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Spotting Trout in stillwater

A piece of open stillwater can be  a bland thing. The other day Neil and I were out on some lovely, but somehow dull water. There was a dead calm, and we didn’t see or touch a fish.  I suggested that the day was a good advert for stream fishing.

But sometimes it is very different.

Today I was out alone on a small piece of water. Being mid winter the water was crystal clean, but more importantly the light was right. Light is so important in fly-fishing, but the right light is also so very difficult to describe.

Suffice to say that one wants little or no smoke or haze, and generally the light  behind you, or at least high overhead. You want your polaroids to be working a treat. That day, the sun was in fact ahead of me, but there was a steep bank opposite, such that a small band of water was without sheen or reflection.

Trout (1 of 1)

It was weeded up close to where I was waded, but twenty yards out there was a channel. I suddenly caught sight of a trout there, moving quite fast, and the under-water world opened up. Funny how that happens: You are looking at the surface, and then suddenly something moves, your eyes adjust, and now you are looking through the surface instead of at it.

Trout (1 of 3)

Here is a little help (since I had the all important help of having seen it move.

Trout spotted(1 of 3)

And some more images of other fish during the morning:

Trout (2 of 3)

Trout (3 of 3)

You are not sure if what you think is the fish, is in fact it, are you?

Neither was I !

They would appear and then disappear again, like ghosts. Given that it was flat calm most of the time, I daren’t cast until a gust of wind came. The fish were moving up and down, and I could only see them when the breeze abated. But when the calm set in, I would surely line them. So I waited for Nirvana:  I needed to spot a fish in dead calm, and keep it in my vision until a puff of wind ruffled the surface. Then I would cast to a point 2 yards in front of the fish, and wait for it to intercept. Maybe tweak the fly as it came along.

In an hour and a half, that scenario presented itself just once. It was a cast demanding a double haul to get there.  The fly landed perfectly. Although the water was now riffled, I saw the mouth open as the Trout took my fly. I struck.

And it came free.

I did land two fish later on, fishing blind, but for me, fooling that fish earlier, was what made my day, even if I didn’t get a hand to it.  And was it worth and hour and a half?

Most definitely!

 

Footnote. The photos were taken at ISO800 on 1/80th of a second and zoomed to about 800 to 1000mm. They were lightened and contrast and highlights enhanced in Lightroom to make the fish more visible. When there was no wind at all I concentrated on photographing them instead of trying to catch them, as I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance!

Zoom. You gotta love it!

My Friend Neil and I were out the other day roving around between some Trout waters that were not looking all that promising.

Neil asked me to stop, and asked if he could borrow my camera. I had been boasting about just how fantastic these bridging cameras are nowadays.

On optical zoom only, shot from the passenger seat, this is what he got:

On no zoom:

Canon SX50 (1 of 4)

1200mm equivalent, optical zoom only! 

Canon SX50 (2 of 4)

And in the photo editor back home, effectively using digital zoom:

Canon SX50 (3 of 4)

And a bit more, just to show where you can go with this thing:

 

Canon SX50 (4 of 4)

These were taken on auto setting, as J-pegs (not in RAW), and with the camera hand held. (I did switch the motor off for Neil). The images have not been manipulated at all other than the cropping of the lower two.

When I was buying the camera, many of my colleagues tried to point me in the direction of another Canon, (The Powershot G12 or G15) that is more compact, and for which you can buy a waterproof housing. But when I learned that Canon’s SX30 had been upgraded to the SX50, that now shoots in Raw format, and with the zoom extended from 850mm to 1200mm (35mm camera equivalent), as well as a better “frames per second” in continuous shooting mode, I was sold.

Without having to familiarise myself with new controls, the upgrade from the SX30 to the SX50 was a breeze.

One could argue that you don’t need zoom for landscape and fly-fishing situations.  Maybe you would be right.

 

Canon SX50 (1 of 4)

Canon SX50 (3 of 4)

Canon SX50 (4 of 4)

Or maybe not.

 

But here are some review links for you to make your own choice:

http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-PowerShot-SX50-HS-vs-Canon_PowerShot_G12

http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-PowerShot-G15-vs-Canon-PowerShot-SX50-HS

http://www.digitalversus.com/digital-camera/face-off/9931-14373-versus-table.html

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/42551664

http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews/canon_powershot_sx50_hs_review/comments/P100

http://compareindia.in.com/comparison/290772-canon-powershot-sx50-hs-vs-172492-canon-powershot-g12/62

http://www.digicamdb.com/compare/canon_powershot-g12-vs-canon_powershot-sx50-hs/

A Detail for Eyes

A recent topic of discussion has been that of eyes on our Trout flies.

It occurred to me that we have come a long way in that department. My earliest memory of eyes on flies was that of the Clayne Baker swimming nymph, in which one was required to tie an overhand knot on a bunch of marabou fibres. Now that was a trick!

I think at that time we normally made eyes by simply cutting a stub of tuff chenille either side of the hook. Those were not very pronounced eyes, and come to think of it, the snipped end of a length of tuff chenille was positively insipid compared to the lovely round shiny eyes we are able to get today.

Round about the time of Hugh Huntley’s red eyed damsel, we had started to loop the tuff chenille. That method persisted for a good long time, and it still shows up now and then.

 

eyes for flies (12 of 24)

It would have been around then too, that we started melting thick nylon, to make eyes. You had to get the right nylon, and the right method to control what you ended up with, and I seem to remember that my own results were far from predictable. One difficulty that I still see on the online videos, is that it is darn difficult to get the eyes the same size.

In more recent years though, a whole plethora of ideas have emerged. Some are better than others.

Roger Baert uses a plastic sheet, from which he cuts strips, and folds them over to make eyes. The stuff positively glows along the cut edge, making Roger’s dragonfly pattern a killer pattern:

eyes for flies (9 of 24)

Fly Tied by Roger Baert

Not long ago I bought these soft “Chew balls”.

eyes for flies (3 of 24)

They look wonderful don’t they!

They fall off on about the third cast.

Back to the drawing board. These moulded plastic eyes are great.

eyes for flies (1 of 24)

eyes for flies (15 of 24)eyes for flies (11 of 24)

The black ones are somehow shiny, but the olive and grey ones just look dull on a fly.  You also have to shop carefully. These ones lose their colour and end up white on the fly:

eyes for flies (5 of 24)

That is, unless you coat them in thin UV glue, so locking the colour in, and giving them some shin too.

But the real trick nowadays is to go and scan the bead shops for all kinds of interesting beads and make your “dumbbells” yourself.

Jan recently showed us the faceted beads he has been using.

eyes for flies (2 of 24)

These ones came on a string, but most of them don’t. So here is how to make them up yourself.

First, lay you hands on the heaviest nylon that you can thread the beads onto. Builders line is a good option:

eyes for flies (8 of 24)

Thread two beads onto a short piece.

eyes for flies (16 of 24)

Now light a candle, and position the first bead about an inch from the end of the nylon. Hold the nylon near the tip of the flame, and wait for it to start sizzling. Keep it there until it practically catches fire.  It will burn back into the bead and stop. The bead is like the firebreak!

eyes for flies (18 of 24)eyes for flies (19 of 24)

 

To do the other end, move the free bead to a position about a quarter of an inch from its stuck partner, and then snip the nylon about an inch away from that. Now slide the free bead back against it’s stuck partner. Holding the unit by the locked bead, and with a pair of sharp nosed plies holding the free bead, advance the end of the nylon into the flame until it catches fire. Let it burn to the point that you want it to stop. Then swiftly but gently use the pliers to move the bead to that point. As the bead reaches the rapidly advancing bead of sizzling nylon, it will put the fire out and embed itself in the desired position. The sizzling nylon is however as soft as butter, so you have to avoid sliding the bead right past the desired point and off the end. It is a knack!

 

eyes for flies (22 of 24)

Another way to do it is shown in this clip from Global Fly-fisher.

Now the only issue with this method, is that your bead is fouled with a “gob” of dull melted nylon. A lot of the pictures and videos on the internet don’t get you in close enough to see this for what it is. It is not as shiny as the bead, and it is often not symmetrical either.

eyes for flies (23 of 24) 

On a black bead, you can solve this with a black  permanent marker.

eyes for flies (24 of 24)

I normally coat my bead eyes with loon thin UV glue. This helps secure the bead. It also fixes the black marker. You can also do this with Sally Hansens “Hard as nails” or  epoxy, as shown on this video that I came across.

The problem is that not all beads are black. One can find a wonderful assortment of translucent beads in plastic and in glass. These look quite fantastic, but that melted nylon is somewhat of a blemish.

eyes for flies (7 of 24)

I have tried different melting techniques, to give a smaller blemish, and then secured the bead onto the line with UV glue to compensate for the smaller stopper. But I don’t feel as though I have got it right yet.

eyes for flies (13 of 24)

eyes for flies (14 of 24)

But if we step away from the beads for a while, and dwell on the idea of creating our own translucent bead using UV glue, we might be onto something.

Take a look at this video.

In that clip he says how the top layer of UV glue is so thin that you can’t even tell its there. But I got to thinking: what if you do want to know it is there! What if you want your colour in the middle of your “bead”, and successive layers give you the translucent layers over the colour. And what if you introduced some sparkle into those successive layers. I know that you get glitter type material that you can infuse into your epoxy or UV glue.

So what I did was to start with the old melted nylon eyes described above. Then I used this base of a small nylon ball as a base onto which I dropped a small amount of very thick UV glue . I twirled it while wet and then cured it with the light, when I was sure that it was smooth, and even more symmetrical than the original ball of melted nylon underneath. Then I couloured it with a permanent marker. In fact I did some with a white board marker: it doesn’t have to be permanent.

At that point, check to see if the bead is slightly tacky. If not, you may want to give it a very fine brush of nail varnish or thin UV glue. Then before it is cured, roll it in some glitter of your choosing and then cure it. Now roll on some more thick UV glue, roll the dumbbell around to get it smooth and even and then cure it with your UV torch.

You can play with colours and glitters, and multiple clear or coloured layers.

What do you think?

eyes for flies (1 of 1)-3

Bakkies, dust and lost reels

Every now and then, the eight to five world of suburbia, commitments and credit cards, releases me for more than just a day trip. In other words, every once in a while, I somehow find a gap, and head out on one of those fly fishing trips that involves a night or two in a fishing cottage. Not a few stolen hours, in which you are watching the time. I am talking about two or more days at a trot on the water.

It is heaven!

The anticipation of those trips is childlike in my case. It is childlike in that the lead-up to such a trip stirs in me a buzz no different from that I experienced as a schoolboy when a fly-fishing trip was on the cards. Back then, as it is now, the days leading up to my departure are filled with checking of tackle, filling fly-boxes, and picturing what else I might need out on the water. I am a slave to preparation and planning, but I love it. As the day of departure grows closer, I will be testing a new lanyard arrangement for my forceps, or swapping tackle between pockets in my vest. I will don my fly-vest in the lounge and swing my arms to check that the new this or that, doesn’t snag on my clothing.

I will move the beanie and gloves from that pouch to this pocket, and find a new container for this thing or that. One that fits better, seals better, or is more compact. Of course filling fly-boxes is a big one too. Removing odd lots from the fly-box, and filling gaps in the rows of favourite patterns that are showing the signs of battle loss.

IMG_3610

 

It is a ritual, in which one pictures and anticiiptes the trip a thousand times. In picturing the days away, your tackle will be neatly stowed. Everything will stay in its place. Nothing will break, or go missing. Each time you arrive at a water, you will open up what you need. It will all be where you left it, your rod will be up in minutes, and you will be on the water without delay.

In reality, the trip will be one of switching vehicles, changing plans, and of rough roads, that somehow conspire to jumble everything that you take along for the trip. Everything will be coated in dust or mud. When you leave one water for another, you will have got in last, and rather than hold the guys up, your tackle will have been tossed, more than it will have been “stowed”. PD's Rhodes & EG pics 146

You will have old leaders stuffed in shirt pockets, spare spools left in float tubes, and fly boxes under the seat in the other guy’s bakkie. That pair of forceps you attached so neatly with some ring or clasp or snap device will have pulled loose, and will be back in your vest scratching your fly-box as before.

When you return home on the last day, your hands will be rough and dry.

PC190533

Your face a little red from the wind and sun, and your tackle will be a mess. Unpacking your bakkie and putting everything away will be a major task, undertaken in a state of quickly escalating exhaustion. You will hang up the wet waders behind the fridge with a satisfied sigh, and a smile in your soul. Once you are through the shower, you will collapse into a sleep as childlike as that you had as a young boy returning from a day on the beach. Instead of the sound of crashing waves  repeating itself in your head, it will be the slap and suck of waves, or the babble of the stream, that carries into your dreams. You will sleep heavily, relaxed in the knowledge that the misplaced fly reel must be knocking around in your vehicle somewhere.

There is nothing like a good fly-fishing trip!

P4040217

Dust and smoke in the Midlands

Yesterday I headed out along the Kamberg road.  Sunday past, this had been the scene of a wild and awful wind. One that lashed the dry veld angrily, kicking up dust and tossing branches. Inevitably, fire had been involved too. The farmers were now on guard. Houses, and even lives were lost down Kokstad way. Yesterday was calm. In  fact it was calm all day, and with Sunday’s wind fresh in everyones memory, the farmers were out in force burning fire breaks.

Palls of smoke rose from a few spots up the valley. Something was burning up in the berg, South East of the Giant. There was a plume of thick white smoke on the slopes above the Crane foundation. I thought it might have got into the timber there, but luckily not.  A black smoke rose from somewhere off  on the Loteni road too.

In the morning the Giant seemed way off, bathed in a screen of white. By the afternoon that mountain was obscured in a haze which seem amplified by the late winter sun. That sunlight cut sideways across the landscape, through the dust and smoke, making the entire vista seem more vast and distant. Hills seemed miles away in the pale purple, and a yellowness on the veld close-by, made it all seem old. Like the page in some faded book, left open for far too long.

IMG_4944

 

Our dry winters of dust and smoke make it hard to believe that there is any water out there at all.

P6160091

 

When one considers how crisp and clear the outline of Giant’s Castle is after a rainstorm, it is difficult to believe that it can be obscured in haze , even from as close as the top of Vaalkop.

This is not city pollution. I suppose our farming activities increase the incidence of fire and our vehicles add to the dust in suspension in the air, but perhaps all this stuff we are breathing in is as natural as it gets. Perhaps I need to accept that ugly days are part of the deal. That berg winds, smoky days, severe heat waves, and all the other things that have a way of bringing on a bad mood, are just natural things, put there for us to endure, in order that we might appreciate the beautiful days.

Having travelled to Durban this morning, and witnessed that landscape, I very quickly appreciated the smoky Kamberg valley of yesterday. I realised that in fact I am a hillbilly, in as far as I am something the opposite of a city person.  As I drove into Durban, I realised that I had been there far too long already.I managed to do what I needed to do without even switching off the engine, and I beetled back out of there as fast as I could. Tomorrow I will be up early. I will be out in the frost, kicking up ash in the burnt veld beside a Trout dam. Watching the sun rise through an  orange lens of particulate matter.

IMG_4561

 

The water will be ice cold and startlingly clean.

IMG_1877

Maybe I will  get a fish or two.

And maybe the dust isn’t so bad after all.

Inchbrakie before and after

 

Before the Spring Grove dam.

Truttablog (1 of 1)

And after

Truttablog (1 of 1)-2

Going further up

Skimming through fishing magazines, websites and books, I can’t help but notice the prevalence of articles espousing the wildness of the fishing. The secret location is so remote that a helicopter was the only way in. The bigger fish are in the headwaters above the waterfall, and it takes several hours to hike in. For the best fishing, you have to walk further. And so it goes.

And we want to be the one who DID walk further. The one who went higher into the mountains, beyond where your unfit mates would ever go.

untitled-1-8

We hope that the fishing there will be better too, because then we would have been rewarded for our efforts. We will also have a story to tell, and our mates are more likely to repeat the story on our behalf when we are not around. In short, we will be heroes. I remember taking two mates on an epic hike in cold damp weather, in which there was less fishing than hiking, and all we saw was one monster Trout racing for cover.

IMG_0275

I enjoy the fact that we went up there, further than anyone else goes. When I see pictures of other’s expeditions that made it halfway to where we went, I have to bite my tongue. I don’t want to be the tosser who blurts out that we went higher. But I do enjoy knowing that.

I don’t believe that I have a competitive bone in my body. Maybe I do, but I don’t believe it. I don’t think I am trying to be a hero. If I am, please aim a kick at my shin!

What I do know, is that in a world of ringing phones, busy airports and desks overflowing in paper, I want to set myself apart from it all. Being the one who hiked over the big mountain to the dangerous side, and came back with a picture of a 22 inch Brown, is one way of pulling ones flagging spirit from the mire of modern life.

Some might argue that achieving this with a modicum of humility is the trick. They might be right, but I think that for a plunker like me,  hooking that big Brown and then actually landing it, is where the real trick lies.

Stillwater Trout in KZN, A montage

A chance encounter

If you carry a camera around on Trout waters long enough, you eventually bump into a co-operative Rainbow.

 

Rainbow (1 of 1)-8

Rainbow (1 of 1)-2Rainbow (1 of 1)-5

Rainbow (1 of 1)-9

It wouldn’t take a fly, but after I had photographed it, I caught it with my hands.

Yes, I returned it.

No, there were no witnesses.

The Roach wears undies

At a recent gathering of the Natal Fly Dressers Society (NFDS), Jan Korrubel demonstrated the tying of the well known “Papa Roach“, that excellent Dragonfly nymph pattern that is making it into halls of fame.

Papa Roach by Herman Botes

Herman Botes’ Papa Roach: Photo ex Tom Sutcliffe…see link above

Jan has a pragmatic approach that I enjoy. He chatted about the fact that he couldn’t bring himself to leave the hook shank bare under the Zonker strip, “because it just looked wrong”. I Know Herman Botes intended the hookshank to be the flat base of the fly’s shape, but a bit of dubbing finishes it off nicely. We briefly discussed whether Trout could count legs and settled on four. Jan showed us the faceted beads he uses for eyes, and then he went on to tie a “Banana Roach” in pale tan colour.

That particular colour didn’t do anything for me, but Jan’s introduction of his fruity version, and his comment about not leaving the hook shank bare, got me thinking on the way back home.

I have always been one for subtle things showing through. Like a single strand of Krystal flash, that flashes only occasionally in the sunlight. Or a small tag on a nymph. I quite like the “hotspots” that people are adding to everything nowadays, although I think that too often they are too large or prominent. I am one for a single wrap of bright colour. People have often suggested that a red band which appears around the gills of a bait fish imitation suggests blood, and therefore injury, and therefore a weak target. The red or green body was always important on a Walkers Killer, and yet you never really saw that. But like a drably dressed lady, who has racy red underwear beneath the tweeds, the body of the fly was somehow significant, if only to those who knew it was there. On that rare occasion when the lady reached up to fetch a jar, or a current shifted the walker’s feathers, the racy red bits worked their magic, and the prey was like a moth to the candle!

I can work with theories like that. They are neat and logical, and can never really be disproven. Most of fly-fishing is built on that stuff!

So with Jan’s ideas in my head, I added some racy red underwear to the Roach.

IMG_7099

 

What do you think?

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