Waters & words

Archive for December, 2014

Tackling developments

Last night I was washing and treating my fly-lines, and I got to thinking.

Firstly, I was treating them with some “water shed”. If you haven’t got some of this stuff, do yourself a favour.  It really is great. It floats flies, furled leaders and the tips of your floating lines. It smells a lot like Hydrostop, which I used to use years ago. Maybe it’s the same stuff in a new bottle. I don’t know.

Tackle (1 of 1)

But like I say, it works a treat on the special high floating tip of my new fly line.

Tackle (3 of 3)

Sinks like a stone that tip does. It is a special dark green colour, with a different texture to the rest of the line so that you can identify the trouble zone quickly. “Revolutionary” I think it said on the box. No, it isn’t revolutionary. It sinks.

Tackle (2 of 3)

My old line floated better, but unfortunately it wore out. Now I am back to treating it like a silk line. My grandfather must have done that in his day. This is not progress.

This line also has a long fine taper that they said was wonderful for delicate presentations. I fell for that too. I was fishing it in a strong upstream breeze the other day, and try as I may, I couldn’t punch a bounce cast into it to get myself some drag fee slack.

So my wish-list from the line manufacturer, is for them to produce a line without a special trouble causing tip. While they are about it, how about a short sharp taper up front. They had might as well do me another favour and do away with that snazzy loop they put in the front, and give me a piece of core that extends straight out the end, for me to tie on a nice neat leader with a surgeons or blood knot. Then they would really be talking.

To their credit, the fly line guys seem to be getting better at the colours. Olives and greys  are good. Please go a shade darker though.

The guys over at the rod manufacturers have come a long way in so many respects. We went from floppy things, to walking stick stiff. Now we have a huge range, with most of them tending towards a mid range powerful stick, with just the right degree of stiffness, and loading ability. A bit like the one I bought nearly twenty years ago. That was expensive though. You can now get a similar rod, and part with less cash. That’s progress. One they still don’t have right is the gloss varnish thing.  Flash, flash, flash. Come on guys: when are you going to listen to us?

Fly-boxes:  That dense grey foam with the slots in it that you push the bend of the hook back into:  Great stuff.  A big improvement on the various foam inserts that are so shredded in my old boxes. I am also pleased with the new slender boxes. There was never a need for such deep boxes in anything but the streamer and dragonfly box, and now we have thin boxes that can go three to a pocket in the vest. I like that.

Tackle (1 of 3)

I also re-loaded my strike indicator kit with yarn and tube. That New Zealand indicator system is a huge leap forward.


That really has revolutionised things for me. To think how we used to battle with bits of balsa wood.

PD bought himself the latest and greatest pack vest while over in Canada this year. I was (still am) envious of the fact that it is waterproof. Complete with waterproof zips it is. Isn’t that a miracle:  a zip that seals completely!  The interesting thing about his pack though, is that the pattern is identical to mine. Mine is going on fifteen years plus, maybe even closer to twenty in age.

Game Pass (21 of 63)


Our tippet material has got radically thinner for the breaking strain over the years. I heard someone say the other day, that that has been the biggest advance in flyfishing in the last decade. They may just be right.

Apart from that, what technological developments have their been?  Breathable waders is quite a big one. Wading boots are a lot better, but I suspect that on that score it is just that we have more available to us here in SA than we had before.

Zingers, rainwear, hook styles, floatants,  ……..lots of little bits and bobs in there, but for me nothing that stands out. I think back to a typical day on a river back in say the early 1990’s. The experience of the day did not differ significantly then to what it is today. I hooked trees and long grass and got tangles. I had dry flies that sank, and fly boxes that didn’t close and a host of other little things, very few of which stand out as any different from today.

One thing that does feel different, is that back then it seemed easier to get out there and fish. I seemed more adventurous. I tried new places. I was more inclined to sneak in a half day here or there. More inclined to rush out the front door having grabbed my tackle at the last minute. I was more impulsive, and took more “risks”.

So here is a proposal for 2015. How about we worry less about our new fangled tackle, and focus more on our fishing experiences. Let them be numerous, and varied, and experimental. I propose more trips “on the fly”.


I am advocating more last minute , less complicated, opportunistic forays, and fun ventures onto little fished water.

I tackled this last year, and looking back on the year, I can tell you that it has a lot going for it. Give it a try. Put that credit card away, and go fishing!  A 2015 resolution maybe?

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Stippled Beauties (1 of 1)-16

Photo taken by my son, James Fowler

Small streams and patience

In the summer months, I often have occasion to fish some tiny streams. I really enjoy those waters. Delicate strands of water, in which any trout that you do succeed in catching, is a miracle of nature.


Delicate strands of water

Sure, the words “miracle of nature” are over-used, cliched, and bordering on corny, but consider this:

We have just come through a spring drought, both in KZN, and the NE Cape. You just have to drive through the Kamberg valley, as I did yesterday, to see that despite all the green grass, the dams are still not full. That would have a little less to do with how much rain we have had in the last few weeks, and a lot more to do with what happened from August to November. We are prone to dry spring seasons here, and this year was one of them. To top that, it came after a winter in which we did not receive our customary inch of rain (together with snow on the berg) in July.

So if we can still see that in the level of the dams, especially the ones from which the farmers irrigated, then try to picture the little stream you fished this week, two months ago. With that mental image, try to picture a trout living in there.

Game Pass (51 of 98)

I remember one unseasonably dry December, Petro and I hiked up a small side-stream on the Bokspruit that Ben Vosloo had directed us to. Ben’s instructions had been clear, so there was no doubt that we were on the correct stream, but I stared at the trickle in disbelief.

Stippled Beauties (1 of 1)

My disbelief deepened, when a hundred yards further we saw trout. We could not have missed them. The poor creatures were lying in solid rock basins worn by the river over many centuries of better flow. When I say “basins”, picture the basin you shave over. They were almost as small, and they didn’t have as much cover . Your basin has the arm of the tap over it, these had no such luxury.  When the fish spotted us, all they could do to save themselves, was to zoom around that pool at the greatest speed they could manage. Consider for a moment, that their only food was delivered to them down a tiny trickle of water flowing over warm rock, from the basin above, where a few other trout had picked off whatever was in that water. Maybe a gust of wind might bring them a hopper. And they survived until the next rain. A miracle of nature indeed!

I for one, often under-estimate the ability of trout to survive in these extreme conditions. Such conditions are almost a certainty in a small stream, where there are no, or few,  great big pools, where a trout can hunker down in a drought.

One year Basie Vosloo took a few of us up a small feeder stream on his farm. We were looking for trout, just to know if they were there. Basie stopped the F250 in the valley basin, where the nchi-chi grew thickly, there was plenty of cover, and a half reasonable volume of water.

We surveyed the stream, and while we saw nothing, we pronounced it OK for trout. Then Basie drove further, and stopped again. Together with the dogs, we picked our way to the stream, and looked again.


It was getting pretty thin right there, but Basie insisted we go further. I said nothing, but inside I was thinking that this was just a little ridiculous. Almost as if to make a point, Basie drove us twice the distance we had come. We stopped at a stream crossing, were the water trickled through a pipe, and oozed over a rock embankment. Impossible. Ridiculous. But following the enthusiastic dogs, we walked a few yards down. I hung back and let the others go ahead. I was not going to waste my time.

And then “Yup! Here’s a rainbow” came the call.


I had to see this with my own eyes. Sure enough, there it was: A miracle of nature.

What this all comes down to though, is that when fishing one of these little gems, one has to be realistic, and patient. Consider for a moment how that stream may have looked in the dead of winter. Unlike the stocked dam, the presence of trout cannot be assumed.  In that context the scarcity of the trout becomes expected, and those that you do catch become wonders.

The days that you can’t find them become exercises in patience and humility. The fish that you do find, should be cause for celebration. Rest assured, that celebration at the 8 inch brown you just caught from a full rushing stream in summer, will not be understood by some of those to whom you tell of its capture.

“It was how big?” . You show them the photo.

Game Pass (10 of 98)

“Lovely” they say,  with just the slightest hint of condescension in their tone. You flip to the next photo to show them some more in the hopes that they will get it. You have a picture of just how small the stream was . You can put this all in perspective for them. You flip back to show them the other pictures from the drought months to bring your point home.

But they are pouring tea, and discussing the new hardware store that just opened in town.

Additional photos sent in by Tom Sutcliffe, of the feeder stream on Basie Vosloo’s farm, and some fry and paired trout in that delicate water.  Thank you Tom.

Basie's dam fry Basie's stream. two adult trout Basie's stream IMG_5429

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Vrederus (1 of 1)-2

Your tying space

I tidied my tying desk this evening, as I do once in a while. The maid normally remarks favourably when I do this, since she is not allowed to touch.


I think the abandon with which I toss around dead birds and animals gets to her.

Thing is, when the desk is tidy, I can actually lock the thing, as my brother intended when he made it for me.


I have to say though, that I was a little worried. I was worried that it would not close. This anxiety stemmed from the fact that I have been on a long steady acquisition phase. I hadn’t realised it, but I have been collecting again (did I ever stop?), and the drawers are starting to overflow and  jam with packets of goodies.

I am happy to report that I was successful. I will not be needing another chest of drawers, and so will not be jeapardising my spot in the corner of the lounge. Which brings me to my point.

You MUST have a room, or better still a corner of a family room or lounge, where you can leave your fly tying kit out.

Trust me on this one. Until you do that, your tying will be frustrating, infrequent, and uninspiring. You cannot be hocked by having to clear away for dinner or guests. This will cramp your creative style in ways that you will only come to appreciate when you do get it right and have a good setup.

When you do get set up, a peaceful fulfillment will descend upon you, and you will become a much better husband and father. For me it has worked to have this space in a corner where I am not locked away from the family. I have a corner of a room in which the family can sit around while I tie, and it is a magic recipe for family harmony.  

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Now print this piece, and go and show it to your wife.

Good luck!

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Upper Mooi (1 of 1)