I recently came to the realisation that I have something of a penchant for fishing waters other than the "blue ribbon" ones. That is to say that I end up exploring lesser known waters or waters that are passed over by others as being second class.


I can’t quite work out why I do that. Maybe on some level I dream of re-discovering a long forgotten gem. Or maybe it is because these streams are less likely to be occupied by other fishermen. While we seldom encounter other fishermen on the river here, there is something to be said for the river bank without paths or well trampled grass. Perhaps it has something to do with my secret belief that one day I will catch a lunker from under everyone’s noses.


Or perhaps I am naturally a supporter of the underdog. The poor cousin of the great Trout stream. The waters that are forgotten by everyone else.

What I do know is that this inclination of mine sees me hiking more, and catching fewer fish. I do fish the good waters, make no mistake, but just as often I will be crawling through the undergrowth trying to find the water, while many others have their fly in a perfect drag free drift on a premium stretch of the Mooi or Bushmans.

Many of these visits, maybe you could say most of them, end in at least some disappointment. Yes, I will clock up some more exploring miles. Put little red squiggles on my GPS map, see some wildlife, or spot a new bird. But when I return fishless, albeit a little wiser, with blackjacks stuck to my clothes, I will think "maybe I should have stuck with my favourite stretch of the Mooi". And yet a few weeks later you will find me out there crawling through the undergrowth, or fishing water that may (or may not) contain Trout.

Just last week I dragged two fishing buddies on a hike that well exceeded ten kilometers. A week earlier some guys had been catching eighteen inch Browns on the main river. Logic said we should have been there, but instead we were on a virtually unheard of tributary. We had explored the lower reaches but, inspired by deceptively attractive Google Earth images, I lured my mates ever higher into the hills. Near to our furthest point I hooked and landed an unidentified minnow of microscopic proportions. It was the only piscatorial event of the day.

"This is a long way to come to catch a mudfish!" commented PD.


Hours later, having hiked back to within site of the pickup, he spotted a Brown that he reckoned would have gone two pounds. Thank heavens he didn’t catch it. I would never have heard the end of that.


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10 Responses

  1. Lovely story and you never know, there might be the magic place still lurking for the thin blue liners. If you find it I hope that you will keep quiet about it, not because I wouldn’t want to know but because I figure you will have deserved to keep it to yourself. 🙂

    1. Thanks Tim. I think that like farmers, us fishermen are eternal optimists, so it is just a matter of time before I lure a magnificent Trout from a drainpipe somewhere 🙂

  2. I’m like you in this regard. I love the secondary streams, the headwaters that hardly anyone ever bothers with or knows about. I think it has to do with a sense of the poetic, and the inclination to explore. We may not get a big stocker like those on the main stem, but we often come away with a feeling of satisfaction hard to define, or with a sense of beauty that others know little about. Your post nails it. Thanks!

  3. I can relate! I fished in the Drakensberg during December ’99 and caught loads of small, perfectly formed and spritely browns. On my last day I chose the road less travelled and ended up catching two giants of more than 1kg each on consecutive paths. I’ll never forget the thrill and amazement at what I found in such a small stream! Good luck on your future hikes into the back of beyond 🙂 best – metiefly

  4. Your piece is spot on. I think we are referred to as “blue liners”. I like to think that “adventurers” is more appropriate. The stories one could tell from these excursions is far more interesting , than if you simply went fishing. I was hoping I was the only one with this affliction — it adds more to the mysteries & discoveries. Oh , and that undiscovered ,hidden , overlooked gem that could , might , possibly be out there —- they do exist.

    1. Thanks Herman. I suspect that when it comes down to it, there are not many of us, and we are unlikely to be tripping over one another on these obscure streams.

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