Waters & words

Archive for June, 2013

Furled leaders

Just this last autumn, we were on a stretch of the Bokspruit river on a windy day, and PD was as usual ,using a furled leader.


While he was catching fish, he was having one of those days, where he was battling to turn the fly over neatly at times, and he decided on a leader change, as part of a process of elimination. That is a sensible thing to do when you are having a “tangle-day”. You have tangled days too? Good: you are human like me.

Anyway, he changed to a tapered mono leader. Within half an hour he put the furled leader back on. It turns out it was probably the wind, or his reaction to it, that was the trouble, and the furled leader was in fact making things marginally better.

On the same day, I stopped around lunchtime, and took off the sodden furled leader, to change it for a freshly treated and dry one. (I need to explain: I make my furled leaders with fly-tying silk in them, so they do absorb some water over time). Usually this change is like a freshening up. It puts a spring in my step in a way. After lunch one is back on the water, with the leader floating high and dry, and some of the confidence of the first cast of the day is returned. But on this day, I did something I have never done before: I changed back to the sodden one!

Why, you may ask. Well it turns out that the sodden one had more weight, and as a result it was turning over fantastically in the wind. The dry one was as light as a feather in comparison, and I couldn’t get it to turn over in the face of the wind. Normally, and without a strong wind, the dry one would have been perfect.


Showing the others a toffee

Over the years, there have been more occasions than I care to remember, where my colleagues have out-fished me a dozen to one, or where they have caught fish and I have not, or perhaps I caught all the small ones, and the other bloke landed several ‘lunkers’. Those are the days when you try to copy their retrieve. You borrow an identical fly, and then at some point they will start giving you advise, or let you take their spot. This just makes it worse, as you try desperately to bury that nagging human nature called competitiveness.

I am not talking about a casual tally where you caught a few fish less than the other guy. I am talking of those days where, on your return, your wife will ask you what was wrong with you. Those times where you are hopelessly and  completely outgunned to the point that you lose your confidence and feel like a complete beginner.

I can think of one day in particular, on a club water in the Kamberg. PD and I had fished carefully and well, all day. It was a fairly miserable misty and drizzly day, and after about eight hours out on our float tubes, at around four in the afternoon, we took a mutual decision to throw in the towel, and be home in time for an early dinner. We had caught two fish each I think. Small ones.

We paddled over towards the launching spot, and just before we reeled in and paddled the last 20 yards through thick weed, PD put out a long cast, and hooked a fish.

“What fly?” , I asked.


I had a muddler in my box. I would change if he hooked another fish.

Bam! he hooked another.

I changed to a Muddler.

Then he caught another. I hadn’t had a touch.

He lent me one of his Muddlers. I fished right next to him. I emulated the retrieve.


We ended the day with him 12 fish up on what I had caught. It was ridiculous!



You can’t catch a Trout with a yo-yo

A good many years back, we were out on a first class piece of water in the Kamberg valley, and I had my two young boys with me. They were really little guys at that stage. “Knee high to a grasshopper” as the saying goes. We were tackling up at the time, but the boys had got distracted, and just as I finished tying on a fly, I looked up to see they had diverted their attention to perfecting the yo-yo. It was in vogue at the time, and they were distractible youngsters, but as my gaze shot over to them with the toy in hand, and their rods lying in a rod tube in the grass behind them, I quickly summed up that they were wasting time.

We were on hallowed waters you see. This venue had a reputation for big fish. We were leaving that day, and I think we may just have seen a few rises too.

It’s not that I am one to rush, but I also don’t like to ‘dawdle’.

I told them they couldn’t catch a Trout on a yo-yo.  For some reason that saying stuck, and it has been knocked around a few times since, when someone is taking their time.

Taking your time is fine. We are after all out on a day’s fishing for the very purpose of escaping the hustle and bustle of the working world, and we should be slowing down. Its just all about when you do the slowing down bit.  The other day conversation turned to a very pleasant old guy who has since emigrated, and someone remarked that he spent so long getting ready that it was unclear as to whether anyone had actually ever witnessed him throwing a fly! That is pretty extreme, but most of us have witnessed the first fish of the day caught before one of the guys has tackled up.


So don’t get uptight about it all, but I would reason that you should get set up quickly, and then go and sit somewhere and relax. Smoke your pipe, twirl a piece of grass, drink a beer if you like. But do it with your eyes on the water and a fly tied on, or better still, with a fly in the water.






I can’t be sure when I first stepped into a float tube.

What I do know, is that on the morning of 29th June 1985 Roger Baert arrived on the farm, to come and help us see if we could catch some of the Trout we had stocked in our new dam. He was a little late: He had stopped on the way in to watch a duiker for a long while.  I fished from the little rowing boat that my father had bought us, aptly named “DryFly”, and Roger fished from a float tube.  Not just any float tube mind you, but the first tube ever brought into South Africa.

When Roger left later that day, he left the first entry in the logbook, and he left the first float tube. The latter was on loan to me, on the “never-never”.