Southern African Flyfishing Magazine September/October 2019

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ISSN 1011-3681


SEPT/OCT 2019 Vol. 33 No.174

Contents - Sept/Oct 2019

Editorial - Ian Cox............................................................................................................................................................4 The usual editorial guff and a little more First Bite - Andrew Savs ..................................................................................................................................................6 A regular witty column on all things flyfishing and beyond My Mistress' Gaze - Rob Pretorius .................................................................................................................................9 A trouts point of view The Impeccable Mr Barder - Clement Booth..............................................................................................................16 Creating impeccable rods Heritage Flies : Part 4 - Peter Brigg...............................................................................................................................24 Historical series on South African Flies -Red Butt Woolly Worm and the DDD A Man and a Fly - Terkel Broe Christensen ................................................................................................................28 Lars Fabrin and the LF Hitch fly Garden Route Grunter- Robin Fick..............................................................................................................................42 So you want to catch a Grunter do you? Th Eastern Cape Highlands - Dave Walker ................................................................................................................52 Also known as the "Centre of the Universe" Finding your river technique - Brett van Rensburg....................................................................................................59 Tips to up your river skills Women in Waders - Lydall Blaikie...............................................................................................................................65 My Flyfishing Journey Book Review - Ian Cox ................................................................................................................................................71 Yet more sweet days by Tom Sutcliffe Verlorenkloof - Au Naturel! - Andrew Allman............................................................................................................73 As life should be... Safety Suggestion for Float Tubing - Norman Greene .............................................................................................83 Be prepared! Merrily down the stream - Ian Cox .............................................................................................................................92 Getting to grips with the law!

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 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!

Photo: Andrew Allman

SOUTHERN AFRICAN FLYFISHING: • Available free of charge online at; • Published bi-monthly; • The official magazine of the Federation of Southern African Flyfishers (FOSAF); • Africa’s original flyfishing magazine LAYOUT AND PUBLISHER: Southern African Flyfishing Magazine (Pty) Ltd Registration No. 2018/356867/07 EDITORS: Ian Cox (082 574 3722) Andrew Mather (083 309 0233) Andrew Savides (081 046 9107) CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE: Andrew Allman, Lyndall Blaikie, Clem Booth, Peter Brigg, Terkel Christensen, Ian Cox, Robin Fick, Norman Greene, Rob Pretorius, Brett van Rensburg, Andrew Savs, and Dave Walker. 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.

EDITORIAL Happy days, the trout river fishing season is open! Pity about the lack of water but judging from Facebook some good fish have come out of our rivers. Be sure to check out Dave Walker’s Rhodes article and plan to go there - it is not called the centre of the universe for nothing! This month marks another anniversary. We three men in the editorial boat that is Southern African Flyfishing just completed our first year producing the magazine. It has been a tumultuous, enjoyable and largely successful journey and we hope our readers feel likewise. We took on the magazine believing that the ordinary flyfisher needed a voice. The steady stream of contributions from flyfishers around the world and the eagerness with which the magazine has been read all bear testimony to the success of this vision. We have learnt a few important lessons on the way. You can produce a decent flyfishing magazine with minimal advertising revenue and on the smell of an oil rag. Pizazz attracts in the short term but real honest to God content underpins a sustainable publication. We are very grateful for the support of our contributors. They have kept the magazine full of a diverse range of stories that speak eloquently to our aims of speaking to the kind of flyfishers that most of us are. We stared thinking that we would theme editions dealing focusing each edition on a particular aspect of flyfishing. Well, that did not work out. Our contributors drive content and we like contributions from authors who are moved to write rather than having to do so. We like the sense of immediate authenticity this gives but it does make pre planning impossible. We are insistent on keeping the magazine largely local and keeping hero shots to the minimum. Our learning curve is by no means over. We are continuing to evolve both the look and content of the magazine. This edition demonstrates the broad range of our offering. We bring you a fisherman’s look at the delightful mixed fishing venue that is Verlorenkloof. We look at the divine bamboo that comes out of Edwards Bader’s Studio together with the kind of minimalist tying that is catching Salmon in Denmark. We then switch to a more traditional vein and take in another of Peter Brigg’s heritage fly offerings. Tom Sutcliffe’s book is reviewed. There is a very good “how to” on catching grunter on fly. Advocates are still working on the trout fight and we focus instead the complicated issue of sharing the fishery as a public resource and what this could mean looking forward. Of course, there is lots and lots more.

Cover photo: Warren Bradfield Ian Cox

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Telling Stories

A TALE OF TWO RIVERS Bramble Boy fishes with the attentiveness of a coked-up heron. If you are able to stand motionless for long enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of him working a run, down on one knee with his arm extended, it brings to mind the wellpractised routines of the Tai Chi master. His every movement is frugal, crisp and explicit. His forearm and wrist rotate slightly, the supple tip of the long rod flexes and then straightens, his pair of flies are delivered with effortless precision and are tucked into the edge of a seam. With his lips pursed and eyes unblinking he follows them with the rod tip before repeating the action. It’s like watching a robotic assembly line; not exactly exciting but sort of pleasing in a difficult to describe way. Every so often his elbow almost imperceptibly tightens and every so often this movement is inhibited by the resistance of a fish that he first effortlessly turns towards slack water and then in no time at all eases into his net. He releases it gently and without drama, inspects his flies, meditatively checks his ludicrously


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thin tippet for nicks and abrasions before aligning his chakras, becoming one with the void and repeating the process faultlessly.

The Natal scaly is in its own way a remarkable species and is not worthy of its unfortunate name. It is robust, significantly stronger than it looks and with its burnished colour, sporadic black dots and upright dorsal fin it made an instant impression on me. Sure, it lacks the rakish belligerence of a rainbow trout or the wiles of the brown but it’s probably the gentlest taker of an imitation that I have targeted and that alone will keep me casting at them. They’re not the brightest fish around either and with their propensity to try to fight you in mid-water are a little like that one cousin of yours; dim-witted, but somehow endearing. Look, they’re not permit, but they’re good enough for the likes of me.

I would have stood longer to watch, and I may have even learned something, was every spark of my mental capacity not focussed on remaining upright on a riverbottom the texture of polished and lubricated granite. The precariousness of my position was compounded by my singular lack of natural grace and the fact that we had the night before quaffed, in the way that friends who see each other infrequently are wont to quaff, several more beers each than would be considered strictly gentlemanly. That Bramble Boy seemed to be entirely unaffected by all of this and was out-fishing me by some margin did nothing to improve my already curmudgeonly demeanour. In an effort to be helpful he moved across to where I was perched perilously on the only dry rock for miles and said something about steadying my hands and keeping the sighter parallel to the water surface throughout the drift. I almost got it right too, but I stepped back into the water, began a series of windmilling arm motions and lost whatever composure I had managed to muster.

What pleased me most about our day was the environment in which the scaly is found. The rivers are at roughly half the altitude of my home waters and are wider and slower than I’m used to. I’m guessing that this river is older or perhaps simply less erratic than those that I know more intimately as it has cut deeper valleys and has had millennia to wear down its bedrock smooth and cold. In the Drakensberg one gets the sense that the mountains have risen up to leave streams within fissures in their faces whereas here the opposite seems to be true with the river cutting deeply into the land. Geology is not my strength.

It’s no small feat, this wading of greenbottomed rivers while trying to operate with any level of precision a rod the length of a telegraph pole lined with monofilament as thin as an underwear model’s sheer negligee and which terminates in two flies with the combined mass of small planet. Nevertheless, after a while my mojo, such as it is, kicked in and I caught a fish. A short time later I caught another and not too long after that I caught a few more. I began to relax and to register the environment around me.

The valleys are indeed deep but not enough to be steeped walled canyons and their more gentle slopes are lined in the most part with dense natural vegetation. Human habitation is light and while there is the inevitable car tyre and plastic bottle to be seen you don’t get the sense that the river is polluted. Well, it is, but not so much in the almost post-apocalyptic contemporary sense of the term.


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On the long walk down the valley towards our vehicle I was honestly amazed and more than happy to see the spoor of several species of wild animal in the gravel and mud on the banks. Duiker prints I recognised immediately but there were several other species of buck that I can only guess at and my day was made complete by the sighting of the tracks of a mother water mongoose with two of her pups in tow. The mother was all business and her tracks described a direct path along the river while those of her pups led to and from any miniature point of interest along their journey and left a double helix pattern in the sand like the shape of strands of DNA. I could see the evidence of her scolding and shushing them along in her wake and this image pleased me beyond words.

litre caustic soda and vegetable oil spill on a river that runs within scant kilometres of my home flashed across my screen. An accident had occurred at the Willowton Group facility in Pietermaritzburg and by the time that anyone had the time to rub their eyes several tens of kilometres of river, the sister to the one on which we had spent our day, were rendered devoid of all life. Six thousand kilograms of dead fish were removed by volunteers and contractors the following day and by sundown people who live by and off the river were reduced to drinking from plastic bottles. I would tell you how this really makes me feel but after three weeks I’m still not sure that I’ve settled on the vocabulary to describe it. Superficially, I suppose that I vacillate between anger and sadness. Mostly though, I just see in the riverbank sands of my mind the tracks of a determined mother and her carefree pups - and I hang my head in shame.

We returned late and bundled Bramble Boy off to the airport for his late night flight home. As I sat down to inspect my bruises and to catch up with the news of the day my deep contentment was replaced with abject horror. Images of the effects of a 1’600’000


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My Mistress' Gaze Rob Pretorius (With images by Tim Rolston) Do you ever gaze longingly into your true loves eyes? I know I do, but over time I have come to realise she does not see me the same way as I see her. Now, for some, this might be a problem but for me it just comes down to nature and, more specifically, biology. The one true love I’m speaking of is of course trout. I work with trout all day at Giants Cup Hatchery, obsess over making flies by night and in my spare time I try connect with them via spiderweb thin monofilament. So, yes, I truly love these fish and I am going to try to help you find your match in this watery dating world by the only way we know how - deception, otherwise known as flyfishing. How do trout see our flies? This is something all flyfisher people and especially fly tiers should be concerned about. Interestingly, most fisher people and fly tiers that I’ve interacted with have not given it all that much thought. I will admit, I only really looked a bit deeper into the biology of the trout eye when cramming for an aquaculture exam. After the exam was over I got back to the important things in life, namely flyfishing and fly tying. I tinkered with my fly patterns, applying my new found eyeball biology knowledge and guess what? I started to catch more fish. I am going to attempt to share this knowledge, without completely nerding out on you. Trout have an elliptical shaped orbit, that allows them to have a focal point in front of them as well as on their sides simultaneously. If you look at the photograph of a sexy rainbow trout eye you will see this clearly. I


always wondered why the pupil was not spherical like ours and at first I thought it might just be that the fish that I was looking at was a bit “special” but, no, it’s just the way nature designed these beautiful sleek creatures. It actually makes sense, if you think about it. They can key in on food items in front of them by using their sharp field of vision while still having fantastic peripheral vision to look out for predators and any food item that might need closer inspection with their forward-facing binocular vision. There is a notch in the forward edge of a trout pupil that helps them see over the bridge of their nose.

The ovoid shape of the trout eye allows for two simultaneous focal lengths—one to the front for near vision and to the side for far field vision. Both are in clear focus at the same allowing trout to eat with discrimination and remain on the lookout for predators or anglers. (Thomas Barnett/Courtesy of Stackpole books)

Having these two focal lengths in focus simultaneously is like having our peripheral vision in focus at all times. This means that trout are near-sighted to the front and far sighted to the sides. No geeky spectacles needed for these beauts and this is why it can be so difficult to get close to trout - they are very wary of aerial predators like fish eagles, herons, kingfishers etc. If you watch competitive anglers on the river they will keep an incredibly low profile


and don’t false cast much fly line in an attempt to minimise their above water profile. This is a tactic to try to stay outside of a trout’s vision window and stay undetected so as to not spook the fish. Trout lack eyelids so they can’t flutter their eyelids at us to try and catch our attention at the bar, but this also means we need to take extra care when we get physical with them. The cornea (outermost part of the eye) is susceptible to abrasion from our net or hands. Return to contents

The risk of eye injury increases if you lay fish on the grass, or worse, the bottom of the boat so please try be mindful of correct trout handling. Remember to #keepemwet or, if you absolutely need to take a photo, keep them out of the water for as short a time as possible as their eyes start to dry out very soon after they have been removed from the water. Also keep fish out of direct sunlight if possible as they cannot regulate the light entering their eyes the way we can. A trout’s retina has the same photoreceptors as humans have; these being rods and cones. Rods are responsible for most of a trout’s nocturnal vision as they are very sensitive to light. Cones on the other hand are responsible for colour detection - red green and blue. Interestingly, most often only one set of receptors is used at a time. During the day cones are used to see colour and the rods are retracted into the retina to protect them from harsh sunlight while at night the light sensitive rods are used. Only during dawn and dusk are they simultaneously used and an overlap occurs. What does this mean for us anglers? Well if you plan on fishing at night select flies with a definite silhouette and contrast to the natural world. Trout effectively have their own form of night vision. The old axiom, “dark fly, dark day, light fly, light day” is is holds its own in the face of science. Debunking the UV Myth This is something that has bothered me for a long time as there is conflicting literature regarding the ability of trout to see in the UV portion of the light spectrum. Trout have the ability to see UV up until they reach the parr stage (which is only a few inches in length) and after this they lose their ability to see in the UV portion of the light spectrum. The dedicated cones that are responsible for them to see UV light have by this time changed to be able to see in the blue portion of the visible light spectrum. This means that by the time they are at a size that we as anglers would be concerned about


trying to catch them they have already lost the ability to see in the UV portion of the light spectrum. According to Dr. Iñigo Novales Flamarique, one of the world’s leading researchers on trout vision, “As for the use of ultraviolet vision in young salmonids (with UV cones), the UV cones enhance the contrast of zooplankton prey and improve the fish’s foraging performance. Nothing is known about the function of UV vision in salmonid fishes at later stages in nature, and it is doubtful that it serves any ecological purpose once the UV cones are gone”. The Biology of a Trout Eye Light enters the trout’s eye through the pupil, which is a hole in the iris, and then passes through a clear lens that focuses it upon the retina, which is the actual light sensitive surface. Changing focus from distant objects to near objects is done by moving the lens closer or further away from the retina. Adjustment to light intensity is achieved through the depth of light sensitive cells in the retina. As they have large diameter fixed pupils much of whatever light that is in their surroundings in admitted to their eyes. This may be one reason why trout avoid brightly lit areas. Window of vision The window of vision is what the fish has the ability to see. The following diagrams show what this window looks like. For more on this visit Tim Rolston's blog, ( trout-vision/ Trout have both binocular and monocular vision. Binocular vision is when both eyes focus on an object at the same time. Monocular vision is peripheral vision where each eye works independently of the other. Whereas trout have very good monocular vision their binocular vision is not not as good as, for example, yours. Return to contents

Images courtesy of Tim Rolston. Please visit his excellent blog, Paracaddis, for an in-depth article on the trout window.

A relatively small increase in depth can result in a substantial increase in the size of the trout's window. For example, doubling the water depth from 0.5m deep to 1.0m deep effectively quadruples the size of the window.


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Depth of field The trout’s depth of field, to use a photographic term, is very shallow. Objects only come in to perfect focus in a trout’s vision when they are approximately five centimetres in front of the fish. Their longdistance vision is therefore not great underwater. The biology of a trout eye is such that it does not allow it to see in great detail, so for this reason our flies do not need to be exact replicas of the naturals. Shape, size, colour and movement are of far greater importance to the fish than matching the finer details of the naturals that we imitate.

same as we might when our flies come off the vice, so it is a bit like being blind while selecting the coloured materials for our flies. We have a rough idea of what our flies should look like in the water but no real idea of how the fish will perceive the fly. For this reason I like to experiment with different colours and try and draw conclusions as to why certain colours work better than others. I also wonder whether all fish see colour the same way or if there is a variance within a population in the same way within a human population that some individuals cannot distinguish between red and green. Blindspots

Colour vision I often get asked if trout are colourblind the short answer is “no”. Trout can see in colour, there is no doubt about that. They use the colour sensitive cones on their retina to detect colour. There are three subsets of cones that detect red, green and blue light respectively. The colour that the fish perceives is not the


Trout have blindspots in their vision; this is something that most river fishermen use totheir advantage by fishing from a downstream position and casting upstream. Trout have a 30o blind spot behind their tail and a small blind spot just in front of their nose. Now this may sound too good to be true but remember that trout are not all facing in the same direction and if the fish turns slightly it will most likely see you in its

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Photo #1 is a colour board from the perspective of a trout if it were one foot below the water’s surface and six feet away. Photo #2 is at the same depth, but 12 feet away. Photo #3 is at the same depth, but 20 feet away. The author’s wife is easily visible in the first photo, compressed but visible in the second, and nearly invisible in the third. The lesson is a crouching angler is easy for a trout to see from 12 feet away and probably unrecognisable from over 20, enhanced (by our standards) peripheral vision.

worn at music festivals like Splashy Fen, water will affect a trout’s vision in the same way. The water column effectively puts a tint on the colours that the fish can perceive by either filtering out certain wavelengths or accentuating others. For example, water in the blue ocean turns red into a muddy brown and yellow often stands out in freshwater environments, whereas green-stained water favours shades of green.

Trout see best in front and above them and it is for this reason that it makes sense for us to present our flies in such a way that the fish can best see them. I often see fisherman dredging the depths of still waters with very limited success. This is because it is far easier for a fish to see above rather than below itself. Keep this in mind next time you present a fly to a trout in an attempt to hook them for your next fishy date.

Contrast is often the trigger that the fish are after in your fly. If you look at most naturals they are not monotone in appearance and the dorsal side is normally darker while the ventral side is lighter in appearance.

Trout Environment / Water as a Visual Medium Like the coloured hippy sunglasses often

The top of the colour board in photo #1 shows the colours of the rainbow and the bottom shows white, black, and fluorescent yellow and orange under natural sunlight. Photo #2 shows the same colours submerged in fresh water, which accentuates the yellows but dulls the blues. Photo #3 shows the same board submerged in a stillwater pond with green-stained water where the blues turn to black and reds to brown. Photo #4 shows fluorescent colours show up well in nearly any condition, even in heavily-stained water.


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Pineal Gland


The pineal gland is situated on top of the brain just below a portion of the skull th for partial light transmission. It helps the trout to keep in rhythm with daily and seasonal cycles.

This is defiantly not an exhaustive account of how a trout perceives its world and I have left out entire aspects related to trout vision. I may touch on those aspects in a later article. The information that I have shared is what I found to be the most interesting and mostly unknown in the fishing community. I'm hoping that these dating tips will help you connect successfully with your rainbow or brown would-be lover.

This gland also functions as a shadowdetector to alert the trout to threats from above. Fish that have lost complete vision in both eyes will still react to shadows passing over them from above. This I have witnessed firsthand in the hatchery and is quite bizarre to see.


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THE IMPECCABLE MR BARDER Clement Booth When it comes to split-cane fly rods and me, utterly besotted is probably as accurate a way as any of describing our relationship. For me, they’re right at the epicentre of my fly fishing life, closely allied to the alpha and omega of what it’s all about.

on my beloved River Avon, there’s no doubt that it will be a split-cane rod that gently paints the tiny dry fly onto the watery canvas. In the right circumstances, I’m truly convinced that cane is a superior material but let’s not start a controversial discussion!

This is not to say that I don’t on occasion reach for a graphite fly rod - absolutely I do and in point of fact, a couple of those are also very close to my heart. When the wind gets up in Patagonia, my Burkheimer graphite rods do the business brilliantly and my affection for them runs deep.

It’s really just a matter of taste, actually it’s an intensively personal decision; mine has been made and it will be split-cane for as long as I’m blessed to fish these waters.

One wonderful thing about a fly fishing life is that you really don’t have to choose. So, although my heart belongs to bamboo, my flirtations with graphite and even fibreglass really aren’t that infrequent! But, when it comes to a rising brown trout


Today, there are a number of really first class split-cane makers around the world; some are very serious part-timers but there are also a tiny handful of hardy souls who make cane fly rods for a living. Not many mind you; this is surely not an easy “calling” although that said, not many jobs in our modern world seek to create something that with reasonable care will see out a hundred or more years.

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Some collect vintage cane rods and this can be an interesting and even lucrative pastime. An excellent Garrison 206 might today command well north of $10,000; Mr Garrison only made around 600 rods in his lifetime and they’ve become highly prized, as have pre-fire Leonards, Gillums or Dickersons. All of these have their place in our flyfishing world. My own split-cane passion however leans in another direction and manifests itself in “collecting rod makers”. What I mean by this is that my preference is to personally get to know the rod makers and I have over many years acquired a few from some very fine people who practise the craft today. Ditto reel makers by the way! I understand mass production’s inevitable march is unstoppable and it’s not all bad but I feel very strongly about that these and other crafts should be kept alive; not only preserved but actively encouraged. I’ve come to know some great people too; a double bonus really as I love fishing with their beautiful work! All of my split-cane fly rods get fished; some more than others in the nature of things but all spend regular time on the water. There is a handful of truly sensational rod makers active today; they are to be found in the US, U.K., Japan, Europe, Africa and elsewhere. To my mind, right at the pinnacle of the bamboo shrine is The Edward Barder Rod Company. Barder Rods have become legendary in the thirty odd years since Edward started making them and are destined to become even more so in the years to come. That they appreciate in value over time might sound extraordinary but is factually. In a modestly proportioned workshop “Ham Mill” at the confluence of the Lambourn and the Kennet a mere stone’s throw from Newbury in Berkshire, you will find the impeccable Mr Barder! Here, split cane fly rods (and coarse rods too) of gobsmacking, jaw-dropping perfection are created by Edward Barder and Colin Whitehouse.


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Colin and Edward at Ham Mill at the confluence of the Lambourn and Kennet in BerkshireÂ

Creating impeccable fly rods

I first met Edward and Colin back in 2003 after relocating to the United Kingdom from Germany. Having read of their work in various publications, I duly made my way to Newbury and ended up ordering a 7 ½ foot #4 rod in 3 piece format. It was handed over to me about a year later; an exquisitely crafted little rod that’s caught many fish and been on countless adventures and is as good today as it was back then. Simply put, Edward and Colin create impeccable fly rods.

perhaps even shake hands on the commission of a new fly rod. Two to three years (think more three than two!) later, you will receive the call that “it’s ready”. That’s a special moment I’ve enjoyed a couple of times! Edward is an impeccable gentleman too. If you take along your battered, no-name brand cane rod that in truth might do better holding up sweet peas on your allotment, he might merely refer to it as “an adequate fishing tool”, leaving it to you to decipher the true meaning! Cane rod makers are generally a very collegiate but in some respects also intensively competitive, more than occasionally secretive and always proud bunch. Wikileaks even at their most effective wouldn’t get anywhere near Edward’s proprietary tapers; you’ve more chance of getting hold of the specifications on the new Polaris missile!

If you agree a time to meet him and Colin and yes, you do need to make an appointment as they’re otherwise always hard at work - you will be warmly greeted and offered a cup of tea. Half an hour or longer will flash past during which you realise that Edward and Colin have a veritable encyclopaedic knowledge of the craft; very likely you will gain some new insights and


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Colin Whitehouse and Edward Barder, ably assisted by Alfie!Â

Now and then some titbits of information are shared with trusted friends. The varnish work on a Barder rod is second to none; in my estimation the finest ever whether contemporary or vintage. Edward once told me how he goes about varnish work; rather more akin to a well-planned and executed military manoeuvre than a rod making enterprise.

door and sit motionless in the varnishing area for anything up to two hours without moving a muscle so as to allow every particle of dust to settle. Dust is the mortal enemy of the rod maker! Only then will he apply a coat of varnish with a brush - no, his rods aren’t dipped before stealthily creeping out again. Sound a bit over the top? Well, when you hold one of his rods in your hands, you will undoubtedly be bowled over by the quality of the finish and, as with most of the finest things in life, this doesn’t happen by accident.

The day before, it’s all about the weather forecast; the temperature has to be just so! Then on the day, Edward will cycle to the workshop very early; remove his shoes at the


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Colin Whitehouse - a gentle man in the literal sense - takes care of the silk bindings and metalwork; most recently, the latter involves titanium, beautiful to behold but far from easy to work with. His flawless work complements that of Edward; a team of the highest possible order.

two impeccable gentlemen create impeccable fly rods and long may this continue. In a world demanding instant gratification, a Barder rod is the antithesis; but the wait is worth it. The first cast with your new Barder rod will have you hopelessly and irretrievably “hooked” and if you’re like me, you will very likely go back for more!

Years ago, Edward told me that “making split cane rods was all I ever really wanted to do”; this says it all really. If you are blessed with a vocation that you truly love, you are indeed one of a chosen few. Barder rods are the benchmark for split cane today; these

Visit to view available models or to contact the maker


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Heritage Flies - Part 4 Red-Butt Woolly Worm and the DDD. Peter Brigg The significance of the period from the early 1970s to the 1980s, when the direction and advancements in fly fishing and fly tying in South Africa were taking place, cannot be underestimated. It was a time when a group of flyfishers in the then Natal, were breaking new ground. John Beams, Tom Sutcliffe, Tony Biggs, Hugh Huntley and others whose innovative thinking contributed to many new techniques and fly tying styles suited to our local conditions. It was their pioneering work that influenced the future of fly fishing and tying in South Africa and the beginning of a move away from what until then, had largely been influenced by the English school of fly fishing.

Red-Butt Woolly Worm - the fly that ended the reign of the Walker’s Killer in the 1970s In the early 1970s the Walker’s Killer was toppled from its 20-year pre-eminence as the favourite wet fly by another, the John Beams Red-Butt Woolly Worm. Encouraged by tales of big stillwater trout in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountain range, Tony moved to Natal in the early 70s joining Tom in Pietermaritzburg. Dean Riphagen described the Red-Butt Woolly Worm in The South African Fly-Fishing Handbook (New Holland, 1998), like this 24

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“This fly’s evolution in South Africa is interesting, particularly as it was first fished as a dry fly. John Beams had been fishing the Smalblaar River, which at the time was running high but clear. He was using a dry fly – a Wickham’s fancy – which, because of the heavy water, was unable to stay afloat for long. Despite this it worked well as a wet fly and accounted that day for several rainbows. John subsequently experimented with the colour of the pattern and, when he moved to the former Natal, he tried it in stillwater. Changes to the dressing followed: he tied it with a hackle stripped from one side to ensure a sparsely dressed pattern, and later added a hot-orange butt. Instead of using the conventional chenille popular at the time in American versions, he tied the body with dubbed seals’s fur. Eventually the

pattern evolved to become the Red Butt Woolly Worm. It is a classic example of the fly tying philosophy of South Africans such as the late John Beams, Gavin Grapes and Tony Biggs in that it is tied with a slim body and a sparse, palmered hackle.” Tom Sutcliffe says that the Red-Butt Woolly Worm was so favoured on the slower sections of the Mooi River, home to some very big brown trout, that few anglers used anything else. John Beams had a big impact on South African fly fishing and his Natal Notebook newsletters, carried in Piscator in the 1970s were eagerly read and provide a useful chronicle of fly fishing in KZN in those formative years. John Beams with Mark McKereth is from Tom Sutcliffe's photo archive.


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The picture of this Red-Butt Woolly Worm was given to Peter Brigg as one possibly tied by John Beams, but not verified.

DDD – South Africa’s most significant dry fly November 1976

gave an example to his friend Bill Duckworth who regularly fished dams in the Dargle area of the Natal province and he started catching some huge fish on it. It was accordingly named the Duckworth Dargle Delight or DDD.

I would rate the DDD as the most significant dry fly in the evolution of fly fishing in South Africa because it changed the course of dam fishing in this country. Previously dam anglers would fish off the wall or wade until waist-deep before starting to cast their sinking patterns on sinking lines. Tom Sutcliffe and Hugh Huntley were catching trout in water little more than knee-deep by casting the DDD ten metres back from the water’s edge with just a few feet of leader touching the surface of the dam.

It was originally tied on size 8 - 14 hooks with a brown hackle and tail. In this form it was a wingless local version of American deer hair flies which evolved in the 1930s, such as the Irresistible tied by Joe Messinger of West Virginia and the Rat-faced McDougall popularised by Harry and Elsie Darbee in the Catskill Mountains of New York state.

The DDD is not unusual in its design but rather in its body material. It is made with the spun-and-clipped deer hair or fur of the klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) which is South Africa’s only antelope with hollow hair. Tom first tied it in November 1976 as a beetle imitation on the Umgeni River, but it really achieved fame as a stillwater floater. He

It became a truly indigenous South African pattern when Hugh Huntley replaced the rooster hackle and tail with klipspringer hair. “What the trout take it for is anybody’s guess, but probably represents a large terrestrial insect of sorts, most likely a beetle, grasshopper or moth”, Tom says. 26

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Just what the Doctor ordered...A double dose of DDD's from Dr Tom Sutcliffe's vice. Photo: Peter Brigg.

A step-by-step photographic sequence on the tying procedure can accessed on Tom’s Spirit of Flyfishing website.

Original RAB tied by Tony Biggs


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A Man and a Fly: Lars Fabrin and the LF Hitch Fly Terkel Broe Christensen

"A dear child has many names: Rubber Duck, LF Hitch Fly or simply Sunray Shadow with a life jacket. The name doesn't matter. The most important thing is that here you can read about a fly that the salmon just want!". A simple and brilliant addition to another classic and effective salmon fly has created a whole new and exciting fly, which has fully demonstrated its effectiveness at different salmon waters. It is the danish flytier and salmon fisher Lars Fabrin that is the man behind the new fly called LF Hitch Fly or Rubber Duck. The starting point is a Sunray Shadow, probably the most iconic Scandinavian salmon fly. A Sunray Shadow consists of a tube on which is attached a long black and white wing. The wing is so sparsely dressed that the fly takes on a beautiful harmonious and slim shape. Due to the light body and the simple wing, the fly goes just below the surface when fishing on a floating line.

will be that the foam will cause the fly to float like a prop. Secondly, the forward foam flap will act as a soft wobbler giving the Rubber Duck its amazing run. Variations and development The LF Hitch Fly was not invented in one day. There have been several versions along the way. The first ones were tied in 2009 and were larger and had rubber legs, but it still got the foam part so it could float. Lars loves to fish with hitch flies, because there is nothing better than fishing with skating flies on the surface, where you can see quite clearly when the salmon takes the fly. But on the other hand, it is a hassle to have to change leaders when going from a regular fly to a hitch because the hitch fishing requires short leaders. At the same time, short leaders provide clumsy throws and poor presentations. Lars's philosophy with the LF Hitch Fly is to develop a fly that can easily float, make at least the same ballad on the surface as a hitch fly, and which can also be fished on a long line. These are qualities he has achieved with his LF Hitch Fly. On a hitch fly, the leader is led out through a small hole in the tube near the head, and in this way you make the fly go so that it pulls a fine "V" after it on the surface. There is no need for that with Lars’s fly. The foam flap is sufficient to give full attention on the surface.

A hitch fly with foam Lars Fabrin was a genius when he with a strip of foam tied firmly over the head changed the Sunray from a classic longwinged hair fly fishing below the surface to a surface fly that makes a lot of disturbance in the water. The foam strip, which should be 6-7 millimeters wide and 12-14 millimeters long must be cut out of a piece of EVA Foam to form a pane. By tying the foam tightly to the hook with two or three tightly-knit dry binder, the foam pane will flip open and form two flaps - one backward and one forward. Both flaps will rise about 45 degrees in relation to the body of the fly. The first result

Rubber Duck or LF Hitch Fly as inventor Lars Fabrin calls it


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The author managed to fool this salmon from Lakseelv in Finnmark, Norway with this small Rubber Duck fly. The salmon weighed in at eight kilos and took the fly very gently.

Lars varies the fly in different ways As a starting point, he uses the largest flies, and the flies that make the most disturbance on the water surface on the stretches with hard and colored water, while the tiny flies are used on calm and clear waters. The shortest tubes are down to 15 millimeters and the longest in Larses fly box is about 55 millimeters.

Lars Fabrin's modified fly goes exactly the same way. If the fly is thrown obliquely downstream across the stream it splashes the water to all sides as it swings over the river. If there is draft in the line and good speed on the fly, it can cause the water to stand 10-15 centimeters in the air. Completely different fishing The result of the fly’s features is that the fly can be seen at a long distance when fishing downstream. I have myself fished with the fly in the northern Norwegian river Lakseelv. There, I also experience that fishing with the foam fly is incredibly exciting compared to traditional wet fly fishing. In the old-fashioned wet fly fishing, a cast is laid downstream, and by the forces of the river the fly swings into my own side. If you are lucky and a salmon takes the fly in the deep, you will often fell it as a heavy tightening, which feels the same way as if the fly is stuck in a rock.

The size of the foam pane can also be made larger or smaller. It is also possible to vary the angle of the foam flap so that it resists differently thus also changing how much water the fly moves as it swings across the river. The angle can be varied depending on the amount of dry foam it is bonded with. The hook size and thus the weight of the hook, of course, also influence the position of the fly in the water and thus its passage. This must be kept in mind when fishing. Lars calls his fly for LF Hitch Fly, a name that few will remember. It is therefore also called Rubber Duck. This is because it is reminiscent of the little yellow toy duck of rubber that most children know. The comparison is not due to the look, but the way the other goes when drawn through the water. Who has not seen the classic yellow bathing animals on the beach pulled away through the water, so it has everything from a perfect floating, to a crooked and splashy walk.

With the foam fly you can follow it for every inch as it moves - especially the fact that you have a sense of its speed makes the fishing intense. I keep thinking, “No salmon can stand it. It must take in the next cast". Of course, no one doubts when a salmon takes the fly. It's the best. The salmon must necessarily break the surface of the water to take the fly and the bite is therefore quite different.

A bunch of LF Hitch Flys or Rubber Duck's tied on a tube of various variations.


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Many salmons in West Ranga in Iceland have been taken on a Rubber Duck. Here Lars Fabrin sits with one of the North Atlantic beauties which he got on the foam fly. (Photo Lars Fabrin). 19 Icelandic salmon in three days Lars tied his final version of the Rubber Duck in 2012 before a salmon trip to the Kitza River on the Kola Peninsula, since then the fly has lured salmon in Denmark, Norway, Russia and not least in Iceland. One summer he got no less than 31 salmon in the Icelandic river West Ranga. 19 of them on a Rubber Duck! That's pretty convincing, though he just spend three days at the river. Lars also experiences the

peculiarity of West Ranga that the salmon go to the surface and take the fly, even though the water is pretty cold. They are total indifferent to the fact that traditionally thinking salmon fishermen do not usually find the dry flies at high summer temperatures. In the fact if you read further you get a Step-byStep tying guide for the fly, which is quite simple to tie.


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Tying the Sunray Shadow/Rubber Duck Sunray Shadow - a classic killer Rubber Duck is, as mentioned, a further development and improvement of one of the most classic salmon flies of our time, the Sunray Shadow. The Sunray, which is tied on a tube and which is fished as a wet fly, is today one of the most widely used flies on the Scandinavian salmon waters. In the water it looks like a small slim and shiny fish. The salmon hardly take the fly for a salmon or trout fry - mostly the only other fish in the river, since they are usually brown collars. If the fly looks like something, it's probably almost like small fish such as a tobis or a capelin. The prey, which has been high on the salmon's food card, has they had stayed far north in the Atlantic. Whether the salmon dreams about food and life in the sea or whether it just gets annoyed by the slim fly is diffult to say. The reason for the Sunray Shadows popularity is probably the combination of many factors. The most important thing, of course, is that it is a highly efficient fly, which has a nice pulsating flow in the stream and which of course catches lots of fish. At the same time it is a simple fly to tye and indeed a beautiful fly. Original invented by the British salmon fisherman Raymond Brooks when he was fishing in the 1960s by the famous salmon river Lærdalselven in Norway. It is one of the simplest flies that can be tied. The body consists of a transparent plastic tube in addition, the fly consists of a wing twice as long as the body consisting of slightly dark and light wing. Originally, the wing consists of monkey hair, but today most people tie it with goat hair. It is bound in a myriad of color variations and lengths from head to wing tip ranging from 3 to 15 centimeters.

Materials: •

Tube: Transparent plastic tube

Thread: Orange

Wing: Black polar bear and black hair from marble fox

Underwing: Black-colored polar bear

Flash: Krinkle mirror

Life jacket: EVA Foam (3 mm)


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Step-by-step: How to tie a Rubber Duck / LF Hitch Fly Cut the tube to the appropriate length - standard 30 millimeters but between 15-50 mm.

Gently heat one end of the tube with a lighter so that the tube end becomes soft and a small collar is formed. This prevents the thread from slipping off.

Tie the orange thread on to the end of the tube.

Tie a small bundle of stiff black polar bear hair on as a wing.

Then tie a piece of flash (wrinkle mirror) on top of the Polar bear hair. Bend the front end backwards so that there are two rays of flash on top of the polar bear underwing.


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Step-by-step: How to tie a Rubber Duck / LF Hitch Fly Tie black hair from marble fox on top as main wing. The total wing should be about twice the length of the pipe.

You would have a classic Sunray Shadow fly if you finished at this stage.

Cut a piece of 3 mm thick EVA Foam to form a pane shape.

Tie down in the middle over the head so that the foam bends in the middle and the tips slanted upwards.

Finish the fly with a whip finish and a drop of varnish to secure wraps.


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West Ranga, Iceland. Photo: Lars Fabrin.

garden route Grunter Robin Fick (Additional Images by Niel Malan & LeRoy Botha) So, you would like to catch a Grunter on fly while on holiday along the Garden Route? I receive frequent enquiries from flyfishers trying to lure grunter on the fly along our coastline. The information in this article will be relevant to fishing along the shores of the estuaries on the Garden Route stretching from the Gouritz River in the south to the Keurbooms system in the north. As you read this you will establish along the way that there are some basics that will improve the odds in your favour, however as grunter can unfortunately not read do not take this information as gospel. Also, this comes from my experiences since I moved to the Garden Route in 1990 and, despite fishing many sessions since I retired six years ago, I cannot profess to being anywhere near confident enough to tell you that I will go down to the estuary and catch a grunter on fly. Accept your blank days and learn from them. I put them down to experimentation and a learning curve. I have tried to factor everything under various paragraphs but there will be cross-over thoughts on various experiences. How to improve the odds in your favour: Know Your Quarry The Spotted Grunter (Pomadasys commersonnii) spawn in spring with mature adults vacating the estuaries and leaving behind the immature fish. However, the good news is that they do not all leave and return at the same time so there are always fish available once the waters begin to warm up. If the winters are mild one may still find


the odd fish around. Further north, where the water is warmer, they will be available year round. As they frequent shallow water to feed, any disturbance like boating activity, swimmers, dogs, etc. will put the fish down. They can grow to between eight and nine kilograms and any fish over 70cm on fly is considered a good catch. Due to angling pressure and illegal netting these fish are in rapid decline, so please release any fish that you do catch. Where to Locate Them Most bait anglers target grunter in deep channels. Despite this, the flapping of tails on the sandbanks is a sign of feeding fish and fish feeding in the shallows represent your best chance of hooking a fish. Big grunter have been caught deep by fly anglers fishing for kob but that is another chapter in progress. Gaps in weedbeds, sand flats and points as well as drop-offs are where one should concentrate your fishing. Walk or boat to quiet areas on the water that you intend to fish. What Grunter Eat The list is really endless and they eat anything from prawns to sardine. As we are flyfishers and concentrate our fishing in the shallows we need to understand what those frequently tailing and swirling fish are eating. Return to contents

The most common suspects when grunter are tailing are sand and mud prawn. These two food sources have different habitats and so you should use sand prawn flies on sand banks and mud prawn imitations over muddy shallows, depending on which you are fishing. These two prawn species each have two breeding seasons and they become more orange in October and February as a result of them carrying eggs. During these periods I like some orange in my flies. I believe that an egg-bearing prawn will provide more nutrition for the fish and will be targeted by them. Another favourite food in the estuaries, especially on mud banks and near reeds, is the marsh crab. If you can see these crabs fleeing into their holes or into the water as you walk along the edge then there is a good chance that grunter are close by


waiting for a crab to come into deep enough water to eat it. Grunter also enter weeded bays and flats on an incoming tide to pursue this food source. Other minor food sources are various shrimps, gobies, sea horses, estuary worms, sand mussel, clams and small fish like gilchristella (round herring). Recommended Tides Ask any fishermen when it is best to fish and each one will give you a different stage of the tide, and even more when it is spring or neap tides. Some of these recommendations have surprised me as my logic tells me the best time to fish is on an incoming tide. At this time the grunter have not had access to the shallows and must therefore be at their hungriest and most willing to take a fly - but I have often been proven wrong in this. Return to contents

I generally like a lot of water movement and so I concentrate on rips over bars and points, as well as channels and gullies where the water enters and empties shallows. Why do I prefer faster running water? Well, these currents bring food to the fish in the same way that trout in a river feed on flies drifting down towards them. As in a river situation the grunter has less time to examine your fly and will grab it more readily. If the river mouth has closed due to drought or water extraction I move on and look at another estuary. I have found the fish in these now basically still waters almost impossible to catch on a fly and that this is especially true if the water is crystal clear through lack of recent rain. When it does rain along the Garden Route the river flow changes to a light Coca-Cola or amber colour that will improve your catch rate, especially with surface flies that one can wake along the top.


Best Times to Fish Low light conditions like overcast days, early morning and late evening are my preferred times to target grunter. However ideal tides, despite bright sunlight, can bring the fish on the bite. I try to coincide my fishing with low light, incoming tide and a good breeze to ruffle up the surface. Extreme weather like strong winds and rain should not keep you off the water as this is the time when everyone else has gone home and you have the fishery to yourself. Best Water Conditions Tides have already been discussed, but water colour is another important factor that one should consider. I love rain as it discolours the water as it flows into the estuaries.

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In discoloured water the fish cannot examine your fly as closely as it can in clear water. When stained water is flowing strongly through feeding fish it is probably your best chance of tempting a grunter to take your fly. If this coincides with incoming tide conditions it is time to get excited about your fishing session.

A +10lb fish that broke the hook!

Barometric Pressure I have friends that are good and experienced anglers and they watch the barometer closely before even thinking about packing their tackle. For all the information that you require to plan your fishing trips I can recommend It includes not only tides, but also tidal coefficients, water temperatures, wind velocity and direction, time of sunrise and sunset, moon phases, etc. Flies Over the last twenty-five years I have experimented with and have used many different patterns to catch grunter. These have always been similar in that they have been replicas of the prey that grunter feed on. Since lure anglers began catching grunter on the surface with their walking-the-dog rattling lures fly tyers have also looked toward surface flies. Flies using deer hair, foam and sculpting fibre have subsequently come into being. In the past few years the AGHA fly has really proved itself, as has the more recent sinking version of it. Leroy Botha’s prawn imitation has also caught its fair share of fish. I try my flavour of the day and when it fails I move off to the mudbanks and reeds where I tie on a crab imitation that has saved me blanking on many evenings. The hook size that I prefer is usually a No4, but I have used it all the way down to a No8. Crab flies are usually a No4 or a No2 hook. I am happy to tie my flies on Mustad 34007 and S74SNP-DT long shank hooks. These are


stainless and a lot cheaper than Gama and others. I flatten the barbs as this is a lot easier and quicker to release the fish. Just remember that it is usually pointless fishing a brown crab over a sand flat where the grunter prey on sand prawn or vice versa. I mentioned “usually” for a reason as one never knows with these fish. I have fished with guys that say that catching a permit is a lot easier than a grunter and we all know that permit are the ultimate fish to catch on the tropical flats. Fly Rods Firstly, a word of warning - salt water corrodes. Reel seats and stripping guides that are not anodised or protected from salt water are not recommended, and this is especially true of your favourite stillwater stick with a wooden insert reel fitting and nonanodised metal parts. I use 8-weight rods in the form of an Epic 890C, a Sage X (both custom built by Derek Smith) and a factory Sage Xi3. These rods allow me to present bigger flies in the wind, a breeze or dead calm conditions. They say that today’s 8-weights are yesterday’s 9weights, yet 9 weights are by far the more popular weight along our coastline. In the United States, 8-weights are the go-to rod weight. I also have two 7-weights, a Sage Xi3 and a Pacbay Fastline (again, both Derek Smith builds), which I should fish more.

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The author putting his money where his mouth is


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Having said that, fly anglers are fishing rods as light as 3-weights, but lets leave those lightweight rods to the experts and stick to rods that present very wind resistant flies to fish without spooking them without all the backcasts it takes for a light rod to cast the fly. I have my rods custom made as with the components that Derek Smith uses they turn out lighter than factory builds. He also makes the grips a little thinner in diameter for my smaller hands. I have no flashy trimmings on the bindings that I select to blend in with the blank colour. Fly Reels All my friends know that I am a 3Tand fly reel fan and the TF70 crossover reel is my favourite for. I also use Sage and Shilton is my local favourite. There are many other makes that are suitable.


Any anodised reel with a decent (smooth) drag that holds a fly line and 100 metres of 30lb backing will suffice. If you use the same reel for bigger, longer-running fish I suggest you up your reel to a designated 8/9 weight reel that can hold 200 metres of backing. Hooking a big kob while fishing for grunter is not unheard of - I did it twice last season and was grateful for the extra backing. I prefer titanium coloured reels as this finish does not show up scratches as much as the anodised colours. I must admit there are some really striking coloured reels on the market . I like to be practical - just dull old me. Scratches can be filled with a dab of UV glue on the silver reels. The patch will not show and will protect your reel from any saltwater intrusion. For the record, I reel with my right hand as I find it easier when a fish backtracks towards me. If you feel awkward reeling with one hand switch to whatever feels natural.

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Fly Lines There is now such a choice of fly lines available that it can boggle the mind. Gone are the days when you a had one choice of a weight-forward-come-rocket-taper floating line with a taper that had to cover all your fishing. As your flies for grunter are fairly windresistant I use the heavier front-tapered Scientific Anglers fly lines like the Redfish, Grand Slam, Titan and General Saltwater taper. Other fly line companies make equivalent fly lines. One can use tropical lines at the height of summer when the water is at its warmest and some of these lines can be used in cooler temperatures. Most lines have welded loops on each end. I retain these loops but as a safety factor I tie a nail knot over the welding of the loop with 6kg nylon. A tip is to clean your fly line often as estuaries carry a lot of clingy “dirt”in suspension. Leaders

during a session. I make use of the blood knot for tying up the tapered leader as the leader comes out straighter than using the double surgeon’s knot. Always use a loop knot when tying on your fly as it gives the fly more movement in the water. There are several that one can use. Odd Bits That Make Life Easier On the Water As I always try to fish in a current my fly line would be washed away if I did not use a stripping basket. Having used many designs over the past I now use a plastic waste paper basket with a single projection in the middle of the bottom. I make two slits on the side to pass a belt through and I am ready to go. I don’t put holes in the bottom to drain water as it would fill with water if one wades too deep. My basket doubles as a means to store my muddy booties on the way home so they can be washed when I arrive. The entire thing costs about 40 bucks.

I tie my own out of Maxima Ultragreen using the 60-20-20 rule. The 60 butt section is half 40lb, half 30lb, the tapered section a third 25lb, a third 20lb, a third 15lb and the tippet is 12 or 10lb. Some people just use a steady taper of two feet of 40, 30, 20, 15 and 12 or 10lb. I do not use fluorocarbon as it sinks, dragging the tip of your fly line down. Work on a ten to eleven foot leader. In a powerful wind shorten your leader to achieve turnover and maybe use a stiff butt section of Masons, Rio or Scientific Anglers stiff nylon that is made for saltwater leaders. Also, in our windy coastline, check often for wind knots. I make a perfection loop knot on the butt end to attach to the fly line and use the loop to loop for attaching the tippet which, if you are like me, becomes short very quickly as I go through all the different flies that I try


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This is another reason why I do not usually fish over the school holidays when the boaters ignore all the no wake zones and have zero consideration for wading anglers . Hiking a Distance From Your Vehicle I have a small back pack that holds some drinks, something to eat, a jacket, spare fly box with flies for kob and leeries and a 10weight outfit strapped to the outside of the backpack. If mullet are around I swop the 10-weight for a 4/5-weight in the event that I find a feeding shoal along my walk to the grunter flats.

I have a small belt bag that contains a small fly box, tippet material and my fishing licence. On a homemade lanyard, using pieces of cane as spacers and clips made from 250lb piano wire, I attach braid scissors (which, being serrated, cut anything), forceps and my car keys. My cell phone is in a ziplock bag in the breast pocket of my fishing shirt and I keep another ziplock bag in the other pocket for used, wet flies that I wash with fresh water when I unpack at home. My reading glasses are also stored in this pocket.

You can also attach your landing net to the backpack. I use a strong magnet type holder for securing the landing net. What to Wear I wear hard sole booties - either the diving or flats varieties. They are comfortable (add

If you are wading on a big flat and have played a fish to your side a big landing net saves you from being spiked and from having to move off the flat to the shallows to land the fish. It is also easier to measure or weigh the fish in a net if you are that way inclined. I prefer to wade and often use my SUP or float tube to cross deep channels to reach spots where I can stalk fish. One can use a boat for the same purpose but park the boat a reasonable distance from where you will be fishing. Nothing ruins your chances for a fish on a tide more than a boat roaring across the flat you are fishing. When they see you fishing they stop and throw out an anchor with five meters of chain on it. Time to move to another spot.

A Klein Brak mud prawn & its imitation LeRoy Botha's "Iron Man" 49

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a moulded inner sole) to walk long distances, they keep most of the sand out and protect your feet from sharp objects. When wading always wear lycra tights as underpants to prevent chafing. Over those wear neoprene or grey or beige nylon cammo shorts in summer or a fisherman’s full wetsuit when water cools. A fishing shirt with ample pockets in beige or another subtle colour to blend into the background will keep you from sunburn. This is not the tropics where the fashion is to wear outrageous colours. This may be incorrect but I once read that blue is the first colour that fish see, so it begs the question as to why so many anglers wear blue. I thought it would blend with the sky but I shelved the idea when I read the article. A background-coloured cap (wind and hats do not work) and amber coloured polaroids complete the necessities. Sun-

gloves are required if you have a very sensitive skin. I tend to fish times when the sun is not at its strongest and save them for the Seychelles and other venues when I find myself fishing throughout the day. Safety I fish alone and on private property most of the time so I see very few other people. I do not carry, as the expression goes, but do have pepper spray handy. Just beware of your surroundings and let someone know where you are and realise that your valuables can be replaced but being dead means the end of your fishing days. Some fly anglers will have other priorities, if you know what I mean. Casting or Fishing? Before I bust my casting wrist in a quad bike accident, resulting in a wrist and hand that is now held together with two plates and

twelve screws, I could cast full fly lines plus a bit more. But now, with old age and arthritis setting in, I watch fly anglers casting over the horizon while I catch fish at 30 to 60 feet. The difference is that they are casting and I am fishing.

reeds in a foot of water. One step in the water and that fish would have fled to deep water. While I tackle up I always watch the water for signs of fish or, if I have to walk to a spot, I stand back from the water to watch for a while and see what is happening. Often the fish have not moved into the fishing spot (depending on tide and water temperature, the glass dropping, etc) or prefer another place and I move on. The more you fish a specific estuary, the more you learn about the whims of that specific water.

Think of how many unseen fish fish you are lining and chasing off the flat as you try for that tailing fish a hundred feet away. I have have had grunter swim around my legs and this is something only achieved by stealth. I have actually dip-sticked a 74cm grunter that was actively feeding around me. The further one casts the harder it is to hook a grunter or see what is happening with your fly. So often I see anglers plough into the water where the fish had been just before their environment was disturbed by the angler. Boat traffic and the noise anglers make in a boat is a message to the fish to move to a quieter place.

Many blank days can be considered a learning curve and paying your dues, as that one red letter day will comes around and you will catch that first grunter and then the second and the third. You will go back to the same spot on the next tide or day and, you guessed it, there’s not a single fish to be seen. Welcome to the world of the grunter flyfisher.

I have caught grunter with their backs out of the water chasing crabs on the fringes of

Spotted Grunter ~ Pomadasys commersonnii Spotted grunter (also small spotted grunt or javelin fish) are wide-spread from between Cape Point and False Bay, along the eastern coast of Africa as well as Madagascar.

They can grow up to 80cm in length and live for fifteen years. Maturity is reached at approximately 40cm or three years old. Spawning takes place in open sea in late winter and both the newly hatched fry and adults make their way into estuaries to forage in the nutrientrich waters.

Shallow coastal areas are favoured and they can often be found in the brackish waters of estuaries or lagoons. Fresh water is tolerated. They are most abundant in Cape waters once summer water temperatures rise.

The dependance on estuaries make this species vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation resulting from siltation, pollution and dredging. As an exceptional table fish it is also threatened by over-fishing.

They feed on sand prawns, worms and crustaceans, which they uncover by reversing the pumping action of their gill chambers and squirting a jet of water from their mouths to ‘blow’ prey from their burrows. Mole crabs (sea lice) and small bivalves are also eaten. In inactivity referred to as ‘tailing’, spotted grunter are often seen with their tails waving out of the water on shallow banks as they feed head-down.

Minimum size limit: 40cm Bag limit: 5 SASSI: RED - Don’t buy or sell spotted grunter. Rather choose a green-listed species. Sources: Two Oceans Aquarium - "A Guide to The Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa" - Rudy vd Elst

They produce a grunting sound in their throats by grinding their strong jaws together.


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THE EASTERN CAPE HIGHLANDS Dave Walker What is it about the Eastern Cape Highlands that has attracted many dedicated and adventurous fly fishers down the years? Although well-described by a number of aficionados in many publications, I’d like to add my five cents worth starting with a brief historical interlude. Although unlabelled at the time, the dire impact of “global warming”, more recently referred to as “climate change”, has, in retrospect been with us for some time. For example, in the 90s, I began organising fishing festivals, the first in Barkly East and subsequently on an annual basis centred in Rhodes from 1996. These events were in December each year. It wasn’t too long before it became abundantly evident that the summer rains we had relied upon were beginning later and later each year. To avoid complete embarrassment by the dearth of early summer rain, a lack of water that became the norm, I duly shifted the event to March of each year. This has been the norm ever since but which has also been affected by climate change from time to time. Ironically, the weather gods continue to interfere with what we perceived to be normal patterns, broadly speaking, spring rain followed by summer thunderstorms and approaching autumn, “geelperkse reen” and regular snowfalls in winter. Looking at rainfall records dating back to 1990 and combined with almost three decades of hindsight, annual rainfall is important but from a fishing point of view, it is when it falls that counts. The moral of the story is staying in touch on a regular basis is essential. In very broad terms, there are three fishing zones in the Eastern Cape Highlands. Picture a dining room table set with the usual paraphernalia as well as a few taller objects;


a pepper grinder, a water jug and the like being analogous peaks that characterise Zone 1. This zone consists of the plateaux along the escarpment. These are more or less easily reached depending on the presence of roads. The very upper Bell River is a fine example of the former and with the advent of the Tenahead Mountain Lodge becoming a member of the Wild Trout Association, their water is a “Lilliputianists” delight. Not often that one can go fishing at 2500m above sealevel so when the time is right, jump at the chance. Set in a valley reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, the entire experience is wondrous, ranging from the aquatic life and extending to the terrestrial flora, animal and bird life. The stream mostly flows over bedrock that is interspersed with small plunge pools and others formed by eroded material deposited in the watercourse. Where soil banks are found, overhanging montane vegetation provides shelter for the aquatic population. Keep an eye out for undercuts found below the root level of the bankside vegetation. At this altitude, the riverine vegetation is mostly “khashu” sic (Merxmuellera macowanii ), a wiry grass that forms large tussocks. The leaf blades grow up to 650mm and have sharp tips that can make life unpleasant for folk wearing short pants. Although the calmest of days can be experienced, dealing with the wind and accurate casting are pre-requisites for zone 1 angling success where great lies for trout can be found. The residents of these lies venture out to feed on the passing aquatic and terrestrial insects such as grasshoppers that occasionally get blown onto the surface of the stream. Usually crystal clear water, trout must be stalked with the greatest of care on these waters.

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Being within a short distance of the escarpment, a characteristic feature of this zone is sudden changes of weather. This can be in the form of thunder showers, dense cloud or freezing weather that is often associated with sleet, all of which can be life threatening. The Boy Scouts motto comes to mind, “be prepared” but in these climes not only should one be prepared but be observant to boot. Even though the fishing may be going well, get off the mountain before it gets you. Imagine the war stories about your almost experience while sitting in front of a fire supping anti-freeze!

this zone are the waterfalls on Gateshead and, lower down, the waterfall on Brucedell with a jumbled, rock-strewn riverbed below it that flows into the next zone thereafter. The Upper Riflespruit is similar until it reaches Mt Mourne where the valley widens. Fishing these waters is strenuous and only recommended for the fit and agile. It is rewarding for the careful - i.e. the clear water allows the prey to spot you long before you have even thought about putting a fly out! This demands a cautious approach, doubling up and stalking quietly, easing up behind rocks, using the generally vegetation-less

For those with an appetite for alternative high altitude fishing, the still water on the Ben McDhui plateau is a must. Located around the corner from the ski resort, the water at Loch Ness, as it is known, is generally gin clear. A bonus is that the trout in this 6ha dam are all wild spawned. It has two feeder streams, one of which is miniscule, that have gravel beds ideal for the purpose. When conditions allow, they are put to good use ensuring another generation of fish to keep anglers busy. Under ideal conditions, both streams are worth a careful look and can be rewarding. What still amazes me is that this gem is at least 25km from the nearest still water yet within a short space of time after construction, waterfowl were to be found making themselves at home on it! So, not only good fishing but a birding opportunity of note as well. A bonus is viewing the summer flowers that abound and some of which are rarely seen elsewhere. For example, one generally associates orchids with tropical forests. In reality, the species is not limited to those forests and some of which can be found “way up there” in our Alpine floral paradise.

terrain to best advantage. It is of immense help to have a partner who can parallel your approach at a higher level along the valley to spot and offer guidance to the prey. In fact, the terrain is such that two or more fisherfolk are suggested in case of injury, especially leg injuries that may render one immobile!

In the journey downstream, the section between the table top and the seats of the chairs surrounding the table is the next fishing opportunity. For the purposes of this description, referred to as Zone 2. The vertical drop is generally quite sharp with waterfalls, plunge pools and more waterfalls. Typical of

Access to Zone 2 is not easy and more often than not, one has to literally has to reach the end of the road before embarking 54

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on the hike upstream to savour the delights of such water.

species. More often than not, the currently used and seemingly popular light tackle militates against exploring such trout hotels but so be it. There are choices.

Then downstream of the analogous chair “seat-level” is Zone 3 where the terrain idles down to the analogous chair’s side or cross stretcher level. This section is less steep with far gentler gradients. It is typified by deep soil banks, plenty of plant growth and a meandering course. The sinuous curves, bends and loops create great lies. These can generally be explored with success using the flow to swirl a well-presented fly into a prime position to lure a wary trout out of its safety zone. The Working for Water crack willow destruction programme has left many kilometres bereft of trees. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view, the operation was predictably less successful in the less accessible places. Trees, their roots and the residual dead trunks in the water all add to the structure and accordingly provide shelter not only to trout but also to the other aquatic inhabitants including indigenous

Beats in this zone are easily reached as roads in the Highlands are mostly along the valley floor parallel to the water course. The environment is naturally more productive in terms of the food resource so bigger fish can be taken. An example of this type of environment would be from Bothwell on the upper Bokspruit down to Jennerville on the lower Sterkspruit. In the case of the former, two to three pounders and six or seven pounders have been enticed out of their lairs on the latter beats. Fishing these waters is often as challenging as the upstream beats as it can be clear but is occasionally “off colour” which can also be advantageous. A spotter is also recommended but with fewer elevated positions being a limitation on this practise.


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An interesting aside is that when a “gillhooked” fish succumbs to a priest, the flesh from the first two zones is generally “white” or hake-like. Those of the lower climes is orange, thanks to the much higher crustacean

population and consequent natural contribution to their diet. Commercial trout fish farm pellets include carotene to mimic Mother Nature in colouring the flesh of their product in a similar fashion! 56

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The scenic splendour of the Highlands is almost indescribable. Trying to capture it on camera can be a frustration as the lenses seem to be too small to do justice to the view. Geomorphological features abound, some of which are not found around every corner but are there nonetheless. One such feature is a protalus rampart. Described as being an overblown name for a simple landform, it is the product of eroded material that falls from a cliffs onto steep snow banks. It slides down the slope and accumulates at the base. When the snow melts, it leaves a mound or mounds that vary in height and width depending on local circumstances at the time. An example of one is to be found at the top of the Bastervoetpad Pass on beginning the descent. Another is to be found in the Bokspruit but is not easily reached.

of minerals and trace elements. Although referred to as “scratchings” they dig out the “nuts” using their beaks only and the story behind the “favourite” story will have to wait for now as will descriptions of several other outdoor attractions! Having digressed somewhat, a swerve back to the piscatorial pursuits is along the lines of the fine fishing that can be had but one must make use of local sources of information before making the pilgrimage. Images of the Eastern Cape Highlands that one sees in the media are stunning, reflecting conditions at the time they were taken but which can and most certainly do change. Local is lekker and staying in touch to keep up to date is essential. The cost of a call is way less than the cost of the fuel to get here! For more information:

For those of an entomological bent, a species of hoverfly (Pelloloma nigrescens), one of over 6000 different species found around the world has ever been found near the top of the Naudesnek Pass. The Alpine flora is also noteworthy, one of which, Eucomis grimshawii is only found in a small area in the Ben McDhui basin where the ski resort is located as is Felicia caespitosa. The list is almost endless but could be severely truncated by adverse agricultural practises.

Rhodes Tourist & Information Centre +27 (0)45 971 9003 Dave Walker +27 (0)45 974 9290

The birdlife in the form of, amongst others, the Bearded vulture (Gypaeteus barbatus) that was once abundant and is now listed as near threatened, is very special indeed. +-230 species have been recorded in the Barkly East district. There are seasonally migratory species such as Malachite sunbirds (Nectarina famosa) but of those who stick it out throughout the year, the Greywing francolin (Francolinus africanus) is one of my favourites. Living above the snowline takes some doing. During the winter months, they survive on nutgrass (Cyperus rotundus). The name, however, has nothing to do with nuts that are, in fact, tubers that have a somewhat nutlike appearance. These “nuts” although bitter-tasting have both medicinal antibacterial and nutritional properties. They are also high in carbohydrates and a source


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Finding Your river Technique Part II in a Series of Articles Brett van Rensburg With Nationals around the corner my mind has been busy with all the preparation required to compete in five river sessions across three days for difficult trout. A visit to the Pilgrims valley is a special experience and the sheer expanse of different types of water makes this type of fishing environment more than interesting, even for the most confident angler. While helping my team prepare I noticed one of the most asked questions was, “what technique would I fish here?” or “when would I try this?”

out on the river for some fishing. Even more than this, you find yourself in the middle of a hatch. Because you have eyes and you recognise a few insects you understand that you are witnessing a mayfly hatch.

These questions really got me thinking (not always a good thing), and that thinking led me to the next step in understanding how to fish a river. For years anglers have got it wrong when choosing the specific technique they wish to fish on a piece of water. The idea is to know how to fish various techniques and even more importantly knowing when to apply the correct technique. No need fishing a dry fly when the fish are feeding on nymphs on the bottom of the riverbed and, on the opposite side of the spectrum, don’t Euronymph when the fish are clearly rising to a hatch.

This can be a frustrating reality of flyfishing that even the most experienced anglers have to deal with. Even when matching the hatch correctly you can be left fish-less and frustrated. Here are three simple tips that might help you hook one or two of these difficult fishies.

I believe that flyfishers in general get this wrong because it feels uncomfortable to fish water in a way that they are not used to fishing. People in general tend to stick to what they feel comfortable with, only changing when it becomes completely necessary. Throughout this article we will touch on different techniques and bestpractice ways of fishing them and I hope to providing you with the confidence that you need to give them a try. Floating a Fly (Dry Fly Fishing) Let’s use this example - you finally made it


You stand and watch as fish-after-fish rise to these insects and you instinctively decide to put on a similar size fly pattern to the natural and fish on the surface. The problem is, you’ve tried all your flies that imitate that insect and you still can’t get them to eat.

Size Doesn’t Always Matter Often when you can’t get the fish to feed on your dry fly they are being spooked by the hook or the fly is just too big. Going one or even two sizes smaller will help the trout to feel more comfortable with your fly. Trout are cautious but they are always more comfortable eating something smaller rather than bigger - so when in doubt think small. If you struggle to see the smaller fly, just fish a bigger pattern up front and tie the smaller pattern behind it 50-60cm from the bend of the hook. I don’t often fish two dries however this is a good way to cover all your bases, give you sight of your drift and cover more opportunities on the water. I’ve been on fishing high up on the Cape streams where I literally saw the fish rise to my fly, bump the hook with its nose and then Return to contents

refuse the presentation. I was fishing 8X tippet and it was a perfect imitation - they just saw the hook. By changing my fly down a few sizes I managed to catch that fish just a few casts later. We all want to fish large flies because it’s easier, they float better etc., however when the situation calls for it and the fish are refusing your fly make the change and tie on a smaller option.

than what your leader tapers to. So, if you’re fishing a 9ft, 6x leader add 50cm of 7X before tying on your fly. This creates a more delicate presentation and and additional 20-30cm of slack in your cast because of the energy transfer created on the lighter tippet. By doing this the fly will land more softly and will give you more slack close to the fly to allow for a more smooth, drag free drift.

Make the Picasso Cast If you have matched the hatch, gone smaller and still the fish are not interested we need to look at how you are positioning and landing that bad boy.

When fishing slow water behind a rock or the far side of the river over a quick current this can give you that handful of seconds you need to get the eat. You’ll need to be a little quicker than normal on your hook-set to compensate for the slack, but when a fussy fish tests your limits this is a great solution.

You’d be amazed how little your fly has to “skate” or move unnaturally to turn the fish off and to put them down. This doesn’t apply only to that single drift but potentially for hours of fishing. On clearer rivers you want to start short and work to a longer cast, even drifting your line over just one fish is enough to put them all down. In some instances where it is difficult to get to the fish without “lining them” it may be easier to go upstream and drift a fly back onto their holding water - just a trick that may be worth a try;)

Find Your Drift (Euro-Nymph) Over the past couple of decades European nymphing techniques have been refined by top competition anglers from across the world. In South Africa we have started to see a real adoption of the technique because of the versatility it enables on the water. We have seen continued evolution of the technique, equipment and rig setup. spooked after a few false casts.

The number one mistake of a bad drift is DRAG. In order to create a drag free drift you need to allow enough slack in your line to let the currents move the line without effecting the flies natural movement. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds. At the same time, if you create too much slack in your drift you will be too late to strike on the eat. This is where fishing shorter can be to your advantage. If you cannot fish shorter because of the situation you find yourself in make use of an aerial mend to give your fly the chance to drift drag free. A perfect mend should not affect the current drift of your fly at all and should make minimal splash on the water. Go Long Another good tip is to add 30-70cm of tippet to your leader. Use one size smaller

And don't ever forget to stay hydrated! 60

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For someone who hadn’t done a ton of nymphing this style of fishing was fairly easy to pick up and I almost immediately had success. I was catching fish in water that I didn’t realise fish were holding in, or water that I would have passed over. I was catching big fish that I would have previously spooked after a few false casts.

appropriate tippet that you are looking to fish. This type of leader is simple to replicate and can be fished over and over again. From the tippet ring (as a standard) I tie my tippet sections on with a half blood knot. I like a tippet section of one metre to my first fly, and then 50-70cm to my point fly. I would say this is the most versatile setup to fish, however it is very important to adjust it based on the type of water you are fishing.

My rule of thumb when it comes to nymphing rigs is that simpler is always better. My current leader constructions looks something like this: •

• • •

Thinner water may require a shorter tippet section or the need to hold the indicator higher out of the water. The point is to always ensure that your flies are at the correct depth while still feeling comfortable with your setup.

10 feet (a rod length) of 0.20mm coloured monofilament – green and yellow is my favourite 50 cm of 0.18mm clear monofilament 40cm of 0.16mm bicolour indicator 2mm Tippet ring

In deeper runs I like to lower my flies into the water to the point that my indicator is submerged and I use my coloured monofilament as a temporary indicator.

From here you need to attach the


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because most of the takes I am noticing are tactile rather than visual. Your ability to feel the take and know where the fish are holding will improve drastically through the art of Euro-nymphing. It helps having the two tone tippet as an indicator and for the most part that is what I’m watching with my drifts - but 85% of the time I feel the strike before seeing any hesitation in my line. I feel more connected to my nymphs and more in sync with the drift in real time. The Dry Before the Drop Another popular way of fishing a river system is with a simple dry/dropper rig. This inbetween method of fishing can be very effective when the water is very high and the fish have moved up against the banks. For me this method is best used when I am struggling to identify where the fish are feeding as this option covers multiple depths in a column of water in a simple and efficient manor. It is important to use droppers for multi-fly rigs rather than tying to the shank of the hook. In competition fishing New Zealand rigs are actually banned. By fishing a dropper you enable the flies to move more freely in the water and this enables more takes. The simplest and best dropper knot is a three turn surgeons knot, using the bottom tag as the dropper. Your dropper length will shorten as you change flies, so I like to start with a 12cm dropper to allow for some fly changes as I go.

Two is Better Than One This may seem logical, but it’s one that many people simply overlook. Most nymph fishermen almost always fish two flies, but laugh at the idea of fishing a dry fly instead of an indicator. This makes very little sense to me because I have never caught a fish on a strike indicator! Usually in the late summer months trout become extremely opportunistic and will readily eat both nymphs and surface flies, often at the same time of the day. A fish that might not eat your double nymph rig may be more than willing to come eat a mayfly or hopper pattern.

Much the same as dry fly fishing “The Drift” is key to improving the number of takes that you get. I have found a high stick makes for a natural drift and a better connection between rod and fly. Now you are probably asking, “what is a high stick?”. What I am referring to is keeping your rod tip as high as possible. This way you are always in contact and your flies act like a pendulum beneath the water. This simple change in technique will allow for longer, more in-contact drifts and most certainly less drag on your flies.

Another thing to keep in mind, and one that I’ve been doing a lot this year, is fishing two nymphs below a big dry fly. It’s really not that terrible to cast, and ends up giving you the same opportunity on the nymphs as you would have had just nymphing them. I would typically use this technique in deeper, more laminar runs.

Finally, the “EATS” are awesome – I think this approach has made me a better fisherman


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Can you cast it? The biggest pain with an indicator rig in most circumstances is that they’re not the most elegant casting setups. They tend to make a big splash and don’t easily turn over in a tight spot. A dry-dropper setup casts much cleaner, you can fish it in a lot tighter spots and cast it much more accurately than a similar nymph rig. Because you can sneak casts into more places and be fighting fewer tangles you end up fishing more in places that you wouldn’t typically fish. What Bite? What I do like about a dry-dropper rig is the

ease in seeing the strike. Strike indicators can be large and too buoyant in the water. Smaller takes are easily missed because of the lack of movement on the indicator. I have found over the last few years that a small dry fly with the right amount of floatant can still hold up a fairly large nymph and, more importantly, takes are more easily noticed when fishing a smaller dry fly. A dry fly is much less buoyant and when it goes down it has less of a tendency to want to come back up to the surface. Also, dry flies sit much higher on the surface of the water so it’s easier to see when they submerge. Seeing your bites sooner equates to catching more fish! For me it’s as simple as that!

WOMEN IN WADERS My flyfishing journey Lyndall Blaikie Fishing has always been in blood, from my Dad going down to the Transkei on fishing trips once a year as a bachelor to my Mom helping her uncle during the sardine season as a teenager, the question was not if I would fish but rather when!

My first Trout


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Freezing conditions in the Boston/Dargle but not enough to keep me off the water.

Growing up, my family had a beach cottage down the South Coast, and I had a fishing licence probably before I could even walk. To be honest trying to get a 5-year-old to fish isn’t the easiest thing to do but none the less my parents and eventually my brother persevered with varied success. As I got older, my school holidays were spent tagging along with my big brother to some mill dam or another to catch bass, barbel, and anything else that was willing to be caught. Most of the time I didn’t even know what I was supposed to be doing but I knew that throwing and reeling in spinners and lures was quite fun, and certainly much more exciting than throwing a piece of sardine into the rolling waves of the Indian ocean and hoping for the best.

Once my brother left school and was not subject to school holidays he went on a holiday with my Aunt and Uncle up to Lake Navarone where he went on a fly-fishing course. Although he had been fly-fishing for a few years this was a turning point in my fishing journey. Yet again I wanted to copy my big brother and being the young teenager that I was, I begged him to teach me which I eventually succeeded in doing as he gave me a lesson on casting in early 2010 on a family trip to Lake Navarone. This did not go well, my casting was horrific, but he tried and although I did not catch a fish, I could at least get a few metres of line in the water. My family has always enjoyed the outdoors and as Derek was keen on fly-fishing, I had the opportunity to learn more. We did not have our sea-side cottage anymore, so our family holidays moved inland to the Drakensberg where we could walk, fish and marvel at the beauty of the mountains.

My great uncle Van was a fly fisherman and I recall visiting him and him showing us his many flies and being in awe at the creations. As my brother was keen, he eventually passed some of his flies, books and rods on to my brother (and to me). Fishing during this years TCC Leg 1 competition

Photo: Grant Robson


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I caught my first trout on a family holiday up to the Northern Berg at the Royal Natal dams under the careful tutelage of Derek in 2011. As I had now managed to catch something, he took it on himself to buy me a fly-fishing starter rod set for Christmas. I was convinced the rod was cursed as for several trips I never caught a thing. My skills were never questioned of course. I got tired of being told my casting was not long enough, or accurate enough and I found myself booking a casting lesson with Murray Pedder up in Johannesburg. I learnt so much and probably the most important lesson of all being that you do not need to cast to other side of the dam to catch fish. Start close and work your way further out to avoid scaring the fish under your nose. By the time I was in my late twenties I realised that “I can fly-fish” was quiet impressive to the male population and when I moved to Durban in 2016 very quickly did one of these “males” decide that I was the perfect a catch and we started dating. Our dates were not the normal wine and flowers and fancy dinners but early wake ups, coffee in the car (if I was a lucky) and a day at the dam with a packet of chips and pie for lunch. Our fights were fishing orientated – what time we were leaving in the morning to

On my way to 3rd place overall at the TCC Competition Leg 1. Photo: Grant Robson

go fishing, who stole whose fly, why I was taking so long to get ready and who caught the most/biggest fish; generally, Brett (but not always). I fished the Boston Fly fishing festival with my brother a few months after moving down and was amazed to see the skill of the other women that took part and I secretly wished that I could get to their level. For the competition I bought a pair of waders and borrowed a float tube of which I had never used before. I do not think using a float tube for the first time on a competition is the best idea but none the less I tried, unsuccessfully. Thank goodness we had some really amazing team members on the team because my participation was definitely a severe handicap at that stage. After that I knew I wanted to improve my skills and I joined the Wildfly club so that Brett and I could fish on the Wildfly waters in the Kamberg area and eventually I joined the NFFC as well. As time passed on, I bought myself a new rod, a Xplorer guide II, and some intermediate line and a CRX reel as well as my own tube. The more I got out on the water, the more my fishing improved, and I even started out fishing Brett and Derek once or twice.

The next step on the fly-fishing journey was when Brett bought me a vice and my family bought me a variety of fly-tying materials for my birthday and I started tying my own flies. I was so proud of my first woolly bugger; I had copied it off a YouTube video and when I caught my first fish off it, I was ecstatic. In hindsight there was probably more wrong with that fly than what was right, but it still caught a fish. My first few flies had a very limited lifespan and unravelled shortly after catching a fish or two. As the weeks went by, I started reading the older books by Tom Sutcliffe, ones that my great uncle had passed down, I started fol l o w in g G o rdon v an der Sp u y on Facebook and tried to get advice from anyone that would be willing to give it and slowly my fly tying improved. I still shy away from dry flies but am confident with my wet flies and streamers. I have caught many fish have been caught off them and they last significantly longer than my first attempts. I joined the Women in Waders’ group as it was a great way to meet like minded

women in an extremely male dominated sport. They organised a river clinic with Peter Brigg and I went along which resulted in one of the most memorable days out on the water. Although I did not catch anything it was great to learn a new style of fly-fishing from an incredible fisherman and to get to know some of the women that I had admired since the first Boston challenge a few years prior. It was at this point that they asked me to join the “The Finance Team Women in Waders” in t h e To p s C o r p o r a t e C h a l l e n g e l e g 1 competition. Not only did we have a fantastic time fishing (and not fishing) but our team also made it to the finals. It was an incredible experience to be a part of such an extraordinary competition and I’m looking forward to the finals and fishing alongside some incredible fly-fishermen…. and women.

Note from the Editor: More to follow on the goings on of the Woman in Waders at the Tops final.

Yes, this caught a fish. My first Woolly Bugger


'I've known Tom Sutcliffe for three decades, and have always admired his writings. This new book is an intimate look at the sport that we all love so well' - GARY BORGER

Tom Sutcliffe’s latest book Yet More Sweet Days represents the cherry on the top of what has been a lifelong passion that has enriched the lives fly fishers in this country and around the world. Six of Tom’s seven books chart the literary journey of South Africa’s most revered fly fisher. Four fit neatly into the genre made so popular by Tom’s literary cousin, the American writer John Gierach. Two, Hunting Trout and Yet More Sweet Days are transcendent works that combine the knowledge gained over a lifetime of fishing and close observation. I suspect that they will be read again and again by fly fishers for generations to come. Tom is the epitome of the passionate fly fisher. He has devoted his life to fly fishing and fly fishing in South Africa. Just as JB Smith dominated the salt water fishing scene in the 50’s and 60’s by giving back so has Tom given back these past 40 years or more. We are blessed by the presence of such people. But this is not a book about the fishing exploits of a great man. The title is misleading in a way. I think could be more aptly titled “Yet More Sweet Memories”. Tom wrote in earlier books of the three stages of the fly angler. First there is the


numbers man for whom catching fish was everything, then the technician who cares more about how and why you catch fish and, finally, the sage for whom fishing, past and present, merges into a tapestry of experiences many of which have little to do with catching fish at all. I think you can chart the course of the flyfishing writer in similar stages. This is Tom the sage writing at the very pinnacle of his life as a fly fisher and an author. So, I place this book more in the Haig Brown school that Gierach. There is a majesty to his insights and writing writing that is sublime. Yet More Sweet Days is a marvellous tapestry of memories of places, experiences and above all friendships all held together by a fly fisher’s life that has been lived to the full. Few if any of us are blessed with Tom’s gifts but passion is something we are all capable of. There are lessons and rewards in this book for all of us. You can purchase a copy from bookstores and fly fishing shops around the country or you can order your copy directly from Tom.

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Verlorenkloof Au Naturel! Andrew Allman

As Life Should Be…

estates are set in beautiful surrounds and when the beat of the city proves just too much to shoulder and the soul needs replenishment, what better place to find yourself and your loved ones, than at Verlorenkloof Estate.

I had once read that fly fishing can be a way to boost your love life and mental wellbeing and I fully concur. I am never more happier than when fishing and especially in the company of the love of my life; my wife. Fly Fishing is no longer a ‘macho thing’ and whilst it may not be the ideal first date, it certainly does provide an opportunity to witness one’s creativity and patience levels but most importantly, their reverence for all living things. Flyfishing is about living and loving life.

For beauty alone, Verlorenkloof is a mustvisit destination but it offers so much more and this little gem of Mpumalanga has a myriad spectrum of activities that are sure to satisfy even the most discerning holiday maker. So forget your woes, leave behind the rat race and pack your rods, hats, boots and sun cream and head off East with a song in your heart and a knowing smile on your face.

It is then of no coincidence that fly fishing


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If you live in Johannesburg or Pretoria it is a gentle three- hour drive and if you are further afield, then why not enjoy the other attractions of Mpumalanga such as Dullstroom, Mashishing, Sabie and the Blyde River Canyon? It is a short distance off the R36 at Bambi, if travelling via Schoemanskloof onto Kruger and other parts of the Lowveld. Just a word of caution though, the R36 is still under construction, but is drivable and there is a most suitable gravel alternative via Dullstroom. We used the Schoemanskloof option and did not find the trip at all onerous but we are fortunate enough to drive a high rise vehicle. Slow and easy should do it though for any mode of transport which you care to use. On the return trip our hosts had guided us through a scenic mountain excursion back to the N4 which boasted breath-taking views and was similarly enjoyed by a number of aerial enthusiasts soaring high above in their hang-

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gliders. I fully recommend the latter but suggest you get more updated details on the state of the roads from Reception. Verlorenkloof is a Shareblock development and sought- after holiday destination in the Mpumalanga Trout Triangle that offers nature-based activities most suited to those who are so inclined and enjoy relaxation in beautiful surrounds. It comprises diverse biogroupings in the form of wetlands, grassland, forested kloof, mountains, streams, rivers, dams and waterfalls. Developed by Eric and Heidi Johnson whose family owned property in the area since 1970, they are two very special people who have deep feelings for both people and the environment. They exude passion for the land, its people and for every living thing; and even for those that are dead and ancient ie. Archaeology! Their easy- going example is followed by all 75 staff who willingly contribute to a successful team providing a service to those who own a


The Shareblock development is spread out and is around 500 hectares in extent, part of a 1600 ha working farm. It was driven into creation not just by the need to diversify income generation in a declining dairy farming industry, but to give back something to the environment and community. Eric and his family have empathy for both and have used local content in their mission plan. There was a vision to respect and preserve what was already provided; but also an opportunity to enhance it’s value so that others who follow may enjoy the experience into perpetuity.

use the arable land for your own livelihood and are a lot more spacious and luxurious than those I have ever seen on the Isle of Skye. They comprise 6 and 10 sleepers and are well appointed and very comfortable with large verandas and views to die for. They adopt the natural theme in fabrics used and local wood with walls adorned in original paintings of the area. Although the concept is one of selfcatering there is a facility on site to provide meals to your Crofts or you can enjoy brekkie and lunch at the lodge. So, for those travelling from Big Smoke, phone ahead and on arrival your Croft will be infused with the pleasant smells of a freshly cooked meal and all one needs to do is just pop the cork! There is an outside lapa which is an option to the

The self- catering crofts are in effect cottages built of local stone and originally of thatch from the surrounding area. They are unlike the Scots version in that you can not


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Our croft was perched atop a mountainous area with a view down the unfolding valley and along the Steenkampsberg range. We had a nightly visit to our wide- open veranda in the form of a Small Spotted Genet who was very tame and had no doubt enticed a few scraps from the dinner table of previous guests. We knew it was wrong but gave into those imploring eyes and so felt obliged to share a few morsels with our uninvited dinner date .’She’ seemed very comfortable with us, more so than we with her, and after her meal she would lie stretched out on the stoep preening herself, just like any other domestic cat being well satisfied by her human slaves. On the last night she brought her mate around for a ‘meat and greet’. It was a special time for us all.

for sale some awesome natural foods. There is array of products on offer at the lodge and to name just a few these include humus, milk, cream, butter, yoghurt cream cheese and my favourite; the natural yogurt made ‘as it should be’. The yoghurt reminded me of my youth and to happy times back on the farm in Zimbabwe. My Grandmother lived in a very remote area and I would go and visit there as a young boy for school holidays. She made fruit preserves in those Consol jars with a rubber seal. I would watch the whole process and help where I could. Gran received daily milk and cream from the neighbouring dairy and made yoghurt. I would often walk across to watch the milking and seeing the dairy at Verlorenkloof took me way back to WHEN. Our farm life was special in that it united us as a family and extended family and was such a happy time for us all. The yoghurt taste at Verlorenkloof reminded me of those special times when natural was the only way and Verlorenkloof exemplifies all that is good and natural.

The activities on offer include hiking with 42km of trails and the venue is used by Lowveld Hikers, amongst others. There is horse riding where the Nooigedacht bred ponies are a safe and pleasant ride. Birding is another favourite where there are 331 identified species and we found another in the form of a Square Tailed Drongo which was not listed. There are 483 plant species and 30 Wild Orchids. And, there are even archaeological sites to visit. There are guides for all these activities with Joseph being the most affable ‘Experiential Manager ’and Eric lending support towards the by- gone era whilst Heidi favours the living here and NOW.

And of course, there is fly fishing with 6 still water dams being fed by mountain streams on the one side of the Crocodile River and another, on the opposite side. The water clarity in both dams and rivers is of exceptional quality but the weather was hot and the water was warm. The fishing is something that needs support from FOSAF and others; and has two core objectives.

They grow their own organic veggies on the estate and being an Agritourism farm, supply

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But first, a little bit of background. Between 1985 and 1998 there was syndicated fishing on the river and there was stocking. In 2015/16 there was a drought and water levels dropped with large fish mortalities. There has been no formal stocking programme since then but there have been annual hatches in the river, thus proving that there is a strain of trout that is surviving but possibly not thriving and is somehow resilient to low oxygen, high water temperatures, otters and other predators of our beloved trout. Some fish have recently been taken and carefully handed over to the local hatchery.

guide, Buffel. I was unsuccessful, possibly through inappropriate tackle for the current state of the river, although I do know that Buffel and others more skilled then I, have been luckier in the recent past. So, despite the water levels being very low, there are deeper pools and hideaways for wild trout. One just needs a little patience, perseverance and maybe a touch of luck but my sense is that if the stocking of resiliently bred trout was kicked off, then who knows what the future may hold for the Crocodile? So what of the still water fishing you may say? Eric informs that the dams are 4.5m deep at the middle and although there was very little sign of weed proliferation, there is a maintenance plan that is ongoing and effective. Stocking is normally twice a month supplied from Lunsklip and fish vary in size from 1.2 to 1.5kg.

The first objective is a Wild Trout Breeding Project where fish caught in the Crocodile River will be interbred with those at the Lunsklip Fishery; and then the off- spring reintroduced into the river system. This will require support and collaboration from many parties in order to bring the river fishing back to it’s former glory. It will create another opportunity for recreational fly fishers and could well have greater positive impacts to the entire value chain.

There is a catch and release policy and only barbless flies are permitted with a rod limit per Croft. I can vouch for the barbless scales being fairly balanced between my inattentiveness and trout gluttony which cost me personally more than a few fish. My guides, both seasoned professionals and familiar with the waters seemed to suffer the same affliction so it would seem to be that all is fair in love and war.

The second goal is one around a Youth Education Programme. Previously the Gauteng North Fly Fishing Association and Jacaranda Fly Fishing Club, both based in Pretoria conducted fly fishing clinics for children. They used the Crocodile River and d a m s o n Ve r l o r e n k l o o f t o t r a i n t h e youngsters. The children were trained as controllers for a few fishing championships and some later went on to find work in the industry. The initiative was stopped some 2 years ago with accommodation being cited as one of the main reasons. Eric, has now advised that he has the support of 6 skilled fly fishers for the resumption of the clinics and has accommodation and facilities for them but would require motivation from FOSAF to get it all going again.

So what worked? I was once told by a KZN fly fisher, who is popular on TV that if you can’t see the fish; then they most likely are not there! He encouraged sight fishing to improve one’s chance of catching. I have used that assumption to varying degrees of success in my travels but more so in rivers. In the past I felt that the use of guides helped one get into the fish quicker, particularly if they scouted ahead.In my case it was better late than never as I left all my catching to the last day and I don’t know who was more relieved, Buffel or I? The first fish caught by a friend on day one was small and foulhooked, so that did not count and then

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then nothing more! It was as if we had hit Desolation Day on day 2 where there was absolutely no activity. There is nothing more frustrating than not catching but sight casting to big trout and then being rejected of every possible offering is a hard pill to swallow. It reminded me of how my mother used to battle with us accepting cabbage as a staple diet. My brother and I hated it with a passion until my mother mixed it up with our favourite peanut butter. I knew I could not use bait but had to find a way to deceive these trout into believing my offering was better than‌ sex. Yes, I do believe that spawning was a contributing factor to the low number of takes that we experienced with tag being played out in the shallow waters and there was also evidence of head butting seen on cock trout. I had tried to become too technical in my attempts and on day three went back to the tried and tested which thankfully worked. I used Buffel to point out the location of cruising trout and sight casted directly into their path. I didn’t wait for the fly to drop but gave it one sharp strip which was immediately snaffled. Jackpot, I was on the scoreboard and looking good! Next, Buffel was hugging me and telling me how great it was and I realised that life was sweet! Try using an egg as a strike indicator and then beneath that an olive buzzer or GRHE nymph. There were many different variations

of successful flies doing the rounds at the dams and from ultra- slow to whipping fast retrieves. I am not qualified to tell you what is best for you but to be honest I suggest that you use what you are familiar with. When you start tampering with what has been previously effective, you tend to lose your way. The old woolly glided near the bottom with a slow retrieve is just as deadlier now as it ever was and nymphing at the right time of the day is a sure winner but sadly the dry fly got the complete thumbs down at every attempt. I took a novice fly fisher with me. He did require a good deal of help with his casting and I would like to commend Buffel on improving that aspect of his game. There are no doubt some very large fish living in those dams although I did not entice any real monsters into my net. I also did not weigh the fish which I caught and released, but I do have a few pics that may help to remind me of when I was in the moment and when the fishing was at its most enjoyable for me. I am hopeful that the river fishing project gets the support it requires and that our youth are developed to help sustain the activity and indeed grow the base of followers. Will I return? Do fish swim?


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Safety Suggestions for float tubers Safety suggestions for Title

float written tubing by Norman Greene First Second Name Photos: other name

Norman Greene

Safety Suggestions for float tubers Title written by Norman Greene First Second Name Photos: other name

With winter upon us many flyfishers are heading out to still waters as the rivers are closed. Here we discuss float tube safety and some good tips on maximising your enjoyment out on the water.

up and walk backwards out of the water. Sit down and remove your fins. Then step out of the round tube or open the vee tube and walk out. Avoid muddy launching sites ( mud traps the fins, and you can trip up ) and sharp rocky launch sites ( scrapes the underside of your tube, and you might push it down onto a sharp edge with your full weight while getting in and out). Unsuitable launch sites cause wear and tear on your craft during the launch or exit from the water. What you want is a nice compacted gravel or sand beach.

Float tube safety can be divided into several categories: Protection of your water craft, tube, pontoon, etc from damage while on the water, Backup maintenance while off the water, Launching and leaving the water without upset, Weather, water currents, wind - dealing with difficult conditions, Personal Safety: Eyes from hooks & sharp objects, exposure to sun, wet, cold, fitness to tube, Other large or fast water craft driven dangerously close and collision avoidance, Situation recovery in the event of ending up in the water for whatever reason.

When dithering about prior to launching, don't let go of it! A breeze from the shore (behind) can easily blow your unoccupied craft out onto the water over d e e p w a t e r. T h i s w o u l d l e a v e y o u embarrassed and stuck on the lakeshore looking helplessly at your tube, and having either to ask a friend to go get it, or else walk around the lake to retrieve it where it blows ashore.

Some of these issues apply to all small craft, some are specific to the float tube. Launching and exiting: Place donut tubes on the ground at the waters edge, with the fins placed under the tube seat in the "working" position. Next step into the tube. Slip your feet into the fins, one at a time, and sit on the backrest while you pull on the fin heel straps. Pick the tube up by the handles with you inside and walk backwards out into 18" of water, sit down, clip up the crotch strap and paddle away, clipping up the stripping apron as you go.

Personal Floatation Device: Wear your life jacket all the time. If it is uncomfortable to wear all the time, buy a better one. Do not plan on putting it on when you need it. ( Would you try putting on your seatbelt during a car accident? )

If you have a Vee Tube life is simpler. Put on your fins at the water's edge, with the tube beside you to rest against. Place the tube floating on the water in the 4"- 6" deep area, reverse into the water with your fins on and push it out in front of you.

I currently use a buoyancy aid fishing jacket which also doubles as a padded insulating waistcoat. A buoyancy aid gives lift, but does not guarantee to keep you upright with face above water, and has no crotch strap to prevent a possible wriggle out. So a life jacket is safer than a buoyancy aid jacket.

Automatic inflatable jackets are prone to going off in the back of the car on the way home due to dampness, so a manual pullcord jacket is preferable.

When you get to 18" of water sit down and close the bar, if it has one. Velcro up the stripping apron so you can't drop any tackle in and paddle out. To get out, fin gently into the shallows, stand

Don't economise with a cheap jacket, your life is worth more than any cost saving, when the day arrives that the unexpected happens to you. 85

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Waders: Neoprenes are warm against exposure, and add extra buoyancy, two desirable qualities - so they should be regarded as the standard. Thinwall lightweight breathables can serve as a special use alternative for summer when neoprenes become too heavy and warm.

only partially inflated, squishy and wobbly. No harm can come from expansion due to heat then. Backup Floatation Chambers in the Tube: If your tube has one main air bladder, make sure to have another air chamber in the backrest. This means that when the life jacket is included, you have three systems of floatation. My current tube has a single main bladder, and I am not happy with that, so I have the backrest bladder, and also another smaller backrest bladder in the storage pocket above the backrest, and my jacket. With 4 systems I'm not going to sink, but I also don't plan to lose any rods or gear due to a loss of buoyancy. If you have a single chamber tube with no backrest space (!) lace an air cushion to the seat and sit on that. And once again always wear your life jacket!

In spring and autumn be aware of the fact that exposure is dangerous. (I think that most death at sea are due to exposure followed by drowning, where exposure saps energy and takes away the ability to swim) If you get wet will you still be warm? Wool and fleece stay warm, whether they are wet or dry. Neoprene is also warm, but many other materials (cotton) while warm when dry are useless if they get wet. A down jacket is an example. These materials are not suitable as tubing clothing. Experienced water folks dress for the water temperature first and the air temperature second. Choose materials wisely: wool beats cotton, fleece beats down.

Don't kick off a fin and lose it: Tie your fins to your ankles with fin savers. This is a big hassle avoider. Fins can work loose and come off, or get trapped in bankside mud and be sucked-pulled off just when it's a real pain to have to fix them, Pay attention to if a fin works loose, and simply reach down and adjust it, rather than kicking it off and losing half your speed and most of steering. Ankle strap adjustment is far easier to do on the fly while in vee tubes compared with round tubes.

The float tube is a stillwater design: So use it on lakes! Your water speed is too slow for safe manoeuvring on fast rivers, so you can be carried under overhanging bushes against your wishes. And you have parts of you sticking out underwater positioned to strike against a rock or snag as you drift with a current. So stay out of rivers in float tubes. The pontoon design is much better suited to flowing water since a pontoon's water speed is quicker, and nothing projects out below. There are some pontoons specially made for river use. Also, the problem with pontoons, wind, is not really present on rivers which tend to be more sheltered from the breeze.

Wear a Hat: It is always possible to have a hook hit your exposed head while fishing, and false casting flies in a gusty wind is a great way to make it happen. So a hat is necessary. Also when you are sitting low down near the water surface, the reflected ultraviolet rays is added to the rays from overhead and this "double dose" can cause severe sunburn. A peaked hat blocks the UV from the sky, giving face protection, but leaving the reflected UV from the water bringing you back to normal sunlight exposure levels. A peaked cap shades the face but a full brimmed hat protects the face, and also ears and upper neck and is better. So buy a hat with a shady brim, reduced backlight on the lenses reduces the need for "side screen added" type polarized glasses.

Inflation Air Pressure: A float tube bladder should be inflated enough to make the wrinkles in the cover material disappear, no more. When inflated to 3 - 4 psi, the tube is very firm, not rock hard. Try to not over inflate your tube. This shortens it's life by stretching the stitching, or maybe you could even burst a seam. Don't leave a full float tube in the vehicle in summer sunshine. The heat will cause the air inside the tube air bladder to expand and thereby over inflate your tube, possibly damaging it. In this situation let some air out so the tube is

It is our responsibility to ourselves, and to other water users, to take care of these BEFORE we go on the water.


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Wear Polarized Sunglasses: With hooks flying around your head, some kind of eye protection is desirable. There is also the fact that light reflected off the water prevents you seeing into the water, where the fish are. The glare can be eliminated by wearing polarized glasses, which will also give eye protection from hooks etc. Remember that a polarized lens is not a tinted lens. They are very different. A tinted sunglass reduces the light going through by a fixed percentage. So you get 80% or 70% reduction or dimming. Unfortunately with simple tinted lenses, good light and glare pass through to your eyes in the same proportion they arrive at the lens. On the other hand, a polarized lens removes a great percentage of the glare, the light reflected off the water, and leaves most of the light from above. So the sky stays the same. However the reflected sky on the water surface darkens. This allows you to see into the water better. For this reason every angler worth the name should wear polarized glasses as long as enough light is present to make them viable, taking them off only during dark rain showers, and in the evening at dusk. Sight fishing for cruising fish is almost impossible without them. Try to prevent light getting in at the back of the lenses, because it will reflect into your eyes. The ideal situation is no light at all coming in at the side, and rear, so the lens surface nearest your eye is darkened, with all the illumination on the outside. Remember how easy it is to see into a lit up aquarium from a dark room, compared with looking into the sea from a brightly lit beach. Some glasses have polarized side panels to reduce back-glare and these are good with a peaked baseball cap. Better still, you wear a fully brimmed hat instead. This blocks backlight better and this goes a long way to produce the best underwater vision.

they comply with Safety Regulations which apply in freshwater as well as the sea. If other water users are out zooming about in motor boats, you want to be easily seen. I like to be unseen sometimes. My Bucks Bag Bullet tube is coloured in a camouflage pattern of woodland colours. Because of this it does not draw other anglers over to my area from a distance. If I take this tube out on a water with motor craft I stay near the edges, and away from the middle where they open up the throttle raising the nose of their boat and reducing their vision of what lies ahead. In the event that I should go out in waters where boats are common I wear a buoyancy jacket that has a fluorescent red hood which is folded away inside the collar most of the time. I open the hood out, and wear it. In order to comply with such regulations another way, a float tubing angler can simply tie on one of those cheap safety workman's or cyclists vests available from builders providers and cycle shops. Tie it to the backrest D rings in an appropriate way to maximise your visual impact. It provides the visibility required and adds virtually no extra weight to your craft. Tubing in saltwater falls under full coastguard regulations, and in some places (eg harbours) the law requires that a visual indicator over a certain height must be shown. The normal answer is to fly a pennant on a flagpole. Fit a metre long rod-rest, or old rod tip with a brightly coloured pennant tied on at the top fluttering in the breeze. Use lights after dark: Pennants and fluorescent patches do not work in the night. Get clip-on cyclists flashing LED light units! The boating rule is red on the left (port side, green on the right (starboard) side, white in the middle on a raised pole. So the white is easy, Get a bright LED headlight unit - it's high and in the middle, but is only visible if you face towards an oncoming boat or shore. Note that for navigation purposes left and right are usually calculated for a boat,

Visibility on the Water: Many float tubes have an area of coloured fluorescent orange at the rear of the tube backrest. The orange blaze on the back of the float tubes is so that


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moving forwards, but the tube moves rearwards. So remember that the red goes beside your right hand as you sit in the tube! Clip them onto the D rings each side of your tube and you stand out once more no matter how dark it is.

themselves. Extreme Weather: Get the weather forecast the day before, the night before, and the morning of your trip. Learn how much breeze you are physically able to paddle in and stay within your capabilities. Learn how your local water differs from the general region forecast due to local features .. more wind, less wind, tendency for still morning and evenings, and so on. Launch at the downwind shore, and fin upwind, then the wind carries you home. Be aware that a strong wind gets the top layer of a lake flowing in a downwind direction, so you may have to fin against the wind, and the water flow if you get into the wrong position, and this can be exhausting. Avoid the problem before it becomes a problem, by going to smaller lakes on windy days. Don't go out on the water waving a carbon fishing rod/lightning conductor if there is an electrical storm possibility.

If there is a boat navigation route - it's wise to stay out of it after dark, even if you DO carry lights. Not every boat owner is looking out as hard as they should be, especially after they think they are safely away from shore and it's rocks, and you are quite low in the water. Sonic Communication on the Water: The problem of bad visibility on the water for ships was solved long ago, long before radar was discovered. Fog horns are sounded periodically by ships, so if you can't see them, you can hear them! If a specific location requires that my tube must cross the "boat road" I sometimes carry an air-horn in the soft drinks holder of the tube. It can be sounded without even having to pick it up by triggering it where it is . It's a good idea to carry a whistle clipped to your PFD. Good vests are supplied with them. If you get into difficulties you can attract the attention of other water users. Having it attached to the life jacket means that even if you leave the tube you can still use the whistle.

All other things being equal, risk is directly related to distance from the shore: Say you want to fish the far side of the lake. It is safer to drive around, than it is to fin a long journey across. It is safer to fin round the shallows, where the fish usually are, than it is to cross the middle. Safety is dry land when you are in a water craft. Unnecessarily high distance from dry land is the same as long time delay from dry land ... it is a higher risk. Always choose the lower risk approach to water sports , if you have a choice.

Mini First Aid Kit: A mini first aid kit remains in the tube. I have mine in a plastic self-seal bag in a small box designed to hold a bar of soap while camping. When it's necessary, maybe a cut from a hook point or a pike tooth, I'm glad to have it. Those little cuts on cold wet skin bleed a ridiculous amount!

Float tube repair kit: I never leave home without it. Basically it's a simple bicycle repair kit with a couple of extras. The plastic bag contains tube patches and glue, and also wader repair materials. It remains in my car, but I allow for the possibility of sticking a hook and making a pinhole while out on the water. For this purpose I carry polyurethane tape which can make an instant fix to an air bladder if punctured. A pinhole is nothing to be alarmed about, you hear the hiss, or see a stream of pinhole bubbles rising where they should not be. It will take a very long time to deflate in such a

Better First Aid Kit: A better more complete first aid kit remains in the vehicle. I have mine in an airtight lunchbox to keep it airtight. The only things I use much are paracetemol when fishing while I'm not quite well, anti histamines when irritated by big pollen counts, and the occasional sticky bandage for a small cut. However, over the years I have opened it several times for friends and other anglers nearby who were unprepared, then got a small injury, and had no first aid kit


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situation. Just paddle towards shore, and decide while en-route whether an on the water fix is handier. Most of the time you want to get back to the car to do a proper job, just so as you won't have to do it again later, if you do a temporary one now.

rigid lure boxes. If you leave them in the tube pockets loose, sooner or later you will lean on that pocket for support, maybe just shifting position for comfort, and push a hook point into the tube for a pinhole leak. So use the lure boxes and keep your ship tidy.

The handiest glue for seams, or valve edges is sold as Aquasure, also as Aquaseal, neoprene diving suit glue, or the glue for polyurethane gutters.

When fishing for bass, mullet, perch: Pay attention so that the spiny fin does not put a pin hole in your nice tube. Play the fish out at distance, then bring it in close. Don't drag it in fresh, and then have it hopping all over you and your tube while you try to grab it.

Fishing hooks and knives: Should be stored in


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Merrily down the stream Ian Cox Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily Life is but a dream.

The September 2019 edition of the Flyfishing and Flytying magazine features an article about the ongoing conflict between recreational anglers and canoeists in the United Kingdom. I would not mention this in a South African context save that it speaks to many of the issues driving the conflict between anglers and small scale fishers in South Africa. The public right to access rivers in the United Kingdom is heavily restricted. Public rights of access are limited to navigable tidal rivers and to the small number of rivers were public use has existed since time immemorial. This applies equally to the right to fish or canoe on these rivers or indeed any other use. As I mentioned in the July 2019 edition of this magazine, English common law reposes the right to access, and thus exploit, most of Britain’s rivers in the hands of riparian landowners. The result is that a tiny proportion of Britain rivers are truly open to the public. This is also the legal position in South Africa as far as fishing is concerned. However, it is not the case when canoeing on rivers. Roman Dutch law applies to canoeists and it grants a general right of access that British

canoeists are fighting for. The right to canoe South Africa’s rivers was recognised over 30 years ago in the case of Butgereit v Transvaal Canoe Union. The South African legal position is thus an anomalous one in that sometimes Roman Dutch law applies and sometimes it does not. It is hard not to conclude that South African law makers adopted the English law regime opportunistically where this enabled landowners to limit a general right of access to private properties. Anglers in both the United Kingdom and South Africa have overcome this impediment by entering into agreements with land owners, including the state, which allow clubs and/or syndicates privileged access to these waters. Many of these arrangements are longstanding. In some cases where state land is involved, they have been formalised into laws or policy. For example, Jake Alletson writes in Greenheart to Graphite of trout acclimatisation societies being encouraged by government in what was then Natal as a means of allowing select members public to gain access to the Provinces state funded trout waters. 92

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The British government has encouraged canoeists to enter into the same sort of arrangements that anglers have done but this is proving easier said that done. These efforts are often frustrated by the existing preferential arrangements enjoyed by anglers who actively oppose giving rights to canoeists if there is any risk that this may compromise the rights enjoyed by anglers.

with rod and line. These permits are not easily obtained especially by people who live in the kind of poverty that characterises small scale fishing. This makes small scale fishing is a criminal offence in South Africa to all practical intents and purposes. Thus, in many ways, South Africa’s small scale fishers find themselves in the same boat as canoeists in the United Kingdom.

This has resulted in British canoeists questioning the fairness of the underlying law. Canoeing bodies in Britain are now claiming that they enjoy the same sort of rights of use as those enjoyed by South African canoeists. Anglers dispute this. British law is on the anglers’ side but the law which is rooted in ancient English common law is looking increasingly anachronistic and indefensible.

For example, both complain claim that they are being discriminated against by laws that are inherently unjust. They both claim both claim that it is wrong to place access to this public resource in private hands especially when this results inequitable rights to access and use the resource. Anglers in South Africa and the United Kingdom both ignore these complaints choosing instead to invoke the law regardless of whether this is fair.

British canoeists are becoming intolerant of the legal position and are increasingly acting as if they have the rights they claim.

However, this similarity ends with a uniquely South African twist.

The result is increasing levels of conflict between canoeists and anglers in the United Kingdom. The British government is telling anglers and canoeists to sort their differences out but if the article in Flyfishing and Flytying Magazine is anything to go by, it seems that positions are hardening. This is most unfortunate.

While fresh water fishery laws are characterised as conservation laws, it is very easy to show that they have they have the effect of depriving black people from access to the fishery. Anglers and conservationists deny this, but the proof is easy to find.

South African anglers are not in conflict with canoeists. They have a different enemy in the artisanal or small-scale fishers who catch fish otherwise than with rod hook and line.

The result is that poaching has become rampant on state

Recreational anglers, including a significant constituency with the flyfishing community, routinely condemn small scale fishers as poachers and criminals.

owned waters even in protected areas such as Kosi Bay.

There is some technical justification for this accusation. You need a permit to lawfully fish South Africa’s fresh waters otherwise than


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An egregious example is to be found in the law the Cape Colonial Government introduced 1890’s banning the use of fish kraals completely. This is an ancient fishing method that was practised on the Orange river as far back as the 1780’s. Yet this law is

still on the statute books in some provinces. Worse still it is being used to justify anglers taking the law into their own hands by destroying these fish kraals wherever they find them.

Building a stone fish kraal below VDK dam

A trout dam at Walkersons

The inherently discriminatory nature of South Africa’s provincial conservation laws was explicitly recognised in the Scoping Study on the Development and Sustainable Utilisation of Inland Fisheries in South Africa that was prepared in 2015 by a multidisciplinary team of academics headed Professor Britz. He is the former dean of the Department of Ichthyology at Rhodes University.

are doubling down by using this threat as an excuse for calling for stiffer laws that further entrench the preferred position of anglers. The are unrepentant in their view that small scale fishers are criminals. Environmental authorities are not averse to this approach, especially when it encourages increased state control over biological resources.

That report, which has been widely praised, opens with this observation:

The 2nd Draft National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy Framework for South Africa confronts these questions head on. This policy proposes drastic reform that will deprive riparian owners of their exclusive rights in respect of the fresh water fisheries resource. At the same time, it promises a more equitable sharing of the resource and the decriminalisation of the status of small scale fishers.

South Africa’s inland fishery resource endowment has been overlooked as a means of supporting sustainable livelihoods in the democratic era, lacking a guiding policy and legislation aligned with the country’s rights based Constitution. The absence of an equitable inland fishing gover nance framework with defined user rights has resulted in growing unmanaged and unsustainable fishing practices, conflicts between resource users, and the perpetuation of Colonial- and Apartheid-era exclusion of rural communities from livelihood and economic opportunities linked to aquatic natural resources.

Anglers and land owners will be horrified but truth be told it is difficult to criticise from a constitutional or even a common law perspective. Indeed, The English law based modifications to our law that give landowners exclusive rights to the fresh water fishery can easily be dismissed as a foreign aberration that was adopted because it helped keep black people off privately owned land.

It is not surprising, therefore, that ignoring these laws has become an act of moral disobedience for small scale fishers regardless of what adverse the impacts on resource sustainability may be. Furthermore, government often lacks the capacity or the will to enforce these laws. The result is that poaching has become rampant on state owned waters even in protected areas such as Kosi Bay. The sustainability of the fishery and the value that reposes in the fresh water fishery resource are being compromised as a result of this.

The problem with the policy lies not so much in the pudding but in its eating. The changes proposed are radical ones that will detrimentally affect significant value chains that have developed around the rights that landowners presently enjoy. The value chains that have developed around flyfishing for trout and yellowfish are obvious examples of this. But this is the tip of the iceberg.

This should encourage a reassessment of strategy but that is not happening. Anglers


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Agriculture and game ranching which are both heavily dependent on controlled access are also likely to be severely affected if the public are allowed access to private property for the purpose of fishing.

claims of small scale fishers to share in South Africa’s fresh water fishery. I fear this dog in the manger attitude is going to cost the country dearly. Anglers in this country and the United Kingdom both cite conservation reasons for maintaining the status quo. British Anglers have alleged, for example that canoeists disturb the fish. Subsequent studies, however revealed that this was not the case and that it was in fact anglers who were disturbing fish. South African anglers denounce small scale fishing as unsustainable while at the same time opposing research aimed at determining if this is indeed the case. Thus, SACRAA’s John Pledger claims that it has invested R1,5 million in opposing the small scale fisheries project currently underway at Van Der Kloof Dam....This is indefensible.

The idea of the fisheries resource being managed as public property is not an indefensible one, but it does place a heavy burden on government to exercise its custodial powers responsibly. And therein lies the problem. `There is very little chance that this will happen given gover nment’s appalling track record regarding resource management. Radical reform such as that envisaged in the policy requires a massive investment if it is to be undertaken successfully. But the policy is silent on this. Government has ignored its own rules and failed to carry out the required strategic economic assessment survey. Moreover, the already pitifully small fisheries budget is reducing making it very unlikely that government will ever have the resources to responsibly implement this policy.

The British government has called upon stakeholders to sort their problems, so it won’t have to. The South African government has not extended that invitation to stakeholders in the South African fresh water fishery. It shows every indication that it intends exploiting the conflict to suit its own ends.

This all suggests that this may well be another case of “pillage the village” policy making. Anglers hoped that the economic value of angling would encourage government to protect the value chain. But the opposite is likely to be true. I fear that it has made the angling value chain a target.

Anglers must recognise that the current legal position that gives anglers preferred access to the fishery is untenable. Anglers need to change, and they need to do so quickly if all of this is not going to be a fait accompli.

It makes my blood boil when I think of this, but it is very likely that small scale fishers are being used to justify what is really and exercise of increasing state control so that “big men” can extract rents from the value chains that have developed around recreational fishing.

I think that a different more inclusive approach is required. Perhaps anglers should reach out to small scale fishers with a view to finding common ground instead of branding them criminals. Small scale fishers are asking anglers to do so but there is a great deal of concern in the angling community whether this is the right thing to do.

What makes me even more angry is the fact t h a t a n g l e r s a re m a k i n g i t e a s y f o r government to do this. Angling has invited these measures by refusing to recognise the

Perhaps it is time? Maybe it is to late?


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Communities havesting fish below VDK

Traditional fish kraals


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Articles inside

Merrily down the stream by Ian Cox

pages 92-100

Safety Suggestions for float tubers Norman Greene Safety suggestions for float tubing by Norman Greene

pages 83-91

Verlorenkloof - Au Naturel! by Andrew Allman

pages 73-82

Yet More Sweet Days A book review by Ian Cox

pages 71-72

WOMEN IN WADERS - My flyfishing journey

pages 65-70

Finding your river technique Part II in a Series of Articles by Brett van Rensburg

pages 58-64

The Eastern Cape Highlands by Dave Walker

pages 52, 54-57

Garden Route Grunter by Robin Fick

pages 42-51

Step-by-step: How to tie a Rubber Duck / LF Hitch Fly by Terkel Broe Christensen

pages 36-41

A Man and a Fly: Lars Fabrin and the LF Hitch Fly by Terkel Broe Christensen

pages 28-41

Heritage Flies - Part 4 Red-Butt Woolly Worm and the DDD.

pages 24-27

The impeccable Mr Barder by Clement Booth

pages 16-23

My Mistress' gaze by Rob Pretorius

pages 9-15

Telling Stories A Tale of two rivers by Savs

pages 6-8


pages 1, 4-5
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