OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF FOSAF
• Klippies without Coke • Tadpole conundrum • Faking the food
WET DREAMS & HOME STREAMS Reality vs fantasy
NATIVE OR NOT
Mystery of the Maloti Minnow
February/March 2018 Vol. 31 No. 165
Volume 31 Number 165 February 2018 COVER: Fat and Flourishing Gijsbert Hoogendoorn with a 9 lb beauty from Highland Lodge. Photo by Darryl Lampert. See page 10.
Expert Elucidation After all the hype it’s just a tool — by Andrew Savs
Everything Comes Together With thanks to FNF Jelly — by Gijsbert Hoogendoorn
Tadpole Conundrum Further thoughts on froggy creations — by Ed Herbst
Get the Net! Finding the fly that fakes the food — by Wayne Ulrich Stegen
Native or Not? The story of the mysterious Maloti minnow — by Ian Cox and Andrew Mather
In Plain Sight “Secret” streams and the philosophy that protects them — by Peter Brigg
Klippies without the Coke A better recipe for taking trout — by Gordon van der Spuy
Expo 2018 in a Nutshell All you need to know about this year’s Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo
Fishing Mojo And the curse of Murphy’s Law — by Duncan Steyn
Xplorer Big Fish Competition Tamalyn Wright’s spotted grunter earns her a T-50 fly-rod worth R5 000
Escaping Comfort Zones Take the risk, you’ll love it — by Gertrude Babich
Wet Dreams and Home Streams When reality is better than your wildest dreams — by Andrew Mather
Blast from the Past: Fishing the Pubs
Keeping up with modern events — by Khehla
DEPARTMENTS 6 7
From the Editor — by Sheena Carnie Items of Interest to FOSAF members
Calling all Junior Flyfishers — Win awards from Stealth Directory Adverts and Ad Index
FLYFISHING February 2018 • 5
Publisher: Erwin Bursik Editor: Sheena Carnie Advertising Executive: Mark Wilson Editorial Assistants: Vahini Pillay Advertising Consultant: Joan Wilson Administration Executive: Anne Bursik Accountant: Jane Harvey Exec. Assistant: Kim Hook Contributors: Gertrude Babich, Peter Brigg, Ian Cox, Ed Herbst, Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, Darryl Lampert,Andrew Mather,Andrew Savs,Wayne Stegen, Duncan Steyn and Gordon van der Spuy. Advertising – National Sales: Angler Publications cc Telephone: (031) 572-2289 Mark Wilson cell: 073 748 6107 Joan Wilson: email@example.com Publishers: Angler Publications cc PO Box 20545, Durban North 4016 Telephone: (031) 572-2289 Fax: (031) 572-7891 e-mail:
Subscriptions to FLYFISHING The digital version of FLYFISHING magazine is available free of charge via <www.issuu.com>
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FLYFISHING, ISSN 1011-3681, is published bi-monthly (six times per annum) by Angler Publications cc, Registration No. CK 88/05863/23.
• Copyright is expressly reserved and nothing may be reproduced in part or whole without the permission of the publishers. 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.
6 • FLYFISHING February 2018
FROM THE EDITOR
T’S a little late to wish all our readers a happy new year, but I’m going to do it anyway. Here’s hoping 2018 is exceptionally kind to you and your loved ones and delivers mountains of wonderful fishing memories. FLYFISHING has always been a “traditional” flyfishing magazine, appealing to the gentle men and women who have a love for the art of fur and feather and the piscatoriSheena Carnie al creatures of this world. For the last 30 years we’ve focussed on bringing you a great mix of articles on where, how and when to go fishing, with the majority of the content centred on trout fishing. Over the years that changed a bit with indigenous species like yellowfish, barbel and saltwater species making more regular appearances. Methods of fishing have changed slightly over the years, as has the tackle that’s used, but one thing never changed — this magazine’s dedication to the anglers who love to target fish on fly. A new year is as good a time as any to start a new tradition, and so it is with us. As from this issue, FLYFISHING will be published exclusively in digital format on <www.issuu.com>. Paper versions will no longer be produced. The bonus is that it will be free, gratis and for nothing! The other bonus is that we’ll be able to offer you a bigger, jucier magazine because it won’t cost any more to produce than a smaller mag. We’re well aware that many of our readers prefer to have the print version, and we truly are sorry to disappoint you, but unfortunately print costs keep escalating and threaten the entire life of the magazine, so we had to make some tough decisions. With that in mind we hope you will all embrace the idea of the digital magazine and come to love it as much as you’ve always loved the print version. Many of you have already been reading our digital version on Zinio, so this is nothing new to you, but from now on you’ll get it for free. You’ll just have to access it through Issuu instead of through Zinio. A number of you have already paid for your annual print subscriptions, and by now you should have received a letter asking you to send us your details so that we can refund you for the balance of your subscription. If you haven’t received that letter (thanks SAPO!) please phone (031) 572-2289 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org> so that arrangements can be made. Please spread the word to your other fishing friends, telling them of our new free, online offering, and look out for our new revamped website which is currently being developed. We hope to offer readers and advertisers alike something new and fresh to sink their virtual teeth into. With that in mind, this issue brings you a wide range of stories as always, so there’s sure to be something for everyone ... One of the holiday ideas on my bucket list is rafting down the Orange River and camping on the banks. As a result I was drooling over Gertrude Babich’s tales of her fishing trip down the Orange River. That trip just moved closer to the top of my list. Meanwhile Gijsbert Hoogendoorn and Darryl Lampert went looking for big fat rainbow trout in the Stormberg, and Wayne Stegen shares how his Salmo Taddy hooked a really fat KZN rainbow. If you prefer river fishing, two of our real traditionalists, Peter Brigg and Andrew Mather, share their thoughts on fishing beautiful streams close to home. Whether we admit it or not we all have a lucky hat/rod/jacket that we believe makes the difference between a good day’s fishing and skunking; on page 40 Duncan Steyn shares his take on fishing mojo and how Murphy’s Law (a real thing!) works against us. And if you’re a tackle junkie who needs to learn to take him/herself less seriously, read Andrew Sav’s First Bite, and our new “Blast from the Past” feature. On a more serious note Ian Cox and Andrew Mather take a closer look at the Maloti minnow in light of recent reports from scientists who have rediscovered it in KwaZulu-Natal. Ian and Andrew aren’t convinced it was ever native to KZN and await conclusive evidence either way. If your tactics and flies weren’t producing as you’d hoped they would last year; now’s a good time to try something new, and Ed Herbst and Wayne Stegen have both got some tadpole ideas for you to work on. Meanwhile Gordon van der Spuy shares his love of klippies — without Coke — and the phenomenal flies it can produce. SUBSCRIBER WINNERS Three lucky FLYFISHING subscribers who faithfully renewed their annual subs before they were done away with have each won a copy of South African Fishing Flies by Peter Brigg and Ed Herbst. The winners are: Laurence Davies of Queensburgh, Mark Pollock of Benoni and Hannes Viljoen of Swellendam. Enjoy! The books will be sent to you directly from the publishers. Happy reading.
HIS issue’s winner of the members’ draw is Jeremy Horne (membership no EH0021) of Amber Valley, Howick. His prize is a weekend at a self-catering cottage at Riverside Trout Cottages, courtesy of Jo and Pieter Moller. Riverside is situated in the Kamberg area of the KZN Midlands and offers self-catering accommodation in two well-appointed stone cottages. The cottages are just a few minutes’ walk from the pristine Mooi River which meanders through the farm. Fishing is also available in three dams which have been stocked with brown and rainbow trout. For further information phone (033) 267-7245 or email <email@example.com>.
EDUCATING YOUTH ON THE RIVER
By Chris Williams, Chairman FOSAF Northern Region
N December FOSAF Northern Region representatives lent a helping hand at the Youth Fish Education and Environment Day held on the Jukskei River. The event was hosted by the local Eco Culture Sechaba Foundation, and very kindly sponsored by Primedia. Eco Culture is a dynamic coming-together of several vibrant environmental educators who are passionate and qualified in teaching and inspire youngsters in aquatic and environmental matters. Mike Mitchell, of our committee, has done sterling work in introducing Eco Culture to our fold. As FOSAF Northern, we will be adding our flyfishing expertise to work as a team with Eco Culture with their 2018 programmes. In return, Eco Culture will assist us with broader water and environmental programmes for our flyfishing-orientated youth education. We will also unite our continuing efforts on securing reliable sponsorship. On this particular day about 100 girls and boys between the ages of nine and 16 were bussed in from their local Diepsloot, Cosmo City and Tembisa schools. The venue was the Northern Farms Nature Reserve, whose owners have given great support to this initiative. The Jukskei was flowing high and dirty after the recent storms, and it would have made any fishing or interaction on the river highly dangerous for the children, so Plan B was put into action and water health tests and aquatic insect sampling were held on the little dam by the river in the Reserve. The aim was for these children who live in informal settlements to have the opportunity to come and visit a riverine
nature reserve and enjoy hands-on practical environmental education. Not only did they learn about our local natural eco-system and the fish, animals and plants therein, but they were also shown why a healthy environment and clean water is so important for South Africa. The children were given protective gloves and bags so they could clear up safe parts of the river bank, and, with much gusto, they collected 110 big bags of rubbish. It was an eye opener for us all just how much plastic and litter had come down in the recent floods from Alexandria and the surrounding suburbs. The youngsters were also taught about the aquatic food pyramid and how the different species interlink and how different threats impact these species. The girls and boys were then given testing kits and score cards so they could catch aquatic invertebrates and determine the health of the ecosystem based on what creatures they had caught. Stars of the show included disgruntled vlei kurper, dragon- and damselfly nymphs, Baetis nymphs, a monster water scorpion and a frog that wouldn’t stop croaking, much to the mirth of all! In conjunction with Eco Culture, we are busy working on a programme of flyfishing/environment events for 2018 and will keep members advised of dates and venues. We are starting off 2018 with a pilot programme of flyfishing tutorials and field studies at St Stithians College as part of their Life Skills academic programme. We would love to hear from those wanting to back our work either by volunteering/funding and/or by getting involved with FOSAF’s other projects and initiatives. Any suggestions for these projects also gratefully received.
JOIN FOSAF NOW
ECOME a member and make a contribution to FOSAF’s most important projects, thus assuring the future of flyfishing in South Africa. For further information refer to the FOSAF website. In addition, members may purchase our FOSAF Guide to Flyfishing and the Favoured Flies books at extremely low prices. These items make ideal gifts for a friend or a newcomer to the sport. To join and for more details visit <www.fosaf.co.za> or contact Liz on (011) 467-5992 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 7
EXPERT ELUCIDATION After all the hype it’s just a tool By Andrew Savs <anotherwordforit.wordpress.com/>
GUARD my personal time and space fiercely. What little of it is available to me I spend fishing on a river or preparing to be fishing on a river. As a result of this I am not often to be seen at those desperately annoying after-hours corporate functions. Walking around looking for a friendly face while avoiding the flaying arms of capitalist chest-beaters is not entirely my plate of beans. I want to shout out to anyone who will listen that I refuse to be defined by whatever is scrawled in the “company” and “title” lines on the sticky printer label that Mr I-Surgeon’s secretary (and part-time lover) affixed to my chest on the way in. Still, there I was, in the thick of it, casting off the slightest hint of self respect and saying ridiculously meaningless things like “downside risk”, “backward integration” and “cautiously optimistic”. When the discussion turned to golf I just nodded or frowned in line with the non-verbal cues of my colleagues, all the while trying not to imagine the guy demonstrating his improved swing with the stem of a wine glass protruding from the side of his head. 8 • FLYFISHING February 2018
Call me shallow. Call me ungrateful. Call me whatever the hell you want to call me. The evening was a “fine whisky appreciation” event and I was there to support my favourite and most worthy charity — me. With the mingling portion of the evening over and no outright winner in the impromptu biggest genital competition, Mr I-Surgeon took the floor and pointed out how grateful he was and how pleased we should be for our small part in the attainment of his vast personal success. Thereafter we moved to tables that had been specially laid out for our comfort and tasting pleasure. In front of every chair was a line of eight glasses, each containing a miserly shot of a different single malt. We set-to, tasting one after the other, nodding appreciatively and clickclicking our tongues within the void of our mouths as each sip breathed new life into our moribund palates and our host described the nuances of each. Sure, it wasn’t to everyone’s liking and, having already stooped this low, I removed my name sticker and reached over to empty the glass of anyone who demonstrated the slightest hesitation in finishing theirs. Charity, my paternal grandmother would always remind me, begins at home.
This event took place more than a decade ago but it was brought to mind last night as I read the words of a muchrevered rod-builder describing his work. Each piece, his description would have us believe, contains the mystical force of the most powerful passages of ancient religious codices, a profound haiku, the life-spirit of a departed artisan, a guide to auspicious planetary alignments, the cumulative potency of the souls of the tools used to make it and the essence of at least one, but maybe several, virgins. You don’t get to approve one of these rods for purchase, you are yourself appraised as to your worthiness to own one. The contract that you enter into on taking delivery demands of you, at the point of creating your third windknot, to return it with a letter of apology and tangible proof of your ritual suicide. Let’s be clear about this — it is too good for the likes of you, but that only makes you want it more. What made me think of the whisky tasting was how similarly two completely different things were described. Words like “a dark amber with an authoritative follow-through”, “honeyblonde, whisper-light with a gentle top end” or “strong and bold but with crisp definition” were used, regardless of how miserably inadequately they described
the tool at hand. And that’s what it is; it’s a tool to deliver a fly. Please don’t understand me to be sniping at the artisans within our international angling community; many are friends of mine and I hold them in high regard. Also, don’t for a second think that the commercial tackle makers are any different. I’m never sure when I take out one of my rods of a certain brand whether I’m going to have a religious epiphany, experience up a postcard-perfect sunset or spontaneously orgasm. I don’t feel as though I’m being overly dramatic when I tell you that the anxiety of using the damn thing has given me an ulcer and, in my defense, the adverts aren’t entirely specific on the full range of possible outcomes and leave one more than a little confused as to what to expect. Rest assured though, whatever they are you know they’re going to be cosmically mind-blowing and like soulful, bruh. Your beard is going to grow full and thick like all the best guides in the adverts, you are going to cast further than you’ve ever cast, throw loops so tight that the friction of the line against itself may weld the loop together permanently and you’re guaranteed to land your fly right in that mousetrap or cocktail glass on the lawn. (No, really, mousetrap and cocktail glass accuracy is a thing now.) If, as a newcomer to this sport, this leaves you too afraid or self-conscious to raise your hand to ask a question or to buy less than the premium item, let’s return to the evening of the whisky tasting. We had navigated our way through five glasses without serious incident and, having reached the sixth, I was asked to describe what I tasted. “Caramel and vanilla,” I said after a few sips, draining the glass of the guy to my left and taking several more sips from the glass of the lady to my right (never reach a conclusion without gathering sufficient data). Everyone in the room nodded sternly in agreement. “Caramel and vanilla?” shouted our host as he recoiled in abject horror. “Have you taken leave of your senses? It’s peat and charcoal!” Everyone took another sip. They looked at one another uncertainly. They looked back at me. Confusion was written all over their faces. “See?” said our host in a forceful tone. “Peat and charcoal.” Everyone looked tentatively at each other again. Not wanting to look like a bunch of unsophisticated blended whisky drinkers, they hovered precariously around and then settled firmly on the description given by the host, shook their heads, sniggered and rolled their eyes in my general direction. Now, for new entrants to our fine sport, let me tell you this as you go to buy your first gear or upgrade from what you started out with: Be wary of what you are going to hear or read. When someone speaks of tackle and his sentences contain more adjectives than nouns, disregard his advice immediately. If he says the words “soul” or “feeling” he is
to be taken into the yard, tied in a sack and beaten with a club until dead. A culture is beginning to emerge in this globally connected sport that only the perfect fly, the finest tackle and the most technical of gear will “get you into more fish”. Marketing has been targeted to appeal to different groups and there is a little bit of Nirvana out there for ever yone, regardless of where you see yourself. Should you at any point determine that you wish to express your personal aesthetic by buying and using something bespoke, rare, collectible, beautiful or which fits a specific niche in the sport or your take on it, then by all means throw your pension fund at it. But remember this — there is very little truly bad tackle out there anymore and an honest tackle shop will help you find perfectly adequate tools for your needs without you having to skip regular meals. There is, however, one thing available to buy that will consistently improve your skills and catch returns. It’s available everywhere at government regulated prices. It can be shared among a group to reduce the cost. It is such an important commodity that wars are fought over it. Oil. Fill your tank. Get to the water. Fish far and wide under a variety of circumstances and conditions. Put in hundreds of hours. Put in hundreds more. The fish don’t care whether your reel was made in Seoul or Alnwick, they care that there’s a meal presented neatly in front of their faces. But you have to be there for that to happen. You’re also going to notice after a few dozen hours how much better that budget rod of yours casts and what you’ll be looking for when it’s time for a replacement. Time — is the only thing you can’t buy. Oh, about that sixth glass of scotch ... The final glass was to have been a dessert-style whisky, but it was discovered that the waiters put the glasses in the wrong order. This one was prized for its rich caramel and vanilla undertones, but if you’d blindly followed the expert all that you would have been convinced to taste was rotting grass and carbon. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 9
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With thanks to FNF Jelly Article by Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, photos by Darryl Lampert
FTER months spent waiting to fish some of the best stillwaters in South Africaâ€™s Eastern Cape province, the time had arrived. My mate Darryl Lampert and I packed my Suzuki Jimny to the brim and started the ten-hour journey from Johannesburg to our accommodation close to the small town of Tarkastad.
During the long drive I started to feel symptoms of flu. I wrote it off as being psychosomatic; surely I would not be as unlucky as to fall sick on the first day of an extended fishing trip. Alas, the next morning I woke up with a fever and a whole range of symptoms that, for your safety, I will not discuss here. We had to skip fishing and take an hour-long drive to the closest doctor. To my dismay, the doctor suggested that I take two days of bed rest and avoid any strenuous physical The Jelly Fritz Blob fly working its magic on yet another picture-perfect rainbow.
FLYFISHING February 2018 â€˘ 11
The author with a 9 lb cockfish taken at Highland Lodge and (inset) a 5 lb rainbow caught in Thrift Dam.
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activity. That is where the negotiation process started; I argued that if I fished from the bank and covered myself up from the elements I would be okay. Luckily the doctor agreed. After popping antibiotics and a variety of other pills we raced to Thrift Dam. Thrift is one of South Africa’s most legendary fisheries, and at about 400 acres is one of its biggest stillwaters. Because most South African stillwaters are considered small, the vast majority of anglers use float tubes. Ten foot, 6-wt rods are most commonly used at Thrift and in my view they’re better for take detection in comparison to 7-wt rods. As fishing from a float tube provides a more stealthy approach, you do not need to make very long casts. With that in mind, being stranded on the bank on the first afternoon without a 7-wt and my 40+ lines (because I thought I would not need them) was not ideal. Unfortunately one of the concessions I made to the doctor was that I promised not to kick myself silly on a float tube. The structure of Thrift Dam is not particularly conducive to bank fishing, with thick weed beds lining many parts of the 2.5 mile (4km) shoreline which makes casting and landing decent size fish problematic. While I was struggling, Darryl was catching a string of strong rainbows in the region of 3- to 5 lb from his tube. By the end of the day I managed to find a pod of recently stocked fish at the dam wall and climbed into them with Kevin Porteous’s FNF Jelly Fritz Blobs in blushing sunburst and atomic yellow. Over the next couple of days I got back onto my tube, which made fishing Thrift — and a number of other small waters in the area — much easier with a fair of number of fishing coming to hand. Of particular note, I caught a 5 lb cockfish on the blushing sunburst and atomic yellow blob mentioned earlier. An olive zonker strip minnow pattern also produced quite well on smaller waters. Despite a fair bit of success, the conditions were very difficult with howling winds and big waves crashing over our tubes in freezing cold weather. The very strong winds also churned up much debris, which dislodged food and scattered trout to a variety of different levels, making it difficult to figure out at which level they were feeding. The only technique that proved to be effective was to fish a DI5 Sweep line, often with a booby on the point fly, to search as many levels of the lake as possible. After five days of decent fishing I was not happy at all with the results. The number of fish per day (between 8 and 12 per angler) was not dismal, but as a former match angler it was nothing impressive. Last year South Africa suffered from an FLYFISHING February 2018 • 13
Darryl Lampert with a pretty 3 lb rainbow trout.
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extreme drought and a major drop in water levels, with extreme heat during the summer leading to high mortality levels at many fisheries. Nevertheless, I felt that the trout stocked as fingerlings in the Eastern Cape have developed a level resilience and resistance to heat and low water conditions over the decades. Surely a trophy should be lurking somewhere; it was just a question of spending enough time on the water. We decided to add an additional day to our trip and book some time at South Africa’s most famous trophy stillwater venue, Highland Lodge, and in particular Bernard’s Lake that has arguably produced more double figure trout than any other stillwater in the countr y. Highland Lodge is 6 200 feet above sea level and neighbours the locality that holds the lowest recorded temperature in South Africa at 20.1°C. The altitude and the low average temperatures result in ver y clear water and extremely productive food producing ecosystems, which consequently leads to fish that are extremely well conditioned and, according to the owners, grow from fingerling to 6-7 lb within three years. We left early on the last day and arrived to a very windy Bernard’s Lake where we pumped up our float tubes and launched into the waves. I once again set up my 10ft 6-wt and DI5 sweep line, adding a three-fly rig with two small tadpole imitations on the point and top dropper and a #12 UV Prawn Jelly Blob in the middle. I fished the deeper sections of the lake first and slowly drifted to the edge of the lake where the wind on the leeward shore had disrupted the weed beds and the undertow pushed up food sources for the trout. In quick succession I caught 3 lb and 4 lb female rainbows. As a result I decided to focus my efforts on the edges of the lake and the leeward shore. In hindsight, I probably should have changed to a different line, as the DI5 sweep was sinking far too quickly for the depth of water I was fishing. However, rather than changing lines, my lazy response was to make a fairly short cast, wait a couple of seconds and immediately go into the hang. I kicked to a section with two linear shaped weed beds and made a cast between the two. The moment I started the hang everything went tight. I realised my mistake by hooking what felt like a very solid fish between two weed beds; it would not be the first solid fish I have lost in the weeds. I put side strain on the fish and attempted to pull it from the less than ideal spot. Thankfully the trout moved from the weed beds and made a run for the deeper water. My 10 lb fluorocarbon enabled me to pull it from the depths fairly quickly. The first time the trout came close to the surface and I saw it’s size my heart skipped a beat. After a couple of minutes more I managed to land a 9 lb rainbow cockfish. When I looked at which fly this beast took I saw it was the UV Prawn Jelly Blob! A 9 lb fish is nothing special at Highland Lodge where 10 lb fish come out at fairly regular intervals, but I was nonetheless absolutely delighted that after six days of battling the flu, the cold, and extreme winds it all came together — thanks to FNF jelly.
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TADPOLE CONUNDRUM Further thoughts on froggy creations
By Ed Herbst
F you Google “Dr Bell’s Blagdon Buzzer” you’ll get an insight into how British f lyfishers came to realise that chironomid pupae were the staple diet of trout in their lochs and in the huge dams such as Blagdon which were constructed after World war II. But what equivalent aquatic organism plays the same role here? At the moment nobody is doing more intensive research on this question than Alan Hobson. That research is
conducted on Mountain Dam above Somerset East, the town where he and his wife and fellow flyfisher, Annabelle, run the Angler & Antelope guest house. You can read their story on Tom Sutcliffe’s website, but suffice it to say that, as part of the rebuilding of the former Catholic church to establish their B&B, Alan built a pond in the garden as an aquatic organism research tank. “Platanna tadpoles are emphatically the staple diet of dam trout in this country,” Alan declared. “They breed after rainfall which means that, through-
out much of the year, there is a fresh injection of trout food. They feed in the shallows or form ‘baitballs’ close to the surface over deeper water where they are attacked by trout.” The result of Alan’s extensive research on this tadpole is the HOT (Hobson’s Original Tadpole) fly and you can read the full account on < w w w. fo s a f. o r g . z a / re a d - C u r re n t 183.php>. His flies are for sale and the HOT Fly — which could also be seen by fish as a minnow — has been successful all over the world.
Alan Hobson’s HOT fly (below) tricked this big trout in Somerset East.
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Wayne Stegen’s Salmo Taddy tadpole fly and a live tadpole.
A trout stalking tadpoles in the shallows of the Mountain Dam above Somerset East. The first recorded attempt to imitate the platanna tadpole was the Steele’s Taddy. I wrote about this design in the chapter “Flies that changed our thinking” in the recently published book South African Fishing Flies on our indigenous fly patterns which was co-authored by Peter Brigg and I. The Steele’s Taddy used black-dyed squirrel tail hair and the bullet-head tying style originated by Keith Fulsher. Bill Hansford-Steele designed and 18 • FLYFISHING February 2018
tied it on a Belfast dam in November 1974 after finding masses of tadpoles in the first trout he caught that morning. Here’s his account as it was published in Freshwater Fishing in South Africa by Michael Salamon (Chris van Rensburg Publications, 1978): “I cast to the weed’s edge and began a slow, short and jerky retrieve. The fly had moved about 1m when I was hit by a smash take which broke the leader and numbed my wrist. The fish must
have hit the tadpole fly at full speed because the resultant shock had snapped the tippet like cotton! I changed to a 3kg point and cast again. “Once more the take was instantaneous, but this time the leader held. Subconsciously, I had applied full sidestrain and the fish headed for the open water in a long run which stripped off 30m of backing. It fought hard, slugging it out under the surface, never once leaping. Eventually it came to the boat, made one last dash for the weeds and slid into the net. It was hookjawed, suffused with crimson, shining silver and fat. It weighed 2kg exactly and was in beautiful condition. I measured it and slid it back into its own element: One day it would weigh much more and maybe we would meet again. “I went on to take my limit in the next half-hour. Obviously, the new fly was a killer. On many trips since that memorable morning the Taddy has given me limit bags. “It fishes well on its own but when combined with a Walker’s Killer (Taddy on the dropper), it becomes a real fish slayer. Strangely enough, the fish will nearly always hit the Taddy rather than the Walker’s Killer. A possible explanation derives from the hunting instinct of the trout: it spots what it assumes is a dragonfly nymph chasing a tadpole and it wants the tadpole before the nymph can get it. This two-fly combination is so effective at times that it hardly seems worthwhile to consider any other. However, like the Walker’s Killer, the Taddy is not good in cold water.” The dyed squirrel hair lacks mobility, however, and that problem was resolved with the late Harry Stewart’s Millionaire’s Taddy, so soft and slinky, which became legendary at Gubu Dam near Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape. I included a chapter on Harry in South African Fishing Flies, but could not work out how he got the mink fur to sit so snugly around the hook until his widow, Doreen, who now lives in New Zealand, emailed me the explanation after I posted her a copy of the book: “I got the mink from the fur coat shop in Port Elizabeth. I bought a bag of scraps for R100! But that source soon ran out; I then bought an old mink fur hat and cape at an auction sale which Harry cut into thin strips — on the cross of course so it would stretch when wound around the hook.” A decade and a half ago, when Peter Brigg ran a small f lyfishing shop in Durban, he used to sell Harry’s flies and, on occasion, visited Harry in East London to procure more stock. He said that, at the time, the Millionaire’s Taddy was the most popular and the most successful pattern for stillwater trout in the province. Wayne Stegen of the Durban Fly
Ed Herbst’s Micro Taddy.
The Rollo Tail Taddy which has been enhanced with a UV glow.
Two illustrations from A Complete Guide to the Frogs of Southern Africa showing the lateral and dorsal and views of a platanna tadpole
Tyers ties a tadpole imitation which caught a 6.2kg rainbow, but it takes him a quarter of an hour to tie. (See Wayne’s article on page 20 of this issue.) I was looking for something similar but quicker and simpler to tie. To gain a better understanding of the creatures we’re imitating here I bought a beautiful book, A Complete Guide to the Frogs of Southern Africa by Louis du Preez and Vincent Carruthers (Random Struik 2009). The book taught me that the platanna is our only completely aquatic frog: During the day they tend to hide in deeper water but move to shallow water at night. The tadpoles filter-feed on phytoplankton, typically hanging head down at an angle of 45° with the tip of the tail vibrating to maintain position. Small tadpoles often hide among aquatic vegetation while larger tadpoles aggregate in schools and hang in midwater. The tadpole of the Common Platanna (Xenopis laevis) grows to
80mm — do a Google image search for “Gosner stage tadpole” — but remember that smaller imitations would be equally effective. I wanted a pattern which would drift hook point up and would conform to the GISS formula (general impression of size and shape) while having a mobile tail. Bead chain eyes (either plastic or metal) would invert the fly if tied on top of a short shank, straight eye hook in sizes #8 or #10. My favourites are the Hanak Allround H550 BL and the Fulling Mill Bonio Carp Hook which I get from Morne Bayman at The African Fly Angler, and the Tiemco 2499SP BLB which I get from Frontier Fly Fishing. A tail of rabbit zonker strip fur or marabou would create the movement I sought. To assist in the head down, tailup posture of the natural, I tie a small piece of Larva Lace foam at the hook bend, which also prevents the tail from wrapping around the hook. I cover the
gap between the eyes and the tail with easy-to-use Quick Descent dubbing by Hareline which is made from hair-thin aluminium shavings. An intriguing alternative to a fur or marabou tail is Slow Rolla Tails made by Jonathan Kiley of <www.flyskinz.com> and sold by Hareline Dubbin. Leonard Flemming has been experimenting with a similar concept on his Faloon pattern which is featured in the fly-tying section of the Feathers & Fluoro website. Plastic bead-chain eyes are available from shops that sell roller blinds. Beadchain eyes, whether plastic or metal, can be enhanced with a UV glow if you use Loon Fluorescing Hard Head which takes a few minutes to dry or Loon Fluorescing UV Clear Fly Finish which cures in a few seconds when exposed to the light of a UV torch. All frogs breed in water, so the tadpole profile would be familiar to fish in habitats ranging from mountain streams to rivers like the Orange. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 19
BACK TO BASICS
20 â€¢ FLYFISHING February 2018
By Wayne Ulrich Stegen
IGHMOOR Nature Reser ve, Kamberg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was closing weekend in June 2014 and a couple of us had spent two days there and had some fantastic fishing. While there, we spotted numerous fish cruising right up against the bank; their enormous size meant they more closely resembled submarines than trout. We tried everything in the “Tour Da Fly Box” and eventually my wife, Roxanne, managed to hook one of the monster fish. Sadly after a good fight lasting more than five minutes the hook pulled right at the net and off went her trophy! The rainbow trout are stocked at two inches and by the time they reach maturity they are wise and wild. We would have to wait two agonising months for the wattled crane to finish breeding before we could fish the venue again ... The wonderful thing about this pastime of ours is that there are many different ways in which we approach or engage in the fish’s environment for our own pleasure. The main goal is obviously to catch something so that you smell like you were actually fishing and not just sitting in the pub. As such, there are many ways of “luring” a fish onto the end of your line, but for me, there are some that are far more successful and pleasing than others. A good friend was recently asking about flies for a trip and at the end of a lengthy conversation he remarked: “Trout love a Speedkop Woolly Bugger.” I instantly assumed that he probably wasn’t going to try much else and left it at that. However, there are other ways, and I truly believe that once you cross the imaginary line from lures to imitative flies, you’ll find it hard to go back. FOOD: THE HATCH Matching the hatch is a lot tougher than it sounds. First you have to understand what could be “hatching”. We have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, you merely have to search for it. Below are some common food sources which one would typically find in a trout’s stomach, and a list of the orders they belong to. Midges and flies — Diptera Mayflies — Ephemeroptera Caddisflies — Trichoptera Water beetles — Coleoptera Bugs — Hemiptera Dragon- and damselflies — Odonata Snails — Gastropoda Then you have the less common food sources: Minnows — Cyprinidae Grasshoppers — Orthoptera Flying beetles — Coleoptera Ants — Hymenoptera Mice — rodent Once you have a fairly good knowledge of what these insects look like, their size, colour, distribution within the water column or on the surface, and the manner in which they move, you can attempt to “match” the hatch.
A very realistic grasshopper by Sergio Cordoba of Argentina.
CRACKING THE CODE The tough part is figuring out which of these insect species the fish are eating and what stage of the insect’s life cycle it is in. Most insects come in the form of larvae, pupae, emerging pupae, adults and spent adults. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 21
Imitative mayfly emerger.
GRHE imitative stick caddis or minnow.
Imitative soft hackle brown midge.
Realistic blood worm.
22 â€¢ FLYFISHING February 2018
In order to crack the code you need to observe your environment. Are there flying insects around? Are there insects floating on top of the surface, in the meniscus, just below the surface or are they sitting on structure such as rocks or weeds? Are there rising forms of fish? Take a close inspection of your surrounds and keep records. Review your journals from the same periods in years gone by to see what worked. Should you or a friend land a fish, spoon its stomach to inspect what the food source has been. Be very careful when spooning a fish so that you do not damage it.
Imitative caddis emerger.
THE FLY Which fly? We have all asked that question and heard it being asked a million times. No, a Speedkop Woolly Bugger is not the fly for this type of fishing; those fall under the “attractor” description. When was the last time you saw an insect in the water that was 70mm long with a bright blue flash on its flank moving at the speed of light? Thought so. When you’re trying to “match the hatch” you don’t use attractor patterns, you use realistic or imitative patterns. Realistic patterns: • Look nearly identical to the real insect. • Often extremely hard to tie. • Difficult to find if you don’t tie your own. • Too pretty to fish with and should be framed. Imitative: • Look similar to the real deal but are not exact; they imitate the prey. • A lot easier to tie. • Should you not tie your own these are available from most fly shops. • Fish locked onto these food sources eat the fly as they are damn near close enough in appearance. Let’s go back to my opening sentence where I had no idea what the fish were feeding on. In 2014, 1 September — spring opening day at Highmoor — was a Monday, but we had to fish anyway, such is tradition. The anticipation was palpable. The fishing was once again really good and the enormous trout were still cruising the banks. They were so close, in fact, that you would have to freeze while they swam under your rod! I found it particularly strange that they would be coming so close to the edges, and decided to stop fishing and observe their behaviour. What I witnessed next was incredible. The fish would swim up to the edge of the dam, slowing down in their approach and then suddenly bump a rock with their noses, then dart right or left of the rock and eat whatever was frightened out. I took observation a step further and went into the water where I discovered that the fish were in fact feeding on large tadpoles. Sadly my box contained nothing that closely resembled the tadpoles. We spent the next couple of hours frustratingly trying to get these fish to eat something that was not on their menus! I returned home determined to tie a fly that would resemble the tadpoles ... BLIND MATCHING If the fish are staying below the surface you usually won’t be unable to see what they’re eating. Before you simply pick a fly you should figure out what depth the fish are feeding at and then try to figure out what they might be eating and what colour it is. How do we go about finding out what fly to use when we are unable to see it the food source? In that instance we give the fish a few options to choose from.
THE RIG Should conditions allow for a dry or floating line, start with that; if not, then use a slow intermediate or hover line. You will be fishing multiple flies and all at varying depths. For this type of prospecting: • All flies must be different colours. • The point fly (the fly at the very end of your line) is critical. • The point fly must be the heaviest so that it balances the rig. • The point fly should preferably be a larva or pupa stage of the insect you choose. • I don’t recommend fishing more than three flies. • The flies should preferably imitate three different life cycles of the insects chosen, with the top fly being an emerger or soft hackle. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 23
New Zealand rig
revolving dropper leader material 50 - 90cm
Extended tag dropper
tapered leader knot remaining tag is used for a dropper top tag removed
Washing line rig
Rapala knot tapered leader knot
max 15cm tag
loop tag around leader above knot
To get this rig right you need to employ one of the following setups: • A New Zealand rig. This will allow you to fish two flies. Do this by attaching a length of nylon to the bend of your first fly and tying on a point fly below that. Length can vary but I prefer around 50-90cm. • Dropper with extended tag where the surgeon’s or double overhand knot is not clipped off on the one end. Disadvantage is that you can’t move it up or down your leader. • Dropper with revolver; this is my preference. Use a short length of nylon with a rapala knot looped above a surgeon’s knot that acts as a stopper. It can be moved to any of your leader knots from your 0X down to your 5X. • A combination of NZ and dropper rig made by fishing the NZ rig at the bottom and one dropper at another depth. • Dry/dropper — Summer is a great time to fish hoppers and DDDs and they also float really well. For this setup you can either fish an emerger or a pupa, New Zealand-rig style under your dry fly. I have used an 8ft length of nylon for this setup while in Lesotho but in general 50-90cm is ideal. • Dry/multiple droppers — You can also use the dropper 24 • FLYFISHING February 2018
soft hackle dropper
rigs explained above and fish an emerger, pupa or soft hackle. This is called a “washing line”. One needs to be very careful, though, as the takes are often violent. GET THE NET! Okay I digress,back to my story … After all the hype surrounding the size of the fish we’d seen at Highmoor I convinced my stepfather, Anton Smith, to take a trip up on the Thursday of the same week. It was not a fantastic week for work! Anton remarked that in that dam 8 lb fish are large and that’s probably what we were spotting; his comment is etched into my mind forever. After some time behind the vice I had developed a fly, the Salmo Taddy which I was happy closely resembled the tadpoles the fish were feeding on. The hook I had chosen would swim hook-up, limiting weed snag, and it was a decent quality hook so it would be able to hold a large trout. I tied up three flies all with varying colours. When we arrived at the venue Anton was given first choice and he selected the white-bellied version. What transpired was something to be remembered. The first cast he had with the fly produced a take — subtle, but a take. Upon setting the hook
Anton Smith with his monster 6.2kg (13lb 10oz) rainbow trout caught on a Salmo Taddy.
New Zealand rig
Large dry fly improved clinch knot
emerger or pupa
small nymph dropper
point fly — large dry fly
all hell broke loose. The fish tore off into the depths, nearly stripping off all the backing, but fortunately staying connected. The fight, which lasted over ten minutes, was heart stopping for all who witnessed it. When Anton brought the fish to the net, the behemoth rainbow trout cockfish, weighed in at 6.2kg (13 lb 10 oz). The ADAM of all rainbow trout! The emotions one feels in a situation like this are quite incredible — jubilation at the successful trickery, pride in the fly you meticulously tied and thought about, the drug of the tug on the other end of the line and the sense of satisfaction watching the fish swim away after being released. I’m not saying you should stop fishing all other ways; what I am saying is that there are other options and when you find the right imitative fly for the food source you’ll be right on the money. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 25
By Ian Cox and Andrew Mather
HE short note recently published by PS Kubheka,A Chakona and DN Mazungule in the African Journal of Aquatic Science regarding the “rediscovery” of the Maloti minnow (Pseudobarbus quathlambae) in the Ingeli Hills near Kokstad has reignited the controversy surrounding the original discovery of the fish and whether it is indeed indigenous to South Africa. Kubheka et al claim that their discovery confirms that the species was more widespread in the Drakensberg streams of KwaZulu-Natal and that “the introduction of trout into Drakensberg streams was largely responsible for the extirpation of the species from the uMkhomazana and other Drakensberg streams”. They assert that this rediscovery creates an obligation “to ensure the long-term survival of the species in South Africa”.
Ivor Vaughan. Photo courtesy of Himeville Museum. 26 • FLYFISHING February 2018
McVey Brown. Photo courtesy of Himeville Museum.
This of course assumes that the Maloti minnow is indigenous to South Africa and that trout are indeed the problem. Both claims are highly speculative. The mere fact that one finds a fish in a river does not mean that it is native to that river; it could have been introduced. This is often the case with minnows which were introduced into a number of rivers in South Africa to provide food for trout. There is also no evidence proving trout have caused the extirpation of any species in South Africa or indeed that they pose an ecological threat in KwaZulu-Natal. The authenticity of Khubeka’s find still needs to be confirmed by genetic analysis. That analysis will also reveal whether these specimens are an introduction from one of the genetically distinct populations in Lesotho or the distinct genetic group one would expect if they are indeed native to KwaZulu-Natal. However, these are all questions for another day. This article looks back at the original discovery of the Maloti minnow by Ivor Vaughan, Leonard Hardingham and McVey Brown (Vaughan et al.) in the uMkhomazana some 80 years ago. According to Bob Crass who interviewed Ivor Vaughan just before his death in 1966, a single specimen of what we now call the Maloti minnow was netted in a pool situated in the upper reaches of the uMkhomazana a short distance below the busy trading outpost situated at the start of what was then a bridal path up Sani Pass. Crass also wrote that Vaughan remembers that a 2 lb 4 oz brown trout was netted in the same pool but was returned to the river. Apparently Vaughan confirmed the location of the find in a letter written in the same year to R. A. Jubb of the Albany Museum. According to Vaughan’s daughter Mary, who spoke to Wolf Avni years later, it was not unusual for her father to disappear into the mountains on fish collecting trips for two or three days at a time. She said that he was normally accompanied by Anthony (Tom) Copland, though they later fell out. We do not know if this fall out had anything to do with it, but Copland was not part of the original collecting party or the party that collected the second specimen. Vaughan later wrote in his letter to Jubb that, “Copland had nothing to do with catching these minnows. He neither took or sent the specimens to P. M. Burg.” All four were residents in the Underberg Himeville District and Vaughan, Hardingham and Brown were stalwarts in the local flyfishing community. Vaughan was a farmer while Hardingham and Brown were both qualified engineers with distinguished careers behind them. Copland was a professional golfer who married the owner of what is today the Himeville hotel. He later rebuilt the Underberg hotel in 1934 which he ran until 1948. According to Dr K. H. Barnard of the South African Museum, Vaughan sent the original specimen off to Cherringham Sutton in Howick for identification. Sutton in turn sent this “gilliminkie”, as he called it, to Dr R.F Lawrence of the Natal Museum saying that this little fish used to be common in the Drakensberg streams until the introduction of trout, since when it had become almost extinct. Dr Lawrence asked for more specimens to which Vaughan responded with a further single specimen, but this was still not enough. Vaughan did not provide any more specimens, but Copland did, sending another 50 specimens to Lawrence directly. This enlarged collection was then sent to Barnard who in 1938 identified it as a new species which he called quathlambae. And there the matter sat until interest in the species was renewed in the mid 1960s by Bob Crass of the Natal Parks Board and Rex Jubb of the Albany Museum. The renewed interest arose both because the fish was believed to be extinct on account of trout predation and because Barnard may have misidentified the species as being part of the Labeo (sic moggel) genus.
One of the two locations of the recent rediscovery of the Maloti minnow. Photo by Andrew Mather.
FLYFISHING February 2018 • 27
Two of the Maloti minnows found by Skhumbuzo Kubheka and his associates.
The proper classification of the Maloti minnow as a relative of the redfin minnows of the Western Cape was only resolved by Dr P. H. Skelton in 1988 who renamed it Pseudobarbus quathlambae. The idea that trout caused the extirpation of the Maloti minnow in the uMkhomazana continues to enjoy widespread support amongst scientists despite the discovery in the 1970s of healthy populations of Maloti minnow living alongside trout in rivers in Lesotho. Dr S. R. Gephard noted that Maloti minnows are very susceptible to being affected by siltation and wondered if the deterioration of the uMkomazana catchment could be one of the reasons for their disappearance. Dr J. A. Cambray wondered if the disappearance was due to a combination of trout depredation and siltation. Skelton stuck with Jubb’s original hypothesis that trout are to blame for the disappearance of the Maloti minnow. Crass is the odd man out. He concluded that since the Maloti minnow lives alongside trout in Lesotho, trout cannot be the reason for their disappearance and that, accordingly, Vaughan and the others were confused and that they in fact found the original Maloti minnow on top of Sani Pass in the west-flowing Sani River. The discussion very quickly degenerated into an argument characterised by various camps taking sides rather than critically examining the facts. This has sadly resulted in the adoption of two possibly flawed competing narratives, with scientists claiming that trout killed off the Maloti minnow in KwaZulu-Natal, and fishermen saying that the Maloti minnow never occurred naturally in KwaZulu-Natal in the first place. Today we are fortunate to have more information and it is clear that important facts are being overlooked. For example, a team from the environmental consultancy GroundTruth spent four days during 2008/2009 surveying the uMkomazana and its tributaries from the waterfall (alt. 5 020ft) just below the Sani Pass Hotel all the way up the pass (alt. 9 300 ft) as part of the environmental impact assessment for the new Sani Pass road. The primary objective of this survey was to determine the presence of the Maloti minnow. This was the first time a thorough investigation of the whole river had been undertaken; prior investigations concentrated on the area where the Maloti minnow had originally been found. GroundTruth confirmed that the waterfall (alt. 5 020ft) below the hotel was a fish barrier and that, consequently, none of the species that occurred naturally below this barrier occurred above it. They only found brown trout above the waterfall but in surprisingly small numbers. The 28 • FLYFISHING February 2018
brown trout GroundTruth found were range bound to the area between the waterfall (alt. 5 020ft) and a previously undiscovered small waterfall (alt. 6 486ft) which is situated just upstream of the South African border post. GroundTruth found no Maloti minnows between the two waterfalls. Importantly, they found no fish of any kind, not even Maloti minnow, anywhere above the upper waterfall. This is interesting given that all tributaries of the uMkomazana flowing out of the Sani Pass catchment join the river upstream of the upper waterfall (alt. 6 486 ft). One would, therefore, expect to find Maloti minnow upstream of the waterfall if they occur naturally in the uMkomazana. This would be especially so if, as claimed, the introduction of brown trout caused the extirpation of the Maloti minnow in the uMkomazana. This fact highlights another possibility that has never been considered in the literature, namely that the Maloti minnow was found by Vaughan et al. exactly where he claims because this is where they were introduced into the river after being collected in the Sani River and brought down the pass. After all, it was not unusual for fishermen at that time to introduce minnows as trout fodder into rivers above waterfalls. Vaughan himself was involved in such expeditions. That is how Barbus anapolus and other minnow species got into the upper reaches of the uMzimkhulu. Given that brown trout had been introduced above the lower waterfall situated below the Sani Pass Hotel between 11- and 28 years earlier, it could also be how the Maloti minnow was once found in the uMkomazana. Closer examination of the facts and the counter arguments lends considerable weight to the attractiveness of this particular hypothesis. Crass’s argument that Vaughan, Hardingham and McVey Brown were mistaken and that the minnows were all found on top of the pass doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. It is hardly likely that Vaughan et al. could or would confuse a steep-sided valley at the bottom of the pass (5 300ft) and situated near a busy trading outpost, for the blasted heath that is on top of Sani Pass (9 445ft). Hardingham and Brown, being engineers, would both have ascertained the altitude at which they collected these specimens; they would have known where they were. Moreover, Vaughan confirmed the location both in conversation with Crass and in a letter to Jubb just before he died. However the counter argument that they must have occurred naturally in the uMkomazana because that is where
Right: The uMkomazana alongside the old trading post just upstream of where the type specimen was found in 1937. Photo by Ian Cox. Centre: The upper waterfall (alt. 6486ft) near the South African border post. Photo by Ian Cox. Bottom: The lower waterfall (alt. 5020ft) preventing the migration of fish into the headwaters of the uMkomazana. Photo by Ian Cox Vaughan et al. found them does not stand up to scrutiny either. If they occurred naturally in the uMkomazana then one would expect to find them above the waterfall at the police post where trout do not occur. The mere fact that one argument is wrong does not make the competing argument right by default. They can both be wrong which we suggest may well be the case here. There is also the intriguing “loose end” that is Copland’s third collection of a further 50 specimens. Everyone has assumed that he found these fish in the same place as Vaughan et al. found theirs, but he made his collection independently of them and there is also no evidence to support the assumption that he found them in the same place as the two earlier collections. Indeed, this now seems unlikely. If Vaughan’s party could only collect a further single specimen, how was Copland able to collect 50? We suggest that the obvious explanation is that Copland did his collecting on top of the pass in the Sani River where the fish can be found in those sort of numbers even to this day. The truth is we do not know with absolute certainty how the Maloti minnow got into the uMkomazana. It is not impossible that it crossed the watershed and/or that river capture allowed the minnow to enter the uMkomazana. However, these theories are becoming increasing unlikely given present knowledge of the discovery of no fish at all above the upper waterfall. Further research is required, including a genetic comparison of the original collections and the Maloti minnow found in the Sani River. Then again, maybe Khubeka’s discovery will turn everything we thought we knew about the Maloti minnow on its head. This all remains pure conjecture until the work is done to discover further facts that can shine a light on the origins and history of this mysterious fish. This is a work in progress and the authors are continuing with their investigations. It is clear that as matters presently stand, the claim that the Maloti minnow is native to KwaZulu-Natal remains unproven. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 29
RIVERS By Peter Brigg
SHORT while ago I came across this quote by the late Mel Krieger and the truth of it resonated with me: “I don’t know why I fish or why others never fish except that we like it and that it makes us think and feel. But I also know if it were not for the strong, quick life of rivers, for the sparkle in the sunshine, for the cold greyness of them under rain and the feel of them about my legs as I set my feet hard down on rocks, or sand or gravel, I should fish less often. A river is never quite silent, it can never of its very nature be quite still. It is never quite the same from one day to the next. It has its own life and its own beauty and the creatures it nourishes are alive and beautiful also. Perhaps fishing is for me only an excuse to be near rivers — so I’m glad I thought of it.” I have spent many an evening pouring over maps, and now we have Google Earth in virtual reality, dropping us into hidden valleys and streams, following the thin blue lines into the mountains to where the contours are tightly drawn — the feeder streams to known waterways, far from named pools and worn paths. The gradients are steep and the cold water, like liquid cr ystal, rushes quickly, cascading through pockets and, where there is a wrinkle in the earth, the occasional deep slot. The small trout are wild, heavily spotted and on nervous fins disappear at a hint of anything weird. Adrenaline rushes at the thought of adventure, of the unknown and the prospect of the fishing far from human settlement and where the only means of getting there is leg power, carrying a backpack with all one needs for a few days. We have no right to claim them as our own; we have no right to challenge others fishing them, but we do have a responsibility to protect and conserve these places. If size and the number of fish are your measure, don’t waste the energy — avoid the disappointment. Let’s not fool ourselves, very few rivers are secret by way of the true definition of the word. I doubt there is a single stream out there that is not known by some flyfisher. Those that are tougher to get to, often in rugged country, are fished less. And, apart from the effort and logistics required to get there, in most cases the diminutive size of the fish holds less of an incentive for the many who want big trout and lots of them. However, we — not all of course — tend to be a strange breed and when we happen to know about or are let into a secret about one of these less fished streams, we are inclined to keep it close to our chests.
30 • FLYFISHING February 2018
“Secret” streams and the philosophy that
t protects them
FLYFISHING February 2018 â€¢ 31
Hand drawn maps to secret spots add to the intrigue.
I have spent many days scrambling deep into the foothills of our mountains, and so it is that, not entirely by chance, I have found some gems. These are places where you get the impression that no flyfisher has passed this way in a month, maybe a year or, dare I say it, never. On other occasions I have been told about them. Information on the more remote stretches is harder to get; it’s difficult to find the fellow flyfishers that know of them, and then to get the information out of them unless you happen to be on the A list. If you do, often it won’t be the entire story — tantalising, but incomplete. For these reasons you need to evaluate the truth of any information you are told. These places can be either better or worse than they really are. Flyfishers are given to lying from time to time; reading body language will help with any suspicions, so watch their eyes. I don’t hold this reticence to share against anyone, because I can’t plead complete innocence from a little exaggeration, “small” untruths or white lies occasionally. In my mind it’s for good reason, not the least that some of these small, high altitude streams are fragile systems that would be susceptible to 32 • FLYFISHING February 2018
adverse impacts from too much fishing pressure. There are no defined beats or management systems in wilderness areas, so there is always the risk that, unless you are up with the sparrows, you could be fishing in the wake of someone ahead of you, and you know what that would mean for your prospects of a good day’s fishing. I’m pretty sure that you have had them — hand-drawn maps to “secret” fishing spots, rivers, streams, farm ponds and pools where the big ones lurk. I have had my share of them on scraps of
paper, the back of cigarette boxes and soiled serviettes. Some are well-known places, common knowledge, others are just whispered of in speculation and shared in hushed tones amongst a chosen few. Just the thought and promise of a stream you have never seen is reason enough to go. I have had a few of these tips over the years, especially the “whispered speculation” types usually divulged while hunched over topographical maps with the boys and somewhere after the third cup of strong black coffee or something with even greater
Not all the secret streams will live up to their reputations, but sometimes you’ll get lucky.
potency. Of course there is the usual “sworn to secrecy” pact and threats to life and limb — a risk I’m prepared to take for the chance to visit new trout water. Not all these streams will live up to what you are told, but occasionally a real honey hole is revealed and you get caught up in a tight brotherhood that knows about it and goes there. Most of these stretches are a good distance into roadless wilderness beyond where the tracks and known paths end, places far into the back country. The implication is that it often involves a night or two
under canvas, safe from the less energetic and fainthearted. That isn’t always the case, but the thought of it appeals to me. A new stream always comes with surprises, moments of rapt contentment and the eagerness to see what will unfold. Of course there are many more similarities between streams than differences, but it’s the differences that are novel and exciting. A riffle is just that, but what’s different is where current speed, depth, structure and drift lines conspire to its uniqueness; each fresh cast demands a moment of considera-
tion. New places are not easy to comprehend at first. The quandary I’m always faced with is whether or not I share these places with others. I do suffer from feelings of guilt for not sharing, but take consolation in the fact that if I don’t, these fragile stream environments will be shielded — for a while at least — from the impacts of too much fishing pressure. There is also an opposing view — advocates of a thought that greater use brings more awareness for the protection of these streams. For me the jury is still out on the merits of this philosophy. It took many years plus the letting of blood and sweat — literally — to discover some of the hidden gems. I know a handful of others that have done the same and are still doing it; there is a kind of mutual understanding between us that we don’t talk openly about these places, especially not through tantalising photographs and cryptic comments on social media that needlessly pique curiosity and raise questions. It will expose them. Despite my feelings of guilt at times for not openly sharing more about these streams, they are in fact in plain sight. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 33
KLIPPIES WITHOUT THE COKE A better recipe for taking trout By Gordon van der Spuy
HO would have thought that a little rock jumping antelope on the Southern tip of Africa would provide fly-tyers with what I’d like to think of as a near-magical material. I don’t think Tom Sutcliffe knew what effect the DDD would have on local fishing when he first tied the fly with klipspringer all those years ago. Nearly 40 years later the fly is still working wonders. Call it fur voodoo if you will, but klipspringer just seems to have something going for it which fish love. It’s rough, buoyant and buggy, crunchy even in a sense. The DDD changed stillwater fishing in this country forever. It made people aware that there were alternative methods of catching fish in stillwaters other than dragging flies on sinking lines. It changed people’s mindsets and got them thinking differently. Thanks must go to Tom Sutcliffe, Bill Duckworth and Mr “Hooks and Bullets” Huntley. We are forever indebted to you guys.
Klipspringer is brilliant, versatile stuff that adds mega fishpulling powers to any fly it’s used on. I prefer it to deerhair or elk; it’s not as clean and clinical looking and is definitely more interesting in terms of colouring and texture. That said, klipspringer hair can vary greatly. Not all klipspringer is equal; some bokkies have better hair than others ... The stuff you want is the hair with ample contrast and interesting colouring in the fibres. I don’t like that “sandy” looking stuff that feels rough to the touch and looks dull like one of those mixed carpets one used to get in your average house in the ’80s. Distinction/contrast between colour in the fibres is what you’re after. Decent klippies is not the kind of thing you bump into on a regular basis. Most of the stuff you’ll run into will be substandard, the most notable trait being that the hairs are broken off at the tips. Clean, tapered tips just look better and give the fly a better profile. Maybe fish don’t care, but I feel more confident tying with hair that has clean tips. When I find perfect klipspringer like that I guard it with my life, using FLYFISHING February 2018 • 35
The Klumpy, a localised version of the Humpy.
it ever so sparingly, mostly for tails, wings and hackle. The broken stuff I keep for spinning or stacking because there it doesn’t matter if the tips are broken as you’ll be trimming away most of the hair anyway. Finding decent klippies requires a bit of legwork. In days gone by you could obtain it from your local taxidermist; you still can, but there are a lot more guys after the stuff nowadays. Taxidermists have clicked onto the fact that klippies is in demand so it very often sports a hefty price tag. You really need to look long and hard to get decent stuff. Having a few pals who hunt doesn’t hurt. If you know someone who happens to hunt and who ties a half decent fly and knows what decent stash looks like all the better. It’s interesting to note that the saltwater guys are also using klippies nowadays. They use it for a rather rough and ugly looking fly called The Turd. I know, it doesn’t exactly sound appealing, but The Turd is a very popular early season fly and it lashes grunter. The pattern has proven so effective that even mortals can catch grunter on them now! A while back I started tying a box for a trip to Lesotho. “Tie big bad ass terrestrials,” I was told. I tied the mandatory ants and hoppers but felt like tying a few chunky juicy DDDs too. I even dyed two patches of klippies for the occasion. It stank up the whole house and the smell of vinegar combined Tom Sutcliffe’s DDD, possibly the first fly to use klipspringer fur in its construction. The DDD changed perceptions by showing people that there was more to stillwater fishing than just dragging wet flies on sunk lines.
36 • FLYFISHING February 2018
with that wet dog-like smell didn’t exactly go down well with my wife and kids. I dyed the klippies yellow; don’t ask me why, but yellow klipspringer is deadly stuff, especially for yellowfish. Once dry the stuff looked amazing. When you dye klippies it goes a dirty yellow colour. Four DDDs in I realised I had a serious problem. Tightly stacked DDDs chow klippies big time. At the rate I was going at I would tie 15 flies and be out of klippies. I needed a fly that was as juicy as a DDD but that required less hair. The solution? Humpies! Original Humpies generally look very stiff and rigid, especially commercially tied versions. They’re generally very overhackled and very stiff in the wing department. I’m convinced that hook up is not optimal on them due to this stiffness, especially with the wings and all that stiff, dense genetic hackle. Sure fish eat them and eat them well and do get hooked, but I can’t help think that with less hackle in the thorax and a softer, sparser wing you’d end up with a better fly that would result in more hook ups. Some one once said, “If you’ve got the vision you’ve got the mission.” I did what any tyer would do — I tied them the way I thought they would work better. I replaced the elk with klippies, I replaced the smooth f loss body with a rougher dubbed body, dressed the wings sparser and less
This patch is good but 50% of the fibre tips are broken. Note the light colouration of the fibres for most of their length. Light coloured, dense hair like this spins very well.
Perfect tips! Note the nice contrast in the fibres. I use this patch exclusively for wings, tails and hackles.
Perfect tips. Klippies colouration can vary greatly depending on the region where the animal is found and the season in which the hair is harvested.
What most klippies typically looks like; notice the numerous broken tips and that it’s “sandy” looking.
organised and replaced the dense, thick hackle with soft, mobile CDC with two or three hackle wraps through it for a bit of structure. The CDC, I think, will break up the silhouette of the fly and add a bit of movement to it with little strands of CDC moving around in the drift. Static mobility they call it.
Is the new version better? Well, I can’t really tell you as I’ve yet to actually throw it at a fish, but I am confident that the fly will do well. It’s got klippies in it and that’s almost an unfair advantage so I won’t be surprised when it does lash!
FLYFISHING February 2018 • 37
HE 2018 South African Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo will take place at Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West in the Western Cape from 27 to 29 July. The event has been split into three definite sections this year to give each element of the Expo the attention it deserves. The programme for the event will run as follows:
EXPO 2018 in a nutshell
Friday 27 July 2018 — Benefit Dinner This is a great opportunity for old friends to mingle and new friends to meet in a relaxed atmosphere, whilst being entertained and raising funds for a few worthwhile flyfishing development projects throughout the country. These recipients include a disabled flyfishing project in the Western Cape as well as a community development initiative on the Bushmans River in KwaZulu-Natal. This refined jol (because ultimately that’s what it is) will take place at the Strand Golf Club. The dress code is smart casual, but if rocking up for dinner in your waders is how you roll we won’t throw you out. On the grub front, the evening will consist of a delicious locallyinspired three-course meal. Perhaps even more appetizing is the benefit auction where you stand the chance of bidding for some unique, high-end, one-off goodies, including: • A freestyle salmon f ly by worldrenowned classic tyer Ruhan Neethling. • A collection of Oliver Kite patterns tied by the doyen of South African flyfishing, Dr Tom Sutcliffe. • A handmade net and f ly-box set hand crafted by Shaun Futter. <www.truttaangling.com>. • A bronze sculpture by worldrenowned sculptor Chris Bladen. <www.chrisbladen.com>. • A Freestyle Classic by that blast from the past, Barry Kent. Barry was the proprietor of High Flies in Butterworth and attended various international flyfishing shows in the states back in the ’70s and ’80s when he was a household name. • A unique bamboo rod, the product of a collaboration by two of South Africa’s finest rod builders — Stephen Boshoff and Stephen Dugmore. <www.freestonerods.co.za>. 38 • FLYFISHING February 2018
• A Classic Salmon fly tied by Gordon van der Spuy. Seats to this dinner and auction are limited to 150 people. Saturday 28 July 2018 — Expo Saturday sees the official kick-off of the 2018 SA Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo. The event will be held in and around the Laurent Room at Lourensford and will comprise of fly-tying and casting demos as well as a wide range of exhibitors selling and marketing anything from trips to the Seychelles and local destinations to some of the best flyfishing and fly-tying products on the market. As was the case at the 2016 Expo, there will only be one retail day. The idea of tyers casually tying and people being able to sit next to them
and talk to them is appealing. The viewer gets a lot more out of the experience as it is intimate, personal and interactive. Fly Fishers International (FFI) instructors will also be on hand to help people learn to cast more effectively and efficiently because, as we all know, effectively getting the fly to one’s chosen quarry is the foundation of flyfishing. Instructors Tim Rolston and Andre van der Werff teach casting in a way that is refreshing and effective. The day will be rounded off with a casting competition where the eventual winner will walk away with a fully guided trip for two to the Tourette Fishing Makhangoa community camp on the Bokong River in Lesotho. We’ll also announce all the winners of the SA Fly Tying Open competition for 2018 at the event.
Sunday 29 July 2018 — Workshops On Sunday a series of f lyfishing related workshops will be held at the Aleit School at Lourensford. These workshops will be run by the countr y’s leading flyfishing personalities and will provide visitors with the ideal opportunity to learn firsthand from some of South Africa’s best flyfishers. Workshops include: • Smallmouth bass — Conrad Botes and Herman Botes • Stillwater trout — Matt Rich and Dan Factor • Cape Streams 101 — Tim Rolston • Euro Nymphing — MC Coetzer and Jacques Marais • Largemouth yellows — Garth Wellman • Carp — Leonard Flemming and Platon Trakoshis • Grunter 101 — MC Coetzer and Jannie Visser So, in a nutshell the organisers have lined up what they believe will be a weekend of flyfishing fantasticness! For more info please visit <www.ffftexpo.co.za>, contact Gordon van der Spuy on 074 113 1382 or email <email@example.com>.
By Duncan Steyn ‘mojo’ (uk) noun : An ability or quality that causes one to excel or have good luck.
NYONE who’s ever been involved in the honourable sport of shadowing fish with a f ly-rod has almost certainly experienced their share of fishing mojo — both good and bad. Many articles have been written on this subject and I’m sure experts shake their heads at the way it’s seldom taken seriously. They’re going to especially love this story ...
IF ANYTHING CAN GO WRONG IT WILL Approaching the edge of the stream, you catch your first glimpse of a solid
18 incher feeding just under the surface. No doubt a small emerger pattern will do the trick. The previous ten minutes were spent stealing closer with the stealth of an undercover otter. Even though the water is as clear as a whistle, you haven’t been seen or heard. Without losing sight of your fish of the season, you tie on the size 16 fly and prepare to present the perfect cast. Ping goes the 6X tippet in the tree that wasn’t behind you a minute earlier and as you stumble on the loose stones that were, until quite recently, as solid as the foundations of the Drakensberg, you watch your fish disappear and realise that you are indeed fluent in Russian. Sound familiar? Murphy’s law originated in 1949 at Edwards Airforce Base in California and was named for Captain Edward A Murphy who, while testing rocket-pow-
ered sleds and facing endless problems, came up with the phrase “If anything can go wrong it will.” Even though the laws are credited to Capt Murphy, there are examples of his inf luence from much earlier. In Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler first published in 1653 we read,“I have had but bad luck today, for I fish for barbel…” Most fishermen I know have a particular ritual they perform whenever they go fishing; whether they are aware of it or not, the lucky hat is worn along with a lucky shirt, rod, wading socks, special red underwear etc... We all know it’s very bad luck to clean the cork of your favourite fly-rod; as if a mixture of fish slime and Gerk’s Gink can somehow make you an even deadlier hunter of fish. I know this, I understand this, but I will still never clean a grip… very bad mojo.
Decent size Durban Gurnard (Bar tail flathead).
40 • FLYFISHING February 2018
Small upper Mooi gem.
WHEN YOU ARE FISHING WHERE YOU SHOULDN’T, NO ONE WILL SEE UNTIL YOU HOOK SOMETHING I remember the discussion like it was yesterday. On the walk back to the car after a productive day fooling small browns on the upper Mooi River we passed the then fully operational hatchery. I was convinced a hatchery-bred trout couldn’t be enticed into taking a f ly unless it looked like their staple food, namely a pellet. My father disagreed and decided to prove it. After making sure there was not a Parks Board officer from horizon to horizon, he casually dropped a line with the small nymph he had been using into one of the holding pools and was instantly and savagely taken by a massive trout. I can still picture my dad running up and down the edge of the concrete pond with his skinny legs and oneweight rod bowed over, dangerously close to breaking, trying to land a fish his little Orvis was never designed for. Over our laughter we became aware of the distinctive thump of a motor bike ridden by someone in uniform and a lot of authority, coming down the hill to see what we were up to. Joy was quickly replaced by panic, but thankfully the 8 lb trophy was running out of fight. After hastily reviving the somewhat surprised and exhausted fish, and trying not to look like guilt-ridden poachers, the only trouble we got into that day was a firm reminder that fly-rods were not allowed in the hatchery. We had gotten away with it; well, up until this story we had gotten away with it, and
that reminds me of another of Murphy’s famous laws… UNDER ANY SET OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS AN ANIMAL WILL BEHAVE AS IT DAMN WELL PLEASES The easterly had started blowing hard and I decided to seek shelter next to the concrete “block” in Durban harbour. It was last summer and I had snuck away from work to catch the spring low for a few hours. The fishing was slow — I’d only caught a couple of juvenile kingfish and a small torpedo scad. “The Block” as it is known locally, used to be one of the mooring points for seaplanes in World War 2, but on this day it served as my shelter from the elements. The tide was coming in quickly and I decided to target a few bartail flatheads before I had to scamper off the sand flats. After switching to a size 4 Crazy Charlie I started working out my cast, keeping the line as close to the concrete wall of the block as possible to avoid the wind — and possibly a new chartreuse earring. There was a good lunchtime crowd at the waterfront restaurants and I knew I had quite a few spectators. At this stage I should have realised something was going to go horribly wrong, but instead chose to ignore another of Murphy’s well-known curses…
back and straight into my equally high speed Crazy Charlie. At first, I thought it was a missed strike, but then I realised I was on. Now that I can speak with authority on such things, I will tell you — even a small to average size sea bird can give you quite a pull, not quite into the backing on his first fly, but still very impressive. What was even more impressive is how much noise such a tiny bird can make. He quite quickly got the attention of the rapidly growing crowd at the restaurants who were now all straining to see what was happening. I realised it must have looked like I was trying to fly a small, out of control kite with a fishing rod. I needed to land my catch as quickly as possible, so I started stripping in line, keeping my rod tip low on the water to force him to land. While I was reeling in it dawned on me that what I now had on the end of my line was a giant Rapala! Thankfully there were no cruising harbour sharks or other large predators, otherwise the whole situation could have taken a tern for the worse.
THE BIGGER THE AUDIENCE, THE BIGGER THE EMBARRASSMENT As I leaned into the final delivery stroke of my cast, a high-speed Arctic tern flew around the corner with the wind on his FLYFISHING February 2018 • 41
Lucky hat, oilskin and net... lots of good mojo.
42 • FLYFISHING February 2018
Finally, he came to hand, but I realised the hook was there to stay. It was buried flush right next to where CDC comes from, and I just couldn’t get it out without causing damage, so I clipped off the line at the eye and released him. I don’t believe in barbed hooks but somehow, I had missed this one! It was a small hook though and I’m certain he is doing just fine, taking my Crazy Charlie on a world tour. I just hope it’s not too embarrassing for the little tern being told on a daily basis that his fly is showing. It had changed from a rather dull day into a memorable one with lessons being learned for all involved. A few of Capt Murphy’s law’s were demonstrated that day. For me it was: A bird in hand is safer than one overhead and for the unfortunate tern: Friendly fire isn’t. So how long does it take before a favourite hat or fly-rod or other important piece of equipment starts attracting good mojo? Of all the kit I own, by far the most sacred to me is my fishing hat. It is now almost 30 years old, but I still feel like we are getting to know each other. It has protected my rapidly greying head through almost three decades of adventures and misadventures. It has fended off more than a few hailstones, it has kept the sun off my neck and the snow out my face, it has landed fish when I have forgotten my net in the car and, most importantly, it makes me feel good. It means fishing, and that means fun. It’s the rank and uniform of someone who’s serious about catching fish — or just rank if you forget to hang it up to dr y after a day playing in the rain. It has so much good mojo that it has become almost priceless. I’ve had everyone from airline captains to Colorado fishing guides try buy it off me; they could sense there was something special
about it. In fact, come to think of it, it may even have been the reason why we weren’t arrested that day in the hatchery… HE WHO LAUGHS, LASTS Fishermen are generally an optimistic bunch, usually choosing to remember bad days as “eventful” instead of what they really were — just bad. I firmly believe that Murphy is always present whenever a group of friends goes fishing. There’s always added pressure when people are watching and it’s prudent to take extra care when hiking down to a favourite stretch of river, for it only takes one trip to go from rolling stock to laughing stock. On a fishing outing with my brother and a friend into Lesotho a few years back I was tempted to follow a local herd boy upstream to a secret pool where the fish were the size of his outstretched arms. I wasn’t worried about his exaggerated story at all, I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t spotted by my two associates as I tore off around the corner and out of sight. Soon I got to a ledge overlooking the pool; it lay at the bottom of a smooth sandstone bank, not more than 20 yards below the spot where I stood. The wild-spawned trout were clearly visible, lined up in their established pecking order, unaware what was looming above. As I shuffled through the patches of fresh snow on my haunches, my “lucky” wading boots broke loose and I shot down the smooth bum slide, breaking through the ice-encrusted edge of the pool feet first. Going completely under, I realised it was a lot deeper than it looked and I can’t ever remember feeling water that cold. Hanging onto life on the ride back to the Land Rover on the herd boy’s borrowed (hired) donkey I can still picture the faces of my concerned friends as they tried to breathe inbetween laughing. Why do these things happen? Why do you stand on an urchin and have to spend hours in a rural hospital on the first day of a week-long fishing trip in the Transkei, being told by a German student doctor half your age to stop being such a kinder as he tries to dig out the spines? If every time we went fishing the weather was perfect, the car never broke down in the pouring rain, no one got ill from questionable garage shop pies and no one ever fell in the river, then perhaps we wouldn’t laugh as much, and by my reckoning that might just start to get a little boring. One thing is for sure, we wouldn’t have nearly as many stories to tell. We need days when Murphy seems to be working against us to truly appreciate those when he isn’t.
Early morning in Durban harbour full of casting hazards.
Picture perfect Transkei Wild Coast, full of fish and urchins.
Lucky hat filling in as a net.
FLYFISHING February 2018 • 43
44 â€¢ FLYFISHING February 2018
BIG FISH CATCH AND RELEASE
COMPETITION THIS ISSUE’S WINNER
TAMALYN WRIGHT — SPOTTED GRUNTER “My boyfriend and I run a lodge in San Sebastian, Mozambique, and I had just returned back to work from study leave. We headed down to ‘the hole’ which is a natural deep spot in front of the lodge where the fish find sanctuary. I tackled up with my old 8ft rod with a disintegrating cork handle, faulty reel with little drag, floating line and a shrimp pattern. “On my third cast I had a solid take and 20 minutes later I landed a beautiful 4.2kg spotted grunter. My day was made!” Congratulations, Tamalyn. Please contact Xplorer Fly Fishing on (031) 564-7368, or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> to arrange collection or delivery of your prize.
WIN T-50 ROD A
In EACH ISSUE OF FLYFISHING MAGAZINE, Xplorer will be giving away a T-50 rod of your choice (retail value is R5000) to one lucky angler who has submitted an entry to the Xplorerr BIG FISH competition.
Submit a photograph and short story of a big fish you successfully caught and released. Include your name, address, contact number, email address together with your photo of the fish, its’ weight and length, where and when it was caught and released. Please include details of the Rod, reel, line and fly used. The fish must have been caught within 12 months of the submission date. Send your entries to: XPLORER BIG FISH PO Box 20545, Durban North, 4016 Alternatively, entries can be e-mailed to email@example.com. Clearly mark your mail XPLORER BIG FISH together with the above information. If submitted digitally, photographs MUST be in highresolution jpeg format. This requirement is unconditional.
Orange River sunset. 46 â€¢ FLYFISHING February 2018
A small largemouth yellowfish.
A beautiful vlei kurper.
By Gertrude Babich WHILE ago my husband, Terry, did a TV show on catching yellowfish and rafting down the Orange River. He could not stop talking about the trip, telling me what an amazing time he had rowing 40km down the river on an inflatable boat and taking only the bare necessities with him. It sounded absolutely insane; who in their right mind would want to pack almost nothing and row 40km downriver in scorching heat? It was completely out of my comfort zone. Terry enjoyed the trip so much that he decided to book a trip with clients and asked me if I wanted to go with them. I was sure he’d lost his mind. What kind of a man would want to stick his wife on an inflatable boat with a paddle in her hand and very little luggage, then make her row down the river for four days and sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag? Apparently a very clever man. After a lot of convincing I decided to step waaaaaaaay out of my comfort zone and join Terry on the trip last October. Not being a camper, I had no idea what to expect or what to pack. When I read through the material from Kalahari Outventures I saw that we had to pack eco-friendly soap and shampoo, and my online shopping skills kicked in. With the click of a button I could tick that off the list. Bear in mind it was a very small list due to the limited space on the inflatable boat. I read every relevant web page I could find and started shopping; I am now a self-proclaimed expert on outdoor-gear shopping. Among other things I had to buy a sleeping bag — didn’t even know they still make those things — blow up pillow and a quick-dry camping towel. Looking at my comfortable bed at home I could almost feel a tear roll down my face knowing I had to swop that cosiness for a tent and a sleeping bag. The fishing had better be worth it, I reckoned! The next problem was that I had to fit my clothes into a 20L waterproof bag. Trust me it’s a lot smaller than what it sounds. I packed and re-packed and packed again.
Knowing how tasty I am to every single flying, crawling and walking insect, I sacrificed clothing space to pack insect spray, lotion and gel. I even discovered a sunscreen spray with a built in insect repellent — never knew that existed! On Terry’s trip they accidently tipped the boat and lost some items so I bought a ton of carabiner clips and bungee cords to make sure that if we did tip the boat I would lose absolutely nothing — not even Terry! Kalahari Outventures supplied the food but we had to take all our own drinks, so I made sure I packed enough to keep us hydrated during days when temperatures would reach 40°C. Nervous and excited about rowing, sleeping on the floor, fishing conditions, tipping the boat and bathing in the river, we set out in the direction of Augrabies. We met the rest of the group and spent the first night in a lovely air-conditioned house before heading to the river the next morning. Nature does not compromise, and within two minutes of leaving the house I started missing the aircon and had to make do with my ice towels. I decided to leave my worries behind and take the trip head on. After all, I’ve seen enough Bear Grylls episodes to know that all you need to survive is a survival bracelet and your own pee, the rest is all just luxury. As an added bonus Jonina Fourie joined the group — there were now two mermaids between the barbel. With one of my flyfishing role models nearby I already felt victorious. Down at the river we couldn’t wait to get into the water — even if it was just to cool off. It turns out rowing is a lot harder than it looks and our boat kept going left — I am still blaming it on the boat, sure it had some sort of factory defect! Rowing at our own pace, I almost forgot to fish because the scenery is out of this world. I cannot explain how breathtakingly beautiful our surroundings were; no photos taken could do it any justice. Ten minutes into the trip I felt completely relaxed and refreshed; there is just something about nature that feeds your soul and recharges your batteries. Heavily laden boat.
Getting ready. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 47
Orange River barbel.
Moonrise over the mountains.
Million star accommodation. River sherpas.
Terry Babich with a smallmouth yellow. Photo by Matt Gorlei Terry Babich with a largemouth yellow.
Lunchtime cool off. Photo by Matt Gorlei.
We were targeting mainly largemouth yellowfish, but also caught smallmouth yellows and, of course, barbel from the Team Babich boat. To my excitement we came across a spot with tilapia and I soon lost interest in the largemouth yellows — been there, done that. However, I’d never caught a kurper on fly before and had great fun targeting the vlei- and blue kurpers with my fly-rod. I could easily book another trip just for that. People think I’m crazy for not following the masses like a herd animal, but I’m fortunate to have caught the much-targeted and oft-discussed largemouth yellows before. Maybe I just appreciate the smaller things in life ... I was over the moon when I caught my first kurper and let’s face it, they are a lot prettier and cuter than their yellowfish counterparts. I also caught my first Orange River barbel on this trip — a very energetic little fellow with a beautiful 48 • FLYFISHING February 2018
dark skin and gorgeous whiskers. Having ticked off another few species on my fly-list, I took a lot of time to admire the spectacular scenery and bird life. While cooling off in the river in the dying heat of the day you realise how privileged we are living with the luxury of aircon in the office, home and car. We covered a lot of water each day, often stopping to fish and cool off. Our “river sherpas” as I renamed our guides, looked after us very well over the four days. I could only look on in amazement and envy the way they rowed their heavilypacked boats containing food and camping gear downstream around the rocks while we were going left the whole time. I learned a lot on this trip. I learned that if you row hard enough during the day you don’t care about the thickness of the mattress when you fall down exhausted at night. I learned that we city folks miss out on the beauty of nature;
Stegman Fourie with a beauty. Photo by Matt Gorlei
Vanderkloof muddy with unusual colouring.
Jonina Fourie fighting a strong fish. Photo by Matt Gorlei
seeing the moon rise over the river while looking at millions of stars is not something you can capture in a photo. I learned that going without a phone for a few days will actually leave you refreshed. I also learned that my beloved barbel can bite — true story! Mark Hansen got bitten on the leg by a barbel whilst wading the river — I never knew fish could find us tasty too! On the last day when we got within 10 metres of the exit point I felt gloomy, thinking of what we would be leaving behind. I had the best fishing trip ever with the best boat partner a girl could ask for. Ladies get out of your comfort zones. Do something different that scares you; who knows, you might end up enjoying it. Will I go out and buy a tent and start camping? Probably not. Will I book to row 40km down the Orange River with no ablution facilities? Absolutely! In fact we’ve already made
enquiries about dates for next year. In true Babich fashion we extended our leave, visited the amazing Augrabies Waterfall and fished the Vanderkloof Dam on the way back home. Terry told me that he just wanted to go past to look at the dam. Luckily I know him better, but still I was tricked into saying yes by being told that it was “just down the road”. For those planning that trip, take note that “down the road” for Terry is actually a six-hour drive! Three days later with a lot more fishing behind us, I had to put down my foot and tell Terry that he was done “looking” at Vanderkloof. Like the rowing trip, our holiday had to come to an end. We had to return to our air-conditioned lives where the internet and comfy beds awaited us. However we returned to our comfort zones, with amazing memories in the bank and a longing to escape our comfort zone again. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 49
ON THE WATER
When reality is better than your wildest dreams 50 â€¢ FLYFISHING February 2018
By Andrew Mather <Streamsideblog.wordpress.com> “Fishing is a collection of instants: moments when it either comes together with amazing perfection or goes horribly wrong.” — John Gierach.
ET dreams — fishing related, in case you were wondering! The strange thoughts I cannot get out of my head as I try to go to sleep trouble me. Enormous fish that have gotten off before I can land them; dirty tricks that fish play out; bent hooks and snapped tippet entwined with flashes of silver or butter yellow flanks as the fish turn on the surface. My mind plays these scenes over and over with the same outcome: fish on and then ultimately off. My thoughts shift to what the action of a fly would look like underwater to a fish. I’ve turned full circle — I’ve become the hunted. The recurring f lashbacks have become more frequent the older I get; perhaps it’s a sign of old age or an overactive mind, I don’t know for sure. I’m told older folk need less sleep, but then so do those with ADHD, such as myself. Does this mean I’ll be haunted forever by visions of these fish, long gone in the mists of time, once so vibrant and alive? The browns with their speckled spots, the rainbows’ silver flanks and the yellows all in gold, now faded forever except for a few stolen photographs, but undoubtably living on in future generations of their offspring. Day dreams — the stuff which gets one through the daily monotony of work, unless you are one of those fortunate retirees who can choose what to do every day. The rest of us mere mortals work on our bucket lists, realising that most trips are unaffordable. If you are anything like me, planning the next trip is always an exciting but harrowing experience. It’s best described as a process of getting away without pissing off your closest fishing mates who might feel left out as time or space rules them out, and retaining some semblance of matrimonial harmony. Then there’s the juggle to find enough accommodation for all while trying to pick a place that might fish well despite the vagaries of the weather. Whatsapp groups for trips suddenly take on a life of their own as the lads talk tackle, flies, travel plans and other unmentionable things. Managing changing plans and cancellations becomes more intense as the time approaches. I’d say more time is spent planning than actually fishing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Home streams beckon me and the pull to go fishing this season has been strong; stronger last year than it has been for many a year. FLYFISHING February 2018 • 51
Wild eyes and wet streams ... the stuff of which dreams are made.
When we think of home streams we all have a mental image of a favourite place — familiar pools where you know all the lies. When the river is higher you instinctively know where the new prime lies are. Those streams where you would take a bet that nine out of ten times a fly cast in a particular spot will be rewarded. As you approach a familiar pool you remember things — a cast where the fly was taken in midair by a large dragonfly, or a fish which ran you into the undercut and broke you off. You remember the day a fellow fisher had a snake head straight for him. The snake was headed for the river but the flyfisher was in the way; he screamed, dropped the rod and ran. You remember the buck lying hidden among the bankside vegetation which suddenly spooked and ran off leaving you with your heart pounding. Riffles that babble downward with pocket-sized holes, and current seams that have had countless flies drifted through them. These are the moments one remembers. It is these special places where one has spent a lot of time that qualify as home streams. For someone like myself, and probably most of you reading this, your home streams aren’t necessarily in your back garden or your neighbourhood; they are probably a few hours’ drive away. I pity the early flyfishermen who had to catch a train from Durban to Mooi River to go and fish the Mooi. Last year the early summer rains suddenly changed the game on my home streams. The drought started 52 • FLYFISHING February 2018
breaking in KwaZulu-Natal with the northern rivers getting the most benefit to start with. The post-drought situation left our rivers with less fish than usual and more than one person thought that was a good thing for increasing the hardiness of our trout. Brown trout seemed to have fared better than rainbow trout. In fact, there were reports of very few rainbows in the rivers, but encouragingly there are a few around. Over the last few seasons fishing has been hard; low, clear conditions have resulted in blanking on more that a few occasions as I wrote in the October 2017 issue of FLYFISHING. Now, however, speckled browns in XL, XXL and XXXL are suddenly available; it’s a bit like a bargain bin with no medium, small and extra small sizes. They’re fat, buttery slabs of fish in tiptop condition to boot, and all in my home streams. Like kiddies with free access to a sweet shop my band of fellow flyfishers plotted trips. Virtually every weekend — and sometimes in the week — a few of the lads were on the water. Sometimes the lads would tell you they were planning to go and sometimes my day was spoilt when our Whatsapp group received a picture from one of them. The now traditional pose, with the stream in the background, would flash up on my cell phone; water envy abounded. It wouldn’t be long before more pictures would start arriving — videos of the lads fighting and landing whoppers, pictures from every angle, underwater pictures, pictures with tapes alongside
the fish to show the size. That would continue throughout the day while the poor sods that had to work had serious feelings of regret at not going. Of course with the sudden flood of pictures of fish being measured, there was an impromptu, unannounced competition to see who would catch the biggest fish. The lads only started fishing in earnest in late October and week after week the record fish kept getting longer. Initially a 45cm brown was the target. That went. Then 50cm; that went too. Okay, what about 55cm? That got caught too. Three out of the five lads have personal best browns of 45-, 51- and 55cm and the season is not over yet. Having seen 60cm browns this season I’m convinced that one will be caught soon. However, that all depends on how long it will take the thousands of small fish that have been seen in the upper catchments to invade the lower reaches. When these smaller trout arrive they will be cursed as they frantically try to take your fly, effectively ending the selective targeting of the larger resident fish. When this does happen I’ll leave the dark side and be back on the dry fly. I much prefer the dry fly, but when times are tough the nymph often delivers. The season is far from over, so get out there while you still have time; this is a season not to be missed. And when the small fish spread out I’ll be itching to get out my bamboo rods and grease up my silk lines and happily cast to stockies on the headwaters of my home streams ...
BLAST FROM THE PAST “Blast from the past” celebrates our local flyfishing heritage. It takes us back to a time when life — and flyfishing — were far less complicated than they are today. Back then flyfishing seemed to be more about the experience than the actual numbers of fish caught and these guys seemed to be far more relaxed in their approach to the sport. Perhaps there is something to learn from them. This first story is taken from the November 1982 issue of the Journal of the Natal Fly Fishers’ Club...
FLYFISHING THE PUBS Keeping up with modern events By Khehla
OR many more years than most of us really want to sit down and add up — and let’s be honest, at this stage some of us have difficulty adding up — six of us have been fishing the temperamental waters around Himeville and Nottingham Road. Occasionally we kick the dust off our pants and venture further afield, but mainly we stick around this neck of the woods. Time was when we did the odd trip to Basutoland, mainly before we did the long trip to the Northern Desert to take on Rommel and the gippo guts and shared fags routine. But I guess as you get older you feel less inclined to test out new pastures when you can do just as badly on the ones you know for half the price. I notice we are now doing more planning and less fishing and the planning headquarters are plentiful in these parts. I mean there’s nothing quite as conducive to a good fishing of the evening rise than if you planned it carefully propped up on the bar counter. Also, we’ve got to feeling that we owe the younger fishing fraternity the service of checking on the quality of the malts and spirits and the general atmosphere of these various places so that the youngsters, when they come in from a hard day on the rivers, can be sure of a high standard of hospitality, service and supply. For instance, there was the time that we had a devil’s own job making sure
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that Sam Bloomberg wasn’t watering down the Scotch ever since Bill Danby got the first clue when he found a mayfly nymph in a double that Sam had poured him. Sam said it was common to find mayfly nymphs in the Scotch because Scotland is the home of mayflies and this did nothing more than assure Sam that this was a pretty authentic whisky. Furthermore, since fishing the pubs of our area, we’ve learned a lot of things about fishing that we never knew. Don Robbins will tell you, and this after exhaustive trials, that your casting ability is directly proportional to your intake of doubles, with or without the insects, and is adversely affected the higher you go beyond a certain number. He says you should take it from him — and I can tell you he knows — that two things happen after four doubles. Firstly you find a good many more flies in your right ear lobe if you are a right-handed caster, and secondly you tend to be able to fall into the water with greater ease. But after two doubles, and this he is at pains to point out to you, you cast like a cross between Al McLane and Jon E Tarantino, the only setback being that you might not recognise your genius at the time. I once watched him send a fly upstream against the wind, round a small outcrop of rock and smack through a little window in the overhanging bush where a brown trout of ample proportions was lying up in a feeding mood. The fly landed like a barnyard feather floating gently to earth and the brown had no choice but to eat it on the spot. The only problem was that Don forgot to strike — or couldn’t — because at that precise moment he chose to pat the pocket of his fishing jacket in search of a Stuyvesant and a match. I’ve learned more about things since I’ve been fishing the pubs than I ever would have got from John Veniard or Taffy Price or after a lifetime of studying all these books that are now going round. Time was when you had a Walker’s Killer and maybe an Invicta or two and that was that. But it seems to me that trout have apparently got tired of these patterns and now want something with a little more class to it. Taffy Watson says he doesn’t trust these new flies ever since he dropped one into a glass of J&B and the wings
fell off. Taffy says the finest test of a fly is to let it spend the afternoon in a double Dimple. If you can swallow the contents after that, without the whisky losing any of its smoothness, then you know you’re on to a fly with some class and, I guess, stamina too. The various qualities that this sojourn in the whisky instils into the fly are apparently not lost on the trout either, especially the older cock fish — provided it has not been one of those cheap whiskys that one so often finds polluting an otherwise good bottle these days. And, whilst on the subject of flies, let me add that these streamside pubs are a never-ending source of flies if you ever happen to run out. Most of us are now happy to accept that the single most important characteristic a trout fly can have is a damned fine barb and that’s about it, so we are happy to fish with anything. Since most of us can’t see to tie anymore (nor, since we’re all retired, can we afford the time), any fly obtained by honest means is more than welcome. Our pitch is well tried and pretty effective. We get some young fellow to show us his box of beauties, select the odd one we really like, then tell him he’s got as much chance of catching a fish with that pattern as he has of growing another nose. Ten to one he’ll pull out the fly, thrust it into your palm, and promise you that if it doesn’t take you a bag of fish he’ll buy you drinks for the season. Need I say more? Just a short while back, as we were celebrating Eddie’s 75th birthday and the fact that he managed to tie one on a good fish in the Mooi on a dry fly he’d borrowed from somebody’s vest, we got to thinking about the state of the art and trout in general. Somehow everybody was taking the whole thing too seriously lately — catching trout I mean. They were talking about caddis hatches and free drift and the Lord knows what else. Hell, in our day caddis were the fellows that carried your golf clubs and free drift was the way you behaved before you got married. Just about this time, just as we were about to start thinking of going fishing, a young fellow came into the pub and announced to all of us that he’d got a bag in the Umzimkulu on an isonychia nymph using the Leisenring Lift. The silence that followed was punctuated only by the sounds of our glasses being put back on the counter. Sam looked embarrassed and offered the young fellow a cold ale just to break the silence. Only thing was, the fellow wouldn’t take a drink on account that it might slow
up his reaction time on the evening rise! Evidently he’d taken three fish all over a pound by means unknown to us because we didn’t (and still don’t) know isonychia from Elizabeth Taylor and the only lift I know is Otis. So we sat for a while, chewing the angling cud and wondering why we weren’t getting a share of the action the youngsters kept reporting. Maybe it was because the trout had become more educated in the long time since we began fishing, but we excluded this because we all still know of some pretty dumb fish around. We decided to go out and give the evening rise a really good go, if only to show that we’d kept up with progress. Taffy said he would fish a nymph but couldn’t find one. Don said they would need a dead drift, after which he’d give them a touch of the Leisenring Lift or two, even three, if they were sluggish. We made it to Eddie’s Ford truck (1962, 223 000 miles mostly under poor control, now highly susceptible to not starting and cert to stall on a wet hill) and set off at speed. The nice thing about Eddie’s truck is that folks move out of your way mighty fast if they’re lucky enough to see you coming, on account of the poor steering linkage, making it all but impossible to direct the vehicle anywhere in particular. Eddie said he liked it that way because you never knew quite where you’d end up fishing. The local traffic cop in Underberg didn’t like it that way, but couldn’t do anything about it on account of his being too scared to test drive it. Halfway to somewhere Taffy shouted that we should stop. Some minutes later the Ford did its best, and we came to a halt next to a grove of poplars — more accurately in the grove, I suppose. Giving the matter careful thought and considering the time of the day (3.15pm by my watch),Taffy suggested only fools would go out fishing without careful planning. He suggested we return immediately to Sam’s and give the matter very careful thought before just rushing into the fray;“formulate a plan of action” I think were the words he used. We all agreed and, in a cloud of dust, set off back to the pub. “A man can’t act too impetuously,” was Taffy’s comment. I mean, after all, these are modern times and as it was Taffy didn’t even own a nymph with which to do the Otis lift or whatever it was that one did with a nymph. And so we concluded there was just a chance he might find one if he ordered a double tot of Sam’s J&B.
DICTIONARY OF FISHING TERMS • Knotless taper — found only in unopened, original packing. • Knotted taper — a knotless taper after half an hour’s fishing. • Floating line — one which rarely sinks more than six feet. • Sinking line — a floating line after half an hour fishing. • Bailiff — spoilsport. • Back cast — hooking the seat of one’s trousers. • Forward cast — hooking the bush on the opposite bank. • Downcast — Unable to achieve either of the above. • Wader — Apparel designed to keep water in. • Dam — A mis-spelt expletive (one of many) common to anglers. • Priest — A frocked fishing companion in whose presence “dams” are limited.
NDRE Grove (9) can’t RISTAN Visser (12) get enough of f lyfishrecently had a wondering! His grandfather ful time fishing at The gave him his first fly-rod when Bend in Nottingham Road he turned 7, but for two years with his dad and extended he was unable to catch anyfamily. While there he caught thing. his biggest rainbow trout yet Finally he broke the curse! after patiently fishing for an Last year in July on a trip hour. Tristan’s dad was about to Brookwood Trout Estate at to return to the bank when he Muldersdrift Andre caught not begged to stay on the water one but two beautiful rainfor just five more minutes. bow trout. Needless to say he Bang, he got a bite! is now completely hooked One word of warning and keeps on pestering his from Tristan: Always wear a grandpa to take him fishing again. hat and sunglasses to protect your head. He ended up with a It’s just as well Grandpa loves fishing almost as much as barbed fly embedded in his temple! Thankfully no real damage Andre does! was done.
ad index VENUES: Forest Creek Lodge . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Forty Winks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Giant’s Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 HIghland Lodge. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Matoya Lodge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Riverside Trout Cottages . . . . . . . . . 16 Zambelozi Island. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 GENERAL: Frontier Fly Fishing . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 House Share for sale . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 J-Vice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Natal Caravans & Marine. . . . . . . . . 16 Safari Chillers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 The Kingfisher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 TOPS at Spar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Tops Corporate Challenge . . . . . . . 53 Wild Coolers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Xplorer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
58 • FLYFISHING February 2018