Waters & words

Stillwater

The ban on Broccoli

The South African department of environmental affairs is about to see to it that broccoli ceases to find its way onto dinner plates in South Africa, by listing it as invasive and requiring a permit to do anything with it.

Dammit!  I like my broccoli!  What is it with them!

Broccoli is tasty. It is only grown in small areas. It doesn’t harm anyone, and millions of us like it.

Hell, some people are passionate about it.

They say not to worry and that we will be able to get permits. I don’t trust them.  Broccoli, it seems, are guilty until proven innocent.

It seems like we are getting a law that will require thousands of Broccoli permits, at great cost and admin, to protect against a problem in some obscure distant corner of the country, that I don’t even know of.  Wouldn’t there be wisdom in spending 10% of the effort and money on protecting that zone, wherever it is…and leave us to grow and enjoy our Broccoli elsewhere.  Surely it would be quicker and easier to identify the rare zones where Broccoli MIGHT be a threat than to throw a blanket over the entire country.

broccoli

 

If Broccoli only succeeded in remote beautiful areas where its range co-incided with another species that was going to be ousted, or it somehow caused the demise of another species, I could understand it. But it doesn’t. (there may have been some shaky pseudo-science trying to prove that it wiped out some obscure tiny creature a hundred years ago, but there is nothing obvious or that can be proved without contention)

A lot of people make a living out of Broccoli……what about them?  They are going to lose their jobs. If a fracking rig was closed down by the state and people lost their jobs, at least there is a sound environmental reason…but stopping broccoli…Really! 

The law says that if a species poses a threat of “ establishment and spread outside of its natural distribution range (a) threaten ecosystems, habitats or other species or have demonstrable potential to threaten ecosystems, habitats or other species”  Then it must be declared an invasive species.

The authorities keep quoting foreign risk assessments. I have read them. They are pathetic!  and they apply to countries where broccoli can and do thrive and spread.  It is a fact that that does not happen here in SA, so to my mind those assessments are useless and irrelevant. The authorities seem to think they add credibility to their cause.

Here in my home province of KZN, Broccoli are limited in their area …the area is shrinking due to more dire environmental degradation, and no one has conclusive evidence that it ever wiped out any other species…..there are some obscure claims but on dodgy evidence that is most definitely not mainstream.

Broccoli can co-exist with numerous other species, and does. I a not aware of any other species every having been ousted by Broccoli…at least not here in KZN. Broccoli uses the same nutrition as some indigenous species, but its not like it devours indigenous species.

No one has ever died of Broccoli poisoning.

As far as I know, a species has to meet the above “spread outside its natural distribution” and/or cause harm to Human health or wellbeing before the state can regulate it. Broccoli never hurt anyone.

I have NEVER heard of broccoli spreading rampantly across the landscape . In fact I have never heard of it spreading EVER…anywhere, since it was first brought to this country well over a century ago.

They say they will issue a permit to allow you to grow Broccoli, but there are no guidelines on when they might approve or not approve those permits, and the draft regulations have no mention of an appeal process. Permits, it seems will be issued by “the state”.  Who in “ The state”…the janitor?

There are lots of species, like bugweed, wattle  and bramble, that do harm, but not broccoli. So why on earth is it listed?

I am dumbfounded.

Read more here:   BAN ON BROCCOLI

We only have a few days to object, and then the demise of Broccoli could  be on  a one way path.

Errata…….due to a typing error, the word “Broccoli” appears numerous times in the piece above. Apologies…the word should be “Trout”.  All other aspects of this article remain valid, as does my disbelief and indignation.

Stippled Beauties (1 of 1)broccoli


The ‘Off season’

When I was growing up in fly-fishing, as it were, our literature back then (we used to read things called books!) was interwoven with the concept of the closed season.

It seems to me that the closed season has lost its edge a bit. Not only in South Africa where several streams are now open throughout the year, but also in North America and elsewhere, where outdoor apparel has advanced along with the appetites of outdoors people to a point where images of people fishing in thick snow are commonplace.  I don’t express an opinion on all this, because I really don’t know enough about what effect it might or might not have on Trout breeding seasons in other parts of the world.  Certainly in the North Eastern Cape, where streams are normally so thick with Trout due to prolific breeding, I would have no problem with some (no doubt very minor) collateral damage in July.

But what is emerging is the closed summer season.

African Trout are by no means unique in requiring kit-glove protection in hot weather:  I have listened to podcasts and read of the closures of streams in Canada and elsewhere, but it certainly is warm down here in South Africa EVERY January and February. A couple of us have been focused on this subject of late. It is possible that we were equally focused on it last year, but I don’t remember it being that way.

Umgeni River-23

The local club has closed many stillwaters, and only left open those that are less popular or heavily stocked or some such thing. Private syndicates have largely done the same. There has been much news on Facebook and elsewhere on what to do and not to do when it comes to Trout in hot weather.

Probably the most significant advise has been “Go to the beach”.

Now I am not much of a beach person, so I have not heeded that at all. But why not do what snowbound anglers do in their off season?

Re-tie leaders, tie a lot of flies, read those things….what are they called….oh yes “books”.

Books-2-3

Study some maps. Hole up in coffee shops, talk fishing, and start getting a dreamy look when people speak of mid March and beyond. I have drawn a minor line in the sand to look forward to. It is the time when we start consistently getting air temperatures of under 10 degrees C at night in the Trout areas. I need to go off and look up on the Kobus Botha weather site (see the link in the ribbon to the right here on Truttablog)  to see when I can expect that in say Kamberg. Then I can work on that CDC hopper I have been developing, in preparation for “hopper time” .

CDC hopper-1

Now there’s something useful to do in the off-season.


Give me that peaceful, wandering free I used to know.

 

SA first float tube

“Give me that peaceful, wandering free I used to know
Give me the songs that I once sung
Give me those jet-black, kick-back, lay down nights alone

… I was made to chase the storm
Taking the whole world on with big ole’ empty arms”

Extracts from the words of  John Mayer’s “give my my badge and gun”


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Mt LS -6


You are going to die

That’s what they said. They either said I would drown, or they just laughed at me. I figured I hadn’t drowned in the old tube in twenty something  years, and I don’t fish in groups big enough for the laughing to drown out the sound of my screaming reel, so I ignored them all.

But then the old thing started to make tearing sounds when I picked it up by the handles, and I went and had a birthday, and BOOM!  New float tube!

Float tubes-1-2

Its very nice.

Thank you


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Mt LS -5


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West Hastings-13


Midge designs explored

 

With thoughts of reverse tied flies running through my head, and the recent sound of buzzers hovering in the cattails at the lake shore, I tied up these midge emergers:

Midges-7

Upside down: you know….get the hook point up into the hackle and have all that steel less obvious. The other benefit, is that your tippet is tied to something under the surface. If you consider this the dropper and  tie a point fly on the eye of the dropper fly you have this:

Midge rig-1

…. and then you use a very small larva pattern to sink off the point and keep the tippet sunk, but without pulling the emerger down, A larva like this:

Midges-9

If they take the ‘dry’, that’s great…if they take that tiny point fly (#20)…well, you’re still a hero.

Then I got to thinking about those Parasol Post Buzzers like this:

Midges-1

If you are unsure about these or need some convincing that they aren’t some weird experiment that might not work, I suggest you watch Tim Cammisa on the subject HERE

Right…so now that you have bought that concept…..What if you put the parasol post ABOVE a surface fly. So instead of using it to float and hold a fly just under the surface, you take my reverse tied emergers in the first photo of this post, let the CDC and Coq de Leon float them*, and add a parasol post that sticks out ABOVE the water like this:

Midges-8

…* a note on the float:  In the top photo I was using CDC and foam to float the fly. Now we have lost the foam…that is way up in the air. So here is what we do with CDC and Coq De Leon:  The CDC is wrapped in a dubbing loop (Petitjean tool and all that), with lots of bulk CDC to trap air, and a long fibred Coq De Leon feather is wound to give the fly a broad surface sprawl…both of these working in unison make this thing float like a champagne cork (AKA a DDD)

And then, if the Parasol Post is not being used as part of the imitation (i.e. this is NOT the buzzer’s white breather filaments being imitated here), then why not make it something you can really see…I mean, so obvious that you can’t miss it out there on the waves:

Midges-5

30 yards away.

In a fog.

When you left your glasses at home.

Midges-4

NT

In the words of Zuma when he has just done something offensive: …a deep throttly , deliberate …”he he he”

We came up with a name for this bright mesmerizing thing on top that you can’t pull your eyes away from, but its not very PC.  Let’s just say it is abbreviated to “NT” .

Now the “NT” gets buffeted in the wind, and makes that midge WRIGGLE beneath it.

And if you are worried that this bright thing will scare fish away, take a look at the silhouette of the fly…in other words, as seen from below, like a fish would see it:

Midges-6

Not so scary hey?

But is the foam a bit heavy perhaps?  What if we used very bright yarn only?  Or better still….brightly coloured CDC. When Marc Petitjean was here this winter I saw his bright coloured CDC and I thought to myself “Now what would you use THAT for?!”.  Now I know, and I am kicking myself for not buying a pack.

But if all this is just freaking you out, and you want something that matches your tweed jacket and your wicker creel a bit better, we could just stay all conservative like and go back to this:

Reverse CDC midge-1-3

Or this:

Midge (1 of 1)-4

 

There you go. Is your pacemaker managing that a bit better?


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Marc Petitjean-1


Mesmerised

Tiny wavelets in the sun. Wind pushing water. Ever rolling ripples. Running , extending out over the surface, on and on. Never ending, and each the same. Sunlight twinkles at the crest of those crossing a sunny line out beyond the cattails. Cattails extending to meet the wavelets, and brushing against the fabric of my waders. The water around me ice cold and gin clear, and lapping as a sideshow to the wavelets. My eyes divert from my side, back out over the water. Again. I search for the dry fly. Where was that spot. It’s all the same out there. Wavelets, running on and on, but suddenly there it is, in that spot that looks more fishy than all the other wavelets. Without reason. I’ve lost it. No. There it is. I must recognise that spot when I look back. My eyes water a little in the cold. Perhaps it is the harshness of the pale winter sun in a blue sky but I need to blink. I daren’t. I wink one eye and then the other, and my vision blurs a little. Blurred images of ever running wavelets, a little out of focus, but all the same. Where is that spot? 

Snowtop-1

Oh…there it is…I can see the fly. I follow the line the next time, I can see a knot of the leader floating, then it is just wavelets. But if I allow for the arc of the line on the surface I can guess the area. Ah, there it is again. My fly.

A deep breath takes in the clear winter air. On my nostrils is the childhood scent of frosted grass, slightly damp from ice that melted on it, and hasn’t quite dried yet. I sigh in outward breath, and search for my fly among those wavelets. Ah! There it is. riding between the ever running ripples on the vast surface of this lake. This lake with its cover of pale blue sky, its cold wind and its endless sun drenched wavelets. A small fish rises. Is it me! I strain my eyes. Ah, there it is….No. Not this time.

Who says stillwater flyfishing is monotonous?

It’s addictive! 

I’m gonna go again next Saturday too.


When the west wind blows


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Ivanhoe (4 of 6)


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cased caddis-7


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12 pointers for Strike indicators on stillwater

I really only started using indicators on stillwater quite recently….just a few years ago. I have used them on streams since the early 1980’s, and have written about them extensively,  but somehow I had a complete blind spot when it came to using them on stillwaters. What I find unusual is that I viewed an Orvis video recently in which Tom Rosenbauer said that using indicators on stillwater is considered bog standard in the USA. Speaking in the context of my own friends and colleagues over the last twenty years, that has definitely not been the case here in South Africa.  While a few of my buddies do use them on stillwater, I believe that many of us do have a blind spot.

Castle Howard (10 of 33)

If you happen to have a similar blind spot, consider these applications:

  • 1.  You are using a midge pattern during a hatch, and you seem to have hit it right: a #12 black suspender midge. You are catching fish every few casts. The fly becomes more and more waterlogged, and the hatch is coming to an end. You stop catching fish. It is because the midge is sinking below where the fish are. You are fishing a 2 fly rig, and you don’t have the time or energy to change to a fresh fly.  Rig an indicator heavy enough to hang the fly under, cast out, and start catching again.

 

  • 2.  It is spring and the lake you are fishing has just filled up some. The trout have moved right up into the cattails and you are experiencing swirls right into the grass off to your right. You cast out there, but the wind is drifting your fly into the shore, and you cant quite see when your fly gets close, so you are possibly lifting the fly off way too early for fear of catching the vegetation. Put on an indicator to se exactly where your fly is in the chop.

 

  • 3.  You are fishing into the silvery surface of water in low light, to rises. You can see the odd rise, and you cast there, but light conditions are such that you just can’t see if your fly is landing in the right zone. Put on a black indicator for maximum contracts, and use it to see where the fly is landing at the end of a long cast.

 

  • 4.  You are fishing a peeping caddis under an indicator. As the clouds come and go, you can sometimes see the orange yarn, and other times it seems invisible in the wavelets.  Pull it in, remove a few orange fibres and replace them with brilliant green, white, red or black, to get a bi-colour indicator that you will be able to see one way or another.

 

  • 5.  You are fishing in shallow water to skittish cruising trout. They seem to spook each time you cast, but recover soon after and feed again. The problem is, by the time they start feeding again, the sub surface nymph you are using to imitate what they are taking, has sunk onto the bottom, and they are all looking up.  Add an indicator to suspend the fly where you want it, cast out and leave it for a very long while. When the fish come back on the feed your fly is amongst them, at the right depth, AND you can see where it is.

 

  • 6.  I have written before that hanging a fly under an indicator in stream fishing is often a cause of drag, and that I prefer to use a loose arrangement, with the fly not dangling below an oversize indicator that has the flotation to suspend it. I stick by that, but on stillwaters, and of course with only subtle currents, I have great success doing exactly that:  Hanging the fly at the required depth under an indicator.

 

  • 7.  I always preferred to use a dropper dry combo, using the dry (normally a DDD) as the indicator.  The merit of using a yarn indicator instead of the DDD is simply that you can put it on really fast, and you can choose the colour (including bi-colour as described above).

 

  • 8.  On a lake you are often casting a long distance. When casting to rising fish with a small dry, you might not be able to see which rise was the one to your fly. An indicator used with a tiny dry fly helps you to guess which one is yours , and hence when to strike.

 

  • 9.  We all tend to retrieve too fast when we are imitating midges or caddis or other small naturals on a stillwater, and we lose concentration. A bow-waving indicator looks so ridiculous and causes such a fish scaring wake, that it tends to save you from this bad habit.

 

  • 10. Remember, you can use an indicator to suspend a fly at distance X below the surface, but you can also think of it differently and use it to suspend something like a chironomid lava (blood worm) at distance X off the lake bed.

 

  • 11.  Yes…you can still use an indicator with a 2 or even a 3 fly rig. And yes…there is more that can go wrong.

 

  • 12.  And the the obvious one:  You are fishing into choppy water. You are of course casting further than one does on a stream, so you can’t see the leader or tippet, and you have had enough “knocks & scratches” that you believe you must be missing fish. You probably are. Put on an indicator and watch it like a hawk!

I use a New Zealand Indicator  with their yarn, and l use any other interesting colours of other maker’s yarn I can find , but the above points apply whichever type of indicator system you prefer (except perhaps the flexibility of the ‘any-colours-you-want’ bi-colour thing….think about that…for me it is a deal maker/breaker).  Many people will tell you that yarn indicators don’t float high enough or can’t suspend heavier flies. This is true, but I am not putting a speed-cop under my indicator…..I am putting smaller imitative patterns, and I can, within reason, add more yarn to the bunch for better flotation.

Here are some other good references on strike indicators:

Global fly fisher

Orvis

WAPSI

Tom Sutcliffe

Tight lines!


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Stillerus (1 of 32)


Mike’s dam

Perceptions, deceptions, and decisions.

Many years ago, PD, Luke and I were returning from fishing this lovely piece of water. We were in high spirits as I remember it. We had caught plenty of small, athletic rainbows on dry flies during the day. As I remember it, it had been sunny and windy, as it often is up there, and if my checkered history in these matters is anything to go by, we probably didn’t allow for the effects of high altitude, and got roasted in the sun. That would have added to the end of day “glow”.  And in that glow, it seemed wise to put Luke at the wheel. Hell, I know he was only 12, but he needed driving practice.

After Luke’s 180 degree spin, those eligible took a swig from the hip flask, and we proceeded, in an ever so slightly subdued state of mind.

Marks (2 of 2)

Marks dam:  October 2002

That was by no means my first visit. My fist visit was as a high school boy. The details are very hazy in my memory, but I remember setting out from the very rustic cottage that nestled in the forest on the northern shore. I remember not having waders, and I remember a lot of time spent in a bog, with the smell of mud and methane. I remember thinking that this was very difficult, and I remember other people catching fish from somewhere off in the mist, where there was allegedly a dam. Marks dam (2 of 2)

When I returned there the other day to poach with Anton, him and I spent a lot of time in the bog again, and some memories came flooding back. The poaching thing was a very well informed decision. Research. Sampling. Just checking the fish growth rates. Important stuff. At some point I lost Anton, and many hours later when he loomed down the road, dripping in the mist, he made some remark about losing the dam. It was my fault. It happens!

We caught fish that day. Just a few, and they were not as fat as we had hoped. They did however take dry flies. Some things don’t change.

Anton (1 of 2)

Petro and I were back there recently. Funny thing:  all the signs on the way in were gone.  I don’t suppose it matters…we know what its called.   I pointed out the spot where Mike had proposed to Tessa just days earlier. Later she pointed out the large Rinkhals, that was between the dog and ourselves. The dog had walked over it, and was now on the other side, intent on coming back, and struggling to understand why the “stay” command was being delivered when he was not at Petro’s side. He cocked his head on one side and looked quizzically at us, while we shouted and threw stones into the veld in front of him.  The snake reared and opened its hood, but didn’t move.  In desperation I suggested that Petro throw stones at the dog, who was advancing one step at a time, while I threw them at the snake. I don’t know if that was a good decision.

The dog got within striking distance of the snake before he saw it but somehow it ended OK. And Tessa and Mike are happily engaged.

Now there’s a good decision!

Marks (1 of 2)


Harden up Bevan!

The happy season that was, the one between the arrival of the cuckoos and the arrival of the mosquitoes, is now behind us.

Now we have fierce heat, fierce storms, and humidity in between. We have mosquitoes too. I live in fear. The big ones must be on their way. They bite your head off and drink you like a coke.

It has been a great spring, I think. By my reckoning, it has been a cool one, (Hell, we had snow in October!) , and it has been a relatively wet one too. Having said that, I got a message from my friend Tim the other day to say “Water 21 degrees. Returned some fish carefully, but don’t rate their chances. Stopping fishing now”, or words to that effect.  Also, Midmar and Spring Grove dams have little more than stabilised in water level at around 40%. Many Trout dams are also not yet full.

But we are in big storm season now. Just yesterday we sat on the porch with a cold beer and watched a fierce storm build to the north. “Do you think it looks green?”  I asked my daughter rhetorically before adding “I think it looks green” . Green storms signal hail. I parked under the tree in case.

This morning friends reported that it had missed Notties, but a video emerged of carnage to the north of that.  Carnage would be good I think.  A slow spring has allowed river banks to cover in grass, holding them firm, and Midmar needs the water. I would also  like a hundred trillion wattle sticks to wash themselves from the upper Umgeni, and save us the man-hours, and the trouble.  Midmar normally only overflows around the first week of February, but as soon as you have a few days dry patch, pundits begin citing that the dam isn’t even overflowing.  PD confirmed that it doesn’t overflow before his birthday. I am happy to wait and watch. Hopefully “watch” will mean watching some carnage by way of those fierce storms. But since we are playing catch-up, we can give it until the first of March before we expect the dam to overflow.

Wild storms mean dirty streams, and I was reminded the other day that silt particles in the water absorb more heat and cause warmer water. Warmer water holds less oxygen. So we can’t have it all.  Rank grass and healthy forest trees on those steep south banks mean more shade though, and rain water, besides having a slightly acid pH, can be cool, so I will take my chances with wild storms over drought any day.

We will just have to pick our fishing days between hot days and dirty rivers. We must also remind ourselves that many a superb day on the stream has been had while sweat trickled down our necks.

I can always go sit out on a big stillwater in a tube and roast while I wait for a storm to roll in.

Mt Le Sueur (13 of 13)

Or I can go fish in the rain.

As my friend Rhett says ”Just harden the @#$?& up Bevan!”


you get fishing……..and you get fishing.

My fishing outings vary greatly in terms of the feel and vibe. I guess you could put most days into one of two categories. Call it expedition days and exhibition days.

Expedition days are all about preparation, and focus and a kind of determination that doesn’t go so far as to remove the fun, but it is definitely about catching fish.

Exhibition days on the other hand, are about going through the motions. On Exhibition days we arrive at the water and start wondering which fly rods we brought along and which one we should use. On expedition days we will have decided the night before.

On Exhibition days we stand close enough to one another that we can have a chat, or at least close enough that we can call over and share an idea.

Relaxed

It might not be a fishing idea either. In fact on those days, at least one of us is offloading about some swine at work who has us in a snarl, or some kid that won’t come to the dinner table. Maybe we will discuss whether to put that porch on the house, and what it will do to the mortgage balance. Its normally around the point that we have started to get philosophical that a trout takes the dry, and we miss it.

Exhibition days are about retrieving too fast, having two beers at lunch, and not walking too far. They will probably involve a stop at Steampunk for a coffee on the way out,

Michael Goddard owner of a steampunkstyle cafe

and we might abandon the water towards day’s end when the storm comes over, instead of waiting it out for an hour in the bakkie.  They could take place on a river, (probably not a mountain stream) but more often it will be a stillwater.  Expeditions are great, and have their place, but those “offload and relax days” are important too, especially when you haven’t seen your buddy for a while, and he has been up to his eyeballs in one difficulty or another. When you have waded through one another’s updates on family and work and woes, you get to the sighing stage, followed, after passage of sufficient time with the phase in which you appreciate the beauty around you.  If the Gods really are shining upon you, you might just catch a fish at around this time.

West Hastings (1 of 1)

Sometimes an “unwind, and who cares about the fish” day will be a solitary one. A day in which you lose yourself somewhere in the mist, and watch the caddis hatching.

Truttablog (1 of 1)

It is still fishing. It is still good for the soul. You can feel the pull of the rod as it loads, and watch the cast unfold over the water. You can pick a fly and take your time over the knot, pressing and tightening the abutting turns against one another with considered and unhurried satisfaction.  You can listen to the wind, and watch a bird of prey.

You have put in more hours that were not at a shopping centre, or at a desk, and it’s all good.


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Anton (1 of 2)