Page 1

ISSUE 19

JAN | FEB 2020

FREE

THEMISSIONFLYMAG.COM

OUR GUY IN GUYANA, THE SUCK, ST BRANDON’S, MONTANA, SEVEN-YEAR ITCH, LINDA GORLEI, SAWAI, BEERS, BEATS & MORE


THINGS THAT SNAP


THINGS THAT DON’T 40% stronger than the competition. You don’t have to take it from us. We had a 3rd party lab independently test and prove that our wet knot strength is 29% stronger than our previous material, and 40% stronger than the premium competition.

scientificanglers.com


WANT MORE ABSORBENT READING MATERIAL? For the finest stories, profiles, destinations, adventures, gear, beer and more...


W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M ISSUE 19 JAN / FEB 2020

CONTENTS A black caiman at Rewa Eco Lodge in Guyana. Photo Will Graham. More on this on page 08 and page 18

26 THE SUCK For James Topham the toughest experiences he had guiding have shaped him into who he is today. 30 BLISS POINTS For the perfect fly fishing trip, copy Nic Schwerdtfeger and hit the bliss point trifecta at St Brandon’s. 46 THE SENTINEL Witvis once schooled in their thousands. Today, as Leonard Flemming reports these underrated sport fish are in kak. 56 SEVEN-YEAR ITCH From the Gouritz to the Berg, LeRoy Botha’s love affair with smallmouth bass covers both distance and time. 66 HOME ON THE RANGE Trout! Beer! A like-minded tribe! Tudor Caradoc-Davies visits Montana and finds a home away from home. 88 LEGLESS AT LAKIES To access the Cape’s top still water, you have to pass through several farm gates. For Mark Schwartz that’s tough.

REGULAR FEATURES 08 Ed’s Letter 12 Wish List Fish 14 Booze & Beats 16 Munchies 18 High 5s

78 Salad Bar 84 Pay Day 86 The Little Guy 96 Lifer 104 Pop Quiz

Our Lifer, Linda Gorlei, practices her surprisingly effective Chardonnay Heron technique on the small stream brown trout of the KZN Midlands. Photo Matt Gorlei


T U D O R CA R A D O C - DAV I ES

A VISION OF 2020 T H E T W E N T I E S A R E O F F T O A FA S T S TA R T W I T H F R E S H EXTINCTIONS (BOOOO) AND NEW DISCOVERIES (HUZZAH), PLUS WE’VE ALREADY LEARNED A FEW NEW THINGS.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish First up, the bad news. The Chinese paddlefish, Psephurus gladius, is extinct. Like us, you probably did not get to meet this magnificent fish, which grew to 23 feet, and now you never will. Not seen since 2003, after significant scientific expeditions searching for this sturgeon-relative with its unique sword-like rostrum (aka shnoz), researchers have declared it’s officially game over. It survived the extinctions that wiped out the dinosaurs, but could not survive overfishing and the dam construction that destroyed its spawning grounds. Way to go humans. Deepest, Darkest In slightly more positive news, we’re learning new shit about the natural world. Take the pale, blind fish that resembles Mitch McConnell that scientists found dying on the banks of the Congo river. A fish like that is a cave fish, but the Congo river does not have caves. It appeared to be dying from a case of the bends, aka decompression syndrome. That finding led scientists to do some depth tests on this fearsome river and the results are jaw-dropping. In places the Congo is 650 feet (200 meters) deep. That small fish had the misfortune of getting sucked up into a powerful current and forced to the surface. While it may have died, it helped us understand that the Congo is by far and away the world’s deepest river. Bubbles & Bobbers Giving us some insight into the stunning cover photo by Will Graham of that beautiful caiman at Rewa Eco Lodge in Guyana, our High 5s guide Johann du Preez says, “That’s a black caiman. The shot was taken in a pond called Caiman pond. There’s a ton of them in the ponds where we fish for the arapaima. Something that’s interesting about the relationship with the caiman is that we hardly ever lose fish to caiman, but when the arapaima are released it gets a rubber band with a bobber on it so the research team literally follows it around in the pond for anything from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It’s this long process as they count the breaths to make sure the fish is revived. But now the caiman have learned that if there’s a bobber floating around, there’s a fish attached so the caiman have started following the bobbers to eat the arapaima. So the research team has to intercept to make sure the caiman do not eat the arapaima.” You can find more from Johann on page 18.

08

The Rewa Eco Lodge reserch team measure an arapaima’s skeg. Photo Johann Du Preez

Bamboo Glue Shoes While digging around for info on Thomas & Thomas’s collab with Whistlepig whiskey (page 14), we learned that an essential gear item for bamboo rod makers is… glue shoes (the shoes you wear while building bamboo rods and which take a beating from the glue dripping off the tables). T&T’s bamboo guru Troy Jacques even keeps the glue shoes of his mentors, Tom Dorsey and Tom Moran, in the bamboo shop. Whether or not he gently caresses them from time to time, we cannot confirm. Give Peace A Chance Faced with the prospect of World War 3, we want world peace in a general sense, for everyone, we really do. But we also want it for purely selfish fly fishing reasons, namely the ability to visit a brilliant country like Iran with its magnificent mangar, sherbet and chiselmouth AND visit the USA in the same year on the same passport while avoiding a full cavity search. Is that really too much to ask?

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


TH EM I SSI O NF LYMAG . COM

Bruce Leslie, Dave Walker (of Walkerbouts Pub in Rhodes village) and explorer Kingsley Holgate discuss next festive season’s Father Christmas Landrover drop-offs.

EDITOR Tudor Caradoc-Davies ART DIRECTOR Brendan Body CONTACT THE MISSION The Mission Fly Fishing Mag (PTY) Ltd 25 Firth Road, Rondebosch, 7700, Cape Town, South Africa Info@themissionflymag.com www.themissionflymag.com

EDITOR AT LARGE Conrad Botes COPY EDITOR Gillian Caradoc-Davies ADVERTISING SALES tudor@themissionflymag.com

CONTRIBUTORS #19 James Topham, Mark Schwartz, Brendan Body (illustration), Leonard Flemming, Nic Schwerdtfeger, Tudor Caradoc-Davies, LeRoy Botha, Chris Clemes, Linda Gorlei, Peter Coetzee, Johann du Preez, Tony Kietzman, James Kirsten, Linda Gorlei. PHOTOGRAPHERS #19 Will Graham, James Topham, Mark Schwartz, Leonard Flemming, Nic Schwerdtfeger, Flycastaway, LeRoy Botha, Peter Coetzee, Platon Trakoshis, Andre van Wyk, Chalkstream Fly, Warren van Rensburg, Jan Verboom, Matt Gorlei, Johann du Preez, James Kirsten, Ingrid Caradoc-Davies

THE MISSION IS PUBLISHED 6 TIMES A YEAR. THE MISSION WILL WELCOME CONTENT AND PHOTOS. WE WILL REVIEW THE CONTRIBUTION AND ASSESS WHETHER OR NOT IT CAN BE USED AS PRINT OR ONLINE CONTENT. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS MAGAZINE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF THE MAGAZINE OR ITS OWNERS. THE MISSION IS THE COPYRIGHT OF THE MISSION FLY MAG (PTY) LTD. ANY DUPLICATION OF THIS MAGAZINE, FOR MEDIA OR SALE ACTIVITY, WILL RESULT IN LEGAL ACTION AND AN INTRODUCTION TO RENOWNED DEVIANT NIC SCHWERDTFEGER’S BUTTPLUG COLLECTION.

10

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

@THEMISSIONFLYMAG


CAPT. SHANE SMITH

The all new

A whole new level of high performance handcrafted fly rods. Scott Sector series fly rods are packed with innovative new technologies, and are crafted with the most cutting-edge components to ever grace a fly rod. To see more of the Sector Series, or learn about our new Carbon Web and Ceracoil, visit scottflyrod.com or your nearest authorized Scott fly shop.

Colorado, USA | 970-249-3180 | scottflyrod.com


WISH LIST FISH

SAWAI

PETER COETZEE WEIGHS IN ON THE COOLEST C AT H E E V E R M E T

O

n a work trip to Thailand in 2009, a last minute move to dodge my colleagues - and save my liver – saw me placed in Tim’s house. Tim was a British expat fly fisherman, who, when I initially called him, hung up after I asked him if he’d take me fishing.  I mumbled “fly fishing” as the call was on the way out. He called back immediately, “Why didn’t you say so!? I thought you were a regular fisherman and was going to tell you to sod off.” Oh boy, I thought, I’m in for an experience akin to Daffy in The Beach.   Tim had a few things in mind. Snakehead and Oxeye Tarpon (the former basically sharked all the latter), and then a few Sawai and Pacu. Yes…Pacu, you read that right.  I hadn’t yet encountered Sawai, Pangasius hypophthalmus, an Asian catfish native to the Mekong river system and other rivers throughout Thailand and Vietnam. Those in tune with the Aquarium trade will know of the ‘Iridescent Shark’ – it’s the same fish.  They’re also sometimes called ‘Striped Cats,’ ‘Sutchi Cats,’ ‘Freshwater Shark’ or ‘Patin.’  It was early Google days, and “Sawai” didn’t bring up too many results on Google, but I expected to be in for something a bit more

12

like our South African cats than the South American ones. I was very wrong. I can’t speak for their behaviour in their native river systems, but in the dams and lakes I fished for them, they hunted, shoaled and behaved far more like a pelagic fish than a freshwater catfish. This may have been due to this particular group having to outrun and outfeed the alien Pacu, who, eventually became an absolute pest due to their ability to chase down pretty much anything. The Sawai also possess ridiculous fighting ability. The first Sawai I got was sighted on the surface, in a shoal of his peers, and the first run was sublime. After about half a strip, all hell broke loose and the only reason I could stop the fish was because it ran out of real estate about 150m from me.  In hand, it was nothing like a freshwater fish either.  Its skin was like a Leervis (Lichia amia), its face like a Mekong catfish/alien and on the back end it had a very predatory tail.  It even looked pelagic in hand. Tim and I didn’t chum for them, which apparently can be done. Once a few fish sounded, we couldn’t seem to get a bite out of the shoals from anything other than the pesky pacu, who decimated my entire Whistler and Zonker supply.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


YETI® NOW AVAILABLE IN SOUTH AFRICA

GABON - TROPHY TARPON

SEYCHELLES - ALPHONSE ISLAND

CAPE STREAMS - WILD TROUT


FODDER

BOOZE & BEATS THE WHISKEY – THOMAS & THOMAS & WHISTLEPIG

Kanye with Adidas, Bieber with Post Malone, Run DMC with Aerosmith, Howler with Topo… collabs in music and fashion are nothing new, but in the world of fly fishing and whiskey, they are. That’s why we love what Thomas & Thomas, award-winning Whistlepig Rye Whiskey from Vermont and the Independent Stave Company (ISC) have been up to. To celebrate Thomas & Thomas’s 50th anniversary, they brought out a commemorative bamboo rod built by T&T’s lauded bamboo rod master Troy Jacques. The Tonkin bamboo that goes into the 7ft 6 inch five-weight, two-piece rods is lightly toasted by Jacques over a Whistlepig rye whiskey barrel, which gives it a unique character (if you actually smell whiskey…it’s probably just your breath) while the reel seat is made from the white oak barrel staves used in the production of the whiskey. The thread accents match the coloration of the Whistlepig 15-year-old bottle, a bottle of which is included when you splash out on one of these rare, pricey collector’s rods. thomasandthomas.com, whistlepigwhiskey.com

14

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


THE SERVICE THE HAZE CLUB

Photo. Warren van Rensburg

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, all over the world marijuana is getting legalised. Places like Canada and the US (who ironically led the war on drugs) are now at the forefront of the big weed business. States like Colorado have raked in $1 billion in state revenue since they legalised it. Drive through the industrial areas of Denver and you’ll see the giant warehouses of weed brands. Illinois, which legalised it on the first of January, made $3,2 million on opening day alone.

THE BEATS – TONY KIETZMAN This issue’s beats was devised by our lifer from Issue 1, Tony Kietzman, aka the OG South African trout bum, aka the Colossus of Rhodes (not the Greek island, but rather the tiny Eastern Cape Village which doubles as the centre of the South African troutiverse). With 38 classic tunes from Tom Waits, Dan Patlanksy and Dylan, to the Stones, REM, Amy Winehouse and more, South Africa’s original trout bum hath provideth and then some. 1. Your Gold Teeth - Steely Dan 2. Planet Claire - B52s 3. Tremendous Pain - Yello 4. Temptation - Diana Krall 5. Easy Money - Lowell George 6. Phaethon - Patricia Barber 7. Backside of Paradise - Dan Patlansky 8. Dance on Vaseline- David Byrne 9. Ridin’ with the Blues - Ry Cooder 10. Lazybones- Soul Coughing 11. Thunder on the Mountain - Bob Dylan 12. Plague Café - Radio Rats 13. Should I stay or should I go- The Clash 14. 1979 - Smashing Pumpkins

15. Heartattack and Vine - Tom Waits 16. A Forest - The Cure 17. Losing my Religion - REM 18. Everything is Broken - Bob Dylan 19. Down Down Down - Tom Waits 20. Patricia Barber - Hunger 21. Russians - Sting 22. Stop this World - Diana Krall 23. It might as well be Spring - Stacey Kent 24. Willya Woncha - Bonnie Raitt 25. Everloving woman - JJ Cale 26. Cousin Dupree - Steely Dan 27. Yassassin - David Bowie 28. Crosseyed and Painless - Talking Heads 29. Strange Ritual - David Byrne 30. Love me like a Man - Bonnie Raitt 31. Haitian Divorce - Steely Dan 32. Sugar the Road - Ten Years After 33. Le Grange - ZZ Top 34. Stray Cat Blues - Rolling Stones 35. Prodigal Son - Ry Cooder 36. Brand New Car - Rolling Stones 37. I’m a Little Mixed Up - Diana Krall 38. Rehab - Amy Winehouse PRESS PLAY

South Africa, as usual, is a little slower on the uptake. Even our neighbours Lesotho are cashing in, but at least we have finally made it legal for individuals to grow plants for private consumption. That’s where The Haze Club, aka THC, comes in. Working with the Constitutional Court lawyers who won us our individual rights, The Haze Club provides a clever, perfectly legal marijuana cultivation and delivery service. How you ask? Simple. You provide them with the seeds of your favourite strain; they grow the plants for you, harvest and deliver your weed when it’s ready. It’s legal because the space upon which your two plants (no more) are grown is leased by THC to you as your private space, thereby making it above board. No more dodgy deals involving dark alleys and bankies dragged from behind a carguard’s ballbag. Nossir! The times they are a changing and this classy service is a sign of that. Find out more at thehazeclub.co.za


FODDER

MUNCHIES

THE HIGHLAND HONEY LOAF

Guide, James Kirsten, of African Waters (the artists formerly known as Tourette Fishing), on his Lesotho Loaf, his Bokong Bread, his Basotho Brioche. “One advantage of guiding in Lesotho is that there isn’t much out here. Unreal scenery, breath-taking views and phenomenal fishing, yes. . . but the convenience of a small Pick n Pay or Spar to grab a loaf of bread? Not so much. That’s why the Makhangoa Community Camp is not only a top fishing camp, but also a world class high altitude bakery. “There are many ways to make bread, for sure. But time and effort seem to be valuable commodities these days. So here is a quick and easy step-by-step process to make our homemade honey loaf. It’s an absolute cracker with guests as the baking process is entertaining and the bread tastes great. It works with almost anything from a morning fry-up to a hot chicken curry (it also impresses the hell out of the betties, boet!). Give it a bash, you won’t be disappointed.” africanwaters.net

Ingredients

• cups white bread flour • heaped teaspoon salt • ¾ packet yeast (7/8 grams) • 50g Butter • 2 tablespoons honey (more if wanting sweeter) • 1 cup water

16

Process

1 Begin by mixing all your dry ingredients together. Throw the flour, salt and yeast into a big glass bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. 2 The next step is mixing your wet ingredients. Melt the butter and honey in half a cup of boiling water. Once those have melted, fill the rest of the cup with cold water, leaving you with a cup of lukewarm water, butter and honey solution. 3 You can now start mixing your wet and dry ingredients together. The key here is to add the wet ingredients slowly into the dry ingredients. Pour, stir, pour, stir. . . until your mixture becomes dough. Bear in mind that you might not use all the wet ingredients. Your dough should be sticky to the touch. 4 Once you have a big ball of wettish dough it’s now time to knead. Work the dough with your hands adding pinches of flour if too wet. Knead the dough for a good eight minutes, or until the old tennis elbow kicks in. The dough should no longer be sticky, but rather have a soft and airy texture. 5 Roll the dough into a big sausage and then cut it into three smaller sausages, lengthways. You can then do a simple plait with the three strains of dough. If confused about the plait, ask the betty you are trying to impress. 6 Once plaited, place it on a greased baking tray and allow it to rise in a warm spot for a good 20 minutes. 7 Once the dough has risen and is starting to look somewhat like a loaf, place it into a firing pizza oven for 22 minutes, or until golden brown. If you don’t have a pizza oven, then a standard oven preheated to 220 degrees will do the trick. 8 Take the loaf out and place it on an aerated surface to rest. 9 Slice, serve and enjoy!

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


HIGH FIVES

JOHANN DU PREEZ F R O M H I S T I M E S P E N T I N L ES OT H O, S U DA N A N D TA N Z A N I A W I T H A F R I CA N WAT E R S ( FO R M E R LY TO U R E T T E F I S H I N G ) , J O H A N N D U P R E E Z H AS G O N E O N TO G U I D E I N B O L I V I A FO R D O R A D O A N D PAC U . H I S L AT EST G I G I S G U I D I N G C L I E N TS I N TO A R A PA I M A AT R E WA EC O LO D G E I N G U YA N A W H E R E H E WO R KS FO R S U STA I N A B L E , C O M M U N I T Y- O W N E D F LY F I S H I N G EC OTO U R I S M P I O N E E R S I N D I F LY. W E CAU G H T U P W I T H J O H A N N I N T H E J U N G L E V I A CA R R I E R - PA R R OT.

5 best things about where you guide? 1. Listening to lions roar while enjoying a gin and tonic around the camp fire in Tanzania is pretty hard to beat. 2. Catching big eye trevally at night from the back of the mothership in Sudan was always a favourite activity of mine. 3. Lunchtime swims in the magic pool and tumbling down the Kasingo rapids on the Mnyera River in Tanzania with my fellow guides. 4. Getting to know the locals. I have been fortunate to be immersed in so many different cultures and learning from them. 5. Hand lining for species with the locals. It is amazing how many different fish you can catch with a simple hook, line and a piece of meat. 5 fishing-connected items you don’t leave home without before making a mission? 1. I never go guiding without my sketchbook and pens. The places I go are so inspiring for great artwork. 2. My Fujifilm X-t2 camera goes with me wherever I go. I have captured some incredible things with it. 3. I have a lucky Howler Brothers cap that has seen three continents and hundreds of fish with me. 4. I never travel without a good pair of ‘plakkies’ (flip flops). They are the closest thing to being barefoot without looking like a hobo in public. 5. A couple of pairs of Costa sunglasses are indispensable. 5 bands to listen to while on a road trip? 1. Sutherland.  2. Blitzen trapper. 3. Nothing but thieves. 4. Anything Francois van Coke is doing (Fokofpolisiekar, Van Coke Kartel, his solo albums as well as collaborations). 5. Jack White (Solo albums, The Raconteurs, White Stripes). 5 things you are loving right now 1. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Petersen is a book I highly recommend to anyone. 2. Edgar at Sightline Provisions (purveyors of fine leather and metal mangles) is coming up with some incredibly cool designs at the moment.

18

3. I recently invested in a Fujifilm XF 10-24mm lens that has changed the game for my fish photography. 4. Frigate Reserve Rum. The only hangover worth having. 5. My J-vice. I recently got one and I can’t even imagine tying with anything else now. 5 indispensable flies for saltwater? 1. Tan spawning shrimp. 2. White phlexo crab. 3. Flash clouser, olive over white with a splash of red. 4. Pearl white gamechangers. I usually carry some sharpies and colour them to match the ‘hatch’. 5. NYAP’s. 5 indispensable flies for freshwater? 1. Chief nymph (a pattern designed for smallmouth yellow fish, but works for many others too). 2. Para Adams. 3. Foam hoppers or Chernobyl ants. 4. Zonker minnows with deerhair heads (muishond style flies). 5. I recently started tying this bulk head style fly called the Gigabyte. It is a hollow tied buck tail deceiver with layers of ostrich hurl and flash in between. It has fooled many golden dorados and arapaimas. 5 favourite fly fishing destinations across SA? 1. Lower Orange River in the Kalahari for largies (largemouth yellowfish). 2. The Bokong River in Lesotho for brown trout and smallmouth yellowfish (yes I know it’s not SA but it might as well be). 3. Breede River for grunter, leeries (garrick) and kob. 4. Tankwa Karoo for Clanwilliam yellowfish (I cannot give any specifics on the location, apparently it’s a secret;). 5. Gateshead on the Bokspruit near Barkly East. It is where I caught my first fish on fly and will forever be a favourite spot of mine. 5 of the most underrated species in your book? 1. Arapaima are undoubtedly the most underrated fish. These giant, beautiful fish are the largest scaled freshwater fish on the planet. That should be enough reason to go for

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


Like Pac-man on power pellets, this palm nut-snacking Pacu could not resist a nut fly.


“I OFTEN WONDER WHAT FISH WOULD LOOK LIKE IF THEY HAD TONGUES LIKE HUMANS AND WERE CAPABLE OF FACIAL EXPRESSIONS.”


Skinny water, big dorado, fish net stockings - in Bolivia you can live out your dreams, whatever they may be.

them, but more than that they are hard to hook and they put up one hell of an aerial fight. 2. Pacu are pound for pound the strongest fresh water fish I have encountered. The fact that they eat fruit just makes them even cooler. 3. Longfin jacks from the west coast of Africa are spectacularly beautiful and strong fish. Like prettier versions of GTs. 4. The Clanwillian yellowfish is by far my favourite yellow fish species. The way they eat flies and run for structure is awesome! 5. The humble batfish is super entertaining. Nobody is ready for how strong those buggers are.

22

5 favourite fly fishing destinations globally? 1. Bolivia has to be one of the best destinations on the planet. From golden dorado to pacu and everything else in between it is just pure adrenalin. 2. Rewa Eco Lodge in Guyana has blown my mind. Catching the world’s largest fresh water fish from small ponds in the jungle. What’s not to like? 3. The Mnyera and Ruhudji rivers in Tanzania with African Waters. Best tiger fishing I have ever done. 4. Sette Cama Lodge in Gabon. Truly the land of giants and the species fishing is unreal. 5. Abaco Lodge in the Bahamas was incredible… before

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


4. Having to service waterpumps and generators, while getting eaten alive by bugs or getting drenched by torrential rain in Bolivia on top of guiding a very physical season was pretty brutal. 5. I once had to guide a guy who knocked me off my boat into the crocodile infested Okavango River because he had a bad limp. He also arrived a day early for a ten day trip, forgot his medicine at home and couldn’t tell which way the river was flowing. It was a disaster! 5 flies to pack (in the smuggler kit under your driver’s seat) to cover most species?  1. Black woolly buggers in many sizes. 2. Foam hoppers. Everything from trout to tigerfish will eat them. 3. White gamechangers. 4. Olive sempers. 5. Squirmy worms (even the smartest fish won’t say no to those things). 5 people you would like to guide or fish with? 1. My dad. He doesn’t fish, but I would just like to spend more time with him outside. 2. I would love to fish again with Tom Sutcliffe. He has taught me more than he will ever know. 3. I would like to fish with Dave Mangum for tarpon. He is probably the most dialed-in tarpon guide on the planet. 4. Ed (the head) Truter. He knows more about African fisheries than most people and he is always entertaining. 5. Will Farrell, I think fishing with him would be an absolute blast. Just imagine the chaos. 5 fish on your species hit list? 1. Mongolian taimen have been on my list for more than 10 years now. 2. Rooster fish in Mexico looks like the maximum fun on a fly rod. 3. Goliath tigers in Central Africa with Goliath Expeditions. 4. Nile Perch in Cameroon with African Waters. 5. Bumphead parrot fish. They are such weirdos and never easy to catch.

Hurricane Dorian got hold of it. That being said, I can’t wait for what Oliver (White, the owner) is going to rebuild in the near future. 5 of the most difficult guiding experiences so far? 1. Getting caught in a flash flood in Bolivia and having to swim across a raging river with a bunch of gear. I nearly died. 2. Watching clients lose the fish of their dreams. This is just part of fishing, but it still sucks. 3. Dealing with clients who are so obsessed with catching fish that they miss out on the beautiful surroundings. I don’t have time for people who can’t appreciate the small things.

5 shower thoughts that have occurred to you while fishing? 1. Never underestimate a short cast or a slow strip (that applies to the fairer sex too). 2. I often wonder what fish would look like if they had tongues like humans and were capable of facial expressions. 3. No reason to plan a fishing day because it will always surprise the hell out of you. 4. If bonefish got their name from being full of bones, then why isn’t a permit called a shitfish? 5. I wonder if fish ever go back into the water and brag to their friends about the size of the human that caught them.  5 flies that to look at make no sense but that catch fish all the time? 1. A Perdigon nymph. It only catches fish because it sinks quickly. 2. San Juan worm. WTF? 3. Wiggle tails. Like crack for fish. 4. Elk hair caddis. It’s almost too simple. 5. Gummy minnows.


From the piazzas of Venice to the triggerfish flats of Sudan, street artists are some of the most persistent salesmen on the planet.

5 destinations on your bucket list? 1. Mongolia, not just for the fishing. It just looks like a beautiful landscape with cool people. 2. Cosmoledo has to be on everybody’s list. 3. Columbia. It has a ridiculous number of species. 4. Anaa atoll in French Polynesia. It has great fishing for Napoleon wrasse. 5. Kamchatka in the Russian far East is a place I desperately want to visit.

5 essential ingredients for an incredible mission? 1. The wilder the place, the more exciting the adventure. 2. If I can switch off my phone for a few days I am happy. 3. Good friends. Fishing is an experience that had to be shared. 4. No mission is complete without a big camp fire and some braaivleis (BBQ/Asado/grilled meat/Zoroastrian sacrifice). 5. The chance of having wild and unexpected encounters with Mother Nature. 

5 things you would take up if you weren’t always fly fishing? 1. Dating sounds like fun. 2. I would love to get a dog again. 3. I really want to get into bow hunting. 4. I would go to film school. 5. I would probably start making actual money with my art.

5 common mistakes that most clients make? 1. They don’t read the pre-trip information or listen to briefings. 2. They forget that even though they have fished a destination for a week every year over the last ten years, they still probably haven’t seen as much as a guide sees in one season. 3. If you are going to make the time and pay all that money to go on a fly fishing trip, make sure you go for casting instruction. It will make life easier for all! 4. They forget to look around and enjoy the views. Fly fishing usually happens in pretty places. 5. They start casting before the guide has finished directing them. One good cast is always better than a few average ones. Take your time, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

5 things about fly fishing that you may never understand? 1. Why fish always rise just as you are about to leave. 2. How fly line manages to hook even the most impossible little objects. 3. Why do girls or small kids always catch the biggest fish? 4. Why do we still call casting knots, wind knots? Let’s be honest... 5. Why do anglers always want to cast as far as possible into the middle of the river and then fish back to the bank when they are in the middle of the river?

24

Your last five casts were to…? A rolling arapaima in the jungle of Guyana. Follow Johann @johanndupree_flyfishing

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


Distributed by Xplorer Fly fishing - www.xplorerflyfishing.co.za Email: jandi@netactive.co.za or call 031-564-7368 for your closest dealer.


THE SUCK R E N O W N E D S A D O - M A S O C H I S T, JAMES TOPHAM, ON THE BEST OF THE WORST TIMES IN A GUIDE’S LIFE. Photos. James Topham

W

hile the soaking salt water spray from the bow of the skiff is the bane of my day, sometimes I find myself missing it for its harshness and for the feeling of doing something uncomfortable and rugged. Since those blustery overcast mornings on St Brandon’s, I’ve never had a morning where I feel so awake, so afraid of failing, so alive and hard-core and, of course, so wet.

Looking back on my memories of my formative years guiding, I’ve just now realised that all my fondest memories are of the things that I thought were making me miserable. Getting soaked first thing in the morning; eating fish and rice for months on end; tough days on the water; difficult clients; violently rough ocean crossings... all of those make me feel really good about myself because, even though we probably bitched about it at the time, I know that there was a huge part of me that was revelling in “The Suck”. If you had to ask me to time travel to the part of my guiding that meant the most, it probably wouldn’t be that 20 GT day, or when the fishing was so easy it made me look like a god. It would probably be all the way back, to my first ever day out on the water on Farquhar atoll, Seychelles.  Keith Rose-Innes and I were offshore in the worst weather I’ve seen before or since, trying to put petrified clients onto Doggies. The waves were so huge and our skiffs so small and I was shitting myself so thoroughly there were moments I honestly couldn’t believe that we wouldn’t sink. We just had to. But we did get back and while the Spaniards were giving thanks to Mother Mary I was secretly and deeply riding out the last of the most intense adrenaline rush I’ve ever had. I thought at the time that I wasn’t cut out to be a guide, that I wasn’t tough enough to endure it, but that may have been the exact moment I gained the ability to handle just about any situation on the water with confidence. Keith, on the other hand, realised he was feeling peckish and made a mental note to eat a bigger breakfast before going offshore during the tail end of a hurricane.  I came to love The Suck, because it wasn’t the norm. Guiding under perfect blue skies with a gentle breeze at your back and a shoal of tailing fish in ankle deep water in front of you is truly an ethereal feeling, but being whipped by Mother Nature has an indescribable effect. On that day offshore with Keith, during the run back to the lodge, we had to pass through the main channel back into the lagoon. The tide was ebbing

26

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


“I THOUGHT AT THE TIME THAT I WASN’T CUT OUT TO BE A GUIDE, THAT I WASN’T TOUGH ENOUGH TO ENDURE IT, BUT THAT MAY HAVE BEEN THE EXACT MOMENT I GAINED THE ABILITY TO HANDLE JUST ABOUT ANY SITUATION ON THE WATER WITH CONFIDENCE.” and the channel ran out to sea like a river. The opposing swell and current made the waves even bigger, and while we climbed and fell between the crests I looked to my left and saw the windsock at the end of the runway. It wasn’t flapping, it just stood perfectly perpendicular to its pole, as solid as if it had been stuffed with wool. Worst of all, it wasn’t moving along the horizon. I battled the current and waves for what seemed an age but was probably only thirty seconds. When I looked back at the wind sock it was still exactly in the same position on my port side. I looked aft. Keith was just behind me and that was a huge relief. I wasn’t alone and if anything happened Keith would pick me up. Inexplicably the boat began to win the battle against the waves and current and we began to make progress. I began to laugh hysterically. I laughed and laughed until we reached the flat lagoon and then embarrassingly I whooped. The Spaniards looked at me like I’d completely lost my grip on reality. Despite nearly disgracing myself that day, I would love to go back and do it again. I’m so incredibly glad I was there. Of course, I’m not completely full of shit and there are some rough times I wouldn’t want to relive. Although it only happened once or twice, I never enjoyed a client losing his temper with me. Those memories come to me every now and then and they make me wince, and I hope it never happens

28

again. I don’t care to expand on it either, not here, but if you ever bump into me and we have a cold beer I’ll elaborate. Driving a jet boat in a snowstorm isn’t as much fun as one would imagine, nor is getting infected dermatitis on your feet from wading in the salt for months on end. Long fishless days, mechanical failures on boats and island fever are all things I don’t miss at all. I know some guides that were stuck on Farquhar when Hurricane Fantala completely devastated it. I asked Justin Rollinson if it had been perhaps just a little thrilling to witness the full wrath of Mother Nature. He told me that it was in no way, shape or form even remotely “cool”. Through the tough times I had my guide friends. Every evening when we got off the boat we sat together, without phones or internet or television, and talked. We ranted and raged when we needed to, and we laughed and commiserated. When something frustrating or frightening, or unusual and amazing happened out on the water, the first thought was usually, ‘I can’t wait to tell the boys about this’. If we didn’t have a story to tell then we’d look forward to getting back to the guide shack and hearing what Scoty De Bruyn had to say. It’s these stories that I cherish, both good and bad, and I hope one day I’ll get to tell them to my grandkids. Then again, maybe I’ll ask Scoty to come over and he can tell them himself.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


ST BRANDON’S

BLISS POINTS IN THE MAKING OF FOOD P R O D U C T S , S C I E N T I S T S H AV E D E V E L O P E D T H E ‘ B L I S S P O I N T,’ WHICH IS THE PERFECT AMOUNT REQUIRED OF AN INGREDIENT L I K E S A LT, S U G A R A N D FAT TO OPTIMISE A PRODUCT’S DELICIOUSNESS (AND MAKE Y O U FAT ) . T H E T H E O R Y I S T H AT C O M B I N AT I O N S O F S U G A R , FAT A N D S A LT A C T S Y N E R G I S T I C A L LY A N D A R E M O R E R E WA R D I N G THAN ANY ONE INGREDIENT ON ITS OWN. WHEN APPLIED TO T H E F O R M U L A O F W H AT M A K E S A B R I L L I A N T F LY F I S H I N G T R I P, Y O U C O U L D S W O P S U G A R , S A LT A N D FAT F O R G R E AT F I S H I N G , G O O D F R I E N D S A N D PA R A D I S E . ON THE REMOTE INDIAN OCEAN ARCHIPELAGO OF ST BRANDON’S, NIC SCHWERDTFEGER HIT T H AT T R I F E C TA O V E R A N D O V E R A G A I N . I T WA S A T R I P H I G H O N DELICIOUSNESS.

Photos: Nick Schwerdtfeger, Flycastaway “How’s my hair, Blue?” “Strong, real strong.”

30


T

he alarm went off the second time, exponentially more painful than the first. Root canal on a rum hangover seemed a more pleasant idea than having to get out of bed. The coffee offshore is pretty much the only reason the oil and gas sector in Norway hasn’t collapsed yet. It’s also only down one floor from my cabin to the mess where a 5-star hotel buffet breakfast awaits me every morning. Day 10 of 14 had begun. I could feel I was drained, physically and mentally gatvol*. I needed a break, and soon.

Let me just clear something up off the bat, working on offshore oil rigs in Norway is extremely comfortable, the standard of living, safety, food and welfare is top notch. But you work for it. And we work damn hard around the clock to keep Europe’s energy needs in check. But regardless of how comfortable it is, I had been working more than usual, a lot more. Between guiding on the Gaula river for Atlantic salmon in summer and the odd offshore trip in between guiding, I worked flat out for a six-month period. I knew that I needed to shift gears to avoid a neurotic episode of sorts. Soon enough, an opportunity came up via the Whippit Wednesday Whatsapp fly tying chat group. One of the Flycastaway guides dropped a hint that there might be some cancellations to St Brandon’s atoll off Mauritius towards the end of the season. There were three rods available. My imagination immediatelty floated me away from the drillers’ cabin on a semi-sub in the North Atlantic, to wading along a sand spit tracking down a school of obscenely overweight bonefish. “Fuck,” I thought to myself, “it would be awesome to fish a destination like that some day.” Most of my fly fishing mates have either guided or fished there during some part of their feather chucking career. It seems almost like a right of passage. Meanwhile back on board, it was only 10:30am and I was set to work until at least 21:00 that night.

since working offshore most of the time, means I’m hardly ever at home to check the mail. Fellow Whippiter Andre Van Wyk had recently refined a new GT pattern resembling a Beast/Chosen One that I like the look of. Problem is, it’s about the length of my forearm and looks like way too much work. Also ,Wookie hair, Yak pubes and Dolly Parton’s pony tail weren’t materials I could get hold of anytime soon. I tied to the best of my ability and came up with a decent amount of what I would call good quality “BIRBS”. A baitfish/Van Wyk inspired, long tailed hollow fleye-ish thing. It’s got a round profile, great movement and is almost all natural fibre. It also looks like an over-fed small ‘birb’, hence the meme-inspired name. Tying done, after a brief visit back home in Cape Town, Riaan, Warwick and myself were soon on a flight to Mauritius.

Great. A few weeks went by and in that time my mates Riaan and Warwick had committed. Smokey the Bear (aka Andreas Linz) was on the fence so, sensing weakness, I managed to convince him to surrender his spot. Deal sealed. Deposit paid. Bang, I was going to St Brandon’s. Next challenge – flies! Here’s where I had a big problem as, in Norway, I literally can’t get hold of any saltwater materials or hooks. So, I had to order online which is also a shit show

32

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


“DEAL SEALED. DEPOSIT PAID. BANG, I WAS GOING TO ST BRANDON’S.”


Bro! Boet! Jrrrrrjassussfok! High fives, chest bump, wooooohooooo! Sausage party! Bear-fest! Warwick Leslie, Justin Rollinson and the author feel the vibe.

St Brandon’s atoll lies smack bang in the middle of the Indian ocean. From Mauritius it’s a 28-30 hour boat ride on a loud but comfortable supply vessel. I imagined we were like the A-team. Riaan, the hard-as-nails Afrikaans ex-military type (now financial guru) would definitely deal with any pirates we might encounter. He probably knew first aid and could shoot the beak off a pigeon from 200m with a .22. Warwick, the MD of pimp-my-bakkie specialists Alu-Cab, would definitely be the MacGyver in the trio, fixing the 9000 DB diesel motor should it fry a piston, or fashion a life raft if we hit a reef and sank the vessel. Me? Well I was terrified, but took comfort in knowing that should the boat sink, I had a luminous orange bag that floated, so that could buy me some

34

time until the plethora of pelagic shark species got hold of me. I’m used to big seas and rough weather on boats, but there was something about a crossing of that distance and how remote we were that didn’t sit well with me. I also don’t react well to sleeping tablets and all the other pharmaceutical cocktails the rest of the guys were slamming. I would be awake and on edge for most of the voyage. I won’t bore you with the misery of what a 30-hour boat trip in shitty weather is like, but the final few hours of the evening before we anchored were pretty electric. Everyone had woken up in time to catch the last rays of sun as we started to see land masses and some shipwrecks

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


“ST BRANDON’S ATOLL LIES SMACK BANG IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INDIAN OCEAN.”

again. The atoll system is pretty big, with a few permanent islands in the north and south and never-ending flats and sand spits that make up a massive lagoon in between. As we arrived, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a massive splash and the unmistakable sound of a large something slapping the the water. At first I thought it was a large billfish, since we had just hauled out a few bonito on the back lines we had dangling over the stern. Immediately, it broke the surface again. A massive manta ray. It did a few backflops in quick succession before disappearing into the deep indigo abyss. Seeing things like that makes you remember two things: we must be pretty far from civilization, and, since these creatures are here and the ecosystem seems intact, we have not destroyed it yet.


Golden trevally and a sneaky door knob.

Arriving at Raphael Island where we would spend the next week living, we were greeted by guides Craig and Justin in the skiffs. We swiftly grabbed our hand luggage and jumped aboard, high 5’s all round hugs and general stoke as we met the rest of the team. We would fish two rods on a boat per guide, and rotate throughout the week until we had all fished with each other. I prefer this strategy as opposed to fishing with one partner and guide for the week. The first day I was with Warwick and the silent, but deadly, Justin Rollinson as our guide for the day. We went to a little sand spit on the low tide first, to warm up on some schooling bonefish and maybe scope out a crab-eating sickle fin thing (aka permit). The drive there was nuts, the flats, bommies, turtle grass patches and bits of reef outcrop were endless. The only thing that breaks them up is an odd channel of wide, deeper water here and there that is obviously essential for letting the mass of water move around on the inside of the lagoon. One of the first things I noticed after anchoring the skiff on the sand, was the amount of life in the water. I waded past a turtle, then another one. Then I saw an absolute unit of a lemon shark cruising on the outskirts of the sand I was standing on.

38

I struggled at first, my casting was off, probably being self conscious in front of the other two, I missed more shots than Bruce Willis in the early 90’s. Knots in my running line, too little line out, too much line out, I was just plain hacking. Justin also isn’t the kind of guy to “coach”. He just gave me a look every time I botched it. Eventually I wandered off on my own and stalked a school of not so intelligent looking bonefish. I took cover behind a few bigger rocks and made a cast into the channel they were moving through. The light was hard and I didn’t see where the fly landed. I let the spawning shrimp sink for a brief second before stripping the line steadily and slowly. I felt the fly get picked up, and I moved the rod to set the hook, pulling the fly out. A second later the fish picked it up again, and intuitively I paused, paused a little longer and then set the hook properly. BANG ON! I wasn’t interested in tiring the fish out and having a good old one to one, I just wanted to land the damn thing so that I could get a score on the board and be done with it. So I got him to my feet within a minute. The sheer disappointment at not seeing a bonefish was immeasureable. Some snotty little Spangled Emperor had decided to engulf the shrimp and had me hooting and dancing around for no reason. I didn’t bother

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


taking a picture or even inspecting this obstreperous little punk. I cursed in Norwegian as he swam away. (Swearing in Norway always has a biblical connotation, making it that much more dramatic). A few moments later while walking back to the others, it struck me. That was a stunning looking fish and, I later found out, a decent size for the species. Had this been almost anywhere else in the world, he would have been a prize. I had taken it for granted and would later realise I should have taken a picture, because this was the only one I would land in my week at St Brandon’s. There’s so much going on on the flats, that it’s a bit overwhelming. You have to pay attention to pick things up early, and you get into a different gear walking down the beach with your rods in hand. Without sounding cliched, it really is a different state of awareness. You are also constantly

40

reminded that by entering the water here, you are part of the food chain. As we spotted a school of bones that I had a good shot on, I ran ahead to try to increase my chances by not having to cast into the wind. As I got somewhere in between knee and waist deep and was sorting the line out, I looked up to see where the fish were moving and two large black dorsal fins caught my eye. I squinted and tried to make out the shapes in the wave, sharks. Big ones. They were surfing the wave in towards the island, probably swatting reef fish as they glided behind the face of the roller. I realised what I was doing and slowed down, a lot. “Hey Justin! What are those?” I gestured with my rod tip in the general direction of the two organic meat grinders. He hesitated for a moment and looked up and down through his polarised sunnies. “Tigers bru, big ones.” I was sort of in no man’s land. If they had locked on to me and made

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


Proud parents in the bonefish delivery room.

“YOU ARE ALSO CONSTANTLY REMINDED THAT BY ENTERING THE WATER HERE, YOU ARE PART OF THE FOOD CHAIN�

an effort, I was done. But they looked preoccupied, so I changed my trajectory to put some distance between us. I had faith in my small but stout-bearded guide. Surely if he felt I was in danger, he would give me some sort of heads up? So if he was chilled, I should be chilled? Right? Right. Onwards. I lost track of the school of bones I was stalking. After landing his next fish, Warwick was back on the beach, changing flies and talking to Justin. I had given up for the time being. These bonefish were getting the better of me. I was also making my way to the beach to get my life together and drink some much needed water. I had, by now, made a habit of checking over my shoulders when exiting the water and just as I got to about knee deep I did a quick final scan before the last stretch.


“GEEEEEEEETTT!!!! I SCREAMED HARD AS I FELT MY MOUTH GO DRY.” GEEEEEEEETTT!!!! I screamed hard as I felt my mouth go dry. Sheer panic for a few seconds as I went through the “fight or flight” mechanism. The question was could I get a shot on this? Justin immediately shifted a gear and started walking into the surf towards me. “Drop your rod, grab your 12!” I chucked the 9-weight where I stood, understanding he would take care of it. Racing back to get on to the shelf before the fish saw me, I could feel my legs going weak. I wasn’t breathing, I had lost control of basic bodily functions in the madness of it all. I was mumbling to myself. I had become some sort of gibbering imbecile. Frantically stripping line off the reel, I sped up. “Cast now, cast now!” Justin was shouting in the background. I was within a long cast length of the fish. It was a slob of a fish, an overfed, zoo-kept Bengal tiger of a fish. The line was in the air and the tan concoction on the end was getting the ride of its life. The first cast landed shy of the fish and I could feel myself stripping at a ridiculous pace to get the line back in so I could get a second shot at him. I paused for just a second to read the fish and manage one and a half deep breaths, before lifting the rod again to get the line airborne. The cast was good, straight enough, and the fly landed a few metres off the fish’s nose. I waited just a second before I gave it a violent short strip.

And another, and another. He turned, his pecs flared out and he sped up. He had seen the fly and was racing towards it at a frightening pace. I had done this part before, I knew what was going to happen next. I had about 3-4m of flyline out still, and it all went apeshit. If I had previously thought this was a big GT, the gaping maw that opened and swallowed the tan Birb made me realise this was a truly sizeable creature. He took the fly, turned, and my brain told my left hand to hold the line as firmly as I could with my now non-existent strength. I set the hook, ONE, TWO, THREE left hooks to the jaw. It felt as I though I’d flattened the rod and yanked the line downwards. On three I felt something wrong. The fish had made a massive splash and was headed for the surf, but I was standing there on the shelf, very unamused and with a slack fly line in my left hand. I turned around and found Justin staring back at me with an open mouth. He just gave me a look. The most remarkable part of this trip was “The Day”. The GT day. Or to give it it’s full name, what Milan Germishuizen described as “The wildest GT fishing day in St Brandon’s in a while”.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

43


thinking from Milan and some team work, they got the fish to hand shortly afterwards . After the high 5’s, hugs and selfies were done, we headed further up the reef to the surf zone. We saw a few fish on the way, including a big school of smaller GTs cruising around the reef like a flock of geese on meth. With face tattoos. The definite highlight of the day was at around 11am when things just got nuts. I have never in my life seen that many GTs swimming on a flat. It was sheer chaos. Almost all of them looked 100cm if not bigger. I chased one pod of large fish cruising behind a shark, sent a tan Birb at Mach1 into the fray, got them all to turn, and out of nowhere a large bluefin T-boned the fly as I was leading it out of the pack. FUUUUUCK!!!!!!! Milan was on my shoulder screaming at the little blue goblin. I remember distinctly shouting, “Please God let one of these sharks or a Geet eat that damn bluefin.” While straight sticking him with a locked up SL7, the feeding frenzy had subsided and the martyr of a bluefin had not been eaten.

From my prime position in the front of the skiff, faaaaaaaar in the distance I made out the dorsal of a shark. We got a little closer and spotted fish on the back of the nurse shark that was now headed towards us. I jumped out of the boat and got my line ready to make a cast. The fly landed short of the fish, but he saw it, he turned, flared out his pecs and made a half-assed attempt to chase it before he gave me a very clear signal of “NOT INTERESTED PAL”. Our luck changed dramatically when we came up on a small sand spit and saw a few fish holding on the split between the bommies and beach sand. I went right and cast at a fish that was moving way too fast to be in feeding mode. Warwick, on the other hand, went left and two casts later hooked on to his first GT of the trip. The school was still around, but I was on the wrong side to make a cast, I started aqua-jogging as fast as I could to a spot where I could get an angle on the fish. I looked at Warwick trying desperately to keep his fish out of the minefield of bommies and noticed the parabolic shape of his rod. As I marveled at this, the unforgettable sound of a small firearm going off broke the silence as Warwick’s rod did its best 5-piece impression. Luckily, with some quick

I would love to give you a detailed day-by-day account of where, who, how many, how big and so forth, but instead I’ll sum up the trip like this: it was a massive success. We fished every day, we saw wild shit happen every day. We caught plenty of fish in all shapes and sizes every day. Success right? Well. I’ll let you in on a secret. I didn’t go to St Brandon’s with a single goal in mind, which means I didn’t set myself up to fail. I see it fairly often on my home waters when I’m guiding… the expectation. Guests that have an opportunity to fish an amazing fishery, but who get so caught up in the fishing and the micro details of it all, that they miss the big picture of being in the moment. It’s cool to nerd out and to take it seriously. But sometimes you have to enjoy the nature, the scenery and the people you spend your days with talking rubbish, discussing techniques and arguing over which 12 weight line is less shite. Instead of carrying the burden of expectation everywhere with me, I went to have a good time with two of my close fishing mates, and we had an absolute jol. Every cast on the boat or on the flats together was a memorable one, high 5s and smiles for every fish we landed and vloeking for every one we lost. I banked a few fish early on in the trip, landed a good geet on the second day, and caught my first ever bonefish. Halfway through that first day I opened my metaphorical cheque book and gave carte blanche to the guides. They would ask, “What you wanna try for tomorrow?” to which I would usually answer, “Whatever. Let’s just have a jol”. *gatvol = over it * vloeking = swearing * jol = good time

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

45


WITVIS

THE SENTINEL S M A L L M O U T H , L A R G E M O U T H , N ATA L S C A L I E S , L O W V E L D , C L A N N I E S … S O U T H A F R I C A’ S Y E L L O W F I S H S P EC I E S A R E L O V E D A N D L A U D E D , B U T S O M E C O U S I N S F LY U N D E R T H E R A D A R L I K E T H E E N D A N G E R E D W I T V I S . L E O N A R D F L E M M I N G R EC O U N T S W H AT I T T O O K T O C AT C H H I S F I R S T O N E A N D H O W H E ’ S B E E N C O N S I S T E N T LY TA R G E T I N G T H E M S I N C E T H E N .

Words & Photos Leonard Flemming


O

nce upon a time, long ago, before I had caught a proper specimen, I found it ironic that a local fish so well suited to fly fishing had been completely overshadowed by the thoughts of catching bass and trout. Surely a ‘Cape stream’ fish that grew well over 6 lb, lived in crystal clear water, ate invertebrates and is listed as one of our prime ‘yellowfishes’ should have been more popular? Yet when it came to witvis, most fly anglers in the Western Cape barely gave them a second thought. There was (and still is) so little literature available about catching witvis on fly tackle that it seemed as though people never bothered to try and catch this once abundant large barbine in the Breede and Berg Rivers using their trout gear. In fact, the Berg River witvis population was once so healthy that schools of the fish were described with as “excessively large” and present in their “thousands,” which gives us an inkling of how prolific they once were. Now they are extinct in this river.

What witvis remain in the Breede River and some of its tributaries may, in comparison to old literature, represent a small fraction of what were once there and, perhaps, they too are nearing extinction? I remember a day outing on the Breede River near Worcester when I was looking for bass to catch on lure and I found a large, dead witvis on a sand weir. The farmers had bulldozed a temporary barrier across the river to dam up summer irrigation water for their surrounding crops. The fish’s instinctive drive to reproduce and, in a sense, to secure the future survival of the species, had propelled it up the sandy slope and into an inch of water where it suffocated to death. I was fascinated by the dark fish, its ‘snout’ covered in tubercles suggesting spawning time and I wondered why on earth it was called witvis (whitefish, with emphasis on white)? The deep holes in its head revealed that a bird had, inevitably, found it before me and I had horrible visions of a struggling fish gasping for air and being eaten alive, peck by peck. I suddenly got very angry, cursing the farmers, cussing the lack of governance and then humanity for the selfish monsters we’ve become and the harm we’ve done to other living things. Like a sentinel species exposing our weak points I did not realise how critical the state of witvis was until I came across that dead fish. It was only then that I was attracted to the idea of catching a witvis on fly. That experience was to open my eyes. My friend and fellow fly angler, Billy de Jong, and I found that juvenile fish were rather easily fooled on big caddis larvae and hotspot nymphs, but the much wanted slate grey adults holding in the deeper water gave us the finger. Refusing every little (or any big) fly I twitched, dead-drifted or swung past their noses, they played so hard to get (worse than most Stellenbosch University girls), that after three years I eventually gave up.

48


27


While the big witvis prefer micro nymphs, the little guys rise to dries.

“WHAT WITVIS REMAIN IN THE BREEDE RIVER AND SOME OF ITS TRIBUTARIES MAY, IN COMPARISON TO OLD LITERATURE, REPRESENT A SMALL FRACTION OF WHAT WERE ONCE THERE AND, PERHAPS, THEY TOO ARE NEARING EXTINCTION?” More than a witvis-lacking decade later I met Garth Wellman and Armand Flies (ed, yes, that’s his real name), two of our country’s most dedicated and accomplished yellowfish fishermen. We were fishing for the bushveld yellowfish when Garth showed me their micro-nymphing technique. The method involved light rods and miniscule flies, #20 and smaller. It seemed bizarre that fish growing in excess of 10 lb could be interested in such tiny flies. My cynicism and distrust of 6X and 7X tippets that the flies were tied to had also never been greater. But that day we landed quality fish like it was child’s play. I was blown away by the skill and thought that Garth and Armand had put in to fine-tune such an effective technique, more sophisticated than anything I’ve seen or read about in South Africa, and micro-nymphing left its mark on me. Tied down at home for the past six months after the birth of a second son, I’d been forced to limit myself to day fishing trips and, since the Breede River valley is 30 minutes away, witvis naturally came up again as a feasible fishing target.

With micro-nymphing in mind, I carried a 3 wt rod, some 6X tippets and a box full of #20 nymphs as extra gear as I headed off on a seven kilometre hike over snaky terrain to get to the Breede riffles. Thanks to my three year old son’s nightmares the previous night and a subsequent tantrum on the way to school, I was exhausted. When I reached the edge of the water I saw small schools of adult witvis swimming up-and-down the bank. From past experience I didn’t expect much and nonchalantly rigged the 3 wt with 6X tippet and a #20 number from my box. The iridescent little nymph disappeared from sight on a short cast towards a large cruising fish. The fish suddenly changed direction and deliberately swam over to where I had imagined my fly could be. I waited, watching the indicator, but there was no movement, not a twitch until the fish started shaking its head, trying to eject the fake thing it had eaten. Not convinced that it had even seen my fly, never mind eaten it, I presented the fly to another fish and the reaction was the same.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

51


“A SCARCE FISH, SO TECHNICALLY DEMANDING THAT, TO ITS OWN DETRIMENT, FISHERMEN STOCKED ALIEN FISH SPECIES TO CATCH INSTEAD.” “No frikken ways,” I mumbled in disbelief, realising that these fish had actually seen and eaten the nymph. I repeated the steps, but this time I anticipated the take. A large witvis swam straight to where the fly had landed and stopped. Suspended, it flared its fins; I counted to two and struck. Everything happened so fast that I simply recall tension, an extraordinarily fast run and then looking down to my reel by which time the aluminium spool was visible under the last of the backing. After one of the most nerve racking fights I had ever experienced, the gorgeous dark fish lay on its side in front of me. Similar to the dead fish I had previously found in the Breede, there wasn’t a white scale on it. Instead, its body was a mix of fancy liquor with a splash of mature red on its gill plates. After that I somehow managed to guess the strike right on five more big witvis, all of them deliciously beautiful creatures, showing off colours of rich rum, whiskey and Burgundy. In a systematic time scale over a period of approximately fifteen years from the day I caught the first few juvenile witvis, I ignored them; failed to catch one on fly in Brandvlei

54

and Quaggaskloof Dams; randomly crossed paths with Garth Wellman; fished for large and smallscale yellowfish with flies so small that I would unlikely ever have tied them myself; spent over R 2000 on ‘micro’ fly stuff; eventually decided to sit down and tie ‘micro’ flies (which took many hours and even days to get the right proportions); dragged myself out of the front door to go fishing after almost no sleep due to the afore-mentioned toddler tantrum; went on a 7 km hike while already fatigued to find fish and figured out that I had to strike when I didn’t know that they had eaten my fly… This humbling experience brought me full circle to my initial take on witvis; they are now undoubtedly at the pinnacle of fly fishing for me. However, I wouldn’t blame anyone else if they had also given up on these mysterious fish due to a lack of success on fly. A scarce fish, so technically demanding that, to its own detriment, fishermen stocked alien fish species to catch instead. Knowing what I now know, on a sport fish scale of 10, in my opinion witvis deserves a perfect score. Let’s not allow this one to become extinct.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


SEVEN-YEAR

ITCH A STO RY O F TWO SMALLMOUTHS AND WAT E R UN DER THE BRIDGE By LeRoy Botha Photos Leonard Flemming, Andre van Wyk, Platon Trakoshis, LeRoy Botha, Peter Coetzee


1

4 November 2012. It’s incredibly hot and the wind is shunting. I’ve come prepared for a day or three’s fishing: food, tent, beer, gear. The Upper Gouritz River at this point is a wide, powerful river, always flowing crystal-clear during the smallmouth bass spawn. I’ve fished many seasons here – I know the drill. The resident smallmouth yellows and smallmouth bass are suckers for a Peacock Woolly Bugger, and while the bass model is my preferred target, I’m chasing yellows for a start. Proper bass water only appears a few hundred metres’ walk upstream. I’d come to expect most of the bass to be under 18 inches long, so my Bugger and 3-weight combo really doesn’t feel like too little gun for this fight. Besides, the yellows are a jam on it and the wind is blowing upstream.

I open the tab with a beautiful yellowfish from the first run I fish, then proceed upstream to reach the biggest pool on the stretch. I’d taken some good fish from its tail-out, but never found it quite as productive as I thought it should be. Friends and family know all about my obsession with getting a 20 inch smallmouth bass, but, to be honest, many trips in I am not convinced it will ever happen. Imagine, therefore, my elation when exactly such a fish humours me, eating the small fly so gently as to only slightly interrupt my drift. I tighten up, impressed by the fact that for once I don’t fright-strike. Her solidness erupts from the water, and dive-bombs back with all the grace you’d expect from the 4,5lb brick she is. I finish shitting myself, ease into the fight, and net her after a few sweet, sweet jumps and about as much pull as my poor 3-weight ever had to endure before. She misses the 20inch mark only by the tips of her tail having been worn off during spawning. I’d done it - accidentally. I light a smoke and sit down a while, having photographed and released my prize. I’m an hour into my fishing trip and so satisfied that I decide to up and leave for home. I often do that when I catch exactly what I want. I feel as though the moment shouldn’t be watered down by continuing, knowing you aren’t likely to top what just went down. It’s stupid and I always regret it when I get home and, yet, I still do it.

58

Little did I know at the time that a drought was a mere metaphorical minute away – the longest and worst ever seen in the Western Cape and one that very quickly turned the Upper Gouritz into little more than a memory. Along with the memories went my final opportunity to catch a smallmouth bass for many years. 13 November 2019. It is stupid hot, and the wind is ungodly. I’m in the Boland on non-fishing related business, but I have a 3-weight and a 7-weight packed just in case. If time allows, Gordon van der Spuy and I will meet for a spot of trout fishing on the Eerste River. Unfortunately, I have only a few hours in the morning, and Gordon (being one of those actor types,) ends up

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


The other smallie.“Bycatch” for LeRoy Botha on the Gouritz, a smallmouth yellowfish.

having to attend a last-minute casting. I grew up in Stellenbosch, and the Eerste is where my love affair with all things fly truly started. With my fishing partner out for the count and dry fly fishing cancelled by the wind, I reconsider my options. I still need to do something historic – revisit the roots, man Light bulb: The Berg River. As kids we targeted smallies here, and in later years guys like Sean Mills, Leonard Flemming, Platon Trakoshis and of course André Van Wyk put it on the map as arguably the coolest carp-on-fly venue south of the equator. I’m super keen on one of those sludge suckers, but niggling quietly at the back of my mind is the slight possibility of a smallmouth. We always saw them, back in the day, but our best efforts with

gigantic, awfully tied pink Dahlberg Divers yielded only modest results. I shoot André a message – more than twenty years down the line, I need some recent intel. I ask about the carp and the smallies. Despite the horrifying toll the on-going drought had also taken on the Berg, recent rains and a generous dose of inside info gets my hopes back up. By the sound of it, I would be among the first to hit the river with a ‘serious’ view to nailing a fish since the drought had screwed it all up for the resident crew of fly junkies. Smallies were few and far between even before the drought, but they were in there. Now, braving the wind from hell, maybe I could make something happen.


“LANDING A FLY ANYWHERE NEAR ONE OF THOSE BERG RIVER CARP, SPOOKS IT FASTER THAN YOU CAN SAY ‘DAMMIT.’”

Like a lunar eclipse in a leap year, a Berg river double-hangbal-double-mudbone-grip-’n-grin is rare. Leonard Flemming and Andre van Wyk represent.

“.. be fucking dope if that fishery came back,” André said, “I smaak a ditch donkey but smallies would definitely be my favourite freshwater fish!” I couldn’t agree more. Nevertheless, I start at the foot bridge, scanning for a donkey. I quickly spot one, but by the time I reach a casting position he’s gone, so I proceed upstream, scanning the water as I go. The river is flowing beautifully. Upon reaching the railway bridge, memories of fishing it as a kid come flooding back. I’m not surprised to find a few local chaps diving, swimming and chucking rocks in the water. Even all those years ago, the river provided R&R to those who couldn’t afford anything more, and I knew that some folks made the river bank their home. It would be easy to give in to irritation right now, but it doesn’t matter. I figure

60

they’re attempting to stone some lunch, but as the minutes pass their intentions become less clear. Despite their noisy antics, there are carp all around. I’m gonna get one quick! Right? Wrong. Landing a fly anywhere near one spooks it faster than you can say ‘dammit.’ Their unpredictable cruising also makes leading them impossible, and I decide that they’re not feeding, and that’s fine. Clearly, they’re shit scared of getting hit by a brick. As I contemplate my next cast, one of the rock-throwing characters starts towards me. I’d been warned before to take care fishing the area alone, but wind, meet caution.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


As he gets close, he hollers, “Don’t worry I’m not a skollie. Those guys are skollies,” pointing at his mates, “but not me. I just want a cigarette.” “No problem, bru, come get one. You have a fire?” “No.” “You guys trying to get a fish?” “No.” I hand him a smoke and a lighter and as he lights up, he quips, “You whities live fancy, né.” “Me? Fancy? Goodness no, bru...” “Yeeesss, you fancyyy!” “Errr...” “You can fish whenever you want.” He couldn’t have known that I’d just spent two years carless and a bit broke. I borrowed one, twice, and Jazz hit me up

with some missions, but I didn’t get much fishing done at all. It was rough, man. And yet, recently re-wheeled, on the up, I want to fish and here I am, doing it. Privilege much? “I don’t hate you, don’t worry.” “I can see that and appreci...” “Those guys, though, they really do,” he says, pointing again at the guys I had assumed were his compadres, “You are not safe here. I am not safe here.” Another fat carp cruises by, “Eish, you people live a good life...” I don’t cast at it. We pit our arguing skills and, damn, he’s good. Our conversation easily lasts another half hour. Watching the skollies chuck one brick after another into the water under the bridge, we solve South Africa’s political problems.


From Jurassic lake to the Orange, the Berg, Gouritz and anywhere else fish swim, LeRoy Botha’s version of an MSP is nothing short of deadly.

It takes some convincing that my generation of white boys are, at least in my circles, aware. “We both know what happened in this country is indefensible, but no one will save us but ourselves, brother. Open your eyes to yourself and the opportunities around you. You may be surprised what comes your way… I have to get going.” “I hope you catch your fish, you fancy whitey,” he teases. “Thank you.” I almost inadvertently put my hand on his head and pass him the rest of my smokes. “There’s a lot more love out there than you think, bru,” I try to convince myself as well, “I won’t forget our conversation.” “Fancy whitey.” he smiles again. As I walk off, he rejoins his mates under the bridge, and chucks another brick. With my brand-new existential crisis in hand, I make my way back to the foot bridge. I pause on the bank and some swallows nesting under the bridge start harassing me for daring to enter their territory. A few cocky individuals perch on the ground only a proper kick away from me, and a staredown commences. Once having been a practicing falconer, I am surprised at how nervous the little bastards make me. I bravely decide to ignore them and try again to spot a carp, but it isn’t long before my thoughts turn back to smallmouth. As I daydream a runner crosses the foot bridge from the opposite bank. He wishes me luck as well, and mentions a spot downstream rumoured to hold the odd bass. It happens to be the same place André suggested I try for that smallmouth. Who am I to argue? I’m a great believer in going with the flow.

62

Before making my way, I ask the runner how safe it is to fish the area alone. Ask my friends, I really don’t have a great sense of self-preservation, but Not-a-Skollie and The Swallows have me curious. “Nothing to worry about. I jog the Arboretum every day and have never had issues.” Amused, I thank him and make my way to The Promised Land. I want to kick myself for not buying smokes on the way, but upon my arrival I spot two large fish cruising the shallows, and the water’s looking damn fine. I’ll survive a few casts. Closer inspection reveals that the cruisers are sharptooth catfish - the bastard fish of South Africa. Indigenous enough but a destructive invader in the Breede and Berg catchments; their arrival is nothing short of an ecological disaster. I should try and take a few out. Yes? No. They’re even worse than the mud bones. These morose fish swim up to the fly, only to nudge it and then suffer the fright of their lives. Despite having scratched out a reputation as a tier of decent flies, they make me feel like quite a shit fisherman. Having failed to pin a cat on my zonker baitfish, it really is time to focus on getting that bass. It’s more familiar territory, even if I’m a bit rusty. I look for likely holds and start blind casting. It’s not long before I pick up a cool 3lb largemouth bass, but it spits the barbless hook. Like a schmuck, I change to a baitfish pattern on a barbed B10S hook and cast it into some white water at the head of the pool. A few twitches in, the fly gets smacked and I hook into my first smallie in what feels like a lifetime. He isn’t big, but he’s fat as cheese and just as golden, and he gives his all as smallies do. I’m stoked.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


“SHE RISES AND HEAVES HER GLUTTONOUS GUT WELL CLEAR OF THE WATER AND IT’S LIKE RECOGNISING AN OLD FRIEND.”

Soon after, another catfish approaches me head on and I take a shot. Same thing: follow, nudge, bail. As he makes for Narnia, I see that he’d been followed by a staunch smallmouth and, said smallmouth is now following the fly. But the jig is up, the bass follows the cat. “That was an 18-inch fish,” I inform myself. As it disappears, the cogs start turning. Catfish are about as fecund as any fish on the planet. This means that somewhere between the boulders, wooden debris and salad that make up the bottom, baby catfish must be hiding. And if you ask me, that right there is perfect smallmouth food. I tie on the closest imitation I have – a weighted MSP variation that has taken many yellowfish for clients, but that I had yet to cast at a bass. It feels right though. The previous two bass

64

took flies fished quite quickly, a tactic that works well for pre-spawners. The rains only came recently, and strange weather had me thinking that the spawn would be late this year, whereas traditionally it should be well underway by mid-November. However, baby catfish - despite their surprising acrobatic ability - are likely to snake about on or near the bottom, so I decide to fish my chosen area very slowly. It’s textbook: a rocky 90 degree drop-off, one foot to well over six feet deep, eddying against the main current and with large boulders on the bottom for both bait and predator to use as cover. I cast the fly, let it sink and, hoping the weed guard works, crawl it over the boulders as slowly as I can.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


Between the aerial acrobatics she dives hard for cover, but my 7wt and 2x leader allow a confident response. Another thing I love is really pulling on a fat fish. Friends say I’m a bit rough that way, but I can’t stop; I pull her over the edge of the drop-off. She fires back with one more epic dive for freedom, dragging the leader over the rocky edge as she goes. I reach hard and pull her back over before stepping between her and the deeper water. The width of her shoulders! The sheer relief. I lift the fish and my knees all but totally give in. “Look at this freaking thing!” I announce to the greater Paarl. “Why do I only catch fish like this when I’m alone!?” I internally curse myself for still needing photographic trophies. I’m getting better at it, though, and so I set my priorities – measure, pic, release. She’s a fin perfect pre-spawner, 20 inches long and fat as a football. “Been eating cats, have you?”

I see and feel nothing at all but somehow realise that the fly had been eaten. Unsure, I half-strike only to see another 18inch fish spit it and piss off at zip speed. “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” I snarl. A smoke would be nice. Cast again. This is where the internal monologue usually starts. “Low and slow, fool. Get your ninja on.” I sink the fly and focus hard as I repeat the exercise. Again, I feel and see nothing. “There she is.” I strike, and properly this time. For a second I think I’m snagged, but then the snag bears down and to the side. “A freaking carp!?” No! She rises and heaves her gluttonous gut well clear of the water and it’s like recognising an old friend. I love the way a big smallmouth jumps, and boy, does this one put on a show.

Smoke, beer, home. “Not topping this one today,” I console myself. Oddly, the desire to hunt another one is strong, but I’ve run out of time. I report my fortune to André and Jazz, and they disseminate the news among the Berg river fly junkies. I can tell that it’s good news, and I’m grateful that I listened to my gut and the advice of some stellar blokes. Dope, indeed. The next morning, back in the Garden Route, Facebook treats me to a “memory” (because they care): A river smallmouth of twenty inches, taken seven years ago. My word. No wonder the itch had become so severe lately. I damn near didn’t scratch it. Like all of us, I desperately hope the water returns to the Cape, and stays. And if it does, you can bet I’ll be going with the flow on smallmouth water, somewhere around the thirteenth of November, 2026.


M O N TA N A

HOME ON THE RANGE TROUT! BEER! A LIKE-MINDED TRIBE! TUDOR CARADOC-DAVIES VISITS MONTANA AND FINDS A HOME AWAY FROM HOME. Photos: Ingrid Caradoc-Davies

T

he full title of Sacha Baron-Cohen’s 2006 Borat movie is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. In it, Borat, the clueless and incredibly inappropriate ‘Kazakh’ that Cohen plays, blunders around the USA, learning about the natives as he goes. Whether you’re a Kazakh or a South African, the US provides a cultural lodestone for the rest of the world. We grow up with American films and series; our first rehearsed foreign accent is American and we know more about US politics than we do any other country (often including our own). For many of us, whether we choose it or not, it’s our second country. It’s that familiar. While I’d like to think I am not the South African equivalent of Borat, I thought about the film a lot on a recent trip to the USA. Because, as familiar as US culture is to me, I’m usually there for quick trips to fishing trade shows where the experience is one of hotels, convention centres and airports. To be there as a fly fishing tourist, was to see it through fresh eyes as a familiar yet foreign country. This trip was not remarkable in terms of fish caught, so this is not a story of piscatorial derring-do. What follows is just a series of observations, some fly fishing related, some not, of several weeks spent travelling through Montana around late September/early October 2019. INTO THE WILD There’s a certain big swinging dickheadness (it’s a thing, trust me) about being an African. We grow up knowing that there are leopards in the nearby mountains and the full gamut of tooth and tail, fur and fear in national parks within a few hours drive. When people go on about how everything in Australia wants to kill you, we laugh, as all they have are snakes, spiders, crocs and sharks. We have all that, plus myriad large, ferocious beasties that will take you out if you wander off into the bush in the wrong area. The thing is, for the vast majority of us who did not grow up on farms shooting things as kids, it’s all bluster, like a civilian president wearing an Air Force jacket. Faced with a charging elephant, a lion, buffalo, hippo or a rhino, we’d soil our pants just like anyone else. Yet, we like to

66

laugh at visiting Americans, Japanese and other foreign tourists who do dumb things, like get out of their cars in the Kruger National Park (our Yellowstone) to take a close-up shot of a hyena’s face. So while it may seem as though we are a little more familiar with sizeable wildlife, in truth we’re neither Allan Quatermain nor Davey Crockett. We just know when to be scared, which is why walking in the mountains around Ennis Montana and in Yellowstone National Park, was a sphincter-clenching exercise at times. The seeds for our unease had been planted weeks before we departed South Africa, when my wife and I got a useful tip-laden email from Bozeman-based fly fishing writer Sarah Davenport (née Grigg). One line in particular stood out: “CARRY BEAR SPRAY at all times. I know you’re hardy Saffas accustomed to the biggest, baddest carnivores on the planet, but just carry it. The bear spray works on bison and other animals that can be testy.” Testy? It turned out this was no ruse, no American in-joke. People walk in the woods. They encounter bears. Usually the bears win. Sometimes, having bear spray helps. And no, one does not apply it to one’s armpits, but in the general direction of the charging bear. As we hiked through heavy snow to a tributary of the Madison River near Ennis, called Jack Creek, the warnings of Sarah and our hotel manager were ringing in our ears. Two bow hunters had been attacked just weeks earlier. They were fortunate to survive and, perhaps wanting a biopic to be made of their ordeal, they had checked out of the hospital in their gowns, walked into the nearest outfitter (the town is entirely made out of fly fishing and outdoor shops), got some new gear and returned to the woods. For instant legend status, just add whiskey. In contrast, we walked through the crunchy snow, shouting “Yo Bear!” so often that it felt like the whitest rap battle the world has ever seen was about to commence. It’s a weird feeling – shouting in the wild – when all your life you have been taught to stay quiet in nature. But, given the choice between a DiCaprio-style mauling a la The Revenant, or sleeping peacefully that night with all our limbs intact, we turned up the volume. As for Jack Creek? I caught one tiny rainbow.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


“PEOPLE WALK IN THE WOODS. THEY ENCOUNTER BEARS. USUALLY THE BEARS WIN. SOMETIMES, HAVING BEAR SPRAY HELPS.”


FORTUNE FAVOURS THE COLD I’m sure there are readers in North Dakota, Alaska, Siberia and Norway who will read the following descriptions and shake their heads at what sound like balmy conditions, but for two South Africans who live in a city that hardly ever goes below zero (Celsius), Montana was fucking cold. We were expecting it to be chilly, but not like this. When a cold snap descended on the state as we got there, nixing the one option we had of visiting Glacier National Park because of road closures due to snow, we knew we were in for something different. It was unseasonal the news reports claimed. Weather like this is normal in the middle of winter, but not at the end of summer/early Autumn/Fall. As the snow fell and temperatures plummeted, we holed up in Big Sky before heading to West Yellowstone. Both of those are towns, not geographical descriptions, the former a ski resort, the latter a town right on the border of the famous national park. Mid-storm, the drive between the two was nerve-racking, our shitty rental sedan without snow tyres or chains meant we had to crawl along the icy highway, past flipped cars, emergency vehicles and snow trucks. Every 20 minutes I’d get out and use my rod tube to bash at the ice that had formed so quickly in the wheel wells it was rubbing against the tyres. Parking in the street in West Yellowstone, every vehicle was covered in icicles and crossing the street felt as hazardous as wading the Vaal River with eels for boots and a brandy brain. While no one plans on spending a holiday indoors, when it’s 10am and -20° outside, holing up in The Golden Stone Inn for a day and a half till the weather turned, was a luxury we were glad to have. SIDENOTE: AMERICAN GENEROSITY. We were meant to visit Tim Rajeff and Katherine Hart of Echo Fly Rods in Vancouver WA as part of the trip, but due to an unscheduled burst appendix, the death of a beloved dog and some other last minute minor administrative drama, we had to cut that part of the trip short. Knowing we were going to Yellowstone, Tim put us in touch with Justin Spence of Big Sky Anglers (bigskyanglers.com) and The Golden Stone Inn (goldenstoneinn.com), who, not knowing us from a bar of soap, put us up at very short notice in their newly renovated cabins. Perhaps, you could argue that working for Africa’s best* free print and digital fly fishing magazine helps, but they did not have to bend over backwards like they did. Kitted for fly anglers with rod racks, wader hooks and all the comfortable mod cons you can think of, if you’re planning on fishing the western side of the park and looking at staying in West Yellowstone, you literally can not do better than this crew for A) Top notch accommodation and B) the most impressive fly shop and guide team in the area.

SPOILT FOR CHOICE Despite the freezing conditions, fishing was very much on the cards. In fact, wherever we went in our short two and a half week visit, I was astounded at how much choice there is. Well-travelled American guides or anglers I’ve met often comment on how their compatriots are (in general) a bit lazy when it comes to exploring the rest of the world. That may be true, but when you see just how much fishing is available in a state like Montana, it kind of makes sense. Even though, by Montana standards, the fishing was not that hot on this trip, largely due to the inclement weather, I saw enough and heard enough of “you should have been here a week/month ago for hopper/dry fly season”, to know that if we do not return to the area at a warmer time of year, we will regret it. The plan was fluid and we changed it as the weather and mood took us, but I had one vague goal, which was to catch trout species I had never caught before, from bull trout to brookies and cutthroat. I failed miserably on that front catching only rainbows and browns. I’ll get over it. We started the Montana leg of the trip in Missoula. Our friend, Joe Goertzen of Goertzen Adventure Equipment (makers of kick-ass lanyards and leather bags - goertzenae. com) took us out on his drift boat on the Blackfoot River for rainbows and bull trout. It was both a novel and alien experience, bombing out casts and moving on with the current as we drifted through deep canyons and valleys. Despite the signs all over the place declaring that this was bull trout country, I only managed to catch a few plucky rainbows. Talk about variety; alternating between my 4-weight and a dry fly for the bows and Joe’s 7-weight with a sinking line and huge articulated streamers for the bulls, it felt like a bipolar mélange between fresh and saltwater fly fishing. Other than being a new fly fishing experience, the drift also made me understand US-made fly fishing products a little better, specifically the obsession with beer holsters and koozies. Usually, when there’s a new beerrelated product release by an American brand, we think something along the lines of, “Yes America, we like beer too, but we drink after fishing, not while on the water.” Having stood on the bow of a drift boat on a hot day, trying to find a place for my beer, while casting at rising fish – so many of these products make more sense now. Moving south, I fished the Madison near Ennis, the Gallatin below Big Sky, the Madison again in Yellowstone National Park, the confluence of the Lamar and Yellowstone rivers and the Firehole, which are all also in the park. The Madison at Ennis was a blank as I stumbled around the myriad channels on the outskirts of town. Lesson learned – get a guide. Before fishing the Gallatin below Big Sky I visited one of the fly shops where I got the

Opposite, clockwise from top left: the author attempting to catch fish on Jack Creek, a balmy -20° at 10am in West Yellowstone, guide Robert van Rensburg of Big Sky Anglers with a Firehole river rainbow and Justin Spence, owner of Big Sky Anglers, invariably described as the closest thing to Buddha with a fly rod. 70

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


usual recommendations of stone flies, girdle bugs, prince nymphs and stimulators. As I lingered over the fly selection, the store clerk waited till one of his colleagues had left the room and, as if he was asking me if I had a foot fetish or was into bondage, asked me conspiratorially if I liked to “Euro”. I don’t, but I am a sucker for a dirty secret so I played along as he dug around behind the counter and pulled out some perdigons from a guide’s private stash. As he palmed them to me, he assured me they would work a treat when all else failed. As my wife Ingrid set off to shout “Yo Bear” at grizzlies through a pepper spray microphone, I fished the Gallatin, one of the prettiest rivers I have ever seen. Cold from the snowmelt, fast and clear, it ran through a forested valley down towards Yellowstone National Park. When all else failed I did, in fact, turn to the perdigons and they did work. Bless that fly store clerk’s dark and traitorous heart. After the storm passed, I ventured out with a young guide from Big Sky Anglers in West Yellowstone to fish the Madison inside the park. I have never been so cold while fishing in all my life. Any puddle off the river had frozen solid, the guides of my rod froze every three casts or so and my fingers curled in involuntarily like a corpse. We blanked. What did I learn? The anglers who were out at the same time as us had no problem standing mere metres apart to fish easily accessible honey holes of the Madison despite there being kilometres of water to explore. This idea of fishing almost shoulder to shoulder with other fly anglers is not something I get. If I can hit you with my back cast, we’re too close. Based off an exuberant message from my friend Bells (complete with Google Maps screen grabs and many exclamation points), we took the short hike in to the confluence of the Lamar and Yellowstone rivers in an effort to try to catch some of Yellowstone’s native cutthroats. Again, with the river murky and literally flowing with ice, I blanked, but we saw a black bear with cubs from a respectable distance. What did I learn upon returning to West Yellowstone? Listen to the locals. No matter how excited my buddy back in South Africa was, the guides at Big Sky Anglers knew for a fact that that spot was not fishing well at that time of year. Saving the best for last, on the final morning we had I linked up with another Big Sky Anglers guide, Robert van Rensburg. A Sage Pro Staffer, Robert is a veteran of the competition fishing scene, having played a pivotal role in getting it off the ground in South Africa. He’s also the holder of a pretty unique special skills visa, whereby his fly fishing skills gain him access to the US, much like an 8-foot tall Slovenian basketball player would also be sought after. He took me to the Firehole River, not too far from the famous Old Faithful geyser. As tourist buses cruised past in the distance, we fished a section about a couple of

72

“AS IF ASKING ME IF I HAD A FOOT FETISH OR WAS INTO BONDAGE, THE FLY STORE CLERK ASKED ME CONSPIRATORIALLY IF I LIKED TO “EURO”. I DON’T, BUT I AM A SUCKER FOR A DIRTY SECRET.”

hundred metres downstream from where thermal springs run into the river. For a few brief yet glorious hours, we caught browns and rainbows hand over fist on a South African dry fly, the RAB (Red Arsed Bastard). Choice Perhaps the biggest thing I took away from this trip was realising just how normal fly fishing is in this part of the world. As a fly angler in South Africa, your life can be a little weird to others. You are weird. Your clothes are weird. The thoughts that dominate your waking and sleeping hours are weird. As a result you seek out weird. Your fellow brethren who speak feathers and fluoro, who understand the code of lies and lies, pounds and lbs. A tribe. This is what the reality is for most fly anglers I know. At least, it is like this in a place like South Africa, where you have to explain yourself; endure the quips of everyone who has ever caught fish on bait or lures; watched A River Runs Through It or taken in an Olympic gymnastics ribbon recital. Yes, bait is often more effective. Yes, Brad fly fished. Yes, casting can seem a little like that. Until you visit a place like Montana and then you realise that in a state like that (and allegedly others like Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming) there is a place for people like you. If I’m honest it sparks an ember of resentment too. That somehow, through the geo-political twists of birth, faith and provenance and the colonial obsession with trout, I was incorrectly filed. In the great Dewey Decimal System of the Universe, not only my name but also my entire category was placed in the wrong spot. A visit to Montana is like having a celestial librarian pop you back where you belong.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


From the highways to the backstreets, in the array of toys men and women own and the places they spend their money, this place is fly fishing. The entire economies of towns rely on it. Forget politicians. The central statue in a small town like Ennis is a man striking into a trout. Within a 200m stretch of main road, there are enough well-equipped fly shops in Ennis or West Yellowstone to outfit an army of anglers. Wander the aisles of the supermarket and your fellow shoppers wear waders and hoodies, boots and caps sporting all those familiar names only your weirdo friends wear back home. They look damp and musty, but high as only fly can take you. You know that look, but it’s something you revel in in what can only be described a semi-closeted way. Here, it’s normal, so run-of-themill-par-for-the-course-just-another-day normal that it brings a tear to the eye. Whether it’s the gleam in your eye, or the gear fly anglers cannot escape, they recognise you too as a mensch. Conversation springs up with random strangers, at gas stations, motel reception, buying beer.

76

These are your people. My people. Even though everyone seemed to feel a little sorry for us that we did not have time to pop over to the Henry’s Fork, or that we should have been there in July or August, it didn’t matter. From the drift boat to slinging streamers, dries and the forbidden fruit perdigons, the fish I caught were small to medium-sized browns and rainbows. I did not manage to tick off the bulls, cutties and brooks I wanted to, but again, it did not matter. There was so much water and so much good fishing, I could barely comprehend how great it must be in prime season. In the space of two weeks, I got only the smallest taste of it, but as we played that classic holiday game of ‘could we live here?’ it was far too easy to say yes. Now all I’ve got to do is come back during hopper season to double check. * Only.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


MADE FOR MONTANA GEAR, BEER AND OTHER ACCOUTERMENTS THAT MADE FOR A GREAT TRIP THE BEER - GOING TO THE SUN IPA

Everywhere we went we found great beer, not only from bars and restaurants, but from gas stations too. Beers with names like Salmon Fly Honey Rye, Trout Slayer, Double Haul IPA and Cutthroat IPA that have clearly been made by or for anglers. Despite all that, the beer of the trip was the Going To The Sun IPA by Great Northern Brewing out of Whitefish, Montana. Named after the famous Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park, it’s got an incredible balance of hops, citrus notes and malt, making it a great session beer for any time of day. greatnorthernbrewing.com

THE FLIES – KELLY GALLOUP

If you follow the Madison between Ennis and West Yellowstone along Highway 287, you’re on track to pass by Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn fly shop. If he’s not on the river, you may find Galloup - the inventor of numerous iconic streamer patterns like the Menage A Dungeon featured here - in residence. Stock up and then head out to sling these beasts at the area’s predatory browns. slideinn.com

THE LITTLE GUY – GOERTZEN ADVENTURE EQUIPMENT

Joe Goertzen makes things with his hands. Useful leather things like clever fly fishing lanyards, creel bags and amazing leather totes, field and messenger bags with smart carabiner closure systems. Well worth checking out his store if you visit Missoula. goertzenae.com

THE PILGRIMAGE – SIMMS

THE PODCAST – THRESHOLD, SEASON 1

While driving in and around Yellowstone we listened to the excellent Threshold podcast, specifically the episodes about American bison, the impact their slaughter (from 50 million down to 23) had on Native Americans and the complicated questions around culling free-roaming bison in Yellowstone today. There’s also a fascinating dissection of the classic campfire song, Home on the Range, and how it relates to environmental destruction in both the past and present tense. Highly recommended. thresholdpodcast.org

If you pass through Bozeman, make time to visit the Simms HQ on the outskirts of town where you can get a tour of their factory, watch the elves at work making kick-ass waders and pick up a pair for yourself at the affiliated store across the road. simmsfishing.com


L AT ES T R E L E A S ES

SALAD BAR PATAGONIA – SWIFTCURRENT WADERS

Fresh from Patagonia is this new range of top-end waders, their burliest, most feature-rich to date. The pick of the bunch is the Swiftcurrent Expedition ZipFront Waders. Take a breath, here’s the smorgasbord of features - an EZ-Lock suspender system for quick and secure height adjustments and a more precise fit, removable foam kneepads for comfort and durability, a tough new submersible, fully waterproof, corrosion-resistant YKK® front zipper, handwarmer pockets with zip flaps to eliminate line snags and internal organization via two generous dropin pockets, a flip-out waterproof, zippered pocket, two daisy chains, and exterior stash pockets with water-resistant zippers. Yes please. patagonia.com

WINGO – DOG COLLARS

Like you, we love fly fishing and we love our pooches, which is why we took it upon ourselves to indulge our deepest yuppie inner-core and upgrade their dog collars. Whether you like a fly-based design like the ‘Meat’ or something more fishy like the Rainbow Trout pattern, these Wingo + Rep Your Water collabs are particularly appealing. Now we just need them to do a collab with Kelly Galloup. Here Butt Monkey! Good boy, Sex Dungeon! wingooutdoors.com

SCIENTIFIC ANGLERS – EURO NYMPH KIT

It’s all well and fine being a purist, but if the fish are there yet showing zero interest in dry flies, you’ll wish you had a back up nymphing rod. Or some playing cards. Or, instead of staring wistfully off into the distance as Morgan Freeman narrates the bad decisions you’ve made in your life, you could just whip out your Euro Nymph Kit and catch ALL the fish. Consisting of a 20’ Euro Nymph Tip, an Absolute Euro Nymph Leader and a foam storage spool, this nifty little life-saver allows you to convert any single handed rod into a Euro Nymphing outfit in seconds. scientificanglers.com, frontierflyfishing.co.za

78

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


THOMAS & THOMAS – PARADIGM

There are a few fabled dry fly rods out there and Thomas & Thomas’s original Paradigm is one of them. The new Paradigm not only lives up to the reputation of earlier models, but will also stake a claim for the coveted position of your ‘new favourite rod’ in no time. Why? With its lightweight titanium REC guides, maple spacers and other classy visual accents, it’s a looker. But over and above its looks, the Paradigm is a beautifully, cruisey stick that just

feels right in the hand. We know this because we have fished the 6-weight at Jurassic Lake for behemoth rainbows that rise to chubby dries, as well as fished the 4-weight on our local Cape streams for small stream rainbows that smash whispy CDC patterns. With a smooth, medium flex action designed for incredible presentations cast after cast, if you want to land a dry fly on a dime, go Paradigm. thomasandthomas.com

NAUTILUS – REEL BUILDER

We like the look of this custom reel builder form Nautilus. Not only do you get a bad-ass, fish-dominating piece of machinery, but you also get to pimp every part of the reel in the colours of your choice. Literally every part… from the frame, to the spool, drag knob, spool release cap, reel foot, handle spindle, back plate and hook keeper (and there’s also an option to add fish engravings). As RUGBY WORLD CHAMPIONS HAVING THRASHED ENGLAND IN THE FINAL (cough, cough…MATT HARRIS), within five minutes (the time it took to crush English spirits), we created this Springbok-themed gem on the Nautilus NVG. We call it, the Kolisi™. nautilusreels.com

“PIMP EVERY PART OF THE REEL IN THE COLOURS OF YOUR CHOICE.”

MERCO PRODUCTS – RITE BOBBIN

If you spend enough time at your tying desk, you’ll know the need for good tools. A great vise, sharp scissors and, often overlooked, a great bobbin. You want thread tension, adjustability and durability. Merco’s Rite bobbin with its unique brass tension adjuster does it all, whether you’re working on miniscule midges or massive saltwater patterns. ritebobbin.com, xplorerflyfishing.co.za


L AT ES T R E L E A S ES

SALAD BAR CALIFORNIA COWBOY – TROPIC HIGH WATER SHIRT

When the weather turns balmy, our wardrobes lean towards our patron saints - Magnum PI, Nick Slaughter and Ace Ventura. Problem is, most Hawaiian shirts come with a compromise, in that they sacrifice any “technical” elements at the altar of tropical island style. Not this range from California Cowboy, which features a dry pocket with waterproof fabric and a hydrophobic zipper for your phone. Lastly, marvel of marvels, it has a beer pocket so you can maintain your well-hydrated sex appeal (to Malibu Barbie) while picking off bonefish or mudbones one by one. shop.californiacowboy.com

YETI - DAYTRIP LUNCH BAG

There comes a point on the out-hike of a day trip (think 4pm on the track leading out of the Elandspad valley), when it’s hot, you still have 20 minutes worth of hills to climb and you wish you had some cold beers waiting for you in the car. With its lightweight closed-call foam fold over for keeping temps cool and a magnetic closure, Yeti’s Daytrip Lunch Bag is just the thing for keeping those beers cold. Hell, with its adjustable size, it can even go in your day pack to look after some leftover pizza slices and soggy sarmies too. yeti.com, upstreamflyfishing.co.za

“YETI’S DAYTRIP LUNCH BAG IS JUST THE THING FOR KEEPING THOSE BEERS COLD.”

YETI - POLING FISH PATCH TRUCKER

It’s not an advanced cooler made with high-tech materials. It’s just a cap, but this great-looking trucker-style YETI cap with mesh backing will keep your pip cool during the dog days of summer. What more do you want from a cap? yeti.com, upstreamflyfishing.co.za

80

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


SIMMS – HIGH WATER SHORTS

We love a good pair of short pant, but truth be told getting the perfect pair of fly fishing shorts has not always been that easy to come by. Most shorts are either too heavy, not quick enough to dry, not enough pockets or not durable. The High Water Shorts from Simms tick all those boxes and then some with their light weight, their selection of pockets and their quick-drying COR3 UPF 50, anti-odour fabric. simmsfishing.com, upstreamflyfishing.co.za

ORVIS – ENCOUNTER OUTFIT

If you’re either getting started in fly fishing or if you’re just looking to add a great-value five-weight outfit to your quiver of rods, the Orvis Encounter 9’ 5-weight is a great option. For starters, it’s Orvis, so the quality will be top notch. Plus, a 9’ 5-weight is to fly rods what the Goldilocks Zone is to the chances of planetary life – an essential starting point. It’s a great all-rounder for bigger rivers and stillwaters. The best part is that it’s the complete package – rod, plus large arbor Encounter reel, weight-forward floating line, backing and leader. All you need do is cadge some flies from a friend and start fishing. orvis.com, flyfishing.co.za

“IT’S A GREAT ALL-ROUNDER FOR BIGGER RIVERS AND STILLWATERS.”

RIO – DIRECTCORE PERMIT LINE

While bonefish have legions of fans and those Insane Clown Posse triggers are getting more popular by the day; permit (nose)stand head and shoulders above the rest as the most sought-after of the crab munching species. To maximize your chances of catching one, Rio has developed a line specifically designed for these temperamental bastards. The low memory, low-stretch DirectCore ensures the line stays straight, while the taper was designed not only to load at close range and give you easy second shots, but also to turn over heavy crab patterns AND deliver the fly gently. The rest is on you. rioproducts.com, xplorerflyfishing.co.za

“RIO HAS DEVELOPED A LINE SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR THESE TEMPERAMENTAL BASTARDS.”


L AT ES T R E L E A S ES

SALAD BAR GREYS – GR80 RODS

One of the unsung hero brands in the fly fishing world, Greys consistently put out great products and their growing tribe of fans will attest to the quality of brilliant rods like the Streamflex. Now, with the release of their G80 range, they have serious contenders in almost all categories. From the regular G80s, to the G80 Comp Special fly rods, the G80 Salt, G80 Travel and yes, the G80 Streamflex – the entire range has seen an upgrade with their 3M Powerlux 1000 resin worked into their high modulus carbon build. Lightweight, but strong and impact-resistant, these rods are top-notch workhorses that will deliver results. greysfishing.co.uk, ironriver.co.za

NIXON – REGULUS

Simple, yet hardy (like you, you daft bugger) the Nixon Regulus was designed in collaboration with the US military. It won’t answer your email or send memes, but it will tell the time even 100m underwater. It also boasts dual time, day/date auto calendar through 2099, dual chronographs with 1/100 second resolution visible from all mode screens, count down timer, alarm, adjustable LED backlight, and silent mode. With a custom injection molded fiber reinforced polycarbonate case, it will still be going long after we’ve destroyed Earth and moved to Mars. nixon.com

“IT WON’T ANSWER YOUR EMAIL OR SEND MEMES, BUT IT WILL TELL THE TIME EVEN 100M UNDERWATER.”

SCIENTIFIC ANGLERS ABSOLUTE TROUT PRESENTATION

Fast establishing itself as our new favourite tippet and leader material, we fished Scientific Anglers Absolute Trout Presentation and Absolute Trout Fluorocarbon across Montana (4x to 6x). It knots well (wet knot strength is 29% stronger than their previous material) and is tough as hell (they claim that according to an independent test, it’s 40% stronger than their competitors). scientificanglers.com, frontierflyfishing.co.za

82

WOLFF – APEX VISE

Time to take matters into your own hands and churn out some flies? If you’re new to fly tying, the American-made Wolff Apex Vise® is worth a look. An in-line rotary fly tying vise equipped with replaceable jaws, c-clamp, pedestal base, and material clip, it’s made from 440-C and 303 stainless steel with 0-1 tool steel jaws. That means you can tie flies on hook sizes from 7/0 to 32. It comes with a C-clamp and pedestal base. flyfishingvises.com, xplorerflyfishing.co.za

“IF YOU’RE NEW TO FLY TYING, THE WOLFF APEX VISE IS WORTH A LOOK.”

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


PLAN YOUR YEAR PRIME LOCATIONS. BUCKET LIST FISH. EXPERIENCED GUIDES. MAKE YOUR TRIPS EXPERIENCES IN 2020

MAY - DULLSTROOM FOR TROPHY STILLWATER AND RIVER TROUT We have access to the finest private waters in the region.

OCTOBER - ORANGE RIVER FOR LARGE- AND SMALLMOUTH YELLOWS Remote Richtersveld drift with luxury camping and the most experienced guides.

NOVEMBER - AMAZON FOR PEACOCK BASS AND ARAPAIMA Remains one of the wildest places to fish. We do it in style.

WWW.FLYFISHING.CO.ZA For more trip details and to book: info@flyfishing.co.za Mavungana Flyfishing Centre, Main Road, Dullstroom, 013 254 0270 Mavungana JHB, Shop 3B, Illovo Square Shopping Centre, 011 268 5850


M U S T H AV ES

PAYDAY IN THIS, THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR DISCONTENT AROUND BEING A B R O K E - A S S A D U LT, I F Y O U F E E L T H E R E TA I L T H E R A P Y N E E D , C O N S I D E R E X PA N D I N G Y O U R B R A I N A L I T T L E W I T H A B O O K .

YVON CHOUINARD – SOME STORIES: LESSONS FROM THE EDGE OF BUSINESS AND SPORT “What do you want to call it, Yvon?” “Some stories, Yvonne.” Other than the fact that Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard is unlikely to have an assistant called Yvonne, we imagine that the discussion around the title of this book went a little like that. On the surface, it seems simplistic. These are some of his favourite stories from his life, some previously published, others not. Yet, in the telling, the book reveals so much more about the character of the man. He’s not some soft-handed Fortune 500 scion, but a bad-ass. From climbing some of the hardest ascents in the USA and in South America (he was a Yosemite pioneer), to his first entrepreneurial forays making climbing pitons and other gear by hand, to skiing stories and, of course, fly fishing stories, Chouinard has lived a fascinating and varied life. This collection bares more on his background in the ground roots of adventure sports and shows his progression from carefree dirtbagger to where he is today, a titan of sustainable business. If you enjoyed his seminal biography Let My People Go Surfing or if you are simply looking for a fascinating read, Some Stories deserves your attention. www.patagonia.com

THE EROTIC DRAWINGS OF CONRAD BOTES What the hell does this have to do with fly fishing? Nothing, other than the fact that our editorat-large and The Mission’s spirit animal, Conrad Botes, is probably better known among the general non-fly fishing populace as one of South Africa’s most renowned artists. To the fly fishing crowd, he’s that guy who catches giant kob and tarpon on foot. So, make no mistake about it, this mention of his new book is just a shameless punt for one of our own. After all, if you build a platform, why not (ab)use it? Despite efforts to censor the book by printers - on top of decades of censorship Botes and partner Anton Kannemeyer have had to contend with - TEDOCB was finally released by Soutie Press at the end of 2019. With never before seen work from decades of sketch books, be warned, this is not for the easily offended. Botes and Kannemeyer were the cartoonists for Loslyf (the Afrikaans Hustler) back in the day so many of the sketches are drawn from pornographic sources and doused in layers of satire and social commentary. If you like the art that regularly features in The Mission and you are comfortable grappling with the unspoken questions, pervasive undercurrents and taboo tropes that exist around sexuality, sexism, religion, racism and more, check it out at www.soutiepress.com

84

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


sageflyfish.com

NEW

TROUT LL

Shown with Sage Click Series Reel

DRY FLY / MEDIUM ACTION

Introducing the all-new dry fly trout rod. Classic trout rod feel with precision control.

Handcrafted in the USA

For your nearest dealer contact Frontier Distribution on info@frontierflyfishing.co.za


THE LITTLE GUY

CHRIS CLEMES IN THE FIRST OF A NEW SERIES FOCUSED ON SMALL FLY FISHING GEAR AND TACKLE PRODUCERS, WE CHAT TO HYBRID SAFFER-POM, CHRIS CLEMES, THE OWNER OF THE EPONYMOUS UK-BASED SPLIT CANE ROD BRAND. Photos. Chalkstream Fly

Who are you, Zoolander? My name is Chris Clemes and I have a split cane rod company called Chris Clemes Fly Rods in London. I’m a South African. I don’t tell my British clients that when they bring up rugby, but we did bring out a rod called the Springbok. I was born and bred in Cape Town and I grew up fishing the streams of the Western Cape throughout school and university, but I have lived in London for the last 13 years. When I moved to the UK, I worked for Orvis for two years before deciding to do my own thing. I mainly fish chalk streams like the Wiltshire Avon, the Kennet and the Lambourne for brown trout. My family also does an annual trip to the Zambezi, which is as good a place as any to test our rods. What do you specialise in? Our rods are handmade in England according to age-old traditions, but with modern varnishes, threads etc. There’s a vast amount of combined experience in our operation with one of our guys having built split-cane rods for over 40 years. Each rod takes approximately two to three months from order to delivery. While we specialise in split-cane rods, we also make carbon rods right into the saltwater sizes and we recently did that one-off glass Springbok rod in anticipation of our World Cup win. (So sue me! I’m patriotic at times). We are the only rod company I know of that

allows customers to test the rods at each of our stockists, before making a purchase. Usually, it’s me meeting each and every client. It makes a huge difference to be able to talk clients through the various rod uses, actions, styles and finishes. We also sell silk fly lines, which are the perfect match with our split-cane rods. They are also very versatile and can be used in the salt and with carbon rods as well. What should we look out for? If you are interested in an all-in-one split-cane outfit, check out our custom made ‘The Gentleman’s Kit.’ It includes a rod and reel plus wooden rod case, reel case, rod tube of your choice, engraved dedication etc. It, or at least a voucher allowing the recipient to pimp his own present, is a very popular gift for the guy who has everything. Other things to watch out for include the Harmony 1 tip two piece, the Symphony 2 tip two piece and the Maestro fly reel which will be re-released soon. Developed with the boulder streams of the Western Cape in mind, the Springbok glass rod was originally a one-off for myself, but there’s been a lot of interest so we might put it into production. Chris Clemes rods are available at Farlows of Pall Mall, www.chrisclemes.com and some other online retailers.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

86


LEGLESS AT LAKIES MARK SCHWARTZ AND HIS LONGTIME FISHING BUDDY (AND FELLOW DISABLED ANGLER) DUGGIE WESSELS TOOK ON THE MIGHT OF THE LAKENVLEI FARM GATE SECURITY SYSTEM. HILARITY ENSUED. Monday – I call Duggie. “Dude we need to get to Lakies.” He agrees. A call to Cape Piscatorial Society seals the deal. On Friday we are off to Lakies to fly fish. In the meantime we make plans. Boats and a crash pad sorted with Albie in Ceres. I am set to pick up Duggie on Friday after work. I’m so excited I cannot wait. I tie flies till my fingers hurt and my wife begins to think I’m watching porn in the garage. “Yep,” I respond, “Fly porn baby, fly porn.” With a shake of the head and a roll of the eyes she heads back inside, leaving me to keep strapping wooly buggers. Friday rolls up and my bags are packed and ready to go. A kiss and a hug from the wife and I’m off, wheelchair on the passenger seat until I get to Duggie. On the way there I’m thinking this is going to be interesting - two wheelchairs plus fishing gear. We will have to pack clever to make this work. Once Duggie and the gear are loaded, I look back and survey our work. My chair is just a fast gun sling away on the back seat in case I need to make a quick exit. Duggie, however, is screwed because his chair is stuck under all the gear in the back of the Toyota Fortuner. We get to Albie’s place in Ceres late that night where there’s a cracking fire and cold beers waiting. What a dude! Albie knows how to make you feel at home. The fireside conversation immediately leads to fly fishing, and ends with our plans for the next big trip to the Orange River. Saturday morning. The alarm screeches and the realisation sets in that Lakies is waiting for us. Fumbling around in the dark getting dressed while rolling around on the floor like a lizard, I sit up to wake Duggie and immediately start cracking up. With a sleep apnea mask on his face and his stompies sticking straight up in the air he looks like Darth Vader’s break-dancing midget twin. He rambles off something about air deprivation while sleeping, but has no explanation for the erect stompies*. Yes, stompies not stompie singular. You see Duggie has no legs. That’s why he boasts that he is the only man that can say his stompie is longer than his legs.

88


We get coffee on the go and sort out the packing. It’s the same drill, but this time the boats are loaded and a lonely wheelchair is sticking out from under them. After a short drive around a misty mountain, we get to the gravel farm road turnoff to Lakies. The car is filled with excited banter. “Here we go boet, this is going to be epic. I cannot wait to see that first glimpse of the dam as you pop over the rise, just that little corner at first and then it opens up and you already get that feeling that today is the day.” “Oh shit, the gate. We forgot about the gate. Fuck it we will deal with that when we get there.” We get there, the Fortuner screeching to a halt in front of the gate. “Ok Duggie, where is that key?” Key found, I activate plan A: Drop the backrest of the driver’s car seat Grab the wheelchair frame and pull it over. Grab the wheels. Click. On they go. “This is easy bro! No hassles.” Jump out, get in the chair and open the gate. Trying to achieve step 4 from under the headlights illuminating the gate in the early morning darkness, I realise we have a problem. I shout, “Duggie, there is no lock on this gate! How do we open it with a key if there is no lock on the damn gate?” From the depth of the car - like a real backseat driver – the reply comes, “It’s not on the gate, it’s in the box you idiot, (cue Cremora advert flash back)!” ‘What box?’ I’m thinking as I open the box next to the gate and find inside it a remote which, as predicted, opens the gate… you plank. Hooo, okay that makes sense. No problem. Box open, remote located and, what do you know, the gate opens. More instructions come from the backseat driver still in the car to stick the buzzer back and to lock the box. Cool, plan B went well enough. Now to activate plan A in reverse. At the car, I jump out of the chair, grab the wheels, grab the chair, stick the frame on the back seat, resume the position and drive.

“Duggie, you jump into my chair, open the box, open the gate and I will drive though and wait on the other side. You then stick the buzzer back in the box and come around the small open pedestrian section next to the gate. Got it?” “Got it.” Everybody in position, we are good to go. Box open, buzzer out, gate open, car through, gate closes, buzzer back in the box, box locked. I can see Duggie’s head above the low wall on the side of the gate as he sets to work. Then, all of a sudden, I can’t see it anymore. ‘Shit, where is Duggie?!’ From the other side of the wall, the sound of deep and creative swearing reaches me. As I try and hold my bladder from involuntarily letting go, details start to emerge through the profanity. Huge red ants seem to be a factor. We had not taken into account that my wheelchair is setup for me and unlike Duggie, I have legs (even if they don’t work). With Duggie not having any legs, the chair’s centre of gravity is off kilter, so he went ass-over-head backwards out of the chair and managed to land on the mother of all red ant colonies. Needless to say the ants were pretty pissed off getting flattened by a legless giant who was screwing with their single file morning stroll. Up pops the head again. Great, without stopping the running commentary about being eaten alive, Duggie gets back in the chair. “Let’s go boet! I shout, and his head disappears again. A two-way conversation starts. Duggie: “I cannot get up and stay in the damn chair, you will have to come and help.” Me: “Okay, how do you think I’m going to do that? Your chair is under the equipment that is under the inflatable boat that is in the back of the Fortuner.” Silence. Me: “Hey Duggie, check up the road, there are lights coming. Help is on its way… hopefully. Just hang tight, defend yourself against the ants and let’s see who this is.”

“No, no, nooooo, the gate is closing!” Second try under time trial conditions this time and still no luck.

With a rumble, a farm truck appears in the dark and starts to slow down, two faces leaning forward against the front windscreen trying to figure what’s going on. Suddenly, a few extra heads pop up from the back of the truck, all looking pretty confused. Who can blame them?

Out comes Mr. Stuyvesant and Mr. Camel.

Just picture this…

“Time to hatch a new plan here Duggie.”

One Fortuner parked on the other side of a closed gate, the head of a human sticking out the driver’s window and arms swinging, shouting and pointing to the side of the gate.

Through a cloud of smoke we believe we have the solution.

90

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


“HERE WE GO BOET, THIS IS GOING TO BE EPIC. I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THAT FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE DAM AS YOU POP OVER THE RISE, JUST THAT LITTLE CORNER AT FIRST AND THEN IT OPENS UP AND YOU ALREADY GET THAT FEELING THAT TODAY IS THE DAY.”


All heads turn right, then to each other. Next to the gate is a wheelchair turned upside down with a legless man sprawled on the ground in the middle of an ant death zone. Priceless. It took them a few minutes to register and realise they needed to help us. The driver jumped out. He was most likely thinking, ‘Who is this dick in the car shouting at us to help this defenseless, poor, antbitten man? What is wrong with him, is he crippled or what?’ Everything calmed down once Duggie was caringly placed back in the passenger seat and my wheelchair was handed back to me. Undeterred, we activated the same drill. Seat back, wheels off, frame in, wheels in, seat back up, start car. Let’s go. We didn’t want to lose any more time we could spend fishing. Over the rise we get our first glimpse of the lake and just smile at each other. This is going to be an epic day. Slamming on the brakes our grins turn a little grim. There is a second gate. With no farm truck to help. They’d turned off when we went left. At least this time we can see a lock on the gate and we have the keys. Seat down, frame out, wheels on and in no time I’m fiddling with the rusty lock and key. Gates open and the excitement mounts again, we are another step closer. As I wanted to swing the gate open I realise it can only open towards us. The car is parked too close. Back at the car I’m thinking screw this I’m not going to go through this schpiel again. “Duggie, let’s plan. We have a rope. What can we do?” Plan hatched, time for action. The rope gets secured around the top corner of the gate. And again, wheels in, chair in, seat up… you know the drill. I work the rope over the car bonnet to the passenger side and Duggie gets hold of it. “When I reverse you pull. When the nose of the car is clear, give it a good pull to swing it open. When we get through, pull it again to close. I’m going to back up as close as possible to the gate when it is closed to go and lock it again. But this time I’m not going to get the chair out.” Duggie: “Huh? How are you going to do this?” Hanging on to the Fortuner’s roof bars I monkey walk to the back of the car. With one hand gripping the roof bar I lock the

92

gate using the other hand and monkey walk back to the driver’s seat, all the while the lactic acid screaming in my forearms is letting me know, “You are not 20 years old, mate.” Job done! We sat in the car, looked at each other like we had just stormed the beaches of Normandy on our own and stuck it to the enemy Chuck Norris-style. We dip down the road and there it is Lakies, aka Lakenvlei, aka the premier stillwater in the Western Cape. The Promised Land. Craig from Stream-X had told us that just past the hut there is a pile of rocks indicating the path made through the bush for us to get the car all the way down to the dam. What a legend, taking time out from his fishing to make us a path.

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


Slowly we crawl past the hut, all the time looking for the pile of rocks. But all we can see is a fisherman standing in front of the car, looking strangely at us because we are ignoring the sign which clearly states, “No vehicles beyond this point”. After a short explanation about the path we are looking for that was made for us to get down to the dam, we start reversing because nobody has a clue where the path is. Duggie and I start to look at less obvious places. Maybe it’s between the hut and the bog house. Nope, nothing, dead end. We both feel it. We are so close to finally getting on to the water, but yet so far. The path must be here. It is here. Then the dude getting ready to go fishing moves and there it is. The entire time he was standing right in front of the pile of rocks we were asking him about.

Sticking the nose of the Fortuner through the last of the bush and on to the gravel next to the dam felt like the parting of the Red Sea. Just to see if he still had his sense of humour after the red ant incident, I asked Duggie, if I should park a little higher just in case the tide came in. For the last time that day we dropped the seat, took out my chair frame, took out the wheels, put them together, got the boat out, got all our gear out and got to Duggie’s chair at the bottom. Finally, we could go fish. *Afrikaans for a cigarette butt.


MISSED AN ISSUE?

READ THEM ALL HERE, IT’S FREE

FOLLOW US ON

@THEMISSIONLYMAG

WWW.THEMISSIONFLYMAG.COM


For more information contact Iron River (www.ironriver.co.za) on 0861 527335


THE LIFER

THE MATRIARCH EXPERIENCED KWAZULU-NATAL COMP ANGLER, LINDA GORLEI, ON HER FISHING FAMILY, WHY THE EVENING RISE IS BETTER WITH WINE AND THAT BUCKET LIST TRIP TO ARGENTINA. Photos. Matt Gorlei

The first fish I can remember catching was a trout – on a spinner rod . I was about seven years old on a farm in the Matatiele area. I had no idea how to reel it in so I ran backward up the bank with the rod till it came out of the water. Happy to say I’ve come a long way since then. My home waters are the rivers and lakes of the KwaZuluNatal Midlands. I’ve only really called two places home, Durban and Mbona. Durban is where I have lived all my life but, despite amazing memories, abodes, friends, family, it no longer captivates me. Mbona is my happy place. Nestled in the Karkloof valley in the Midlands, it is one of the first privatised farm reserves in the country. Unpretentious natural beauty, peace, quiet… and a few pretty, stocked, fly fishing lakes. Career-wise, I’ve worked in the clothing trade in manufacture and in the wine trade in sales and marketing. I think I preferred the latter! The best advice I have ever been given was, “Here is a book for you my darling, it’s called, ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK’…Read it.” Truth be told, I’m still struggling to take the book’s advice enough – that’s just me. Something I have had to work at in life is letting go of stuff. And following the advice as above… I really have to work at using the word NO more often. Something that came naturally to me has been mothering – strange as that may sound. What am I most proud of? There’ve been a good few achievements among my tribe these past few years. Two of us have represented at national level and the third at provincial level in our various codes of interest. I represented South Africa at national level for fly fishing, then hombre (my husband, Rich) came along and topped it all by becoming the World Champ in 2019 at

the Masters competition held in South Africa. But all that aside, the pride is not in the medals and blazers worn, but the humans my family have become and are. It comes from a random comment of praise made from someone I don’t even know regarding an experience they’ve shared with them. With the kids, it’s about watching them grow beyond their years of being moulded by a parent into making their own life decisions and learning to suck up the consequences thereof, both good and bad. I’m simply proud of us as a family; how we pull together in crisis; how we love and support unconditionally. We are a family of diverse independent individuals on one level, but I’m mostly proud that we are a unit that still looks forward to hanging out together when we can. The most satisfying fish I ever caught was a brook trout on the Roaring Fork River in Colorado back in 2010. It was literally one of the last cast opportunities of that trip and I had so wanted a brook. Plenty of other trout, even mountain white fish had been landed, but no brooks for me. It made coming off the water and packing up at the end of a trip on foreign waters just that much easier. It was also one of the prettiest fish I’ve landed too. My go to drink for the morning rise is a hot chocolate. I am the queen of a good hot chocolate, so don’t come with any watery sachet shit. For the evening, I absolutely love fishing the sundowner session for any species with a good chardonnay! One place, never again would be trying to outrun an electric storm on Sterkies in a boat with faulty motors – a terrifying experience! The destination (Sterkfontein Dam), I’d be back to in a heartbeat, but boy, will I be like a live weather station when I do go. One place I have to return to is the Zambezi River to actually land a tiger. And that after a waaaaay too close encounter with a hippo the last time. Thank heavens the surrounding beauty, the insane sunsets (with chardonnay) and good company made up for the lost fish.

“OOPS, SORRY, CAN’T MAKE IT TO DINNER ON TIME…HAD A FLAT ON THE WAY BACK [MEANWHILE SMASHING FISH ON THE EVENING RISE WHILE SIPPING ON CHARDONNAY].” 96

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


“I AM LESS OBSESSED ABOUT THE QUARRY AND MORE IN LOVE WITH THE CAST, THE SURROUNDINGS AND SUCKING UP THE MOMENT.”


The long walk to Chardonnay

Things on my bucket list include (but are not limited to) blending and bottling my own white wine; living in Italy for at least a six month to one year period and renovating a one Euro property; travelling around Argentina together with Rich in an old pimped-up motor home, finding the lesser known fishing spots and enjoying village life (an episode of fun with Dick & Joan); walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain; fashioning a small bamboo river rod. I might need to live to 100 as I could go on and on. It is only okay for an angler to lie about the time. “Oops, sorry, can’t make it to dinner on time…had a flat on the way back [meanwhile smashing fish on the evening rise while sipping on chardonnay].” The handiest survival skills I have apply to both fishing and life in general. ‘Don’t do it and don’t leave home without water and rehydrate. Oh, and wear sensible shoes! Yep, same for both.” One skill I would like to master is fly tying. I’m friggin’ useless! I just haven’t given it time even though I have a shop full of materials at my disposal. It’s so much easier to pass the orders on to the Champ and top up his red wine every now and then.

100

How best should one face one’s fears? I do not often talk about my long struggle with panic attacks and anxiety since I was in high school and perhaps that is just part of the answer to this question – one should talk about it. My good doctor, an avid fly fisher who’s travelled this journey with me, says I clearly need to go fishing more. Good advice I should take! What I get out of fly fishing has changed over the years. I am less obsessed about the quarry and more in love with the cast, the surroundings and sucking up the moment. If I could change one thing in fly fishing, it would be to make trout sleep in a bit longer in the morning…especially in winter.  Something I have changed my mind about is that I now believe that your health and that of the ones you love is your single richest blessing. All else is less if you do not have your health.  The last fish I caught was a rainbow trout here at Mbona – small but feisty…and oh so pretty. Follow Linda @lindagorlei

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


PROTECTING YOUR FLY F


FISHING FOR THE FUTURE From headwaters to court rooms, fighting the pollution of our rivers or challenging the disproportionate legislation of the authorities, FOSAF works for you. For just R300* for a year’s membership you can do your bit and support FOSAF.

Please join at www.fosaf.org.za Ask your club to enter the scheme whereby your annual subscription Is reduced from R300 to R150”


POP QUIZ H EY NU MBN U TS ! A R E YO U T H E T E ACH E R ’ S P E T O R T H E C L ASS D UNCE? TA K E O U R Q U I Z TO F IN D O U T IF YO U A B S O R B E D A N Y T H IN G OVER THE L AST 8 5 PAG ES . T H IN K O F IT AS A LOW-G R A D E PI S CATO R IA L S U D O KU .

1. The latest species us humans have successfully made extinct is the? (answer page 08) A. Malawian spoonfish. B. Chinese paddlefish. C. Japanese pielfish. D. I&J fingerfish. E. Fijian oarfish.

4. According to Nic Schwerdtfeger, Andre van Wyk’s Beast flies use which of the following ingredients? (answer page 30) A. Dolly Parton’s ponytail. B. Yak pubes. C. Wookie hair. D. All of the above.

2. What do Sawai like to do? (answer page 12) A. Naai.* B. Eat slaai.** C. Make like a haai.*** D. Smash a braai.**** E. Say “bye” as they pull off 150m of backing.

5. On November 13 2026, what Is LeRoy Botha likely to be doing? (answer page 56) A. Singing country songs in Mossel Bay. B. Breeding with ostriches in Oudtshoorn. C. Molesting smallmouth bass in the Gouritz or Berg rivers. D. Discussing politics with skollies. E. Making Iron Man prawns for Robert Downey Jnr.

3. Other than a fly fishing paradise, the Makhangoa Community Camp in Lesotho is renowned as: (answer page 16) A. The Gstaad of the Maluti mountains. B. The geographical inspiration for Lord of the Rings. C. The site of Lesotho’s space programme. D. A world-class bakery. E. The end point of the ancient donkey migrations of lore.

6. Things our Lifer Linda Gorlei will not stand for: (answer page 96) A. Electrical storms on Sterkies. B. A lack of chardonnay. C. Hot chocolate from a sachet. D. Tying her own flies. E. All of the above.

* Procreate, ** Salad, *** Shark, **** BBQ

Answers: 1. B, 2. A-C-E, 3. D, 4. D, 5. C, 6. E

104

W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M


Built for freedom. Designed for responsibility.

Our new Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders are the result of relentless innovation, meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to save our home planet. They’re lighter, stronger and designed to move better in and out of the water, and they’re built with 100% recycled face fabric.

Just another day in paradise. Mikey Wier navigates a NorCal nirvana in search of a few rainbows. JEREMIAH WATT © 2020 Patagonia, Inc.

Profile for The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine

The Mission Fly Magazine Issue #19  

The Mission Fly Magazine Issue #19