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!
But then, just once in a while, it goes the other way!
I remember on one occasion , when I hosted a businessman’s fishing day. Not being a golfer, I bucked the trend, and arranged a fly-fishing day instead, to entertain my clients.
I arranged a large stillwater in the Mooi River area, and catering was laid on. There were scones and tea beside the dam on arrival. Then the lodge owners would prepare a beef fillet while we were out on the water, and after lunch my clients could fish for as long as they liked. There must have been eight fishermen. It was all very slick.
I saw to it that everyone was set up, and had launched their float tubes or boats, and had what they needed. Then I launched my own tube and fished just in front of the lodge, not venturing too far, so as to be on hand in case anyone needed anything. I had resigned myself to the fact that as host, this day was not about my fishing, and that I would just idly throw a line while ensuring the day went off well.
Well, I caught four lovely fish, right there in front of the lodge. They ranged in size from four to five pounds, and they cartwheeled through the air, splashing my guests in the face, so to speak, while they fished on quietly and unsuccessfully.
After fish number four, I bashfully reeled in and made for the shore. This had not been in the plan, and clearly it was time for me to stop catching fish, and somehow will the Gods to allow them to have some action. I walked along the shore offering some flies, and other encouragement, but it wasn’t working. So I decided to walk across the field to the dam in a side valley, where a few of the guys had gone, to go and see how they were doing. As an afterthought, I took my rod along. I approached the dam from below the wall, and out of instinct, I scrambled up the wall, keeping low, and dropped a fly over the top, just off the shore. Just a little flick it was, and just because that is what one does. I could now just see the guys around the dam, and I called out to ask how they had fared. Nothing at all they said. “Very slow fishing…………haven’t seen a thing”. With those words all hell broke loose as a large fish took my fly where it lay in the margins just a foot or so from the edge. This one too, opted for a very showy aerial display.
“#$)^@>!.. off!” muttered a very highly regarded attorney , whom I could just see through the spray being thrown by the fish.
Well, what is a man to do?
Going back even more years, I was out fishing with a friend with whom I shared my entire schooling. “Vince” we called him. We had borrowed my father’s little Suzuki SJ10 “Jeep”, and we were camping over in the farmer’s shed for a few nights and fishing his main dam.
One evening, to ring the changes, we drove over to one of the other dams, to see what we could do there. It was summer, and as we arrived a storm broke, as they only can in South Africa. Vince thought the water looked good, and he was particularly enthusiastic, so despite the ever increasing storm intensity, he decided to fish.
I, on the other hand, was feeling very lazy, and it was comfortable there in the cab, so I elected to sit it out in the warm and dry. Vince closed the door and headed out as the storm gathered momentum. I sat there watching him, as the rain bucketed down. Then the wind got up, and the little vehicle rocked violently with the force of the gale. There was some very close lightning, and if I remember correctly, a spot of hail for good measure. I was glad to be in the cab. I found a packet of toffees in the glove compartment that I had forgotten about, and I sat there munching them one after the other, as I tried to make out where Vince was through the driving rain, and spattered windscreen.
The storm was particularly furious, and I was amazed that Vince was fishing through it. In my anxiousness I munched away at the toffees, faster and faster as one sometimes does, until, I realised I had eaten the whole packet. As the storm came to an abrupt stop, I was glad to exit the cramped cab, where I had been sitting for well over an hour. I tackled up quickly, and walked through the wet grass to where Vince was fishing. He was sodden. Wet to the bone, and cold too. In fact he looked quite miserable and dishevelled. He hadn’t seen a thing. He had been sure that his determination would have come with some reward, but alas it was not to be. I clucked in sympathy, took my fly from the keeper and flicked it into the water in front of me.
The fish was a good one.
It ran like a steam train. I may have whooped as it jumped. I couldn’t help it.
Vince was seriously miffed. Properly aggravated. He had fished through lightning, hail, cold and rain, without a touch, and I come and do this to him on my first cast! I didn’t quite know what to say to the poor bloke.
He brushed past me, on his way back to the vehicle, and as he passed me he said: “I am going to go and eat all the toffees now”.