We think our Great Dane rather dim, and more than a little quirky, when the only way he will cross the dining room, is in reverse with my daughter’s shirt in his mouth.
But that is nothing. Let me tell you some crazy stuff about us fly-fishermen!
I quite recently listened with care and respect, while a hatchery man told me that he doesn’t breed Brown Trout, because the Rainbow alevins, just gobble up all the Brown alevins within days of hatching.
I have also heard it said, (More than once) that a float tube has an advantage over a kick boat, because your profile is lower, and that the Trout are therefore less likely to see you. Think about that one………..
Another beaut is the guys who will tell you that in a tube or kick boat, you can turn around and fish through 360 degrees of undisturbed water. …Uh….hum. Back cast…?
You would think that most of these gems would be gleaned from pubs, which might I say, is where they belong. But no, they are just as often delivered on a fresh sunny, sober morning!
Then there was a mate of mine, since deceased, who insisted that his woolen jersey kept him warm despite the fact that it was raining hard. He would sit out there in his boat, soaked to the skin, and weighed down in sodden wool, while I watched him through the mist from the relative comfort of a rain jacket.
One mate who was fearful of over-inflating his float tube, fished in what looked like an under-filled shopping bag, with the waves occasionally breaking into his waders. I reckon he hung in the balance between floating and sinking to the bottom of the lake for good. We have since talked some sense into him!
The other twisted one which one often encounters is “all Browns only feed at night”. Which has me puzzled as to how I catch all my daytime browns.
Another beaut is the story of what happened “just the other day”. A member of the local fishing club was caught with an entire boot-load/coolbox-full of Trout(the story varies) on a water in the Kamberg. The story repeats itself every three years , and has done ever since the event actually did occur in the nineteen seventies!
Speaking of madness: I was recently at Highmoor with my friend Graeme. We were both on the upper lake where things were rather slow, I said to Graeme that I was nipping to the lower water, to feel a tug on the end of my line, since fishing has been more of a sure thing down there lately. Upon arriving I noticed a woman, hiking in a long skirt and boots. She walked up onto the hillside, where she then proceeded to walk back and forth, occasionally waving her arms in the air, and intermittently throwing herself on the ground. When the breeze abated, I heard her shouting at the top of her voice. While she was doing this, the point fly I was fishing, inexplicably came off. I reeled in to tie on a new one, and so as not to be outdone I cursed and swore into the wind as well. This either offended her, or she didn’t like the competition , or perhaps it was that her voodoo fly –removing magic was done, because by the time I looked up from tying on a new fly, she had disappeared into the hills.
She actually re-appeared later at the top dam, and upon noticing Graeme out on the water in his float tube, she shouted out a sort of nautical “Ahoy there” into the wind. She tried several times, each time waving her hands theatrically as though to a departing ship. Graeme did what I would have done, and ignored her, and after a while she threw it in and returned to wherever she had come from.
Another crazy one doing the rounds is a completely absurd story that involves my friends and I. Apparently, or so the story goes, years ago we requested a student’s discount on a group fishing week-end. Having been granted some relief from the burden of the accommodation bill, we allegedly arrived in a Mercedes and a four wheel drive, with a case of beer each, and to eat, just half a tomato between us.
How absurd! It just goes to show: you cant believe any of this stuff.
I remember several years ago, taking my [then] girlfriend to a favourite stretch of the upper Mooi in September, and finding it very low and slimy.
She must have doubted my honesty, because for months I had described to her this babbling brook of ice cold crystal water, rushing over rocks. And on a hot dry September day, it was anything but that. The water was clear, but it was undeniably sluggish, and there was a furry brownness to the underwater rocks.Water limped between pools, rather than gushed, and nowhere did one see water droplets thrown into the air by the force of the stream, as I had no doubt described to her. It looked dead, even if it was not. I tried to explain, but I sense that with each description of how it CAN look, I dug myself deeper.
Rivers are remarkable in that they are barely recognisable from one trip to another. A push of rainwater or snowmelt, a flood, or a few dry months, and the place is transformed into something that has you doubting your own memory.
So of course the Mooi did return to its old self, as it always does, and as it will this spring too.
On further trips to the Mooi I was able to show her what I mean when I say that the river is “sparkling”, and I can’t have done too badly, because it was at a special spot beside that same river that I proposed to her. It was sparkling that day despite the lateness of the season, and she accepted!
I remember once fishing Reekie Lyn on another of those dry spring days, and it was once again in a sorry state. It was a dry dull hot Sunday. The most action we saw was a large angry puffadder that I imagined wanted to kill me. The following day I flew to Joburg, and we flew straight over Reekie Lyn. It had snowed heavily overnight, and was now clear as a bell. I refused to give up my window seat to another passenger who wanted to see the snow. I wanted to see it more than he did. As we flew over Reekie Lyn I looked down and spat “take that!” through my teeth at the puffadder below. I hadn’t seen him coming the day before, but can’t have seen the snow coming a few hours later either!
On another occasion I took my wife to a remote spot much higher up the same river. A spot where a misplaced oak tree grows peacefully beside the river, well within the Drakensberg, where such an alien species does not belong. But the tree is far enough up to have escaped the notice of the rangers, and somehow I am OK with that. It is a loner, and has no offspring, and it is a lovely shady tree. The spot where it grows is flat, with whispy verdant grass, and beside this veritable lawn stands an enormous lichen covered boulder, alongside which the stream plunges into a pool that cries out to be fished, photographed or swum in. The choice depends on your particular passion, but either way, the spot is something like one of those scenes that used to appear on the front of chocolate boxes. Deep green water, short grass on the banks, not a sign of mud or erosion. A backdrop of heavenly mountains. It is perfection.
The day that I hiked my better half up there, the heavens opened as we arrived, and the mountains remained shrouded in mist. She sat on an uncomfortable root under the tree, and remarked that there seemed to her to be no lush lawn anywhere. There were just roots and sticks and rainwater puddles. She read her book while the branches above dripped on her pages. The torrential rain did not let up, and once I had caught a few small Browns, and her book had disintegrated, we hightailed it out of there.
I have since taken a fishing buddy there with similar descriptions of this jewel of a place, but on that occasion it was in spate and we saw and caught nothing.
Then I recommended a stretch of the Umgeni to someone who asked about it. They returned with tales of impenetrable bramble, nettles and turpentine grass, and have not asked my advice since. A year or so earlier another friend and I fished the same stretch together in early spring before the rankness had set in. It was one of those glorious days, with a cool blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and if I remember, a few willing Browns. He twice asked me why I hadn’t told him about the beat sooner.
So I guess my point here is that streams and rivers are places where a fly-fisherman needs to throw his expectations out of the window. He needs to go with whatever the season throws at him. He should probably shut his mouth when it disappoints, and revel in it when the going is good.
Come to think about it, he should shut his mouth when the going is good too, lest he later be judged a fraud, or worse still an NAHRR*
( * a Nostalgic and Hopelessly Romantic Recidivist)
As we steered across the vlei and ascended the slight rise on the Western side of the valley floor, the strong yellow rays of the sun lit the hill, and at its base the coruscating blue water came into view in a narrow strip.
The light was brilliant in its clarity, but gentle in its insidious arrival, and soft in hue. The cold, on the other hand, was brutal and harsh. The puddles were iced on the way in and, but for the fact that there was no moisture in the air, there would have been a frost as severe as winter. It was neither winter nor spring. It was August: that in-between month of either hot or cold, but definitely dry.
Today was cold. The waders were icy, and I felt the need to pull on a beanie to cover my ears.
There was a chop on the water from the fresh Westerly breeze, and the float tube rocked ever so slightly atop the crystal bowl of water that we were fishing. I had on an FMD. PD started with one too, but switched to a woolly bugger. He landed two Rainbows.
They were strong fish, probably year-old’s from last years fry. I landed only one, which meant he was on tea duty.
Mind you, he is always on tea duty.