I was out the other morning on a piece of water I hadn’t fished in a while. It was one of those peculiar days when everything seems quite on its head.
I had set my alarm for five minutes to four on that Sunday morning. At around three I couldn’t stand the suspense any more and looked at the clock to see how long it would be before the thing went off. No luck….still another hour. Barely enough time to get sleepy when you’re sleepless. Too long to sit around waiting for a decent departure time. After what seemed an agonizingly long time of resisting the temptation to look at the clock again, I noticed a pale light oozing through the curtains. I grabbed the clock, and just about throttled the damned thing. It hadn’t gone off! Now I was ‘late” by 35 minutes. You don’t want to be 35 minutes late in mid summer when there’s just an hour or two on the water before the sun starts roasting the heads of the trout and fisherman alike.
Anyway there I was out there in the mist and the rain, with my collar turned up to the South Easterly wind, dipping my frigid hands into the water to warm them.
(Yes, in the water) It had blown in cold you see, but the water was still a seething cauldron from the heat wave of the previous two days. The water was 23 degrees. The air was about 16 degrees. I prefer it the other way around, and the think that any self respecting trout would agree with me on that.
Through the mist I was catching glimpses of the great big town house built on the shore. It’s a town house because its new and flashy, and built for a wealthy city retiree. As I surveyed his domestic lawn ducks I remembered that I had once fished that shoreline, waded in amongst the water grass, with nothing but pristine veld behind me. It was different now. The dam has trees in little clusters about the banks, and the water’s edge is marked by good stonework. It is no longer one of those wild blue eyed waters of the hills. It’s now a sort of genteel water with a deep green look to it. Maybe it was just the day, but that warm water was dark and gloomy. Not in a bad way of course. In fact its deep emerald shady look smacked of big fat fish. Fish that somehow need to be hooked on a big traditional fly from the bow of an old heavy boat.
And there I was in my float tube throwing an imitative, if rather radical damsel pattern I dreamed up last month.
The fish weren’t terribly impressed with this though, so I changed to a fast sinking line and a very big muddler which dove out of sight promising great things as he went. I was not sure that I believed him, so I allowed my mind to wander a bit while he did his prospecting.
I sat out there in the rain thinking back on this piece of water.
By the way it’s a dam. Not a lake. Lakes are things found in the Rockies. This is South Africa. The name “lake” is a corny American term, with a nice romantic ring to it, but its just not South African. Here they are dams. If they have trout in them, you may call them “pieces of water”. I’ll allow that one.
Anyway, a few years back we used to come up here to throw a fly. In those days we were inclined to slide off for a pub lunch at a little country hotel down the road. Back then we felt very welcome, because the place was a bit shabby, like us. Also there was this barman by the name of Robert. Robert wore a big straw hat and served nasty blue drinks that bit hard, and dulled strike responses in time for the evening rise.. We also played darts, as was evident to all who cared to inspect the wall finishes in the general direction of the dartboard.
A few weeks ago I met an old fishing pal in the car park of that same hotel. As we mulled about in our wet pants transferring tackle and chewing the fat a bit, a neat little man in pointy black shoes and a crisp pressed shirt, with a black leather file under his arm came out and asked if we were looking for something. It dawned on me that we may just be looking for something, but that it wasn’t his fancy pants establishment, so we jumped in our bakkies and got the hell out of there!
After one such pub lunch I remember we returned to the water, to find it a bit hot and still. We probably should have stayed in the cool of the pub a bit longer, but we were back on the water now, so we looked for something else to do.
“Bigchoob” Cole spotted a bishop bird in all the magnificence of its summer plumage, and decided to photograph it. The target had to be acquired though. That is, we had to be closer to it to fill the frame. So off he went, in his green plastic waders…..leopard-crawling! I followed close behind, walking tall. I don’t think we had done our military service then, because I have a picture of his shiny arse sticking up so high in the air it was begging to be shot at by a gook. My picture reveals no bishop bird. I wonder if there ever was one?
After a couple of hours on the water my yawning mouth threatened to swallow the sky, and my system needed good hot coffee, so I retrieved the big muddler and worked my way back to the warm cab of the bakkie. There I sat looking out into the mist in the general direction of Mpumulwane mountain, and ‘Fowler’s folly’ off to the West of that. All I saw was a sheet of white mist, which got me thinking about my warm bed, so I tossed the last of the coffee in the veld, and headed home for a bit of ‘shut eye’.
The place may have changed a bit, but it still produces good fish, and I still have access to the water. I think it might produce some more memories yet.