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ISSUE 03 M AY | J U N E 2 0 1 7





experience counts for everything Capt. Joel Dickey, a no-nonsense veteran guide and one of the most knowledgable and experienced anglers on the water. He calls Georgia home but can normally be found in Big Pine Key Florida chasing tarpon, bonefish and permit. Hardcore professionals like Joel are testing our products to the limit every day and push us in our pursuit to build truly great rods. Their knowledge, expertise, and understanding are passed to our craftsmen, who strive for perfection and uncompromising performance in every rod we make. To us, Joel and his fellow professionals are our unsung heroes. We salute you.

Introducing the new T&T Avantt and Exocett Series. remarkably light. extraordinarily strong.


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W W W . T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M ISSUE 3 MAY | JUNE 2017

CONTENTS Cover: The Road to Redemption. Photo Ryan Janssens.

MAIN FEATURES 12 HIGH 5S Flybru’s Matt Gorlei on why he would rather klap fish than klap gym. 16 THE WANKER Reptilian rogering on Bird Island and why Kevin Costner will one day rule us all. 20 CLASH OF CLANS From Joburg to the Cape; Big ginger Brendan Body’s Clanwilliam yellowfish crusade. 32 ARNO MATTHEE From the East Coast of Africa to the West Coast, the shaman of salt and freshwater fly fishing is unstoppable. 42 HEART OF DARKNESS Battling demons, sleep, storms and nature at its wildest; when Gabon and its tarpon call, Conrad Botes answers.

REGULAR FEATURES Shortcasts 62 Rides 64 Wands 66 Fluff 68 The Lifer 70

04 Ed’s Letter 08 Wish List Fish 10 Beers & Beats 54 The Salad Bar 60 Payday


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TRUE RELEASE So catch, dig for a camera, almost drop it in the water, shoot, release. I do it, you do it or probably have in the past. Why? If you strip it down for a moment to the bare facts, it’s a bizarre ancestral hand-me-down. Our grandfathers provided proof of their manly prowess by killing almost every fish they caught and over-providing, posing on bended knee on lawns covered with more fish than they could ever need. Thanks for dwindling fish stocks, gramps. Egos firmly in the viewfinder we catch a fish and pose for a selfie with it, share it on Facebook and Instagram, holding it forward like toddlers who have found a treasure.


erhaps one of the best things about going fly fishing is the time it gives you to think. Initially, I focus on the mechanics of what I’m doing, but once I settle into a rhythm my mind does its rounds. I run through the things I have been busy with for weeks; the usual pip potpourri of money, deadlines, plans, success and failure. Then the bigger stuff takes over; my relationships, family, the country, the continent, politics, power. As that starts to slip away and I focus more on my surroundings I think about nature, geography, history and the planet as a whole. Finally, once I have reestablished my miniscule presence as an atom’s atom in time and space, I go full circle back to the water I’m standing in and what it is I am doing there.

So what am I actually doing? Save for the odd trout from a mountain lake or the occasional yellowtail run, 99% of the time I practise catch and release. Or, to be more precise – like the “crouch, touch, pause, engage” rules of scrumming in rugby – catch, shoot and release. There is something deeply weird about going to all the trouble of catching fish on fly (let’s be honest, there are easier ways), taking a photo of them and putting them back. It’s not the principle of catch and release that I’m talking about. Our need to put food on plates is no longer dependent on our hunting, gathering and fishing skills. We’ve got the industrial food complex behind us on that front. Plus, with the fact that a lot of oceanic fish ingest the plastic we are polluting the oceans with, eating fish is becoming less and less palatable, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish to get into.

I suppose a parallel would be hunters armed with paralysing paintball guns shooting a bokkie, a honey badger or a rhino, posing with it, then reviving it and letting it go. It’s both an audition for Survivor and picture gallery for a post-apocalyptic Tinder profile; a way of saying, “Hey world. If the zombie hordes came to town and everyone had to fend for themselves and live off the land, I could do it. Pick me for post-Anthropocene procreation and groceries.” People talk about the stages of fly fishing. I may be missing a stage or two, but in short it goes: Stage 1: Catch fish. Stage 2: Catch more fish. Stage 3: Catch big fish. Stage 4: Go fishing. The older guys, the “been-there donethat” crowd, experienced anglers and grizzled guides like our cover star Arno Matthee, have been through all the stages. Stage 4 is all that matters now. They don’t need to prove anything anymore. Arno catches 200-pound tarpon on his own and doesn’t even feel vaguely compelled to take a photo and humble brag. I look forward to reaching that stage.


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Photo Ryan Janssens


Clanwilliam yellow country - where men are men and sheep are nervous.

EDITOR Tudor Caradoc-Davies ART DIRECTOR Brendan Body CONTACT THE MISSION The Mission Fly Fishing Mag (PTY) Ltd 20 Malleson Rd, Mowbray, 7700, Cape Town, South Africa




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CONTRIBUTORS #02 Feathers & Fluoro, MC Coetzer, Brendan Body, Tudor Caradoc-Davies, Conrad Botes, John Travis, Ed Truter, Matt Gorlei. PHOTOGRAPHY #02 Ryan Janssens, Platon Trakoshis, Tim Leppan, Mark Murray, Henry Gilbey, Myburgh van Zijl Agustin Garcia, Toby Burrell Jan Verboom - Roodebloem Studios ERRATA: Brandt Botes designed ‘The Island’ for Issue 2. Nostra Culpa.



THE REDFIN MINNOW Photo Myburgh van Zijl


Richard Wale narrowly misses getting his fingers taken off by a hefty specimen from the Jan du Toit’s river.

What: Pseudobarbus burchelli, aka the Breede River redfin minnow, an endangered indigenous inhabitant of the Breede River system in the Western Cape, South Africa. They grow to a whopping 15cm. Where: You’ll find it in the deeper pools of mountain streams like the Jan du Toit’s River, lurking at the bottom, feeding on organisms, writing xenophobic emails to Cape Nature while telling trout to get stuffed.

How: Tackle up with a 00-weight rod, a floating line, 8x tippet, dry flies and nymphs from size 22 up. Who: The Cape Piscatorial Society. Join the club, enter the lottery for the Jan du Toit’s draw to win a week on this special river and, if the stars align, prepare to head deep into the mountains for a week spent targeting these fearsome fish. And a by-catch of a few rainbow trout of course.


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BEERS & BEATS THE BEER – ZWAKALA “Yo broseph, come hither Stealthy-like, down to the river Pull a rod from your quiver Catch a trout then treat your liver” It’s a work in progress, but that’s the Shakespearean battle rap we’ve got going on in the office as we sip on Zwakala’s fine brews. The name, meaning “come here” is appropriate in that these smashing beers, made with water from the trouty Broederstroom River out of the Wolkberg mountains of Magoebaskloof, have a tendency to whisper sweet nothings in your wingnuts, trying to convince you that Monday morning is Friday afternoon. There’s a Naked Ale and a Mountain Weiss, but we’re going for the award-winning Limpopo Lager for those baking hot days when you earn your beer through sweat and toil. Visit or buy online from









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HIGH 5S A R A P I D F I R E C AT C H - U P W I T H F LY B R U ’ S M AT T G O R L E I Photos Agustin Garcia, Toby Burrell


resh from the Rio Grande like a sea-run brown, we caught up with guide and one half of the FlyBru team Matt Gorlei before he jets off for a stint in Russia. 5 best things about the Rio Grande? 1) The sky. There’s always something to look at out there, it goes on forever. The clouds are insane, too. 2) The size of the sea trout. There is always a chance that you’ll hook into something around 30 pounds. 3) The amount of fish that you see coming through that river. It’s an amazing fishery with incredible numbers of fish. 4) The quality of the fish as well. A fish fresh out of the sea is perfect, fat, silver, with not a scale missing. Once they’ve been in the river a while they start looking like big angry brown trout, especially the testosteronefuelled males. 5) The fact that you are literally in the middle of nowhere. There is amazing bird life and for as far as you can see it is untouched by humans. 5 things you’re loving right now? 1) Fishing with a double-handed rod. It’s a very satisfying way to cover a big river, something we don’t get a chance to do on any local waters in South Africa. 2) Spending time with the family and girlfriend when not travelling. 3) Photography. Fishing takes you to

amazing places, it’s fun to try and tell the story of a place through pictures and most fish are so photogenic. 4) Videography. It’s something I’m learning to do along the way. I love filming and experimenting with video. 5) Travelling. 5 fishing items you don’t leave home without before making a mission? 1) A garage pie. 2) Camera (even a GoPro if a camera is too much to haul around). 3) Water (I’ve been dehydrated before, not so lekker). 4) Sunglasses, I wear Smith Dolens and I don’t leave home without them, ever. 5) Finally, a positive mindset. It’s important to enjoy your fishing and to always have the right attitude when going on a mission. 5 favourite fly-fishing destinations globally? 1) Colorado, USA. 2) Rio Grande, Southern Patagonia. 3) Argentina – only the biggest trout in the world. 4) Zambezi River – incredible place to fish for tigerfish. 5.1) The Seychelles – still have yet to fish there but it’s my dream to fish the flats for GT, bonefish and permit. 5.2) Russian Kola Peninsula – it’s my next adventure and will be a first for me targeting Atlantic salmon.

5 flies that to look at make no sense but that catch fish all the time? 1) The green machine – a sea-trout fly that looks like a green DDD, it has a hackle through it and a red ass, fished on a sinking line. 2) The blob. 3) The booby blob. 4) The turdburger. 5) Traditional salmon flies – they look awesome but what are they supposed to be? 5 bands to listen to while on a road trip? Can’t go wrong with a bit of Arctic Monkeys, Kongos, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Gorillaz, and a little bit of drum and bass from the likes of Netsky, Chase & Status and Pendulum to get the blood pumping. 5 things about fly fishing that you may never understand? 1) Why more people don’t fish. 2) What makes fish moody, why some days they are happy to take a fly and other days they just want none of it, even when conditions haven’t changed one bit. 3) Why it is so hard to not look at a river or lake when you drive over a bridge. 4) The feeling of a fish taking a dry fly, something you can’t explain. 5) Some people are luckier than others.


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Finally, boy band One Direction had a single member. W W W. T H E M I S S I O N F LY M A G . C O M



5 favourite fly-fishing destinations across SA? 1) Transkei 2) Cape streams 3) KwaZulu-Natal Bushman’s River) 4) Orange River 5) Breede River



5 of the most difficult guiding experiences so far? 1) Guiding in 100km/h winds on the Rio Grande, quite a common thing in a season’s work in Southern Patagonia. 2) Netting a big fish for any guest can be nerve-racking. In a few instances I was netting a client’s PB (personal best), the fish of a lifetime, and more often than not the guest is pressuring you to net it faster and is rushing the fight themselves. I think I may have knocked one fish off with the net, but luckily it wasn’t a monster. 3) Having to teach people to cast when the fishing is going off, fish rolling and jumping, and you can see that it would be an epic session, but you end up being stuck with a client who has never cast a fly rod and you just have to be patient with casting instructions – that’s not easy for any guide, I assure you. 4) Guests who are too fixated on the “picture” with a big fish. Some people do not appreciate where they are, the river they are fishing or the beauty of the fish. It’s tough to guide someone who is too obsessed with getting that big fish, someone so competitive


they do not take in the real beauty of the fishery and start to get on edge if they are only catching small fish. I mean, come on! The fact that a trophy fish takes your fly is so far out of your control, let alone the guide’s control, so just relax and appreciate each fish, that big one will come. 5) One more thing is when people do not respect the fish and want to keep them out of the water for ages to take hundreds of pictures. Holding the fish with dry hands because their hands are cold is no excuse. And learn to hold the fish… Don’t go and drop the fish on the gravel on the banks of a river. 5 flies to pack (in the smuggler kit under your driver’s seat) to cover most species? 1) Black woolly bugger 2) Squirmy worm 3) Clouser minnow 4) Stimulator 5) Zak nymph 5 people you would like to guide or fish with? 1) I would love to guide my parents at a destination like the Rio Grande, they would both love it. 2) Obviously my best mate Nick van Rensburg. He is a legend and I’m always amped for fishing with him. 3) Christiaan Pretorius, a great mate of mine, someone I look up to, an amazing fisherman. 4) Noah Thompson, a guy I met years ago at the World Fly Fishing

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Championships. We have kept in touch and he has always been a guy I want to go on missions with, also an incredible angler. 5) Jennifer Aniston, because, come on… If she fished, then she would definitely be the full package. 5 fish on your species hit list? 1) A GT on the flats, I’ve caught them in deep water and in the surf but I need to get one on the flats. 2) The Indo-Pacific permit, a beautiful species that can be extremely challenging. 3) Atlantic salmon, I’ll be ticking them off soon on the Kola Peninsula, Russia. 4) Golden dorado in Central and South America. 5) Mongolian taimen. 5 shower thoughts that have occurred to you while fly fishing? 1) Someone will catch the biggest fish in the world for the day and will probably not even know of their achievement. 2) Do fish eagles ever watch you fishing to learn where the fish are? 3) It could be the first time that this fish has ever been hooked. 4) If I had used a different fly on a different cast it could have been a completely different result. 5) While guiding in Patagonia (we guided a few first-time fishermen), I was thinking, ‘Do these guests even know what this place is? Like do they appreciate that fishing the Rio Grande is a dream for most fly fishermen?’

Matt Gorlei and guest perform synchronised ‘Hangbal’ on the Rio Grande.

5 of the most underrated species in your book? 1) Carp can result in some crazy sight fishing as well as a proper challenge. 2) Natal scaly, pound for pound, is the strongest freshwater fish you can catch. 3) Mullet, also a tough fish to fool and they get pretty big, a flippin’ strong fight on light tackle. 4) Bluefin kingfish, for me they match the GT, pound for pound are stronger,

are more beautiful and even though they do not get as big as the GT they are just as epic. 5) Any species of shark, I think they could be a great sportfish if you can work out how and where to get them on fly. 5 things you would take up if you weren’t always fly fishing? 1) Spin fishing, I guess.

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2) Definitely get involved in production and cinematography. 3) More surfing. 4) Maybe sailing, it’s something my dad has always done. 5) Gymming… Haha naaaat. Your last five casts were to…. Difficult late-season sea trout on the Rio Grande. I had all our lodge’s beats to myself for a day. What an awesome experience.



by TUDOR CARADOC-DAVIES It’s 2013. I’m on Bird Island, an oasis of bird and marine life about 30 minutes flight from the Seychelles’ principle island of Mahe. It’s my dad’s 70th birthday and the first time as a family of moderate gingers that we are trying this tropical island thing. It’s not a fishing trip per se and Bird is not the Amirantes, but I’ll be damned if I don’t factor 50-plus up a storm and give it a bash. There are no guides, but I’ve saved up and splashed out on the tackle, read up on fly fishing the flats and I’ve got nothing to lose except some of my inexperience. I almost believe GTs will come when I whistle. I start off with fish; a ferocious trumpetfish that was doing a solid job of imitating a stick is followed by a small rock bass and an emperor of some sort. The tides change, I fall in a few holes and have a bit of a ’mare trying to find the right way to strap and carry a 9-weight and a 12-weight. Shadows kak off across the flats. I’m not really seeing hordes of bonefish, but every cast is expectant. Then I see a large dark shape moving across the flat and behind it two slightly more cylindrical shadows. A ray and its GT puppies. Flick flick plop. Strip strip strip. Fuck. Gone in a melty collage of corals, reflections and suncream in my eyes. “UUUUUNGHHHHH!” Somewhere behind me in the tree line there’s a moan. Then another and another.

At first I think it’s directed at me. But this is an erotic moan. I’m not exactly an erotic target, ergo … Someone is naaiing in the bushes! “Ah yes, that’s Rafael. He’s a bit of a wanker. There’s a problem child in every twenty.” And that is Roby Bresson, a veteran of Seychelles conservation and the resident guru on Bird explaining the wonders of nature to me. It turns out if you fish the flats of Bird Island in the Seychelles you’re likely to hear Rafael moaning from behind the boatshed. A 90-year-old Aldabra giant tortoise and the island’s resident dodgy old man in a hard shell trench coat, Rafael likes to masturbate in public. The boatshed is his favoured Fleshlight®. Rafael also has a thing for panties and bikini bottoms blown off the drying lines of the island’s 24 chalets. Bresson reckons he mistakes them for grass (edible panties perhaps?) and munches through lingerie like he would vegetable matter. Three weeks later, Rafael will pass a stool with some tenderised knickers within. Randy Rafael aside – a mere teenager at 90 – the most famous tortoise on Bird is Esmeralda. In a classic case of Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue”, Esmeralda is in fact a bloke. At 170 he holds the Guinness Book of Records title as the oldest giant land tortoise in the world although nobody really knows his true age. He was brought to the island 40 years ago at which time his age was estimated at

between 40 and 50 but somewhere the maths (and his gender for that matter) went wrong and it seems a good 100 or so years were thrown in for good measure. You can’t really read a tortoise like you can a tree. You can just guesstimate from historical records and Esmeralda, like any good lady-boy, ain’t telling. Like Rafael’s digestive system, things move slowly on Bird. The focus is on letting nature do her thing. Bresson is the midwife. Aside from leading visitors around the island on nature walks, he also tends to the bird colonies and the nesting turtles that return to the island every year to heave themselves up the beaches and lay their eggs. Bird is a small island at 0.70km² but doing many laps a day, searching through sand and scrub and tracking turtles to their nests, Bresson is lean and fit with close-cropped graying curls that have replaced the dreadlocks he used to sport in his youth. He needs to be in good condition. The turtles average 426 nests per year and each one lays an average of 238 eggs. That’s over 101 000 turtle eggs that Bresson is sworn to protect every year in his Sisyphean guardianship role which requires him to inspect every single nest three to five times a day. Despite the numbers of eggs, the odds are against the turtles. For starters, there are the crabs. The island has many crab species from tiny ghost crabs and huge, creepy mangrove crabs to green sand crabs and the turtle-killing blue crabs that


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Bresson does battle with every day. Then, once hatched, the baby turtles need to run the gauntlet of sand and sea avoiding crows, herons, and huge frigate birds, as well as larger fish like GTs and a plethora of other hungry marine critters that they will encounter once they hit the surf. While Bresson is brimful of information and eager to share, Clive the monosyllabic Seychellois fishing boat captain who takes us trolling for doggies, gets his point across in a series of conjoined grunts and Gallic mouthfarts. What he was very clear on is that the fishing is not what it used to be. On a boat with rusted lures and tackle, Clive pulled out a cared-for photo album with the overly nonchalant air of someone who wanted to show rather than tell. In it from a time – judging by the hair – when ABBA was top of the pops – sunburnt men stood dwarfed next to magnificent, dead marlin. Nowadays the fishing is decent enough for recreational anglers but different from the good/bad old days. Clive blames the French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese trawlers – essentially anyone. Both he and the taxi driver on the main island of Mahe were dismissive of the current president. Apparently the last chap was better. This one sells the fishing rights to trawling nations. He also gave Dubai’s gold-excreting Sheik Khalifa a seven-storey peach yellow monstrosity in the mountains above the capital Victoria and let Pam Golding develop Eden Island. A reclaimed Disneyesque village in the shallows just off Victoria; somewhere between the Lost City and Thesen’s island, it’s a Sol Kerzner wet dream. While out fishing, Captain Clive ran us past what initially looked like a Russian gin palace. On closer inspection it turned out to be a tourist

boat hired by the Seychelles navy to keep an eye out for pirates. Sitting around in their boardies, smoking and fishing, the Seychelles Navy’s ruse to pose as tourist fishermen was working a charm. Only when you saw the three large guns affixed to port and starboard (left and right, ye landlubbers) and one aft (at the back) did it look like serious business, though the methodacting sailors looked all leisure. At the time, they had reason to be out there. About a decade ago two fishermen were abducted by Somali pirates and only returned a year later. A few years ago a British woman was abducted and her husband murdered off a Kenyan island near Lamu. Kenya’s tourism industry took a massive knock, which has not been helped by the more recent Al Shabaab attacks and the West Gate mall massacre. I picked up a book called Those In Peril by Wilbur Smith in the Bird Island library. In it, rapey Somali pirates operating in Seychelles waters abduct a beautiful young American heiress. Sure, it’s Wilbur Smith formula fiction with only the slightest vague whiff of reality, but if the bard of the bush joins the paranoia choir it can’t have helped tourism figures. Somali pirates drifting as far south as the Seychelles was not exactly a common occurrence and you’re at far greater risk from coconuts falling on your head, but terror feeds the imaginations that click the mouse buttons that book vacations. The Seychelles relies on tourism so at the time they could not tolerate any pirate action at all, hence the navy boat in leisure disguise. Clive cusses, still bitching about the French. It’s weird to hear the French spoken of with such Gallic distaste by someone with a quasi-French accent. French Creole is spoken all over

the world from Haiti to Louisiana and French Guiana. A fanagalo of African tongues, Amerindian, French and English washed up wherever the Old World empires of Europe touched down in search of slaves, spices and strategic strongholds, it is by no means uniform. There is also a Spanish Creole just to confuse matters. The Seychelles hosts an annual Creole festival every year where Creole people from all over the world are invited for a cultural knees-up. Whether the Indian Ocean chapter can converse with the Atlantic and Pacific chapters is another story but after a bottle or two of homemade toddy it probably doesn’t matter. People of the sea and the backwaters born of trade, slavery and colonisation – perhaps a couple of hundred years from now when what’s left of our species is ruled by Kevin Costner and is living on rafts, race will stop meaning anything to anyone, we’ll all be Creole and we’ll look back wondering what the hell people ever made a fuss about. Meanwhile, back on the beach of Bird Island, the sounds of solid Creole meals being prepared drift through occasionally from the kitchens, while the frigate birds returning from their day’s fishing ride the thermals above the beach – a bunch of Motorola symbols branding the sky. Between Rafael and me there’s no talk of geopolitics. The only language Rafael speaks is the language of love. While I chase shadows on the flats, not knowing what I am doing, he moans, absolutely intent on getting his fuck on with that boatshed. Afternoon delight. At least someone will get their rocks off today.


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Email: or call 031-564-7368 for your closest dealer.





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The Dorsal That Came From The Deep - a smash hit horror film with bluegill families. 22

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hat are you looking at you big, ginger poes?”

My life is punctuated by memories of fishing milestones. Trout with my old man in Dullstroom in 1987, Bassas da India in 2004, Exmouth in 2012, but 2002 I will always remember as the year I got into fly fishing for small and largemouth yellows on the Vaal River below the barrage in Johannesburg. But before I could do that, I first had to avoid getting beaten to a pulp. I was at one of my mate JJ’s regular, post-skate session braai piss-ups and predictably – when you mix 20-something skollies from Bryanston with booze – things were getting out of hand. The first casualty was Neil’s front tooth. He had been Superglueing it into place in his grill for the past couple of months, because to a reprobate that seemed easier than going to the dentist. When he and JJ decided bushdiving through rose bushes was a good idea, his fang went AWOL, while JJ was left looking like a bird-shot pigeon. Drunker and drunker, the party began to heave, louder and wilder by the second. Through all the noise, there was one voice that constantly stood out, brasher, more aggro and pissed than all the others; the party’s Hank the Tank, a muscle-bound gorilla named Struan. That’s the one, calling me a big, ginger poes. Granted, I am 6 foot 6 and prone to sunburn and fiery pubes, but still; this tatted-up tool with his shirt off, staring me down and tuning my ginger genes was getting on my nerves.

“Do you fly fish?” “Of course,” said Struan, his gaze even more aggressive as he skeefed me down the barrel of a quart bottle, looking somewhere between Jimmy Abbot and Mikey Schultz. “What do you go for?” “Yellows on the Vaal, what else do you think boet?” Boet. Bra. Brethren of the woolly bugger. Cabronie of caddis. Fellow fly fisherman. Friend. Situation defused, the conversation flipped and all thoughts of the illuminati went into the rose bushes with Neil’s front tooth. Struan and I rapidly became good friends as he soon took me to the Vaal and introduced me to yellowfish. Much like my driver’s licence, it took me three treks to the Vaal to get my first. Initially, as a proper trout noob, I was doing all the typical wrong things: casting for miles, retrieving my line, not getting a drift, fishing at the wrong depth. The list of mistakes was endless, but under Struan’s mentorship I finally started picking up decent fish. Like all fishing, you can make fly fishing for Vaal smallmouth yellowfish as complicated as you like. Some guys fish a handful of different flies and weights interspaced with split shot; some don’t even cast, preferring to dip in holes, a method that produces fish but sucks in my opinion as I prefer a bit of a cast.

“Who the hell is this guy?” Word came back that he wasn’t a bad guy, but was prone to being a lunatic when he’s on the sauce. No shit. The postscript was clear: don’t mess with him. The problem is, like being told not to touch a hot stove, I can’t resist provoking those types. Like a suicidal moth to a flame, I orbited closer. The more Struan went on and on in a mad rant about the end of days, the illuminati and the religious agendas of the world, the closer I got to saying something that was going to get me a warm ear. But somewhere – I’m not sure how – in the furnace of this volatile back and forth, he said the words “fly fishing”. We both immediately went quiet.

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Not too far mind you, but just far enough to feel like I’m fly fishing rather than teasing a cat. I mostly used a strike indicator and a heavy sinking caddis on a jig hook (instead of adding split shot), going down to a black flash back nymph or hot spot nymph. If fishing dries, elk hair caddis, hoppers and stimulators did the job. With the scales falling from my eyes, it rapidly dawned on me what I had been missing out on all those years. Fly fishing had meant chasing trout with my dad, mostly in Dullies, while only an hour away from my house in Joburg there was a river full of flygobbling, hard-fighting gold bars. Like discovering after the fact that an absolute belter had a crush on you for years, I felt like a proper tool. No matter. My conversion was complete. I now worshipped the Yellow God and I had a loud, drunken hooligan at a party to thank for it.


ast forward 15 years and I now live 1 397km away in Cape Town. I moved down four years ago after saying goodbye to my mates, the Vaal and my beloved yellowfish. I miss them (the fish), but with my move to the Cape I knew I had options. Paramount among them was catching the elusive and magical cousin of my Vaal targets, the Clanwilliam yellowfish. Every now and then in fishing magazines or on blogs you will see a fish that strikes a chord deep inside of you. When it comes to Clans, for me there were two moments. One was an article from years before with a photo of Turner Wilkinson standing knee deep in the crystal clear Olifants River in the Western Cape holding a behemoth Clanwilliam yellow. The second was a blog on Feathers & Fluoro of Herman Botes holding an even bigger one. The size of Thor’s hammer, this thing was a proper river demi-god, shining like pure gold. Intrigue turned into instant obsession. How were Clans that big even possible? Where the fuck did he catch that? Who do I sell my shrivelled left nut to in order to catch one?

Somewhere between a smallmouth yellow and a largemouth, but rarer, more elusive and inaccessible, Clans rapidly became the end goal for all yellowfish for me and top contender for pole position on my all-time bucket list fish species. Turner and Herman’s fish swam together in regular circuits through my fishy dreams. A month ago, I finally got my shit together and planned a trip. Calls, dates and plans were made and set for one weekend in April. The crew – Tudor Caradoc-Davies, Ryan Janssens, myself and young buck Tim Leppan. The destination was one of those places so far from the real world that cellphones became useless when you’re still a good hour and a half away, ice is worth more than gold and the stars shine so bright they keep you awake at night. Tim had been up a few weeks prior and caught Clans from float tubes. That was not the ideal way we wanted to fish for them on this mission; the idea of hiking from pool to pool looking for cruising fish seemed far more appealing, but we did not want to leave anything to chance.


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Unhygienix the fishmonger hell-bent on flogging indigenous gold. 26

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Photo Tim Leppan

Arriving on a Friday we allocated time to hit the float tubes in the large pool close to camp, followed by two days prospecting deep into the hills on foot searching for cruising fish to sight cast to. The prospect of nailing a few hefty smallmouth bass was also on the cards. Ryan, Tudor and Tim hit the water in float tubes and I hit the left bank fishing up with them as we worked the pool 50-odd metres apart. Not too long into the first session and Tudor was into a good smallmouth bass followed shortly by Ryan with another good one. A respectable start, but we hoped they were just an aperitif to Clannies. I persisted up the left bank and found a clean opening with some solid rocky structures within casting distance of the bank. I cast and on the drop, a golden bar shot out of the murk and smashed my black streamer. A solid heavy tug followed the take and as it took off into the pea-soup deep, line peeled off my reel only for everything to go slack a few seconds later. “Clannie! Fuck, aagh!” With my heart beating in my chest, I looked over at Tim grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “Clannie boet! They here!” his Jozi accent ringing off ancient valley walls dotted with rock art. I took a moment to get over myself and drink in the scene. Shaped by primordial floods and storms and hard baked by the sun’s devotion, this river and its inhabitants have seen way too much to give a shit about puny humans, especially dickheads with fly rods. Clans have been surviving in these river systems for thousands of years. How many others had even fished here before? I imagined some long lost ancestor painting a wall with blood, sweat and tears after being broken off by the ancestors of these Clans. Hands shaking, I lit a Styvie blue and focused on the positive; I had most likely connected to a Clan, these things are within reach.  Ryan proved that moments later by going vas into a good fish and soon he netted his first Clan, eight pounds of glorious, rare yellowfish. We lost the light and headed back to camp on a high. What a start. One big Clan already ticked for the weekend. Now we could just relax and fish our arses off.

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

“THE DAY WAS A BLUR OF HEAT. WE HIKED FROM POOL TO POOL ALONG SANDY DRY RIVER BEDS, SWEATING BALLS AND WONDERING HOW THE HELL FISH SURVIVE FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS IN THIS HEAT ” The following morning we rose early; the pushing mercury and Clan-catching ambitions fighting with the collective babbelas to get things going. Sipping on my morning coffee while sucking on a cigarette I began to steal flies from the most promising boxes. I’m that guy. Tim saying, “Check out my fly box boet,” was all the green light I needed. Locked and loaded with a sawn-off 10-year-old Stealth 5-weight (now standing one eye shorter at 8,6 and stiff as a broom stick), a Shilton CK3 with a floating line, and the cherry on top: a tried and tested Tim Leppan Clanwilliam – I felt lucky.

Sunday, back in the big pool, Tudor gets broken off by a moose of a fish that took off underneath him and popped the 2x leader. Tim misses one. Ryan, “the Clan Whisperer”, gets another three fish. Like the kid with the test answers we boggie him with questions. “Hey Ryan, is that an intermediate?” “Yes.”

Photo Tim Leppan

The day was a blur of heat. We hiked 12km from pool to pool along dry, sandy riverbeds, sweating balls and wondering how the hell fish survive for thousands of years in this oven while we feel broiled in just a few hours. We spotted large Clans cruising like nuclear subs, but only got smashed

by opportunistic smallmouth bass and harassed by bluegill. The latter fight well for their size – if only they grew bigger than a cellphone. Ryan catches about 30, Tim gets a respectable smallmouth bass, Tudor too before he discovers his cellphone and camera are swimming in what used to be a waterproof backpack and understandably goes all Grumpy Smurf. Saturday results in no Clans, but a solid education in the area’s geography, ecology, and not trusting all waterproof backpacks.

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Photo Tim Leppan 30

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Photo Brendan Body

“What fly?” “Orange beadhead woolly bugger.”


“On the drop?” “No.” “Stripped quite fast?” “No, I give it a twitch every 10 seconds.” We continue until mid-morning. Still no Clans for me. I’m out of decent streamers and the tentacles of the real world are reaching out towards us with the long trip back looming. As I reel in that final, final, final cast and shuffle back to camp, my 15-year expectation of landing a Clanwilliam yellow goes back into the dream state. I’m sitting taking a dump before jumping in the car to go home. We’ve been staying in a simple cabin devoid of any frills or décor except for one thing. For some reason, in the bathroom above the bath, there’s a framed poster of

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what looks like a pinup model from the ’80s. Poor thing, she’s clearly forgotten her cozzie and taken a dip at the beach wearing half her clothes. We dub her Genevieve the River Spirit and after Ryan finishes off the weekend with four Clans including the first day’s lunker, we hold a mock award ceremony where he was awarded the poster as a trophy. Right now, back in place above the bath I feel like Genevieve is skeefing me like Struan did all those years ago. “Oi! Gingernuts! Pick up that lip. You didn’t get smallies in your first visit to the Vaal so why did you expect things to be different here? You’ve got to work for these Clans. Come back, try again. Maybe next time will be different. XXX. PS: I love you, you’re gorgeous. ” Do good things really come to those who wait? I’ll let you know.



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came across a great new word the other day – psychopomp. Relax, it’s not what you think. Steve Hofmeyr is not involved. In ancient Greek it meant “guide of the souls” and was used to describe those gods, demigods, spirits, angels, sprites and in-between beings who ushered souls from one world to the next. Perhaps the most famous example of a psychopomp is Charon, the undead ferryman who poles the dead across the River Styx to the afterlife. Slap a pair of Maui Jims and a Patagonia shirt on Charon, give him a sense of humour and a more modern skiff with a decent engine – do you not have the original flats guide? After spending some time interviewing Arno Matthee I’m convinced the man is a psychopomp living among us, a Charon for our age, charting a course across the Congo River, taking guests from one world – the world of traffic, Facebook likes, populist politics and the Kardashians – to another world – the natural world, where everything is older, better connected and if you take the time to open your eyes, it all makes more sense.

We live in the age of hyperbole. If you survive a neardeath experience you’re a hero. If you have a few thousand Instagram followers you qualify as a celebrity. So let me be clear, Arno is not a Greek demi-god, but he is most definitely a pioneer. Species, destinations, techniques, flies – few have contributed as much as he has. To cover it all is impossible in a magazine article so we will take as our guide the book he is working on: Life Through a Polarized Lense, a two-part biography. The first bit covers his initial experiences in the Seychelles. The second part is focused on West Africa. We’ll squeeze in a brief Joburg-based interlude for good measure. Think of it as the Arno Matthee coat of arms. In the centre: Africa. On the eastern side, over where the Seychelles would be and up towards the Horn is a milkfish, its torpedo body leading to the agape, perpetually surprised mouth. Balancing it out in a similar pose on the west coast is a tarpon, gills rattling as it jumps along the coastline of Gabon, the Congo and Angola. At the bottom is a laurel of yellowfish; both largemouth and smallmouth. Across the middle lie two crossed rods (12-weights). Got it? Good. Here we go.

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

The Milkman Cometh We begin on the east coast of Africa in the remote Indian Ocean. It’s 1998 and Arno has just arrived at Alphonse Island in the Seychelles from South Africa. It’s not the Alphonse of today with luxury chalets and a well-stocked bar, but Alphonse version 1.0. Just six months earlier Arno had been standing in Mark Yelland’s fly shop in Johannesburg when a call came in. A Frenchman, Chris Ponçon, was looking for guides for his new Seychelles operation. Mark volunteered Arno, his Vaal yellowfish china who, at the age of 26, had just retired from the stress and trauma of being a riot policeman in Alexandra township. He’d enlisted age 19 for national service and was subsequently transferred to the police, but he knew he had to get out. Arno says, “It was crazy, the riots and everything, and I was done with national service and doing that as a job. I decided I had to get out of that life.” So, Arno struck the jackpot, swopping hell for heaven on earth. Thing is, out there, back then, he was a noob. His fly fishing skills were largely from freshwater, having spent every spare moment on the Vaal targeting yellowfish. Save for the odd magazine article he got his hands on, gleaning information on flats fishing was hard. Many of the go-to flats flies we don’t leave home without were yet to be invented. He didn’t know it yet, but Arno was going to have to come up with a few himself. In addition, several of the species we now take for granted were not regular targets. One in particular caught his eye. “We started from scratch. I tied a lot of flies before I left for Alphonse. Got hold of anybody I could at that stage to give me ideas. Basically crazy charlies for bonefish, merkins for permit, Lefty’s deceivers for GTs. I still tied them wrong until I read Lefty Kreh’s book Fly Fishing in Salt Water on how to tie them properly. That book and the few magazines we got our hands on, those were our only frames of reference. I had also seen a video by a guy called Rod Cross of how they had gone to St François Atoll in the old days and foul-hooked milkfish on bloodworm patterns. Just seeing a milkfish for the first time, that was me, done. I wanted to catch one of those things on a fly rod.” Initially, his run of luck held. While fishing with fellow guide Wayne Haselau for bonefish with a small chartreuse and white clouser, skipping the little fly along the bottom through a strong current, a school of milkies came through and a small one of around 10 pounds just picked the fly up off the bottom. “I screamed at Wayne, ‘I got a chanos!’ As I fought it for 20 minutes I was so happy thinking to myself, ‘Well, this is easy, I’ve got it waxed.’” It took a year for Arno to catch his second one. In that time he and Wayne obsessed over developing an effective

milkfish fly. From making flies with epoxy and sand to tying in little hackles, experimenting with foam, they tried any material they could get their hands on. Nothing worked. “Eventually I just stopped fishing for milkfish and spent time watching them and snorkelling with them. When I watched them I noticed the fish on the surface would sit and open their mouths. Milkfish are perfectly designed to filter plankton, they’ve got these little Vs running down their throat. You’ve basically got to drift the fly into that fish’s mouth, which we managed to do because with river fishing we had to get really accurate with casting flies. But the fish just below them were picking up heavier particles like benthic algae dislodged off the flats in spring tide.” What happened next was the stuff of pure David “Avocado” Wolfe click-bait gold. The solution came to Arno in a dream. “One night I had a dream in which the pattern came to me. I jumped up and tied five flies. It was very similar to a Lefty’s H20, which believe it or not still works for catching milkfish, but you’ve got to bend the shank to tie in that hotspot, otherwise it doesn’t sink nicely. It’s really designed for tailing bonefish. What I did was tie in the calf tail, white calf tail with the chartreuse calf tail above it, and then I looped in egg yarn that I still had in my bag from using as a strike indicator material from yellow fishing. “The next day I had clients with me – a guy and his wife – who couldn’t cast five yards. I walked down this little finger flat to the entrance to God’s Aquarium in St François and I saw about eight really big milkfish just sitting there in this channel. We got to the end of the session and hadn’t caught a bonefish so I suggested milkfish. I tied the fly on and got the guy to cast. First cast was too short. It was really a very close cast. On the second drift, the fish just ate the fly. I went absolutely crazy. The client struck in time, but then this fish just shot off, wrapped us around every coral head and started jumping. We proceeded to hook over 40 fish, which left us destroyed, finished. We went through all my flies, until the clients had no fly lines left and all their rods were broken. We had been catching them almost cast for cast using the fly I had dreamed up that night, the milky dream.” It was the 30th of December 2000 and after being so thoroughly annihilated by the milkfish, his clients decided to take the next day off and not come out fishing. Arno found himself in the unusual position of being free for the day so he went out and landed six milkfish by himself on his skiff while Wayne, guiding his two clients, watched, green with envy, as several of Arno’s fish jumped eye level with him. It was a massive breakthrough. A previously uncatchable species unlocked. Chanos chanos were now possible and Arno had laid down a marker and earned himself a new nickname: The Milkman.

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

A Large(mouth) Interlude Now picture this: years pass, a time-lapse of a couple of thousand sunsets and sunrises, clouds shifting over endless horizons, tides sucking turtle grass and sand around Arno’s feet as he absorbs the inner workings of the flats and atolls of the Seychelles. Along with milkfish, he becomes one of the first to catch triggers and Indo-Pacific permit on fly. He develops other go-to fly patterns like the GT flashy profile and techniques for GTs that are mimicked all over the world at later stages. Ridiculously, like some Indian Ocean Jack London, he is even adopted by a pet GT, Whitefin, who comes in every morning for a back rub and to beg Arno’s food off him. In time, Arno leaves Alphonse and starts up FlyCastaway with Gerhard Laubscher. Keith Rose-Innes joins them. While back in South Africa, Arno – whose formative fly fishing years were spent pioneering smallmouth yellowfish on fly in the Vaal with James Warne, Johan Strijdom and Mark Yelland – is told that their bigger cousins, the largemouth yellows, are extinct in the Middle Vaal. Taking it as a challenge he sets out to prove the doubters wrong and in four outings near Parys he and his fellow anglers caught more than 100 fish over six pounds by learning to fish different waters for them. Those were the catches that laid the groundwork for the legion of fly anglers out looking for largies on any given weekend today. More time passes, the Seychelles becomes more and more popular. Arno gradually grows in stature and respect, and morphs into the guide’s guide. He trains top guides like Tim Babich, Jako Lucas and Christiaan Pretorius. Pirates come to the Seychelles. Pirates go. Arno continues to work the atolls, Providence, Cosmoledo, Astove, you name it, working up to 32 weeks and 320 anglers a season, sometimes with 46 GTs caught in a morning session. After 10.5 months on location, the burnout is real.




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The Tarpon Cometh “Tarpon cum is the worst. It’s impossible to get the stench off your clothes.” There are only a few things you can think when someone, ever so casually, makes a comment like that. For one thing, it’s a statement very few people are qualified to make. Outside of ichthyologists, I’d wager most of us are relatively ignorant to the fact that fish actually do that … well … the way Ron Jeremy does. Then, even if you do fly fish, it’s not easy to catch a tarpon, let alone have one ejaculate on you. Even if you can afford the trip there is still no guarantee you will get one. Lastly, if the stars align and you manage to get there, catch one and successfully land it off the shore or from a boat, you are probably going to be finished. Sitting there in the sand, wide-eyed, legs still shaking – would you even notice that the fish was male and that it just jizzed on you? Arno would, but then we’ve established that he is a little special. There’s something about anglers who have not only caught multiple tarpon, but have come to truly know the species. It’s not that their prior fishing doesn’t matter. Their skills and stories came from there after all. But there’s an element of religious experience; it’s in the glazing of the eyes, the shake of the head, as if explaining it to the uninitiated is futile. The message is unspoken, but audible: “To truly understand, my child, you will have to connect with a tarpon.” After approaching burnout in the Seychelles, Arno left FlyCastaway and decided to start The Guide’s Company with Paul Boyers. It was in Angola, with long-term client and occasional business partner Rob Lewis, that Arno caught his first tarpon. His description echoes that of seeing milkfish for the first time. “When I first saw a tarpon, that was the end for me. The end of my sanity. That was all I wanted to catch. You can’t design a better game fish. They are silver, they jump, they are super-powerful, we catch them on tiny flies in shallow water, the whole design and makeup of them is incredible.” It’s one of the biggest fish you can target on fly without chumming, trawling or jigging. Their size; the tail, the eye, the gill plate are ginormous. In comparison to the fly, the boat and the angler are all Lilliputian. The ocean is full of the fine and the freaky, but tarpon are one of the few truly mighty fish that fly anglers have a real shot at. The ultimate challenge. That in effect is what Arno is about, his essence as a guide. Finding a challenge, making plans and trying things. Mastering a species and a fishery, then moving on to another, constantly shifting himself from master to student and back again.

Challenge: You can’t catch a milkfish? Arno tries things until, shaman-like, the solution manifested itself – in his freaking dreams. Challenge: Largemouth yellows are extinct in the Middle Vaal? Arno finds them and catches them, opening up a whole new world for local fly fishermen. Challenge: There are tarpon in the Congo, but it’s supposedly impossible to get set up there? Arno makes a plan. Based off a tip, around 2010 Arno got hold of a French guy called Patrick in the Congo who ran a surf camp along the coast near Point-Noire. After weeks of admin to get letters of invitation and the necessary documentation, Arno finally made it to Patrick’s surf camp to explore the area for tarpon. It took time but he eventually found tarpon rolling. First cast, he was in, a big fish at around 90kg almost jumping on the kayak. That was just a taster. “Walking along the beach, I saw this massive fish swimming. On the change of the tide, she just dropped and lay down on the sand, maybe 60m from shore. I ran back to camp, got the boat, rowed around and using markers I had on the shore I found the fish again. I cast the fly and let it sink down on her. First strip, she woke up and ate the fly. Patrick and Zello, the two guys from camp, had come running and now they were screaming, I’m screaming, this tarpon went ballistic. Nobody fishes for tarpon there, not even the locals because they just break all their stuff, break their boats, guys will drown. I spent five days, up and down there, seeing fish and when I got back, I phoned Rob and said I have found an amazing tarpon fishery.” In an age of digital analysis, satellite imagery and cheap flights, the opening up over the last few years of new tarpon fisheries along the West Coast of Africa from Gabon, to Angola and now the Congo, is huge; the final frontier. Imagine “discovering” a new taimen, salmon or golden dorado fishery far from the established haunts. West African tarpon are exactly the same fish as those on the other side of the Atlantic. The only slight physical difference Arno has noticed is that with West African tarpon the tails are a lot sharper, almost like a pelagic tail, whereas the Florida fish’s tail is a bit rounder on the top. He also believes that they grow bigger in Africa. “We’ve taken DNA samples and sent them to the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and they concur that it’s exactly the same fish. I don’t think there’s a cross-Atlantic migration, because then you’d see those really big fish in Florida.




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On a day where you’d see 400 poons pounding across a sandbank, you will see maybe one 200-pounder in Florida; whereas in Congo you will see 30 200-pounders in one day.” It’s still rough and raw out there. The Congo is protected largely by its own inaccessibility, while Gabon with its progressive government approach is streets ahead in terms of conservation. “One of the reasons I love Gabon so much, is that I am working quite closely with Mike Fay [the famed conservationist and ecologist credited with pushing Gabon’s national parks programme]. There’s a four-mile trawler ban in Gabon that is working very well. We’ve started putting tags into tarpon so we can see their migratory patterns. It’s amazing to be involved in a country that’s so serious about conservation.” So that’s it, West Africa is now Arno’s focus. It’s not that he no longer cares for the Seychelles; after all he spent most of his working life there and he still takes clients there. It’s just that it doesn’t hold anything new for him. It also doesn’t have tarpon.

“I REALLY WANT TO DO MORE TO CONSERVE OUR FISHERIES BECAUSE I CAN SEE THE IMPACT WE MAKE, EVEN A FEW FLY FISHERMEN. THERE’S STILL A LOT TO LEARN. EVERY TIME I GO OUT THERE I LEARN.” “From my point of view I’ve done all I’ve wanted to do in the Seychelles. In West Africa I keep discovering new places. In the Congo I found an area where the trawlers can’t come in because there are so many sandbanks. The tarpon are loose in those areas, in those gullies. They sleep there, feed there. You can also see how the tide influences them pushing them right close to the beach on an incoming tide and when it pulls out they get pulled out with it, carrying on feeding. I found another place with an inland lake where I caught the biggest tarpon of my life. This fish was black and its scales were copper. It was more than 90 inches long and if you put a tape across her, it measured 30 inches. I was with Rob Lewis and this fish towed our boat around. These fish were living in there and there wasn’t one under 200 pounds. “They say with big-game hunters, the more they hunt, the more likely they are to become conservationists. For me it’s the same with fishing. I really want to do more to conserve our fisheries because I can see the impact we make, even a few fly fishermen. There’s still a lot to learn. Every time I go out there I learn. For me the focus is now on catching a fish the way I want to catch it. Even if I don’t catch a fish, I’m still happy if I can catch it the way I want to catch it – a tarpon on a floating line. I’ve caught enough fish that I don’t feel pressured to catch fish. That allows me more time just to observe a lot more.” While the rest of us follow in his wake, using the patterns he pioneered in the fisheries he walked to catch species he opened up, for as long as he physically can Arno will be looking forward and onward to what lies beyond the next bend in the river. His face set in the tarpon glaze; somehow calm, connected and possessed. Master and student.

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wake up some time on the morning of day three. Or maybe it’s day four, I can’t remember at this stage. I’m completely exhausted, stretched to the limit, yet I lie awake and try to guess the time. Eventually I look at my watch. 2:30am. It feels like forever before I’m sleeping again, but as soon as I nod off, the alarm goes. 4am. Time to get up. It’s the routine that gets you. Up at 4am to get to the beach before dawn, then we fish the surf until 7am. From there we hit the lagoon to chase busting longfin jacks or work the mangrove edges to smash baby snapper on topwater flies before getting back to camp well before lunch. It’s a strange routine because you spend most of the afternoon hours in stasis, waiting to head out for the evening session in the surf. Initially, we spend the time around camp drinking beers and tying flies, but as the week unfolds, our presence on the stoep diminishes as most of us seek the solitude of our rooms and the prospect of rest. We board the boats at 4pm and fish the evening session which will last as late as 11pm, depending on the action going down. We never arrive back at camp in time for a full night’s rest. Sometime around midnight, we crash and try to go to sleep, the next day’s 4am session creeping towards us. I make it to the lounge for a cup of coffee. It’s quiet around the breakfast table. The constant hours of blind casting 12-weights is taking its toll as we quietly get into the panga boats. There’s no jokes or horsing around this time of the day. I don’t remember much about the boat ride from the lodge to the lagoon mouth, perhaps I was sleeping. At the sand spit on the north bank we split up into a couple of smaller groups. The idea is to not crowd any particular spot with too many rods. Some guys head over to the south bank, others head way up the beach. North.


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Fly tying, tackle checking, replacing the ice in your veins: rigging up for tarpon is serious business. 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 find myself along with head guide Mark Murray in the surf on what I call Tarpon Alley. Tired arms and aching hands kick into motion as I start punching out casts into darkness. A blister on my rod hand has just popped and it’s sore and irritating. I know that the window for dawn tarpon has probably already closed, still I am hopeful. From last year’s stats I know that the tides were slowly starting to move against us and apart from John’s small tarpon on the first morning, catching now was unlikely. Still, hope flickers. Feverishly. It’s dark and stormy, pissing down, but still humid; the sand a light strip between the darkness of the rainforest and the frothing blackness of the Atlantic. As I walk up the beach looking for signs of poons in the predawn light, I hear Mark holler from down the beach. I swing around to see a pack of marauding jacks destroying baitfish up the beach. They’re coming my way. Daybreak is only minutes away, and it’s golden hour in Gabon. I make an adequate cast and watch the pack overtake my fly. No retrieve needed, the fly gets smashed as they eviscerate baitfish in front of me. But the hook up is an on–off and I’m left baffled as the school shoots past me, hauling ass up the shore break. I throw a “fuck you” cast in the direction of the disappearing pack and, “Hey! Lucky lucky!” I go tight straight into a feisty jack. Mark, who has been watching this little performance with an expression of mild amusement, jumps into action and starts running up the beach towards me to take a photo. Halfway through covering the 150 odd metres he stops dead in his tracks… Frozen, his tilts his head slightly towards the east.

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The Breede river slam comes to Gabon with West African grunter, kob and leervis species.


The cause of the trouble: an elephant bull is standing a short distance away from me on the edge of the undergrowth. In an upwind position and in semi-darkness, he was as unaware of our presence as we were of him. After a fake charge towards Mark, the two spend some quality time exchanging scary looks in a staring competition. Mark wins and old orange beady eyes eventually takes refuge in the cover of forest undergrowth leaving us to flop around the beach with our rare and ruthless tropical fever. Tarpon fever. At daybreak, I sit down on the beach next to Mark and take a moment to drink in where I am and the ominous beauty around us. From the elephant to the storm, to the fish and the darkness, it’s unpredictable. Anything can happen at any given moment. Gabon is nature in its rawest and purest form; it’s not the kind of place you figure out. It’s only my second time here, but I know my attraction to it and my obsession with the tarpon that haunts these waters (and my thoughts) is incurable. After catching one on fly, on foot, from the beach a year ago – as if a parasitic puppetmaster’s been pulling the strings I’ve had to get back here to do battle with these magnificent creatures once more. But out here in this universe there is no


regard for human agenda. The Silver King is not ours to command. Hell Broke Luce The next night, as I sit down with a cold beer just before midnight, Tom Waits’ song “Hell Broke Luce” from his album Bad as Me comes to mind. I feel like Luce. I’m fucking broken after this evening. It started like most others. There were six of us on the south bank all hoping to score big cubera snapper like Grant Dunbar and John Travis had the night before. So, I was duly fishing my cubera and threadfin gear; heavy sinking lines with big SpongeBob sliders on my 12-weight. Eventually, after trying the surf for a while and catching a Senegalese kob, I took a stroll down the bank towards where our boat was. I heard what sounded like big cubera smashing mullet close to the boat so thought I might as well make a couple of casts. I stripped off line and started fishing. It was just after spring high and the tide was dropping hard. I’d cast up-current, wait for it to sink and slowly strip it back on the swing. There were more cubera smashes. My heart rate picked up. Then some bigger splashes that were not cubera.

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Like witnessing an avalanche happening in slow motion, all hell broke loose in front of me. As the noise of smashes, fish jumping and mullet being terminated came roaring towards me, my SpongeBob got hit about 10 metres from the bank. Like fucking hard! Line cleared in seconds and I started sprinting towards the spit as backing started peeling off at an incredible rate. I ran into Mark and Mike Gradidge as they came running towards the boat. With Mark next to me, we tried to put the brakes on as I was rapidly running out of bank space. Mark’s verdict? “Tarpon! Big fucking tarpon!” It didn’t stop or slow down, regardless of how tight I kept cranking the drag. Looking back, I remember now feeling afraid of what was to happen next. With no real estate left, I was hanging like a fink at the edge of the spit, Mark grabbing hold of me by the strap of my stripping basket, trying to prevent me from going over the drop-off into the surf. I looked at the reel in utter disbelief as the backing came twanging off the spool of the now smoking Shilton reel; the fish was actually picking up speed. “I’m being spooled!” I looked at Mark in panic. Then, as everything went slack, relief washed over me. Mark and

From the jungle to the beach, Gabon’s rep as Africa’s Eden is well earned. I took turns winding back the backing; the 6/0 SL12 hook was twisted open sideways. ‘Small mercy’, I thought. No time to mope. We were in the middle of the fish feeding mayhem now. I could feel the electricity of excitement in the air. I grabbed my intermediate setup and joined Mike close to the boats. Fish were getting smashed everywhere. It must have been three casts and I was on again. This tarpon, unlike the previous one, jumped straight away. ‘Smaller fish, thank god,’ I thought as it jumped again and again. We started

Cuberra snapper the size of prehistoric pitbulls.

the shuffle towards the spit, but never made it that far. As it rounded the point it made a final jump and that sent the SL12 hook flying. As I ran up-river again, I overtook Arno who just went tight into a tarpon. Chaos. I ran past the guys fishing at the boat. More splashes. I realised the bigger splashes I heard earlier were tarpon crashing back into the water. With my heart racing and properly out of breath I started fishing. Minutes later I was on again. I heard the poon tail walking, then crashing back into the

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water. Clear the line and off it goes, goodbye backing. My arms were sore and I was out of breath; the hours of gym prep were not exactly paying off. Then it jumped again and it’s over when the hook comes flying back. I cursed myself for not fishing tarpon flies tonight; these SL12s were not made for poons. After my fourth hook-up that resulted in a bust-off leader the action starts subsiding. Everybody seemed a bit shell shocked. Eventually we got in the boats and headed back at around 11pm. Nine tarpon hooked and lost. Eight broken anglers.


Arno van der Nest with Gabon’s “trash fish,” a hefty longfin jack. Heart of Darkness As the week wears on I can feel tension building among the ranks. At first I thought it must be my own anxiousness that I’m reading in the others, but soon realise that the group as a whole has a burning desire to equal our feat of the previous year. There’s no surrender, we just have to do it again. We have several skirmishes with the poons where we come close.


From the third last night we are fishing the north bank of the river mouth, where we have a vastly better chance of landing fish than on the south. That evening Mark sends the following voice message to Tourette Fishing’s Rob Scott summing up the action: “Hey Rob. Just back from the beach, close to midnight. Fuck, heartbreaking. Snapper were fucking loose again tonight. And then we

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hooked three tarpon. Conrad’s one, fuck, we hooked it by the cabin, had it probably a kilometre down the beach, 40 minutes later, three quarters of the flyline on the reel, getting ready to land it when a fucking Zambezi ate it. And then Arno hooked two that also eventually came off on those SC15 hooks. Also fucking big tarpon. And then in total we landed five snapper, got a kob. Ja but fuck, I think we’re boning(?) for those big tarpon we caught last year.”

Photo Arno van der Nest

Whiskers in the dark, Garth Wellman with a Giant African threadfin.


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It’s relentless. On the second last night Arno loses a very big fish after a prolonged fight as the 100-pound fluorocarbon leader chafes through. John Travis, Garth Wellman and Armand Flies also have hook-ups, but no fish are landed. I can’t remember much of the morning of our last day. I do remember the agony at the start of every session. Aching arms and shoulders caused by blind casting 12-weight rods in the dark for hours at a time. The broken blisters on my right hand are raw now and the skin moving with each haul is


unbearable at first but luckily numbs out after about 15 minutes. Everything numbs out eventually and you go through the excruciating motion of casting for hours, hoping that every cast might be the one to change it all.

buffalo. It’s absolutely breathtaking but I cannot help feeling something sinister is lurking out there. Like something bad is about to happen. The creek becomes narrower and narrower, almost claustrophobic.

When the morning session is finally over, I ask Mark if our skipper, Pascal, would mind taking us up the small creek closest to the mouth. It’s a beautiful little creek, off limits for fishing and runs into the Luango National Park that the main river borders upon. On our way up the little river, we see many birds and animals; hippos, monkeys and

I catch myself contemplating Joseph Conrad’s classic novel, Heart of Darkness. The journey up this little creek seems like a fitting metaphor for this trip to me now and my obsession with this land. Who or what is my Kurtz? I travelled to Gabon to escape from anxieties and problems that haunt me at home, but instead of escaping these

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and Grant Dunbar are first in line and stand on the tip of the spit. The rest of us spread north, towards the surf. As the sun sets, I try to focus, but it’s not easy and I catch myself almost falling asleep. Fighting fatigue, I try to focus, isolate my thoughts and go through the routine of checking tackle. One rod tonight, only the best; floating line on my Hardy Proaxis Sintrix 12-weight and Hardy Fortuna reel; 60-pound mono leader and 80-pound tippet; black and purple deer hair and hackle streamer. I spend about 15 minutes on the drag until I’m happy with it. Almost locked down but not quite. Avoiding excess line to be cleared, I lay out only 15 metres of line, because I feel that’s where the fish will be.

demons, this trip only caused me to become more acutely aware of them. Contemplating the group dynamic over the last few days, I realise I’m not the only one on this trip plagued by my demons. I understand that the fishing on this trip is a mental challenge. A mind game. You can only play this game if you choose that things will happen the way you plan before you start. You must decide how things will unfold. It’s no use having the best tackle and being an excellent caster if there is a fleck of doubt in your mind. To overcome your demon is to choose to win. I decide to put this demon to rest.

The Long Goodbye The last afternoon is upon us much sooner than I thought it would be. It pains me to think we have to travel home the following day. Everybody seems a bit out of sorts. Wellman has an infected foot after stepping on a spike of some sort on the beach. Travis is feverishly tying a few more poon flies. Others disappear to the solitude of the back stoep, reading. We gather for the last time on the north spit. All of us. Fuck caution, we’ll do this together. Frikkie Botha

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The bite comes about an hour after sunset, and when it happened I was as ready for it as I could be. I go through the motions of setting the hook, listening to jumps and determining where the fish is going. It heads up-river first, a good thing as swimming against the current will tire it out. With Mark at my side, we do the shuffle down the beach. We clear a shallow reef and possible snag point. Good. With aching arms, we stop the fish and slowly fight for each inch of backing. One wind of the reel at a time. This is the disagreeable part of tarpon fishing that nobody really talks about. There’s really no joy in this, just agony. After 20 minutes we’ve got the fly line on the reel. Now I’m giving it all I’ve got and straining backwards up the beach, sensing the fish just behind the shore break. Mark keeps me focused: “I’ve seen so many tarpon lost right here in the shore break, it’s ridiculous.” I focus. Before I know it I’m cradling this magnificent animal in the shallow surf. As the moment I’d been consumed by for so long finally arrived, the strangest sensation comes over me; a feeling of solace and shared emancipation with this creature. As I watch it swim away into the darkness, the demons of the past week slips away.






One of those brands that inspires almost tribal loyalty from fans, with the Authenticity Hoody Simms are talking the language of comfort. Not really technical gear destined for long hours on the water, this is the hoody you throw in the pack for post-mission chillaxing. With a no-scratch interior neck label, kangaroo pocket for cold hands and a fleece-lined hood, all you need is a fire, some grub, some grog and some good cheer to hit that comfort bliss point.

While the Authenticity Hoody is all about comfort in the confines of camp or a cabin, when it’s ball-shrivelingly cold out on the water, you will want to be wearing Simms’ Fall Run Jacket. This lightweight essential’s unique PrimaLoft® Gold insulation wraps you in toasty warmth right from the bottom hem to the collar designed to block wind. A zippered chest pocket for a small fly box and brushed tricotlined pockets for hands (that have hopefully just released a trout from a frozen stillwater) round out the features.

ROSS – EVOLUTION R FLY REELS Lightweight, durable and rigid, like Helen Zille on Twitter, the Evolution R is one of the most highly engineered reels out there. For example, the large arbor spool is designed to force even winding of the line across the face of the spool as you retrieve it. Who even does that? Then there’s the new drag design: a “fully sealed bonded proprietary carbon fluropolymer and stainless steel interface”, which we translate as “a lightweight machine of a reel that you will struggle to break”. Hardcore, good-looking, light and strong, Ross Evolution R reels are available from 3-weight to 8-weight.


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HARDY – BOUGLÉ & DUCHESS Two new iterations of vintage reels, the Bouglé and the Duchess have landed at Mavungana. It’s hard to talk about the Bouglé without wiggling your eyebrows and looking a little leery, as if you wear a cravat and wax your moustache. Do you Bouglé on the first night, darling? Word association football aside, this is a classy piece of hardware. The first Hardy Bouglé was catalogued over 114 years ago and with reversible click check, naval brass bush and spindle and pearl silver finish nogal, the most recent iteration retains its classic good looks. The Duchess meanwhile is the first new “classic reel” in over a decade. Handmade by Hardy’s Alnwick craftsmen, it features a split-frame design, dual line guards, a hollow recessed stainless steel spindle and an ambidextrous, fully adjustable click check mechanism. Equally at home in a mahogany-bound reading room cupboard next to the cigar humidor as it is catching fish hand over fist, the Bouglé and the Duchess are the reels Ron Burgundy would go for.

RIO & FISHPOND – THE HEADGATE TIPPET HOLDER At The Mission, we’re a huge fan of collabs. Run DMC and Aerosmith, Kanye and Adidas, Howler and Topo … So the introduction of a tippet holder from not one but two fly fishing heavyweight brands had us frothing. With the Headgate tippet holder, Fishpond and Rio have teamed up to produce a highly functional piece of stream-side gadgetry. Made from anodised aerospace aluminium with a built-in, replaceable line cutter, the Headgate comes with 2X-6X Rio Powerflex tippet spools pre-loaded so you have everything you need to tweak those tippets and lengthen or shorten your leader with ease.

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THE SALAD BAR GAMAKATSU – 60 DEGREE EXTRA WIDE GAPE JIG HOOK Can we get a ‘Hallelujah’? Amen sisters! For a long time you had to order Gamakatsu 60 Degree Extra Wide Gape (EWG) hooks overseas and get someone to mule them onto flights, but now these sharp performers are available in South Africa. Why the demand you ask? Simple. When you’re fishing deep over rocks, jig hooks snag a lot less than normal hooks, plus the extra wide gap gives you more surface area for better hook ups. Throw in that famous Gamakatsu sharpness and you will be running out of excuses if you don’t catch. If you want to tie South Africa’s pre-eminent kob fly the DMA (Dropshot my Ass), this is the hook you want.

LOON OUTDOORS – A SMORGASBORD Loon have just dropped a shit-ton of new fly tying tools from their Ergo Grip range with its signature yellow ergonomic grips for extra comfort and control. From the Gator Grip Dubbing Spinner to the Ergo Bobbin, Ergo Bodkin, Ergo Dubbing Brush, Ergo Arrow Point Scissors, Ergo Hair Scissors and Ergo Razor Scissors, all these tools are available from leading fly tackle dealers nationwide.

AIRFLO – DELTA FLY REEL Were you cursed blessed with triplets? Do they all fly fish and require reels that A) won’t let them down while B) not bankrupting you? Perhaps you mistakenly invested in Syrian instead of Swedish pork futures and have to sell your entire tackle collection to cover your rates bill? If money’s too tight to mention, but you are still fly fishing befok, consider Airflo’s new Delta Fly reels. Made from a lightweight die cast aluminium frame with a quick release spool and large arbor for expanded backing capacity and starting at R999, this reel is also competitively priced. Considering they know what they’re doing when it comes to fly lines, why bet against Airflo when it comes to reels? Available in 5/6-weight, 7/8-weight and 9/10-weight sizes.


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LINE UP – TWO FROM CORTLAND COMPACT SINK LINE For when you need to get down deep to latch onto a dirty beast, Cortland’s Compact Sink series is definitely worth a gander. With a medium-stiff monofilament core, this line should stay tangle-free in cool conditions while also staying slick and hard in the tropics, like Nick Slaughter. When it comes to line management, the 8,5m sinking head comes with a translucent coloured intermediate running line so you can get your fly out there and down into the feeding zone while being able to identify when it’s time to reload and cast again. Available in type 3, 6, and 9 sink rates with dualwelded loops for line weights 5-12, the streamers, DMAs and heavier clousers in your fly boxes should expect to see some action soon. TROPIC PLUS GT/TUNA LINE Chicken or fish? Designed with big bullies like tuna and giant trevally in mind, this line is built on a 50+LB braided nylon, multi-filament core, giving you plenty of stopping power and your best chance to avoid getting broken off on coral. Other features include Cortland’s Grip Set technology and their Tropic Plus line jacket as well as colour coding – a light blue head paired with a bright yellow running line – which allows you to easily identify the head and running line for better casting and line control. You need confidence to take on the big boys and if this doesn’t give it to you, we’re not sure what will. For more info contact or

ST CROIX – SOLE FLY RODS A twosie that feels like a onesie – that’s the basic premise of the new St Croix SOLE fly rods. One-pieces are back on trend with adherents swearing about the loading ability, the feel, the control, etc. St Croix claim that were you to blindfold said onesie fan and hand him a SOLE two-piece rod, he wouldn’t know the difference. Plus, it would be easier to travel with the rod. We’re intrigued; for most local trips, a two-piece is totally manageable. Offered in 4- to 12-weight, SOLE rods come with a second tip and a 15-year transferrable warranty.

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RENZETTI VICES – TIME TRAVEL When you are on a trip, it’s great to be able to tie some flies as you go, either to while away time in the evenings or because you’ve figured out something new that might work. “Perdigons for Pacu? Genius I tell you?!” From the more basic Traveler 2000 Series vices to the top of the range Traveler 2300 Series, the Traveler Series of rotary vises from Renzetti are hard to beat for portability, holding power and price. For more info contact or

CHOTA – STL LIGHT WADING BOOT Light in weight, not in technical features – that’s what to bear in mind with this new version of the STL. Made from 900 Denier polyester material with nubuck overlays, a cushy midsole and bonded polypropylene felt soles, these river slippers weigh in at 1,25lbs (0,56kg). Available in sizes 8-14.

DYLAN CULHANE – MULTIPLE EXPOSURE PRINTS Fynbos over highways, lichen over vistas, mountains over streams, surf over rocks, Jack Nicholson over a bush, Dylan Culhane’s multiple exposure photography is a kaleidoscopic mash up of the places we haunt the most. They might remind you of that time you wandered up yonder valley, chowed a bag of shrooms and came back a week later naked, all blissed out AF and with two pet Klipspringers in tow. At the very least they will remind you to get outside.


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THE MAVUNGANA A TO Z CLASS IS IN SESSION. CHOOSE YOUR HIGHER GRADE ELECTIVE AND GRADUATE WITH FLYING COLOURS. A is for the Andamans and the way we catch the GTs, Bluefin and Triggers of this remote archipelago of over 500 islands.

J is for Jurassic Lake where we catch prehistorically huge rainbow trout in remote Patagonia, Argentina.

C is for Chobe and the way we target trophy tigerfish in this special location on the Upper Zambezi.

Z is for Zulu Waters and the rainbows, browns and yellowfish we have at this sought after Natal Midlands estate on the Bushmans River.

K is for Kalahari Gold and hard fighting yellowfish far off the grid in the Richtersveld area of the Orange river.

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

The Amazon, Canada, Louisiana, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Seychelles - for more from the Mavungana Alphabet of local and international destinations and more species than you can think of, give us a call and let’s plan that dream trip. Johannesburg (011 2685850) or Dullstroom (013 2540270)


The Mavungana Flyfishing Centre Main Road Dullstroom, 1110, SA,013 254 1 6601 732 7 0


PAYDAY THE ARI’T HART MASK REEL Some fly reels are pretty, some are functional, but few actually qualify as works of art. Dutch designer Ari’t Hart is probably the only reel maker to fit the latter category, with his Remco reel on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Hart reels are special, but the Mask is next level. Spool diameter: 3 1/2”; spool width: 15/16”; weight: 8 ounces; left-hand retrieve, mint condition, one of only three ever produced (and a bloody mask on your reel)… It’s both a piece of design and fly fishing heritage. Sure, at $3 395 it’s the price of a trip to the Nubian Flats, but people spend money on lots of weird things (e.g. Bieber tickets, anal bleaching, etc.) so if you have A) a strong currency behind you, if B) that’s just the level of your income bracket, or C) you’re feeling cray-cray, then go ahead; flash that cash larnie. Check out an extensive range of Hart’s reels at

BODY OF WATER: A SAGE, A SEEKER AND THE WORLD’S MOST ALLURING FISH BY CHRIS DOMBROWSKI A professional fly fishing guide in Montana and a celebrated poet, we are huge fans of Chris Dombrowski at The Mission based on his writing for publications like The Drake. In Body of Water, Dombrowski chronicles a personal journey to fish for bonefish on Grand Bahama. As a young guide trying to find his feet with mounting debt and a second child on the way, Dombrowski fills a slot another angler could not take. As he gets to know the island, the fishery, the bonefish and David Pinder, the island’s most famous guide, Dombrowski unwraps the realities of the ecological impact on the fishery, Pinder’s poverty and his own life. A Montana trout fishing poet writing about the ghost of the flats and a legendary guide; lauded by both the late Jim Harrison and John Gierach, this book is not to be missed. Author interview at Available on


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G O O D S T U F F, G R E AT W H I S K Y, F I L M S , F ES T S & M O R E

SHORTCASTS POUR YOURSELF … A dram or two of Bowmore’s Small Batch Single Malt Scotch Whisky for those cold evenings on trophy stillwaters from Dullstroom to the Drakensberg. Islay’s oldest distillery, in the Single Batch Bowmore have produced one of the most accessible Islay whiskies you will ever try. The island’s signature peat is there, but only subtly so. With elements of vanilla and honey it doesn’t feel like you’re drinking from a hobo’s sock. Soon to be replaced by a new no-age-statement (NAS), the Small Batch is also one of the most wallet-friendly single malts on the market at around R449 from Get it while you can.

BUY A TICKET FOR … The Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T), which is back in SA for the second year running and, like last year, the 2017 lineup is incredible. From the Seychelles to Lesotho, Siberia, Idaho, Mexico, Florida, Kamchatka, Alaska, Montana and more, you can expect phenomenal footage from the world’s best fly fishing filmmakers. Screening are in May in Durban (15), Cape Town (18) and Johannesburg (23). Do not miss out. Tickets available from More info from GET YOUR BUTT TO … The Fly Fishing Expo. The biggest event on the South African fly fishing calendar is back and this year it moves from Cape Town to Johannesburg at Toadbury Hall on 24 and 25 June. Expect the country’s best fly-tiers and top exhibitors, shops, guide companies, craftsmen (including international stars like Marc Petitjean and Moreno Borriero), LandRovers climbing terrapods, beers, coffee, food and much, much more. FA_F3T_001_Print Ad (R3).indd 1

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FOLLOW … The Adipose Fin Project on Facebook. A social media experiment that aims to promote better catch and release practices, the idea is to submit photographs where the fish’s gills are underwater. Bottom line: celebrate the fish, not your ego. Photo Ryan Janssens

CHECK OUT … Rio’s “How To” video series. From double-hauling to fishing a nymph and dropper, swinging streamers and fishing soft hackles, these short, instructional videos from pros like George Daniel (the guru behind Dynamic Nymphing), will up your game one-time.


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obody likes setting up and breaking down camp. It’s hot and it takes time; time you could be spending actually fishing or kicking back after a hard day on the water. With Alu-Cab’s vehicle accessories range, you can gear up your cabbie and take the hassle out of the set up. People talk of “glamping” or glamourous camping, where luxury and comfort are paramount. This is not glamping (who needs a Jacuzzi anyway?), but rather champing – champion camping; vehicle accessories that transform your wheels into a pimping campsite and roving tackle box. Effectively, an outdoor oasis.

1) Generation 3 Expedition Tent – designed to A) keep you clear of ground critters and B) to be set up in seconds, this genius tent saves you time, hassle and stress. 2) Drawer system – large, lockable, slide out draws deep enough for your wading boots, bags, vests, rods and reels (in all sizes), you need never leave anything at home with this secure set up for a fly fishing Fort Knox.


3) Alu-Cab Shadow Awn – when it’s hot as hell in the Richtersveld and there’s no shade to be found, this genius accessory is a life saver. Swinging out from the side of the vehicle and right around to the back; think of it as a portable tree.

whatever else you please is invaluable. Behind it is storage for mugs, plates and other kitchen gear.

4) Side Slide Prep Table – surface space is limited when you’re out there. This drop down table for preparing morning coffee, lunch and

6) H2O TAP – with both an external tap for hosing down wading boots and float tubes and an internal tap for cleaning up while camping; you’re sorted right at the car.

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5) Wood box – simple: a box for carrying your wood on the outside of the vehicle.

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7) Freezer/fridge and sliding tilting fridge slide – the jewel in the crown; a freezer fridge to keep you in cold beer and cooldrinks no matter the temperature outside. Fitted on to a sliding, tilting fridge slide, there’s no awkward vertebra-popping shifting of the fridge. Simply slide it out, choose what you want and slide it back. 8) Free standing table – rig up out of the dust and sand or sit down for a meal, this fold-away table gives you options.


Keen to pimp your ride? Contact Alu-Cab on 021 703 3028 or visit for more info.






o those used to singlehanded rods, anglers using double-handed or switch rods look part Jedi, part Olympic ribbon contestant. But, as John Travis found, where singlehanded rods have limitations, switch rods can open up a whole new world. My first encounter with double-handed surf rods was in 2010 in the buildup to a trip to Mexico’s Baha Peninsula to catch roosterfish from the beach. Up until that point all my fly fishing had been done with single handed rods. Think Duncan MacLeod of the Clan Macleod from Highlander. My approach was that “there could be only one”. I could cast a solid distance and accurately, but when it came to high winds and areas with limited space for a back cast, they did not always do the job. What I knew about double-handed rods came from the world of salmon fishing, chaps in tweed flat caps wielding incredibly long rods on rivers from Scotland to Iceland. A Mexican beach in 45° heat? Not so much. Before Baha I tried to glean as much info as I could from magazines and from videos like Running Down the Man. It was in the now defunct Fly Fishing in Salt Waters magazine where I found an article about rooster fishing by Jonny King. His success with double-handed rods from the beach made me realise I’d be bringing a blunt teaspoon to a gun fight if I rocked up in Mexico with my single-handed quiver in tow. I did some research and soon had some Beaulah 11’ 9/10-weight rods for the trip. Beaulah make fast-action, surf-specific two-handed rods, which their website boasted can “quickly cast long distances with half the effort of singlehand fly rods … This rod is as close to an actual canon as you can get.” I was sold. I paired the rods with Rio’s Tropical


Outbound short lines, two weights above the rod designation. I found I could cast the rod single handed or double handed, but the real beauty of this rod was that with a steep beach behind me I was able to clear the bank on my back cast. The trip itself was fantastic. To tread in the footsteps of the Running Down the Man film crew in Baha, see the same trees on the beaches, sight fish for roosters and ultimately catch them, was a dream come true. But the revelation of what I could do with double-handed rods has been paying off ever since. Since the Mexico trip the doublehander has become an integral part of my arsenal and accounted for many fish. Roosters, taimen, dorado, tigerfish, jacks, kob, largemouth yellows, bass and a variety of other fish on South Africa’s east coast? Tick. Spotted grunter, GTs, garrick? Just a matter of time.

“THIS ROD IS AS CLOSE TO AN ACTUAL CANON AS YOU CAN GET. I WAS SOLD.” Maybe I was lazy or perhaps I am just a creature of habit, but in the beginning I could cast the double-handers further, single-handedly, than I could doublehanded, but the extra length took its toll on my shoulder, and eventually I was forced to use the rod the way it was originally intended. There’s a bit of high court ceremony to using a double-hander. The preparatory swish of a set cast, the loading loop back and then the full pomp and ceremony of your line shooting out effortlessly across the water. Coming from a lifetime spent fishing with single-handed fly rods, it was initially tricky to get the casting

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right. The problem was using too much power on the top hand. With doublehanders the whole thing gets reversed, where the bottom hand is the one generating the speed and controlling your loops. Ironically, normal “pap gooiers” grasp the idea faster than some true single-handed fly fishermen. You basically lay out your head section (25’-30’) in front of you on the water, lift it off, wait momentarily for the load and start your forward cast, using your bottom hand to generate line speed. Switch rods don’t necessarily make you a better caster. It’s not like you are immediately going to get magnificent distance on your casts. They just make certain aspects of casting easier. There was a G. Loomis ad with the payoff line, “Fear no fish”. For me, switch rods give you the confidence to “fear no fly”. Above anything else, switch rods allow me to get decent distance, but with any kind of fly, which is useful when fishing for taimen and golden dorado, fish that like massive flies. It doesn’t matter how bulky the popper, how heavy the fly, a DMA, anything. I can still punch out a decent cast. While single-handed rods are still an integral part of my fly fishing (in terms of accuracy, sight fishing is single-handed territory, especially when wading for fish on the flats), in my opinion double-handers are fantastic for prospecting. When you are just trying things out, casting all day, you want to use minimal effort. With the extra length it is a breeze to keep the line out of the shore break when fishing in the surf. You also do not need to wade that deep, which helps with line control in your stripping basket. As for my shoulder, I’m now the other side of 50, but my anti-inflammatory transact patch and anti-inflammatory use, have all but stopped. In short? Don’t be like Duncan MacLeod. Keep your options open.

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P R O T E A F LY F I S H I N G C A P TA I N M C C O E T Z E R O N P U T T I N G T O G E T H E R T H E P E R F EC T F L AT S B OX Photo Jan Verboom


retty much all my fly fishing is guided by a quote from Richard Kline I picked up long ago. “Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.” Every single flats fishing trip I’ve ever been on had one thing in common. I always felt like I was missing out on a couple of fish because I didn’t have the fly selection I would have wanted. I remember a couple of years ago at St Brandon’s Atoll where I had just stepped off the boat for our first session. Denton Ingham-Brown and James Christmas had wandered off to look for GTs and I was wading the deep outside edge of a sand flat. I came across a solid permit feeding hard on the deep edge of the bank but he was in water about a metre deep and the current was pretty strong. I must have changed flies about five times and never felt like I was actually getting the fly into a position where I had even a remote chance of getting that fish interested. That kind of scenario really pisses me off … It’s a wasted opportunity that’s so easy to avoid if I adhere to Kline’s quote and prepare well. The primary problem on flats trips has always been that the weight variation and range of my flies weren’t good enough, with the result that some patterns sank too fast and others sank too slow for the prevailing conditions. This problem was compounded by the fact that my last couple of trips has been at really short notice, leaving me only two weeks or so to prepare. This is not nearly enough time to stock up on a good selection of flies and rushed tying has never been one of my strong points. My flats box had also done quite a few trips with friends, and


earlier this year I realised that the box was starting to look really haggard, so I dumped all the flies and started from scratch. I’m definitely OCD when it comes to flies. If I see somebody staring into their fly box I know that they have lost confidence in their fly or in what they are doing – they also don’t have a solution to the problem. You have to know exactly which flies you have in your box and, more importantly, know

“YOU HAVE TO KNOW EXACTLY WHICH FLIES YOU HAVE IN YOUR BOX AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, KNOW WHAT EACH FLY WILL DO WHEN IT HITS THE WATER.” what each fly will do when it hits the water. Guys who tie flies in ones and twos invariably end up with a whole box of mismatched flies and the result is that they have no idea what happens to the fly when it hits the water. If I lose a fly that’s been working for me under particular conditions I don’t want to have to guess which pattern will be similar when I open my box. I want to take an exact replica out of my box and fish it with confidence.     I almost never tie a fly straight off the bat. I often spend days tying the same pattern without putting a

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single fly in the boxes. I work on the tailing material, the body construction or weighting and only once I am completely satisfied with the pattern as a whole will it go into a box. I then tie a minimum of five exact flies and more often it will be 10 flies but with two different weightings. Production tying helps create consistency and it also speeds up tying. For this reason I will tie the flies in stages, with a stage ending at any point where I apply glue or where the thread is cut. In most instances this means that the fly is broken into three steps with the first being the body, then the wing, and finally the head is finished with High Build Epoxy Primer for durability. The general idea behind my flats box is that it should not be a destinationspecific box but rather that it should cover 90% of all destinations where the target species are bonefish, permit and triggers. When a trip comes up I can simply add the venue-specific patterns like milky dreams for milkfish, crab patterns with yellow legs for Australia, or very lightweight flies if I expect skinny water bones over a neap tide. These patterns are easy to add and you don’t need to spend a lot of time figuring them out.   If you prepare thoroughly you will maximise your opportunities and those uncontrollables like weather will have less of a negative impact on your fishing. Fly tying is an integral part of my preparation for any fishing trip but it will always be a means to an end and the “end” is to catch as many fish as I can under prevailing conditions. Every fly has to have a specific application or address a specific set of conditions to make it into a fly box.

When fishing Infanta for grunter I literally carry about three JAM flies in different weights and maybe four turds. That’s what I have confidence in and I don’t need any other flies to catch fish. Flats fishing for bonefish, permit, triggers and parrots is a totally different kettle of fish and I definitely don’t have enough experience to select confidence flies for a box like this without doing a huge amount of research. A Seychelles guide probably carries only a handful of patterns and the simple reason for this would be similar to my Infanta scenario. They know they don’t need a box with 300 flies to catch fish. Flats flies are not complicated and you don’t need a wide range of patterns. You basically need some crabs, some shrimps and maybe a few baitfish patterns. Within those pattern groups you’ll have some variety but the

critical factor to consider is weighting, or rather sink rate, and maybe colour to a lesser extent. I ended up with only about 15 distinctly different patterns but within those patterns I have a huge range of flies in terms of suitability for different conditions, structure, depth and speed of current. It’s a pretty basic box of flies but with great variation. The best source of information will always be people who fish flats destinations regularly. Nobody spends more time on the flats than the professional guides and for this reason I’ve been collecting fly patterns from guides for a number of years and the request to them have always been the same: “Give me your two or three most effective flats flies for bonefish, permit and triggers.” Over the years my sample box has grown to include flies from Andrew Parsons, Christiaan Pretorius, James Christmas, Wayne

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Haselau and many others. These guys’ flies are my most valuable source of information because they’ve already figured it out and they won’t suggest patterns that they don’t have a stack of confidence in. At some point in the past while preparing for a fishing trip where I was really pushed for time to prepare adequately, I decided to change my sleeping schedule so that I could get a few hours’ tying time in before I go to work. I ended up waking at about four in the morning and really enjoyed the quiet of the early mornings, when I could sit at my tying desk with a cup of coffee and a cigarette while either tying flies or thinking about fly design. This habit has kinda stuck and I now get up early every morning to think about flies, life, the universe and pretty much everything else. Sometimes I’ll even tie a few flies …


Chocolate starfish? No sir! Have you ever tried a blue starfish? 70

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ED TRUTER THE EXPLORER Photos Tourette Fishing


eologist turned conservationist and destination scout Ed Truter is in part responsible for opening up some of the most interesting fly-fishing destinations in Africa. The Nubian Flats, Gabon, the Bokong … Ed was up there long before most. The first fish I remember catching was a thornfish, an unusual catch for my home river, the Kowie in the Eastern Cape. After that it was a leerie, I think. I grew up on a farm near Port Alfred, then attended university in Port Elizabeth, followed by two years in Pietermaritzburg on my first job as a geologist. After that I was employed by Anglo American in grassroots gold and base-metal exploration. While with them I lived in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) and briefly in Joburg, though they were constantly sending me all over the world for a few weeks at a time. Then I left exploration geology and worked on a conservation and tourism project in Gabon, living at Iguela (Loango National Park) for three years and a bit. After that I spent a year on a 30-foot yacht sailing across the South Pacific on an island-to-island fishing trip. That ended in 2006 and I’ve been back in Port Elizabeth ever since. PE is sleepy and windy and aesthetically quite a dull city. But the wind always ensures that the fish are biting somewhere thanks to the dynamic coastline, and the central location in the Eastern Cape means that within a 30 minute to three hour bakkie-ride radius, you can be enjoying a mind-blowing diversity of natural landscapes and habitats, with almost no one else around. My life is typically in one of four states: 1) on a fishing (and sometimes hunting) trip, in or out of the country; 2) preparing for said trip (I tend to faff over every last detail regarding gear before I step out the door, so prep can take time); 3) post-trip

stuff like accumulated admin, debriefs with friends, etc.; and 4) taking care of the regular, must-do admin like that associated with the rental properties that sustain me. The bulk of my at-home time is taken up by working on the various projects that I volunteer my days and my mind to. For example, today, managing the Amatola Fly Fishing Club, consulting to the Gabon Bleu government programme that’s

“I SPENT A YEAR ON A 30-FOOT YACHT SAILING ACROSS THE SOUTH PACIFIC ON AN ISLANDTO-ISLAND FISHING TRIP.” tasked with marine conservation, management and fisheries planning in Gabon, helping plan a fly fishing film project, and endless research and correspondence for potential new nature-tourism and/or conservation projects that can bring good to the environment and communities. In between that I like to always have some creative stuff going on in the background, I enjoy writing or being involved with films and such. Something I worked out on my own, but that others have put into words properly, is that “The phone is your friend”. In the greater context it means that there’s al-

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ways someone out there who knows more than you do, and you should make the effort to contact and engage with them, that we may all build upon each other’s knowledge and continue to share it. The best party trick I know is threading line through the eye of a hook in the dark using my tongue. I’ve had to work at becoming a workable fly tier and functional fly caster, I don’t have an artist’s eye nor great motor coords. What has come naturally is the ability to observe and connect extreme subtleties in nature, and human nature. When it comes to scouting a new fly-fishing destination, the initial raw exploration is of course exciting, because it’s usually an adventure – if the definition of adventure is not knowing what’s going to happen. There’s something special about drifting down a river and having no clue what the next bend will hold or even what mysterious fish might latch on on the next cast. The more serious side of scouting is the true satisfaction, and especially, years down the line, seeing photo upon photo of happy clients and hearing the stories of intense enjoyment of their interaction with the place and its creatures, and knowing that I played a small part in making that happen. But at the same time hoping that by helping to make their opportunity a reality, they were touched by their experiences in such a way as to come back from the destination better people, especially with regards to taking better care of the planet. Then there’s the satisfaction of seeing positive change created for the people who might work at or be indirectly involved with the destination, and of course, most importantly, the satisfaction that comes from developing a destination for its own sustainable good, made possible through new awareness and various financial, conservation and environmental-management measures. These days I’m not interested in attempting to help


ever be, by simple virtue of a myriad more technical variables, and what I’ve learned about fishes and their environment through casting lures has brought great enrichment and joy to my life. I know that many fly fishermen have made the choice to only fish fly for many reasons (e.g. to keep things simple, or for the heightened challenge, etc.), most of them valid, but if you really want to learn about fish and the natural world, then opening yourself up to other techniques can be very rewarding. People need to slow down and be present. Do one thing at a time but be present in it, do it consciously and carefully and properly. If work conditions dictate, rather work a full weekend to be able to take four days off the next weekend. Don’t rush somewhere just to rush back after a day and a half. Do fewer things, go fewer places but do each of them better with more time and meaning. Blue yellowfish out of the Congo river system in Zambia. open up a new destination if the project cannot be adapted to bring more good to the place than is already there. There are many, many boxes that need to be ticked for a destination to be an economic and community success. It really only works with small communities, who culturally have a sense of community to start with. After that there are a million other things, starting with the species on offer. A huge part of the success or failure is the energy of the place and the service that the operator provides. If the psychology is all wrong, it will never fly. I think few people understand this. I don’t think what I get out of fly fishing has changed over the years. I’ve always loved the mechanics of the casting and the manipulation of the line on the water, all the technicalities of the actual fishing plus the simplicity of fly fishing. In the end, my fly fishing and my fishing in general is just the looking glass through which I feel most at ease, through which I to try to understand nature and the interconnect-

edness of all things. The more I learn and understand the more I want to learn, so it actually feels like I get more and more out of my fishing. If I could change one thing in fly fishing it would be that too many only-fly folks have the view that fly fishing is the be-all and end-all and somehow superior to, much more difficult and less dynamic than other forms of fishing. Anyone who thinks that is only displaying extreme ignorance and inexperience, and don’t realise the incredible experiences and ability to learn so much about nature’s ways that they’re missing by not opening themselves up to being polyvalent. I’m a naturalist at heart, and fishing is the primary vehicle through which I like to be enthralled by Earth’s places and creatures, and so I have fished just about every way possible in modern times (but not with a drone yet). I tie hundreds of flies and have a pile of fly rods that get used regularly, but I don’t love it any more than I do my other fishing, especially fishing with lures. Fishing with lures is way more dynamic than fly fishing could

When it comes to education, I would change syllabi to include more real-life skills like finance dynamics so that people may be able to create more freedom for themselves by way of more free time, time that can be devoted to family, friends and nature, all of which makes better people of us all. In a perfect world, school children should be exposed to every manner of low-impact outdoor activity on the planet that they may identify with, be it fly fishing, or surfing, or rock climbing, or trail running, and which will put them in touch with their planet so that they may live more environmentally responsible lives. Looking back, if there was one thing I would do differently it would be to try and have greater emotional intelligence. I’m still trying, mostly I fail. I’m probably most proud that through a little luck I’ve managed to live at least a tiny bit beyond the grips of “The System”, and this freedom has helped me to help a few others in little ways. The last fish I caught was a giant emperor cichlid (nkupi) on Lake Tanganyika.


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The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine Issue #3  
The Mission Fly Fishing Magazine Issue #3