fact that they are primarily devoid of grass. So, again, a bit of a blank as far as competing for food is concerned. I don’t know of any other fish in our system that eats grass.
Let’s look at this only in terms of large dams that now have healthy populations of grass carp in them. So, to be clear, we are not talking rivers here. Rivers are a different kettle of fish all together. The biggest concern in many people’s minds may be that they eat all the grass that holds the food for other species of fish that don’t eat grass. The irony of this point of view is that Vaal Dam, Bloemhof, etc. only really have grass on rising water levels and there are normally no water grasses present in these dams. So not really a valid excuse. Are grass carp really competing for food sources? Doesn’t look like it. In all the years that I have been fishing these dams I can’t actually say that a lot of fish feed in the grass. Carp and cats, sure thing, but other species? You really don’t see them in the shallow water.
In the colder months or when the water hasn’t risen sufficiently to create feeding pasture for grass carp, what do they feed on and how is it that a river fish that are not suited for dam living and breeding are thriving in our dams? We need to start looking at what most people forget when it comes to grass carp feeding habits. My belief is that they also feed a lot on algae, something that is also well documented. This is a very, very important issue because our dams are so full of nitrates from sewage and farm fertiliser that washes into them that the levels of algae are unnaturally high. Global warming also aggravates this situation. This is where grass carp have played a huge role maintaining our water quality, or at least the little we still have.
Do grass carp therefore compete with carp and cats? I think it is actually the other way around. Grass carp pull and basically mow the grass down and it could be argued that by doing this they actually increase the www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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I can clearly remember that years back, in the heat of December, we would often encounter green algae so thick that our boat motor would cut out. With the increase of nitrates and global warming this should have gotten worse but somehow it didnâ€™t and for many years the situation actually improved. Do you think that grass carp may have had something to do with it? Well I believe that they did, both directly and indirectly.
The situation was directly improved by virtue of the fact that they feed on algae. Obviously. Now the indirect influence. Very few people know that the moggel make up 60% to 80% of the fish biomass in some of those dams. What does this have to do with grass carp you might ask? I have noticed a distinctive difference in how catfish behave and feed over the years and I believe this is primarily because they have changed their main food source and now feed on grass carp, allowing the moggle to feed on algae.
Anton Bakker releases a bus www.saflyfishingmag.co.za www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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But, here is the strange thing since the introduction of grass carp. The dams have flourished so much so that catch returns have increased hugely from thirty-five years or so ago when anglers would not fish some of these venues in winter because it was guaranteed that you would have a low to almost zero catch rate. These days the winter catch rates are well worth a day out to fish these dams. In the last few years many clubs have lifted their ban on yellowfish, particularly in the case of the small mouth, where juveniles have become so prolific that they no longer see a need to eliminate them from competitions.
years. Here is another point to ponder. I have been flyfishing for catfish in the Vaal for many, many years and in a period of more than ten years only two largemouth were caught as by-catch while targeting catfish. In the last two years I have seen more than one hundred largies caught as by-catch. How do you explain that when we know that there has been massive degradation of their environment? The long and the short of it is that I honestly believe that had it not been for grass carp we would have reached a level of poor water quality so large that our government would have not been able to prevent or fix it. That said, I think grass carp have just bought us a little bit of time.
Whether or not we can prove this becomes an issue because we most certainly donâ€™t have any institutions conducting monitoring or studying fish sizes and numbers. The fact remains that even with worsening pollution the indigenous fish are actually doing better than in previous www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
As pollution levels rise we will soon be faced with a level of blue-green algae way 84
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Pharyngeal teeth of a grass carp beyond tolerable human levels and I believe there are parts of the blue-green algae that canâ€™t be removed by our current water purification methods. I am not sure exactly what those related substances are but I believe that certain blue-green particles are carcinogenic.
blatant enough to advertise there. Our dams are being plundered and people are eating fish that I believe would fail international standards for food suitable for human consumption. Watch this space while you laugh at me now, but the sewage is still going to hit the literal fan. This will be covered up by more political drivel for the next twenty years or more until itâ€™s beyond repair.
In recent month some anglers are reporting that once again fish numbers are dwindling. People, take note. Do yourself a favour and check Facebook out to see just how many illegally caught fish are being sold on social media - and that is just from those www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
On the good side, this abundance of grass carp has opened a door for some 85
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fantastic fishing opportunities to target huge fish on light tackle. The catches this past season have been outstanding. With the excessive amount of water been experienced, global warming and the increase in crazy out-of-season winds the dam levels are experiencing a greater level of fluctuation than I have seen before . The up-side of this is that the fishing has been off the hook. Unfortunately, so have the levels of blue-green algae and for the first time in my life I have experience serious health issues directly related to the algae.
not even taking their good eyesight and extreme sensitivity to noise into account! The current average size fish is between eight and ten kilograms. Wow? Yep, absolutely. This is why I have been targeting them. Sometimes you can be lucky enough to hook a fish this size that aerialises itself and jumps time after time after time. What a great sport fish Letâ€™s get out there and catch them and make sure to remove all gill nets while they are still illegal. Be aware that green algae turns blue when out of the water for a period of time so wash your gear off as this is very poisonous to animals, particularly cats and dogs, and can cause them to die within a few hours.
Grass carp have fragile teeth and chop the grass into tiny little bit to increase active digestive surface area in their long gut. This means that they are almost static feeders by nature and making targeting them on fly an extreme challenge to say the least. Thatâ€™s
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Branksome and Ed's Hopper Ed Herbst 'As we drew up at the entrance to the gorge section of the Sterkspruit on Branksome, a juvenile Jackal Buzzard stared down at us from its perch on a road sign just long enough for me to drop my window and photograph him with a long lens. Then the big bird opened its wings, lifted gracefully, swooped low over the river and was gone on the wind. Nice way to start a spot of fishing.' Tom Sutcliffe Yet More Sweet Days
The author with a custom-built Sage and a hopper-caught trout. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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“I’ve tried nice big hook sizes when big juicy hoppers were bounding onto the water’s surface, but the smaller sizes always outfished the bigger sizes. Number 14 seems to be the optimum size” Peter Leuver, Fur and Feather (Kangaroo Press, 1991).
in those rivers which flow through grasscovered valleys. About twenty years ago Ron and Robin Moore were fishing the upper Rifle Spruit on a farm they then owned in Barkly East. The way the light fell on a pool enabled them to see each trout clearly and they experimented with a variety of flies.
In April 1992, Dave Walker and Martin Davies announced the formation of the Wild Trout Society with an Expo in Barkly East.
The overwhelming favourite to which the fish came again and again was a Parson’s Glory, a New Zealand Matuka pattern with a buff body and wing and a tail of red hackle fibres.
For me, it was the first of many visits to the area and the start of enduring friendships, most particularly with Basie and Carien Vosloo of the farm Birkhall through which flows the Sterkspruit River.
Their assumption was that the fish took it for a “Barkly Hopper” the local grasshopper which displays a vivid scarlet flash on its legs and, in some species, in the wings.
Last year Basie’s sister, Rene retired from her life as a senior executive with Discovery Health and moved onto the neighbouring farm, Branksome, which is also on the Sterkspruit. She has converted the former milking and shearing building into five beautifully furnished rooms, one of which she named ‘Ed’s Hopper’. She has retained the façade and footprint of the original building which was constructed in the 1920’s from blocks of locally-quarried sandstone. The river is a five minute walk or drive away. You can find a tying sequence and a history of my hopper on Tom Sutcliffe’s Spirit of Fly Fishing website. In 1998 I fished the Sterksruit with one of the first Sage SPL O-weights to reach these shores and, in combination with my hopper, it proved successful on the Sterkspruit and, a day later on the Bokspruit. Two farm-hands and their dogs arrived and stopped to watch me. I asked if they would like some fish for the table and they nodded enthusiastically. Fishing the head of a large pool and hardly moving my feet I hooked seven fish and landed five in about a dozen casts with the hopper. I think the fly was so successful in the northEastern Cape because its shape and silhouette are instantly recognisable to trout www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
The rooms at Branksome Country 88
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I accordingly started adding two pieces of red micro krystalflash to the wings. In Australia and America, hoppers tied on #14 and #16 hooks have proved the most effective as Peter Leuver indicates in one of the anchor quotes to this article His experience is echoed by Ed Koch and Harrison Steeves in their book Terrestrials: A Modern Approach to Fishing and Tying with Synthetic and Natural Materials (Stackpole, 1994) “Many of us have found that the smaller hopper and cricket patterns out-produce the larger ones in many instances so don’t be afraid to try
some of these little guys in size 14 and 16. Immature forms are quite small and imitations can frequently be the fly choice of the day.” Lefty Kreh lay on the stream bed and got a friend to throw hoppers onto the water. What he noticed was that their hind legs pointed downwards and broke through the water surface. I mimicked this by combining two different thicknesses of rubber knotted together. My original hopper used foam rubber cylinders extracted from a yellow camping mattress with a leather punch.
A later version of Ed’s Hopper using camping mattress foam
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A trout caught on the original version of Edâ€™s Hopper
The ﬁrst version of Ed’s Hopper <ed on an Orvis Quick Sight foam body
My latest version uses stretched Chicone’s Fettuccine Foam. It is square and I used a J.Son extended body tool for the abdomen. I reduce the diameter of the foam rubber by stretching it before attaching it to the detached body tool. There are several YouTube videos explaining how to use this tool. I used UTC 70 denier thread to make the
abdomen but Veevus 16/0 or 18/0 Semperfli Nanosilk are alternatives. For the rest of the fly I use Uni-Caenis 20/0 which makes tying micro-patterns easy. I use it in a standard Tiemco adjustable arm bobbin and keep a Stonfo bobbin threader handy because you will break this thread from time to time.
Tying the mini Ed’s Hopper using an detached-body tool
The completed mini-version of Ed’s Hopper The legs combine mini 0.2 Veniard speckled rubber legs and the even thinner Hareline Daddy Long Legs. The hook is a #20 Dohiku HDN 302 – a wet fly hook much-used by our Protea anglers. You need a heavier hook to anchor top-heavy foam rubber patterns. If tied on light wire hooks they land on their sides.
The completed mini-version of Ed’s Hopper www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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Hoppers in Barkly East oBen feature red legs Gordon van der Spuy recently fished the Smalblaar stream and from a high vantage point watched a friend fish a hopper. The fly drifted unmolested until it was twitched which invariably triggered a rise.
This is particularly important on rivers like the Sterkspruit which has a high leaf load and where movement of the fly, either a lift with nymphs or a twitched dry fly, is accordingly imperative for success.
I saw something similar on a hot and humid day on the Smalblaar when the air was filled with a nuptial flight of ants. The water was carpeted with their bodies and I watched a small bass in a side eddy. It ignored dozens of ants floating overhead but only rose to those that were still struggling.
I wish Rene Vosloo every success on her new venture.
The Sterkspruit is very dear to my heart and I cherish the memories of the days when the response to my hopper was regular and, at times, sudden and startling.
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the shilton cr series next generation tough Terry Babich When it comes to products to review there are very few if any that lie as close to my heart as a Shilton reel. When I originally started flyfishing I was all about basic, functional tackle. This was my only criteria and if it was cheap, even better. But things went very awry when I won a reel as a prize and, although it was a very expensive name brand, I just couldn’t justify the value versus the functionality of the reel. No names no pack drills. On finding out that it was worth a lot of money I promptly sold it for a song, but here we go, I had already fallen in love with the idea of the Shilton CL reel’s functional, low maintenance, smooth drag system. So I purchased two reels, one for trout and as a general-purpose, all-round reel and the other for catfish. Catfish was going to be a test as I did this type of fishing a lot, ok more than a lot, somewhere around obsessively. Being the type of angler who fished from dusk to dawn and raced home, my tackle seldom found its way to the reel bag. I
probably lost the bag after day one. It wouldn’t be fair to say this reel had it hard; it was downright totally and absolutely abused from dusk to dawn. It is more than any reel should ever have to endure. Cleaning it was something I never had time for, especially as I have a reputation of breaking stuff instead of fixing it. After more than ten years of abuse and this reel was re-appropriated without permission. I was heartbroken. My favourite reel, more than eight thousand fish on the drag and never cleaned. I will never forget Tony Fritelli’s (the man behind the reel) face when he saw my reel. He is of course a man who pays more attention to detail than most, resulting in this amazing piece of equipment he has made. He was astounded and looked at it with total disbelief at how someone could disrespect his master piece so badly. But, for sure, this reel had endured. The reels are a locally manufactured and are of a quality I don’t believe to be superseded by any other its class. The highest grade imported materials are used and features unique drag systems. It has engineering tolerances I am sure the space shuttle would be proud of. This reel proved to be what Tony has aspired to in his initial design. In his words ”the design aspects we focused on were, in order of priority, functionality, durability, consistency, extremely low maintenance, good looks and a quality feel to each model”. This is absolutely what he achieved in those early models and just as much so in the newer models of today. Return to contents
Lately I have been using the new CR range. I must say that now practicality has gone out the window and its beauty alone is alluring. It just has a look, an appeal that you can’t help but want. The good old faithful closed drag system is still in place, a drag system smoother than any I know of, and there is no feeling of start-up inertia when getting it to move - it’s equal from beginning to end. There are never any wobbles on the reel, coating is durable and extremely even there is actually nothing I can fault at all on these reels.
The reel is extremely light and has a large arbor, great for a good line pickup for when you hook that big fish. Lately I have been using this reel to target fast moving grass carp. The large arbour and smoothness of the reel allow me to keep up with these easy to lose fish when they accelerate and this is something I don’t believe you will be able to do as adequately with any other reel. These reels are for life. I can’t see them lasting for any less than that.
Takes a pounding but still subdues big fish with ease www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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FOSAF NEWS Andrew Fowler A farming acquaintance recently wrote of an organisation that represented a seemingly noble cause, but in a way with which he didn’t perhaps quite align.
Invariably those organisations are stuffy and dour, be it by perception, reputation or in fact. People talk over a pint about how their levies disappear into some Ivory tower somewhere, and complain “what value do we ever see”. Most often their levies do cover overheads and activities that are difficult to define or value.
He said this: “Please take care as to where you throw in your lot in terms of membership. I realise that all you want to do is be a member of an organisation that fights all the big fights out there that might challenge your ability to farm both now and into the future.
But when your pastime is down on its luck, or threatened by some or other turn in the tide, then people rally to the cause. They can do that by starting a competing organization (read: descend into petty politics), or they can do it by rallying behind the aforementioned “stuffy bunch”, and making it their own.
But remember this too please. Once you have paid your subs, please take the effort to stay informed. Hold your organisation responsible by making sure you agree with what they are doing. You don’t have to read the news all day. Just stay informed.
And when that threat has abated, organisations either peter out for lack of direction, or they survive and become stronger, having built their purpose around the threat, but while doing so, building a broad base of usefulness and value-adds.
Because remember, your organisation needs your opinion and input regularly, in order to make sure it represents you effectively. Go to AGMs. Read emails and news letters, and read the WhatsApp messages.”
And just as often, there is some coup that was thwarted, about which members know nothing, and the industry watchdog or representative body goes on as an unsung hero.
Those words resonated with me. They resonated because note that at no point does he say “resign” or “don’t join”. In fact, what he is saying is “get involved”.
What on earth does this have to do with flyfishing?
In just about any industry or sport or endeavour, you encounter, there exists an organisation that represents that body of people and to whom subs are paid. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
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