AFRICAâ€™S ORIGINAL FLYFISHING MAGAZINE
officiaL Magazine of fosaf NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 VOl. 32 NO. 169
CONTENTS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 Editorial — Andrew Mather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 The usual editorial guff and a little bit more First Bite — Andrew Savs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 A regular witty column on all things flyfishing and way beyond Hyenas & Trout — Grant Richardson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Adventures shared while fishing on Mount Kenya Yellows in the Reeds — Andrew Mather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 Fishing the Orange, Vaal and Riet rivers Community on the Water — Andrew Savs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Getting to know the AmaHlubi Adventure deep in the Cederberg — Aleks Andjeloplj . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 Fishing for Clanwilliam yellows in crystal clear waters Feathered Friends & Flyfishing — David Weaver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Watching birds will catch you more fish Bushveld Born — Craig Pappin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 Targeting yellows in Mpumalanga My First Fly Part 4 — Peter Brigg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50 The next step in a five-part series Searching for Oom Sage — Gordon van der Spuy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 They don’t make them like this any more Catskill Fly Genius — Andrew Savs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62 Getting to know JP Gouws Women in Waders — Roxanne Stegen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68 Flourishing pheremones at the TOPS Corporate Trophy Challenge Club Directory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71 Details of South African flyfishing clubs
NAVIGATING THE MAGAZINE You will note that we make liberal use of hyperlinks both to pages within the magazine and to websites outside it. Links to external websites will enable you to further explore these topics. The idea is that you can navigate around the magazine from the contents page. Each item on the contents page is hyperlinked to the article in the magazine. This means you do not have to scroll through the entire magazine if you don’t want to — you can access specific articles merely by clicking on the link. We also want you to share the magazine with your friends on social media — just go to the share button when you’re looking at the magazine on issuu.com and you’ll be able to send a link via email, Facebook or Twitter. There is also a hyperlink on the bottom of each page linking you to our website where you can download back issues. Happy exploring!
Contents page photo by Andrew Mather
The Passing Scene — Jake Alletson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72 A tale of two KZN streams The Southern African Trout Fishers’ Creed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75 What we stand for and how we fish Catching Scalies in KZN — Tony Sharples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76 What we learned at the Natal Flyfishers’ Club River Clinic More Sweet Days — Tom Sutcliffe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80 A glipse of why you should pre-order Tom’s new book Get Yourself in Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82 We showcase gear with a difference CDC by Marc Petitjean — Andrew Mather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84 Not your usual book review Club Profiles: Bankberg Trout Fishers’ Club and Durban Fly Tyers’ Club . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86 A closer look at two of South Africa’s flyfishing clubs Fishing & Friendship — Brett van Rensburg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .88 2018 Commonwealth Flyfishing Championship The Truth will not be Washed Away — Chris Williams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .92 Killing the Vaal continued ... Mining Monsters — Peter Arderne . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95 Threats to the Mpumalanga Trout Triangle FOSAF News — Ilan Lax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96 Regular feature highlighting activities at the national flyfishing body Invasive — Ian Cox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .98 What does the word really mean? Practising to Deceive — Ian Cox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100 DEA’s lies have been revealed
WHO’S WHO 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. 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 3090233) Andrew Savides (081 046 9107) CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE: Jake Alletson, Aleks Andjeloplj, Peter Arderne, Peter Brigg, Stelios Comninos, Ian Cox, Alan Hobson, Ilan Lax, Andrew Mather, Craig Pappin, Grant Richardson, Andrew Savs, Tony Sharples, Roxanne Stegen, Tom Sutcliffe, Chris Williams, Gordon van der Spuy, Brett van Rensburg and David Weaver. LAYOUT AND PRODUCTION: Angler Publications CC e-mail: email@example.com 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.
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EDITORIAL HE new team running Southern African Flyfishing Magazine welcomes you to our second edition. Since our first edition went live on ISSUU we have watched the statistics with interest. Some of the results are worth sharing and you can see them further on in the magazine. The choice to publish electronically was clearly a good one and with all of the positive energy and many encouraging comments we are confident that the magazine will improve with each edition and grow into a favourite amongst our readers. The focus of this edition is on yellowfish. This is an indigenous species which has been likened to a freshwater bonefish. The elusive and rare Clanwilliam yellow is featured in the piece “Deep in the Cederberg” by Aleks Andjeloplj. Stillwater yellows abound in Sterkfontein and given the clarity of the water and the intelligence of this species one has to employ some unusual tactics to catch them. David Weaver shares his knowledge of bird behaviour around the yellows at Sterkfontein and how close observation can improve your catch rate. Scalies or Natal yellowfish abound in the rivers in KwaZulu-Natal and Tony Sharples reports on a recent Natal Fly Fishers Club Scalies Clinic hosted by Jacques Marais at Hella Hella. Catching yellows in the Lowveld is something that not too many people have accomplished and Craig Pappin tells us his story of catching them on the Sabie River. Sav’s Opening Bite even has a yellow fish flavour to it! No feature on yellows would be complete without a story of the yellows on the mighty Orange River. For this we go into the arid Northern Cape to the little town of Douglas and fish at Jacques Marais’ camp alongside the Orange River for carp, barbel as well as small- and largemouth yellows. Fishing there is as good as some of our nearby international destinations. For a change of pace Grant Richardson takes us in pursuit of pretty trout in the streams and lakes around Mt Kenya, while Jake Alletson continues his environmental series looking at rivers and his tale of two KZN streams. Our Women in Waders are out there making their presence felt as they challenge each other, the rest of the fairer sex and many men too, and in this issue they share their experiences at the TOPS Corporate Trophy Challenge. Then we cast back in time with Gordon van der Spuy’s story on one of the earlier pioneers of bamboo rod making — Oom Sage — and his pursuit of yellows in his home water the Schoonspruit. Into this mix we also throw a profile article on JP Gouws who is acclaimed for his perfect Catskill-styled dry flies. CDC fanatics would do well to get Marc Petijean’s new book, simply titled CDC; to quote Marc, “It is the final say on CDC flies.” Read the review elsewhere in this issue. On the subject of books we take a look at Tom Sutcliffe’s new book titled More Sweet Days, which will be published early next year. Ian Cox also updates us on the breaking news story that DEA have been less than truthful about the National AIS strategy that they have been using behind closed doors. Club news, FOSAF updates, tips and environmental news updates feature too — there is something in this edition for all. Flyfishing Magazine is all about sharing stories. If you have one to share contact the editors directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. Till next time Andrew Mather
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Confessions of a TROUT SNOB By Andrew Savs
E’D just got off the dirt and had turned onto the breathtaking pass down from the escarpment. A clearly satisfied Doc turned to us confidently and asked, “So, now what do you think about yellowfish?” “Lots of fun,” said the Supermodel a little unconvincingly. After a pause he tentatively added, “But they’re not trout.” The first smallmouth yellowfish that I ever hooked came late in a day that appeared to dawn for no other purpose than to drive an angler into a pit of existential misery. It was the sort of day where, if you were the last to return to base, you would find the rest of your party wandering about slowly and without any clear direction or simply sitting and staring into the campfire, their lips as tight as a West Coast oyster. The fish were there all right, in their numbers for all to see and cruising along, as is their habit, the edges of all things light and dark, deep and shallow, smooth and rippled. Find an edge and you’ll find a fish, regardless of the species. They’d swim by at rodpoking distance in groups of three or four with their body attitudes tilted slightly downward in obvious indication of their reluctance to feed and with the middle ray of their nearest pectoral fin extended in the general direction of whoever was standing looking at them through expensive polarised sunglasses. Yellowfish can be like that — miserable bastards. It was midday. We had walked many kilometres along the water’s edge testing ledges and scum lines that looked identical to every other ledge and scum line we had been testing since not long after sunrise. “Walking” in the Sterkfontein sense of the term is a sort of crouching, waddling shuffle. You keep your rod and hands down, make no sharp movements and basically do your best to behave like a rock. Crossfit my arse, this is torture. You see, there is a belief that may as well as well have been carved into granite by a god, handed to 6 • Return to contents
a bearded prophet, carried down a mountain and hardwired into the consciousness of every angler. It is a belief that states that if things are not working out for him all that he has to do is to walk a little further on. That he may pass other glum fishers who share the same belief and who are coming from the other direction occurs to neither group as paradoxical; they shrug, extend their arms and face their palms upwards, mutter about fronts and then each continue to head in the general direction of further from where they started. Not this angler. I found a tree a rod’s length from the water’s edge, flipped out an oval bit of foam and rubber, took off my pack and, with no sense of expectation, crouched down to wait for nothing to happen. And it did. For hours. I had my lunch under that godforsaken tree. I looked at some ants. I peed into their burrow just to see what they would do and then, feeling pretty rotten about doing that, I shared my energy bar with them. In disbelief and later in ambivalence I watched what appeared to be a migratory procession of fish passing within metres of where I stood. I scratched myself here-andthere lightly, and then a little more vigorously. I pulled out an errant nose hair. I sang songs to uplift myself and, as the third hour slipped past, I put my rod under my arm while I removed my sunglasses and attempted to rub from my eyes the familiar debilitating sting of sunscreen. The take announced itself in the simultaneous unfamiliar sounds of a large splash from the water, the zip-zip-zip of the clicker of the reel in my armpit and, a second later, the muted snap of the tippet and the bounce of the limp fly-line in the guides. I could’ve cursed and I might have screamed. When I drop a good fish I usually sound somewhere between a professional woman tennis player and an RSM. In this instance I just turned around, reeled the leader all the way in, muttered under my breath the single worst profanity that I could think of involving the mother of that yellowfish and a group of lonely sailors and walked the 8km back for a cold beer. “Yes, of course I’ve fished Sterkies,” I would later say, leaving out the part about standing in a pool of my own urine while duffing the only take of a weekend. I’m a fisherman and we’re expected to lie, even if only by omission. “Saw some cracker fish too,” I’d add in total truth but somewhat disingenuously. The “I can’t wait to get back” part was a total lie. Look, it’s pretty enough up there, but you can keep it. As it happened I did go back. Call it peer Join us on Facebook
pressure, but I capitulated, dutifully tied some foam to some hooks, bought a bigger water bladder for my pack and was on time when the mob arrived to pick me up. In order to not lower the morale of the group one needs to have a positive mindset with these things. I changed my viewpoint and focused on thinking of it as a great hike in breathtaking surroundings and, while I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to it, I could just about bear going along. We crested the hill and looked down on a small sandy bay. Three good yellows were in shallow water but were heading toward the depths. “Go, Doc!” somebody shouted to the lead man as he assumed the squat-shuffle and moved into position a little too hastily, dropping his backcast tight into the grass behind him and losing his fly. I saw my opportunity and broke into a squat-shuffle-run down the hill, stripping line off my reel and loading up my cast. The fish had turned and would be leaving the bay shortly. Still on the move, I managed a long cast and landed the fly half a metre ahead of the first fish. With a minimum of drama it swam up, looked at the fly, ate it and immediately changed my plans for a weekend of hiking. Although we went on to hook fantastic numbers of good fish, and landed a high proportion of those, on the way back I turned and added to the Supermodel’s opinion, “I agree, lots of fun, but they’re not a trout. I suppose that I’m just a trout snob.” I could go on to make my point. I could explain to you the sublime elation of a dry perfectly drifted in a tricky current to a nebbing brown. I could tell you about the acrobatics and aerobatics of a silver-bright rainbow hooked in a tight stream. I could go on. But just this morning over coffee as I watched the sun break thinly through a grey ceiling of clouds I heard the call of the first Piet-my-vrou. I wondered whether they come sooner to the coast than to Sterkies; something I’d need to investigate before we finalised a date. I thought about whether Goose would be tying up a “communal box” of his unsurpassed terrestrials for this year’s trip or whether I would need to pop out for some foam. The CDC and foam beetle that I tried last year showed some promise, but it needed a tweak. I did some arithmetic and determined that I needed to set at least a weekend aside to fill my meagre box. OB1 is back in the country and I wondered whether we were arranging the weekend to coincide with his visit. Word has it, you know, that the level is over the weir and that the yellows are on the move! Return to contents • 7
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REGULARLY heard stories from friends about how they pioneered the current flyfishing trips into the depths of Lesotho or guided clients between elephants in the Okavango for tigerfish. As I heard their stories, in the back of my mind I would always hope that one day I would experience something similar to their adventures. Getting funny rashes after wading around the Vaal definitely does not count as an adventure! Nor does getting dumped in the surf by a rogue wave on the north coast make for great stories. Thanks to my chosen profession I frequently have to travel around South Africa and up into Africa, and Kenya was next on the list. This was it — a chance to have my own experience!
After a few days of perusing Google for possible flyfishing excursions, I came across a company that specialised in hiking on Mount Kenya and also included a flyfishing package for targeting trout in the lakes and streams dotted around the mountain slopes. I got in contact with them and started planning the tour. My dates were in the beginning of September, in the middle of their dry season, which was per fect. The company director decided to plan my itinerary around hitting the two main lakes, namely Lake Ellis and Lake Michaelson, and the upper Nithi River in the Hinde Gorge. The lakes have been stocked with rainbows which sport the famous high altitude reddish-pink markings, while the streams have been stocked with browns. I landed in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where a driver was ready to pick me up, and we began the four hour, 210km drive to Chogoria Park Gate (2 950m above sea level). I was greeted by my guide, Jacob, andhis team of porters, and we had a quick lunch before starting the adventure. The first day’s hike was subdued — about 40 minutes with a visit to the park’s trout farm which stocks the surrounding area. The buildings and concrete dams are run down with little maintenance having been done and most repairs look improvised. The caretaker explained to me that the project had suffered in the past from a lack of funding, but that had
The author with a beauty.
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changed this year and they were able to restart the breeding program. As we left the trout farm we walked past a small stream that supplies water for the trout farm and Jacob asked if I wanted a quick fishing session before we headed for our first camp site. The stream was barely a metre wide and a foot deep, with crystal clear water at the bottom of a steep bank. As I peered over the edge I could see a few baby browns scatter to hide below the overhanging bushes. This was going to be challenging! I set up my Sage ESN 3-wt, attached a long leader with 6X tippet and tied on a small dry-dropper combo at the end of it. Crouching behind the bushes trying not to be seen, my first go produced nothing. Second go and I open the account with a beautiful baby brown. I took a quick picture and released the fish. After about 20 more minutes of trying to coax them out, with only one selfreleased fish, Jacob explained that we’d better get going to our camp site before it got dark,as this was a wild life park and predators come out at night. Jacob was not fibbing about the predators. That night the battle between the hyenas roaming around the camp site and my urge to use the toilet raged strong. Bladder control won. After a hearty breakfast — and a long period standing behind a tree — we proceeded on the two hour hike to Lake Ellis (3 400m above sea level).
Small stream heaven.
Looking down on Lake Michaelson.
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Camping out at Lake Michaelson.
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When we reached the lake I spotted an absolute submarine of a rainbow cruising about 30m out from the shore. I thought to myself that a 6-wt was not going to cut it if I hooked into that beast! We decided that I would first hit the upper Nithi and then come back for the evening hatch on Lake Ellis. It was a three kilometre hike to a pristine section on the Nithi. The river, actually more of a stream, was about two metres wide and about two feet deep in the pools, with bushy clumps of grass between large boulders on the banks. The pools were littered with skittish baby browns. I took advantage of the grassy banks and lobbed a size 16 Parachute Adams into the start
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of the pool, progressively working my way upstream, pool by pool. After two hours I had lost count of the browns I had caught, to the point that it was getting ridiculous. The last pool I fished I took nine baby browns out on 15 casts before they wised up. The largest brown for the session was approximately 25cm in length. With hindsight, my 3-wt was overkill. Unfortunately, the success I had on the Nithi was not reciprocated on Lake Ellis. Due to porters unashamedly taking fish out for food, the few survivors have learnt to stay in the middle of the lake, out of casting reach. Unless you take an inflatable with you, Lake Ellis will most likely result in a blank.
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The following day was a tough one. The icy cold morning began with a six-hour hike to Lake Michaelson, ascending to approximately 4 300m above sea level, before making the steep 300m descent down into the glacial eroded valley. Lake Michaelson is by far the most visually impressive lake on Mount Kenya. While the porters set up camp I started setting up my rods and planning the afternoon’s strategy while sipping on a cup of Kenyan tea. The lake is estimated to be more than 70m deep, and my first plan of attack was to work around the point where a glacial stream feeds into the lake, using my Sage VXP 6-wt with a Di-5 line and big, black, beaded bugger. After half an hour of no luck, trying every possible retrieve, I decided to change tactics. I noticed that numerous fingerlings were hugging the shore line, a good sign of a healthy breeding population of rainbows. With that in mind I decided to rather concentrate closer to shore as the lake bottom was visible for the first two metres and thereafter it dropped straight down. Since a 6-wt would not have been practical for close combat, I swopped over to my 3-wt and a UV orange hot spot Frenchie. Making no more than five-metre casts out, just beyond the ledge, allowing the Frenchie to sink, slowly lifting the rod up and allowing for a long hang produced a lot more interest from the local residents. I was rewarded with two beautiful rainbows which were kept for the porters and had numerous offs as well. After the early afternoon session and another cup of tea I decided to carry on using the Frenchie, but this time on my 6-wt to cover a larger area. The late afternoon session, and my last session for the tour, only produced one baby rainbow. The highlight was hooking into something that was powerful enough to put a proper bend in the 6-wt and which peeled off a few metres of line before I even knew what was going on. Unfortunately, I never saw the size, although I am sure in the years to come said rainbow will likely increase to submarine status. The next morning we proceeded on the six-hour 20km hike back to Chogoria Park Gate where I would spend the night in the rather rustic bandas. The concerning part was the number of fresh leopard and hyena tracks and scat on the first section of the path. Just to give myself a bit of street cred I kicked some scat off the path and thought to myself, “Yeah, I’m a mountain man!” Our lunchtime break was on the banks of the Nithi River just before it enters the forest section of the park. While I sat and enjoyed a sandwich, I was able to observe the baby browns in the river as they gently rose up to sip floating insects off the sur face. A most fitting end to an incredible adventure. Join us on Facebook
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By Andrew Mather
HE dawn held its chilly hand over the camp as the sun pushed up over the horizon. Cold air seeped into my bed while I fought to keep my eyes closed to nap for a few more minutes; it was then I remembered I was on a fishing trip! I sprang out of bed, the cold forgotten, excited at the day that lay ahead at Hunter Fisher’s Orange River fishing camp. It is not often that a fishing trip exceeds one’s expectations, but this trip proved to be one of those occasions.
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The gathering place after fishing. Owned and operated by former national flyfishing champion and present day professional hunter and flyfishing guide Jacques Marais, the camp is on a secluded stretch of the river a few kilometres from Douglas. The camp which is one of many operated throughout Southern Africa by Hunter Fisher can accommodate up to 12 fishermen in private luxury tents set up along the riverbank. Ablution facilities are located conveniently at each end of the camp and, although basic, are clean and fit for purpose. Most importantly, they provide a never ending supply of steaming hot water for that early morning wake-up shower and the revitalising shower that is so necessary after a day’s fishing. There is no need to draw straws to see who sleeps with the snorer when fishing with Jacques! The sense of solitude is profound, especially in the morning. The main building is a lounge/diningroom and kitchen facility with a viewing deck and pub overlooking the river. The food needs a special mention. They say an army runs on it stomach, but this is true of flyfishers too. The food is absolutely world class. The fishing was superb, but it is one of those quirks of human nature that one often remembers the food best. Well Jacques made this easy; his team served up fantastic evening meals using the game that Jacques had shot. After the main course, desert followed, although by this time the lads usually drift to the bar. The bar isn’t a typical bar, though — Jacques has his 18 • Return to contents
fly-tying vice set up permanently in the middle of it. Sitting around the bar sipping after dinner drinks of your choice, is made complete by Jacques recounting fishing stories while tying flies long into the night. Jacques keeps a small stock of essential flyfishing equipment on hand in case you are not set up for the conditions, but it’s his flies that are the winners. Regular visitors get their orders in for the latest “special flies” that are currently producing fish and a few “secret flies” too. Don’t worry if you haven’t fished for yellows before because Jacques will set up your rig and get you sorted with flies and into fish in no time. But I’m getting ahead of myself again ... The camp is conveniently located to enable you to fish both the Vaal and Riet rivers which is great because if the Orange is running too full and dirty there is always the Riet. BUCKLANDS, VAAL RIVER Rising around 5am the first day full of excitement, we watched the sun rise over the Orange River. It was spectacular; what a special place it is. Rob Hibbert had some decent filter coffee on the go, and while we drank our coffee and ate rusks we watched Jacques tying flies. After breakfast we headed out to the Vaal River, just up from the confluence with the Orange River, on a farm called Bucklands. The plan was to spend the whole day at the river. This beat was several kilometres long, and by the time I got to the river’s edge after negotiatwww.saflyfishingmag.co.za
The Orange River at sunrise. ing a barbed wire fence that could have easily torn pieces out of my nether regions, Keegan Kennedy was already into a fish in the large pool just downstream of the riffle. The water was flowing nicely, but was so dirty that couldn’t see the river bottom in knee-high water. All the lads were soon into fish, and mudfish dominated the catches. There must have been thousands in the water unseen by us, as many were hooked in the dorsal fin. When this happened the muddie took off and you had a hell of a job managing the run. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on what species you were keen to catch, the hook often popped out. A “long-range release” as we euphemistically called it. After a while some of the guys headed upstream but I decided to stay put between the lower pool, upstream pool and the riffle between them. I fished up the riffle, crossed over and came in from the opposite bank into the upper pool. It was probably 80m across and knee deep. I started nymphing, working my way across the pool. Did I mention I hate nymphing?. With barely 2m of line out my 10ft Orvis 4-wt, fishing consisted of a flick, track, flick, track, flick, track!. I bet Jacques would disagree! I’d caught a few fish but the monotony was getting to me in the heat of the day. I had rigged up a control fly with a dropper, a size 18 brown soft hackle fly that Wayne Stegen tied at Durban Fly Tyers. Most of the fish were taking Join us on Facebook
Typical Orange RIver waters. the control fly, an orange tungsten bead-headed caddis. With the shallow water I’d had a few hook ups with rocks and it just so happened that I hooked a rock again. Not wanting to break off the fly, my standard practice was to wade over and reach down and release the fly or use my wading staff to push the line down to release the fly from the rock. I kept the pressure on so I could work my way to the fly. As I got to within two feet of the fly the line moved sideways. Suddenly I realised I’d hooked something solid, but the fish didn’t seem to be putting up a fight; it just seemed to move slowly and I couldn’t get it to make a run. The muddies we’d been catching behaved like this but then they would suddenly make a decent run. I waited. No run. The fish just kept moving slowly around and not showing itself. Now a couple of fish had already run me to my backing by heading downstream, so I was trying not to let this happen again. If the fish moved right I followed, when she went left I followed like a strange dance except I couldn’t see my dance partner. Slowly the fish realised that it was getting some outside force pulling it although the pressure was fairly light as I was using 4 lb tippet. Now that was a decision I was regretting. For 25 minutes the fish lead me on a tour of the pool. At one stage she got behind me and I had visions of her running downstream, so I put as much pressure on her as I thought I could without popping the tippet. Return to contents • 19
At this stage I got my first glimpse of her — a huge grass carp which I estimate was about four foot in length, with a size 18 soft hackle in her mouth! This was about the time I started to worry about trying to land her. My Xplorer net suddenly didn’t look as big as I’d thought and here was no way I could net her. Plan B quickly kicked in. I would tried leading her into the shallows and then make a grab. After all, she didn’t look particularly fast moving. If I were a betting man I would reckon my chances were almost impossible, but I had to give it a go. The fish came in shallower and shallower and was now less than a rod length away, lying slightly on her side in the shallows; just a bit more and she would be mine. I put more pressure on the rod, and as she started to move into an ideal place for me to pounce, pop went the 4 lb tippet! I stood frozen like I was superglued into position. She gradually turned and majestically swam off towards the centre of the pool. I watched. I wept. I was shaking. I waded out the pool and sat down on the bank, reliving every moment. What if I had played her a little longer? Damn that 4 lb tippet! What did she weigh? What a beautiful specimen; the side view of her is indelibly etched in my mind. Perhaps it did turn out okay — I finally got to see my dance partner, she was beautiful and she blew me a kiss before saying goodbye. I think I sat on the bank for nearly an hour eating my lunch and redoing my tippet — 6 lb fluorocarbon this time. I fished the lower pool for the rest of the afternoon, catching a number of nice sized muddies and smallmouth yellows; I stopped counting once I got into double figures. It was a good day and the final tally for the group was about 140 fish.
THE RIET RIVER The Riet River is special in that, unlike the Orange, it usually runs clean. The river flows through a well-eroded streambed with quite a lot of rocky areas that create riffle sections and large pools. It also has quite a lot of weed strung out in lines like an English chalkstream, with open sections in between. It’s here that you find an abundance of large- and smallmouth yellowfish. On this day we split into small groups and headed for the Riet. I found myself walking across a slippery, rocky floodplain that reminded me of a moonscape; I was grateful for my felt-soled boots as it would have been hard going wading without them. The river — once I reached it — reminded me of a larger version of the clear streams of the 20 • Return to contents
with a trophy smallmouth.
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Jacques Marais with a trophy smallmouth yellow.
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Client with a slab of gold.
Drakensberg, so I slipped into small stream mode and tied on a dry and dropper tied on New Zealand-style. I focused on casting into the flowing clear water channels. After several casts my elk hair caddis literally jumped 10cm sideways. Surprised and probably overcome with the ferocious take, I raised my rod a little too quickly and the 4 lb tippet parted.
Several large fish were seen cruising the channels but no nymphs dangled in front of them could induce a take. My guess was that they had seen me after that and they all got lockjaw. It’s a dilemma — low, clear conditions and big, strong fish. Big flies were out, as was thick tippet. Some of the lads fished 6x with some success, but fishing was technically diffi-
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An Orange yellow in peak condition.
cult although exciting. Nonetheless I decided to persevere with my dry (a cream CDC and Elk) and dropper rig the next day. I waded out to a small island that lay alongside the main channel and which was situated just above the start of a large, relatively weed-free pool. I could see fish moving up the channels and circulating back into the pool but
I couldn’t see the full extent of the pool as the reeds hid much of it. I concluded that casting directly at a fish in these clear conditions would spook them, so instead I cast 5- or 6m upstream of the pool in and let the flies drift down into the head of the pool. It was a good decision and it didn’t take me long to hook up.
A Riet River yellow.
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The Riet River near Lilydale.
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The Riet River.
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The fly had just drifted into the pool when bang, the dry disappeared and my line went berserk. I nursed this one a bit, the memories of the previous day’s breakups still fresh in my mind. I really wanted to be able to say I got a Riet River yellow, but the fish had other ideas. He ran upstream, trying to lodge himself in the weeds; evasive action was required. This bent my 10ft 4-wt Orvis to almost breaking point but I managed to turn the fish downstream. The fish then tried to run downstream through the pool so I cranked up the drag. This game of man vs fish went on for several minutes. Just when I thought I was winning, the fish headed into the weeds that I had been hiding behind. I was determined that this one was not getting away, and I waded into the river to free my tippet which had become tangled in the reeds. Unfortunately I slipped on a loose rock and properly fell into the river. Icy cold water heightens the the senses and quickens one’s reactions, and I was no different. Aided by the sudden stimulus of a cold dunking, I quickly recovered and netted the fish. It measured 18 inches and had given me a good run for my money; no wonder they are popular targets for anglers. I wasn’t the only one getting wet. Rob Hibbert, crossing the Riet about 80m upstream of me, slipped and all but disappeared into a deep pool. All I could see was his Simms cap. Spluttering and drenched, he waded to the bank only to fall in again. He eventually beached himself but had to sit it out in the sun for a while in order to warm up and dry out. Rob was not the only one in need of the sun’s warming caress. I too sat it out for a while, ostensibly to let the pool rest. I reasoned my impromptu swim had caused the fish to gap it for quieter waters. After about 15 minutes I could see that yellows were once against cruising the channels. I repeated my tactic of casting upstream and letting the current drift my flies down into the pool. This time the take was in the channel; the fish had clearly been holding in the weeds out of sight. This one took off through the weed bank and snapped me off. I rested the pool again. Next cast the fly once again entered the pool and got taken. After a great tussle the fish came to the net. I continued hooking fish and then resting the pool, only casting when the fish were cruising again. One of my drifts did not induce a take, so I let line out as the fly headed down over the pool. I had difficulty seeing the fly as the weeds I’d www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
used to hide behind were so thick I had to lean out to see it. At about this time I realised my fly line had looped around the reel, so I stopped to sort it out before once again stripping back line so I could recast. Suddenly something hit my fly — hard! The fish, having taken my fly, turned around and rocketed downstream. The reel started screaming and then the tippet popped. I wonder if it was a largie; I guess I’ll never know. I went on to hook 11 fish but only seven made it to the net. What a day! A very good reason to want to come back again. Summing up, the Riet River is a fantastic destination for yellows. The water clarity for one requires a different approach to fishing, and it is a technically challenging river to fish. Yellows are surprisingly clever, mostly out smarting any anglers that aren’t concealing themselves and using stealth to target these fish. Our experience as a group is that one won’t catch large numbers of fish, but each one caught will be very rewarding. DIE GEUT Our last day was spent at Die Geut — The Gutter — a stretch of the Orange that has a large rock sill across the whole river. The rock sill is probably about 4 foot high and dams the river up at this point. The river is probably about 200m wide here, and while the flow rate was down it’s still a great spot to fish. Most of the lads chose to fish the riffles downstream of the sill. Jacques obviously saved the best stretch for the last day, because as we were kitting up the fish in the shallows were thrashing about in a carnal frenzy. There were literally hundreds of them in the shallows. But no sooner had we stepped into the water than they dashed off like dark torpedoes into deeper water. The lads strung themselves out along the riffle like a chain and started nymphing. Before long rods were bending everywhere, and sometimes several fish were being fought together. Midway through the morning one of the guys shouted at me and I turned to see my floating orange Xplorer net rapidly moving downstream. Luckily for me Rob valiantly cast and hooked my net; I owe him as the casting screwed up his leader and he had to sit out and redo it. I was most grateful, though, as it would have been almost impossible to land fish there without a net. Not long after my net went walkabout I saw another net floating down and somebody having to do a similar rescue. It’s something to be aware of and sort out properly, because being stuck without a net could really spoil a trip like this. Join us on Facebook
Barbel are commonly caught here as well.
The HunterFisher strikes again.
SUMMING UP In summary I can safely say that this is a world class fishery. The final tally for our group was over 500 fish in the net over three days. Countless more either broke us off or were “long line releases”. If you haven’t fished these waters yet, take it from me, you will be hard pressed to beat them, even internationally. Return to contents • 27
Community on the water GETTING TO KNOW THE AMAHLUBI By Andrew Savs
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RAVELLING from Mooi River or Nottingham Road in the direction of the popular tourist destination of Giants Castle Nature Reserve, one will drive alongside several kilometres of the picturesque Bushmans River. This is a river of some repute among flyfishers, and with good cause. It is renowned for the quality of its brown trout fishing, right from its source in “the reserve” where the size of the river keeps the fish small but satisfyingly willing to rise to the dry, through private water and onto the deep pools and runs of the “AmaHlubi waters” where the sort of browns that fill your dreams are occasionally hooked and even more occasionally landed. The AmaHlubi waters, once known as the Bushman’s tribal waters, describes that stretch of the river that lies below the Giants Castle Nature Reserve and the privately-owned waters where Snowflake Cottage is located. The AmaHlubi are a proud and hospitable people, as will be attested to by the generations of anglers who have to fished these rivers since trout were first introduced there — and in South Africa — on 7 May 1891. The recent history of the AmaHlubi is one of turmoil and dispossession, first as a result of precolonial intertribal and internecine strife and the horrors of the Mfecane that birthed the Zulu nation, and then as a result of colonial dispossession. The AmaHlubi are now officially considered to be part of the Zulu nation, but they dispute this, claiming that no AmaHlubi king ever bent the knee to a Zulu one. Consequently they support his majesty King Muziwenkosi (Langalibalele II) as their true king. The AmaHlubi history finds it roots in the eMbo
migrations out of Central Africa, and their kings boast a lineage that can be traced back to 1300. Their arrival in what we now call KwaZuluNatal dates back to around 1650, when they once ruled as one of the dominant tribes. Internecine strife and tribal rivalry during the early 19th Century resulted in the rapid destruction of this once power ful nation. The end came in 1920 when the AmaHlubi were defeated by the AmaNgwane and dispersed as part of the great upheaval we now call the Mfecane. Remnants of this once mighty nation later returned to KwaZulu-Natal only to face the wrath of the Zulu nation and King Dingaan and later King Mpande who both saw the AmaHlubi as a threat to Zulu territorial ambitions. The British colonial gover nment stepped in and the AmaHlubi were granted land on the banks of the “Little Bushmans River”, in the hope that they would provide a buffer against the San who raided cattle from their lands deep in the Drakensberg. This plan mistook the AmaHlubi for a docile nation and underestimated the charisma of their king Langalibalele I When the colonial gover nment tried to disar m the AmaHlubi, Langalibalele refused, choosing instead to flee into Lesotho. The colonial government retaliated with a three-pronged police and military attack over the Giant’s Castle and Champagne Castle passes that culminated in the skirmish on top of what we now call Langalibalele Pass. King Langalibalele was later captured and, in a trial that has been condemned as a disgrace to British justice, unfairly tried and subsequently imprisoned on Robben Island. He was later released but was never allowed to rule. His title
was assumed by his son on his death, and today his great grandson Langalibalele II reigns unofficially as the king of the AmaHlubi. So it was on 25 August 2018 that His Majesty the King welcomed a large group of excited local and club guests to the launch of the Bushmans River Community Fly Fishing Project. The day was all at once an inauguration, a celebration and a work-party. Tasks were shared out early on the chilly morning over coffee and rusks in the community hall, and while some went off to plant and secure the final beat and parking markers on the river banks, others concentrated on removing what amounted to several loads of litter from the river. Midday saw inaugural speeches and excellent entertainment in the community hall, following which invited guests lunched with the king while club members moved off to a packed lunch, laughs, fellowship and the fishing of nearby club dams. This is an important project. On a superficial level it opens several kilometres of what is essentially private waters to members of both the Natal Fly Fishers Club and the general public but, at a significantly deeper level, it is also an example of two groups of people separated by history and heritage coming together to mutually benefit from what is a scarce and valuable resource. What is essential to know about this project is that the NFFC has facilitated efforts in order that the community may solely and directly benefit from its resource. To this end the club has funded and provided equipment and facilities to enable the community to take bookings and control access to the water, thereby ensuring
that it is well managed and is sustainable. Proceeds of these bookings accrue directly to the community. The club does not enjoy priority for bookings nor any given number of guaranteed rod days; although it still pays the community for a nominal number of annual rod days, thereby ensuring a minimum revenue to the community. Bookings on any of the four Bushmans beats and the single Ncibidwane beat can be made by the public by following the instructions on the NFFC website. A sms to check availability is all that it takes. On arrival at the river non club members will meet a community member to whom they will pay their rod fees, be allocated and pay for a car guard and be issued with a ticket for the day. The beats and parking areas are clearly marked and the car guards are identifiable in their branded bibs and hats. Payments are made at the local courthouse, the same venue to which the now engaged community have gladly promised to take poachers. We wish this project every success and it is our hope that it can serve as a blueprint for more projects of this nature where communities reach out across the barriers that divide them so that they can work together for the preservation of our resources and, even if it is in small ways, the upliftment of rural and less-fortunate communities. The NFFC would like to take this opportunity to thank their sponsors for the project and the launch: E&G Signs, Mooi River Spar, Truda Snax, Outpost Treated Timbers, Shaun Futter, The Kingfisher, Wayne Stegen, Anton Smith, Andrew Savides and Andrew Beach.
By Aleks Andjeloplj
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Photo by Tim Leppan.
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EEP in the Cederberg, the gnarled, sharp, red rocks are what I as a trailrunner would call “angry”, reminiscent of an alien landscape I witnessed once before at Bryce Canyon in Utah. Almost eerily like shadowy figures, the rock faces call to mind an ancient tribe cast to stone by Medusa herself, left to wither with the forces of time. In other places millennia of rain, wind and sun have carved boulders as smooth as a hippo’s back, seeming to balance unnaturally, as if positioned by an ethereal being. The bubbling waters, clear and pure, carve deep eddies into the land, disappearing into the earth for no apparent reason, creating uncharted underground mazes. Amidst this uncanny red land lie pristine pools and crystal streams — conditions which make a flyfisherman’s pulse race with possibility. It is here that the elusive Clanwilliam yellowfish is at home. A year had come and gone since my last visit to this spot. It was here that my wife and I watched a honey badger take out an aardwolf right in front of its hide and where I had failed miserably to land a yellow. Ever since I’d reflected on what I had possibly done wrong on my previous visit. Was I too impatient? Had my fly choice been too reliant on my prior success netting a yellow? Was I not presenting properly? I had new kit to play with this time: my trusty Stealth Infinity rod was donning a new Sage 2200 series reel with an Airflo Sixth Sense sinking line. I would also attempt to breathe new life into equipment I had inherited from a friend on
condition that I put it to good use with my unborn son (who was baking nicely in his mom’s womb back at the lodge) and those buddies who were as yet uncertain on their flyfishing feet. Beside a crackling fire I prepped my line with 12ft tapered leader, attaching an additional 4ft of tippet. While staking out my hunting ground the evening before, I saw a splash of activity, but could not make out any discernable hatch nor insects being preyed upon by the yellows. On a tip and some instinct, I picked out a black and olive leech pattern and completed my setup. When the opportunity arose, I was prepared. It had been raining and the passing storm was still releasing its payload in the distance as it swept across the land into the setting sun. There was a chill in the air, familiar to those willing to brave a dash of discomfort for the challenge and thrill of the great outdoors. Wary of startling these fickle and flinty fish, I stopped my car at what I hoped was a safe distance from the water. The water itself seemed to me to be an oasis, juxtaposed against the red rock and black clouds in the distance, illuminated by a stream of vivid yellow and orange light characteristic of the region’s low slung winter sun. The pool’s shape was that of an elongated triangle, where an unspoiled river met the great pool. The “base” of the triangle was around 250 metres wide and the two sides approximately 500 metres each. I picked a spot closer
Bar of gold. Photo by William Lotter.
The Bushman spiritual creatu Photo by Aleks Andjel
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to the point of the triangle, where I could make out a fantastic little shoulder of rocks peeking above the meniscus of the water. Below the water line I could discern a precipitous fall. I perched myself on the rocks and waited; I was not going to be rushed, I was not going to spook my prey. I was going to be patient and wait. I admit that I took a risk in this attempt to land a yellow, in that I used my newly gifted rod which was a lot stiffer than my fast-action Infinity. I was, however, adamant that the powerful story underpinning its gifting to me would carry me well. I saw the swirl of a fin. First cast. “Come on, Aleks. Tight loops. Line out. Don’t be a hero. Present the fly on its mark. Don’t let your ego or impatience f*#@ this up.” I had added significantly more tippet to the leader than was customary for me. I needed to do this right… Mark found. One strip and boom! I was on. I could feel that the fish was hardly a monster, but I didn’t care. The zealous fight it put up was admirable. Do not go gentle into that good night ... rage, rage against the dying of the light. (Thank you Dylan Thomas.) What a beauty she was, this young unblemished fish with scales almost iridescent. “Quick Aleks, land her. A photo and off you go. One for Mom.” The sun dipped lower and the earth grew redder while the wind made her presence known, kissing the water and creating ripples like gooseflesh. My vision now partially obstructed, I struggled to place the fly as precisely as before and instead concentrated on my form,
presenting the fly and stripping the leech pattern as best I could. Second cast. Nothing. The last fight must have spooked them. Let me wait, I thought. Just be patient. Third cast. “Mimic that leech, Aleks. Come on.” One strip. Another … and I was on again! Form had prevailed over fishing by sight. Try as I might to stretch my luck in the twilight of the evening, I could not be sure that I was adhering to the rules of engagement that these noble creatures demand. After all, one’s fishing form is king. Game that had gathered at the shore could feel the weather turning, as could I. The day was all but done; it was time to part ways with the water. I continued fishing for another two days, testing new flies and new lies in the pool, but things had grown eerily quiet. Despite the rain that drenched even the most robust waterproof ponchos, I did manage to net two more yellows. According to the local lodge rangers even worse weather was on the way, so I decided to pack up, calling it a decent innings. After three days of good wine, some great, albeit slow fishing at times, a warm fire, and a kick-ass trail run in the rain (where I was able to see a collection of ancient Khoisan cave paintings), my wife and I headed home. It was as we departed that I felt an unnerving sense of trepidation. We passed the weathered stone figures of tribes and gods of old and ventured straight into the storm; the rangers were not wrong, the snow had come. “Mom, I’m flying home on Monday, I’ll see In peak condition. Photo by William Lotter.
ure watches. lopolj.
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Small and feisty. Photo by Aleks Andjelopolj.
Photo by Aleks Andjelopolj. 36 â€˘ Return to contents
you soon. Just try to be calm and I’ll be there before you know it.” On the Tuesday after my trip, I heard the news that my mom had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Out of nowhere. What does this have to do with flyfishing? Well, she bought me my first fly-rod, encouraging me to pursue this tactically difficult sport from as young as ten years old. Did she know much about flyfishing? Nothing, but she appreciated what it stood for and the positive impact it could have on a young life. I told her about the yellows I had caught,
despite my previous failures. We reminisced about the flyfishing trips she had accompanied me on over the years. We discussed how I was going to teach her grandson to flyfish. Four days after the diagnosis my mother died of a massive pulmonary embolism. One of her last joyful moments was knowing my success in the challenge presented by flyfishing, a passionthat she had nurtured in me. My challenge to you is this: take to the waters with someone you love or someone with a passion for the sport. Its impact on them may be priceless.
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By David Weaver
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WAS exceptionally lucky to grow up in a fishing family. Every holiday was planned around flyfishing and fishing destinations. Even our mid-winter hunting trip to Kimberley saw us boys casting flies to yellows on the Vaal. The second piece of good fortune was that my father was a birder. We always had the birds shown to us during time spent on the water with him, whether fishing the streams of the Cape, the municipal dam at Dullstroom or casting spoons for tail (yellowtail) from the slopes. We learnt the names and we learnt the signs. I will share these secrets with you in this article and shed some light on how being aware of the behaviour of birds might help you find more fish. Fishing and birding complement one another and each takes you to places where you can do one or the other. The difference between the two is that anglers just go fishing, but as a birder you are always birding. I always take a rod with me when I go on birding holidays and I am always birding when I go fishing. When we went to the Victoria Falls to get the bat hawk, palm thrush and rock pratincole I caught some great feisty tigers in the rapids above the Falls and even got to meet Steve, the local flyfishing dude. On a trip to St Brandon’s I got to see one of my “bucketlist” birds, the fairy tern, while doing battle with bonefish on the flats and endlessly stalking permit. At Popa Falls, on the Kavango River, we ticked brown firefinch, wwamp boubous and the elusive sharp-tailed starling for my Southern African List and caught some great purple largemouths and nembwe. On a trip to the Caprivi and drifting down the Zambezi we got up close and personal with swarms of spectacular carmine beeeaters and watched in awe as African skimmers drew perfect lines on mirrored surfaces. I can link many lifers (the first time one sees a species) with fishing trips; they add colour and song to a good day on the water. Return to contents • 39
Sterkfontein Dam has been my home water for the last 20 years, and yellowfish have been my focus. Working as a flyfishing guide during the summer months means I get to spend many hours on the waters of this magnificent fishery. This also feeds my passion as a birder as I get to observe the behaviour and distribution of the bird species that frequent Sterkies. This has helped me as a fishing guide as I have often been able to locate fish by observing what the birds are doing. Let’s start by looking at some of the more obvious examples away from Sterkies where birds help us to locate fish. At sea your skipper, if he’s worth his salt (pun intended), will always be looking for bird activity to locate shoals of baitfish. Terns will be a good indication of smallish fish while gannets and cormorants are an indicator of bigger fish species. There will be gamefish to target where birds are feeding on baitfish. You may even want to consider matching your fly to the bird. Terns are an indicator of smaller baitfish, thus smaller flies are required, while gannets and cormorants indi-
cate bigger fish and thus suggest a change to bigger flies. On the Okavango, especially when fishing the barbel run, you want to be constantly looking out for bird activity. As the shoals of barbel herd baitfish up against the papyrus banks, the piscivores (birds that eat fish) of the swamps will be there in numbers. Little-, intermediate- and great white egrets will form the bulk of the flock, while grey- and Goliath herons, storks and even fish eagles will hang on the margins. The bird activity will get you on the money as you will find the tigers cleaning up behind the barbel — that’s why you spent good money to be standing on the bow of that skiff with your rod in your hands, your line at your feet and your heart in your mouth. Even if you don’t hook in to that double figure tiger it’s still an awesome sight to see the feeding frenzy caused by fish and birds. BIRDS AND STERKIES People often ask me when the best time is to be fishing for yellows on Sterkies. I never give a date as I don’t believe that nature watches a
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calendar. My standard response is that we start fishing when the Piet-my-vrou (red-chested cuckoo) starts calling and the season ends when the Amur falcons leave. That is, roughly speaking, from mid-October to late March. The red-chested cuckoo is a brood parasite to the Cape robin-chat, so their calling will coincide with the start of the breeding cycle of the robins. The robins won’t start breeding until there is enough insect activity to make feeding their young a viable option. If the rains are late the insects don’t breed, the robins don’t nest, and the cuckoos aren’t singing their hearts out looking for a mate. No insect activity also means that the yellows will still be in deep water eating snails and bloodworm and won’t be in the shallows snacking on beetles and hoppers. It all makes sense when you take the trouble to crack the code. Amur falcons are our indicator at the other end of the season. They visit us from the Amur Valley in Mongolia where they breed and then they fly south to spend the austral summers here in Southern Africa. To get back to Mongolia
they do the longest trans-oceanic crossing of any terrestrial species — they fly overland to Somalia and then hang a right across the Arabian sea, only reaching land when they get to the Indian sub-continent. To survive this incredible crossing, they need to have enough reserves for the trip. Termites supply them with enough high energy food to last them on their journey. Near the end of summer here in the eastern Free state we get spectacular termite alates (the mating flight of the termites); the Amurs get fat and ready to fly, and so do the yellows. After the termite feast the Amurs leave and the yellows go who knows where. Late in the season I am always on the lookout for these termite alates. The first trick is to observe where there are plenty of termite mounds and be aware that you will need an off-shore wind to blow them onto the water. Then, in the late afternoon, especially after a thunderstorm, be on the lookout for bird activity. It is not only the Amurs that make use of this
A wet greater striped swallow.
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A successful hunt. Flying ants abound.
feast, but all birds. All terrestrial species like redwinged starlings, weavers, cisticolas and bulbuls will be flying vertical sorties to catch termites and then dropping straight back down to enjoy the feast. The swallows and swifts will be flying low over the grass in erratic lines as they swerve back and forth catching these poor fliers. Get to the shore closest to this activity and you can experience an awesome session as the yellows rise freely to drowning termites. Throughout the summer mor nings other species of ants are hatching, especially after good rain the previous day. Ball-biters, small termites and black ants hatch in swarms. These smaller insects seldom attract the interest of the Amurs, but the swifts, swallows and other “aerial arthropod” hunters are drawn to these hatches. The tell-tale sign that a “small” ant hatch is taking place is when you see these species flying low over the grass. If you spot that, get ready and change to a small CDC ant as yellows love an ant on the water. Look out for porpoising fish sipping these guys off the surface, cast ahead of the feeding wolves and spectacular dry-fly action awaits. The ants are often trapped in the scum lines that bend around the points, so if you missed the actual hatch you can still find fish feeding along the scum lines. Sit still, conceal yourself and wait patiently for those cruisers to come past. African fish eagles, ospreys and white-breasted cormorants are the large piscivores found on Sterkies, so very their presence can often alert you to the presence of fish. They can, however, spell doom on a good session. Often we have been stalking fish in the shallows when suddenly they all scatter into the deep. You turn around expecting some Wally to be breaking the skyline or wandering over to ask you what fly you caught that last fish on, only to see a fish eagle hovering above you. Don’t curse, just enjoy the spectacular antics of one of Africa’s iconic birds. And if it was Wally, there are no limits to 42 • Return to contents
Drinking on the fly.
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the expletive crudities that you are permitted to throw in his direction. Red-knobbed coots are found in large flocks on Sterkies and many other inland waters. They are indicators of weed beds. They dive down and collect aquatic weed to eat. As they pull the weed from the water they disturb aquatic insects, and as the fish know this they hang with the coots. “Fish where there be coots and your creel will neigh be empty,” was an expression my dad drilled into us. I still live by that credo and it has served me well. Weed equals food for insects, equals food for hungry trout and yellows. Weed also offers structure for ambush predators like bass and largemouth yellowfish that hunt the smaller fish seeking cover in the vegetation. The weed in Sterkies has a large population of snails which are prime yellowfish food, so fishing the windward side of a strong weed bed with a snail pattern will often produce fat fish. Swallows and martins can fly slower than swifts and will often feed on aquatic invertebrates as they hatch from the smorgasbord that is Sterkies. You might think that they are just sipping water, but if you look more closely you will notice that they are catching emerging caddis and mayflies. Be warned though, a perfectly presented Klippies-en-Gans did once fool a feeding swallow. An interesting fight and a safe release followed; I think we were more shaken than the young barn swallow. The incident also emphasised the importance of fishing barbless hooks. You should never fish near spawning yellows. In fact, it’s best to stay away from the spawning beds altogether; their eggs do not take kindly to being stomped on. The splashing in the shallows and general mayhem nor mally makes the spawning beds easy to spot. The presence of Cape wagtails is another tell-tale sign, especially when the yellows are not actually in the throes of a spawn. Cape wagtails eat yellowfish eggs and will alert you to spawning fish. We flyfish for many reasons, each for his or her own sanity, I believe. I flyfish because it takes me to spectacular places and I bird because birds afford me the chance to dream of free flight and allow me to escape the mundanity of everyday life. I bird while I fish, and I fish while I bird. When the two activities collide and shed clarity on the complexities of our wonderful pasttime then we are left in awe and stand humbled before all that is great around us. Thank you, Dad, for allowing me to see beauty and connectedness in the world … now it is our duty to share this with those that walk this path behind us. Return to contents • 43
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TARGETING YELLOWS IN MPUMALANGA by Craig Pappin
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ROWING up in the Sabie valley of Mpumalanga was the ultimate setting for a farm boy. Entertainment for the youngsters was the outdoors in general and fishing was compulsory. Having a father who loved fishing aided in getting me started, and I remember my first attempt at fishing at the tender age of four, using cotton and a gummy bear whilst picnicking on the farm. This “fishing tackle” was subsequently upgrded to those old school blue fibreglass bass rods with a Shimano tx120q spinning reel. I received my first fly-rod as a gift on my tenth birthday and had no idea how to use it. I swopped out the fly reel and attached my trusty spinning reel for obvious reasons at that time. The history behind my finally giving in to this new and weirdly obsessive form of fishing is somewhat of a mystery but, like many of the fish I’ve landed, I was eventually hooked. Back in 2015 and my mate Jamo was on the river while I was working on plant production in my macadamia nursery. Thankfully it’s a mere two clicks from one of the best sections of our home river, the entangled Sabie. It was blisterfully hot and, with beads of sweat dripping from every orifice, all I was thinking was: “Jamo’s on the f***ing river and I’m at graft!” It wasn’t an hour later that I got a phone call, “Baas Craig, I need your help, I’m landing a bus!” In under two minutes I was at the river. My jaw dropped when I sawJamo was attached to a monster bushveld smallscale yellowfish. It took numerous attempts from 1999 until 2015 for us to work out the big fish, but we now have the basis for catching trophy bushveld smallscale yellowfish. The summer of 2015 saw James Topham and me hitting the river at every opportunity. We had worked them out — stealth and a good first cast was key; zero mending and per fectly placed flies were essential. Our rig was simple —a single caddis suspended roughly 500mm from a New Zealand-style strike indicator. Watching your indicator and the position of the fish was met with a little side-to-side dance (if you were to call it anything); the slightest movement on the indicator and you were in, bent and fingers burning as line extruded, eventually peeling off the reel and ending well into your backing. Targeting this species of yellowfish requires knowledge of the river in its clear state, finding the pockets that hold big fish and the individuals that frequent these sections make for an extended fishing season. With the warmer months comes the rain and what happens upstream determines water Join us on Facebook
Above: Craig Pappin with a Lowveld yellow. Below: Another slab of silver and gold.
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A likely lie.
quality. Often in the rainy season the Sabie will be blown for an extended period. Knowledge of the dryer months comes into play and placing your fly into chocolate coloured water becomes the challenge. These fish eat all year round, and the flow determines what to throw at them next. Most of the time in the summer months it will be throwing a lekker steak on the braai and tubing in the turbulent waters. When the summer rains come to an end and temperatures drop the rivers clarity improves. The month of April is a special time on the river with added flow, an increase in fish (partly due to the Kruger National Park injecting our river system with new blood), the inability for the local population to net in the faster flowing water, and the migration of big breeding fish into our pristine Sabie.Game on! The fish are stacked and every nook, eddy and submerged log has its “bus” and has us giddy AF. Now hooking them isn’t the problem, 4x is too light, 3x is sufficient and the 6-wt seems to be more fitting than the 5-wt. Regardless of the rod choice the section of river will ultimately decide whether you land a fish or not. Matumi tree roots, otter holes and any structure become the enemies, because these fish fight hard and dirty. Having a buddy checking for hippos and crocs helps whilst you scramble as though it’s the starting blocks of the Midmar Mile. While trying to turn the fish and retrieve line, tunnel vision is a problem. The Sabie River is known for its hippos and no one really knows about the crocs and their whereabouts. 48 • Return to contents
Getting the upper hand and retrieving line ever so gently, coasting the fish towards you is by no means the end; these fish will get within netting distance and then decide to rocket out of there. The gin clear waters of the Sabie River ecosystem in its prime make for world class sight fishing and an excellent show. Seeing the fish is the tricky part. Having steep banks, cliffs and boulders to contend with is a challenge, and if you can see them they can see you. Wading the river is ideal but there are those crocs, you know. Getting as low down as
The crystal clear Sabie River.
possible, stealth and keeping calm whilst a 4kg slab swims past your feet is extremely hard. Having kept your composure and wiped the drool off, it’s time to place the fly. Often you only get one shot and the one that counts is placed between 10:00 and 02:00 of the fish’s head and not closer than a foot away. Correct presentation and a good plopping noise aids in getting a reaction. Some days they will watch your fly before it hits the water, explode and have you tight before you can even inhale after the last haul, but other days
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they can’t seem to be bothered. I’ve thrown everything at them and often wondered if we hit the river at these moments. All’s not lost, though; there are plenty of small fish to target, the scenery to take in and wildlife around every corner. When it comes to gear, any good 5-wt rod with floating line is ideal. A good 3x tapered leader and some sort of soft indicator will work. I have found that using a large indicator will have big fish hitting it instead of your fly. You probably wondering why we don’t throw poppers or large terrestrials at them. Actually we do, and it works, but then roll casting and bow and arrow casts with a heavy fly just don’t work, and a mend spooks the fish. I’ve found the Mustard Caddis to be my go-to fly and very rarely change it up. I’ve fished two nymphs a a time before and had more problems to deal with as the minnows and robbers on two flies cause way too much disturbance on the indicator. I, preferring a single fly and using it to target big fish has been a game changer. Often anglers who are used to the Vaal and its fast flowing sections will resort to nymphing in the rapids. Though our bushveld yellows do occur in the rapids, and you might catch a few foot-long fish, this method is not going to produce a double figure bus. The bigger fish prefer slow moving eddies, undercut banks and shaded areas of deeper water. I’ve often spooked massive fish from the entry points of hippo paths, shallow eddies of no more than 30cm of water and the stagnant pools that only bilharzia would live in. These are now the spots that produce my biggest fish. Return to contents • 49
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By Peter Brigg
T Strip off the flue
Tie in the hackles across the top of the shank.
HIS is the penultimate part in this series in which I will cover the more important basic elements of tying your own flies. The next part of the series will deal with general comments about fly construction and will also take you through the full sequence of tying your first complete fly. So here are the last few basics you need to know and practise before creating that first fly. In part three I described how to use hackle and how to tie an upright-winged fly. Following on from that, here are some other ways of using a hackle feather.
Finished spent wing dry fly
Diagram 2 Tie in and wind forward
Prepare soft hackle by stripping the flue and fibres off one side
Diagram 3 Tie in hackle
Wind back and trap end with ribbing
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Tie in the tail, body and ribbing of your fly. Now select two feathers of roughly the same length and size. Prepare by stripping away all the lower fibres, leaving only the length of wing you need intact. Cut off the excess quill, leaving a short length of exposed section that you need for tying in. You can now tie the two feathers onto the shank of the hook with tips pointing forward and lying diagonally across the shank, as shown in the sketch. Now pull each wing back at 90 degrees to the side of the shank and secure with a few turns of thread. Trim off excess quill and tie in the hackle feather behind the wings. Make a couple of turns behind and in front of the wings before securing, trimming, making a neat head and varnishing to complete. (See Diagram 1.) SOFT-HACKLED WET FLY As the hackle in this type of fly needs to be soft, select a partridge breast feather or similar. The softness of the hackle in this dressing is particularly good from the point of view that the fibres move easily in the water, giving the fly a life-like appearance. Select the right type of feather and prepare by stripping off all the soft, fluffy fibres. Place the feather against the side of the hook shank with the concave side towards the hook and secure the quill with a few turns of thread. Holding the tip of the feather with the hackle pliers, make two or, at the most, three turns around the shank. Tie off, trim the excess hackle tip and quill end, complete with a head, and varnish. With this type of hackle it is important that you donâ€™t make it too bulky with too many turns of hackle. Another way to keep it sparse, and the method I generally favour, is to strip all the fibres from the side of the quill that will lie www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
against the shank as the turns are made. (See Diagram 2.) PALMERED HACKLE Prepare the hook, add tail, ribbing and body. At the point at which you have ended the body — about 3- to 4mm behind the eye — tie in a hackle feather, lying along the side of the shank and against the body. Grip the end of the hackle feather with a pair of hackle pliers and wind the hackle back towards the bend in three or four even turns, stopping at the point where the ribbing is tied in. Allowing the hackle, still gripped with the pliers, to hang down, wind the ribbing back through the hackle in the opposite direction. This will hold the hackle quill securely against the body along its full length. Tie the ribbing down and trim the excess. When you wind the ribbing through the hackle, some fibres will become trapped. One way of lessening this is to wriggle the ribbing as you make the turns or, after completing the process, use a dubbing needle to carefully lift the trapped fibres. Trim the excess tip of the feather being held in the hackle pliers. To make the palmered hackle sparser, you can strip all the fibres from one side of the feather. Make sure this is the side which will be against the body. (See Diagram 3.) Tip: If you need to secure the hackle so that the fibres lie back against the body, use your fingers to trap and pull the fibres back as shown in Diagram 4 and then take a few turns of thread over the base of the fibres. In this way you will force the hackle to lie back against the body, facing towards the bend. I use this technique in most tyings of nymphs and wet flies. At this stage you can also trim the hackle as desired. I find that trimming the top and bottom, or even just the top, allows me to create the appearance of feelers and legs similar to those of the natural. (See Diagram 4.) WEIGHTING THE FLY Other than using brass or tungsten beads, the more traditional method of adding weight to the fly — if it is required — is to wind a suitable length of lead wire onto the shank of the hook. Using weight can affect the way in which the fly swims and so you need to be careful how and where it is positioned. The lead wire should only be added once you have dressed the shank with tying thread. It must be wound around the shank in touching turns and be located towards the front half of the fly. This will ensure that, when you are waiting for it to sink to the required depth or during a Join us on Facebook
Hold fibres back and wind thread over the base of the fibres
Diagram 5 Light
Large Diagram 6
Diagram 10 Diagram 11
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pause in your retrieve, the fly will dive forward naturally. Once it’s in the correct position, and after leaving a small space behind the eye of the hook, take a few turns of thread over the lead wire to hold it firm at this point. Diagram 5 shows a selection of weighting options and more or less how they should be wound and where they should be positioned on the shank. Tip: To easily identify the flies that are weighted, some tyers use different coloured tying thread on the head of the fly to see at a glance if the weighting is light, medium or heavy. DEER HAIR FLIES An important point when tying flies which require a deer hair dressing is that the shank where this is to be tied should not be dressed with tying thread. The reason for this is that the deer hair needs to be spun freely around the shank, as you will learn in this section. The reason deer hair is used in the construction of dry flies is because of its natural buoyancy — each fibre is like a fine, hollow tube which traps tiny bubbles of air. The first step is to secure the tying thread to the hook shank. Do this near the bend of the hook where you will attach the first bunch of deer hair. However, as I have said, do not dress the shank as you would do in most other cases. Now, from the skin, cut a small bunch of deer hair about the thickness of a match. (See Diagram 6.) Place this bunch on top of the shank with the butt ends facing towards the eye. The fine tips of the deer hair will be pointing out beyond the bend and will form the tail of the fly. Take two loose turns of thread around the hair and shank. The next step is to pull down tightly to allow the deer hair to spin around the shank. The first spin54 • Return to contents
ning should be something like that shown in Diagram 7. Wind the thread through the deer hair to the front in preparation for attaching the next bunch of deer hair. Take a few turns of thread around the shank at the base of each spinning to keep things secure. Continue applying deer hair in this way until you have added enough for the structure of the body. Between each spinning the deer hair should be forced back to compact the fibres as much as possible. Rather than use your fingers for this and run the risk of getting them impaled on the hook, use the outer casing of an old ballpoint pen as shown in Diagram 8. You will, however, have to use your thumb and forefinger over the shank behind the deer hair to provide the support to push back against. Once the deer hair has been spun and compressed as much as possible (Diagram 9) up to behind the eye, leave a small space for the later procedures and then tie off the thread and cut loose. The deer hair can now be trimmed into the shape of the fly (Diagram 10). Trimming along the bottom must be as close to the shank as possible to provide gape space, but be careful not to snip the tying thread and undo all your hard work. When shaping, leave a few of the tip ends of the first spinning as the tail of the fly. Now fix the fly back in the vice and reattach the tying thread. In the case of the DDD you must now add a hackle in the manner described earlier. Once this is complete the fly can be finished in the usual way with a small head, whip finish and varnish. THE HEAD The head is the final stage in completing the fly. It is simply formed by wraps of tying thread. It is for this stage that you have repeatedly been reminded to leave sufficient space behind the eye. Always be conscious of this requirement. Another common fault is when the head is made too big and the wraps of thread immediately behind the eye exceed the circumference of the eye itself. When this happens, loops of thread tend to slip off over the eye and will result in the materials coming loose. A wellformed head should look something like the one shown in Diagram 11. The final step is to whip finish or use a couple of half-hitch knots to tie off and then cut the tying thread close to the knot. Even with the whip finish method, it is advisable to make two knots for added strength. All that is left is to apply a coating of varnish to the head to seal it and give it a little extra strength. Ordinary clear www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
nail varnish is good for this purpose. Tip: If you manage to fill the eye with varnish, as many do, use a hackle feather of suitable size and pull it through the eye quill end-first. The fibres will do the rest and you won’t have the frustration of sitting on the riverbank in fading light trying to thread a fine tippet through a hook eye filled with hardened varnish. Diagram 12 THE HALF HITCH I suggest that until you have mastered the basics of fly-tying, when finishing the head make use of the half hitch to tie off the thread. I have found this knot to be adequate. To make sure that it is secure, use two half hitches before cutting the thread and then varnishing. The diagrams alongside show step-by-step how to tie the half hitch. Instead of using your forefinger, try the casing of an old ballpoint pen, which, after you have made the half hitch, can be held over the eye of the hook. As you pull down on the thread, the loop will easily slip forward over the eye where it can be tightened to form a neat knot ready for a drop of varnish. (See diagrams 12 and 13.) THE WHIP FINISH I have yet to find a clear and understandable description of the whip finish, so I’m not going to attempt one here. Ultimately it is a procedure that you should learn as it provides a very neat and secure finish for the head. Many fly-tyers successfully use their fingers as a quick way of whip finishing. I personally prefer using the tool provided for this purpose. Some say that they use the finger method for speed, but I prefer to take my time when tying flies, as it is a pastime to provide relaxation and enjoyment. I’m definitely not interested in breaking any speed records. I recommend that you consult your local tackle dealer or an experienced fly-tyer, who can show you the whip finish. I have found that this is the best way of learning the technique. CONCLUSION I trust that the first four parts in this series have been useful to you in gaining an understanding of what is needed to create your own flies. There is a lot more that you will learn as you progress towards some of the more complex tyings. However, even the more difficult fly patterns require a solid foundation and in this series I have tried to provide the information that you need to build this foundation. In the final part of this series I will show you how to tie some of our reliable go-to patterns. Happy tying! Join us on Facebook
Slip loop over the eye and pull down to tighten
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THEY DON’T MAKE THE By Gordon
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EM LIKE THIS ANY MORE van der Spuy
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Self-taught perfection from a master carpenter.
O you fish, Sir?” I asked. “Me, fish? You’ve gotta be joking,” he replied. “You know a helluva lot for someone who doesn’t fish,” I said. “My dad fishes, builds his own bamboo rods and creels too. Have you ever seen the movie A River Runs Through It? Nou ja,that was my childhood.” “That’s amazing. Who’s your dad? Maybe I’ve read about him in one of my mags,” I queried. “You won’t know him. Hy vlieg maar onder die radar; he lives in Klerksdorp.” “Klerksdorp? What is a cane rod builder doing in Klerksdorp?” I asked, astonished. The bell rang and that was the last time I spoke fishing to my music teacher Lodewyk. That was in 1996 and I was in Standard 8 at the time. What amazed me was that this old oom was sitting in Klerksdorp building cane rods. This intrigued me endlessly, to the point where I would tell people about this mystical oom from Klerksdorp. I never forgot about it, and I even told my pal Stephen Boshoff about it 20 years later! “You need to write a story about this,” Boshoff declared. “I wouldn’t know where to start,” I protested.
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“The oom is probably long gone.” “Don’t you still know his son?” he pressed. “I heard he passed away a few years ago; a pity, the guy was a decent human being.” A month later my pal Stephen phones me. “Gordie, there’s a Potgieter rod on Trout talk, pick up the story from there.” I search for the post and eventually find it — a gentleman named Amaran Naidoo wants to refurbish an old cane rod that was handed down to him. I read through the post and eventually reply, telling Amaran not to touch the rod. I explain why. Mark Yelland subsequently replies too, telling me the son’s name was Gerhard. I’m confused. I phone Mark and tell him about Lodewyk. Mark is sure the son’s name is Gerhard. “Wait, I’ll phone him,” Mark says. Later that day Yelland phones back. “Gord, you won’t believe it, Lodewyk was Gerhard’s brother and, get this, you already know him! You’ve been chatting to him on Facebook for years and he ordered a DVD from you the other day!” “That Gerhard?” I reply as if someone had just zapped me with a cattle prodder. Mark gives me Ger hard’s number and I immediately phone him; it tur ns out Oom www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Memories of small streams.
Potgieter is still alive. He’s 92 and lives in a retirement village in Klerksdorp. “Ek gaan my pa op Saterdag sien,” Gerhard tells me. “Gerhard, ek sal graag met die oom wil kom gesels,” I say. “Geen probleem, nie, my pa sal dit geniet!” Two days later I find myself driving to Klerksdorp to meet Oom Sage Potgieter. I spent the entire day with Oom Sage, his son Gerhard and daughter-in-law Marietjie ... MEET THE LEGEND Oom Sage was christened Salmon Gerhardus Potgieter but was given the nickname Salie by his family. “Salie” is the Afrikaans word for the herb sage, so to many around him, Salmon Potgieter became “Sage”. Oom Sage grew up on a far m in the Vereniging district, but often took a train ride to visit his brother, at the time a farm manager in Machadodorp, close to the Elands, Toute, and Leeuspruit. That is where he started flyfishing. He did a five-year apprenticeship as a carpenter at Cornelia Colliery but retired as a site supervisor. As Oom Sage says, “Hulle het gesien ek was te lui om te werk toe promote hulle my!” On the farm they fished with sections of wattle or riverside bamboo. Everything changed Join us on Facebook
when Oom Sage saw a fly-rod for the first time: “Dit was die mooiste ding in die wêreld vir my, die stok met die baie whippings; ek was heeltemal ge-tickle. Die stok het my heel deurmekaar gemaak; toe ek die stok so kyk was ek bang vir hom, bang om aan hom te vat, want dis ’n holy ding. Maar, ek het ’n craving gekry om so ’n stok te maak.” Later Oom Sage found the swollen butt section of a bamboo rod in the Vaal River, and started figuring out how it was made, comprising six planed sections. As an accomplished carpenter, he had access to hand tools and knew how to work with natural materials. Through trial and error, over many years, he started making the forms and tools required and taught himself to make bamboo rods. He had no mentor and did not communicate with other rod makers; in those days information was scarce. He admired those old rods he first saw, mostly Hardys, which were long and heavy, and had beautiful brass fittings and porcelain guides. However, in his own work, he adjusted what he saw. “Die eerste ou splitcanes was maar swaar en lomp. Dis maar soos ’n kar; vandag se karre is net beter. Jy het jou dood gedra aan daai stokke met die porcelain ringe,” he said. Oom Sage made his first rod in 1985, as a gift Return to contents • 59
to his son Gerhard. The bamboo came from the Eastern Transvaal and it has two tips of slightly different actions. Happy that he could make this “holy thing”, and spurred on by Gerhard, Oom Sage developed his craft further. Gerhard assisted in sourcing Tonkin for his father from the United States. Oom Sage also refined his own brass ferrules, using different diameters of brass hobby tubing, and developed a unique node-staggering pattern, guaranteed to provide maximum structural integrity. His guides, with the exception of the stripping guides, were also homemade from stainless steel wire. Asking Oom Sage what tapers he used, he replied: “Man I don’t know, there’s something that guides you; I don’t know myself. You get this feeling of this must be like that and this has got to be like this and you start working on it. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t work you try some other way.” Through word of mouth, Oom Sage’s prowess as a rod maker spread. When I asked how many rods he made, he replied: “Laat ek gou gou bietjie dink … In Amerika is daar defnitief drie … in Duitsland is een. Wat is daai 60 • Return to contents
plek wat so ontwikkel? Dubai? Ja, in Dubai is daar drie; daar is een by Francois, Faanz Becker het een, Joe Vaid het een, hier is vier … All in all, as ek moet raai, so dertig.” During the 1980s and 1990s Potgieter rods sold for R400-R600. The last rod made, some five years ago, sold for R3 500. ON THE WATER Our discussion turned to fishing, and Oom Sage’s information blew me away. His main water was a small stream outside of Klerksdorp called the Schoonspruit; trout water was far away. While I thought that flyfishing for yellowfish started in earnest in the 1980s, Oom Sage infor med me that a Hans Blom, Nols Reyneke (the barber in Klerksdorp) and Nols’s brother-in-law Flip Eberson targeted yellowfish on the fly in the Schoonspruit with great success in the 1950s and 1960s. Thinking back, Oom Sage seemed to recall that he first saw them flyfishing for yellows in 1953, the year he got married. After his retirement Oom Sage fished the Vaal regularly, especially the Bothaville and Orkney waters. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Oom Sage’s favourite fly was the Turkstra, named after his favourite bakery at the time in Potchefstroom; the Turkstra was a very effective stillwater trout pattern for Oom Sage. He grew up with the Blue Zulu, March Browns, Connemaras and Invictas. Later they used Oom Sage’s own Joey and HB Raka as well as his Tambuki Ranger, but the Turkstra, he regarded as being in a class of its own. Fishing was wet, down and across. Returning the discussion to rods, and observing his neat work, I prompted Oom Sage to talk about finishes. He replied: “Die moeilikheid is, die ouens word te haastig want hy soek daai geld; hy maak die ding vir geld. ’n Split cane stok moet jy met jou hart maak, met liefde; jy maak hom vir jouself. Hy’s soos jou vrou, jy gee om...” What he enjoyed most was casting a new rod for the first time: “Die lekkerste vir my as ek ’n stok gemaak het, is om hom te gaan toets, hom uit te try. Ek sal nooit vergeet nie, die tannie en ek, ek sê vir haar: ‘Mamma, kom saam met my dan ry ons gou Schoonspruit toe en try die stokkie.’ Ons kom daar, klim oor die draad en so entjie verder is daar ’n poel. By sy inloop is daar so ’n bietjie watergrass, en daar sien ek ’n geelvis se stert uitsteek soos hy wei en rol. Ek sê: ‘Mamma, daars hy, daars hy ... nou moet ons hom kry.’ Ek gooi. My derde gooi, toe vat hy. Nou moet jy weet, jy het nou net die stok gemaak, jy gooi sy eerste vlieg, en met jou Join us on Facebook
eerste poging vang jy daai mooi geelvis! Dis ’n holy ding.” I spent the rest of the day chewing the fat with Oom Sage, talking fishing, life and philosophy. We have a drink and I tie a few flies, and he is intrigued with my version of Ed’s Balbyter. “Die een sal verseker werk!” he says staring intently at the fly. “Jy weet net, hy gee my daai gevoel.” His eyes look like they want to close, but he forces himself awake. “Wil Pa bietjie gaan lê?” Gerhard asks. “Nee,” he replies, “ek wil sien wat die man maak...” Oom Sage is special; they don’t make them like this anymore. I paged through a book of short stories that the oom wrote; he loves literature. At some stage Oom Sage suggests to Gerhard that we should go and have a look at the Schoonspruit, see if we can get a yellow to eat. Gerhard gives me a knowing glance; walking is difficult for Oom Sage nowadays. I go to cast one of Oom Sage’s rods instead; it is made from local bamboo and the action is sweet — not too soft and extremely smooth. The rod was made in 1995; I am amazed. And that’s how I left there — amazed. Moments like those are what life should be about. We move too fast, and it’s only when you slow down that you really start appreciating things. Baie dankie, Oom, Gerhard en Marietjie, ek het ons kuier baie geniet. Oom Sage, ek het baie van oom geleer, dankie! Return to contents • 61
PEOPLE JP Gouws at a Fly Crew evening. Photo by Darren Fowler.
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Catskill Fly GENIUS GETTING TO KNOW JP GOUWS By Andrew Savs
FIRST met Johan “JP” Gouws on the first weekend of September a few years back. Dubbed the “Gooi on the Mooi”, it was a small gathering of fisherfolk that Trout Talk assembled to see in the new river season. The event was attended by a cross-section of flyfishers who had, until that time, only interacted on social media. JP was one of the first on my list of invitees. He impressed me through our interaction on social media as a fanatical but at first wayward fly-tyer who was later able to crank out fly after fly of astounding quality and beauty in an extremely short space of time. JP has an international reputation as a great tyer of Catskill-style dry flies. A veteran Catskills flyfisher who I know and who was also a personal friend of the late Francis Betters said of JP’s Ausable Wulff: “You tie that one better than Frannie did.” After looking at another of JP’s Catskill flies he observed:“Frannie would likely ask you when you’d like to start work, JP.” Francis Betters, for those who may not know, is a Flyfishing Hall of Fame inductee and one of the select few Catskill fly-tying giants. He is also featured in Mike Valla’s book Founding Flies. Catskill flies are all about attention to detail and JP is good at attention to detail. He served in the South African Air Force and apprenticed as an aircraft technician where he maintained Join us on Facebook
helicopters for over a decade before joining the aircraft maintenance side of South African Airways. His occupation is one that requires absolute attention to detail and an uncompromising attitude to one’s workmanship. When JP makes mistakes a plane could fall out of the sky; JP works hard not to make mistakes. This uncompromising pursuit of perfection is reflected in his fly-tying. To say I wanted to meet the man is an understatement. And so I did. Remembering my grandfather’s advice to always look a man in the eye when shaking his hand, I bent my neck upwards at an entirely unnatural angle and shook his hand. Standing 6’4” in his favourite Rocky sandals, JP cuts an imposing figure. One should feel intimidated, but JP is not that sort of person. JP is a true gentle giant with the humility of a true expert. He is a fly-tyer of outstanding ability but he posts his latest creations on Facebook with the invitation “comments and criticism are appreciated”. Compliment him on his flies and he just blushes; ask him about his first wading boots and he grimaces painfully. We asked him a few questions about himself and his art — the bits about his wife he threw in for free... FFM: Tell us about yourself. JPG: I was born in Ladysmith in the KwaZuluReturn to contents • 63
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Natal Midlands on 28 August 1971 and stayed in Vryheid in KZN until 1975 when my dad got a teaching job here in Boksburg and we moved up to the Big Smoke. In 1989 I matriculated at Goudrif High and a month later started my national service in the Air Force where I was based in Cape Town at 22 Squadron at AFB Ysterplaat. That is where I met the greatest love of my life — Roelien — in 1993. We got married in 2001 and we moved back up to Jo’burg. I am the eldest of three children and have two sisters). Both my parents passed away a couple of years ago. Roelien and I have four dogs which have a better life than us. The smallest of the bunch is a Yorkshire terrier (Yoko) which weighs only 1kg; she follows me everywhere I go. FFM: We stalked you thoroughly ahead of this call. Is there anything about you that we don’t know? JPG: I like to fix cuckoo clocks in my spare time; I have 22 at the moment and the oldest is about 120 years old. FFM: Midday in your house must be pretty loud! Okay, here’s the obvious one: Why are you so fanatical about Catskill-style flies? 66 • Return to contents
JPG: I love the way Catskill flies look. It blows me away that they have been around for 150-plus years and that they are just as effective today, in a world where we have all of these wonder materials, as they were the first day that they were fished. Like grass rods, they just have an elegance to them. I love the history behind them. I also love the ingenuity that was used to create them — you only had the stuff running around on the farm to make flies in those days. FFM: Which fly-tyers do you most admire? JPG: Umberto Oreglini; He is a master at tying. Have a look at his channel on YouTube. <www.youtube.com/user/Compty84> A close second to him is Niklas Dahlin. Every fly they tie is a masterpiece. FFM: I can barely tie my boot laces much less a delicate dry. What is it that I should be looking for in a good Catskill-style dry fly? JPG: The fly’s proportions are the most important aspect. Catskill flies are basic — wing-body-tail — but because they’re so basic they challenge you in every sense. If you get the proportions slightly wrong you will see it immediately. You also have to have the right mind-set. For www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
some reason people are scared to tie Catskill flies. I don’t understand it; if you get it wrong just cut if off and start over. FFM: Don’t worry, I’m a master at cutting off and starting again. JPG: Do not be afraid to fail! Cut it off and start over! I bet that even Master Oreglini ditches a fly now and again. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either. Try to learn the basics; it’s like driving a car — if you know how to drive you can drive any make of car. FFM:Are there any tying tools that are so good and that you’re so attached to that you’d take them with you to the big fish in the sky? JPG: My J-Vice midge jaws that I got from my wife as a Valentine’s Day gift and my mammoth tusk bodkin that was given to me by Sheldon Douglas Sink. FFM: What is your favourite fishing memory? JPG: My first wild brown trout in a river; I dream about it at least once a week. It’ll always stand out in my memory. The Mooi River was the first river that I ever fished and it made a huge impression on me. I’d love to fish for Yamame in Japan; I just think it’s the most beautiful trout species I have Join us on Facebook
ever seen. FFM: Are there brambles in Japan? I hate those things. Do you still fish in kortbroek and Rocky sandals? You lost a lot of blood last time. JPG: Nooo! I’m an ape but I’m an old ape; you only catch me once. FFM: The images of your flies are always outstanding. Will you share with us how you get them so good? Do you have some fancy camera set-up? JPG: I use a light box that I made out of an old printer box, and position the light above the box. FFM: Where do you tie? Legend has it that while your wife knits beanies (tell her I said thanks) in front of the TV you tie on the couch. JPG: No, I have a desk in the corner of the TV room. She sits on the couch in front of the TV and knits with me in the corner humming along to AC/DC or ZZ Top. She has knitted me a couple of jerseys and also knits for charity benefits. The last time was for under privileged toddlers and she made them a beanie and a scar f each. She nogal rocks! (Don’t tell her I said that.) FFM: Dude, trust us, our lips are sealed... Return to contents • 67
WOMEN IN WADERS
By Roxanne Stegen
The winning team, Growler Boys with Lousie Steenkamp as the best flyfisher in the team.
Team Guns and Roses won fifth place. 68 • Return to contents
HERE we were at our first Tops at Spar Corporate Trophy Challenge — a seriously fun-filled festival! As an all-women team sitting down to dine at the illustrious event one of the opposing members seated at our table broke the ice with the opening line of: “Do you know that the only reason women catch more fish than men is because you have pheromones?” Now, as you can imagine, fiery team “Women in Waders” are outspoken soldiers of women’s flyfishing so perhaps it was not the best icebreaker, but then again it may just have spurred us on ... The great 2018 season in the Midlands, a recent trip to Dullies (watch out for this ripper in the next edition) and our SA Team experience at the Commonwealth Games, where Alison O’ Brien was proclaimed top lady angler, all contributed to us having an incredible year, with highlights from the professionals to the everyday flyfishing women stepping into the limelight of SA flyfishing. The gorgeous Genna George and the team from WildFly host the Tops at Spar Corporate Trophy Challenge at the notorious Nottingham Road Hotel in the KZN Midlands each year. The event has three qualifying legs, and the top five teams from each leg qualify for the finals where they compete against 15 other teams. It was our quest last year to enter an all-women team, albeit privately because we could not secure a sponsor, but sadly this time team Women in Waders did not qualify for the final. For the record, we fished and partied our hearts out, with our days starting at 4am and ending at midnight. Ms Sindi Mcbain (aka Picasso) was our top angler and, deservingly wore the red cap. None of us blanked the weekend, we and held our heads high with a seventh place finish. 2019 TCTC, we are coming for you — moreover we have a sponsor lined up…eeek! As team Women in Waders were now out of the running, but Alison Smith and I were convinced by our husbands, Wayne and Anton (not www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
that we needed much convincing) to enter the third leg and give it another bash as a mixed doubles team. Enter team “Guns & Roses” (for obvious reasons). To be fair, these boys are proper weapons and certainly provided us with guidance and numbers! Early on in the first session I caught my very first brownie, much to Wayne’s disgust, on a black bought Bunny Leach. I embarrassingly shouted out to Wayne that there was something wrong with the fish, to which he responded when he saw it: “It’s an f£%£&% brownie Roxanne!” Bwaaah, play nice! The next day we drew Macnab Dam on Invermooi Farm. I personally had a score to settle, so Wayne and I set off. As I was wondering who would be joining us, in rolled “The Growler Wildguys” — Martin and Louise Steenkamp. This session was one of my favorites and will be remembered for many laughs, rain, wind, fish and of course a celebratory traditional Ponchos shooter from Martin and Louise at the end. The last day of Leg Three, was challenging as the weather was not remotely fun. Initially I tubed in conditions that were only slightly short of a hurricane, but decided to rather fish from the bank when I ended up on the far side in a matter of minutes. One of the gents commented that he respected that I had the confidence to climb out the tube after catching and go off to bank; he added that he would not have had the confidence to do so. #proudmoment #niceguy
Women in Waders at registration.
Our rookies to CTC — Sindi and Bridigitte. Join us on Facebook
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The author with her first brownie.
Sindi McBain with a ±50cm cockfish. Louise with Team “Growler Wildguys” proceeded to win the Tops at Spar Corporate Trophy Challenge 2018, walking away with a trip to Matoya Lodge in Zambia. Most importantly and admirably, Louise was also the top angler of the competition; she is incredible to watch and has a calming effect on other anglers. Team “Guns & Roses” finished fifth, winning a mouthwatering trip to the Orange River courtesy of Kalahari Outventures & Wildfly Travel. This 70 • Return to contents
year was a first for the Tops at Spar Corporate Trophy Challenge — four women in the top five final teams! Take a bow Louise Steenkamp in first place, Heather Ralph in fourth place and Alison Smith and I in fifth place. We set out as Women in Waders to create a platform, encourage learning, foster friendships and displaying our South African flyfishing women, and I think we are making great progress. Viva la pheromones, VIVA! www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
CLUB DIRECTORY Club Name Bankberg
Location Contact E. Cape Alan Hobson firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.wildflyfishinginthekaroo.co.za/pages/bankberg-troutfishers-club/ Queenstown Fly Fishing Club E. Cape Reg Morgan email@example.com http://www.qffc.co.za/ Amamatola Fly Fishing Club E. Cape Edward Truter firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.amatolaflyfishingclub.co.za/ EP Freshwater Fishing Conservancy E. Cape Brian Clark email@example.com Maclear FFC E. Cape Colin Moolman firstname.lastname@example.org Transkei Piscatorial Society E. Cape Shaun Horsfield email@example.com http://www.transkeipiscatorial.co.za Barkly East FFC E. Cape Christo Buys firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Sneeuberg Aquatic Conservancy E. Cape Hein Grebe firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.sneeubergac.co.za/ Bigmac Moshesh’s Ford Angling Club Eastern Cape Lucien Theron email@example.com http://rhodesvillage.co.za/moshesh/ Jacaranda Fly Fishing Club Gauteng Roy Lubbe firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.jffc.co.za/ St Stithians Fly Fishing Club Gauteng Chris Williams email@example.com Transvaal Fly Fishing Club (TFFC) Gauteng Hugh Dean firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.tffc.co.za/home/ Transvaal Fly Tyers Guild Gauteng Roger Upton email@example.com http://flytyersguild.co.za/ Amberglen Fly Fishing Club KZN firstname.lastname@example.org Durban Fly Tyers (DFT) KZN Andrew Mather email@example.com http://www.durbanflytyers.co.za/ Fly Fishing Association (FFA) KZN Vaughan Rimbault Laurence.Davies@durban.gov.za Kokstad Fly Fishing Club KZN Marius Jonker firstname.lastname@example.org https://web.facebook.com/Kokstad-Fly-Fishing-Club-200971903281357/?_rdc=1&_rd Natal Fly Fishing Club (NFFC) KZN Andrew Fowler email@example.com http://www.nffc.co.za/ South Coast Line Casters KZN Arthur Cary firstname.lastname@example.org Underberg-Himeville Trout Fishing Club KZN Bruce Taylor email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.uhtfc.co.za/ Upper South Coast Fly Club KZN Roger Gurr email@example.com Haenertsburg Trout Association Limpopo Zamps Zamparini firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.htatrout.co.za/ Dullstroom Fly Fishers Association Mpumalanga Neil Nicholas email@example.com https://web.facebook.com/Dullstroom-Fly-Fishers-Association-138906942857409/?_rdc=1&_rdr Sabie Fly Fishing Club Mpumalanga Andrew Kanaris firstname.lastname@example.org Cape Fly Fishers W. Cape Andrew Cockroft AndrewC@daff.gov.za Cape Piscatorial Society (CPS) W. Cape Herman Potgieter email@example.com https://www.piscator.co.za/CPS2/ Hermanus Flyfishing Club W. Cape Brian Bain firstname.lastname@example.org http://hermanusflyfishing.com/ Join us on Facebook
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A TALE OF TWO ST
Hope where communities ta By Jake Alletson
OMEWHERE on my bookshelves I have a copy of Hook and Bullet; published in 1996, it is quite possibly the last remaining copy and no doubt the world is a better place for that. A skit on a famous outdoor magazine of the time, it contains a collection of spurious essays and bogus adverts some of which are actually quite funny. But the reason for my resurrecting it is nothing to do with beer belly yuk yuk laughs but a piece entitled A Ditch Runs Through It. The author bemoans the increasing crowds on the famous rivers of the USA and especially so on opening days and holidays, not to mention all the other days as well. He decries the shoulder to shoulder bank anglers jostling for room to swing their expensive carbon fibre poles. Behind them come the well-camoed skulkers waiting impatiently in the bushes to fill any gaps in the ranks. There are tear jerking descriptions of flotillas of
canoes being launched, the likes of which havenâ€™t been seen since the heyday of the fur trade. The occupants are soon caught up in a web of leaders, lines, flies, nets and profanity. And so the author forswears all this and vows to take to the smaller and lesser known streams. He hand builds special 0000-weight rods using Tonkin cane from selected swizzle sticks, and turns suitably sized reels out of paper thin titanium and with drags nogal. These are loaded with lines braided of the finest gossamer. Flies are tied on specially ordered size 48 hooks. His descriptions of scorching runs of a full 18 inches by anger-crazed minnows are enough to raise the hackles on your neck. No doubt about it, small streams are the place to be. As it happens, I have spent quite a bit of time on small streams just recently and I find them to be quite fascinating and challenging in their own right. Many, if not most, of these tiny rivulets are totally unknown to most. I would put a fair bet out that you, dear reader, have never
Golokodo River. This site is not far from the headwaters but the river is severely damaged by illegal sandmining.
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ake a stand been to the Golokodo, or to the Mbokodweni. Surprisingly, they are within easy reach of many of us urbanites here in KwaZulu-Natal but are just plain overlooked. Since they rise in the lush farmlands away from the high mountains, their headwaters are always more productive than those further down, and I have done astonishingly well in pools that are easily stepped over at either end. There is good cover, almost all indigenous, along the banks and some surprisingly large yellows may be found along the edges of the current tongues. The most amazing thing is the number of eels that may be found. As always, I take a SASS sample or two and the scores are good. Really good. Then, as you go down the river a little way, things start to slip a bit. SASS goes down as rattailed maggots replace mayflies, and the fish become scarcer. Even my potent electroshocker turns up blanks. The reason is that this is where the sewage spills start. Golokodo River. Despite the solid wastes, there are good fish populations here, and the SASS score is high.
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Mbokodweni River. There is more sewage than water here and monitors must wear protective gear and wash frequently with disinfectant. Note the water hyacinth which has covered and choked the channel. The only fish found have been guppies which came originally from a fish tank. Or perhaps the sand mining starts. Possibly both. Riverine vegetation becomes reminiscent of the plastic bauble-draped plastic Christmas trees which will soon be gracing so many stores. Welcome to the peri-urban streams which flow unnoticed past our towns and cities; gems ground to dust. For, you see, the two little rivers named here are just south of Pinetown and head down toward Umbogintwini. Flowing through oncegorgeous scenery, they have become little more than drains or sewers. Chemical and turbidity samples reveal a steady decline in water quality and the water hyacinth flourishes accordingly. Coliform bacterial counts are something I have never encountered elsewhere. They are presented as “THTBC”. When I asked the lab, I was told it was the acronym for “Too High To Be Counted”. The story of these two streams, perhaps small rivers in the lower sections if you like, may also be told about hundreds and thousands of small systems across our country. Sure we all know, and with good reason, about the precipitous state of the Vaal River which may by now have crossed ecological thresholds that cannot be 74 • Return to contents
repaired. There are many others as well and a grim list can be told. Olifants, Umsunduzi, Krokodil, Wilge, Mkuze, Eerste, Groot Letaba,to name a few. We need to know about these, and local communities need to stand up and say, “Stop! Enough!” But the little ones also need help as they pass unnoticed by our homes. Fortunately, there are some rays of light. The communities living along the banks of the Golokodo and the Mbokodweni have stood up to be counted. They have formed community forums and, with the help of NGOs such as I4Water and Wyze Wayz Water Care Trust, funded by AE&CI, are striving to clean up their rivers and the even smaller tributaries that feed into them. They clear out alien weeds from the banks and remove litter and garbage from the channels. Monitors keep an eye on things and are not shy to point out any back-sliding. They also do Mini-SASS and take water samples which go to a sponsoring chemical testing laboratory also funded by AE&CI. Most of the volunteers are young women who deserve our highest applause and commendation. Would that their spirit could pass into the higher echelons of power. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
E believe that flyfishing for trout is a privilege and a responsibility. We aspire to encourage and develop angling and its fisheries, including trout for future generations. We strive to minimise the unnecessary suffering of the fish we catch. We endeavour to do this in the case of trout by: â€˘ Not fishing when the water gets too warm. We monitor water temperature and stop fishing when temperatures exceed 20Â°C. â€˘ Practicing catch-and-release wherever possible and only taking those fish that we are permitted in terms of our fishing license requirements, club rules or landowner wishes. â€˘ We avoid causing unnecessary harm or stress to the fish we catch. Catching trout increases the risk of mortality even if the fish is revived after being caught. We minimise this risk by: â€˘ Bringing the fish to net quickly. The stress of fighting a fish to exhaustion compromises the fishâ€™s immune system and increases the risk of disease. â€˘ Using soft, knot-free netting to reduce skin damage and the consequent risk of disease and mortality. â€˘ Fishing with barbless hooks; this causes, less damage to the fish and makes it easier and quicker to release the fish after it has been caught. â€˘ Avoiding holding the fish or, where this is unavoidable, doing so in a way that doesnâ€™t damage the fishâ€™s gills or internal organs. â€˘ Limiting handling to what is necessary to release the fish wherever possible. Be ready to take the photograph before you take the fish out of the water; even short periods out of the water increase the risk of mortality, especially when the fish has been fought to exhaustion We respect other peopleâ€™s rights. Consequently: â€˘ Donâ€™t fish without a licence where this is required. (Not all provinces require freshwater fishing licenses.) â€˘ We do not fish waters without permission of the riparian landowner. â€˘ We obey the rules that apply. â€˘ Even though the â€œclosed seasonâ€? is no longer legally enforced, we recognise that trout need time off to breed. Consequently, we do not fish rivers out of season. â€˘ We do not litter or pollute. We contribute to our general sense of wellbeing by: â€˘ Sharing our knowledge freely so others may benefit. â€˘ Having fun and taking pleasure in the fun of others.
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TECHNIQUES The kingfisher poses.
HOW Catching Sca
NFFC RIVE By Tony Sharples OOM! The 4-wt bucked like a wild mule in my hand and my pulse rate doubled in an instant; this was a decent fish. I could feel the sheer power through the butt of the rod and before I could say “Jack Flash” line was peeling off my reel at an incredible rate. Some 30 metres further downstream my fishing companion was up to his hips in water, happily casting into the same run.
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An instant premonition came true as the smallmouth yellowfish charged straight for him. I shouted, I yelled and I bellowed, but he took no notice. I watched in horror as the line went past his legs and then around them. It was like watching a comedy movie in slow motion as he tried a Reggae dance move and toppled slowly over into the river, to emerge twice his normal size. The fish was on its merry way by now and all that was left was this huge, waterlogged figure www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Took about a minute to get his first fish!
W TO: alies in KZN
ER CLINIC wading towards me. Only later did I realise that his fly vest had a built-in buoyancy compartment and that his dip into the Orange River had caused it to instantly inflate. I still feel a bit guilty to this day, Jeff! A party of nine of us had spent the previous three days at Hunter Fisher Safaris near Douglas. Jacques Marais, the owner and guide, had expertly taught us the finer points of European nymphing in the Orange and Vaal rivers. I Join us on Facebook
quickly realised that Jacques knew his stuff, and one evening around the pub, the idea of holding a river clinic with Jacques, under the auspices of the Natal Fly Fishing Club (NFFC), was born. The clinic was held at the Highover Sanctuary on the Mkomazi River in late September 2018 as this is a favourite time to fish for Natal yellowfish. At that time of year the river is normally clean and is not running too full. After a slow start to bookings all 28 places were filled. Return to contents â€˘ 77
All the NFFC clinic attendees.
THE CLINIC As all ardent flyfishermen know, the weather can make or break a fishing trip. I became an amateur meteorologist during the weeks leading up to the clinic. A cold front with some snow swept over the KZN Midlands just two weeks before the clinic and, horror of horrors, heavy rain was predicted over the weekend of the clinic. Despite a week of very unsettled weather prior to the event the weather gods blessed us with favourable weather over the three-day event. The river conditions had even improved
by a few centimetres of rain earlier in the week. A couple of the more enthusiastic participants spent a day fishing before the clinic and when I arrived with Jacques we were excitedly informed that the scalies were on the feed. Jacques spent a few hours exploring the river before the remainder of the participants arrived and I was happy to hear the river was looking great and that he had managed to bag 19 scalies. After supper on Friday Jacques kicked-off the clinic with an infor mative presentation on European nymphing. To most participants this
Tony and team ready to hit the river. 78 â€˘ Return to contents
method of river fishing Killer fly. Photo by Andrew Mather. throwing flies sans flywas completely foreign line, and in no time and initially there were there were hollers of some puzzled faces. “fish on!” coming from However, by the end of all directions. the presentation and the I will not go into question-and-answer details on the fish time the looks of bewilcaught except to say der ment had been probably 200 to 250 replaced with excitescalies were netted, ment. ranging in size from a Saturday mor ning few hundred grams to dawned cool and wind2kg. less and everyone was Around the supper champing at the bit to table on Saturday peosee the practical ple who had never demonstration by before caught a scaly Jacques on the river. A were happily regaling technical run was chotheir experiences to sen as this gave Jacques anyone who would listhe opportunity to ten. Sunday was a day demonstrate how to of DIY with participants read the river, how to wade safely, how to cast going to spots of their choice. heavy nymphs on a mono rig, how to do a drag The NFFC would like to thank Jacques Marais free drift and how to hook and land a fish. sincerely for the outstanding presentation and After splitting into six groups the participants for the help he so willingly gave to the less expewere soon on or in the water trying out the rienced anglers. We also thank the participants methods they had been shown. I was truly for the fellowship and enthusiasm over a weekamazed at how quickly everyone adapted to end where new friends were made. EURO NYMPH RIG SETUP by Stelios Comninos
1. Use a Euro nymph fly line if available. If you’re not using Euro nymph line then add about 10m of 0.3mm mono to the end of a floating fly-line and then attach directly to tapered leader. 2. Create a join between the fly-line and tapered leader by first threading a sewing machine needle in through the end of the fly-line about 10-15 mm deep. Bend the fly-line so that the needle exits the fly-line. Thread the fine point of the leader into the eye of the needle. Bite or roughen the thick end of the leader and pull leader it through fly-line until about 25mm remains out of the fly-line. Apply superglue to the remaining bit and pull it as far as possible into the fly-line. Wrap fly-tying thread over the join, apply superglue over the wrapping and then cover with UV resin, rolling it to form a tapered join and then cure the resin. 3. The tapered leader is 900mm of the middle section of a 4X tapered leader. 4. Tie dual coloured mono on to the leader. Length depends on the length of the rod (see 5 above). 5. Tapered leader and dual coloured mono to be total of rod length. 6. Tie on 1200mm of 4X tippet. 7. Tie on 400mm dual coloured mono. 8. Add three small balls of red UV fly paint. Apply a drop of fly paint and roll the line to create an even ball and cure with UV torch. Repeat process for remaining two balls. 9. Attach a small tippet ring. 10.Attach 1800mm to 2100mm of 6X tippet with dropper. The dropper is tied with a double surgeon’s knot 550mm between dropper knot and the point of the tippet. The shorter the dropper, the fewer tangles you’ll have. • Use double surgeon’s knots for joining lines and cover all joints lightly with UV resin and cure. Join us on Facebook
Return to contents • 79
ON THE SHELF
Yet More SWEET DAYS By Tom Sutcliffe
FINISHED writing Yet More Sweet Days a few months ago and I am now in negotiations with P\LQWHUQDWLRQDOpublishLQJ FRQWDFWVWo finalise the details of how we produce this book. That’s after the manuscript was proofread by a few close friends of mine — flyfishers all of them — Robin Douglas, Dulcie Kirby (she did the proofreading for Hunting Trout) and that hovering hawk of correct syntax, Dean Riphagen. The manuscript was a long time in the writing — just over three years — and once I have completed the last few pen and ink sketches, it will end up as a book of well over 400 pages. Hopefully it will come off the printer’s press by the second quarter of 2019 which is just around the corner. It’s my seventh book, and when Peter Brigg asked me to jot a few lines on it for this worthy magazine, I wondered why I still bother writing at all. One thing I do know is that it’s not for the money. If I relied on the income from books I’ve written to sustain body and soul I’d be sleeping on cardboard strips on the streets under a covering of newspapers. So I thought about it and came to a few loose-knit conclusions about why I write flyfishing books; it goes along these lines... Firstly I find some solace in writing, certainly writing stuff that concerns flyfishing, because it has a way of transporting me to rivers and streams when I’m actually nowhere near them. With that in mind, it’s understandable that I wrote much of this book during times when I couldn’t get out fishing in the long, cold and often uncharacteristically dry Cape winters of 80 • Return to contents
the past three years. It was a time when this province and, by unhappy coincidence, most other places that I regularly trundle off to countrywide in search of fishing, were also baking in the dust bowls of their assorted droughts and all hopes of fishing had gone clean out the window. Secondly I am helplessly lost to flyfishing, a condition I notice isn’t uncommon among anglers generally, although it’s worryingly obsessive enough in me to make writing about it a comforting escape. Together with that, I wanted to remind myself again, and to remind those who choose to buy this book — and I’m not imagining their numbers will exactly fill a football stadium — of some of the more easily overlooked, more incidental aspects of flyfishing than the many hard-core matters we daily hear about. I’m thinking of the little things that make the sport so special to us, so personal, and yet so common to us all. To start with there’s that damp, ozone-like smell of early morning streams and the pleasantly earthy fragrances of the riverbanks we tramp. In some places, like the Easter n Cape Highlands, this can strangely take on the smell of dust mixed with honey — to me anyway. And then there’s the sibilant soliloquy of sliding streams (best listened to flat on your back, with a straw in your mouth and cap over your eyes). Or that sudden, unexpected, slowmotion sip of a rising trout on a hitherto blank day, sunsets setting an evening stream alight, and so on. But as I wrote some of these dewy pieces, I recognised that I too easily lapse into prose that’s flowery or gratuitously nostalgic or too poetic for my own good — and yours. So I tried www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
to write my text for the broader audience who, I believe, accept that while flyfishing literature should be laced with a little poetic narrative (per haps a lot) poetry alone is not where flyfishing writing should begin and end. I added many word-stories from my diaries about how my various flyfishing trips unfolded, which was generally like most flyfishing trips unfold. In other words notably full of surprises and challenging weather and big fish that we often lost and new flies that worked against all odds and old patterns that should have worked but didn’t. Narratives that teach a little, but above all, narratives that just let readers enjoy the ride, if only because they’ve been there themselves and can nod their heads silently in recognition of a lot of it. Naturally I enjoy the selfish self-actualisation there is in writing books, especially when anglers tell me they enjoyed the read because it brought some fishing into their lives or helped them bridge the dull times in some far off fishing lodge they’d happened to flee to. Or that my writing never failed to send them to sleep at night, or that they loved the book and were rereading it for the fourth or fifth time, although there’s never enough of that sort of praise for me to ever get drunk on. Yet More Sweet Days, much like Hunting Trout and Shadows on the Stream Bed, leans heavily on recent fishing experiences with chapters on my trips to Rhodes and Barkly East. However there are also chapters on fishing chalkstreams in Hampshire, one on a joyful trip I did to Iceland where I caught a heap of salmon in the company of a very different breed of anglers. There are also some whimsical observations on bridges which are akin to Piccadilly Circus for flyfishers in that if you hang around long enough on any of them that cross a good trout stream, you’re bound to bump into a passing angler you know. I have met up with countless members of our breed on the bridge over the Kraai River at Moshe’s Ford, for example. Of course I touch on my pretty home waters Join us on Facebook
too, add some observations on small stream flyfishing, have a reflective piece on the relative merits of fishing alone, and debate the complex masochism involved in fishing the stillwaters of Highland Lodge in the middle of winter when the daytime temperature can still be minus something. In addition to that, I look at a few of our more ritualistic behaviours, like the simple ritual of streamside lunches because they were that good or that astoundingly bad. In general it’s an eclectic assortment of subjects related directly, sometimes a little indirectly, and occasionally irreverently, to flyfishing. And I’m never stuck much for subjects, because I’ve had a long life in the sport. Long enough to have met a few people who practise our uncertain art with superb and unfailing skill, or tie superb flies, or make exquisite rods or nets, or who paint the sport or sculpt it. I have also met a few overseas high priests of flyfishing like Lee and Joan Wulff and Tom Rosenbauer (I fished a small creek with him) and Gary Borger. And I’ve fished over the years with many of our own high priests, like HB (Hooks and Bullets) Huntley, Mark Mackereth (the father of our dry flyfishing), John Beams (numero uno as we called him back then), Tony Biggs (a minor genius) and the encyclopaedic Ed Herbst. But I’m not going to go into a full listing here in alphabetical order because I risk leaving someone out by mistake. And all the while, over these many years, my dark dun-coloured hair gradually changed to a medium dun, then to a pale dun and now the scant remnants of it are a very pale watery dun. But who cares, it’s a badge of honour. As is old age. And let me add that I think Bernard Shaw was onto something when he said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Or words to that effect. Basically this is a long-winded way of saying that I think you will enjoy this book. Who knows, it may even help you get to sleep at night. I’m also doing 50 limited edition copies that will be leather-bound, slip-cased with an original sketch for each, and signed and numbered of course. If you’ve already ordered one your name will be on my list. •Yet More Sweet Days will be sold and distributed to all mainstream booksellers and flyfishing shops in South Africa. It will also be available worldwide on Amazon as an ebook and as a print-on-demand (POD) paperback. • The sale, distribution and makeup of the 50 limited edition copies will be managed by the author. For further information contact Tom Sutcliffe on <email@example.com>. Return to contents • 81
IN GEAR ANDREW SAVIDES NETS
There are only a handful of net makers in South Africa making custom, bespoked nets. Savs, as he’s often called, has been making a name for himself with his creations. Each piece of timber is carefully examined to see what the best options would be for it. He’s even crafted a +100-year-old wild olive fence post complete with nail holes into a fine stream net — perfection in the imperfections. Of recent he has been experimenting with bamboo and painting images of brown and rainbow trout on to the net handles. He has a waiting list, but if you are prepared to wait, this is a net you will treasure. Contact Savs on 082 651 2685.
DUBBING TUBES Most of us have various collections of dubbing which we either keep in the original plastic box sets or in the original packets. Most of the time these are stuffed into one’s fly-tying bags/cupboards and, if you are like me, you won’t ever be able to find the one you want, or worse still you will end up buying duplicate packets. This can all be sorted with the use of these clear polycarbonate tubes. Originally designed as underroof insulation and made in large sheets, these have become a real delight for storing dubbing. You can see the colours, and a whole pack easily fits into one tube. Travel kits can be made by using two colours per tube and these pack away into the tiniest spaces. StreamX in Cape Town stock these as do Maizey Plastics. 82 • Return to contents
FISH FLUFF Fish Fluff (originally known as Flyworx) is a local company producing dubbing in a wide range of colours. Custom dubbing is also offered and many of the well-known South African fly-tyers are using this and loving it. If you are a keen tyer then have a look at this product; you won’t be disappointed. Give Rod Smit a shout on 071 673 8800 or find him on Facebook.
REEL FISHING Looking for quality tackle at affordable prices?Look no further than Reel Flyfishing SA. They stock a limited selection of equipment but at very reasonable prices. I’ve just bought a nymphing line for R340. Rods and reels are very competitively priced and the quality is excellent.
MARK BENSON KNIVES Mark Benson is a local KZN knifemaker and, fortunately for us, is also a keen flyfisher. He has recently made a Kiridashi knife for fly-tyers. Originally developed to cut foam for hoppers, he soon realised the potential and it replaced his scissors. Made from knife steel on his CNC mill, engraved and hand ground on one side (one side is perfectly flat), the knife is heat treated and ground, sanded and polished to a fine edge on Japanese water stones. This is a working tool. The tool comes in a wooded holder made from local exotic woods. Check out his website at http://bensonknives.com
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Return to contents • 83
ON THE SHELF
CDC by Marc Petitjean (not your usual) BOOK REVIEW by Andrew Mather
E stood there quietly looking out at the rolling hills around Lourensford wearing a puffer-jacket, with the word “Petitjean” embroided on it, against the Cape mor ning cold. His eyes lit up as he recognised me. Marc, ever the polite gentleman, offered an outstretched hand and greeted me warmly. I first met Marc Petitjean when he tied for a joint Durban Fly Tyers (DFT) and Natal Fly Fishing Club (NFFC) event last year. He had with him at that time a draft of his upcoming book which I got to skim over. By the time we met again this year a little bird had told me that he now had copies for sale, and I asked him for a copy. This was clearly not going to be a simple transaction. Marc led me to his table and pulled out a copy of his new book simply titled CDC. “Before I give you your copy, I want to show you how I have approached the setting out of this book,” he told me. “Let us start in the begin84 • Return to contents
ning. This book has been carefully thought out and I believe that I will never need to write another book on CDC. This is the bible. The book comes out in English and, of course, French but there will be many other people who look at this book that don’t talk either language. To assist them I have included many pictures. You will see. “At the edge of the book you will see a colour coding of pages. This is done as a guide to separate the information in an easily accessible for mat. There are not too many chapters, so it’s easy to find the right information. “In the opening chapter we have included the early history of CDC. This is fitting for such a majestic feather. “The next chapter focuses on all the flies that I’ve been tying for nearly 25 years. You will see that I use numbers, not names. I get asked why I used numbers and not names. It’s because people use different names for similar flies. This way every fly gets a unique name/number. “The third chapter is on the tools I have developed and made to help tie with CDC. Here you www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
will find my ‘magic tool’, which I developed to work with CDC. It is one of the most popular tools. I have designed my own vice as well as a unique bobbin which is easy to thread. I take every opportunity to demonstrate how easy it is to thread. “Now, there are some people who find it hard to do certain operations with CDC so the fourth chapter I have written so that the techniques I use on my flies can be clearly seen and used to get a perfect fly. The chapter is split into three sections, each dealing with an exclusive part of the fly. The first part is on bodies only. Here I show how to tie the bodies on my patterns. Next I describe the treatment of the CDC thorax and legs and finally the CDC wings. “This section is good to develop techniques for better tying and to show beginners and even some experienced fly-tyers how to achieve the per fect outcome. I have also included a number of tips for working with CDC. “The next chapter is on my new modern flies. You will see that these are numbered differently
to my old flies, but still with no names. The numbers are all in the 2000s as we are in the 21st century now. Some are my older flies recreated. “Lastly I write a bit about caring for CDC flies. This is very important if you want them to per form at their best. One can use CDC oil as well as amadou patches for bigger flies, but small flies are easily dried by flicking them.” Having spent time reading Marc’s book which is jam packed with the most amazing photographs detailing all the flies as well as techniques and equipment, I can concur — this is THE book on CDC. If you are already using CDC and want to improve your techniques then get the book. If you are a beginner then this is the book to get, because Marc not only shows you the steps involved but also the techniques and tools need for each fly.
“There is no need to write another book on CDC” — Marc Petijean
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Marc Petitjean’s book is available from Netbooks or directly from www.petitjean.com. Return to contents • 85
CLUB PROFILES Mountain dam on top of the Boschberg Mountain Somerset East.
BANKBERG TROUT FISHERS’ CLUB
LYFISHING in the Karoo? Crazy… Trout stocking records show that waters were stocked in the Somerset East area as far back as 1913, despite Sydney Heys’ recommendations to Parliament in 1925: “The physical conditions met with rivers in South Africa vary very greatly. A large percentage of our river courses are dry for a great part of the year and are little more than sand pools, blocked by rock barriers at intervals, which during flood carry off immense quantities of storm water in short spates, much discoloured and laden heavily with detritus. Such are many of the river beds of the Karoo districts of the Cape Province.” This best describes the waters when it rains, but overlooks the fact that most of the water in the Karoo is underground fountain water, so typically when driving along the Little Fish River one just sees a dry river bed. Hundreds of years ago dinosaur-like reptiles scoured pools below these rock barriers, bringing the underground fountain water to the surface. These have been stocked with trout since 1963 when the Somerset East Acclimatization Society was formed. In 1995 some of the local businessmen who were keen flyfishermen arranged to stock the two municipal dams, in Somerset East with trout. In 2006 the two clubs were amalgamated to comprise the Bankberg Trout Fishers’ Club of today. The club has managed to build up its membership base to about 60 members, but more importantly, six of the 12 stillwaters are 86 • Return to contents
open to day visitors. All the waters are on private property, and access needs to be arranged through the club. This is managed from the Wild Fly Fishing in the Karoo fly shop, based in Somerset East, where one can purchase a day ticket to fish. Resident guide, Alan Hobson manages the waters in the area which reach as far north as Cradock. The rest of the waters require access either with a club member or a guide. Four biomes offer as much diversity in landscapes as they do flyfishing opportunities. The area has flyfishing all year round, where you would least expect it. Hot summer days in the Karoo mean that one can target bass and yellowfish in the morning, enjoy a siesta in the heat of the day and head up into the mountains late afternoon as it cools down, to experience prolific insect hatches, offering dry fly sight fishing to rising trout until after dark, fishing until about 9.30pm and driving back home in the dark. With high altitude dams one regularly experiences anabatic (upslope winds) hatches which offer technical fishing to feeding fish. The stillwaters at the bottom of the mountains come into their own in the winter months. The Orange/Fish River irrigation scheme brings water all the way from Gariep Dam, offering opportunities to target smallmouth yellowfish, moggel, mudfish, carp and barbel all year round. For more infor mation visit www.wildflyfishinginthekaroo.co.za or contact the Club Chairman, Alan Hobson, on 082 442 2884. www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
DURBAN FLY TYERS
The use of a camera and projector means everyone can easily see what the tyer is doing.
HE Durban Fly Tyers Club was formed in 1990 by a few fly tying fishermen from the Durban area who were initially part of the Pietermaritzburg based Natal Fly Dressers Society. Each month the tying of either a freshwater or saltwater fly is demonstrated by an invited guest tyer or member. The members then replicate the fly using materials supplied by the club. The guest tyer judges the best fly tied at the meeting and senior and junior winning flies and runners up are selected. Points are awarded throughout the year to determine the annual winner, with trophies handed out at the AGM in May. The annual fly-tyer of the year competition is actually a light hearted affair because the club is avowedly non-competitive. Apart from the Jack Blackman trophy for the best junior tyer, the club also awards “The Foul Hook” trophy for a “questionable achievement”. The trophy is a fun fly, tied on a 12 inch hook and the winner is required to tie a new fly on this hook when it is presented again the following year. The talent in the club has produced some
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excellent flies and tyers over the years and some of its members have made significant contributions to fly-tying and flyfishing. The club also publishes The Bobbin, a monthly newsletter which, over the years, has contained excellent articles. The Bobbin can be accessed on our website www.durbanflytyers.co.za. The website also contains information on flies and recipes tied over many years. You can also visit the club’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DurbanFlyTyers and search for the Durban Fly Tyers on YouTube for instructional videos. Come join us at the Westville Central Library Room G1 at 7pm on the first Monday of the month (except for January). The meeting starts at 7.30pm sharp and is normally over by 9pm. We welcome the attendance and participation of all fly-tyers and potential fly-tyers, regardless of their level of skill or experience. Visitors are welcome and need only bring their tying equipment with them. For further information contact the Secretary, Bruce Curry, on 082 774 5514 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Return to contents • 87
by Brett van Rensburg
HE only thing more exciting than being selected to represent your country in a sport you have been passionate about your entire life, is knowing that you are going to spend the next two weeks fishing some of the most magical rivers one can find in the UK — and with a bunch of mates. With that said, let me tell you a story that is certain to please, about a great fishing contest with flies that tease. Where all the best men and all the top lasses compete in a contest to win silver and brasses. After a lengthy 30-hour journey to the land of beautiful rivers and fresh Guinness, it is of course customary for one of the fitness freaks in the team to suggest a slow jog to loosen up the legs. None of us expected this idea to come from “Mr Knee Operation” himself, Maddy Rich, 88 • Return to contents
but after seeing him in his extremely tight running shorts we were all persuaded to tag along. With the juices now flowing, the fly-tying table setup, fishing tackle everywhere and the first cold beer cracked, we were officially underway. The thing to recognise early on about competitive flyfishing is that it’s about having a good time with your mates and learning from some seriously capable anglers. As serious as it seems, it’s mostly about having fun with friends. For example, around a fly-tying table I have much to learn, but the team is always willing to lend a hand, something that makes competitive angling a goldmine of information for a willing mind. On this particular evening the tying quality took a quick dive as the flow of beer increased until it was eventually time to go to bed and dream of the Irish rivers that awaited us in the morrow. As the sun rose on the first morning we quickly www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
realised that the Irish drought we had heard so much about was clearly very different to what the poor mense in Cape Town have had to endure. It’s less a drought and more a constant drizzle followed by a brief glimpse of sunlight, followed by a sudden downpour. However even the soggy weather couldn’t keep the team’s spirit down; it was time to fish. Unfortunately, the nearly one-hour online fishing permit exercise did offer a few challenges that had Mr Factor at his wits’ end. You see, having patience with bureaucracy when he could be fishing, is not his strength. The first morning saw the ladies heading off to fish an Irish lake and the men heading to the mythical Deel River, a dark stained river that we were very excited to checkout. Preparing for a competition like this is less about catching millions of beautiful brown trout and more about working out as many methods to catch them as Join us on Facebook
possible. That’s why we pair up each day and each group uses their time to test a different method of fishing. On this particular river it didn’t matter — dry fly fishing, dry-dropper, wets and Euro Nymphing, take your pick, it all worked. The fish were hungry and would eat anything! With all this exercising we quickly worked up an appetite, an fortunately in Ireland a pub is never far away with offers of a cold pint and a little protein. And what of the ladies on their first morning? Well, they braved skinny roads, stinging nettles and locked gates to fish the mighty Lake Emy in search of a sneaky trout. Sadly, Northern Ireland had different ideas; they managed pike and perch in numbers, but there were no trout to be seen. Not the start they had hoped for. This, however, did not dampen their spirits as they could enjoy the Deel River with its plentiful browns the very next day. Return to contents • 89
Each day the teams fish different waters and test new techniques, the idea being to figure out the most productive methods of catching fish before the competition starts. The evenings are spent tying flies, prepping leaders, attempting to cook (some of the chefs are better than others) and regaling stories of some of the better catches of the day. All the time you are learning from each other and preparing for DDay. Something to note about Northern Ireland is this: If you pick up a stone, close your eyes, spin around a few times and throw it; it’s bound to land in a lake or river. They have so many stunning waters to choose from and none of them is more than 20 minutes away. Every destination entered into Google Maps showed the same result — yet another short drive. On one of our day outings we were brought to our knees in laughter with some fantastic Factor logic. For those who don’t know, Factor logic is the logic used by Daniel Factor when trying to explain a particular way of thinking. On this particular day we were in for a treat. While discussing the minimum measurable fish size allowed to count in the Championship we realised that many of the fish we were catching would not measure up. It was at this point that Mr Factor jumped in with an opinion. The easy fix, he said, if said fish would not measure in the gutter is to turn it over and measure it the other way. This statement was met with multiple looks of confusion and followed by complete hysterics. I’m sure I wet my waders! 90 • Return to contents
A day on the Crumlin River with a local guide saw the ladies perfecting their techniques and their confidence soared like the local magpies (there are no eagles in Ireland). Crumlin was also the site of yet another humorous event. Amy Trembling’s excitement was tough to suppress at this stage and her striking technique mimics that of a serious marlin fisherman. When her beautiful browns aren’t flying through the air she is striking her rod tip into the faces of her fellow team mates. On this day her victim was the unassuming Bloom, who was minding her own business until she found herself on the receiving end of a brutal attack. Fortunately, the local doctor assured us that the welt across Bloom’s face left by the tip of Amy’s fly-rod will soon fade and only the memory of the ordeal will remain. Both the men’s and ladies’ fishing days on Birchwood Fishery will be something we remember for a long time to come. This fishery is renowned throughout the UK for its monster trout and I know none of us will forget the shouts of “vas” echoing across the dam as Daniel hooked yet another 8 lb-plus trout. The only thing that could wipe the smile off of Dan’s face after landing his personal best 10 lb-plus trout was seeing Alison from the ladies’ team land an 11 lb trout. We all stepped off these waters with massive confidence leading into the Championship. The Commonwealth Championship is as much about fun as it is about winning. With that said, no one can prepare you for those nerves as you step onto the bus for the first time with 20 www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
other anglers who all want to beat you. Competitors compete in five sessions over three days, with each angler placed a group which has an angler from every country competing. On this occasion all the competitors fished two rivers sessions and three lake sessions. The goal as an angler is to finish as high as you possibly can in your group by catching the most fish in the allotted three hours per session. The South African teams gave everything they had during the competition, with the ladies’ team finishing 11th overall and at the top of the ladies’ rankings. Alison O’Brien put up a master ful per formance finishing as the top woman angler, a truly remarkable achievement. The men’s team hunted for a much covetted international medal until the very last minute, falling just inches short of a team bronze. Still, finishing fourth overall in an international competition is a great achievement. The ladies went a step further, winning the final prize of the evening, “The Friendship Award”. This trophy is seen as the highest honour awarded at this event, and it is the third time we have won this trophy in five events, a true testament to the South African way. After all was said and done it was time for a lekker party and a few celebratory drinks. Okay, we might have had more than a few drinks! The cold beer combined with Irish folk music made for an evening that ran into the wee hours of the next morning. The beautiful destination, mythical-looking rivers and color ful personalities make the Join us on Facebook
Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championship a one of a kind event, something any competitive flyfisher dreams of participating in. Sitting on the plane flying home, one reflects on two fantastic weeks fishing with many new friendships created, but the thought that sits top of my mind is the Commonwealth’s mantra “Fishing in Friendship”, which is of course the true prize at the end of the day. A big thank you to all our sponsors who went the extra mile and made this Championship possible — System 5, SmithRen Solutions and of course Upstream Fly Fishing. Without you none of this would be possible. Lastly, the South African teams would like to thank the South African flyfishing public for all their support during the competition; the constant support certainly pushed us along. SOUTH AFRICA’S PERFORMANCE Men’s team — 4th overall Women’s team result — 11th overall and top ranked ladies’ team Alison O’Brien — Top ranked lady overall Amy Trembling — Longest fish Daniel Factor — 6th overall Brett van Rensburg — 3rd overall (bronze) Brett van Rensburg — most fish caught David Karpal — 2nd in casting accuracy competition Matt Rich — 1st in distance casting competition For further information visit: www.tafi-ni-cffc-2018.com/results Return to contents • 91
KILLING THE VAAL CONTINUED...
By Chris Williams
OSAF represented all you fly fishers at the recent SA Human Rights Commission of Inquiry where they adopted a “no holds barred approach” in stating it as it is. FOSAF along with SAVE which I also represent handed the commission a detailed written complaint speaking of the pollution of the Vaal and the consequent suffering of communities which live alongside the Vaal. The two major points we made dealt with the violation of our right to a healthy environment under the South African Constitution and of the right to clean water in terms of the UN Human Rights Guidelines. FOSAF pointed to the immediate and long term effects of environmental degradation that has caused massive fish kills of yellowfish, mudfish and other species. FOSAF’s submission won an invitation to submit further written evidence of fish kills and the pollution of the river by 30 November this year. 92 • Return to contents
Please will all readers who have pertinent information in this regard email me email@example.com any information of a factual nature together with date, time and location stamped photographs so we can include them in the dossier FOSAF is preparing. The terrible thing to emerge from all of this is that we are witnessing a failure of government from the very top to the bottom. What is worse is that this is not due to a lack of competence, but rather a lack of care. Officials are competent at implementing schemes that enrich themselves and their political masters. The incompetence you see and complain about is very selective. Just look at how good everyone is at avoiding blame. The truth is that no one in government is taking responsibility for what is happening; they each blame one another, thereby ensuring that nothing is done to fix the problem. It’s a case of business as usual. The truth is they are all to blame right from the Emfuleni Municipality (who ironically adopted www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Close to the hanging bridge in Parys, July 2018. the motto “The Cradle Of Human Rights”), to the Gauteng provincial government and nationally with Department of Water and Sanitation (“DWS”) and Environmental Affairs (DEA), We initially thought that government would care, but by and large they do not. Politicians and officials also want to look the other way and pretend nothing is wrong. Corruption and covering up the effects of corruption remain a serious problem, but the real problem is that very few people in government actually care. There are exceptions, but they are in the minority. We need to work hard to help those few make a difference. Sadly, this lack of care is not just in government. It is worrying that some resorts and guides are actively downplaying the scale of this crisis out of fear what negative publicity may do to their businesses. This is wrong; it is also counterproductive. This problem is not going to go away. We need action rather than people looking the other way; the health and wellbeing of Join us on Facebook
THE TRUTH WILL NOT BE WASHED AWAY whole communities are at stake. The recent announcement by Emfuleni Municipality’s Mayor Khawe that R872-million has disappeared from the Emfuleni Municipality’s accounts since June 2017 did not come as a surprise. We have got used to hearing these public protestations of probity! We are used to the polluted waters that are corruption and outright theft being laundered as unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. If only the mayor was as adept at treating the water that his municipality pumps back into our rivers! The result of their selective treatment of the sewerage that flows into the municipal sewerage work and out of the municipal offices is that many living alongside the Vaal are now having to literally live in shit. I am not sure how it is the mayor is still in power and, more importantly, why he thinks that he can fix the problem he and his team have caused, if only they are given more money. Return to contents • 93
Surely it is time to give someone else who is a little less careless of our tax money and rights a chance to make things right. I worry about the old saying of throwing good money after bad. The Draft Emfuleni Municipality Financial Recovery Plan (see www.emfuleni.gov.za) speaks to the size of the problem. It confirms what we already know, namely that Emfuleni Municipality, is morally and financially bankrupt. However, after reading the report you could be excused for thinking that the Vaal is not being polluted and that very little is wrong with the operation of its waste treatment plants. This is the magnitude of the problem we have when dealing with government. They are not prepared to acknowledge the problem despite it being right in front of them. Some R5- or so billion rands is urgently required to fix sewerage treatment plants in Emfuleni. This investment will enable the repairs and upgrading of the existing sewage and waste water treatment plants and also allow the building of the long overdue new mega sewage/waste water treatment just below the Barrage. At present only R5-million of this amount has been made available. This is a pittance that does not even touch sides with what is required to address the present emergency, let alone return the existing sewerage works to a functioning state. The Emfuleni Municipality is now under partial administration of COGTA and Gauteng Provincial Government. The Mayor of Gauteng, David Makhura, is on the NEC and hence has a say at National Treasury. Hopefully he will be able to play a meaningful role in ensuring that the necessary funds reach people with the skills and resources to actually fix the problem. However what we actually need is for a State of Emergency to be declared to enable the fast-tracking (within a week) of funding direct to reliable, suitably skilled contractors so that they can immediately start work fixing the problem. As matters presently stand no one who can do the job will accept an instruction from the Emfuleni Municipality. They have been burnt too many times in the past. And it’s no good taking the Emfuleni Municipality to court; there are already nine court orders against Emfuleni Municipality and/or Water Affairs including some orders against top ranking officials in each. All of them have been treated with contempt. There is a lot of disinformation out there regarding the state of the Vaal. These resources will help you become better informed. Rand Water Barrage Report comes out every Friday; it gives a basic helicopter view of some of the problems but does not address some of 94 • Return to contents
the major pollution issues. See www.reservoir.co.za/ FOSAF commissioned an independent report dated 4 October. Check out the FOSAF web site for details of this report. It is much more comprehensive than the Rand Water Summary. A lot of people think that the summer rains will sort out the problem, but this is not the case. Increased river flow will mitigate the pollution problem, but it won’t be enough to flush clean the effects of pumping six million litres of raw sewerage into the river every day. The situation will continue to get worse despite the rain. Just look at the recent cholera outbreaks in the DRC and Zimbabwe; that will be our future if we do not act now. No one is getting sick, or so people say. This is not true. People are getting sick but it often takes days if not weeks after an infection for the symptoms to show, by which time the connection with the pollution is overlooked. Public health diseases are like a tomato sauce bottle — first you get a little and then you get a lottle! “Pointing it out will make it worse, especially for my business,” say some resorts and guides. Again, this is misguided. Leaving little problems to become big ones does not make for better business. It is ethically wrong to misrepresent a situation — especially for gain — while knowing that people will get hurt. The past catches up with you, and when it does the trust is lost, sometimes forever. I am not trying to scare-monger here; the facts are scary enough. I would love nothing more than to go back to fishing the Vaal with my mates, but I cannot and will not fool myself or my friends that this is still a safe occupation these days. It simply is not. Hopefully this article will have opened a few eyes as to the severity of what we are facing and why the SA Human Rights Commission are taking the Vaal Raw Sewage Crisis as a top national priority. This is not a reason to give up, it is a reason to get involved, so please support your ratepayers’ association. Support the Save the Vaal Campaign (SAVE) and FOSAF. Flyfishers who want to help, please join FOSAF and donate to the cause. You can do so online at www.fosaf.org.za or by contacting Peter Arderne at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help ordinary people help you by making a difference; we cannot do it alone. If you have or need any information, please do not hesitate to contact me on email@example.com. We are here to make a positive contribution to South African flyfishing by getting all of us South African flyfishers working together! www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
Mining Monsters THREATS TO THE MPUMALANGA TROUT TRIANGLE By Peter Arderne
T was the threat of mining which made the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency (MTPA) realise that it was important to have a protected area declared between Belfast and Dullstroom, much of which they classified as irreplaceable. They therefore called on FOSAF, EWT and BirdLife SA to assist in the task. Thus, was the Steenkampsberg Environmental Initiative born. The intention to declare was gazetted in 2014, but it was only on 7 April 2017 that the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment (GLPE) was finally declared and gazetted. This is now a protected area 14 000 ha in extent. The intention in the longer term is to expand it and eventually link up with the Verloren Valei Reserve, a RAMSAR site, north of Dullstroom. At this stage unfortunately, there is little chance of this happening as the declaration was met with hostility by the DMR (Department of Mineral Resources) and possibly also from politicians in the Mpumalanga government. With the declaration the landowners of the GLPE elected a committee on which FOSAF is represented. This committee has so far been fairly successful in fighting off applications for prospecting/mining both within and outside the GLPE. This has been achieved by rallying all the stakeholders and environmental NGOs who then register as Interested & Affected Parties once an application has been noted in the area. Thereafter all parties raise objections and demand that the applicant follow the letter of the law. In most cases nothing further is heard from the applicant. Join us on Facebook
The DMR of course is well known for approving mining applications in virtually any part of Mpumalanga province whether it has protected status or not and it is left mainly to the MTPA official in Dullstroom and civil society to try and oppose these applications. One of the reasons for the increased interest in mining in these biodiversity-sensitive areas is that much of the rest of the province has been mined, is being mined or is under application for prospecting or mining. A plane flight across the province easily reveals the devastation wrought by mining in what is a relatively well-watered area and is still one of the breadbaskets of our country although production is on the decline. It is important to remember that the Department of Environmental Affairs has handed over most of its previous responsibilities to the DMR which does not have the resources to carry out this new task. Water Affairs can seldom be relied on to carry out their mandate, so it is up to civil society and the hard pressed NGOs to hold the line against what is often a rapacious mining industry. FOSAF together with allies such as BirdLife SA, EWT, FSE and other environmental NGOs have played a major part in halting the spread of mining, not only within the Trout Triangle but also elsewhere along the escarpment. One must realise that this is not only about protecting the important eco-tourism industry that has developed in places like Dullstroom, it is also vital that the environmental integrity of these wetlands and grassland be protected as they represent a major water factory for the northern provinces of SA and harbour a rich biodiversity. Return to contents â€˘ 95
Why FOSAF took DEA to court By Ilan Lax Y now you may have heard that FOSAF served papers to interdict the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa’s latest proposed amendments to the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Lists and Regulations in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. FOSAF has done so as a last resort after years of attempts to negotiate a lawful, workable and sustainable basis for regulating South Africa’s trout fishery were rejected by the DEA. The DEA had unilaterally reneged on the compromise agreement that was reached at the Phakisa Ocean Labs Conference held in Durban in July 2014 and is now intent on listing trout and a number of other economically useful species as invasive without first telling the public why this is necessary or following the require procedures. FOSAF disputes the lawfulness of the Minister’s proposal to list trout as an invasive species in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 1998 (NEMBA). FOSAF is seeking an order setting aside the Notices published by the Minister, inviting public representations or objections on these proposed changes that were published in February 2018 as well as the various correction notices that were published subsequently, because they do not comply with the requirements laid down in section 100 of NEMBA. These subsequent notices were a failed attempt by the DEA to correct the mistakes in the original publication process. FOSAF maintains that these Notices are fatally and materially defective because the Minister failed to properly advertise the notices, failed to adhere to the prescribed time limits and, most importantly, failed to provide “sufficient informa-
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tion to enable members of the public to submit meaningful representations or objections.” FOSAF and others (FOSAF is part of a consortium of stakeholders opposed to the proposals) argue that the constitutional right of the public to informed participation in law making, by commenting on draft laws before they are promulgated, is vital to the proper functioning of our democracy. It underpins our right to dignity and promotes good law making and effective and accountable government. The requirement that the Notices contain sufficient information to enable the public to submit meaningful representations or objections is central to these rights. The failure by DEA to provide this basic information in relation to the extent, nature of and reasons for the proposed changes to the AIS Lists and Regulations wrongfully deprives South Africans of this important right and undermines the integrity of government and our democracy. It is important to note that the proposed amendments to the AIS Lists and Regulations do not only affect the trout value chain. Many other economically useful species are also adversely affected. FOSAF’s court application is supported by a consortium of other interested and affected parties. FOSAF has good reason to bring this application. If these regulations are passed the consequences for recreational trout angling as well as for freshwater aquaculture will be catastrophic. Both drive large downstream value chains that employ thousands of people and generate over a billion rand in annual revenue largely in rural areas where the opportunity for decent work is limited. An immediate effect of the Notices becoming law is that trout farming and the stocking of South Africa’s trout waters with trout will immediately become a criminal offence www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
HIS issueâ€™s winner of the FOSAF membersâ€™ draw is Peter Liebetrau (membership number EL0004) of Durban North, who won a fly-line kindly donated by Mike Philip of Kingfisher in Durban. Contact them on 031 368 3903.
unless those involved are in possession of a permit issued by the Minister. Under NEMBA invasive species must, as a general rule, be eradicated or (where this is not possible) be prevented from growing or spreading. Permits to farm and utilise invasive species or to introduce them into the wild are not easily obtained. The Minister is only authorised to issue these permits in exceptional circumstances. NEMBA also requires extensive and expensive investigations to take place before the Minister can decide on whether to make such an exception. To make matters worse, there is presently no capacity and infrastructure in place in government to issue those per mits and the skills required to undertake the necessary investigations are in short supply. This means that permits will be very difficult to get and that the application process will be very expensive and will take years to complete. In the meantime, it will be a criminal offence to maintain the existing trout fishery or to operate the present 1 800 tonne per annum trout farming sector. Billions of rands of investments and jobs will be destroyed overnight. FOSAFâ€™s application papers were served on the Minister on 31 August 2018 and the Minister filed a notice of opposition on 13 September 2018. The Answering Affidavit was due on Thursday 11 October 2018 but has not yet been received as at the date of publication. It is worth emphasising again that FOSAF reluctantly entered into this litigation following years of good faith negotiations, cooperation
and engagements with the DEA, including the various mapping exercises at great cost to the trout industry. The DEAâ€™s unilateral breaking off of this process is thus highly regrettable. The Aquaculture Development Bill has been tabled in Parliament. We are at this stage not exactly sure how far down the parliamentary process it has gone, but Trout SA and Aquaculture SA (FOSAF is a member of TSA and TSA in turn is a member of Aqua SA) are monitoring the situation and have registered our interest in this process. In the interim Aqua SA has commissioned an economic study on the impacts of the Bill and in addition are facilitating a legal opinion regarding the constitutionality of some parts of the Bill. We maintain a view that the Bill does not enable the development of the sector; instead it duplicates a range of controls and permits that overcomplicate what should be a simple and practical framework for farming aquatic species. It is the sectorâ€™s view that Aquaculture is and must remain part of Agriculture. Based on our research there are sufficient controls and management provisions in existing agricultural legislation that, with a few amendments, will adequately include aquaculture. This is a much more workable and cost-effective alternative to what the Bill proposes. FOSAF will continue to monitor these situations and will keep you informed of future developments. The court application papers can be downloaded off FOSAFâ€™s website at: www.fosaf.co.za/courts.php.
ECOME a member and make a contribution to FOSAFâ€™s most important projects, thus assuring the future of flyfishing in South Africa. For further information refer to the FOSAF website. In addition, members may purchase our FOSAF Guide to Flyfishing and the Favoured Flies books at extremely low prices. These items make ideal gifts for a friend or a newcomer to the sport. To join and for more details visit www.fosaf.co.za or contact Liz on (011) 467-5992 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook
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really mean? By Ian Cox
OSAF’s court application is underway. The Minister of Environmental Affairs has filed a notice of opposition but, not surprisingly given the untimely and tragic death of Minister Molewa, has failed to meet the deadline for filing an opposing affidavit. FOSAF’s attorneys have written to the State Attorney pointing out to Minister Hanekom who replaced Molewa that he is out of time, and enquiring how much more time he requires to respond. I want to look beyond that application and the vital processes that FOSAF is defending and concentrate instead on what the term “invasive species” means and why the term is causing so much controversy. In doing so I ask whether DEA can legitimately claim that trout must be listed as invasive to protect the trout fishery from bass. Will declaring trout as invasive enable the trout fishery and trout-based aquaculture to thrive in areas where trout presently occur, as DEA now claims? Is DEA correct when it says that listing trout as invasive will protect and even promote the growth of the trout value chain? If these statements are true, then what does invasive mean? DEA’s assurances that listing trout as invasive will be beneficial to trout and the associated value chain is patently untrue. That this is so is obvious. Species are listed as invasive in law so that they can be eradicated or, if that is not possible, their propagation and spread can be prevented. This is the case all over the world. DEA’s claims to the contrary have all the candour of those claims often heard back at the height of apartheid, that the government’s separate development policies were necessary to protect black people from white competition. DEA’s claims are irreconcilable with its other assertion that it would eradicate trout from South Africa if this were possible. 98 • Return to contents
So what does it mean to be invasive? That is a difficult question to answer because opinions vary depending on who you talk to. There are a number of materially different definitions in formal use. Thus, for example, the definition of invasive species adopted by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) is very different to that used in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”) which, in turn, is different to the definition used in European or South African Law. Opinions also differ markedly on how you apply these definitions. This often depends on whether you see people as separate to nature (i.e. a nature-first or biocentric perspective) or whether you see people as part of nature (i.e. a people-first or anthropocentric perspective). The IUCN which is biocentric in its outlook (the ISSG, fundamentally so) has a very different approach to applying these definitions than the European Union whose outlook is largely anthropocentric. Then you must ask if you believe that every species and all geographic spaces within species have a place where they belong naturally and outside of which they must be considered alien. This is called biotic nativism. Invasion ecologists, whose perspectives are biotic nativist and generally biocentric, differ materially from the broader community of ecologists who do not regard human beings as alien to nature. The biotic nativist and biocentric perspective of the ISSG, for example, is materially different from the anthropocentric approach of the influential Stockholm Resilience Centre, notwithstanding the shared concern both groups have about the adverse effects human activities are having on the planet. South Africa has a strong claim to be the birthplace of invasion ecology. South African invasion ecologists tend to be fundamentally biotic nativist in their outlook. This point of view is sometimes called environmental purism. It should www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
come as no surprise, therefore, that South African environmental scientists adopt a broad biocentric approach to what is meant by invasive, or that this perspective is what is taught in South African universities. South African purist thinking around environmental management is still very influential in the development of invasion ecology thinking worldwide. South African environmental scientists are strongly represented, for example, on the ISSG. But we are also the home of one of the most anthropocentric human rights-based constitutions in the world. South African invasion ecologists believe an alien species automatically threatens native species if it can establish itself in the wild, and must therefore be listed as invasive. However, the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) says that these threats must be demonstrable rather than assumed and that they must also cause or be reasonably likely to cause harm to the economy, human health or what European law calls ecosystem services. Ecosystems services is a term which describes how nature contributes to human health and wellbeing. Clean air and water are both ecosystem services, as are the ecological conditions that enable us to grow crops raise livestock and live sustainably from one generation to the next. This ecosystem services approach is in line with South Africans’ constitutional right to an environment which is not harmful to South Africans’ health and wellbeing. A clash between these two opposing value systems is inevitable. South Africa’s Constitution recognises the inevitability of these conflicts. South African law thus provides for processes that allow these conflicts to be reconciled within the framework of an anthropocentric human rights-based system of law. FOSAF is in court because DEA is ignoring those processes. I think it is becoming increasingly obvious that DEA is ignoring those processes in pursuit of its goal of gaining permitting control over South Africa’s biological resources rather than giving effect to NEMBA and its definition of an invasive species. The law is being abused to achieve control rather than to advance biodiversity conservation. DEA cannot follow the prescribed process because this will make this apparent malfeasance all too obvious. It is being supported politically because the desire of environmental officials to take control of biological resources walks hand in hand with a broader strategy of government taking control of all resources and access to economic opportunity. Join us on Facebook
The Minister tragically died in September, paradoxically of a disease caused by environmental neglect. I take no pleasure in saying this. Minister Molewa was a woman of outstanding qualities; sadly respect for the rule of law and the Constitution were not among them. Tourism’s Derek Hanekom is now the Acting Minister of Environmental Affairs. Time will tell whether he will take up where the late Minister Molewa left off. His reputation is that he is a stickler for proper process, so perhaps things will change for the better. I certainly hope so. This all begs the question: Are trout invasive in terms of South African law? They are alien and have established themselves in the wild in South Africa, so according to invasion ecologists they must be invasive. But this is not the law. Trout are not invasive as the term is defined in law. A species is only invasive in law if it is alien and its establishment in the wild amounts to an ecological threat which in turn harms ecosystem services. There is no evidence that trout pose an ecological threat in South Africa. Invasion ecologists try to conflate impact on an imagined state of pre-human pristinity with the requirement of a threat, but threat and imagined impact are not the same thing. There is a great deal of evidence that trout contribute positively to ecosystem services. The idea that trout are invasive is based on the xenophobic idea that every species has a place where they belong naturally and outside of which they are alien. This thinking is the antithesis of the values and principles underpinning the Constitution. This may explain why environmental authorities can’t get the law right. If your perspective is naturally anti alien then you will automatically think the worst of any alien species like trout that can establish in the wild and therefore become naturalised. But you will also find that the legal principle of a nation united in its diversity in pursuit of laws that enable sustainable development and protect human dignity is incompatible with your beliefs. This incompatibility will make it difficult, if not impossible, to translate your prejudices into law. It is a classic case of a clash between a culture of prejudice and police state rule on the one hand and inclusiveness and democratic law-based government on the other. So, it is not just about whether trout are invasive. The fundamental question that lies behind this is: What type of government do we want for South Africa? Do we go back to the discriminatory police state rule that existed before 1994 or do we build a nation based upon inclusiveness, democracy and the rule of law? Return to contents • 99
Practising to DECEIVE DEA’S LIES HAVE BEEN REVEALED By Ian Cox
HE 2014 list of Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) was published for comment in the Government Gazette on 12 February 2014. Most people have forgotten that list, but it is worth remembering that it listed brown and rainbow trout on terms that required a permit to farm or stock trout and prohibited catch and release in certain protected areas and something called fish sanctuary areas. No legal instrument exists which authorises the proclamation of fish sanctuary areas, nor were these areas identified or explained in the draft 2014 AIS Lists and Regulations. FOSAF and Trout SA complained about this at the time, pointing out that the Department of Environmental Affairs (“DEA”) had failed to provide the information reasonably necessary to enable members of the public to consult. They also pointed out that the notices calling for public comment were not published in a newspaper as is required in terms of Section 100 of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). DEA sought to rectify this by publishing a notice in City Press on 12 March 2014 extending the period within which to submit comments by 30 days and by providing a link to a map showing the location of its self-proclaimed fish sanctuary areas. This attempt to cure a fatal defect in the law-making process was itself non-compliant which means that the current AIS Lists and Regulations could be declared unlawful by a court at any time. The publication of the fish sanctuary area maps caused a furore when it was discovered that they cover large parts of South Africa’s existing trout waters. Trout anglers accused the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) of 100 • Return to contents
double dealing, pointing out that DEA’s plan to prohibit the stocking of trout or catch and release in fish sanctuary areas was irreconcilable with its claim to support the trout value chain. The fact that DEA initially hid these fish sanctuary area maps from the public further damaged DEA’s already fragile credibility in in the flyfishing community. It now turns out that this was not the only important information that DEA hid from the South African public at that time. DEA also failed to disclose its national strategy for dealing with biological invasions in South Africa (National AIS Strategy — see http://bit.ly/2zjpC5h) despite this being a legal requirement of the public consultation process that was then underway. DEA chose instead to mislead the public by telling them that it lacked the capacity to explain how it had identified species as invasive and that it was unreasonable to expect DEA to do this. So why did DEA conceal the existence of its National AIS Strategy? The reason is not very hard to find. The National AIS Strategy uses a different definition of invasive species to the one used in NEMBA. It defines invasive species as “Alien species that sustain self-replacing populations over several life cycles, produce reproductive offspring, often in very large numbers at considerable distances from the parent and/or site of introduction, and have the potential to spread over long distances.” I deal with this issue of definitions and the question whether trout are invasive in another article in this magazine. (What does invasiver really mean?) There I point out that trout are not invasive as the ter m is defined in law. However, the application of the definition of invasive species in the National AIS Strategy will www.saflyfishingmag.co.za
make trout invasive merely because they can establish in the wild. Small wonder that DEA kept the existence of this strategy hidden from public view! The 2014 AIS Lists and Regulations would never have been promulgated had DEA revealed the full extent of its deception. I first learnt of the existence of the National AIS Strategy last year when SANBI invited public comment on a draft of the Status of Biological Invasions Report which it is required to prepare every three years. That report referred to this strategy. SANBI very properly supplied me with a copy when I asked for it. I was shocked, both by its existence and that I had never heard of it before. So, I wrote to Guy Preston. This extract from my e mail dated 26 May 2017 summarises the nature and extent of my concern. “I see you state in the foreword that you wrote to the Strategy Document that this strategy provides a comprehensive overview of biological invasions and their management in South Africa. The influence this document has had on the form and approach adopted in the Preliminary Draft Report is self-evident as the role it plays in current departmental practice. The very different definition of invasive that the Strategy Document uses when compared to the applicable legislation may explain how it is so many species came to be listed as invasive and the AIS regulatory debacle that is described, albeit in preliminary form, in the Draft Report. “What is not at all clear is why neither you nor DEA saw fit to share this Strategy Document with either the public or the members of the trout value chain such as myself. This is even though the Strategy Document has been in play for just over three years now and extensive interaction has taken place with the trout value chain over Join us on Facebook
this time. It seems to have been used to perpetuate a situation where the public think government and DEA are singing off one song sheet whereas, unbeknown to them, government and DEA are in fact secretly singing off another. “You should explain why the Strategy Document was not subjected to the required public consultation process. After all, this is what DEA normally does or, at least, it is what we members of the public have been led to believe it is what DEA normally does. You also need to explain how it is possible that you have managed to honestly consult and interact with interested parties from the trout value chain such as myself without ever revealing the existence of this strategy or making it available to us. This is even though we have repeatedly requested and been refused information of this nature and notwithstanding section 24(4)(k) of NEMA which says that ‘decisions must be taken in an open and transparent manner, and access to information must be provided in accordance with the law’. “What has happened appears on the face of it to be the epitome of bad faith if not unlawful dealing.” Guy Preston replied on 28 May 2017 saying: “Dear Mr Cox “The National Strategy is not a published document. It, together with a necessary and associated Action Plan, is still in the process of being reviewed and developed, respectively. We shall make it available for public comment in due course. “Yours sincerely “Guy Preston” It must be said that I did not believe him. I long ago learnt that I am more accurately able Return to contents • 101
to predict what DEA and Dr Preston are going to do next if I disregard his public statements and look instead at what DEA is doing. The devil, as they say, often lies in this detail. This is why I have pointed out the conflicts that exist between what the law requires and what is stated in the National AIS Strategy in my subsequent writings on DEA’s attempts to regulate trout. It is also why I still maintain that DEA intends preventing the stocking of trout within its self-proclaimed fish sanctuary areas. However, I was never able to confirm my suspicion that DEA has been actively engaged in misleading the public. Thus, my protestations that this is so have been more of an argument than an incontrovertible statement of fact. Well, that is no longer the case. The cat is now truly out of the bag and there is now incontrovertible proof of DEA’s deception. Dr Preston’s assurance of 28 May 2018 that the National AIS Strategy “is still in the process of being reviewed and developed” is untrue. This National AIS Strategy is in fact an official document that has been used by DEA in listing and controlling invasive species in South Africa since 2014. I can confidently say this because this is what the Draft Biodiversity Framework (see www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/gaz etted_notices/nemba10of2004_draftnationalbiodiversityframework_gn41982.pdf) that was recently published for public comment says. It describes this National AIS Strategy as being in force since 2014 and as being one of the key strategic documents that informs the implementation of NEMBA. The draft Biodiversity Framework is founded to a large extent on the existence of this National AIS Strategy. It is difficult to understate the enormity of DEA’s malfeasance. Hundreds of species have been listed as invasive by the then Minister and her department all while they knew they were using the wrong definition of invasive. What is worse is that they have actively concealed that this is the case, going so far as to mislead the public when asked if this National AIS Strategy is in force. The good news is that it confirms that trout cannot be lawfully listed as invasive. However, this is of scant comfort when viewed against the backdrop of the big picture that is DEA’s contempt for due process and the rule of law. DEA likes to claim that it is the custodian of South Africa’s biodiversity; this is incorrect. It is the custodian of South Africa’s biodiversity laws. Either way, DEA has betrayed the trust and the obligation of fair dealing that are essential to any custodial relationship. We are instead wit102 • Return to contents
nessing an egregious and deliberate abuse of power to drive agendas that were never sanctioned by the legislature. This is an attack on the foundations of government, not to mention the core values upon which our Constitution is based. The direct consequence of this is the failure of South Africa’s Alien and Invasive Species Regulations. The Draft SANBI AIS National Status Report confirms that this is so. The final report was presented to the Minister in March this year, but DEA is suppressing the publication of the report. Another direct consequence of this is DEA’s inability to comply with the Section 100 public consultation process. After all, you cannot consult honestly if your intentions are dishonest. None of the regulations and proclamations issued by the Minister comply with this process. They are all liable to be set aside as unlawful because of this failure. The indirect consequences are just as serious. One of these is a loss of trust. Good government is based upon the public’s trust that government will act lawfully and in the public interest. Public trust erodes when government fails to meet these expectations. Public trust is essential to sound and effective environmental management. Environmental authorities have spent decades building public trust; DEA is actively working to destroy that trust. This debacle is another example of this. One would expect DEA to remedy these wrongdoings, and indeed, the Minister is constitutionally obliged to do so. The Draft Biodiversity Framework that has been published for comment is not a step in the right direction. DEA is legally obliged to review the existing framework. However, DEA has chosen to ignore its legal obligations in favour of a new Biodiversity Framework designed to legitimise DEA’s unlawful conduct. Trout anglers will be interested to learn that it confirms that DEA intends pursuing its original plan to severely limit areas where trout can be stocked and thus drastically reduce the present trout waters of South Africa. Minister Hanekom is in an acting position and is new to the job. He has the reputation of an honest man who is a stickler for proper process, and that reputation will be judged by what he does to clean up the general climate of lawlessness that prevails in DEA. Meanwhile, members of the public have no alternative than to do what FOSAF is doing which is to hold power to account, submit objections when permitted to do so and, when appropriate, seek redress from the courts.
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