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We should really stock carp here

At the tender age of seventeen, I would have been hamstrung and home-trapped, had it not been for Plunkington. Plunkington was eighteen years old. He also, as luck would have it, had both a driver’s license, and a car that got us to fishing water with almost respectable reliability.

There was a time, the memories of which are sufficiently hazy, that I struggle to place it in the continuum that was my growth into fly-fishing, in which that car transported us to Midmar. Midmar, small tents, mealie pap, and carp. Deck chairs and booze from brown paper bags completed the scene. The memories are hazy, but Plunkington, the character, is not.

Plunkington (1 of 2)

A tall, lanky bloke, with a wide frame, low energy that never dried up, and a slow, long, methodical stride, Plunkington’s level of excitement never rose above the volume of his music. He listened to AC/DC, ZZ Top, and various other noisy rock bands, at volumes that were barely audible. The music emitted from either the poor quality tape player in the old car, or an even lower quality portable radio, that he would take with him in his boat. Given that I could never hear the thing, I stopped short of complaining about it, but I did venture that music on a boat was far removed from the fly-fishing scene I had in mind. Plunkington would not have replied. Some things are better left un-said. In Plunkington’s case, he believed that to be true for most things.

We would arrive at a dam, and Plunkington would begin to tackle up in dead silence. There was nothing to compete with my babble about which fly I planned to use, what strength mono I thought might be appropriate and the like. He answered questions, and then only if they were direct enough, and an absence of wind prevented him from pretending not to have heard. Typically, I would still be talking, only to look up and find that he had rigged his heavy fibreglass rod long ago, and had mooched off to throw his Walkers Killer, leaving me with a lot less wind in my sails than had emitted from my mouth.

Plunkington claimed bad knees. He didn’t speak about that, or moan, he just moved slowly and deliberately. He climbed through fences in slow motion. He tied on flies, stashed his net, and landed Trout in the same way. Grenades may or may not have changed that. I suspect the latter would have been the case.

Plunkington fished a cheap sinking line on his cheap rod. He stuck to old fly patterns, swore more than was necessary, and caught more Trout than all of us. He drank his beer in quarts, from the bottle, and in the bath. He handled blank days badly, but fished them harder. His response to filthy weather was to stay out even longer than he would do in fine weather, and keep us waiting, shivering at the locked car.  If you went out to find him, and plead that sanity prevail, you were inclined to find him rowing the boat away in the mist to a new spot, even further away from the landing. And the reception you would get was more icy than the weather.

Plunkington (2 of 2)

Nothing deterred the man. After seven blank days in a row, he would drop me off at home, and ask “where to tomorrow?”. The next morning he would be there, his wet clothes still on the front seat, and junk all about the car. He would clear a space for me and say quietly “We are going to KILL them today!”  He would plead poverty, and have me paying more than my share of the petrol, or he would demolish my sandwiches on account of his local shop having run out bread. Coupled with that his demons inspired in him tall stories, which at first we all believed. His self-confidence hovered around rock bottom, and emerged like a flower that blooms fleetingly in a desert, only when he caught more Trout than us. For the rest he was either on an even keel, or he was somewhere between gloomy and uninspired.

At the end of every days fishing he would claim in all seriousness to have lost the car keys. After a frantic search, and detailed contemplation of how we would have to spend the night out, or walk twenty kilometres for help, he would miraculously find them. Plunkington drank too much, rolled cars, told lies, got in a huff, and caught way too many Trout.

“So why on earth did you stick it out?” my wife asks.

We talked fishing. We fished. We spent long hours in small boats together. We got cold, and we got hot and we suffered the elements. We got caught in storms, and witnessed strange things together.  We laughed a lot, at stupid things, that no one else would have got. We compared flies and spoke tackle and fly-fishing venues, and personalities. We shared our hatred for bass in our Trout waters. He came up with wild and quirky ideas. We shared our mutual teenage awkwardness by escaping to Trout waters, and in so doing largely avoided it altogether.  

 

On a blank day he would lie on his back in the grass chewing a grass stem, and after a long silence he would proclaim: “Bugger-all fish in this water. We should really stock carp here”.

 

So I don’t know why I stuck it out. But I do know that I would do it all again.

Bill Miller’s flies

My Friend Jay Smit recently returned from the States, bearing gifts from his host in Boise, a week or two earlier. 

The ever generous Jay, invited me to put my paws in the cookie jar, and take a look at what I pulled out!…….

Bill Miller (6 of 8)

Bill Miller (1 of 8)Bill Miller (2 of 8)Bill Miller (3 of 8)Bill Miller (4 of 8) Bill Miller (5 of 8)Bill Miller (7 of 8)Bill Miller (8 of 8)

Wow!

Thank you Jay, and thank you Bill!

An eagle’s flight over Trout country

If you were to stand on the top of Giants Castle , at the source of the Lotheni and Bushmans rivers(LINK) and send an eagle in a straight line, at a bearing of 115 degrees,  to the top of Inhlosane mountain, the eagle would fly off from your feet at 3100metes above sea level. It would cross the source of the Elandshoek, which peels off to the right (the tributary of the Lotheni that joins the main river opposite the camp site), then it would cross the source of the Ncibidwane flowing away to the North, and on the same side the Mooi, First the north branch and then a tiny highland tarn from which the south branch flows.

ncibidwana (55 of 61)-2

Roy Ward hiking out of the Ncibidwana valley. Giants Castle mountain is obscured by cloud in the background.

From that spot the beautiful lakes at Highmoor would be visible, 9kms away to the north east.  Just 350 metres past that, to the right is the source of the Inzinga river (altitude 2199 metres), which flows away to the right, and at that spot the Kamberg nature reserve would be a scant 3kms to the north east.  The eagle would then cross the very spot where the Reekie Lyn stream rises (a tributary of the Mooi, that joins the river lower down at the NFFC stretch of the same name). After a patch of rocky terrain, the ground would then drop away sharply beneath the eagles wings as it flies over the boundary of the greater Drakensberg heritage site , where the elevation beneath it would be 1800metres ASL, and it would have flown 26kms.

After this half way mark, the rest of the eagle’s journey  would be over highland farming country that all hovers around the altitude of 1800m ASL.

It would  cross the farm known as “White Rocks”, named after the rocky outcrops still within sight behind it in the park, and it would cross the Lotheni road where the road does that tight sweeping bend to pass over the lovely little Rooidraai stream . This is just before the Rooidraai joins the “Kwamanzamnyama” at that rocky roadside spot where we often see baboons. In summer that stream looks just big enough to hold a few trout, but in winter my belief in that dwindles.

At this point a few farms below will be those that carry the “FP” number, after George Forder who surveyed the Underberg district, and who numbered them so after “Forder Pholela” (Or so everyone thinks:  Secretly Forder was using the P in reference to “Plaisance”, a favourite farm name which he would later ascribe to the piece of land at Bulwer that the government of the time gave him for his troubles. I know this because his son told me).  Our eagle would then pass just a few hundred yards to the south of “Drinkkop”, that hill which Chris Maloney tells me you can stand upon and pee into the drainages of the Mooi, the Umgeni and the Inzinga all at once.

Just over the crest it would pass directly over Umgeni Vlei (the source of the Umgeni), and then over the ridge and Woodhouse, and several other farms with names of English origin, and a few kilometers on, the land would dip briefly to about 1650m ASL where the eagle would fly directly over a little crumbling concrete causeway over the Poort stream, just above where it tumbles over a hidden waterfall on its way to join the Umgeni. That causeway is a favourite spot of mine. It is on a tiny triangle of land called simply “Fold”.Poort (43 of 52)

The causeway is just out of sight beside the parked vehicle in the distance.

IMG_6892

The Poort stream on its way down to the Umgeni: The place where my great grandfather is buried, and where my father was born

P2240008

Looking back towards the Giant from the Heatherdon mast.

It would then pass over Glendoone , and almost straight over the Heatherdon mast (a spot that is precisely 50m lower in altitude than the upcoming final destination of our eagle, just 5 kms away.

From here the dams on Happy Valley, Kilalu, Ivanhoe, Overbury, Lyndhurst, Heatherdon, Kimberley and Rainbow lakes, to mention just a few, would be visible.

From there the land would fall away beneath the flight path quite dramatically for a short spell, where the eagles flight would take it over the Furth Cutting at the precise point where the district road D 710 (which leads to the NFFC water on Furth Farm) takes off from the Mpendle road. The ground would then rise steeply again within seconds as the slope climbs from the homestead on Old Furth to the beacon on top of Inhlosane mountain at 1978metres above sea level, where our eagle  would alight after its journey of precisely 51kms.

image

 

The eagle will have flown along the spine of high ground that I have written and spoken about before, that pretty much starts at the Giant and ends at Inhlosane mountain. Its eyes would have captured vast vistas of rocky veld with only the occasional pasture or cluster of trees. It would have passed over land that receives regular severe winter frosts, and not infrequently, snowfalls. And I reckon that it would have been able to spot more of the trout waters, both streams and dams, that I have fished in my lifetime, than any other fifty kilometer eagle flight anywhere. It might even have spotted Bernie’s lake!

IMG_5073

Looking back at the Giant

I think if I had a chance to rub the magical lamp, that 70 minutes as an eagle would be right up there competing for one of the three wishes.

Reverse flies: Upside down and the other way around.

In April this year, a man by the name of Kenneth Einars posted these pictures on Facebook:

Kenneth Einars (1 of 1)Kenneth Einars (1 of 1)-2

Interesting aren’t they!  And beautifully tied too.

These immediately sparked my interest, because I had recently read Peter Hayes’ excellent book “Fly Fishing outside the box”, where, in chapter 3 he makes a rock solid argument for having your adult dun imitation  facing upstream if there happens to be a downstream wind. Hayes is a deep thinker, and a great writer, and throws old ideas wide open for re-consideration. That’s what he has done with the idea of having your adult mayfly imitation tied on the hook in such a way that you “pull it” from its nose.

Hayes makes a great case for the reverse fly, at least 50% of the time (when the wind is bowing downstream).

But like so much common sense, it is far from common, and a search on the internet for reverse flies turned up lots of women in their gym clothes doing a particular exercise, and very few pictures of flies.

What I did find was reference to a man named Roy Christie, and I then found reference to him in Hayes book too.

Roy Christie is a reverse fly aficionado. In fact he is credited with inventing the reverse parachute fly. See his video on how to tie the Reversed Parachute HERE  or see his blog (albeit dormant now) HERE

https://i2.wp.com/hatchesmagazine.com/blogs/Hatches/files/2010/11/19-Roy-reverse-para-550x382.png

 

Interestingly, Christie makes a case for the reverse fly partly because it places your tippet, on his emerger (not an adult) pattern BELOW the surface.  Hayes makes a solid case for floating your tippet elsewhere in his book. Yes, I Know, it is controversial, and many of us want the tippet sunk, but that is not the topic here.

Hayes’ book refers to the reverse fly in the context of the dun, but Christie is tying it as an emerger.  This got me thinking about the angle of the tail on a reverse fly, and the angle you might want the fly to float at if you wanted a dry fly, rather than an emerger.  In other words, do you want its butt under the surface, or do you want it up on top, with the tail fibres supporting the flotation?

Which gets me thinking about Kenneth’s flies…the ones I started this piece with. Kenneth Einars confirmed that he intended them to be duns, but he hasn’t tried them yet.

They are superbly tied, but they are “no-hackle” flies, and may need some more flotation, and Christies are emergers, and if they were to be converted to duns somehow, they may need a different angle to get the fly up  on the surface of the water.

The reverse flies I did find on the net all seemed to have their butts in the soup. That is not a bad thing, but I saw a fly tying challenge emerging (excuse the awful pun).

So, first I tied these reverse flies the easy way:

Reverse dry flies (1 of 1)-4

Only afterwards I found that the fly above has already been invented, by none other than Christie, and is called the “Avon Special”, with the hook flipped around as I had done.  I recommend you click on that link above to read all about Roy Christie and the invention of his excellent fly, which is pictured below: 

image

 

The only thing is, the tails may or may not sit on top. The fly is pictured here at the right angle, but look at the angle of the hackle.  To test, I filled a glass of water and tossed my version of the Avon Spinner in there. It floated like a cork, but sure enough, the tails were below the surface.  (I can’t help wondering: a greased leader (as promoted by Hayes) might help keep the bum up. I wonder if an ungreased one , tied to a #18 as pictured here, will sink below the surface on the strength of just the eye of the hook being under the meniscus……)

reverse duns (1 of 2)

I really like this fly as an emerger, and have tied up a bunch, but I have not lost the quest for the high floating dun: the one that floats like a sailboat, and facing upstream when thrown upstream. I did however like the fact that the hook point was hidden up there in the hackle.To get them up there on top though, with tails on the meniscus,  I needed a better angle.

So I tied these:

Reverse dry flies (1 of 1)

Reverse dry flies (1 of 1)-2

I have just tossed these in a glass of water.

reverse duns (2 of 2)

 

Voila!

But as Roy asked me over a bowl of stir fry last night: “Aren’t we over analysing things?”

Hell yes Roy, but it is fun isn’t it!

Kolbe, Kocherthaler, Cartwright and Cane.

I recently became the custodian of some classic fly fishing tackle.  That is to say, it was not given to me, but circumstances dictate that I must look after this stuff for a while, (and I am not saying any more than that!)

Petro and I opened the heavy and elegant, but battered box on the lounge floor the other night over a good bottle of red.

HA Cartwright Berne (4 of 7)

The box was engraved, and inside, apart from the Palakona  cane rod, Hardy’s leaders in muslin inserts, reels, tiny trout flies, and the like, were two fishing permits.

HA Cartwright Berne (1 of 7)

So from this, and the tarnished plaque on the front,  we know that the box belonged to one Henry Antrobus Cartwright, a military man during the second world war, and stationed in Berne, Switzerland when things were pretty damned hot.

Captain HA Cartwright (1 of 1)

Cartwright was a distinguished military man, famous for his five attempted escapes from German POW camps in the first world war, and for his book “Within Four Walls”.   *  Cartwright illustrated that book with humorous sketches, so he was clearly a multi talented man. In the second world war, he was a captain in the British army, a Colonel by 1945, and a brigadier before the war ended.  Following some research I now know that he received the   Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) on the 14th June 1945, and that on the 18th of June he went fly-fishing.

The story goes something like this:

Cartwright had links to SIS and MI5, and his job was debriefing returning prisoners of war, escapees, and other military personnel getting out of the spotlight, and passing from Germany, back through Berne in Switzerland, (where he was stationed).

My Google search turned up these snippets:

“Switzerland, along with SIS stations in fellow neutral countries such as Portugal and Sweden were to become the major collection points for Allied intelligence about the Axis war plans in Europe.” 

“Count Frederick "Fanny" van den Heuvel, the epitome of a perfect old time diplomat, tall, courteous, an excellent linguist, had been educated in Berne and could speak fluent Swiss-German. He had also gone to school in England and had once been a director of "Enos" Fruit Salts. He had worked for the SIS during WWI but had been compromised. He was appointed Station Chief SIS Geneva, while Victor Farrell was appointed a "Press Attache" at the British Embassy in Berne, where he joined the Air Attache, Air Commodore Freddie West, MC, VC and the Military Attache, Colonel H.A. Cartwright both of who had previous links with SIS.

The various Naval, Military and Air Attaches were the main intelligence gatherers for MI5.”

So it seems that Cartwright was a man who got to learn some war secrets, and as a result he was a marked man by the Germans, who were trying to get eyes on him.  He must have been a nervous man, because back in August of 1943, he  erroneously dismissed a man named Kocherthaler, a middle man, to a noble German “traitor” named Fritz Kolbe, and in so doing missed an opportunity to set up an intelligence chain that may have ended the war that little bit earlier.

Read the story of Kolbe, Kocherthaler and Cartwright   HERE.

But despite all that , we see that he was promoted quickly through the ranks towards the end of the war, so he must have been a high powered fellow, with some successes about which we may never know, and a man with a whole lot more stress than someone sitting in an office nowadays.

And from my research I discovered that The King’s Birthday Honours 1945, celebrating the official birthday of King George VI, were announced on 14 June 1945 for the United Kingdom and British Empire in which Cartwright received his “CMG”.

Now look at the date his fishing permit was issued:

HA Cartwright Berne (7 of 7)

So, in a nutshell, he escaped,  he snuck around gathering secrets, served his country well, got promoted right to the top, made the king’s birthday list, and then he went fly-fishing to celebrate.

What a man !

So how did I end up with his tackle?

Well, I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.

*   Cartwrights book is about to be re-printed/Published!

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