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My tapestry, your tapestry

Each of us builds a set of reference points in our flyfishing journey. We all have a history of where we went and what we caught, and what happened along the way, and with whom. It is a tapestry, in which our history matches that of a fellow flyfisher for only as long as it takes for our threads to cross. We spend a day together here, and then, and for an instant we saw the same frames in that movie in our minds that is the flyfishing aesthetic. For the rest of it, it is a personal and unique journey. We can wonder if anyone sees it quite like we do.  It is a bit like contemplating a colour like Blue for example. We think we know what blue is, but how do we know that everyone else isn’t seeing it as what we call red!

So it is with our own personal histories of places visited, fish missed, and stuff  along the way that make a place or time memorable. This is not about me, or anyone else having been further, fished more, or having pictures more clever than you. It is not a quiz.  It is to say: “hey…you’ve been there too!  Cool, we have something in common”. Have our flyfishing threads perhaps crossed unknowingly in this tapestry?

Let me know if they have:

 

dogs (1 of 1)

bhoola (1 of 1)

Mooi (1 of 1)

junction (1 of 1)

poles (1 of 1)

Tobie (1 of 1)

mt leonard (1 of 1)-2

untitled (10 of 37)

Spate

Perhaps you have a tapestry of images in which I will recognise none of the places. This is the stuff that keeps fishermen seeking out new places, new friends, and new experiences.

Stillwater celebration

The mornings have been cold. Lake fringes, boats and tackle have been laced with ice. The sun has been golden, sweet and welcome. The water has been sparkling, clear, and shimmering blue in contrast to the dusty veld. The Trout have been willing at times. We have had small strong silver fish, and larger Rainbows, flushed in deep colours. We have warded off the chilly breezes with jackets and gloves and “buffs”. Hot coffee has been essential.

The sunsets have come quickly. 

Highmoor (1 of 1)

stillwater (1 of 1)-3

frost (1 of 1)

stillwater (1 of 1)-5

trout (1 of 1)

coffee (1 of 1)

sunset (1 of 1)

10 ways to catch more trout

Bushmans (14 of 26)

That got their attention!

This article is not about ten ways to catch more trout. It is an article about how numbers get our attention.

Us flyfishermen are chilled. We are cool. We have been fishing for years. We don’t care how many we catch anymore. We are above that. Competition is so yesterday. We are far more noble than that. “So how big did you say that fish was….45cms?” and “let me see, what is that in inches”.   “By the way what was the water temp?” ……….So you see, numbers DO  matter. I knew it!

No matter how blasé we are, or how loosely we wear our buff, or how full the hip flask is, we measure things, and we record things. And we are just a little bit obsessed with it too.  “How many kms did you guys go up the river?”. “Was it a cock fish or a hen fish?”; “So what size was that Caddis pattern, an 18?”

Caddis (2 of 6)

 

Do you see what I mean? We measure everything!  I guess it is part of what I have heard called “The human condition”. You cannot escape it. How many days was the fishing trip?  How many hours did it take to drive there?.  How long is that fly rod? People want to know. It is important. Apparently. It must be. My most viewed blog post is one entitled “8 things to consider about sun gloves”. How random is that!  I wonder if this one, with the number ten in it, will get 20% more views…..there I go again…measuring.

So, if we accept that we can’t escape measuring and recording, and that we are predisposed to it, to some degree at least, we had might as well decide on a few things to measure to satisfy that apparent craving. Then we can ditch the rest. So what will it be? What is important for a flyfisherman to measure?

Someone recently suggested that my top statistic is Kms walked per trout caught, and that a low number won’t do. I had to think about that. In some perverse way, I think they may be right. Its never good enough to park the car, jump out and catch a fish within sight of the sign or the road or the car. That is just not cricket. You must work for your fish!. Well, I don’t know about you but I must anyway.

image

Then there are inches and pounds. I have absolutely no idea how big a 45cm fish is, or a 1 Kg fish. Nada. Nothing. Blank. No idea. Sugar in kilograms. Irrigation pipes in centrimetres. Fish in pounds and inches. That is just how it is for me. If you tell me you got a “74” I will assume it to be a species of sea fish. If it is a “56”, I can only assume it is a close relative. I have no idea whether it would fit in your hand, your fridge, or your house.

I can picture a river Brown, and if it is over twelve inches, that means something to me, and it is important.

Stippled Beauties (13 of 42)

There you go. I said it. My buff just tightened around my neck. Not cool, but true. I need to know how big the fish was.

Then comes temperature. This is absolutely critical, for no reason whatsoever.

P9200088

As a kid I read Joe Humphries on “fishing by degrees” in his book “Trout Tactics”. Temperature was clearly critical. I can’t remember why,  (beyond the obvious one of a cool side-stream or spring in summer) but the chapter must have made an impression, because since 1981 every fishing day’s water temperature is measured and recorded. Air temperature too.

And fly size; plus weight of outfit used; leader X; sex of fish; kept or returned; Rainbow or Brown; hours fished; wind speed and direction; cloud cover; time fish caught; species hatching; flies used.

IMG_5448

OK, I admit it: I am a goner. A head-case. I can’t help myself. I am chilled. I am cool. I am not competitive, I assure you. That buff is loose around my neck. But I must measure. It is an affliction!

I think you have it too. (even if you won’t admit to it)

Three rivers and their stippled beauties

There has been much talk over the years about the subtle variations in the colouration and spot patterns on browns from different rivers here in the KZN midlands. I too have expressed opinions or generalisations about how the fish look in this river or that.  So it occurred to me to post here a sample of fish pictures from each river. In this way you can not only decide for yourself, but you can help me identify a pattern or trend, if indeed there is one. Because much as I adore the poetry in describing the special colouration of some hallowed stream’s trout, I have to confess that with the hard cold evidence in front of me, I am struggling!

So there you have it: Loch Leven strains , Von Bher (red spots), maybe some Slovenian influence, and who knows what else in between. The photos were also taken at various times of the season, and of course that will have some effect too. But can you think up a rule that will hold true, or describe a pattern that can’t be disproven with these or other pictures? Here is a table summarising what I can see in these pictures.

Characteristic/ River Bushmans Mooi Umgeni
Red spots some yes yes
small spots no yes yes
large splodges yes yes yes
silvery no not so much yes
butter yellow yes yes some
spots up on the head & mouth no no no
 Leopard like spot shapes ? ? ?

Please do drop me a comment if you have any ideas, because this one has me beaten…… Some of these photos are robbed from my friends and colleagues off Facebook or the internet, and many were not taken by me. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Thank you to any of you who unknowingly donated pictures in the name of science !

Thank you to Wayne Stegen, Peter Brigg and Graeme Steart for additional pictures received so far. Their pictures have been added to the albums. Please do keep them coming!

Slowing it down

I think I have been moving too fast.

Mtshezana (18 of 30)

In years gone by (in fact right up until this week), I have been the guy moving on up. I glance at a bit of water, metaphorically shake my head, and move on. If a spot is half likely, I might dust it with a few casts, then tell myself I was right about it, and move on. The first cast at a pool or run is the best one, I reason, and each subsequent presentation will have diminishing returns.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe there is merit to that approach, but I think that I for one, am at risk of taking it too far.

If I stop a while and think about it, I might just realise that I have been shown up by some of my flyfishing buddies. I might just be a little red faced at having passed up a piece of pocket water, only to have the bloke catch up with me at lunch time, and tell me how many fat Browns he pulled out of just that spot.

P1020114

Just this last season, Graeme was fishing a pool on the Mkomazi without result. I was standing behind him getting some photos. The pool looked great, so I hovered behind him for a while, fully expecting him to get something. I really did believe he would. For a while. After about ten or fifteen minutes, I lost that belief. He had put drift after perfect drift over the sweet spot in the pool, as well as every piece of water either side of that, without result. I could not fault his technique, his stealth, or his presentations, but I developed a belief that there must be no fish there. Or perhaps that somehow, through no fault of his, they had spooked.

I put my camera away and moved on to fish my allotted piece above him.

No sooner had I taken the fly from the keeper, and he was whistling for my attention. He was into a great fish. A real beauty.

Mkomazi (42 of 47)

Then on a recent rip to the mountains of the North eastern Cape, I was on the Sterkspruit at Birkhall. I was at a deep run that flowed tight against a cliff in the deep shade, and with a side current that came into that, almost at a right angle, in an even deeper funnel of bubbling water. It seemed the perfect place to try my hand at some euro style nymphing. That is not something I do very often, but I figured I would give it a go. I did. I tried it for a while on both pieces of water, on either side of the gravel bar that I was standing on. The gravel bar, that I soon got to thinking had me standing above and over the trout. I was in the bright sun too. I quickly lost faith in what I was doing. It went against everything I have been taught, everything I know. The fish could see me. I was in front of them, and not behind them. It felt wrong. I figured I would write off any thoughts of catching anything, but that I would use the opportunity to try to perfect the method. To practice. I added weight to the fly and I flicked it again. I concentrated on leading the fly through the run, using clues to guess whether the fly was ahead or behind where my line entered the water.  I lifted the fly, and tried to establish if it was lifting off the bottom in an enticing way or whether perhaps I had it in mid flow, in no-mans land, and was raising it closer to the surface in a futile act.  I practiced, and practiced, and tried again.  And I caught two trout.

Carabas (26 of 35)

I think I have been moving too fast.

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