It was a very disappointed thief who broke down my patio door in the middle of the night with an axe, in search of a flat screen TV.
All he got was an angry Great Dane and a sea of books. I only wish we had managed to give him some fast flying lead too….the bastard!
But let me put the angry thoughts of retribution aside for a moment and focus on his disappointment, and my delight: Books.
I hadn’t realised it, but books, and more specifically flyfishing books, have been in my blood for a long time. I remembered this favourite from my school days:
And I remembered my delight at being mentioned in one of Tom Sutcliffe’s newspaper articles, when I was just a schoolboy, that later became part of his first book: “My way with a Trout”.
I remember taking fly-fishing books out of the school library …the same titles, repeatedly: “Where the bright waters meet”, by Harry Plunkett-Green, and titles by Skues and Sawyer.
And looking at my own collection now, I realise that it has swelled somewhat over the years.
And I think how I relish the titles by Middleton and Duncan, and Grzelewski and Rosenbauer and Engle, and Gierach, and French, and Traver, and Leeson, and where do I stop……. I have read them all, many several times.
“Where do you get the time!” proclaimed a friend the other day. He wasn’t expecting an answer, but I gave him one anyway: “I don’t own a TV” I said. And I realise now that while the man in the dark of night who threatened to shoot our dog spoke impeccable English, it can’t have been Graeme, because he knows I don’t own a flatscreen. (One step closer to catching the thief, you might say.)
My wife and I were out to breakfast one day, and I had parked the car out front of the restaurant. I was about to lock the car when Petro pointed out that I had left something of value in full view. I re-opened the door and hid whatever it was under the floor mat. Then she opened her door and together we hid a few more items….you know, used handkerchiefs, toothpicks, that sort of thing. The sort of thing that people break car windows for. Then our eyes moved simultaneously to the back seat where I had a stack of secondhand fly-fishing books that I had just collected from the post office. We looked at them and then at one another and fell into laughter.
Later over coffee we discussed which country we might emigrate to, if ever we did that, and we decided that we would choose a country where one’s fly-fishing books were at risk of being stolen.
Being one who mulls a lot (someone once labeled me a DTN*), I have been dabbling with the concept of night fishing. Mental dabbling that is. And I am talking here of night fishing in rivers ….not stillwaters.
I have done a bit of night fishing on stillwaters.
But I confess, I have never truly night fished a stream.
My angling background is thick with images of people holding up fish in an inky blackness, or stories of Browns coming out in the dark, and of talk of fishing at night when it cools off. I remember the cover of Joe Humphries “Trout Tactics” with just such an image.
Then just this week, I saw these images of my friend Brett Coombes in Australia:
Somehow though, my buddies and I just haven’t joined the dots. I don’t know why. Maybe us South Africans associate night time with murder and evil. That would be silly…all that stuff happens here in broad daylight! Maybe we are just scared of the dark. Or maybe it is because we lack great big rivers with even gravel streambeds, which one can shuffle into without the benefit of sight. Our streams are small and tumbling, and back-casts could be difficult if performed by sound alone, not to mention finding footholds, or even getting down into the canyon in one piece.
For now, I am writing those off as weak excuses though. It’s time we did this thing. American media has been extolling the virtues of big streamers for monster browns at night for a long time, and somehow we have been ignoring it. We have long been reading about how big browns travel long distances at night on the hunt for food. We even have fly-tyers tying up big mouse imitations. I don’t know about you but stereotype images of a big mouse making a wake and being swallowed in the blackness of night, come quickly to mind. And maybe this thing is not as stereotyped as muslims with wires sticking out of their clothing and cheese in mousetraps, but for now I am going to treat it as the gospel truth until I have proved otherwise. Hell, I am a man of faith!
I put cheese in a mousetrap myself the other day. Graeme said I had been watching too many Tom & Jerry movies. Well this time I have been reading too many romatisized “Big Browns at night” stories, and I am going to put some cheese on that metaphoric mousetrap and go try the Mooi at the bewitching hour. PD says he just needs to check that his medical aid and his life insurance are up to date, and he is IN!
The upper Mooi….a perfect spot for a stroll on a moonless night, wouldn’t you say?
* DTN apparently stands for “Deep Thinking Nigger”. Some of my friends actually call me that. Like my comment on Muslims and wires, this is used parochially and descriptively here with no racial or religious bias whatsoever. I might however, not make such innocent utterances when I am fumbling about stubbing my toes and getting washed downstream on a piece of water like that above, on a moonless night.
That got their attention!
This article is not about ten ways to catch more trout. It is an article about how numbers get our attention.
Us flyfishermen are chilled. We are cool. We have been fishing for years. We don’t care how many we catch anymore. We are above that. Competition is so yesterday. We are far more noble than that. “So how big did you say that fish was….45cms?” and “let me see, what is that in inches”. “By the way what was the water temp?” ……….So you see, numbers DO matter. I knew it!
No matter how blasé we are, or how loosely we wear our buff, or how full the hip flask is, we measure things, and we record things. And we are just a little bit obsessed with it too. “How many kms did you guys go up the river?”. “Was it a cock fish or a hen fish?”; “So what size was that Caddis pattern, an 18?”
Do you see what I mean? We measure everything! I guess it is part of what I have heard called “The human condition”. You cannot escape it. How many days was the fishing trip? How many hours did it take to drive there?. How long is that fly rod? People want to know. It is important. Apparently. It must be. My most viewed blog post is one entitled “8 things to consider about sun gloves”. How random is that! I wonder if this one, with the number ten in it, will get 20% more views…..there I go again…measuring.
So, if we accept that we can’t escape measuring and recording, and that we are predisposed to it, to some degree at least, we had might as well decide on a few things to measure to satisfy that apparent craving. Then we can ditch the rest. So what will it be? What is important for a flyfisherman to measure?
Someone recently suggested that my top statistic is Kms walked per trout caught, and that a low number won’t do. I had to think about that. In some perverse way, I think they may be right. Its never good enough to park the car, jump out and catch a fish within sight of the sign or the road or the car. That is just not cricket. You must work for your fish!. Well, I don’t know about you but I must anyway.
Then there are inches and pounds. I have absolutely no idea how big a 45cm fish is, or a 1 Kg fish. Nada. Nothing. Blank. No idea. Sugar in kilograms. Irrigation pipes in centrimetres. Fish in pounds and inches. That is just how it is for me. If you tell me you got a “74” I will assume it to be a species of sea fish. If it is a “56”, I can only assume it is a close relative. I have no idea whether it would fit in your hand, your fridge, or your house.
I can picture a river Brown, and if it is over twelve inches, that means something to me, and it is important.
There you go. I said it. My buff just tightened around my neck. Not cool, but true. I need to know how big the fish was.
Then comes temperature. This is absolutely critical, for no reason whatsoever.
As a kid I read Joe Humphries on “fishing by degrees” in his book “Trout Tactics”. Temperature was clearly critical. I can’t remember why, (beyond the obvious one of a cool side-stream or spring in summer) but the chapter must have made an impression, because since 1981 every fishing day’s water temperature is measured and recorded. Air temperature too.
And fly size; plus weight of outfit used; leader X; sex of fish; kept or returned; Rainbow or Brown; hours fished; wind speed and direction; cloud cover; time fish caught; species hatching; flies used.
OK, I admit it: I am a goner. A head-case. I can’t help myself. I am chilled. I am cool. I am not competitive, I assure you. That buff is loose around my neck. But I must measure. It is an affliction!
I think you have it too. (even if you won’t admit to it)