Five years ago, I was given a wonderful gift. It was a Garmin e-trex vista HCX GPS. A nifty little handheld, waterproof “hiking type” unit, that slips into your jacket pocket.
At the time, I was pleased to receive it, and was sure it would come in use out there in the veld somehow. But I had no idea how much I was to end up enjoying it.
I suppose this has something to do with the fact that us humans are great measurers of things.
And many of us outdoor types all the more so. Perhaps I speak for myself here, but it seems we do a great deal of recording of measures. Water temperatures, fish lengths, weights and condition factors, wind directions, fly size, barometric pressure, moon phase, number of fish caught, number of takes, number of rises. I could go on.
And maps…we love maps.
I suspect that knotting ones own nylon leaders nowadays, is a little like carrying carthorse food in the boot of your car for a long trip. We have simply moved on. We have knotless tapered leaders, and they are great.
Correct. We do.
But I am an eternal fiddler of the piscatorial type. And none of the tapered leaders I have bought come with an explanation as to what taper they were designed on. None of them come with a boiled butt, or a switch in material from nylon to fluoro-carbon somewhere along their length. Tying your own tapered leaders gives you all these options. It is also fun to do, and keeps one out of mischief late at night.
To start with, I must point you to a fantastic application I found on the web, called “Leadercalc” (Globalflyfisher). This is a real gem. It gives you almost every leader formula ever published, all in a spread-sheet which will adapt the formula to the length and strength you specify, (or exclude it if your specs preclude that particular formula).
Once you have a formula you would like to try, you can begin experimenting with nylons of differing hardness along the leader’s length. You can also boil the butt sections for periods of time relative to the thickness of the material (the thicker it is, the more time you should boil it). This by the way, apart from making the escapade take on a mythical air about it, is a great way of softening the nylon. In other words it puts some stretch into it, and allows it to lay flat on the water. It might sound like a lot of work, but I think you will find it most worthwhile. And yes, it does make a big difference.
Some time back, I fished the Trout Bungalow section of the Mooi River with a good friend of mine. It was a magical April day. We arrived late morning, perhaps a little too late, as I like to be on the water by about 10:00 am at the very latest. We tackled up quickly and headed upstream to do battle.
I carried a particular air about me that day. It was an air of curiosity and comparison. An introspective sense of evaluation, and an acute appreciation of the nature of this river. The reason for this is that the outing was hot on the heals of a visit to Rhodes in the North Eastern Cape.
Now those rivers are unquestionably different. We had done well at Rhodes, and refined our skills a little more. We had adapted to those rivers and moulded our approach around them, and here I was back on home water. Now I was asking myself whether I would fish this river as I had at Rhodes, and if not, why not.
The first observation was that Guy and I remarked on the clarity of the water on the Mooi. It was full, and sparkling, and looking great. However it was not a patch on the clarity of the Bell or the Bokspruit.
Clear water on the Bokspruit at Welgemoed. (Can you spot the Trout?)
There is a place we visit, where the grass is short, and the Trout are strong. We often just walk there with a camera. Sometimes we take the dogs. Mostly we just take ourselves.
It is a windswept place; stark and open.
Even the streams and dams are hard to find. When you look across the apparently flat landscape, it belies the folds and valleys that secret its lovely waters. Some of our friends spend a lot of time driving to find those folds and their Trout. We park and walk more.
It is cruel for its lack of shade in summer, and cruel for its cold in winter. There is little shelter when it storms. In summer you need to carry plenty of water. We have run dry before. In winter you will start out icy cold, but end up carrying too much clothing.
When we return, our skin is rough and dry, sometimes sunburned. Our socks are full of spiky grass seed, and our boots are often drenched in dew.
We are tired; and we are happy.
As river fishermen, we inevitably do a fair amount of clambering up and down steep hills.
Sometimes it is the walk in on a goat track.
Paul De Wet and Rhett Quinn heading up the Riflespruit valley
At other times it is just part of making your way up and down a river valley.
Roy Ward looking for good footing in a river valley in KZN
Either way a certain quota of sure footedness is an asset, as is a reasonable degree of fitness.
We have known for some time that fish grow faster in a dam (Americans read pond/lake) than they do in the hatchery. A hatchery you see, is a business enterprise. And a business enterprise had best watch its feed conversion ratio if it wants to be successful. In other words the level of feeding required for an optimum feed conversion ratio, is not the same thing as the feeding required for maximum growth rate.