On 29th September, Mick and I headed out to what was then Natal Fly-Fishers Club water: Silverdale on the Mooi River.
We parked at the bridge, where we tackled up, and headed upstream on the South bank, crossing the river here and there. We started in a few hundred yards up the valley. Mick was just below me, on a large flat pool. I crossed the river and moved ahead to a set of rapids above.
It was a warm spring day. The veld was still brown from winter, but with the green shoots of spring coming through everywhere. The Italian ryegrass pastures were a verdant green, and the irrigation sprinklers were misting in a strong North wind that was roaring above us, catching the tops of the gum trees near where we parked, and making them hiss and rustle in a way that signals difficult casting. But down there in the river valley we were somehow sheltered, and although the water was brushed by gusts that rippled the surface and drove flotsam across the water, casting was not in fact difficult.
Within minutes of us starting out , Mick hollered. He was into a good fish.
In the next half hour, every time I turned around, I saw Mick, either with a bent rod, or on his haunches down at the waters edge landing another fish from the very same spot.
It was a remarkable day.
I landed 6 fish myself, and according to my logbook, lost 16, due to a hook with a bad point. You would have thought I would have checked the point! That was back in the day, when we were using a bad batch of hooks. They seemed to be made of a material containing a lot of lead, because you could bend them any way you liked.
Back then we were doing a few things differently. For one we were keeping more fish (I kept four of the six I got that day, and I think Mick kept all of his). We were also using flies a lot larger than I would now…..up to a #6 on the river, together with 3X tippet. The “Black Woolly Worm” was very much in evidence back then too.
But we caught plenty of fish that day, so one could conclude that our refinements in tackle, fly size and the like, could have a lot more to do with our own needs than those of the fish. Or you could argue that we would have caught twice as many fish with our two weights and size 20 flies. I suspect the former idea would be a closer match to reality. Either way, we had fun.
What I do clearly recall, is that at the day’s end, I was fishing the corner pool just above where we parked. I put the fly in under a layer of surface scum that had accumulated there under the gum trees from the morning’s berg wind (which had died down by then). A very strong fish grabbed it, and took me to the cleaners. I never even got to see the fish. It just hurtled off in a dog’s leg pattern until the resistance of the arcing line in the water snapped the 3X tippet like cotton. I don’t forget fish like that easily.
It was 1988. I was a Varsity student, and my fishing companion that day was Mick Huntley.