Waters & words

Photography & Imagery

Coffee and quotes

Itchen Memories-1

“Two blank days:  Not a very interesting subject?  Perhaps not.  But if you feel like that about it, pass on”

From GEM Skues, Itchen Memories, which was published in 1951, after his death.

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The coffee is “1000 hills”, a bean from Rwanda. When I stopped in at Ground Coffee House the barista persuaded me to have a flat white, and not my normal cappuccino. “Cappuccino is just all milk….you really want a double so that you can taste this bean, because its brilliant”. he said

I agreed, and while I was there I bought a bag of beans. A good move!  The coffee is well rounded and rich without being overpowering.  Did I taste strawberries or plums or vanilla?  Hell, I don’t know…I think I just tasted good coffee. But if I had to guess it was less fruity and more toffee and caramels. The barista will probably scoff…..I really don’t have sophisticated taste buds, but I know good coffee when I taste it!


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The indigenous, shade loving “snake lilly” , AKA “Blood Lilly” often found on steep slopes and in pockets of bush beside out Trout streams in spring.


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The season between the fish

Trevor and Roy on opening day:Umgeni River (2 of 17)

Roy on the Lotheni: all smiles on a blank cold day.

Roy (7 of 13)

Coffee on the Mooi during 8 days of fishing bliss in October :

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Back up on the Lotheni with Graeme, and later with him and Jac on the Mooi in scalding heat which was followed by a wild storm, which we sat out beside an earth bank that sheltered us from the worst of the wind:

Graeme on Lotheni (4 of 22)

Tendele (1 of 3)

An inchworm that fell onto my trouser leg while eating lunch on the Sterkspruit:

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Anton prospecting on the Bokspruit

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Artwork?………the new piece adorning the entrance to Vrederus:

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I bet you didn’t know that swimming is prohibited on the top of Naude’s neck pass!

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The team. Zimmer frame intended for late night stabilisation.

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PD at Scissors Run on the Mooi:

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The view from my imaginary fishing bungalow…a secret spot.

It faces north, looks onto a road built by my grandfather, has red hot pokers and arum lillies in the vlei out front, the sound of running water in front, to the east, and behind; and you can see my favourite mountain peeping over the hill from the kitchen window at the back.  There is a nesting pair of fish eagles nearby, and an indigenous forest off to the side.  (yes of COURSE there are Trout in the stream!)  Heaven.

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A little known stream that Keith and I explored in May:

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The beautiful Bushmans, with my good friend Anton in the distance.

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What a glorious season of mountains, friends, hiking, exploring ; and  sandwiches and coffee in the veld.


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a Genre of impermanence and enjoyment

As yellows enter the hillside light and long grass, as ambers of smoke and time tint the mountain view, and the season marches to old hats and penknives sharpened out of shape, so the music changes.

I got called a “redneck” this week, and rightly so. It’s all “Seasick Steve and the Level Devils”, “Trampled by Turtles”, and Ramble Tamble. The banjo rules, and when it doesn’t, its all about the sound of that big grumbling diesel motor taking me over the pass at Bottleneck. On our trip there was a roadside stipple of cosmos, and the streams were low and alluring despite their delicate disposition. Our windscreens on life were removed as they always are down there at Rhodes, and we saw long forgotten clarity and colour in everything we did. Back home the river browns were bigger than ever and we are back now and living the dream.

Mooi River-22

There is a sense of living large. The beers are bigger (“Hell this beer is HUGE!”  remarked PD on a rock beside the Willow Stream. I mocked him, but he hauled yet another longtom out of his backpack and held it beside the open one. Dang!….it was bigger!). The music is louder. The coffee from “Ground” keeps getting better, and I for one am mastering the art of ignoring the overdraft. Large and reckless. Who cares when the country is going down the tubes, the rivers are full of clean water, and fly-fishing chatter fills one’s days. We have a new fly-shop in town, but I need nothing from it. It is hot and sweaty here, but there is a chance of frost in the mountains, and last night the thunder burst like an incendiary over Aleppo with no tailing reverberation.  Short. Sharp. Powerful. Big and over as quickly as it started.

Its time to live in the moment and make memories. Bigger fish. More time on the water. More confidence. Smaller flies. More dry fly success. I could be a student again for a while. Perhaps it will endure into the coming winter. Perhaps it won’t. Perhaps it is a season.

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Rhodes in my blood

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2000

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2003

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2005

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2007

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and again 2007

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2009

2009

and again 2009

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2011

2011

2013

2013

2015

Rhodes travels (2 of 28)

2017

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It sounds like a man cave…..

The room is small in a way that is hard to define. It is spacious until one of my big outdoorsy type fishing friends comes in, and he seems to have to squeeze past the coffee table before occupying one of the two couches like I would fill a  single seater.

The coffee table always has a fly fishing magazine or two on it. Sometimes a scrap of paper with a sketch of a dry fly, or the phone number of some farmer scrawled on it. Off in the corner is a glass cabinet in which there are some outdoor books, and travel literature, along with someone’s memoirs and an oversized dictionary for those words that you need to be sure you are using right when trying to create poignancy in an essay.

On the apex wall at one end is a mounted Brown that I got in the late eighties and which didn’t quite go ten pounds, even when two of us blew on the spring balance. The fly I got it on is still wedged in its scissors. On the opposite apex wall is a slightly smaller Rainbow with a tail the size of a garden spade that should have gone eleven pounds. I know that taxidermy and wall trophies are “yesterday”, but these two are old enough that I can excuse their existence by mumbling the words “it was an earlier time…..” to anyone who asks.

The couches are old, so they benefit from the throws that we have over them. They are in rich reds and browns and maroons, that go with the old English green walls. Not that the walls are all that prevalent. They are adorned with Trout prints, and a few original oil paintings.  Each one of a some or other fishing buddy on a day on a stream somewhere that is now immortalised, so that I will remember it better than they ever will. One such painting is of Roy on the Bushmans. He saw the picture the other day and couldn’t remember quite where it was. I have looked at it often enough that I could take him there now!

The fireplace is in rough brick, and the builder had the decorative sense to pick the most gnarled and burnt and interesting bricks. If only he had had the sense to build a fireplace that doesn’t smoke!  It is fitted with a gas burner now. It doesn’t heat the room as much as it could, but at the turn of a knob you can create instant ambience on a cold evening. Flanking the fireplace on the left is my collection of flyfishing books, filling a monstrosity of a bookshelf that stands six feet tall. South African titles fill the top shelf, fly tying, Antipodean and British books the next, technical American and then fishing stories, and so it goes. At the bottom are various maps and bird books and photography titles.

The mantelpiece is  filled with more books: Travel writing, some philisophical stuff and histories of obscure battles and adventures. Across the the other side of the fireplace is the fly tying desk. It is always in some state of littered chaos, with peacock herl, and hackles and various tools strewn about. Nowadays there is always always a pair of specs at the ready, and on top between  a lammergeier’s bone from Gateshead, a rock from the top of Inhlosane, and my grandfathers hipflask, are two different lamps aimed precisely at the business end of the J-vice below. All I need to do is flick two switches and put the specs on……

A dog lies snoring on the carpet. He probably shouldn’t be there, but then he and his pals have worn it out enough that I can get away with walking in there with dirty boots, and saying “Oh dear” is sufficient penance. In any even there are speakers squirelled between books and pieces of family silver, and I can plug in my phone or a tablet and drown out the dogs snoring with a piece of music that has me closing my eyes, and having to concentrate enough not to ruin it by actually humming…..or worse still singing.  If the music is not playing the door to the verandah is probably open, and the call of a piet-my-vrou or the haunting hooting of a rainbird will be drifting in instead.

I don’t know a better place to be with a glass of wine, a cappuccino, or a good friend for company.

It sounds like a man cave, but its not.

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It’s the lounge in our house.


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Stillerus (1 of 32)


Fishing cottages: a photo essay

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Vrederus (1 of 1)-7

Reekie Lyn lower (5 of 32)

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Rhodes travels (19 of 28)

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Mt Le Sueur (4 of 13)


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Reekie Lyn lower (4 of 32)