I was fishing this stillwater over the Christmas break, and I looked down and saw this one dragonfly shuck. Then I started noticing more, and more. There were dozens. I wish I had been there to witness the hatch !
“So what I am suggesting here is a complete approach to our waters where the competitive, lip-ripping edge is left back in the fast lane of societal superficialities and the joyful spirit of camaraderie, sportsmanship, and involvement with nature are the main goals”. Jerry Kustich
I get a sense that my fly-fishing is a more messy affair than it is for the guys I bump into around these parts.
Take Squidlips from Smoketown for example: He drives his blue Nissan up to the Bushmans on an appointed Saturday, and a day later there are a dozen glossy pictures on social media , most of which are of oversized browns. In fact there are few pictures of anything else. Slick.
I, on the other hand went fishing for a day a few week-ends back and did little better than get caught in a storm. In fact I got caught in two storms on the same day, the latter of which convinced me to go home.
On the way home the road was as dry as can be, and I threw up dust all the way back down the valley. On my return I learned that squidlips had had a red-letter day in the adjacent valley. I had managed a 10 inch Rainbow, in total.
And the week-end before my wife and I carried a stile up a river valley and installed it in the hot sunshine beside a low river, amongst the brambles.
On our return we found that the coating on the upright had been wet and our clothes were trashed. I threw that pair of board shorts away after even petrol failed to remove the treacle. It was too hot to fish, and the river was hideously low. On the same day squidlips got a stonker of a fish on a stillwater not more than a few kilometers distant from our expedition.
On a midweek foray up the same valley, I didn’t even take a fly-rod. I just went to look at the condition of the river, and as it turned out, I walked a good five kilometers up the river, and returned the same way, getting home at eight that night.
On another foray to shoot clay pigeons, I did so badly that I very narrowly missed being awarded the “bent barrel” award. Apparently Squidlips is a crack shot.
A few weeks ago, I accompanied two mates onto a stretch of river to do some fishing and filming. The river was low, and it was hot. I spotted two fish, one of which I photographed, and both of which I spooked. After that I spent most of the time walking and checking on the river and taking photos of my pal fishing.
At sometime in between, PD and I stayed over at a cottage right on the shore of a dam, and fished the Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The wind howled, and the water was dirty, and PD landed one fish, while I blanked. We spent a lot of time drinking tea off the camp stove and chatting, out of the wind.
Then on the way to fishing I picked up some coffee beans that just would not produce any crème on my espresso. I tried a finer ground, a harder tamp, and more coffee, all to no avail. All I got was a strong, bitter, over-extracted coffee. I swear I could hear the motor on my grinder straining! Even the camp stove coffee that I made beside my vehicle at the river’s edge, had a thin acidity that made my lips curl. Squidlips buys a generic, ready-made cappucino from the local garage, just before he hits the freeway on the way to fishing. He reckons its perfect every time.
But here’s the thing: I took the time to chat to the guy who sold me the coffee beans. He acknowledged a bad batch of beans and replaced the bag with a smile and no need for a receipt. He knows me from my regular stops there ….I tend to drop in either on the way to catching no fish, or on the way back.
And to add to that, this month, I learned the local name of a mountain above a favourite trout water, which on all the maps, bears no label. And I walked miles up a beautiful remote river valley, re-orientating myself as to where the tributaries come in, and exploring the strength of their flow, and dangling my fingers in each one to see which is colder for future reference.
And at clay-pigeon shooting I re-acquainted with old friends and managed to confirm who owns a particular piece of river frontage. And on the way back from my walk in the hills I spotted a man who I needed to contact about some bramble clearing work, and we spoke at length in the dusk in the countryside. Then this week I made some progress towards raising further funds for some restoration work on tributaries which Squidlips does not know exist (on account of them being too small to hold fish).
Squidlips phoned me midweek to ask about a particular piece of water. I tried to give him directions, but it was impossible, because he knew none of the features of the countryside to which I referred. He travels that valley all the time, but all he knows is the distances and road numbers, while I know the names of the hills, the owners of the farms, and the the mountain names (but no distances or road numbers)
Sometimes I beat myself up about my countryside distractions, that lead to limited fishing, coupled with duffer performance on the rare pure fly-fishing trips that do eventually come to pass. But then I think about the clinical life of Squidlips, and I think that he can have his blue Nissan, and Smoketown and his grip and grin pictures. Gierach once famously referred to his type as “city folk, with no poetry in their souls”.
I vote for messy.
This is the third year that the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) is arranging volunteer days to clean up on the Umgeni river.
The next two such days are 27th Feb (next Saturday) and 12 March.
We are trying to rid the river of alien invasive wattle trees, restore good flows, terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, and yes: good fly-fishing.
Many South African fly-fishermen have probably read about this somewhere, so I won’t bore you with the background and history. If you do need any more info, you can visit this blog. This is just about the here and now and to ask for your help.
The WWF has a parallel program on the river that wraps up in April 2016. In addition to that , many trees on the river banks have been poisoned. If not felled in the next approx 6 months, they will die standing, in which case they “die hard” and chew through chainsaw blades. In addition to this, we have had some good press in the Fly-fishing magazine and elsewhere. This thing is happening NOW.
The time is ripe.
So with all of the above in mind, we are looking to hit the task hard in the first quarter of 2016…….get stuck in while we have some groundswell, and before this project becomes stale, and everyone has had enough of it.
I would really appreciate whatever help we can get in the next 3 months.
What can you do to help?
- Attend a volunteer day, complete with a saw, chainsaw and at least one friend. They are being held on 27 February and 12 March this year. Full details HERE or here
- Buy a hard cover copy of my book. I feel very uneasy shoving anything down anyone’s throat, but hear me out. The proceeds of R350 per book are going to this project. I have the last few books to sell, and this needs to happen to raise the cash in excess of the costs. I would like that to happen sooner rather than later so that we can get going.* In addition, if you buy a book, I have one special couple who will match the money raised! READ MORE ABOUT THESE WONDERFUL PEOPLE HERE. I also hopefully will soon have a second entity who will do the same …so buy a book for R1,295, and as much as R1,050 goes to the project! (the money is to be used to hire contractors with equipment to work alongside us volunteers. Zero wastage on admin)
- Spread the news and enthusiasm for the project for us, on your facebook page, in your newsletter, at dinner parties, or wherever else you can.
* In fact we have thrown caution to the wind and already hired in a contractor for 27th February….I can hear the pleasing roar of chainsaws already!
If you have any contributions, ideas, donations, or would just like to touch base, mail me on trutablog “at” gmail.com. You can mail me on this same address to buy a book too.
Thanking you in advance.
My Friend Neil and I were out the other day roving around between some Trout waters that were not looking all that promising.
Neil asked me to stop, and asked if he could borrow my camera. I had been boasting about just how fantastic these bridging cameras are nowadays.
On optical zoom only, shot from the passenger seat, this is what he got:
On no zoom:
1200mm equivalent, optical zoom only!
And in the photo editor back home, effectively using digital zoom:
And a bit more, just to show where you can go with this thing:
These were taken on auto setting, as J-pegs (not in RAW), and with the camera hand held. (I did switch the motor off for Neil). The images have not been manipulated at all other than the cropping of the lower two.
When I was buying the camera, many of my colleagues tried to point me in the direction of another Canon, (The Powershot G12 or G15) that is more compact, and for which you can buy a waterproof housing. But when I learned that Canon’s SX30 had been upgraded to the SX50, that now shoots in Raw format, and with the zoom extended from 850mm to 1200mm (35mm camera equivalent), as well as a better “frames per second” in continuous shooting mode, I was sold.
Without having to familiarise myself with new controls, the upgrade from the SX30 to the SX50 was a breeze.
One could argue that you don’t need zoom for landscape and fly-fishing situations. Maybe you would be right.
Or maybe not.
But here are some review links for you to make your own choice:
Look at those long legs!
Have you ever had the privilege of watching a secretary bird tackling a poisonous snake?
It is quite something to watch! Enough to cause me to pause a while and watch these things strutting around in the veld, in the hopes of seeing it again.
(From David Bygott, ”Silly Birds” , Zimbabwe)
Clearly I was not the only one to make this association about the leggy secretary!
I still call this one a Stanley bustard, but they tell me it has changed its name.
I wonder if it knows, that it’s is now called a Denham’s Bustard.
It is a really large bird, that struts confidently in the veld. I haven’t often been able to get as close as I did this day.
The shelduck is most distinctive in that the male and female are equally striking, but different, and I always seem to see them together.
They inhabit our still-waters here in KZN, and provide a welcome distraction on slow days.
From a way off I thought this was a steppe buzzard
A closer look revealed a rufus coloured underbelly. An immature Jackal Buzzard I thought at first, but of course that bird has a rufus band across the chest. As an amateur birder I really cant be sure. All I know is that those primary feathers look very familiar. I have two of them stuck in my fishing hat!
Yesterday I saw a book on raptors in the bookshop, and with only a mental picture, I decided that it probably is a Steppe Buzzard. They are fairly common, but their plumage varies a lot.
Someone please help me to identify this one!
A handsome fellow either way!
The black winged plover, or lapwing.
We don’t see these fellows all that often, and I struggled to get a picture of this pair. We were taking a walk on the hillside on a hot spring afternoon, and waiting for the weather to cool off before trying for some Trout at the evening rise on a nearby stillwater.
The birds kept taking off, circling, and landing between us and the sun, and seldom close enough for me to get a clear picture.
Normally when you crest the hill and find a flock of cranes in front of you, they take to the air before you can grab your camera.
This day I was lucky:
A kind and generous friend recently asked me to describe to him in words, the sound of a crowned crane. I suppose it was because I had recently done a short piece on cranes. Perhaps it was because he hasn’t heard a crane before, but on reflection, I think it had more to do with him setting me a writer’s challenge:
The sound of a crane comes on the wind. A wind that whisks through swaying grass, and moans off against the far hill, like air over an open bottle. A wind that briefly rattles the thousand paper leaves of an autumnal London plane, and huskily departs in waves. And then suddenly, and cutting through the wind’s hissing, in far off pines, comes an ever so slightly mournful sound. Guttural and powerful in an understated way, that surprisingly carries the soft tune above and through the swaying, hushing breeze. A tempered rattling and ribbing sound, accompanied by a soulful background whistle, as liquidly tranquil as the voice of a beautiful backing singer, whose silky tones I once fell in love with. “Mahem”. That is the word one can hum to one’s self through the haunting call. A short “Ma” and a slightly rising “Hem”. Each ending call overlapped by the call of the mate, steadily beating her lovely wings beside her partner as the graceful birds first come into sight over the hill. Fighting the wind, but with a style and grace that matches the music of their ever approaching call. They descend, and alight with neatly folding wings, as they also fold away their final pretty call, and settle on the tapestry of gently rolling veld.
That’s my best shot at it !
I am not quite as obsessed with cranes as a fishing buddy of mine is. His ringtone on his mobile is a honking crane, and often when we are fishing quietly side by side, in response to a small passing speck in the sky, he will blurt out “wattled!”, referring to his identification of the species.
But they are the most stunningly graceful birds, I will admit. Their presence on our waters is a rich blessing for reasons I struggle to describe. Perhaps it is their size, perhaps it is their muted calls, perhaps it is the rarity of them, or their sensitivity to a fast degrading environment. Either way, they are a treasure, and beautiful to behold.
We get three species in these parts:
The Blue Crane
A hand carving of the Blue Crane, completed by my father (DP Fowler) just a few weeks ago.