Isn’t it funny how, when you are searching for one thing, you find another. We went in search of backpacks stolen from foreign hikers in the mountains and found other things.
I had gone looking for trout, and found cold driving rain at Highmoor. From there we infiltrated the next valley, where vagabonds and miscreants, might descend from the hills and make their getaway with their loot, and we found:
A trout stream.
OK, so we knew the Trout stream was there, but I hadn’t been there in a little while, and I wanted to show it to Anton. In the Trout stream, Anton found some weird bugs that looked like a cross between miniature crabs and aquatic ant lions, but they escaped in short bursts, and when I asked him if he would be able to identify them in a book back home, he said he thought not. I suspect a water bug or water cricket.
But Gaffney identified me when we met her on the way out. She and I had met before, while waiting for the King to arrive. (For four hours in the hot sun…I remember the sunburn). Gaffney was delivering an officer who had returned from leave, back to his mountain outpost in the Ncibidwana valley. An outpost which lay directly in the path of any vagabonds or miscreants who might make a quick getaway from Highmoor with their loot. We discussed the stream with her, and plans to conserve it. The water had been warm, but the flow was good, and we had seen promising ripples tight against the bank in the first pool we came to. The clarity was good, and Anton and I agreed it looked suitably Trouty. Gaffney brimmed with pride at our appreciation of her Trout Stream. It turns out that Gaffney is a champion of wattle eradication, has achieved great things on the Little Mooi, and is likely a perfect ally for efforts to maintain the Ncibidwana.
Just before saying our goodbyes, Gaffney asked if we had seen Pienkie. Hell no. Pienkie….custodian of great Trout fishing at Highmoor has been missing for ages. We had not found Pienkie. There was some confusion, but it emerged that Pienkie was now stationed at the self same outpost up the Ncibidwane valley! To hell with Nemo….we had found Pienkie. (We did wonder what deed or crime might have lead to her banishment though…..)
We failed to find two of our fishing club beat markers elsewhere in the valley. They were simply…..gone. Like backpacks.
Of those that remained however, we found one with bullet holes in it. Now, I don’t know why, but somehow this discovery filled me with joy and pride. The fact that our signs had garnered sufficient merit to become the targets of wild vagabonds and miscreants with rifles, somehow triggered in me a sense of satisfaction and happiness. I can’t really say why. We inspected the holes, and held a discussion about what calibre may have been used, and how poor the aim of the shottist was.
While the level of the Bushmans River was fair, and vastly improved from a few weeks ago, the temperature was too high, and there was nothing to celebrate there. But we stopped at the Vulindlela Tavern anyway, to celebrate…..the bullet holes….or something. There I received a bear hug from one of the patrons, and two ice cold Zamalecs from the bar lady, who acted without surprise, suggesting that she serves storm-drenched flyfishers all the time.
We drove back, drying steadily as Anton’s bakkie seats slowly wicked away all the rainwater from our backsides. The conversation was good too.
I had gone looking for Trout, but instead I received a dousing, experienced good company, explored a good Trout stream, and found joy and pride in some bullet holes. We also found cold Zammalecs.
And we found Pienkie!
To hell with Nemo! We will catch him when the weather cools.
“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”
My hiking buddy said I would burn my eyebrows off with this thing.
I bought it anyway.
Turns out he wasn’t far off the mark. There was this little incident last year, you see. But enough about that.
It’s a fantastic little thing, and it requires finess and skill to make it really hum. Not like one of those little gas cannister things that you just switch on and light. You would have to read Pirsig to understand.
This photo was taken in that little sheltered spot under the Nchi shi bushes at Highmoor. It is the perfect spot to shelter from the wind, and brew up a good filter coffee, especially after several hours out there in the elements. On the day I took this picture, I didn’t land a fish in 9 hours of fishing. It was wonderful.
The quote, in the vein of things Zen-like, is tucked away in Ed Engle’s 2010 [largely technical] book “Trout Lessons”, in a delightful and informative chapter on Meadow Streams:
“I keep everything simple on purpose because what I enjoy the most is covering the water and reaching that wonderful meditative state that comes with walking, casting, and occasionally catching.
The mornings have been cold. Lake fringes, boats and tackle have been laced with ice. The sun has been golden, sweet and welcome. The water has been sparkling, clear, and shimmering blue in contrast to the dusty veld. The Trout have been willing at times. We have had small strong silver fish, and larger Rainbows, flushed in deep colours. We have warded off the chilly breezes with jackets and gloves and “buffs”. Hot coffee has been essential.
The sunsets have come quickly.
The fishing club that I belong to has a very efficient web based booking system. It is all very slick. You log on with a password, tick little boxes, and when you are done it sends you an automated e-mail. Very functional.
But back in the day, we had to deal with people!
One club had a truly dear lady, whom one phoned at set times in the evening. She chatted away, and got to know each of the regular club members, at least in an “over the phone” kind of way. As a high school kid, my car owning friend obliged and the two of us fished every single day of the holidays, booking the next day’s water in the evening , just after getting in off the water. Each day as he dropped me off at the farm house we had a ritual in which we had to decide who was going to call her. “ you call her” “No, I called yesterday, you call her” and so it would go.
We referred to her by the most dreadful name you could possibly give a lady, but never to her face of course, and our appalling label was hardly befitting of such a gracious and friendly soul. I guess it was a macho schoolboy thing, fortunately conducted harmlessly between the two of us, but mention of it here brings the memories flooding back.
Another club up the road had a booking office that you called at. I remember holiday season up there. We would stop by in the morning, eager to locate the best beat, find out what had fished well the day before, and generally fuel up on fishing lore.
But the old fox in the booking office, albeit being friendly enough, had a sour disposition. We would scan the blackboard behind him, running our eyes down the list of farm names. Each one we paused at and enquired about would bring on remarks of “full of bass that one”, or “you will get stuck on that road for sure”, or “choked with weed”. So it would go, until inevitably there were none left from the list, and we would return to the water where we had blanked the day before. Our enthusiasm and eagerness in tact only because we were fifteen years old.
Thinking back on it, it was not unlike that classic John Cleese skit, in which he calls on the cheese shop, and tries unsuccessfully to buy just about every cheese known to man.
Then there was the time that I phoned ahead to book camping and fishing at Highmoor. Of course the phone line is strung feebly up a mountain pass, and there is a lot that goes on between town and Highmoor along that line, so it was crackly.
When we arrived at that tiny office, fully loaded with gear, my wife and I were alarmed to hear that it was fully booked, and that there was no place for us. I politely asked to see the booking register, where I discovered that my name (Andrew Fowler) had been morphed in a label that I am still referred to at times, “Hundry Sowler”. I politely corrected the good booking man, and turned to speak to my wife, but she was gone: she was outside in the garden sobbing with laughter!
You had to be there.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to join a Kombi load of fly-fishermen, and travel down to the unlikely destination of Somerset East in the Cape to get some trout.
On that trip, Maurice Broughton and I were assigned a beat on the tiny Naude’s river, and with our guide, we had an enjoyable morning hunting trout in the better pools.
At lunchtime we found a lovely willow tree growing in a patch of lush grass beside a pool in the stream.
We settled down to some sandwiches, and if memory serves, a chilled bottle of wine!
While we were sitting there, enjoying the tranquil setting, a small trout began rising at the head of the pool. He rose a few times, right up in the funnel. Right up where the water cascaded over some stone into the pool.
He only rose a few times and then stopped. Maurice and I began to postulate as to what he might be taking. We decided it was a terrestrial of some sort, because nothing was hatching, but a light breeze buffeted the veld grass beside the water.
It was then that we decided to have some fun.