Waters & words

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.

IMG_2882

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.

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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.

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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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5 responses

  1. From Tom Sutcliffe by e-mail:

    Hi Andrew
    Just a note to wish you well over the Christmas festivities and also to wish you a wonderful New Year.

    I must say I think your blog is of a very high standard and always interesting. in penning this note I clicked on your link and there is Basie walking in the veld. I assume this is his little feeder stream to his new dam. I took some shots of it when they were building the wall having walked up it a mile or so. Basie said there were no trout in it, but I proved otherwise! And by camera. Meaning, as I said to Basie, he wouldn’t have to stock his dam at all!! I will add some pictures I took that day and you are more than welcome to add them, and these words, to your blog. I have also added a pic of a rainbow you might want to use in your ‘Photo of the moment’

    Kindest wishes to you and your family

    Tom

    Many thanks for your kind words Tom.
    The feeder stream is indeed the one leading to Basie’s dam. I have added your superb photos at the foot of the posting, since adding them here was beyond my technical abilities!

    Regards

    Andrew

    Liked by 1 person

    December 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm

  2. You hit the nail on the head Andrew! Take care of those beautiful small streams. Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 23, 2014 at 6:19 pm

  3. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Andrew! You hit the nail on the head…love the small streams.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 23, 2014 at 6:18 pm

  4. Nice post! A real miracle of nature would be if ordinary citizens suddenly recognized our passions for these watery gems and lent us a hand in caring for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    December 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    • Thank you Walt. So true about help in caring for the environment. I get a sense that everyone is happy to buy a “save the Rhino” sticker, but very few actually get their hands dirty, whether it be the Rhino, the trout, or the mountain streams.

      Liked by 1 person

      December 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

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