Every now and then, the eight to five world of suburbia, commitments and credit cards, releases me for more than just a day trip. In other words, every once in a while, I somehow find a gap, and head out on one of those fly fishing trips that involves a night or two in a fishing cottage. Not a few stolen hours, in which you are watching the time. I am talking about two or more days at a trot on the water.
It is heaven!
The anticipation of those trips is childlike in my case. It is childlike in that the lead-up to such a trip stirs in me a buzz no different from that I experienced as a schoolboy when a fly-fishing trip was on the cards. Back then, as it is now, the days leading up to my departure are filled with checking of tackle, filling fly-boxes, and picturing what else I might need out on the water. I am a slave to preparation and planning, but I love it. As the day of departure grows closer, I will be testing a new lanyard arrangement for my forceps, or swapping tackle between pockets in my vest. I will don my fly-vest in the lounge and swing my arms to check that the new this or that, doesn’t snag on my clothing.
I will move the beanie and gloves from that pouch to this pocket, and find a new container for this thing or that. One that fits better, seals better, or is more compact. Of course filling fly-boxes is a big one too. Removing odd lots from the fly-box, and filling gaps in the rows of favourite patterns that are showing the signs of battle loss.
It is a ritual, in which one pictures and anticiiptes the trip a thousand times. In picturing the days away, your tackle will be neatly stowed. Everything will stay in its place. Nothing will break, or go missing. Each time you arrive at a water, you will open up what you need. It will all be where you left it, your rod will be up in minutes, and you will be on the water without delay.
In reality, the trip will be one of switching vehicles, changing plans, and of rough roads, that somehow conspire to jumble everything that you take along for the trip. Everything will be coated in dust or mud. When you leave one water for another, you will have got in last, and rather than hold the guys up, your tackle will have been tossed, more than it will have been “stowed”.
You will have old leaders stuffed in shirt pockets, spare spools left in float tubes, and fly boxes under the seat in the other guy’s bakkie. That pair of forceps you attached so neatly with some ring or clasp or snap device will have pulled loose, and will be back in your vest scratching your fly-box as before.
When you return home on the last day, your hands will be rough and dry.
Your face a little red from the wind and sun, and your tackle will be a mess. Unpacking your bakkie and putting everything away will be a major task, undertaken in a state of quickly escalating exhaustion. You will hang up the wet waders behind the fridge with a satisfied sigh, and a smile in your soul. Once you are through the shower, you will collapse into a sleep as childlike as that you had as a young boy returning from a day on the beach. Instead of the sound of crashing waves repeating itself in your head, it will be the slap and suck of waves, or the babble of the stream, that carries into your dreams. You will sleep heavily, relaxed in the knowledge that the misplaced fly reel must be knocking around in your vehicle somewhere.
There is nothing like a good fly-fishing trip!
Yesterday I headed out along the Kamberg road. Sunday past, this had been the scene of a wild and awful wind. One that lashed the dry veld angrily, kicking up dust and tossing branches. Inevitably, fire had been involved too. The farmers were now on guard. Houses, and even lives were lost down Kokstad way. Yesterday was calm. In fact it was calm all day, and with Sunday’s wind fresh in everyones memory, the farmers were out in force burning fire breaks.
Palls of smoke rose from a few spots up the valley. Something was burning up in the berg, South East of the Giant. There was a plume of thick white smoke on the slopes above the Crane foundation. I thought it might have got into the timber there, but luckily not. A black smoke rose from somewhere off on the Loteni road too.
In the morning the Giant seemed way off, bathed in a screen of white. By the afternoon that mountain was obscured in a haze which seem amplified by the late winter sun. That sunlight cut sideways across the landscape, through the dust and smoke, making the entire vista seem more vast and distant. Hills seemed miles away in the pale purple, and a yellowness on the veld close-by, made it all seem old. Like the page in some faded book, left open for far too long.
Our dry winters of dust and smoke make it hard to believe that there is any water out there at all.
When one considers how crisp and clear the outline of Giant’s Castle is after a rainstorm, it is difficult to believe that it can be obscured in haze , even from as close as the top of Vaalkop.
This is not city pollution. I suppose our farming activities increase the incidence of fire and our vehicles add to the dust in suspension in the air, but perhaps all this stuff we are breathing in is as natural as it gets. Perhaps I need to accept that ugly days are part of the deal. That berg winds, smoky days, severe heat waves, and all the other things that have a way of bringing on a bad mood, are just natural things, put there for us to endure, in order that we might appreciate the beautiful days.
Having travelled to Durban this morning, and witnessed that landscape, I very quickly appreciated the smoky Kamberg valley of yesterday. I realised that in fact I am a hillbilly, in as far as I am something the opposite of a city person. As I drove into Durban, I realised that I had been there far too long already.I managed to do what I needed to do without even switching off the engine, and I beetled back out of there as fast as I could. Tomorrow I will be up early. I will be out in the frost, kicking up ash in the burnt veld beside a Trout dam. Watching the sun rise through an orange lens of particulate matter.
The water will be ice cold and startlingly clean.
Maybe I will get a fish or two.
And maybe the dust isn’t so bad after all.
Before the Spring Grove dam.
Skimming through fishing magazines, websites and books, I can’t help but notice the prevalence of articles espousing the wildness of the fishing. The secret location is so remote that a helicopter was the only way in. The bigger fish are in the headwaters above the waterfall, and it takes several hours to hike in. For the best fishing, you have to walk further. And so it goes.
And we want to be the one who DID walk further. The one who went higher into the mountains, beyond where your unfit mates would ever go.
We hope that the fishing there will be better too, because then we would have been rewarded for our efforts. We will also have a story to tell, and our mates are more likely to repeat the story on our behalf when we are not around. In short, we will be heroes. I remember taking two mates on an epic hike in cold damp weather, in which there was less fishing than hiking, and all we saw was one monster Trout racing for cover.
I enjoy the fact that we went up there, further than anyone else goes. When I see pictures of other’s expeditions that made it halfway to where we went, I have to bite my tongue. I don’t want to be the tosser who blurts out that we went higher. But I do enjoy knowing that.
I don’t believe that I have a competitive bone in my body. Maybe I do, but I don’t believe it. I don’t think I am trying to be a hero. If I am, please aim a kick at my shin!
What I do know, is that in a world of ringing phones, busy airports and desks overflowing in paper, I want to set myself apart from it all. Being the one who hiked over the big mountain to the dangerous side, and came back with a picture of a 22 inch Brown, is one way of pulling ones flagging spirit from the mire of modern life.
Some might argue that achieving this with a modicum of humility is the trick. They might be right, but I think that for a plunker like me, hooking that big Brown and then actually landing it, is where the real trick lies.
If you carry a camera around on Trout waters long enough, you eventually bump into a co-operative Rainbow.
It wouldn’t take a fly, but after I had photographed it, I caught it with my hands.
Yes, I returned it.
No, there were no witnesses.