Of Cuckoos and Trout

Spring as seen without a pane of glass

Ray and I peered over the bridge. The water was dirty. It had been clear further up, where we had just been chased off by a storm. A storm that never materialised. We looked downstream. The water was off colour there. I suggested to Ray that we check the river above the bridge. Hey, you never know…

We found the same colour water there. And a Brown that rose near a log. I still regret that I didn’t string up a rod, climb over the fence, and have a go at a side cast beneath the overhanging weaver’s nest and the bridge abutment.  I was there again yesterday, and I regret that I didn’t try it then either.  I had been chased down the valley by another storm , which didn’t materialise either. But there was thunder around, and I was indecisive as the intervals between the thunder were varying and unpredictable. I was also more than a little jaded after several kilometers of walking in the severe heat that morning.

The humidity hung in the sky. A Diedericks Cuckoo called. Off to the south it was difficult to tell if the sky was blue or grey. Cloud or shaded blue? A front was on its way in, but it was still warm, despite a fresh wind from the south.

The valley of the upper uMngeni River before a storm

Earlier the Piet-my-vrou called across a clear blue sky; rung out across a valley draped in the delicate greens of new growth; spring vigour.

a tributary of the Mooi

By evening the mist rolled in, with thunder from somewhere above, and it was the turn of the Black Cuckoo…”I’m…… so…….. sad” he sung. Miserable fellow!

Mist on the uMngeni River

I think that by and large, I have always been present in the moment of the seasons; appreciating the crispness of winter, the dull dustiness of August, and the senescent glow of autumn. But somehow this year it is as if a sheet of glass has been removed, and I am experiencing spring with added richness and appreciation. We went from a dry start with low water levels, and algae growth in the Trout streams, to a furtive start to rainfall after a string of hot days.  And now we are plunged into summer, with strong flows, wet soil, heat and thunderstorms.

This process has unfolded in a fly fishing sense, as a string of subtly changing experiences on the river. It started with  forays in the dust, with ultra clear water, algae and low river levels. The Trout were at once spooky and hungry. A mix of careful stalking and bold fly patterns saw fish exploding on their prey. There were bent rods and there was excitement. That morphed into days amongst grass stubble on the banks that was a mix of black and green; burnt stubble and delicate green sprouts. I had two really cold days on the river. On one the fish were on the prowl, on the other they were not, but we had our share of action on the frog water on both days, with fish big enough that they still bring a smile to my face.

If memory serves, the odd cuckoo called, and its presence was noted with comments like “Ah!  The Klaas’s has arrived!”

upper uMngeni River after first rains

Then there was rain. The first bout wet the soil, but didn’t lift the rivers at all. Then we got runoff, and a slug of dirty water from the first of winter’s talcum powder dust, washed into the waterways. It cleared quickly, and then levels started to drop back quickly too. Friends headed out onto the rivers but either found dirty water lower down, or water up top that was still too thin. “Whip-poor-Will” sounded in the mist with gathering frequency.

The second bout of rain lifted the levels properly, and the water, while off colour at times, was less like chocolate milk, and quickly settled to a faintly milky tarnish, less brown and more amber. Deep green in the shade. I ventured up the river banks, and sent a video to my fishing pal. “Its deep green, I can just see the bottom. The water temp has dropped to 17 degreec (C) , and its fresh and inviting: calling water.  But…”  I added  “…. It has been hot, and there is thunder overhead….if you jump in your car and get here in the next 40 minutes you may get two hours on the river before the weather front dumps big rain everywhere!”.    He had a meeting. I felt a little alone out there with the ominous thunder rolling overhead. I headed back home for a cup of tea.

As I sit here now, there is 50mm of water in the gauge, and the sky hangs heavy with more to come. The flying ants are hatching and the birds are having a field-day on the front lawn. The cuckoos have all fallen silent. The river runs full, and I regret not getting out the rod for the last hour of spring fishing in that promising emerald water beneath the poplars.  



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