Waters & words

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The culture of repair meets the culture of sales

Me:  Hello Shiraz!

Shiraz:  Bob.

Me (puzzled): Shiraz….?

Shiraz:  Bob.

Me (incredulous):  You can’t be called Bob…you are wearing a taqiyah…Bob’s don’t wear those! You don’t get Muslims called Bob!

Shiraz:  No…you Bob.

Me:…Ah!…No, I’m Andrew.

Shiraz:  Oh!  Hello Andrew..how are you?

Me: Hello Shiraz!

I was in Shiraz’s shop arranging a repair to my twenty nine year old fishing kit bag. Actually it’s a South African army  “balsak”…that’s how I know how old it is…it was a special gift from Magnus Malan. All I had to do was give him two years of my life. “Ja…you guys went off leaving your mothers crying at the train station” said Shiraz. It was his way of putting a stop to any macho army stories, just  in case I had had any of those in mind.

In the end Shiraz re-built the bag for me in a fabric that more befits the new South African flag. He said he also had some landing net bags that someone commissioned him to make, and then never came back for.  I said I would take one home and see if I could use it.

I like to do business with Shiraz…he has made some great, personalised  canvas goods for me.

I could use it:long handled net-4

I had an old net frame. It was a net I found beside a dam, and in the days before Facebook I was at a loss to try and find its owner, so I did what I had to do, and took ownership myself. Someone had to do it. Like some of us had to do national service.

I used it a few times, but it was one of those collapsible things that….well….they collapse. It also had a scratchy knotted nylon bag.  Later I removed the frame from the collapsible handle and the bits lay around in my garage.

Then last year I was about to throw out an old aluminium and plastic canoe paddle, and I fell upon an idea:

long handled net-3

I think of it as a boat net, and I might just use it as that. It now has a good soft catch and release bag, a handle that doesn’t collapse, and an original old country feel to it. I might even take it along the Umgeni in April, when the bankside vegetation is high and getting to the waters edge on those steep banks to net a Brown can be tricky. Carrying it will be a lark.

I was back in Shiraz’s shop a  few days later to collect my new “balsak”.

“What price we say?” he posed, followed by “You paying cash?”.

“Yes..I thought we said 550” I said “and there is the net bag too”

He scribbled on a piece of paper and said “800”.

Ah, yes…the net bag.   I forked out the notes.

I like Shiraz. He likes my money. I like the quality of his work.  I like my “new” net, and my de-politicised balsak. I think of it as more than a business transaction. It is a cultural exchange.

Coffee and quotes

tamper

“……..in the old days anyone with a bucket or a milk can could get a load of fingerling trout and put then wherever he wanted to, and that the first plantings done by the Division of Wildlife itself weren’t much more scientific than that. The result on the one hand was that a lot of already depleted native cutthroat fisheries were destroyed altogether by the introduction of brown, rainbow and brook trout. On the other hand, some thriving fisheries were established where before there had been no fish at all. You can apply revisionist criticism to all that if you want to – asking, Why didn’t those dumb schmucks a hundred years ago know what we know now? – but the fact is, it was mostly done with a good heart and, in some cases, the kind of monumental effort you only see from people convinced they’re doing Good Work.”

 

John Gierach writing in the book “In Praise of Wild Trout” , edited by Nick Lyons 1998.

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”

Coffee & quotes

coffee maker-1

Thanks to my friends Anton and Allison for this oh so posh coffee drip filter thing which they gave me for my fiftieth. Very suave! I become philosophical when I drink coffee made in it.

 

And the quote:

“Fly Fishing, or any other sport fishing, is an end in itself and not a game or competition among fishermen; The great figures in the historic tradition of angling are not those men who caught the greatest numbers of fish or the biggest fish but those who, like Ronalds and Francis and Halford and Skues and Gordon and Wulff and Schwiebert, made lasting contributions of thought and knowledge, of fly patterns and philosophy, of good writing and good sportsmanship”

And that comes from what is arguably my favourite fishing book of all time , written by this man, famous member of the Midtown Turf, Yachting and Polo Association:

MTYPA-1

 

Serendipitous connections

Back in August of 2016 I wrote this piece about a certain Capt HA Cartwright, his old fishing tackle which I happened to be keeping, and what I had discovered about the man on the internet.

My fascination with the story didn’t end there, and in the winter of 2017, I read the story of Fritz Kolbe…”Betraying Hitler”. I read with intense interest the snippets in there in which the meeting between Kocherthaler and Cartwright in Berne was mentioned.  I had no sooner turned the last page of that fascinating story when I received an e-mail, out of the blue, from none other than Carthwright’s family!

Since then some delightful and heartwarming correspondence with various family members has ensued, in which I discovered that one of them went to school with my brother. It is hoped that the Cartwright box (containing the fishing tackle of the late HA Cartwright) will soon be winging its way back to England to be re-united with the family.

In the meantime I was sent this picture of HA Cartwright, with the very same fishing tackle box!

HA Cartwright

The date and location of the photo are unknown, but what I have learned along the way is that Cartwright came to South Africa to retire at George in the Cape, and that is how the tackle box, and his family, made their way to here.  The box was handed in to our local fishing club from the deceased estate of one of Cartwright’s children, and when I became chairman of that club, it fell upon me to look after its various collectables, which included this box.

It has been a pleasure to be part of this feel-good and serendipitous story in which the conclusion sees a family re-united with a keepsake of a fly fishing grandfather whose story was so rich and intriguing.

To Stephen and David: It has been my pleasure!

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

Conservation and dusty old books

Arnold Gingrich, in his book “The Joys of Trout”, said”

“Today, if we hope to angle long, it’s much more important that the angler be concerned than that he be well equipped, or well versed, or well skilled. For what matters all the tackle and techniques that we can get our hands on, or all our history and theory and lore that we can cram our heads with, if the fish are no longer there that are, after all, the object of the game?”

Joys of Trout-1

 

He wrote that in the mid seventies, and in the same section of his book, he records for posterity, the history surrounding the birth of the Theodore Gordon Fly-fishers, and its knock-on, the Federation of Flyfishers. He also lists the early stream restoration projects conducted by that organisation around the year 1964; as well as enlightening the reader on a seemingly petty scuff that resulted in the FFF and Trout Unlimited developing in separate camps.

Gingrich, it seems, was saddened by the way things developed in two silos, and expresses a wish that the two organisations might come together for the common good. He writes about “hanging together”.

History has always been important in the sense that it serves either to predict an outcome in current times, or to steer communities away from repeating an undesired chain of events. But in a world where we all seem to read less, and remember less , I get a sense that we fall into the same holes that our forebears did.

I for one, like my dusty old books, and the lessons that lie within them

Here in South Africa, we have an ostensibly environmentally concerned, but very small flyfishing community. That community fails to adequately support a national Federation (FOSAF), which as a result is limited in its breadth of activities. Coupled with that FOSAF has been forced by circumstances to dedicate nearly all its resources to the fight on Trout. It also has a dearth of younger people coming forward to volunteer their time.  Then, to complete the scene, there are a few, (as far as I am aware very few), projects that seek to clear litter from rivers, monitor polluters and the like. And all this while there is insidious and seemingly perpetual pressure being placed on the wellbeing of our trout streams, and of course the environment as a whole. And to top it off, us flyfishers spend infinitely more on fly tackle than we do on conservation of our waters.

It seems that we as flyfishers could benefit from :”hanging together” a whole lot more.

101 years later

1916

Mooi River

 

2017

untitled-18-Pano

The top photo is taken from the book ”Trout fishing in South Africa” issued by the South African Railways in 1916. It is of the Mooi River near the Trout Bungalow, with the Kamberg mountain and the Pimple in the background.   A careful inspection suggests that the photo was manipulated. Take a look at the “Trout Bungalow” at the left. In the picture it faces the photographer. In reality it faces almost directly away from the photographer. Furthermore, the structure to the right of the building is the small garden gate that stands to this day, but in this picture its size suggests it could span the width of the river.  Despite this glaring “photoshopping” that would no doubt have been done with a razor blade and glue, the panorama is significant in that it shows the wonderful expanse of undisturbed grassland. The only trees being those directly below “the pimple”, the site of the homestead on Hemyock farm. 

The picture below was taken in late December 2017 ( just a few days ago).  The fact that the trees are so high, caused me to take the photo from higher up the hill than the 1916 photographer did. It has to be said that the proliferation of trees is the single biggest difference between the two pictures. In fact, were it not for the tireless efforts of the farmer who owns the hillside, the picture would have been impossible, as just a few years ago the vantage point was in a thick stand of wattles.

I would have loved to have been around back in 1916, and fishing this river flowing through such lovely virgin grassland! It all remains beautiful countryside though.

Coffee & Quotes

This is good stuff.  Pricey, but out of the top drawer!

For day to day stuff I am currently grinding “Zephyr” beans bought loose at Steampunk. That is a seriously good deal at R200/Kg.

Ground Coffee House

For day to day stuff I am currently grinding “Zephyr” beans bought loose at Steampunk. That is a seriously good deal at R200/Kg.

Negley Farson

A quote, that while I am only on the fringe of the conversation, I think will interest our flyfishing friends in the States who are deeply concerned over the public lands debate, and associated conservation issues:

“I write this here, in this section about the states, because  Roosevelt’s wise administration is bringing back the ducks to the states…….

……., trout and salmon are also being rigorously protected and propagated. Reforestation will return their waters to them. And in the great national and local effort, the democratic ideal of free fishing and shooting for all who love it is fast gaining headway. If this succeeds, with our new sense of values, the United States may once again become the sportsman’s paradise. It is just possible”

From pg 28,  “Going fishing” by Negley Farson, 1942

Umlungu in search of Lungu

I found Mr Mbata sitting on a rock beside the road between KwaDlamini and Ndaba. He was wearing a loose coat, and baggy trousers tied at the waist with a piece of rope, in a way that accentuated his skinny frame. His face was wrinkled in the extreme and he was greying in the way that prompted me to greet him respectfully as “Kehla”, with both hands raised, as is the custom.  His return greeting revealed a mouth crowded with outsized yellow teeth that appeared to have collided chaotically during a failed attempt to escape his maw.  His discarded “gwaai” of Boxer tobacco rolled in newspaper, lay smoldering at his feet, giving off an aroma that took me back to my childhood days in the potato fields.  Ironically, through the open gate in front of us, lay a field of potatoes. After our greeting I remarked on how good they looked, and asked if they were his. “No” he said. They belonged to the man for whom he was currently working.  It hadn’t been clear to me that Mr Mbata was working. It turns out that his job was to prevent any goats or cattle entering the field through the open gate beside us. The gate (in perfect working order) lay open on account of the fact that two women, working way off in the distance, had entered that way to sow seeds in a ploughed section of the same field.

After asking after Mr Mbata’s well being, I remarked on the river that flowed silently by, just over the road from us, and on the tributary that entered the main flow a few hundred yards downstream. Mr Mbata, it turned out, knew a lot about both stretches of water.  He confirmed that the name of the tributary was indeed the Mtshezana. Then he proceeded to correct me in the name of the main river, with its Zulu name, The Mtsheza. He explained the nomenclature of the suffix “ana” indicating the child of the main river, being the smaller one that joined it. All this was with hand signals and a deeply furrowed brow, which aided my painfully slow and unreliable understanding of his Zulu.    The Mtshezana was often dirty, due to the ploughing that took place in the valley below Ntabamhlope  from which this stream, and its own tributary, the Nkombane, flowed. The Mtsheza itself is often dirty in summer too, and we quickly arrived at an understanding that we both knew this already.

Mtshezana-3

The Mtsheza

I enquired about the fish in both bodies of water.  My Zulu it seems was adequate.  Mr Mbata described the fish with scales. Then he described the fish with spots. I said I knew those, and liked them. Sensing my enthusiasm, he taught me his name for them. “Lungu”  he said they were called.  I asked him if there were “Lungu”  in the Mtshezana, and he replied in an “of course there are!” manner, suggesting that perhaps he shared my enthusiasm for Lungu.

Mtshezana-5

The Mtshezana

Rockmount (13 of 37)

a “Lungu” from the Mtsheza below KwaDlamini

Suddenly Mbata leapt to his feet, catching me by surprise.  He set his feet apart for greater stability, and then lurched forward apparently defying the fact that all the blood must have drained from above his shoulders. He swaggered into the road, while I looked on, somewhat taken aback. Then he bent over with great effort, picked up a piece of clay, and lobbed it at the goats in front of us in the road. Of course…I had clean forgotten that unlike me, Mr Mbata was at work!  The goats bleated and retreated, leaving us to our important river discussions.

The fishing was good in the river, reported Mbata as he sat back down on his roadside rock, but not now. The water was too clean, and the Lungu would be able to see me. I should wait for the rains up in the mountains, and then I could attach a worm, or if I liked, a piece of meat, to a hook and throw it into the current. Then I would catch Lungu for sure. “Big ones?” I asked.  “Big ones and small ones” he replied holding his gnarled hands apart and moving them backwards and forwards across a range that I expected. Clearly Mr Mbata was telling the truth, and was not prone to exaggerated fisherman stories.  I liked this man.

We chatted a while about this and that. The weather. The planting date for various crops.  When our conversation faltered and a silence fell, I started to bade him farewell.  He quickly reached under his loose coat, and produced with pride a Nokia 3310, and asked me to enter my phone number, so that we could converse again and enjoy the long term fruits of our friendship and mutual interests. I obliged, squinting at the badly scratched screen in the bright sun in an attempt to check that I had entered my “isibongu” correctly. Then we called one another on our respective devices to test the numbers, and his old face shone in delight as our phones lit up in turn. The miracle of technology!

I bade him a final farewell, photographed the river, and drove off up the hill, deep in thought as I tried to recall all he had said, and see if I could use my closure skills to eke any more information out of his unabated string of Zulu.   

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