Waters & words : a celebration of flyfishing

A few lines on a cloudy winter morning

A cloudy winter dawn

The first light of day brings honking geese

Hinting at what lies beyond the drawn curtains,

and out across the drab patchwork landscape:

Low slung cloud, and dampened dust,

Odours of dead wet kikuyu grass,

and a wafting hint of silage, hanging in the still morning air.

And farmyard sounds that carry in the silence

Pervading morning memories of childhood on the farm.

Nostalgia nestled in the moment,

Like my sleepy being in this warm bed.




I grew up on a dairy farm in the midlands of KZN. In winter here it is normally icy cold and frosty in the mornings,



but the days are stable and warm, and gloriously sunny, but awfully dusty, since we get little, if any ,rain in winter.  As a youngster at home from boarding school on holidays, I would traverse this landscape on foot in the mornings, fly-rod in hand, to fish the stillwaters.


When we do get winter rain, it is normally from a cold front sweeping up from the South, bringing with it a thunderous storm front that signals snow on the high ground, and welcome rain, followed within a day or two by clear skies and very cold days and nights.


But sometimes the front will be weak, or pass far South of us, and the end of its tail will glide over us for 24 hours. And on those rare occasions it will cloud over for a day, and the morning temperatures will be mild (but it wont get much warmer during the day either).

I have noticed that for some reason , such times seem to start the ubiquitous Egyptian Geese honking and hissing.

(click here for a link to the call of the common “Gypo”)


The odours are also amplified in the slightly more humid air, and you catch a whiff of silage from the dairy farm across the way. A scent disliked by many town-folk, but comforting in the memories it conjures up for me personally. A sweat and at the same time sour scent. Very distinctive.


The Kikuyu pastures found on every dairy farm here are frosted and dead, and scattered with cowdung in various stages of decomposition, but when that grass gets wet, it gives off a very distinct smell that screams “midlands dairy farm”. Also the dust gives off a distinct odour from the very light layer of moisture, the petricor of winter I guess: a scent of moisture on the dry air, but very different from that given off by an approaching storm in the greenery and heat of summer.

The landscape here is drab and brown in winter, but it is criss-crossed by lines of dark green evergreen trees, verdant patches of  irrigated Italian ryegrass pastures, and black burnt lines of firebreaks, making for a veritable patchwork, possessing so much more contrast  than the view in summer. This allows the viewer a better sense of depth of field and  perception of distance, and the scenery stretches out in front of you in an intensely dappled and intricate pattern, that welcomes ones gaze in an idle minute.





And with low slung cloud, and no wind, sounds like a clanging bucket or an idling tractor, or a post being driven into the ground, seem to carry for miles, and complete this visual and mental tapestry, that for me induces a nostalgic moment, and a moment of belonging in the landscape of the lovely KZN midlands. A moment to wrap your hands around a steaming mug of coffee on a Sunday morning, and enjoy a restful and contemplative interlude.


3 responses

  1. What wonderfully emotive images both on the page and in one’s mind’s eye. I also spent much of my childhood wandering open lands with rod in hand, although on an entirely different continent. Who would raise children in a concrete jungle after looking at those pictures?

    August 20, 2013 at 9:47 am

    • Thanks Tim. Agreed on the concrete jungle! It was a childhood of which I am greatly appreciative.

      August 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

  2. Enjoyed this intimate description of South African winter!

    August 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm

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