Waters & words

Stillwater

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Photo of the moment (90)

Mt LS -5


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Photo of the moment (89)

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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Photo of the moment (84)

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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Photo of the moment (69)

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)


A bitch called Kevin

Just as music is all about the spaces between the notes, and how you can judge the authenticity of a friend who fails to say or do something,  so there is much to learn from when you don’t catch fish.

Longest silence, and all that stuff. It’s therapeutic. It’s not about the fish.

Briarmains (2 of 24)

Bull.

It sucks.

I recently spent a day on the Mooi, when the wind blew so damned hard that when I got to Krantz pool, I swear the water was occasionally piling up in a great big bulge in the middle of the stream before flattening out again in a big noisy flopping motion, that had me feeling nervous about hippos. And at scissors run, a gust actually blew my line off the surface of the water into a pile of sticks. I didn’t see a fish all day.

Then before the season opened I went off to a stillwater on my own. I sort of snuck out there without telling my fishing buddies, on the strength of an illogical hunch I had that there would be big fish there. I had never fished the water before. There were big fish there. Two of them. I lost them both. One snapped me up when I stood on the line. The other one pulled my leader out of the end of the fly line. Bloody superglue!  Anton makes you drink when you get snapped off. I am avoiding him.

Then as the first storms of early November were starting to make an appearance, I went out on a day when the water was a soup of runoff…all deep green like and smacking of good fish. I threw delicate midges, and peeping caddis, and small “Gold Ribbed”. Then I chucked a big dragon on an intermediate line. Then a woolly bugger. Then a massive Minkie. I ended up with a minnow imitation that Roy had asked me whether I intended to use in the salt.

It looked so good. The others got fish.  Me. Nil.

Then one year I forked out on rental of a top water with a few other guys. A top, top water. A really top water. My buddies made pigs of themselves. On my fourth trip out there I landed a stockie that might have gone thirteen inches.

The other day I was out in the mist chucking that dragon of mine all day. You know the one that you can’t go wrong on….the famous one. All day.

mist

I came home late to find my family had picked up a stray dog. A basset. My son, with disregard to its gender, thought it looked like a dog that should be called “Kevin”. It was on heat.   I went to bed.


We should really stock carp here

At the tender age of seventeen, I would have been hamstrung and home-trapped, had it not been for Plunkington. Plunkington was eighteen years old. He also, as luck would have it, had both a driver’s license, and a car that got us to fishing water with almost respectable reliability.

There was a time, the memories of which are sufficiently hazy, that I struggle to place it in the continuum that was my growth into fly-fishing, in which that car transported us to Midmar. Midmar, small tents, mealie pap, and carp. Deck chairs and booze from brown paper bags completed the scene. The memories are hazy, but Plunkington, the character, is not.

Plunkington (1 of 2)

A tall, lanky bloke, with a wide frame, low energy that never dried up, and a slow, long, methodical stride, Plunkington’s level of excitement never rose above the volume of his music. He listened to AC/DC, ZZ Top, and various other noisy rock bands, at volumes that were barely audible. The music emitted from either the poor quality tape player in the old car, or an even lower quality portable radio, that he would take with him in his boat. Given that I could never hear the thing, I stopped short of complaining about it, but I did venture that music on a boat was far removed from the fly-fishing scene I had in mind. Plunkington would not have replied. Some things are better left un-said. In Plunkington’s case, he believed that to be true for most things.

We would arrive at a dam, and Plunkington would begin to tackle up in dead silence. There was nothing to compete with my babble about which fly I planned to use, what strength mono I thought might be appropriate and the like. He answered questions, and then only if they were direct enough, and an absence of wind prevented him from pretending not to have heard. Typically, I would still be talking, only to look up and find that he had rigged his heavy fibreglass rod long ago, and had mooched off to throw his Walkers Killer, leaving me with a lot less wind in my sails than had emitted from my mouth.

Plunkington claimed bad knees. He didn’t speak about that, or moan, he just moved slowly and deliberately. He climbed through fences in slow motion. He tied on flies, stashed his net, and landed Trout in the same way. Grenades may or may not have changed that. I suspect the latter would have been the case.

Plunkington fished a cheap sinking line on his cheap rod. He stuck to old fly patterns, swore more than was necessary, and caught more Trout than all of us. He drank his beer in quarts, from the bottle, and in the bath. He handled blank days badly, but fished them harder. His response to filthy weather was to stay out even longer than he would do in fine weather, and keep us waiting, shivering at the locked car.  If you went out to find him, and plead that sanity prevail, you were inclined to find him rowing the boat away in the mist to a new spot, even further away from the landing. And the reception you would get was more icy than the weather.

Plunkington (2 of 2)

Nothing deterred the man. After seven blank days in a row, he would drop me off at home, and ask “where to tomorrow?”. The next morning he would be there, his wet clothes still on the front seat, and junk all about the car. He would clear a space for me and say quietly “We are going to KILL them today!”  He would plead poverty, and have me paying more than my share of the petrol, or he would demolish my sandwiches on account of his local shop having run out bread. Coupled with that his demons inspired in him tall stories, which at first we all believed. His self-confidence hovered around rock bottom, and emerged like a flower that blooms fleetingly in a desert, only when he caught more Trout than us. For the rest he was either on an even keel, or he was somewhere between gloomy and uninspired.

At the end of every days fishing he would claim in all seriousness to have lost the car keys. After a frantic search, and detailed contemplation of how we would have to spend the night out, or walk twenty kilometres for help, he would miraculously find them. Plunkington drank too much, rolled cars, told lies, got in a huff, and caught way too many Trout.

“So why on earth did you stick it out?” my wife asks.

We talked fishing. We fished. We spent long hours in small boats together. We got cold, and we got hot and we suffered the elements. We got caught in storms, and witnessed strange things together.  We laughed a lot, at stupid things, that no one else would have got. We compared flies and spoke tackle and fly-fishing venues, and personalities. We shared our hatred for bass in our Trout waters. He came up with wild and quirky ideas. We shared our mutual teenage awkwardness by escaping to Trout waters, and in so doing largely avoided it altogether.  

 

On a blank day he would lie on his back in the grass chewing a grass stem, and after a long silence he would proclaim: “Bugger-all fish in this water. We should really stock carp here”.

 

So I don’t know why I stuck it out. But I do know that I would do it all again.


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.


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Photo of the moment (62)

Dales (1 of 1)


Cigars, confessions and Uriah

My Uber driver the other day, wanted to know what brought me to Cape Town. His name was Eugene. He was a clean shaven and decidedly Caucasian looking guy who mixed his level of social sophistication and intelligence with that delightful and unmistakable accent of the Cape Flats. I can’t help striking up a conversation with these guys, just as a means of listening and perhaps, if I am lucky enough, to gain one of their quotable sayings, that they come up with regularly.

I told him about the fly-fishing expo I had just attended. Eugene wanted to know what this fly-fishing thing was all about. I explained. The weight in the line not in the sinker or lure….you know the drill. He got that instantly, and my explanation tailed off, leaving me feeling that I hadn’t got the essence of it all into the discussion. So I added bits about us fly-fishers being totally different from the bait and lure guys. I think I said something about finesse in tackle, and probably compared baseball with cricket.

“Ah, so yoo okes shmokes beeg cigaars” said Eugene.

“You nailed it!” I said, and he smiled.

Stippled Beauties (26 of 42)

But as we fell into silence, I pondered afresh how our big cigars hide some home truths that we don’t readily confess to.

I had just heard fears the day before, how an expo attendee, having bought a ticket to enter this prestigious event, could just lift some merchandise! I would never do that!   So I got to thinking what I would do, and finding that page in my mind particularly blank, I resorted to considering what I have done.

There was the time we all fooled our varsity mate “Donkey” (yes, he is from East Griqualand) into believing that one of us, who had hooked into a massive lump of weed, was into a good fish. The fishing being rather slower than the flow of beer, we had no qualms in making the “fight” last for a full 25 minutes, complete with a running commentary to Donkey about the ever increasing estimates as to the size of this thing. We worked him up to a fever pitch of excitement and jealousy before nonchalantly declaring, “Oops, sorry, must have been this here weed”.

Then there was the time we like to think we fooled Conrad, who was the last one out on his float tube fishing,  into believing the widening rings behind him were rises, and not the product of our pebble throwing.  By the time the pebbles had grown in size to missiles that could cause grievous bodily harm, and our mirth had caused our aim to deteriorate to a point where he was actually in danger, he lost his cool, as any respectful, sincere, and dedicated fly-fisherman should. Sorry Conrad! I promise…we have grown up since then.

The other day I was tying minnow patterns and it got me thinking about the time I was stocking a dam with fry. I knew that the big trout in the dam would make a feast of these hapless fellows, and as early as the night before, I had planned my approach. I would stock. Then I would make coffee. Then I would fish a minnow pattern. I could barely sleep that night, as I manufactured in my mind, the story of the success I would surely have.

Imagine my cursing when I arrived at the dam to find it occupied by a fisherman, standing in the exact spot where I had dreamed of launching my Kent’s baby Rainbow.  I commenced with the stocking. It didn’t take long for Popjoy to wander over and enquire as to my activities.  “Stocking!” I proclaimed, adding “First time in years…I feel bad for not having stocked this dam, when we stocked that other one over the hill so very well all these years”.

It worked a charm. He was gone, and over the hill in minutes!

After coffee I put up the minnow imitation and, taking my time, so as to keep the dream in tact, I wandered over to the previously occupied spot, and executed a long and gentle cast. The whopper took the fly on the first strip, and surged for the horizon, breaking me off in the process, and setting off a chain reaction of scattering monsters. It was mayhem, and it would be many hours before things settled down again. Poetic justice I suppose.

One of my fellow fly anglers, who is a whole lot more competent than I am, and likely to empty a river stretch of fish in front of your eyes, has been tying up a storm and gearing up for the new river season with single minded determination and with the honing of skills like you have never seen.Bushmans (10 of 10)

It is quite worrying for those of us who are destined to fish up a piece of river behind him.

Now certain “Uriah the Hittite” type allegations have been leveled at me, but to set the record straight:  It is pure coincidence that I employed this man last month, and have sent him off to work on a project in a very far flung country, with limited leave.

Ok, yes, he does leave on the first of September, but……..

Oh to hell with it. Pass me one of those big cigars Eugene.