Waters & words

Photography & Imagery

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Photo of the moment (77)

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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.

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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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2003

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2005

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2007

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and again 2007

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2009

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and again 2009

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2011

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2013

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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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Photo of the moment (72)

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Photo of the moment (71)

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Photo of the moment (69)

Stillerus (1 of 32)


Fishing cottages: a photo essay

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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)


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Photo of the moment (66)

Anton (1 of 2)


The Troglodyte

While I have previously written about the “Honey Troglodyte”, it is the black one that is my real go-to pattern on a swiftly flowing stream.

My son James did a photo session recently, while I tied up some samples for an article on the fly.

See this LINK for the full story and tying instructions.

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Photos by James Fowler


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Photo of the moment (65)

Kamberg Nature Reserve (4 of 22)


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Stolen flies (4)

Tom Sutcliffe (1 of 1)


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Reekie Lyn Upper (31 of 33)


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Stolen flies (3)

Peter Briggs Wolf Spider (1 of 1)


An eagle’s flight over Trout country

If you were to stand on the top of Giants Castle , at the source of the Lotheni and Bushmans rivers(LINK) and send an eagle in a straight line, at a bearing of 115 degrees,  to the top of Inhlosane mountain, the eagle would fly off from your feet at 3100metes above sea level. It would cross the source of the Elandshoek, which peels off to the right (the tributary of the Lotheni that joins the main river opposite the camp site), then it would cross the source of the Ncibidwane flowing away to the North, and on the same side the Mooi, First the north branch and then a tiny highland tarn from which the south branch flows.

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Roy Ward hiking out of the Ncibidwana valley. Giants Castle mountain is obscured by cloud in the background.

From that spot the beautiful lakes at Highmoor would be visible, 9kms away to the north east.  Just 350 metres past that, to the right is the source of the Inzinga river (altitude 2199 metres), which flows away to the right, and at that spot the Kamberg nature reserve would be a scant 3kms to the north east.  The eagle would then cross the very spot where the Reekie Lyn stream rises (a tributary of the Mooi, that joins the river lower down at the NFFC stretch of the same name). After a patch of rocky terrain, the ground would then drop away sharply beneath the eagles wings as it flies over the boundary of the greater Drakensberg heritage site , where the elevation beneath it would be 1800metres ASL, and it would have flown 26kms.

After this half way mark, the rest of the eagle’s journey  would be over highland farming country that all hovers around the altitude of 1800m ASL.

It would  cross the farm known as “White Rocks”, named after the rocky outcrops still within sight behind it in the park, and it would cross the Lotheni road where the road does that tight sweeping bend to pass over the lovely little Rooidraai stream . This is just before the Rooidraai joins the “Kwamanzamnyama” at that rocky roadside spot where we often see baboons. In summer that stream looks just big enough to hold a few trout, but in winter my belief in that dwindles.

At this point a few farms below will be those that carry the “FP” number, after George Forder who surveyed the Underberg district, and who numbered them so after “Forder Pholela” (Or so everyone thinks:  Secretly Forder was using the P in reference to “Plaisance”, a favourite farm name which he would later ascribe to the piece of land at Bulwer that the government of the time gave him for his troubles. I know this because his son told me).  Our eagle would then pass just a few hundred yards to the south of “Drinkkop”, that hill which Chris Maloney tells me you can stand upon and pee into the drainages of the Mooi, the Umgeni and the Inzinga all at once.

Just over the crest it would pass directly over Umgeni Vlei (the source of the Umgeni), and then over the ridge and Woodhouse, and several other farms with names of English origin, and a few kilometers on, the land would dip briefly to about 1650m ASL where the eagle would fly directly over a little crumbling concrete causeway over the Poort stream, just above where it tumbles over a hidden waterfall on its way to join the Umgeni. That causeway is a favourite spot of mine. It is on a tiny triangle of land called simply “Fold”.Poort (43 of 52)

The causeway is just out of sight beside the parked vehicle in the distance.

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The Poort stream on its way down to the Umgeni: The place where my great grandfather is buried, and where my father was born

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Looking back towards the Giant from the Heatherdon mast.

It would then pass over Glendoone , and almost straight over the Heatherdon mast (a spot that is precisely 50m lower in altitude than the upcoming final destination of our eagle, just 5 kms away.

From here the dams on Happy Valley, Kilalu, Ivanhoe, Overbury, Lyndhurst, Heatherdon, Kimberley and Rainbow lakes, to mention just a few, would be visible.

From there the land would fall away beneath the flight path quite dramatically for a short spell, where the eagles flight would take it over the Furth Cutting at the precise point where the district road D 710 (which leads to the NFFC water on Furth Farm) takes off from the Mpendle road. The ground would then rise steeply again within seconds as the slope climbs from the homestead on Old Furth to the beacon on top of Inhlosane mountain at 1978metres above sea level, where our eagle  would alight after its journey of precisely 51kms.

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The eagle will have flown along the spine of high ground that I have written and spoken about before, that pretty much starts at the Giant and ends at Inhlosane mountain. Its eyes would have captured vast vistas of rocky veld with only the occasional pasture or cluster of trees. It would have passed over land that receives regular severe winter frosts, and not infrequently, snowfalls. And I reckon that it would have been able to spot more of the trout waters, both streams and dams, that I have fished in my lifetime, than any other fifty kilometer eagle flight anywhere. It might even have spotted Bernie’s lake!

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Looking back at the Giant

I think if I had a chance to rub the magical lamp, that 70 minutes as an eagle would be right up there competing for one of the three wishes.