Peat, Grass and Sunburn
In the height of summer, our stillwater fly-fishing is a fickle affair. Picking your day is difficult, and hap hazard at best.
If like me, you are a working man, you already have the formula wrong. You will not pick your Trout fishing days: Government and organised religion will do it for you. You will have more fishing days available over Christmas, than at any other time of year. And these are the days you will be lumped with:
The water is flowing out of every orifice in the hills. It rushes and gurgles through tall lush grassland. Grassland that waves like a sea in the ever present north wind. A wind that fans giant swathes of obedient seed heads, blown and baked in white hot sun. It is a white hot sun, with a tinge of fierce copper in its light, that has your shirt sticking to your sweaty skin, and your face is glowing red at the end of the day. And that gurgling water that that runs in the grass, seemingly everywhere, enters the dams, where you realise it is peat stained. Brown, but somehow still cool against your waders. Out there on your float tube, the sunscreen is little comfort as your forearms cook in the sun. You splash them with water, apply more sunscreen, roll down your sleeves, and wet them again, unable to escape the veritable oven. Your legs meanwhile dangle in cool, but heavily weeded water. Water that offers up an irritating tendril of weed for your hook on every single cast, until you find yourself retrieving faster and faster to try to keep the fly up out of the stuff.
And while you are out there clouds will form up on the horizon.
You will anticipate their arrival and the relief of their shade, but they swirl and vaporise like ghosts, reappearing only to tease you again.
When the storm does blow in, it is way too fast. You have twenty minutes of shade, and relief from the sun, and then you are sheltering in your steamed up bakkie, still fishless, while hail and lightning and rain pelt you from above.
“After the storm”, you tell yourself hopefully. “it will be cool and cloudy, and there will be a giant hatch, and rising Trout”.
Not so. Either the sun is back out, or the mist rolls in before the storm is over, with a cold East wind, and more thunder rolling about above you ominously. You will rush back to your tube and launch, and before you are a rod’s length from the shore, you will be pelted with oversize rain drops again.
If you are anything like me, you will beat a retreat in the driving squalls, in a state of defeat, exhausted from the heat of the day, whose presence now seems surreal.
The next morning the sun is up at 5, with not a cloud in the sky, but the trees are waving and hissing in a forlorn, hot and distinctly “un-troutly” manner.
Call me a pessimist, but last year we spent five days in a cottage with wonderful Trout dams in every direction, and I think I had one perfect evening, which if I remember correctly, I missed most of due to some domestic duty or other. So it ended up as a single hour on a perfect water. And I saw not one fish move.
As I write this, I am in the same cottage on a 3 day break. I fished for an hour late yesterday in cold swirling mist. It felt good, but it ended up as unproductive as the sunny conditions.
Today I had a dozen casts from the boat, as the wind tugged it off it’s anchor, and dragged me into an entirely weeded bay before I gave up, and came in for an afternoon nap. As I write, it is hot and muggy, and in the late afternoon there is still no respite from the the sun and wind. This despite a black band of cloud just off to the East. A band that promises a better temperature, but not necessarily better fishing.
But last week-end a buddy was here, and he hit it just right, landing two five pounders. Some years ago, Luke and I drove over two hours each way, with a solid ten hours of shade-less fishing inbetween. We had nothing but sun-reddened faces to show for it, but a bloke fishing alongside us landed two fish of Eight pounds.
I know that to hit it right in summer, your chances are vastly improved if you are staying right at the water. That is where you need to be. Overlooking the lake. Watching for the first rise. Able to capitalise on a half hour hatch.
So that’s it then: we have to build us a fishing shack!
Now that band of cloud has moved over. It is a few kms to the water….gotta run…..