Waters & words

Posts tagged “Natal Fly-fishers Club

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Photo of the moment (73)

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Great Things

I have had the privilege and the satisfaction over the last three years or so, to work alongside some seriously committed fly-fishing conservationists on the Umgeni River:

  • Roy (whose doctor told him to get some youngsters to haul logs instead of suffering another hernia)
  • Anton (who had an adverse reaction to bramble spray, but carried on anyway)
  • Penny, who isn’t scared to get dirty
  • Lucky and Zuma….two of the hardest working guys you will find
  • Bob…who is just always there and quietly gets on with it
  • Russell….who has committed diesel and machines for many, many hours and tidied up after we left.

etc, etc….I cannot name them all!

What these guys have achieved is commendable and fantastic.  They have cleared kilometers of river. Stuff that was horrible to access. The landscape on this stretch of the Umgeni is completely transformed. You come over the hill and it is not recognisable.  Take a look at the #BRU site for the full story.

Invitation

 

Umgeni River (16 of 17)

This is about a 7km walk. It is a stroll really….nothing strenuous. Bring your family, bring the older kids, bring a fly rod, bring a water bottle, bring a camera. Umgeni River (2 of 17)

Come and see the fish eagle’s nest; learn some history about the valley; climb over the fence stiles; learn the names of the hills and farms; get some exercise; and take home the booklet I am busy producing all about the Umgeni as a trout fishery.    I will show you the honey holes, and show you how I fish them.

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Someone will collect us at the end and bring us back to our cars.

Fishermen, if you are from out of the province and are here to attend the main evening event (mentioned below),  and you want to be off somewhere sampling the stillwater fishing:  here is something for your wife and kids to do instead of shopping in a mall.

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We will be back at Il Postino in time for a superb lunchtime Pizza.

..….and if you are also attending the dinner that night……..

You  can go home, have a snooze, get changed into your smart clothes, and come and attend this auspicious and prestigious event, that will raise the money to start #BRU2, and continue the work you will have witnessed in the morning.

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Link for bookings and full details.


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Photo of the moment (72)

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A Gilboa gallimaufry

Gilboa Estates, named after mount Gilboa is a beautiful place.

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The mountain itself is the highest point on the Karkloof range of hills. Although less striking than Inhlosane mountain, the Karkloof is an iconic skyline, and is visible from far across the midlands of KZN.

What makes this range unusual is that it protrudes out from the main Mount West/Greytown ridge as a high narrow spur, in an easterly direction. This gives it some unique characteristics. Firstly, it gives it a cool southern side, that is ideal for natural forest to form. So unlike the main ridge to the North (which runs out from Mooi River/Mount West to Greytown in a more North easterly direction), it boasts significant natural forests on its slopes. For those not familiar with this bioclimatic region: that is an anomoly in a landscape which would otherwise be covered in an endless sea of natural grasslands. In its verdant state, as described in the book “Stories from the Karkloof hills” , it must have been on a par with the steppes of Mongolia.

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This anomoly is not immediately apparent, because much of our landscape is now dotted with commercial timber plantations, and the Karkloof area in particular is considered timber farming land.

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In fact much of that timber is planted right up to the margins of the bush, and to the uninitiated it may all appear a homogenous dark green mass.

I often find myself correcting people when they speak of the commercial timber and refer to it as a forest. It is not a forest. It is a plantation. A dead thing in which nothing else lives. The forest on the other hand is a delight. A mass of species: ferns, Cape Chestnuts, Lemonwoods, Yellowwoods, stinkwoods,……… you name it. It is home to leopard and Duiker and monkeys, and a vast number of bird species.

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From the ridge that runs west of the summit of Mt Gilboa, you can stroll along the top edge of the forest, and listen to the sounds of birdsong drifting up to you, in a manner not dissimilar to the mist that tends to drift up over that escarpment.

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The cool mist can catch you by surprise, even on a warm day. At around 1700m altitude the ridge is fairly high, but more importantly it is a good 400m higher than the road, visible about 2 km away to the South.

So this ridge catches the wind, which often rises and condenses, and thus it receives a rainfall as high as 1400mm per annum, further supporting the cool lush forests. It snows on top too. Not often, but it does snow. After a winter front the locals will speak of the severity of a snowstorm in progressive terms, from “High berg only”, to “Little berg as well” and on to “It snowed on Inhlosane”, followed by “It Snowed on the Karkloof!”, indicating a real “hum- dinger”.

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All that water and cool air augers well for Trout! Trout are to be found, but the ridge is a narrow one, and so they hang precariously to these slopes.

On the Northern side, where the slope is more gentle, the landscape is an open grassland like that I described earlier. Most of it is in prime condition.

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It also sports some of the most pretty wild flowers imaginable.

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There are one or two lakes in that zone. The recently repaired “Marks dam” is one of them. It is a superb water, and is about to be re-stocked by the NFFC.

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Then there are a few more, out on the Eastern end of the ridge, where they are surrounded by Pine plantations.

Mondi, Gilboa Estates - Balbarton Dam - Mar.13

Below the Eastern crest is Mbona estate and one or two other stillwaters that boast a trout population.

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In terms of streams, they are all delicate and precarious threads, and the status of their trout populations is largely unknown nowadays.  We know that many had Trout in them. I recently read an account in a private unpublished family history, in which a Durban family would ride out to the Karkloof by wagon, and fish the streams for trout. It would have been in the first 10 years after these were introduced at the turn of the previous century. And of course the Karkloof was the site of John Parker’s first (albeit unsuccessful) hatchery. There are more recent accounts of people shocking the streams in the 1970’s  to thin out fish populations, and using those fish to stock dams.  But the land is privately owned and these streams are often overgrown and difficult to reach.  The Mholweni / Yarrow flows South. Every map you consult has a different labeling as to which arm of the stream is the Yarrow and which the Mholweni, and which name carries to the main stream that flows out onto the flats and runs South West beside the main road. Others say it is one and the same, which I guess it probably is.

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The Natal Fly Fishers Club once had water here on the farms of the Shaws and Landale Train. Peter Brigg writes beautifully about his interview with Landale Train in his book (“Call of the Stream”), wherein he suggests that the trout may no longer be there at all.  The status of those stretches is uncertain though. It seems hard to believe that the trout are gone completely. I can tell you that I watched trout rising in a pool below the house on the property known as “Twin Streams” about 15 years ago. We have had some severe droughts and floods, and commercial timber clear-felling results in massive silt loads. Who knows what you will find in that stream.

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There has also been talk of trout in the hanging valleys up on top: both the Mholweni below “Bosses dam” and the Umvoti below “Barlbarton dam”.

Turning to the Northern side, The Nyamvubu was dammed about 15 or more years ago, and that dam (Bloemendal), while it started out with some good trout, now has Bass and other species.  Roger Baert writes of this stillwater, as well as the Craigiburn dam below it, in his recent book, “Meandering Streams”. The Craigiburn dam , as far as I know was last stocked with Trout in 1984 (for some obscure reason I still have a newspaper clipping about that stocking!)

The status of the trout population in the diminutive Nyamvubu that flows into it is unknown. That stream rises in the verdant grasslands which are protected in terms of the stewardship program whereby private landowners sign up to protect their land as a nature reserve.  It is good to know that this small sanctuary of natural beauty is valued by enough people for that program to have succeeded.

Gilboa and the Karkloof really is a beautiful place, and it begs further exploration with a fly rod, a map and a camera.

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It’s still a delight….in any colour

The DDD is old hat here in South Africa.

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(Photo courtesy of Tom Sutcliffe)

I did a quick google search for DDD. First time around I got all sorts of weird stuff, so I added the words “Dry Fly”, and still got no less than 89,000 hits!  That says something, doesn’t it? I will admit that after page three the real DDD gets replaced by tent fly sheets, and obscure digital equipment, but let’s just say you won’t struggle to uncover information about the real thing.

Probably the most comprehensive article about tying and fishing it, is written by none other than its inventor, Tom Sutcliffe. I wont even try to top that!  Take a look here.

In one’s online search, you will find debates about which deer hairs are acceptable, (most notably the wonderful Klipspringer hair vs conventional deer hair). You will find debate on what to use as a hackle, whether to tie it roughly cut, as Tom does, or neatly. You will see discussion on whether to use a deer hair tail, or a hackle tail. There is mention of using some krystal flash in the hackle. And there is talk of colour.

In the colour debate, the primary discussion goes around natural vs yellow. I remember many years ago, getting Hugh Huntley’s help to dye a patch of klipspringer bright yellow, and the fear and trepidation of dunking an entire patch of highly sought-after klipspringer hair into the simmering cauldron. I still have that small patch, and I still tie up a few yellow versions.

But in recent years I have gone off on another tangent with the DDD, and that is the black one. Maybe it has something to do with a sub conscious affection for  the new South Africa and political correctness, I don’t know.

What I do know, is that you wont find a whole lot of information on the black DDD.

I got an unexpected result when I did an image search for the black DDD:

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Boston, Bass and Big Bangs

In recent weeks, fate has taken me into the Boston area on several occasions to spend time there with a farmer ,a  forester and a faucet.

On Saturday, I dragged myself from an afternoon snooze. Between that and a looming business trip commencing Sunday morning, I knew I had to fit in an errand to Boston to shut off a valve on a dam. As we wound down the hill between the trees in the gathering gloom of the front that was curling in from the South, I spotted the dam in the distance. Even from there I began to beam at our success in dropping the level. We could see the baseline of the reeds, contrasting with the green tops, and indicating that the water was well down. On arrival at the shelter I could see the poles, which a week and a half earlier had barely protruded from the water, and which now stood high and dry.

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