I recently came to the realisation that I have something of a penchant for fishing waters other than the "blue ribbon" ones. That is to say that I end up exploring lesser known waters or waters that are passed over by others as being second class.
I can’t quite work out why I do that. Maybe on some level I dream of re-discovering a long forgotten gem. Or maybe it is because these streams are less likely to be occupied by other fishermen. While we seldom encounter other fishermen on the river here, there is something to be said for the river bank without paths or well trampled grass. Perhaps it has something to do with my secret belief that one day I will catch a lunker from under everyone’s noses.
Or perhaps I am naturally a supporter of the underdog. The poor cousin of the great Trout stream. The waters that are forgotten by everyone else.
What I do know is that this inclination of mine sees me hiking more, and catching fewer fish. I do fish the good waters, make no mistake, but just as often I will be crawling through the undergrowth trying to find the water, while many others have their fly in a perfect drag free drift on a premium stretch of the Mooi or Bushmans.
Many of these visits, maybe you could say most of them, end in at least some disappointment. Yes, I will clock up some more exploring miles. Put little red squiggles on my GPS map, see some wildlife, or spot a new bird. But when I return fishless, albeit a little wiser, with blackjacks stuck to my clothes, I will think "maybe I should have stuck with my favourite stretch of the Mooi". And yet a few weeks later you will find me out there crawling through the undergrowth, or fishing water that may (or may not) contain Trout.
Just last week I dragged two fishing buddies on a hike that well exceeded ten kilometers. A week earlier some guys had been catching eighteen inch Browns on the main river. Logic said we should have been there, but instead we were on a virtually unheard of tributary. We had explored the lower reaches but, inspired by deceptively attractive Google Earth images, I lured my mates ever higher into the hills. Near to our furthest point I hooked and landed an unidentified minnow of microscopic proportions. It was the only piscatorial event of the day.
"This is a long way to come to catch a mudfish!" commented PD.
Hours later, having hiked back to within site of the pickup, he spotted a Brown that he reckoned would have gone two pounds. Thank heavens he didn’t catch it. I would never have heard the end of that.
Something I like to do from time to time, is to go and find a “new” piece of water, to give it a look over, and to “plan the attack”, so to speak. These expeditions steal precious fishing time, so they are best undertaken on those hot blustery days when, if you were out there with a fly rod, you would be sleeping under a tree anyway.
Stillwaters seldom need this kind of work….they are by their very nature, easy things to look over. You can arrive at a stillwater with your tackle and a packed lunch, and get right to it. Small streams on the other hand, are an entirely different matter. Maybe there is something to be read into that: Streams meander along hidden valleys, sometimes inaccessible by road, or choked in thick bush. You can get a pretty good idea of a stillwater on google earth, but a stream is not so easily summed up. You have have no choice but to walk in and go and see for yourself.
Five years ago, I was given a wonderful gift. It was a Garmin e-trex vista HCX GPS. A nifty little handheld, waterproof “hiking type” unit, that slips into your jacket pocket.
At the time, I was pleased to receive it, and was sure it would come in use out there in the veld somehow. But I had no idea how much I was to end up enjoying it.
I suppose this has something to do with the fact that us humans are great measurers of things.
And many of us outdoor types all the more so. Perhaps I speak for myself here, but it seems we do a great deal of recording of measures. Water temperatures, fish lengths, weights and condition factors, wind directions, fly size, barometric pressure, moon phase, number of fish caught, number of takes, number of rises. I could go on.
And maps…we love maps.