Waters & words

Christmas break

Today we closed up the office and all went home for the last time this year. The place was deserted early, the town had taken on a sort of festive quiet, if there is such a thing, and the common frame of mind was one of “It is done”.

Christmas break.

A time of hot bright mornings, violent aggressive afternoon storms, and the countryside a sea of waving green veld.

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In many respects it is not good fishing weather. In fact last year we stayed up at the farm for a week, and if I found 5 hours of worthwhile fishing weather in that time it was a lot.

That might sound crazy, but the mornings were baking hot by 8 am, and generally windless, leaving the water like a millpond, and not a fish moving anywhere. That carried on until mid afternoon when it suddenly got brutally humid, and cloud formed quickly and amassed in great roiling black masses within minutes. You could sneak in some time on the water at about that time, since the respite from the sun seemed somehow more piscatorial., but lightning was always about , and one couldn’t help sensing that the graphite stick in your hand was tingling. Then with little warning it would be upon us. Hail, lightning, violent winds.

View west of cottage

 

One always hopes that after the storm it will be quiet, and the sun will come back out just in time for an awesome, and moderately cool African sunset, complete with a prolific hatch and rising trout . But last year the storm tended to morph into cool rain that rattled the gutters late into the night.

Perhaps this year will be more kind to us. Sure, we will walk the dogs, and drink cold beer under a tree, and fall asleep in a hammock somewhere, but a little more by way of fly-fishing opportunities would not be amiss. In midsummer the farm is awash. That is to say water gurgles and bubbles and flows seemingly everywhere. It runs through long grass in places where you can only hear it, and it streams out over spillways, where you drive through it with false confidence, always wondering if your wheels might sink into a hidden soggy hole. The water gets a little brackish too. That is not something I understand. Maybe someone will explain it to me someday, but suffice to say it looses the absolute clarity of winter, but without taking on anything you could call ‘muddy’.

Despite the warmth of the days, the Trout seem to be in a phase of radical health and growth. When you do get them, they are as bright and silvery as you ever see them, and they are fat. Fat right up behind the head, broad in girth in the upper third of their bodies, and clearly growing fast. Growing on a diet of damselflies, bloodworms, caenis, tadpoles, and heaven only knows what else. You see , here in KZN, we don’t have those lovely predictable hatches, that can be recorded in diaries. No such luck. Everything hatches all the time, in vast profusion, and mostly in the most minute sizes. That is a generalisation of course, but it is as true a generalisation as you get. You will spoon a fish, or suction its stomach to find an array of things. A few bigger specimens , which of course we are pains to identify, but the majority of what’s in there is a mush of ‘minutiae’.

So how do we catch these Trout, you may ask.

With big dragonfly nymphs, woolly buggers, damselfly nymphs. We yearn to catch them on accurate imitations. We try them. We catch bugs in the air, and we scan our fly boxes diligently, trying to match the smudge of insect on our hand with a size 20 fly that looms large over the hapless carcass we managed to procure. Occasionally we get it right. There may be an ant hatch, the size of which allows us to tie one on and get some fish. Perhaps we will get a morning when damsels are hatching, and our size 12 or 14 nymph will suddenly be in play. And then people will write about that, and us readers will absorb it as the norm. Only to be disappointed when it happens so seldom on the water.

But we will tie more flies, and fill more boxes, and dream more. And we will have those wonderful long summer evenings. The ones when we are on holiday, with no deadlines to meet. The rise will start suddenly. We will see what the Trout are eating, and we will tie on successive flies, until we get it right, and in those few short minutes before it is all over, we will be in heaven, striking repeatedly, getting hook-ups, and landing strong Trout.

Christmas Trout.

May you all have some of that.

Happy Christmas.

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