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ISSUE 02

MARCH | APRIL 2017

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THEMISSIONFLYMAG.COM


experience counts for everything Meet Brian Lynch, one of the most innovative anglers and best guides in the business. Professionals like Brian are our first call when we need boots on the ground (and in the water), and our go-to team when it comes to understanding what truly makes a great rod. Their knowledge, their expertise, their understanding is passed on to our craftsmen who strive for perfection and uncompromising performance in every rod we make. To us, Brian and his fellow professionals are our unsung heros. We salute you. Brian calls Western Massachusetts home and can be found working the Deerfield river virtually all year round.


introducing the new avantt and exocett series from t&t. remarkably light. extraordinarily strong.

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T H E R O D YO U W I L L E V E N T UA L LY OW N

www.thomasandthomas.com HANDMADE IN AMERICA


W W W . T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M ISSUE 2 MARCH | APRIL 2017

CONTENTS Cover: “Captain Jack” by Conrad Botes.

MAIN FEATURES 08 HIGH 5S Guide Christiaan Pretorius on why you shouldn’t eat his lunch. 12 THE ISLAND Geelbek. At night. On fly with Jimmy Eagleton. 16 THE PAARL PANTHER Carping on the Berg River with Leonard Flemming. 24 MOOI MAN Trevor Sithole and the trout of Thendela Village. 30 TROPHY LIFE Film maker, guide and mammoth tusk-noodler, Jako Lucas sets his own boundaries. 40 TAIL & ERROR Jannie Visser’s sanity VS spotted grunter.

REGULAR FEATURES 04 52 56 57

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Ed’s Letter The Salad Bar Payday Shortcasts

Beers & Beats The Reel Deal Wands The Lifer

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“FLY FISHING HELPS ME MAKE A LIVING AND HELPS MY FAMILY A HELL OF A LOT.” - Trevor Sithole PG 29

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

Pic Ryan Janssens

WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE

MICROADVENTURES.

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t’s a term coined by British explorer Alastair Humphries, a man who has cycled around the world (literally), traversed India on foot and rowed across the Atlantic on his way to earning himself the title of National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012. As fantastical as his adventures have been, Humphries is also a realist. He knows that for the majority of the time, for the majority of people, big trips are not an option. Depending on circumstances and the way your life is structured, some people like Humphries will have plenty of megaadventures in a lifetime, others will have one, maybe two, while yet others will have none. In between the big trips he takes, Humphries staves off boredom and keeps “adventure fit” by taking microadventures; small missions close to home that satiate his need to explore and push himself. In terms of budget or time, they are easily attainable and usually only take him out

of rotation for a night or two, possibly a long weekend or a week at most, not months or years. For a Brit like Humphries microadventures have meant climbing a local hill, tubing a river, grabbing a map, closing his eyes, pointing randomly and going where fate chooses. He makes the most of living in a country that has few truly wild places left. In his travels Humphries has been to South Africa (obviously) and when I spoke to him, he marvelled at how good we have it here. “One thing I have learned to appreciate from growing up in Britain is the emptiness and scale of places like South Africa. It’s an amazing place for adventure.” Apply Humphries’ microadventure mindset to fly fishing in Africa and myriad options open up for you. Take a few days to stake out that section of river you have always wondered about while driving to the bushveld. Visit that dam where large ripples always catch your eye. Explore sections of our 2 500-plus kilometre coastline, especially the more remote bits where you won’t find jet skis and soft serve ice cream. Set yourself fresh goals of catching a new species, visiting new locations or adding to your skillset, all while making great memories for yourself and your mates. In this issue, our motley crew of contributors personify that exact adventuring mindset.

EDITOR Tudor Caradoc-Davies ON THE KEYS Brendan Body CONTACT THE MISSION The Mission Fly Fishing Mag (PTY) Ltd 20 Malleson Rd, Mowbray, 7700, Cape Town, South Africa Info@themissionflymag.com www.themissionflymag.com

EDITOR AT LARGE Conrad Botes COPY EDITOR Ingrid Caradoc-Davies SALES brendan@themissionflymag.com tudor@themissionflymag.com

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.

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While guys like Jako Lucas and Christiaan Pretorius have lives that are utterly intertwined with fly fishing adventures in far flung places, others with less obvious rockstar jobs like Ray Montoya, Jimmy Eagleton, Trevor Sithole, Jannie Visser and Leonard Flemming, throw themselves into adventuring in and pioneering their own back yards. What they all have in common is that sense of curiosity and wonder at what they can catch out there, whether it’s a half-hour drive away or four flights, a tank ride and a 12-hour hike. As if they’ve come to terms with the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are”, they’re not dreaming about where else they could be right now, but instead are catching what’s under their noses. The question is, are you? As Jako says, “You can’t fish the Vaal and say, ‘I wish I was fishing for GTs in the Seychelles.’ You have to fish and enjoy where you are.” So by all means, keep dreaming about and planning towards the big bucket-list trips to the Seychelles, New Zealand or wherever it is you dream of going, but while that dream incubates avoid growing stale and predictable in your regular fishing. Plan a bunch of new fly fishing microadventures/micromissions and get out there. You never know what or who you might find.

CONTRIBUTORS #02 Feathers & Fluoro, Peter Coetzee, MC Coetzer, Trevor Sithole, Jannie Visser, Ray Montoya, Andre van Wyk, Leonard Flemming, Jako Lucas, Christiaan Pretorius PHOTOGRAPHY #02 Warren van Rensburg, Ryan Janssens, Colwyn Thomas, Conrad Botes, Warwick Leslie, Leonard Flemming, Tudor Caradoc-Davies, Pannevis COVER ART & ILLUSTRATION Conrad Botes, Brandt Botes

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WISH LIST FISH

THE WOLF BARB Photos NG River Guides

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s it a pike, is it a freshwater snook, is it a weird-looking tigerfish? No, it’s something completely different.

WHAT: The wolf barb (Luciocyprinus striolatus), a large, rare piscivorous Southeast Asian fish. WHERE: You’ll find it in deep pools in the upper reaches of the rivers of Laos, near the Vietnamese border.

HOW: Tackle up with a 9-weight rod, both sinking and floating lines, home-tied poppers (NYAP-style) and minnow-style streamers. WHO: Your best bet is with guide Bobby Kaotakul of NG River Guides who, after conducting a preliminary recce, may be adding trips if the necessary governmental permissions can be obtained. www.ng-river-guides.com

The Wolf Barb, another great reason to visit Southeast Asia.

“THE WOLF BARB, A LARGE, RARE, PISCIVOROUS SOUTHEAST ASIAN FISH THAT TAKES POPPERS” 06

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GUIDES

HIGH 5S A R A P I D - F I R E C AT C H - U P W I T H G L O B E T R O T T I N G GUIDE CHRISTIAAN PRETORIUS Photos Christiaan Pretorius Archive

5 things you’ve come to know about fly fishing? 1) You will never know everything. Even if you have guided your entire life on one small stretch of river, the conditions will be different every day. When looking at saltwater there is also the tidal movement that affects a fishery in a big way. This is exactly why I love fly fishing, as you are constantly learning. 2)You can never predict the weather. Weather is weather and there is not much you can do about it. 3) The enjoyment is not only about catching fish. 4) Size doesn’t matter. 5) Small flies do not mean small fish. 5 of the most difficult guiding experiences so far? 1) Managing expectations is the most difficult. In all honesty, guests are just not fair to themselves and often make a good trip not so good because their expectations completely killed it. Hell, on some of my most enjoyable days out on the water we never even landed a fish. 2) Trying to explain to the guest in the politest way that their casting is terrible. If you are planning on going on a fly-fishing trip, learn to fly fish before you go. These trips are expensive, it’s hard work and the more you practice the more fun you will have during the trip. 3) Always very difficult for me to

spend time with people that don’t appreciate a fishery. Just the fact that we can actually walk around on some of these destinations is a privilege, a fish, well, that’s a bonus. 4) When guests are too fixated on a specific species. I have had to walk past tailing permit because the guest only wanted to catch GTs! Make the most of your trip by casting at whatever the day presents. 5) Guests should learn to communicate with their guides. There are lots of things that we just don’t want to hear from you. Don’t ask us what our parents think of us wasting our lives away like this, don’t ask us what we are going to do one day as a real job. And don’t eat our lunch.

the camera with me on any fishing adventure. 2) My Leatherman. Do I need to say more? They are just all-round badass tools. It’s saved my ass many times. 3) My camera, Canon 5D MKII. I am very passionate about my photography as well as some film projects over the last couple of years. It’s the only way to be able to show people where I work and what I do. 4) My sunglasses are probably one of the most important things I just can’t go without. Costa 580s for the win. 5) A hat is a must. I have to confess that I am a collector of hats. I am capable of getting some of the worst raccoon tans on the planet if I don’t wear a hat.

5 indispensable flies for freshwater?

5 bands to listen to while on a road trip?

Especially for freshwater you will not find traditional patterns in any of my boxes, but my selection would be: 1) CDC Woolly Bugger variations 2) Perdigone Nymph 3) Pheasant Tail Nymph variations 4) Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear 5) The Blob 5 fishing items you don’t leave home without before making a mission? 1) My Ortlieb waterproof camera bag. This is one of the coolest gifts that one of my guests gave to me. It gives me the confidence to take

I could possibly give you 40-plus bands as I cannot go without music, and often the places I travel to involve a very long journey. My favourite destinations are those ones off the beaten track, sometimes only accessible by old-school military tanks or helicopters. 1) Easy Star All-Stars 2) Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros 3) The Lumineers 4) BØRNS 5) Every now and then a little trance and electro just to get the blood going.

“DON’T ASK US WHAT OUR PARENTS THINK OF US WASTING OUR LIVES AWAY LIKE THIS, DON’T ASK US WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO ONE DAY AS A REAL JOB, AND DON’T EAT OUR LUNCH.” 08

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Gang signs around Abaco Lodge can double up as your 2 x table. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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“MY SUNGLASSES ARE PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I JUST CAN’T GO WITHOUT. COSTA 580S FOR THE WIN.”

5 things you are loving right now 1) Traditional longbow. I just recently started playing around with a traditional longbow and it’s just epic. It’s definitely the equivalent of fly fishing in the hunting industry. It’s all about the feeling. 2) Fly tying. I have always been a very passionate fly tier. This is a major part in my success as a guide and social fisherman. I put a lot of thought into every fly I tie. 3) Photography. This is something that I feel any guide should get into. There is no better way to show people back home what I do and also try to show them all these beautiful destinations. 4) Hunting. I have always enjoyed hunting growing up as a kid. I am not a trophy hunter by any means but rather enjoy the process, the stalk, and then finally putting myself in a spot where I can make that perfect shot. Whether with rifle or bow. 5) Spending time with my girlfriend. 5 indispensable flies for saltwater? I am a very passionate fly tier and therefore I don’t really like to fish traditional patterns that have names. But to answer the question: 1) EP Mantis Shrimp 2) NYAP 3) Semper Fly 4) Flexo Crab 5) louser Minnow 5 favourite fly-fishing destinations in Southern Africa? 1) Western Cape – Elandspad, Smalblaar, and Witte rivers. 2) KwaZulu-Natal – Bushmans and

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Mooi rivers, and all the beautiful lakes. 3) Lesotho – I love fishing for yellows as well as trout in the area. 4) Eastern Cape – all the estuaries found along the coast. 5) Orange River – yellowfish. 5 favourite fly-fishing destinations globally? 1) Seychelles. As far as saltwater fly fishing goes, this place will be tough to beat. It is off-the-charts good and honestly there aren’t a lot of destinations where you can sight fish to 1m-plus GTs in knee-deep water… Now that shit will get your blood going. 2) Kamchatka. Rainbow trout that eat mice… Drop the mic! 3) Nicaragua. Fishing for freakishly big tarpon in the jungle. The true rumble in the jungle experience! 4) Guatemala. Excellent destination if you are looking at getting a billfish on fly. 5) New Zealand. This was my firstever bucket-list destination and I have yet to tick that box. I absolutely love the technical side of this fishery. Hard work but super-rewarding. 5 fish on your species hit list? 1) Roosterfish. Getting a roosterfish from the beach has been very high on my bucket list. 2) Mahseer looks like a really fun trip. They get gigantic and fly fishing in India, who would not want to do that? 3) Arapaima, apparently you hear them eat the fly before you can even feel your line straighten… That’s enough to get my attention. Then they also grow up to 400 pounds… 4) Golden dorado makes me think of

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our tigerfish, but sight fishing them in crystal clear rivers in the Bolivian jungle. That’s where it’s at! 5) Peacock bass is another one of those exotic fish that you target in the jungle. Fishing in the jungle is an addiction. 5 flies to pack (in the smuggler kit under your driver’s seat) to cover most species? 1) Woolly Bugger 2) Crease Fly 3) Clouser Minnow 4) SF Baitfish 5) F Fly 5 people you would like to guide or fish with? 1) Pascal Cognard (two-time world champion), this guy is a ninja with a fly rod in hand. 2) Flip Pallot, I am sure I will learn a thing or two from this old legend of the game. 3) Lefty Kreh, it’s Lefty freaking Kreh… Why not! 4) My dad, he is the reason why I do what I do today. The man that introduced me to the amazing sport of fly fishing when I was just six. 5) Jako Lucas, he has been one of my biggest inspirations in fly fishing. We have guided together, we have travelled together, but for some reason we have never cast a fly together. That day is going to be one hell of a thing! This dude has been crushing it over the last couple of years. Your last five casts were to... Tailing redfish in the South Carolina Marsh and musky fishing with Blane Chocklett in North Carolina.


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GEELBEK, AT NIGHT, ON FLY. IN THE PURSUIT OF IMPOSSIBLE FISH, JIMMY EAGLETON FINDS BOTH SOLACE AND SUCCESS WHILE THE REST OF US ARE SLEEPING. by TUDOR CARADOC-DAVIES

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’m 35, a relatively large, bearded, ex-rugby playing man, but I’m being pushed out towards this island in a float tube like a child with water wings as Jimmy Eagleton wades next to me following the sandbanks and channels he knows so well. The water threatens the top of his chest waders and for the last few metres he leans on the tube and kicks us over the deep water and onto the rocks. The temperature is cool not cold and the visibility chalkier than you’d expect at midnight. Still, if you get wet now, you’re wet for hours.

The West Coast is normally metal but tonight is very different. Tonight it’s calm, Ozzy Osbourne removing face paint after the show. Gentle winds over sand, salt, desert and scrub – the shushed percussion and schmaltzy brass of slow jazz. The swell is almost non-existent. The island’s about the size of a tennis court, but, partitioned by small spits and rocky outcrops, I imagine it takes the shape of Cthulhu’s head complete with tentacle noodles. Without an overhead drone pic taken in daylight it’s difficult to tell. Large gannets and gulls panic as we clamber over the rocks, drag the float tube away from the water’s edge and rig up. Jimmy points out his favourite spot that he wants me to use, out over a submerged spit and onto some distant boulders. There’s a channel there and on either side of it the kelp beds beckon. When they’re in

the mood, at this time of the year the fish come up the channel surrounding the island and feed on the baitfish trying to catch a break at night. I’m used to fishing late into the dark or starting early in the dark. The former carries the hope of the eternal last cast. The latter, the hope that leaving bed will be worth it if the tug comes with the dawn. This is not like that. We met at Jimmy’s place on the outskirts of Cape Town, I ogled his array of incredible flies, we spoke about fish and tactics, drank coffee, said cheers to his wife and only left at 10pm. After driving up the coast through dead country towns and dark grasslands ruled by grass owls to Jimmy’s favourite spot, we started fishing at 12am. We will fish till 5am and head back in the dark. Jimmy is a climber on the rigs up off the Angolan coast. He does the work machines can’t do, working his way into hard to reach places to deconstruct and make sense of something the control room says is not working. He is huge, all muscle, built liked you’d expect he needs to be for his profession, but he’s both tall for a climber and even bigger because in the long hours on the rig when he is not working he klaps gym. Tonight we’re here to klap kob and geelbek, but mainly the geelbek because, well, they’re meant to be impossible. Geelbek (which is Afrikaans for “yellow mouth”) or Cape salmon (if you ever bought them at Woolies before they were red-listed) are mainly nocturnal. You’re not really meant to be able to catch them from the shore,

let alone on fly. I’ve caught them once before in my teens from a canoe with handlines as huge runs of them swept along the Overberg coastline. Sitting deep in the kelp forests we knew to expect them when we saw the flash of wine bottles in the air coming from the commercial fishermen who used them as priests. This, the way we’re fishing from them, is very different by comparison. Jimmy is single-minded in his flytarget obsessions. Western Cape saltwater fly fishing is hard enough as it is. Long hours, high winds, cold temperatures and dangerous surf. Fly fishing for kob is even harder as you’re always pushing the margins of light and sleep, generally always fishing below the surface (though surfacepattern success is growing rapidly) and waiting for that almighty tug. Fly fishing for geelbek? At night? On the West Coast? That’s just nuts. Or so we all thought, but about a year ago a few pics popped up on social media. They weren’t shared by Jimmy, because Jimmy does not do that sort of thing, but an eager friend shared them and they went around. “Viral”, if you like, in the infinitesimal niche of those fascinated by people who catch seemingly impossible fish. The photos feature Jimmy with two geelbek, caught on fly at night. Not only that, but he released them too. Like most fly anglers Jimmy does not like to kill fish. All we have are a couple of fish selfies, in half of them Jimmy’s head is cut off, but the geelbek is unmistakable. Cult status achieved. Next level unlocked.

“THE ISLAND’S ABOUT THE SIZE OF A TENNIS COURT, BUT, PARTITIONED BY SMALL SPITS AND ROCKY OUTCROPS, I IMAGINE IT TAKES THE SHAPE OF CTHULHU’S HEAD COMPLETE WITH TENTACLE NOODLES.” 12

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Figuring out a fish like this takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. It also takes a life that does not adhere to the usual nineto-five strictures. Most of all it requires a single-minded obsessiveness. Jimmy’s life is structured in such a way that he can do this – haunt the beaches, bays and gullies of the Western Cape at night in his pursuit of impossible fish. His rotation on the rigs is two months on and one month off. During the on, he works, works out, catches dorado off the rig and like all rig workers, he dreams of coming home. Back in South Africa, the off is dedicated to his family and fly fishing. By day he spends time with his family. Takes the kids to school, hangs out with them and his wife after work hours, has dinner with them and puts them to bed. Then, he goes fishing. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve. Coffee, a biscuit and a smoke. The night is only punctuated by light. The occasional flash of a head torch as one of us changes flies, aiming the beam down and into our chests to keep it off the water. The red cherry of Jimmy’s cigarettes, the steady burn of a blue flame as he makes coffee on the hour every hour, the occasional white flash of a surprised gull attempting to land on the island only to find men waving sticks at ghosts, the headlights of the local dropshot and bait guys keeping an eye on the nutjobs who are fly fishing their territorial waters at night. Jimmy learned from them about where to fish (at night or in low light) and how to fish (get the fly down so you can retrieve it back along the bricks). He’s even given them a wry nod of recognition in naming his most productive fly the DMA (Dropshot My Ass).

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Sometimes at home when there’s a power outage and I need to try to make it to the mains board, a torch or a light switch in the dark, I catch myself unhelpfully closing my eyes. On the island, even though my eyes become accustomed to the dark, I find myself doing that, automatically closing my eyes and casting by feel. My casting improves as it gets later – or earlier. I feel the weight of the line better, give it a bit longer on the backcast and lower the rod as the jolt of the heavy DMA straightens out the cast, the sound of it hitting the water somewhere out there in the channel, giving it a good five-count as it sinks down to the rocks where the optimist in me hopes geelbek and kob lie in ambush. Sightless, I feel hyperaware, prepared to strike at any tug. I start to imagine myself as Daredevil or an extra-sensory, blind ninja vannie Weskus. My mind wanders, solves

island. Once we make the mainland Jimmy says he’s glad there were no sharks this time. This time? It’s an acquired taste this vampire fishing, but I get the appeal. It’s a quiet, largely solitary meditation. Like his job – working his way into hard to reach places to deconstruct and make sense of something – Jimmy is drawn to the difficulty of the challenge. Easy simply does not appeal because everyone can do easy. The challenge is everything. With geelbek, dusky kob and silver kob figured out, he continues to fish for them, but now Jimmy also wants to catch yellowtail on fly off land. He has a boat so can make it easy for himself but that’s not the point. It might have been done before, maybe someone can confirm it, but Jimmy does not care.

“CAST, RETRIEVE, CAST, RETRIEVE. COFFEE, A BISCUIT AND A SMOKE. THE NIGHT IS ONLY PUNCTUATED BY LIGHT.” my to-do lists, grapples with age-old existential dilemmas of scale, time and place and then empties out to nothingness, a lung through which the sounds and smells (salt, guano and kelp mainly) of the West Coast pass. I feel more calm than I have been in months. Then my DMA smacks into the back of my head as a timely reminder that I am definitely not a ninja, lead is real and I need to focus again. We blank, but that was not totally unexpected (after all we were trying to catch geelbek at night on fly). As we navigate the channel and the sandbank back to the mainland again, small blue and translucent minnows dart around in the shallows as the seabirds get their squawk on while they reclaim the

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Much like the years he spent unlocking sand sharks on fly, it’s his challenge to take on. And come winter he’s set another challenge: to catch gurnard on fly. Most of us don’t even know what that looks like. More conventional fly-fishing quarries? Jimmy says he will start fishing for things like trout when he’s too old to take on something bigger and armed with teeth. In his late 40s, he’s reaching retirement age for climbing, but despite the inherent dangers of a career spent scaling the external guts of a giant machine and figuring out what ails it, he can’t imagine doing anything else. He says a desk job will kill him.


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


“The fish special today are beautiful black carp goujons, swimming in a e. coli jus served on a bed of sous vide turd florets. We would pair it with a cane and cream soda.� 16

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L O C A L S O N LY !

THE PAARL PANTHER B E R G R I V E R CA R P W I T H PA N N E V I S Story Leonard Flemming Photos Ryan Janssens, Pannevis

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t wouldn’t be far-fetched for me to say that carp are part of the Afrikaans culture. The local papgooier population is so big that it supports specialised carp tackle stores in our country. The carp craze has also been going on for more than 30 years in South Africa. Who would’ve guessed that an Asian in Africa would become so popular among the settlers? I’m living proof of an Afrikaans carp addict. I love carp fishing and have since age three, when I landed my first carp from Hartebeespoort Dam. Carp were caught on tinned corn in my early days. I continued to progress, catching them on flavoured mealies (ooh, almond flavour was my best!) and sticky dough dipped in things like vanilla essence. Man could those baits catch fish, and big fish too! In my late teens I discovered that carp chowed flies. We’d catch them on small lead head jigs called loodkoppies in most reservoirs and farm dams. The dapping technique was basically used with long poles to get the flies to feeding fish without spooking them. Hells bells, carp spook easily! Then I caught my first trout on a fly rod as a student and it wasn’t long thereafter that the first carp was landed on fly tackle. So the love for carp fishing continued, but with proper fly-fishing gear (like fluorocarbon tippet, Sage rods, Rio lines and Shilton reels).

There are few fly fishermen I know that really enjoy carp fishing. Landing a slimy fish in a public dumpsite is not everyone’s bottle of Coke. I guess when most fly fishermen think of a prime spot they imagine tropical flats where GTs and permit swim around unbothered, fish that will eat a Semper or a Merkin on almost every cast. Wake up, because there is no such place. You work hard for your fish wherever you go and you’ll also find plastic everywhere, no matter how far you are from the cities. For heaven’s sake, why would you travel across the oceans if you could catch a fish that’s trickier than permit in your backyard? I’m not sure how chaps are missing the point with carp, but they are missing out for sure. The lack of interest means that apart from regulars like Platon Trakoshis, Andre van Wyk, Peter Coetzee and a handful of others I mostly walk urban river banks on my ace. Then of course there’s Pannevis, he also really enjoys his carp fishing. The only difference between us is that Pannevis enjoys any kind of fishing – he’s even used chicken hearts to catch Breede River carp for instance, while I only fish with fly nowadays. It doesn’t matter though as we simply enjoy each other’s company and we love catching carp (that’s the magic ingredient in our relationship). Another thing I must admit I appreciate Pannevis for is that he never gets into my space, and vice versa. We agree on many things and our fishing expectations and

“FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, WHY WOULD YOU TRAVEL ACROSS THE OCEANS IF YOU COULD CATCH A FISH THAT’S TRICKIER THAN PERMIT IN YOUR BACKYARD?”

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habits are similar; the perfect fishing companionship in my opinion. This helps a lot when fishing for carp, because the wrong move on the Berg River is fatal (a bold approach will send the fish scurrying for cover) and the more anglers huddle together the more likely they are to spook fish. So Pannevis understands that he needs to keep his distance and mind his own business when he sees me leopard crawling down a littered bank. However, Pannevis has a foul

mouth and he is also a moody bastard – he often gets irritated and swings a spanner at people that call him by his full name, so I will simply refer to him as Pan from now on. Fishermen that know him well simply tolerate his CY customs (from knowing Pan I understand where people are coming from when they say: “Come to Bellville and see why”). Why this mumbo jumbo? The Berg River, of course: the best carp fishery for fly anglers in South Africa.

“I MOSTLY WALK URBAN RIVER BANKS ON MY ACE. EXCEPT FOR PANNEVIS, HE ALSO REALLY ENJOYS HIS CARP FISHING.” 18

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Long, skinny flats in gritty industria and pin point casts to large, spooky cruisers, prepare to have all your preconceptions challenged while fly fishing for carp. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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Pic Pannevis

Large and smart as hell, each and every river carp you catch is an achievement, the big ones a celebration.


“CARP ARE DEFINITELY THE MOST INTELLIGENT FISH I HAVE TRIED TO CATCH, BY A LONG CAST.”

Pan and I discovered the Berg River at approximately the same time about 19 years ago. It wasn’t a great carp fishery back then and most of the fish we caught were from Misverstand Dam on the middle reaches of the Berg. I’d dip fish with loodkoppies while Pan fished with earth worms and aniseed-flavoured mealies – believe me, he even won club comps like that! Although we’re great friends there’s always healthy competition to see which method works best, bait or fly. Interestingly, fly has always caught the biggest fish, to Pan’s frustration of course.

maybe even world class, carp fishery. The river flows clear year round now, which helps a lot when sight fishing with small flies. These carp are full of nonsense though. Carp are definitely the most intelligent fish I have tried to catch, by a long cast. For instance, fish that are virgins to the hook will scrutinise the smallest, buggiest of flies as if there is something sinister behind it, always on the lookout if something’s trying to get them. And if you’ve caught a fish once I’d be very surprised if it ever took that fly again. They simply don’t react to stimuli like bass, barbel or trout do.

Anyway, it was when the Berg River Dam was built in the higher reaches that the Berg became an exceptional,

Damn, if you think trophy trout are hard to get, try catching a big carp. Brave words describing trout as “the

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most difficult fish to catch on fly” will be swallowed quickly. As Pan would say: “Fok hierdie visse is alweer vol kak vandag!” (Translation: “Fuck these fish are full of shit again today!”) I’ve heard that many times on the Berg… Interestingly and conveniently, Pan also only fishes fly on the Berg and his experiences with rejection correspond to mine. So both of us have designed many patterns and we’ve constantly changed and/or adapted flies as well as our approach to get a crack at schooled fish. We’ve made good progress together and learnt a lot from each other in the process. From all the experimentation, one fly stands out. It is the Bloody Squirmy, resembling an earthworm crossed with a bloodworm.

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Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, never! I’ve watched Pan and can vouch that when he starts swearing, that is the fly he ties on. We happened to be on the Berg again just the other weekday and I had a handful of freshly tied Squirmies; unlike the previous lot tied with vinyl rib, the shank was covered in natural CDC and Peacock Herl to shape the “body” of the “worm”. That thing operated properly. It worked so well that we attracted a bergie (a homeless 22

person) with all the commotion of hooking and landing carp. I always get nervous when these characters appear in a deserted downtown area, begging for fish to eat. It adds an edge to the thrill of fishing these places. Luckily, Pan can’t tolerate fish abuse and quickly told the bergie to “Fokkof man! Jissis, ons maak nie visse dood nie… Fok tog!” (Translation: “Fuck off man! Jesus, we don’t kill fish… Fuck’s sake!”). Pan’s

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words sent the bergie off squealing as he offered us a few choice thoughts about our mothers’ nether regions. On a different outing in Paarl central, Pan and I spotted something really special, a black carp feeding in shallow water. Like a panther in the desert it stood out against the white sand bank. I made several casts before getting the fly to drift into its face and the dark fish sucked it up, hooked itself and bolted towards


In fact, thinking about it now, that’s probably the only thing you may evade overseas, in a place like Alphonse for instance. If you have a fat wallet then you’re unlikely to see a turd, tampon or piece of toilet paper floating past while wading. You’ll also not know what rotting human crap smells like if you hadn’t stirred it up from the bottom of a river before. Money, however, won’t guarantee you fish, no matter where you go; and what’s more, if you could catch a carp in the Berg, you’d likely be able to catch any other stuck-up fish, like a St Francois perm, a New Zealand brown or even a Sudanese triggerfish.

the opposite bank. It was a small carp, but it ran like a wild animal, all over the pool. Typical of these fish, it tried to cut the line on roots in the undercut banks. That’s when you jump into the water! It saves the fish, but it’s so full of Escherichia coli that the river water could qualify as diluted sewerage.

Anyway, I landed the little sucker face, a unique specimen with asphalt fins and a dark bronze body. Besides their intellect and strength (what a combo already!), I like carp for the diversity of colours and shapes they come in. Few fish look the same, especially in the Berg. I never get bored of them. Pan and I admired the catch before I let it swim. It was the next day that the scratches on my legs started to ooze puss because of the bacterial infections… Fair enough, they live in shitty places, but I still love carp. PS: Pannevis is unfortunately asocial and extremely camera shy, hence the lack of photographs in this feature.

“IF YOU COULD CATCH A CARP IN THE BERG, YOU’D LIKELY BE ABLE TO CATCH ANY OTHER STUCK-UP FISH, LIKE A ST FRANCOIS PERM, A NEW ZEALAND BROWN OR EVEN A SUDANESE TRIGGERFISH.”

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“I think I look better when I’m fishing than I do when I’m not fishing.” 24

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TREVOR SITHOLE MOOI MAN

FORGET HAVING TO EXPLAIN BUYING A ROD TO YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER, TREVOR SITHOLE HAS TO EXPLAIN HIS OBSESSION TO MOST OF THENDELA VILLAGE ON THE BANKS OF THE MOOI RIVER IN THE KAMBERG VALLEY, KWAZULU NATAL. FROM CURIOUS SPECTATOR TO GUIDE, FLY TYER AND FLY SHOP ASSISTANT, HIS ONLY DIRECTION IS UP.

Words Trevor Sithole Photos Warren van Rensburg Video Colwyn Thomas of Scholars & Gentlemen

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y name is Trevor Sithole, and I am a fly-fishing guide. I live in a place called Thendela and I fish the Thendela part of the Mooi River. It’s only brown trout fishing, that’s it. No one from Thendela ever fishes around here. If there is such a thing as a calling, this is mine. I fly fish for a number of reasons. It gets me out, it takes me off the streets, it makes me more active. It’s also cool; I think I look better when I’m fishing than I do when I’m not fishing. My family and I live on the river, the banks are about 40 metres away from home. I used to see white guys from a farm called Riverside fishing on the other side of the Mooi. I’d go and stand there watching them, looking at what they’re doing, and it made me curious. I started to develop a passion for fly fishing, but at that point I had no one to talk to, I had no idea what to do and no clue what

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they were even using to fish with, because I couldn’t get close enough to them. Shortly after that I saw a Facebook post about the Thendela Fly Fishing team. There was going to be a meeting and on the post there was a comment that I liked: “New members to be added”. I joined as a new member and that’s when everything started. From there, a number of people taught me how to fish – Richard and Matt Gorlei, Andrew Savides, Graeme Steart, Andrew Fowler, Pieter Taljaard, Jan Korrûbel, Peter Brigg, and Richard Khumalo. I think those are the guys on the top rank. At first my family saw my passion for fly fishing as a waste of money. When I went out to buy a rod, my mom would say, “Hey, why would you buy a rod?” Now they sort of understand what is happening, they accept what I am and they know that I love what I’m doing.

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“At first my family saw my passion for fly fishing as a waste of money. Now they accept what I am and they know that I love what I am doing.” W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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My friends, well, my friends only see madness. Period. One day I told my friends that I bought my Xplorer Classic II 4/5-weight for R1 800. When they saw that thing and heard the price they asked, “Are you insane?” No, I’m not insane. My response was, “Well, you buy your soccer boots for R2 000.” That’s it. My friends are not so happy with what I’m doing. I tend to be all on my own in this thing but hey, it’s my passion. I started working at WildFly in December 2016. I’m still learning a lot, assisting in the shop, tying flies and guiding. I guide anyone from beginners to intermediates because that’s where I am. To get myself known out there, I use Facebook and some friends’ help to advertise what I am doing. When I’m guiding someone I make the most of it, take as many pictures as I can and do my best so that they catch fish. With fly fishing, my biggest aim is to be a professional guide. I just have a love for this thing. My vision is also to try and get as many black people as possible into fly fishing. I want to get over that stage of black guys coming to me and asking, “What are you doing?” when I’m fly fishing. I want the black community to know what fly fishing is.

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Fly fishing can generate jobs for the community, like guiding, and tying flies and selling them. Maybe we can even build a place where people will come and stay in the community and fish the river. Fly fishing – through my guiding fees, fly tying and selling flies – helps me make a living and helps my family a hell of a lot. The fishing was hard today, we didn’t get a fish. I think it was because of the water level in the morning. The river was flowing a bit fast and the colour was brownish, like brown trout. I don’t know why but the fish seem to not love that colour. With Warren getting that fish the day before, I think it was because his ancestors were looking after him. If you believe in things like that. If you want to come back and fish this river you get hold of me or phone a guy called Richard Khumalo. To book Trevor’s services vist his Facebook guiding page. www.facebook/Aziweke1

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Trevor and his daughter, Likhona at home.

“WITH FLY FISHING, MY BIGGEST AIM IS TO BE A PROFESSIONAL GUIDE. I JUST HAVE A LOVE FOR THIS THING. MY VISION IS ALSO TO TRY AND GET AS MANY BLACK PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE INTO FLY FISHING.” W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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Flat out on the flats. When a bus of a fish comes within range, you move. 32

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PROFILE

C A P TA I N J A C K ’ S T R O P H Y L I F E Interview Tudor Caradoc-Davies Photos Captain Jack Archive

FROM NOODLING MAMMOTH TUSKS TO CATCHING MASSIVE FISH AND CAPTURING IT ALL ON FILM, GUIDE AND FILMMAKER JAKO LUCAS IS HAVING THE RIDE OF HIS LIFE.

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uides are quick to correct people that their lives are not just one big jol. And they are right. They work bloody hard from early in the morning till late at night. When the guests are either catching Zs or having a fish-of-a-lifetime celebratory drink, the guides, while smiling and cheering along the way, are still working. Prepping and fixing gear, making chow, running the camp, checking the boats… Make no mistake, it is a job. But, on the flip side, they would not do it if there were not some access to fish and incredible experiences on a personal level. Some guides however, like Jako Lucas, seem to take it up a level or two, popping up on more continents in more ridiculous destinations with crazier fish and goofier grins than anyone else. The photo that says a thousand words about Jako does not feature a fish at all. It’s him posing, as if for the cover of a Cro-Magnon rock album, with a woolly mammoth

tusk in Siberia. An Eastern Cape boytjie born 30-odd years ago with the massive tooth of a beast that died 10 000 years ago on the tundra. Jako picked up the tusk while prospecting for taimen of about the same size and noodled a few imaginary riffs on it. I imagine that if it were an art piece it would be called “Trophy Life”. It would seem that the longer you guide, the more connected you become, the more opportunities present themselves. Sponsors, positions, new destinations and experiences. There are plenty of other fly-fishing guides worldwide who go to incredible destinations, guide for good money and occasionally get to fish the best waters in the world, but how many of them have a public persona in fly fishing like you’d speak about Djokovic in tennis or Pastrana in X Games? How many of them are sponsored as far and as fully as Jako Lucas is to fish? And how many of them develop not one, but several brands off of what they do for a living? With a crow’s nest dynamo of unstoppable drive, X-factor, networking savvy and a knack for social media, Jako’s found a formula for winning at this guiding life. So about those various Jako brands. First and foremost, he’s a guide. Then there’s the filmmaking with Capt Jack Productions and most recently there’s the co-founding (with Keith Rose-Innes) of the Fly Fishing Film Tour South Africa, a long-awaited event that brought the world’s best fly-fishing films to our small but strong (and longneglected) market.

“I WANT TO BRING THAT NEW AGE APPROACH IN TO ATTRACT YOUNGER GUYS AND SHOW THEM THAT, WHAT WE DO, ITS COOL” W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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Taimen meet net. Net meet Taimen. On the guiding front, his deal is pretty simple. Yellow Dog pay him to travel around the world, guide and fish. The only other guys Yellow Dog signed up are Jeff Currier and Oliver White, two of the biggest names in the industry. In return, Jako says, “I help the client with information and consult to them a bit, present for them at shows and host trips. They just send me fishing. “All the sponsors like Thomas & Thomas, YETI, Simms, whomever I’ve been involved with, just want me to fish more and I’m more than happy to do that. From when I started guiding I always networked with people, I always made sure I kept in touch and kept people happy. I never asked and said please give me this, please give me that. I kept the relationship going and I think the guys liked that. I would sit with the sponsorship guys in a 3am meeting because they were in America. I’d write articles for them, send them photos and represent South Africa for those brands, and it’s paying off now. I’m familiar with the term ‘bum in the butter’.”

While the guiding deal is sweet, there’s more to Jako. If you are a follower of fly-fishing videos, some of the clips that haunt your dreams and have you contemplating your quality of life with just one kidney are his creations through his production company Capt Jack Productions. One of the first times I saw his work was when he released his Gangsters of the Flats 2 video of chasing GT in the Seychelles. This was not fly fishing as I knew it (the geeky pursuit you did not really boast about in polite company), but rather a different, more in-your-face fly fishing I wanted to experience. The video was paired with Fatboy Slim’s “Funk Soul Brother” and it reframed fly fishing into a whole new category. Extreme, adrenalised and even (gasp) cool, it spoke to a younger generation that rejected the tweed and tedium clichés fly fishing had always been yoked with. I was working in mainstream men’s magazines like GQ and Men’s Health at the time and despite years of pitching fly-fishing stories and getting turned down on account of it

being too niche (they did have a point back then), it was Gangsters of the Flats 2 that finally piqued the interest of my editors. Guys running around incredible tropical flats, casting at and strip-setting into massive GTs that buck like broncos and speed off like bullies with superbikes and matching egos, while in the background Jako shouts, “It’s a fucking bus!” This was something new and altogether different. “The idea was to put a little bit of a New Age tweak to GT fishing. The fish speak for themselves, but I think it was the first time people worldwide really saw it the way I did. I was guiding in Norway at the time and Tom Bie from The Drake asked me if I could make a video for The Drake Awards in two weeks’ time. I said I could do it not knowing if that was actually possible. I started editing at night for two to three hours after guiding for 18 hours a day. I was literally not sleeping for two weeks while editing the first Gangsters of the Flats, learning as I went.

“I WAS LITERALLY NOT SLEEPING FOR TWO WEEKS WHILE EDITING THE FIRST GANGSTERS OF THE FLATS, LEARNING AS I WENT.” 34

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Jako and Cher compare duck faces. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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“I said look left, at camera bra, not right.”

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Somewhere deep in the Siberian wilderness, a man with a hat claiming to be a YETI, makes friends with a pike.

“A 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and a 1 and 2 and 3 and 4” I sent them the video, Tom said he liked it and he entered it into the awards. He then told me it won the “Best Fishing” award and that people were standing on tables cheering at the end. From there I kept on following up, kept on pushing and sent them the Aqua Hulk movie (about bumphead parrotfish) the year after and again while it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, from the flat caps to the music I tried to bring in that New Age tweak and attract the younger guys.”

That attitude towards filmmaking can in part be attributed to The Art of Flight, the Red Bull Media production on snowboarding that Jako sees as the benchmark for what he wants to achieve with fly-fishing films. Packed with unbelievable cinematography it takes something that is inherently cool, snowboarding, and makes it even cooler. “I want to bring that approach in to attract young guys and show them that, what we do, it’s cool.

“I’VE SHOT FOOTAGE THAT I HAVE NOT RELEASED YET OF 40 POUND ATLANTICS EATING DRY FLIES. IT’S SOMETHING I AM KEEPING IN THE BACK POCKET.” W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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After a hard morning’s fishing and with no lunch in sight, Jako began to eat the contents of his fly box. 40

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It’s also about showing people what happens at these destinations. People always say, ‘You should have been here last week.’ When guiding you have to tell the clients about stories of what happened before so they don’t lose hope. I kind of figured at one stage that people may not believe me, so I want to show them.” Diversifying into filmmaking and creating a one-man brand with Capt Jack Productions was also a shrewd, tactical move because it gives Jako longevity in an industry that for guides is taxing both physically and on personal relationships. “The filming thing is largely selftaught. RA Beattie, whom I film with, is someone I have always looked up to when it comes to filming. He’s been in it for ages and I have always liked how he does things. Sometimes in a fly-fishing film, it’s frustrated me how guys angle the camera or tell the story. That’s why I kind of just taught myself how to do things. The lucky break came with Gangsters of the Flats.”

Jungle YETI and the quest for golden dorado.

-------Talking to Jako is like running through storylines for a fly fishingfocused Willard Price/Choose Your Own Adventure mashup: “Jaguars following us at night. Giant parrots flying around, screaming everywhere. We did a proper hike, three days out to where nobody had really been. One shot, three guys onto massive, leaping dorado at the same time. It was absolute mayhem.” “Sea-run brown trout on the Rio Grande is a whole other ball game. It was difficult for me to hold the camera still on some of those shots in 50-knot winds. Drones can handle wind only to a certain point. I’ve drowned a drone before.” “We went up one of the tributaries of the Amazon to go and scout for those payara, vampire fish.

We flew for I don’t know how long. It was super-dodgy, but eventually we got some.” “Last season I got a taimen of 145cm with a client. It took an 18-inch fly, which disappeared into its mouth. Gone!” “I’ve shot footage that I have not released yet of 40-pound Atlantics eating dry flies. It’s something I am keeping in the back pocket.”

To get to this point, Jako’s had to come a long way since his breakthrough with Gangsters of the Flats. From owning a storage unit back home in South Africa (a classic guide move), he bought a house as an investment, before he and his wife Mariette relocated to the USA where Jako has consolidated his standing as a sought-after global guide, filmmaker and linguistic ambassador introducing global audiences to choice Afrikaans terms like

IN 2012 HE MADE A FILM CALLED 320 WHEN HE GUIDED FOR 320 DAYS IN A YEAR. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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And here to play a special rendition of Mastodon’s latest album, is YETI vocalist Captain Jack” 42

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When the bus driver finally catches the bus. “Hier kom groot kak!” He now represents a veritable who’s who of global fly fishing heavies from Thomas & Thomas Fly Rods, YETI Coolers, Simms Fishing, Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventure, Cortland Fly Line and Costa Sunglasses to Nautilus Reels, Fulling Mill and Sight Line Provisions. That kind of backing means that he gets to cover a vast amount of water. If Fatboy Slim’s “Funk Soul Brother” might have been the soundtrack to the film that shoved Jako onto our phone and computer screens, Daft Punk’s “Around the World” should be the theme tune for his life. Try this itinerary out for size. Facebook message: Me (hopeful): Howzit Jako, what are your movements over the next few months? Hoping to connect so we can shoot you (cameras not guns) if you hit SA? Jako: Siberia, film, film from Russia, Colorado Fishing Show in Denver, Gabon, Seychelles, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Argentina, Canada, Slovenia, Guyana, more fishing shows...

Madness for anyone else, but Jako’s used to it by now, in fact he lives for this kind of schedule. In 2012 he made a film called 320 when he guided for 320 days in a year. The point? To show what you can accomplish as a guide if you give it your all. Jako says, “I believe if you want to do it badly enough, you will tell people that you can do it and just make a plan as you go along. You set your own boundaries.” With scant regard for limitations it’s hard to predict what we can expect from Jako over the next few years. More films (Yakutia is about to come out), but in keeping with the woolly mammoth tusk, don’t rule out other outlandish stuff. A selfie with a giant deep-sea squid? Surfing narwhals? Coelacanths on poppers? With Jako, all you know is that the improbable is possible, it will be filmed, you will watch it and you will want to go fishing. And, as a huge bow wave pushes up behind an angler’s fly, forgive Jako the filmmaker if the excitement becomes too much for him and he breaks the fourth wall and starts yelling. It’s just Jako the guide and fly fisherman whooping and screaming, “Strip! Strip! Strip! It’s a fucking bus!”

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P

THE MISSION R

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D E C O N S TR U C TI N G S P O T T E D G R U N T E R BY JANNIE VISSER

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PHOTOS CONRAD BOTES, JANNIE VISSER, HERMAN BOTES, MC COETZER

SIZEABLE, VISIBLE AND SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE, THERE ARE FEW FISH AS INFURIATING AS SPOTTED GRUNTER. AS MUCH AS ANYONE CAN FIGURE THEM OUT, A SELECT FEW LIKE JANNIE VISSER HAVE. LISTEN UP. FROM PANCAKES AND PRAWNS, JAM AND TURDS, THESE ARE HIS PEARLS OF GRUNTER WISDOM.

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H U N T T H E

T H E

G R U N T

B R E A K D O W N

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THE MIDDLE FINGER

THE SHORT SKIRT

THE BULLSHIT DETECTOR

Tail

Surrounded by tailing grunter but unable to buy an eat? They know you are there. And they’re telling you to fuck off.

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Anal spike

THE DAGGER IN THE BACK

Before you give yourself a slap on the back and victory high fives, make sure the grunter is swimming away from you. These little bastards have an uncanny ability to embed this vengeful anal spike in your hand to add infection to injury.

Pectoral fins

You know when you eat pizza in bed and you lie on your side? No? Well this is what grunter look like when they munch on scampi snacks on their sides in the shallows and flirt with you.

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Gill plate

EINA FOK!

One of the best instruments to sever a finger must be a box cutter. A grunter’s gill plate is a close second.

Gill Chambers

Stomach

KRYPTONITE

Everyone has a weakness or vice. For grunter it’s gluttony. Their appetite for prawns means they will venture into ridiculously shallow water to feed the beast.

All the better for turning down a perfectly presented, masterfully-tied JAM fly.

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THE EYE OF SAURON

All seeing, all knowing, if you don’t have the invisibility ring and ninja presentation skills, you’re screwed.

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Shoulders

06 03

Nostrils

THE BELLOWS

Expansion and contraction. Will schnarf a golf ball through a hosepipe…honestly. Or a prawn from another river system. Van Hunks would be proud.

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Mouth

HEARTBREAK HOTEL

Give me five! Up high! Down low! You’re too slow…doos.

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SUN’S OUT, GUNS OUT

Hook a decent grunter and watch backing disappear. Courtesy of shoulders a breeker would be proud of.

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Tail meat

HAULING ASS

When a grunter spooks it will haul ass off the flat like a bat out of hell. You’re left in the dark, along with just your feelings of failure and inadequacy.

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“So that’s left at the prawn banks, right on the mud flats and then continue down till you get to the bush pub on your right. Ask Attie for a Sloppy Biscuit. He’ll know what to do.”

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s pin-ups on the res walls of Stellenbosch University students in the ‘90s went, it was unusual. Forget Cindy Crawford or Claudia Schiffer, my friend Alastair Kilpin sported a photograph of a spotted grunter on his wall. I can’t lie. It did something for me.

A Grabouw local, my interest in fly fishing only started in my teens when, while diving for alikreukel at Strand, I found a fly line that someone had lost. Attached to a sinker and two flies, it was a bizarre rig. I figured some Vaalie had gone there, cast off with the sinker and lost his entire makeshift setup. The first fly line I ever owned, it lay dormant for years as my fishing progressed from bass fishing in the dams to anything on worms or lures. Then when I was at varsity, A River Runs Through It came out, and like thousands of others I decided to make like Brad Pitt and get into fly fishing.

As a student I did not have the bucks to get the right gear so I made a plan by repositioning the handle on one of my old bass rods to the butt section of the rod and rigging it with one of those old Bakelite centrepin reels and that old, salvaged fly line. Using that setup I caught my first trout on the Eerste River. From that start and with enough longing glances at Alastair Kilpin’s grunter poster, the seed was planted for me to set off down a saltwater flyfishing journey of obsession, madness and only a little success. The pin-up grunter that started it all had been caught by Alastair at his family’s spot at De Mond. One weekend we went down to their place and caught grunter with live prawns. Growing up, fishing consisted of lobbing your bait into the water and waiting. Here we were casting to fish we could see. It was amazing. I then decided that, having read fly-fishing articles on sight fishing for bonefish and other tropical species, I wanted to catch a grunter on fly. Fly fishing for grunter? At that

stage everyone said that it would be impossible. To me it made sense. If they eat a prawn that you sight cast to them, then why would they not eat a fly that looks like a prawn? If only I had known what I was getting myself into. Life took some inevitable turns. I moved overseas and moved back, got married, had kids, klapped the nine-tofive and got older. One constant has been the pursuit of grunter and other Western Cape saltwater species on fly. But grunter have always been my favourite. The journey towards figuring them out has been one of tail and error, massive failure, a modicum of success, persistence in spades, foolhardy fortitude and the kind of mental obsession and stamina usually reserved for chess grandmasters, marathon runners and the mentally insane. Why do we do it? For me it’s the tease that keeps me coming back. Grunter are not so much flirtatious fish as they are outright forward. They slap their tails on the shallow

“FOR ME IT’S THE TEASE THAT KEEPS ME COMING BACK. GRUNTER ARE NOT SO MUCH FLIRTATIOUS FISH AS THEY ARE OUTRIGHT FORWARD.” W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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Love at first sight. Jannie Visser with a grunter taken on a JAM fly. water surface of the mud flats and drive you nuts with expectation while making suggestive swirls behind your fly. Then they switch off as suddenly as Eskom, leaving you cold, dark and alone, perfect conditions for coming to grips with your failure. THE IMITATION GAME At the risk of sounding like a classic “when we”, catching grunter on fly used to be considered something of a coup. Some considered it to be a near impossible achievement, a more challenging feat than pinning a permit on a well-presented merkin. Many guys spent years chasing these enigmatic fish before catching their first one, while others never managed it. Today, it’s not that hard to catch a grunter on fly. You can take a segmented deerhair prawn aka floating turd fly, aka turdburger, cast it out and wait while a member of this usually spooky species abandons all caution and impales itself from below.

I’m not a purist. I have happily participated in the turd swinging, but somehow this development in fly fishing for grunter leaves me feeling a bit cheated. It’s like finally dating the girl of your dreams, only to realise that your entire circle of friends has dated her before you. The approach can be both fun and effective, but (and I realise this is a weird saltwater/freshwater inversion) like a dry-fly purist, I prefer sight fishing to going blind. Each to their own. You don’t have to choose, depending on the conditions often only one is a viable option. To paraphrase Dick Cheney, when it comes to grunter there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. There wasn’t an archive of knowledge on fly fishing for grunter when we started, so we had to figure out what we knew the hard way. To understand them, or more specifically, to begin to understand why grunter are so hard to understand, the obvious place to start is with their diet.

“SET OFF DOWN A SALTWATER FLY FISHING JOURNEY OF OBSESSION, MADNESS AND ONLY A LITTLE SUCCESS.” 48

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Conrad Botes checking out the rear end of a whopping great pig of a spotted grunter. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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Spotted grunter taking a floating turd fly is a little embarrassing for everyone, like opening a toilet stall at a McDonald’s only to discover Jamie Oliver taking a dump. 50

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Grunter feed on prawns, both mud and sand, and we assume they eat crabs too though this is a relatively underdeveloped aspect of fly fishing for grunter. Judging by how people occasionally catch them on a Clouser, they are also not averse to the odd wayward baitfish. Still, prawns are the go-to, especially on the mudflats and sandbanks of South Africa’s southern estuaries. Even when you cast a live prawn to a grunter, sometimes they spook so I always knew I would have to imitate this thing really well if I ever wanted to crack the code. From time to time, I would hear of the odd guy having some luck and catching a grunter on prawn flies of some sort at De Mond or Breede. Not with any consistency, but we always knew it was possible. Over the years I tied a lot of different flies for grunter, flies that received an upturned nose, a cold shoulder or had sandy water spat in their face. I went back to the drawing board time and time again, because for whatever reason, what I was tying was just not close enough to the real thing. I’d tweak the weighting, the buoyancy, the way it landed on the water, the overarching goal being to imitate as closely as possible the way prawns look, the way they swim and the way they sit in the water. Inspired by those small bass crawfish lures and by guys like Bob Popovics in the USA who were using silicone to tie baitfish patterns, I started playing with silicone to imitate the prawns and that’s kind of when the JAM fly was born. While today former Proteas captain MC Coetzer is a lawyer, back then, when I first met him, he ran a fly shop in Strand. I was there every lunchtime and we became friends. I showed my strange new silicone fly to MC and another grunter nut August Lohan and initially they laughed at it. They stopped laughing when on one of our first trips together I pinned a fish on a small JAM prototype. I ran all the way up to tell MC and revealed the secret. “See the pancakes [the clouds of sand that grunter create when they are tailing in water that’s deeper than they are]?

“THEY SWITCH OFF AS SUDDENLY AS ESKOM, LEAVING YOU COLD, DARK AND ALONE” W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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“PRESENT IT CONSISTENTLY WITH A SLAP AND YOU MIGHT AS WELL PUT ON A POPPER AND GO FOR LEERIES.”

All you need is to cast upriver from them, drift it through and…” In no time MC was also into a fish. It was the breakthrough we had been looking for. From that eureka moment, we (Jannie, August and MC… JAM) fished ourselves into the mud and the sand of our local estuaries. We figured out that if we saw a mud slick or pancakes from feeding fish, all we had to do was drift the fly through the zone and we were in. This was sight fishing of sorts but not to individual cruisers, hooking up depended on touch not sight. It was huge fun, I mean we were catching this previously uncatchable species, but even though we were having unprecedented success – double hookups, up to 20 fish in the odd golden session etc. – we still had a lot to learn. The evolution of sight fishing to spotted grunter was in its infancy and we still often blanked like in the pre-JAM days. Eventually years later on a trip to De Mond, the penny dropped. There were quite a few fish in the area and I was picking up and recasting, picking up and recasting, while my friend Kobus was just casting and waiting. At one stage we both watched as a fish picked up his fly. You could just see it bolting off the flats with the line following it. It finally dawned on me that we really should be sight fishing for these fish. Ever since then I have been completely obsessed with fishing to cruising grunter on the sand flats – simultaneously the most exciting, most rewarding and most frustrating fly fishing there is. PSYCH WARD To every person who, despite their best intentions and well-laid plans, has ever experienced romantic rejection, grunter provide a similar echo chamber

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of all your doubts and fears. Your presentation was perfect? No matter. Your advances are blocked. The fish are going crazy in a feeding frenzy? Who cares, you still won’t catch. Not even one. You think you’re an old hand at this game like me and think you can read the fish? Often it doesn’t matter at all. When you are fishing blind, you can’t see what’s going on most of the time so you are not exposed to how full of shit grunter are. However, when you target them on the sand, you learn all about it. To sight fish on the sand, you need to be able to read a grunter’s moods, feeding habits and actions from 15 to 20 metres away through wind-blown chop on the water. On the sand flat, you will also quickly gauge if they are very spooky today (the norm) or if they have a more reckless hunger, because if it’s the latter you will get interest in your fly immediately. If they are spooky, just your fly landing in close proximity will scare them. But, if they are in a feeding mood, their body language is a bit different and they will move over quickly. The presentation has to be gentle. That’s part of the reason why I started using a craft fur brush on the JAM fly to try and reduce the slap of the fly on the water so it hits the water softly. That’s why I also think the Alphlexo Crab will work well because it won’t slap the water. Present the fly as softly as possible. Present it consistently with a slap and you might as well put on a popper and go for leeries. Over time, I learned to focus on accuracy and delivery, not distance. I prefer to roll cast my way into the zone. If you cast normally, generating distance with false casts, the fly hits the water with a lot of speed, but with

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a roll cast you can really just plop it over. You never want to go for great distance because you won’t have control. You have to know where your fly is and where the fish’s head is. From 15 metres away you can’t see what’s going on. The majority of the grunter caught via sight fishing on a JAM fly are caught from less than 10 metres away. You have to know that the fish is on your fly. When you move it you can actually see the fish coming. That’s when the adrenaline will course through your limbs as you wait on the coin toss of victory or failure. Most of us make the mistake of throwing the fly slap bang on the fish’s head. The result is always the same; you might as well have shoved a cattle prod up its ass. I’ve never seen fish spook like that before. With grunter it’s not about casting at the fish, it’s about getting the fly in its field of vision. While too close to the head means spooks, if you cast behind the fish’s line of sight you won’t catch. You have to cast into a zone where you can bring the fly into the fish’s feeding path without spooking it. That is the fish-catching cast. It takes practice and hundreds of spooked fish to get it right. Getting the cast right is only one part of the equation. Leading was another skill I had to learn. If you can determine the direction the fish is feeding in, you can lead the fish in knowing that it will swim onto the fly. How much do you lead the fish by? It is difficult to explain on paper. It depends on water depth, speed, current, direction of the sun, whether or not you are up to date with your tax returns or if you were a bad person in a previous life. The retrieve itself is not that important because it’s mostly a static fly. If the fish shows interest, you leave it. Once it starts moving away, you make very slight


Squatting Angler, Hovering Hangbal as the blind sensei contemplated just how he got to be here, sitting in the Breede river with a grunter in hand. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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Everyone look at the camera and say “FAIL” 56

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MC Coetzer, captain of the Proteas National Fly Fishing team, accomplished grunter hunter, the “M” in JAM fly and the man your parents warned you to stay away from. movements to get its attention. It will either leave, come back, spook or eat it. Spook is the most likely outcome. Just as you get to know the animals you spend time around (like when you know your dog needs a shit), the more I fish, the better I get at reading a fish’s body language. I have learned to determine the direction in which a fish is cruising in order to lead it sufficiently and not spook it as the fly hits the water. I’ve had to learn how to see fish. A lot of guys miss the fish. They walk past when they should be standing still, waiting a while and looking closely because the signs can be really subtle. Like just the tail tipping up out of the water or a small pancake forming. You need to take time to really look at a piece of water. From knowing when to leave the fly and when to strike, how to lead the fly and where not to cast, a lot of what works in sight fishing for grunter will truly only sink in with on-the-water experience. With a helix of luck, good

karma and hard-earned experience, you too should make some progress. But be warned, it might cost you your sanity and challenge the love you have for fly fishing. You can do everything perfectly and still blank time after time. Every now and then, you get golden days, when the fish are thick (both in numbers and in brain capacity) and in those precious moments, they will chow anything. When there are 20 pancakes all around you, it does not really matter what you’re throwing at them, they will chow. As with most animals, it’s in our nature to anthropomorphise grunter. Like humans, you get cautious fish, hardworking fish and you get lazy fish. The lazy fish cruise along and while other fish will be blowing out the prawns and doing all the work, they just sit there stealing prawns. Somewhere in between the two is the kind of grunter you really want – the gung ho, throwcaution-to-the-wind hungry ones. The truth is – and this is part of the

appeal – I don’t think that anyone will ever figure grunter out entirely. They’re like cats. You can’t predict their behaviour. You will fish a whole weekend, cast beautifully, present beautifully, do everything right and then when you are really gatvol, on your last cast you just lob a fly close to one and he’ll swim over and smash it. They simply don’t play by the rules. A case in point. When we started having success with the JAM fly, everyone wanted to know how we caught grunter and what this fly was. A guy came into MC’s shop and for whatever reason MC told him it was a small black fly with a red ear and a whatwhat-what. With all the confidence of a man who has discovered the silver bullet, the guy went and tied up a couple of those, went to De Mond and caught a grunter. That kind of sums up the mentality of a grunter. MC is still working through blank-day bad karma for that one.

“BE WARNED, IT MIGHT COST YOU YOUR SANITY AND CHALLENGE THE LOVE YOU HAVE FOR FLY FISHING.” W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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L AT ES T R E L E A S ES

THE SALAD BAR WINSTON – AIR RODS Well, hello there! Fabled rod brand Winston now has a presence in South Africa, thanks to Mavungana who are stocking their new Air range. Winston is calling it “the finest performing fly rod we’ve ever made”, which is quite a claim considering the strength of its Boron range. Through the crazy scientific juju of carbon fibre, boron and resin, expect quick flex and recovery in a broad casting range from this quiver of premium, ultralightweight rods available in 3- to 6-weights. Price on request. www.flyfishing.co.za

SEALAND GEAR – THE CHOOB & THE SPEX Plastic is everywhere, from our homes to our gear and the fish we catch (and release). Every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some shape or form, but fortunately some brands like Sealand Gear are making the most of that by upcycling products like Bedouin stretch tents, billboards and yacht sails into water-resistant bags suitable for everything from fishing to hauling gear and even your day job. Two of our favourites are the Choob duffel (in large for those rods and boots) and the Spex, designed by photographer Sasha Spex, which has plenty of useful compartments for photographic gear, but we can see fly boxes, reels and lunch fitting in there too. From R1 765. www.sealandgear.com

The Choob The Spex

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ROSS – COLORADO LT REEL Click. Click. Boom. Ross’s original Colorado click and pawl reel was a much-loved rugged nugget with a metal clicker. In the Colorado LT, Ross has kept the clicker, but otherwise gone full VW Beetle with the makeover. With only 15 parts it’s super-light (Ross claims the lightest in its class), but there’s no plastic – just a fully mechanised aluminum frame and spool, and a phenolic rod handle (a hard-wearing grippy material used by knife makers). Throw in the large arbor, detailed porting and milled-in heritage (Colorado’s flag and mountains) and you’ve got a light, durable gem of a reel perfect for many of SA’s smaller streams. Available in matte black or platinum from 0- to 5-weight. From R5 770. www.frontierflyfishing.co.za

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

COSTA – BLOKE Do you have a gigantic melon? Does your cranium struggle to fit through doorways? Could you rent your forehead out as an IMAX screen? Can you basically never wear a hat or a pair of shades without having to engineer special straps and arms to hold the bloody thing to your head? If your pip is so yuuuge that it needs its own area code and you are banned from sitting upfront in movies, then you might want to consider the new BLOKE sunglasses from Costa. With all the bells and whistles you would expect from Costa shades, like cam-action pin hinges and bi-lateral fusion technology, which fuses two colours for a chip-proof lens finish, the BLOKE is available in both glass and polycarbonate lenses. Designed specifically for those among us with fantastically massive, freakishly abnormal Klingon-size skulls in mind. You know who you are. Price on request. www.rapalasa.co.za

SHILTON – THE CR3EX:
 ONE REEL TO RULE THEM ALL So, you love your Shilton CR3. It’s perfect for klapping smallmouth yellows from the Vaal to the Orange and does the job on trout and smallmouth bass too. But what if, while you’re out there, you spot something a little larger (e.g. largemouth yellowfish) and need options? The Shilton CR3EX spool fits your CR3 reel, but allows you to use line weights from 5-weight to 7-weight, meaning you get to carry less gear and get increased flexibility when that submarine comes into range. CR3 Reel from R4 170 and CR3EX spool from R2 300. www.shiltonreels.com WIN ONE OF THESE GAME CHANGERS! Question: What would you name your Shilton saltwater reel? (Hint: extra points for creativity) Email your answer to: info@themissionflymag.com

LOOP – Q SERIES RODS In the context of James Bond, Q is the head of Q Branch, the British Secret Service’s Research and Development Department. Having a range of rods named after that bodes well for Loop, even if they are Swedish. Competitively priced, user-friendly, light, responsive and available in seven single-handed and two double-handed models, each and every rod weight’s flex action has been specifically optimised for its line classification. This rod is designed to be fished into the ground, not hung above the mantelpiece. Bond would be proud. Q less so. Price on request. www.flyfishing.co.za

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L AT ES T R E L E A S ES

THE SALAD BAR SIMMS – TRANSIT SHIRT

FISHPOND – SUMMIT SLING PACK

Leervis at 5pm, cocktails and canapés at 7pm? While we are all for technical gear that gets you fish, sometimes you want a bit of versatility from your fly-fishing clothing. Something that doesn’t make you look like a camouflaged bee keeper or a lost sniper. The Simms Transit shirt hits that sweet spot for anglers who travel a lot and need to transition from, say, the mud flats to polite society without drawing too many stares. Manufactured from 100% cotton with UPF20, the Transit shirt is stain- and wrinkle-resistant. And yes, the chest pockets are fly-box compatible. R1 380. www.frontierflyfishing.co.za

Heavyweight jacket, bag and pack pros Fishpond don’t do things in half measures and this, their belated entry into the sling-pack scene, should be no different. You get the drop-down cargo bench for on-stream fly and leader mechanics, outside Velcro for your fly patch, plenty of fly tool attachments, a shoulder pad work station, an integrated net sleeve, water-resistant zippers and lash points for trekking with rod tubes. This pack is designed for simplicity on the water, but you know a lot of detail went into the R&D. R2 170. www.frontierflyfishing.co.za

DAS BOOTS – TWO FROM REDINGTON Ehrmagerd. Good looking and durable, whatever will they think of next? In Redington’s Prowler Wading Boot you have a premium boot (with a dodgy stalker name), moulded rubber rands, enough width in the soles to take all the foot squishing your local river can throw at you, plus it’s made of quick-drying and -draining materials so you can suit and boot up and do it all again tomorrow. In Redington’s Skagit Wading Boot, you’ve got the workhorse Toyota Hilux of the range. A new addition to this iteration is mesh panelling, which facilitates quick drainage. And if you’re into that sort of BDSM thing, the boots are stud-compatible. Price on request. www.xplorerflyfishing.co.za

Prowler

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Skagit


Genuine Genetic FLY T YING FEATHERS


M U S T H AV ES

PAYDAY ASTRAL – RONNY FISHER Like to fly fish in hard-to-reach, relatively turbulent places? Perhaps from a canoe below Victoria Falls or in some hardcore gullies where if you lose your footing you will be sluiced out in the current? For these kinds of applications, we love the look of the Astral Ronny Fisher. It’s a PFD (Personal Floatation Device), but it’s also a fishing jacket complete with pockets and other storage options. It comes in camo but we’d go for lumo green for maximum visibility should you be somewhere along the Benguela Current while lost at sea. US$160 from www.astraldesigns.com

“IT’S A PFD (PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE), BUT IT’S ALSO A FISHING JACKET COMPLETE WITH POCKETS AND OTHER STORAGE OPTIONS.”

THE TUG IS THE DRUG BY CHRIS SANTELLA The author of Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die is out with a new book, The Tug is The Drug. A collection of 30 fly-fishing stories (several of which were previously published in The New York Times) like The Mission, Chris’s book is not about the technical side of fly fishing but rather his personal experiences and the people he has met along the way. From stories on steelhead, carp and roosterfish to investigating Bob Dylan’s lyrics for his secret love of trout, it’s great for dipping into for that final bit of motivation to get your shit together and go fishing. Available on Amazon. Author Q&A at themissionflymag.com Bonus fact: The author is also in a four-piece band called Catch & Release

“FROM STORIES ON STEELHEAD, CARP AND ROOSTERFISH TO INVESTIGATING BOB DYLAN’S LYRICS FOR HIS SECRET LOVE OF TROUT”

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GOODSTUFF & THE MODDER RIVER

SHORTCASTS

SUBSCRIBE…. … To Briggsy’s YouTube channel. Have a GoPro yet still create terrible footage? Up your game considerably by subscribing to Briggsy – the guy behind the lens for the MorningTide fishing crew over in Oz. With Briggsy’s help, from basic setup to more advanced options, you too can put out unadulterated fish porn the envy of your peers. www.youtube.com

FOLLOW… … The Loon Live fly tying videos. If you are in South Africa they tend to go live at ungodly hours for anyone not actually fishing, but fear not, you can always watch the archived videos at a more civilised time later. From the Flügenzombie Streamer to the Butt Muncher Carp Fly, to making crustacean eyes and dubbing brushes, a world of how-to videos awaits. loonoutdoors.com/fly-tying-videos/

ENTER… … The SA Fly Fishing Film Competition. Fancy yourself the next Confluence Films or Jako Lucas? Prove it by submitting a short fly-fishing film to this exciting competition, the brainchild of Gordon van der Spuy. The winner could get their film shown at the F3TSA film tour in 2017 as well as the chance to work on a WildFly episode. ffftexpo.co.za … The SA Fly Tyer of the Year Competition. Another initiative from Gordon, the founder of the Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo, this competition is divided into beginner and advanced categories, with prizes like a Jvice and thousands of rands worth of fly-tying materials up for grabs. And bragging rights of course, don’t forget the bragging rights. ffftexpo.co.za

MAKE YOURSELF… … The Modder River. Yes it was a Boer War battle and yes it is a river, but the Modder River is also a cocktail out of the celebrated 1930’s Savoy Cocktail Book using the long-lost (and recently found) spirit caperitif. When you’re done catching yellows and muddies in the Modder, put some hair on your chest with one of these: 1/4 vermouth 1/4 caperitif 1/2 dry gin 1 dash of Angostura orange bitters Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass. Waft a naartjie peel over the glass while giving it a light squeeze.

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FODDER

BEERS & BEATS THE BEER Nieuw Brew, formerly known as Ceder Brew, is a family-run brewery from the Kromrivier farm in the Cederberg that makes some cracking beer. The Krom River was rotenoned by Cape Nature a few years back so while there might be a couple of last Mohican trout hiding out, the focus is on the reintroduction of indigenous fish, especially the Clanwilliam yellowfish. Nieuw Brew’s beers are named after indigenous fish so you can knock back a Yellowfish Lager, Sandfish Weiss, Catfish Ale, Chubbyhead Stout or Galaxias Blonde knowing that your randelas are contributing to their future (and hopefully some fly fishing). www.nieuwbrew.co.za

THE BEATS

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RUN THE JEWELS 3

WILLIAM ONYEABOR? WHO IS WILLIAM ONYEABOR?

HOLOGRAM HOLOGRAM

FAITH NO MORE KING FOR A DAY... FOOL FOR A LIFETIME

DINOSAUR JR GREEN MIND

PIXIES DOOLITTLE

THE NATIONAL BOXER

EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS UP FROM BELOW

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THE REEL DEAL

HARDY BY NAME WITH PETER COETZEE

alone, where you end up leaving your reel in the shallow surf getting washed around by the waves. Fishing for GTs means that your drag is locked as tight as possible.” The thread took on a life of its own, and offered me entertainment and laughs for days. American fishermen for the most part aren’t leather tramps like us Saffers. Flats boots rule the Indian Ocean atolls rather than flats boats, and the added challenge has made “on foot” a level up in our eyes. Fred Davis joined the cause online, and over the next few days we sent in pics of our reels covered in sand and mud and salt. The audience was shocked.   “How do you not have time to put your reel down nicely?!”   “Is this abuse necessary??” “Put it on your stripping basket nicely!”

P

Pie packets, camera, buff and reels drying - Pete’s front seat after a long weekend of saltwater fly fishing.

eter Coetzee of Feathers & Fluoro was the kid who took everything apart to figure out how it worked. He’s now the adult who does the same, especially when it comes to his heavily abused saltwater reels. In his quest for a reel that could take both big saltwater fish and his tinkering, Peter has found what he considers to be the holy grail of reels. It started with a post I left on StripersOnline, the virtual home of the Bob Popovics and many other fishing legends based in the American northeast.

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*New post*

“You can’t dunk the reel!” No, yes, no and yes, I will.

“There is something that has been bothering me for years now and I’ve been forced to compromise. Which in this day and age shouldn’t really be necessary... and it’s a fly-reel compromise.

I walk with three rods in hand when I’m in an atoll. If I spot the quarry one is rigged for, the others get dropped. Regardless of what’s under foot. The few seconds it takes to get that GT rod off your pack will cost you the fish of a lifetime. I’m not willing to risk that.

Our Indian Ocean fishing is quite different from anything else and is extremely hard on reels. Most time is spent wading with multiple rods.  On spotting a fish, you drop the other rods in the water (or in the sand) and proceed. Reels just don’t handle sand well. Also, a lot of time is spent fishing

Of course this ethos means that I’m now probably the most experienced reel field mechanic on the planet, and for years I travelled with a toolbox with every replacement part known to man. And boy did I use that box. Broken bearings, corrosion, springs, drag

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“I WALK WITH THREE RODS IN HAND WHEN I’M IN AN ATOLL. IF I SPOT THE QUARRY ONE IS RIGGED FOR, THE OTHERS GET DROPPED. REGARDLESS OF WHAT’S UNDER FOOT.  THE FEW SECONDS IT TAKES TO GET THAT GT ROD OFF YOUR PACK WILL COST YOU THE FISH OF A LIFETIME. I’M NOT WILLING TO RISK THAT.” dogs and bullets, you name it.  I can even rattle off the correct Japanese ceramic bearing codes to fit your A or T. I modded, adjusted, machine balanced, you name it. This wasn’t something to be proud of or a victory over circumstance, this was defeat.  Benzine baths, silicon spray and Loctite. I had a fly-tying table, and a reel workshop. The tipping point was a trip to Southern Oman to chase down barn door-sized giant trevally. I found educated fish, and for 10 days I leather tramped myself half to death.  I only convinced one fish to eat, and it was a leviathan. It was an opening round even Kimbo Slice would be proud of, and the fish’s spirit was quickly broken, but on a half-assed attempted second run my hand reversed one wind in an instant. I didn’t quite recognise what was going on until the drag failed completely. I offered my knuckles as a sacrifice and the reel accepted. Now purple and blue and in absolute agony (in only my Speedo), my dream slipped away.   It just wasn’t fucking good enough. We’ve engineered a shuttle of antiferromagnetic parts and put it in orbit around the moon, but I have to rebuild my reel every trip?  I came back and revisited the thread. Hardy

Fortuna. Page three. The reviews seemed good, a reel that would break Dacron in bench tests seemed like the friend I needed.  I picked the X2 as a start. I wasn’t sold on sealed drags, I’d fished a few that had leaked and had seen catastrophic failures on a fish or two, but I’d give it a go, I decided.  

screws. Screws with individual Loctite gaskets covered in silicone grease that could only be the work of someone with intense OCD. This was ridiculous and beautiful at the same time. This was what every other drag had got wrong. This was more motorsport that angling. And I was in love.

What arrived looked incredibly good. From the outside at least.  Impeccably balanced, smooth as silk and beautifully finished, but inside was a gold dome concealing the drag. My parents will tell you a funny story about me taking apart both of their Nokias and my aunt’s before I eventually got them back together and working. The boy in me had to look inside the X2. I turned off the top seal used to change retrieve, but that was not enough to satisfy my curiosity, so I tried to fish out the drag plates. It quickly went wrong. I dropped a plate in wrong and couldn’t get it back together. With no other unit to reference (or family members with similar units), I had no choice but to ignore all manufacturer’s warnings and open it up myself.

I had to learn a host of new tricks usually only used by engine builders to get the masterpiece back together… But I was absolutely blown away. This is a reel with a hefty price tag, but not for this level of engineering. I was sold. Properly. It wasn’t a month and I’d bought every other one in the series. X1, X3, X4.  Now a complete family.

What I found was a reelophile’s Narnia. I had never seen anything like it. Umpteen O-rings concealing chambers held together by stainless screws. But not just stainless

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Fast forward a year, and my conventional friends looked at me with sarcastic grins as I hooked up to a 45kg-class yellowfin on the long rod, until I turned the drag knob. Humble pie is a 100-ound yellowfin under the boat quicker than your neighbour using stand-up gear. I love them so much I live in constant fear that one day I won’t find parts. So I will buy more. Thanks Hardy and Andy Mill (Hardy’s Saltwater Tackle Development Head). You outdid yourselves, and regardless of commercial success, this is a proper achievement.

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WANDS

WELL BENT SWIFT’S EPIC ROD KIT WITH CARL MCNEIL

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wift’s Epic DIY fiberglass rod kits have a cult following among the #glassisnotdead crowd and even carbon fans. But if not for a dearth in Kiwi rod builders, they might never have got off the ground. Swift’s Carl McNeil shares their genesis story. Epic Rod Kits came about because we had a dilemma. About 8-9 years ago we started making a number of fly fishing films. They became quite popular and we went on to do a fly casting video series called “Casts that catch fish” which was hugely popular and spawned quite a big Youtube presence, about five million views and 20 000 subscribers.

because the rods are so stiff. It occurred to me that if I could go down a couple of line sizes and not throw that hunking great 6-weight fly rod around, I might be able to present the fly better. So I started fishing a 4-weight fly rod for a whole season to see what happened to my fishing. As suspected, I presented better and caught more fish, but I also broke a lot of rods. I was fishing carbon fibre rods and the tips were breaking as I’d bring a

then that’s really where I want to be. So we went ahead and did it. We worked with a company here in New Zealand, took some existing blanks that they had, made changes and came up with our first fly rod and lo and behold it was a bloody great thing. I was amazed!

The dilemma was that there is really no such thing as a fly rod builder in New Zealand, at least not a commercial one. I had all these blanks that I’d developed and I’d scouted the world to get the best possible cork (we work directly with a Portuguese family) so we had the very best components, but I couldn’t get anyone to build them full time. I was stuck with all this cork, these As a professional fly casting blanks and these fittings instructor, along with “What thinking, “What now?” So we fly line are you throwing?” the decided, what the hell, why most common question I was don’t we just put it all in a kit? asked was, “What fly rod are Maybe the way out of this is you using?” The assumption that we won’t build a fly rod. is always made, as it is with What we will do is take all photographers, that if I can just those great components and get the right equipment I’ll be take everything that I had to able to do that. figure out the hard way - the daunting, confusing stuff like A few things became apparent: matching components and 1) we were selling a lot of fly reel seats, winding shit, which rods for another company guides etc - and put it into a Andre van Wyk getting his Swift Epic 686 bent by a Paarl Permit. and 2) students coming to our 40-page step-by-step book classes couldn’t bend their fly on how to make a great fly rods, because they were like fucking 4lb, 5lb and even 6lb trout into the net. fiberglass rod. That’s how the kits came broom sticks. Carbon fiber is not designed to bend about. like that. I scratched my head a bit and There were a couple of companies looked at a whole bunch of things and People open the box, dig in to it and developing very very stiff, fast rods and thought maybe I should try fiberglass so build a rod on four of five evenings over marketing these as the ‘be all and end I bought an old fiberglass rod. It was a a couple of weekends. all’. For me presentation is everything. dreadful thing, cast like a piece of shit, That’s what being a good fly fisherman but I couldn’t break it. I thought aha! It’s really, really simple and very addictive, is all about. Here in New Zealand we Here’s the answer. If we can make fly worse than fly tying. all tend to fish 6-weight fly rods with rods that feel and cast beautifully, but 6-weight or even 7-weight fly lines, that are made out of a material like this You’re welcome.

“I BOUGHT AN OLD FIBERGLASS ROD. IT WAS A DREADFUL THING, CAST LIKE A PIECE OF SHIT, BUT I COULDN’T BREAK IT. I THOUGHT AHA! HERE’S THE ANSWER.” 68

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


吀䠀䔀 唀䰀吀䤀䴀䄀吀䔀 䘀䰀夀 䘀䤀匀䠀䤀一䜀 嘀䔀䠀䤀䌀䰀䔀 䠀䄀嘀䔀 䘀䰀夀 刀伀䐀匀Ⰰ 圀䤀䰀䰀 吀刀䄀嘀䔀䰀㼀 圀䤀吀䠀 䄀䰀唀ⴀ䌀䄀䈀ᤠ匀 嘀䔀䠀䤀䌀䰀䔀 䄀䌀䌀䔀匀匀伀刀䤀䔀匀 刀䄀一䜀䔀Ⰰ  夀伀唀刀 䈀䄀䬀䬀䤀䔀 伀刀 㐀堀㐀 䌀䄀一 䈀䔀 吀刀䄀一匀䘀伀刀䴀䔀䐀 䤀一吀伀 吀䠀䔀 䘀䰀夀 䘀䤀匀䠀䤀一䜀 䌀䄀䈀 夀伀唀ᤠ嘀䔀  䄀䰀圀䄀夀匀 圀䄀一吀䔀䐀⸀ 圀攀ᤠ爀攀 琀愀氀欀椀渀最㨀                      ⴀ 氀漀挀欀愀戀氀攀 搀爀愀眀攀爀猀 昀漀爀 礀漀甀爀 爀漀搀猀Ⰰ 爀攀攀氀猀Ⰰ ˻礀 琀礀椀渀最 洀愀琀攀爀椀愀氀猀 愀渀搀 洀漀爀攀 猀漀 礀漀甀 挀愀渀 猀眀椀琀挀栀                              昀爀漀洀 猀愀氀琀 琀漀 昀爀攀猀栀 愀渀搀 戀愀挀欀 愀最愀椀渀 眀椀琀栀漀甀琀 攀瘀攀爀 栀愀瘀椀渀最 琀漀 最漀 栀漀洀攀 愀渀搀 最攀琀 礀漀甀爀 漀琀栀攀爀                               爀椀最猀⸀                      ⴀ 爀漀漀昀 琀攀渀琀猀 愀渀搀 挀愀渀漀瀀椀攀猀 眀椀氀氀 爀攀猀甀氀琀 椀渀 洀漀爀攀  洀攀 ǻ猀栀椀渀最 愀渀搀 氀攀猀猀  洀攀 猀攀攀渀最 甀瀀 挀愀洀瀀⸀                      ⴀ 愀 猀氀椀搀攀 漀甀琀 昀爀椀搀最攀 昀漀爀 琀栀漀猀攀 ǻ猀栀 漀昀 愀 氀椀昀攀攀洀攀 挀攀氀攀戀爀愀琀漀爀礀 戀攀攀爀猀⸀ 嘀椀猀椀琀 愀氀甀ⴀ挀愀戀⸀挀漀洀 愀渀搀 挀栀漀漀猀攀 昀爀漀洀 漀甀爀 爀愀渀最攀 漀昀 猀琀愀渀搀愀爀搀 瀀爀漀搀甀挀琀猀 琀栀愀琀 挀愀渀 戀攀 挀漀洀戀椀渀攀搀 琀漀 挀爀攀愀琀攀 礀漀甀爀  嘀椀猀椀琀 愀氀甀ⴀ 瀀攀爀昀攀挀琀 䘀氀礀ⴀ䘀椀猀栀椀渀最 爀椀最⸀  

䌀漀渀琀愀挀琀 䄀氀甀ⴀ䌀愀戀 愀琀 眀眀眀⸀愀氀甀ⴀ挀愀戀⸀挀漀洀

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㐀 刀攀愀搀 刀漀愀搀Ⰰ 伀伀攀爀礀 䔀愀猀琀 㜀㠀  Ⰰ 䌀愀瀀攀 吀漀眀渀Ⰰ 匀漀甀琀栀 䄀昀爀椀挀愀


THE LIFER

RAY MONTOYA T H E M A N W H O F I S H ES W I T H G O AT S

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t’s fitting that one of the unsung fathers of DIY fly fishing, Ray Montoya, loves A Tribe Called Quest, because if ever a band personified a pastime, this is it. The self-reliance and satisfaction that DIY fly fishing brings to its adherents is by nature both tribal and a quest. If you go down to Southern Oman you’re likely to find a man with a red bandana and fine taste in rap on a quest to catch permit. Be polite, introduce yourself, then move along. That’s Ray’s beach. My first memory of a fish was a catfish my brother and I caught with a Zebco push-button caster. We hid the fish in a bucket until my mother discovered it. She fried him up for dinner. I’m a nomad in every sense. My dad was in the military. I started life in Madrid and moved on every two to three years, continuing this lifestyle as an adult. I’ve lived and worked in the Philippines, West Papua and throughout the USA. I’ve never lived anywhere longer than my current home Oman, but as far as roots go, home is northern New Mexico where we built a house on the Rio de los Brazos, and yes, it has trout.    A typical day for me in Oman is pretty boring. I get up  around 5am, let the pup out, check the news to see if Trump is still president, water my garden, drive to work, teach kids the value of making art, come home, pour two fingers of vodka, play with the pup, cook a meal, and in bed by 10.    Unlike the Emirates, Oman has preserved much of its Old World

heritage and charm. There are still neighbourhoods in Muscat where if you removed the automobiles, you would think that you had stepped back in time. It’s pretty sleepy. The youth flock to Dubai on weekends, which is fine with me. A few days after the US election, I was talking to  an astute Omani student whom I’ve known for years. “We’re lucky to live in a Sultanate,” she laughed. “You guys spend billions, killing hundreds of thousands trying to bring democracy to this region, and look what you do with it!” “So, what do you think would happen if Omanis got a Western-style democracy?” I asked. She peered at me and grinned, “There are like three tribes in my family and we cannot even agree on who’s village is hosting Iftar. It would be a nightmare!”     I’ve been working steady since I was nine, collecting, picking, selling. The past 35 years I’ve been a teacher, before that, I did a few years in a large, chaotic kitchen, and a four-year stint in the Air Force as a weapons controller. I basically sat in front of a radar screen giving intercept vectors on Russian Bears and Backfires over the Arctic Circle. While in university, I worked for two years at a children’s psychiatric hospital. I tried guiding once. While I seem to have unlimited patience with children, I don’t have any when working with adults.  I’ve been teaching for 35 years. It is one of the few institutions, other than the prison system, that remains unchanged. Teachers in my school

are still teaching the way my teachers taught, and their teachers taught them. It’s fucked up. My other pet peeve is that there are few post-secondary options. We need more vocational schools and apprenticeships. The business community has to step up in this regard. The best life advice I’ve been given is to avoid manifestations of obligation.  The best fishing advice? Presentation trumps pattern. Of course there are exceptions, but if you cannot get a trout to eat a Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail, then you’re not presenting the fly properly. Drift, weight and size factor in more than realism. As for saltwater, give me an EP Crab for any piece of skinny water on the planet.    I am most proud of my daughters. The oldest, Maya, is a New York City writer/ editor, and my youngest, Solita, is a Los Angeles printmaker. They are both social/political animals, with strong voices. They are my gift to the world; you’re welcome.    The best party trick I’ve ever seen is me actually showing up. If there are more than four people in a room, you’ll find me hiding in the kitchen or sharing a spliff in the parking lot. I’ve really had to work at overcoming my shyness. I still prefer the company of one. Initiative and stubbornness are what come naturally.    I have recurring dreams of Socotra, Yemen. As soon as that shitstorm settles, if it ever will, I’m there!

“THE UNCERTAINTY, HARDSHIPS AND DAYS OF STRUGGLE ARE AS MUCH A PART OF THE NARRATIVE AS THE PRIZE. THIS IS WHAT DEFINES TRUE DIY FISHING.” 70

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


Ray Montoya and his trusty, pedigree, Omani Permit-hound, Lulu. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M

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When it comes to my artistic process I’m never happy with the final result, but I’ve learned to quickly move on to the next project. I’m obsessed with the patterns. We can only borrow from nature, lines, patterns, colours, compositions – in essence, originality is just the obscurity of what we borrow from. I’m also an advocate of the narrative. I can appreciate technique, but artists should have something to convey.   I’ve been into rap since the ‘70s, but I’m into all lyrics as long as there’s a good narrative. The lyrics that stick in my head offer a glimpse into other people’s lives, especially people who experienced hardship, or actually have something to say. I love “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” from The Chronic. Snoop’s definitive vocals, the Donny Hathaway sample, the flute solo, and the opening “Get out of the ghetto” speech: “Quit payin’ muthafuckas for jheri curls. Quit payin’ muthafuckas for perms. Save your money!” Yeah, that’s the opening track to one of the first chasin’ perm vids I made.  My DIY Omani beach road trip playlist is an eclectic mix of Kendrick Lamar, Nneka, Vince Staples, Arctic Monkeys, Alt-J, but lots of smooth beats from Jurassic Five and the old school stuff like Gap Band, Brand Nubian, KMD, The Fugees, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and be sure to toss in some Yolandi Vi$$er, Rudimental, an assortment of EDM, and the new girls out of London, Nadia Rose and Lady Leisure... They be spittin’ something mad.  Home water is church, and we who are in regular attendance are, like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, the first to see the degradation of our coastlines, estuaries and waterways. Here in Oman, I’ve witnessed a once rich and vibrant inshore fishery dissolve before my eyes. It’s an old story of corruption, and fast money, or as Kendrick Lamar puts it, “Corvettes

by tomorrow”. As an expat, I’m in a precarious position to speak out, but I remain defiantly vocal. The fishery itself is unlike anything I’ve witnessed anywhere in the world. The backdrop on our beach flats is one of the most starkly inhospitable while simultaneously beautiful landscapes I’ve ever encountered. Seeing a perm on a reef of lagoon flat is special, but watching one feed in a few centimetres of surf wash will challenge every convention about sight fishing.    I’ve DIY fished all over the world, but more relevant than where I have fished is why.  It’s different for each of us, but for me, it’s solace in my fallibility, and confirmation of my willingness to bend to that which I cannot control. The uncertainty, hardships and days of struggle are as much a part of the narrative as the prize. This is what defines true DIY fishing. These days, money can buy anything, but that sense of satisfaction from a hard-earned accomplishment remains priceless.  Good guides will always find ways to put you in front of the fish, but the best guides know exactly how not to get in between you and the fish. Great guides are egoless. Like great teachers, they are quick studies of their client’s skills and nuances, and adjust their involvement or presence accordingly. Most of what I know about fishing I learned from guides. I owe some, like Lincoln Westby, a debt of gratitude. Guides are an essential stage in every serious fly fisherman’s life. Your development is incomplete without them.   Every fisherman has a collection of fish that play on a loop like some sort of mind gif. Seeing that 60-pound roosterfish materialise in the shore break after five days of sitting on a hot, desolate,  mind-numbing stretch of Mexican beach is one, but by far the most satisfying fish was that first Socotra bonefish. The research, the journey, the magic of

that prehistoric island, the agonising search punctuated by nagging doubt, all culminating in a moment of pure elation. The late Leonard Cohen mused that a man passes through several stages in his allure to the opposite sex. From irresistible, to resistible, to invisible. The same is true for fishing. I think I’m somewhere between invisible and repulsive in my allure to both women and fish. The beauty of longevity is reaching that point beyond desirability, or should I say, desiring? I rarely think about fish on those seven-hour drives to the permit flats. Mostly, I anticipate the stars, and waking up on a beach.    If I could change one thing in fly fishing, it would be the demographics. I would love to see more people of colour in this sport.  In the early ‘90s, inspired by Jose Wajeba, my best mate Sanchez and I began our pursuit of bonefish and tarpon. Without fail, every time we stepped on the dock, we were met with a surprised expression – our Mexican and Belizean guides having never seen clients who looked like them. To this day, the only brothers I’ve ever seen on a flat are behind a push pole. That said, in my most recent travels, I’ve encountered fly fishermen representing a diversity of nationalities and cultures.   Looking back on my life, I wish I had the courage, or encouragement, or both, to pursue an artist’s life.    What have I changed my mind about? Well, I’ve had three marriages, but in my defense, my current partner and I have been together 29 years, so third time is indeed a charm.    As of this writing, the last fish I caught on a fly was probably a consolation bream. After days of fruitlessly searching for permit, the large bream we have here in Oman are like the old friends with benefits.

“I RARELY THINK ABOUT FISH ON THOSE SEVEN-HOUR DRIVES TO THE PERMIT FLATS. MOSTLY, I ANTICIPATE THE STARS, AND WAKING UP ON A BEACH.” 72

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


ZIMBABWE BUCKETMOUTHS! OUR NORTHERN NEIGHBOUR’S LARGEMOUTH BASS WILL KICK YOUR ASS

WHEN most people think of fishing in Zimbabwe they think of the Zambezi River and its feisty tigerfish. But Zimbabwe is also home to some of the finest largemouth bass fishing in the world and in fact, the biggest largemouth bass caught outside of the USA and Mexico, an 18lb 4oz monster, comes from Darwendale Dam situated outside the capital city of Harare. WHY DO THEY GET SO BIG? Genetics. In the early 1940s the aggressive Northern-strain largemouth bass was successfully introduced into the country and in 1982 the larger, fast-growing Florida strain joined it. Both strains of bass flourish in Zimbabwe’s warm, sub-tropical rivers and dams and it is believed that they have interbred over time to form what is known as an F1 hybrid which retains the aggressive nature of the Northern-strain and the large size of the Florida-strain. Throw in the abundance of

Mavungana JHB Illovo Square, 3 Rivonia Road,JHB, Gauteng, 011 268 5850

baitfish species in the local dams and rivers, and you have all the ingredients for breeding the large, aggressive bullies that have made Zimbabwe a global bass fishing Mecca.

VITAL INFORMATION Species: massive largemouth bass as well as tigerfish and local bream species like Nembwe.

MONSTER BASS ON FLY In Mavungana Flyfishing’s quest to continually source new and exciting fly fishing destinations, we made contact with local Bassmaster and retired medical doctor Dr Eric Layard who owns Msusu Fishing Safaris and joined him for an exploratory trip in 2016 to “test the waters” for trophy sized bass on fly. The exploratory trip did not disappoint as we were treated to some of the finest freshwater, surface fly fishing to be had in Africa. The thrill of huge bass smashing poppers and flippers in heavy structure is hard to describe. Know this though; we have fished all over the world yet we were left trembling at the knees on numerous occasions by these bass and our 9-weight setups were truly tested to the limit.

Dates: 27th April – 2nd May Cost: $1,995 (that’s US dollars not Zim…)

W WwW. wTwH.EfMl yI SfSi IsOhNi FnLY gM . cAoG. .zCaO M

Included: lakeside accommodation on a shared basis, three meals per day, soft drinks, local beer and wine, pro bass boats, all fuel, and Zim Bassmaster guides. Excluded: gratuities, flights, and transfers to and from OR Tambo International. For more information and bookings, contact the Mavungana team at 011 268 5850 013 254 0270 info@flyfishing.co.za www.flyfishing.co.za

The Mavungana Flyfishing Centre Main Road Dullstroom, 1110, SA,013 254 1 603 72 7 0 1


Profile for The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine

The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine Issue #2  

The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine Issue #2