As we steered across the vlei and ascended the slight rise on the Western side of the valley floor, the strong yellow rays of the sun lit the hill, and at its base the coruscating blue water came into view in a narrow strip.
The light was brilliant in its clarity, but gentle in its insidious arrival, and soft in hue. The cold, on the other hand, was brutal and harsh. The puddles were iced on the way in and, but for the fact that there was no moisture in the air, there would have been a frost as severe as winter. It was neither winter nor spring. It was August: that in-between month of either hot or cold, but definitely dry.
Today was cold. The waders were icy, and I felt the need to pull on a beanie to cover my ears.
There was a chop on the water from the fresh Westerly breeze, and the float tube rocked ever so slightly atop the crystal bowl of water that we were fishing. I had on an FMD. PD started with one too, but switched to a woolly bugger. He landed two Rainbows.
They were strong fish, probably year-old’s from last years fry. I landed only one, which meant he was on tea duty.
Mind you, he is always on tea duty.
A piece of open stillwater can be a bland thing. The other day Neil and I were out on some lovely, but somehow dull water. There was a dead calm, and we didn’t see or touch a fish. I suggested that the day was a good advert for stream fishing.
But sometimes it is very different.
Today I was out alone on a small piece of water. Being mid winter the water was crystal clean, but more importantly the light was right. Light is so important in fly-fishing, but the right light is also so very difficult to describe.
Suffice to say that one wants little or no smoke or haze, and generally the light behind you, or at least high overhead. You want your polaroids to be working a treat. That day, the sun was in fact ahead of me, but there was a steep bank opposite, such that a small band of water was without sheen or reflection.
It was weeded up close to where I was waded, but twenty yards out there was a channel. I suddenly caught sight of a trout there, moving quite fast, and the under-water world opened up. Funny how that happens: You are looking at the surface, and then suddenly something moves, your eyes adjust, and now you are looking through the surface instead of at it.
Here is a little help (since I had the all important help of having seen it move.
And some more images of other fish during the morning:
You are not sure if what you think is the fish, is in fact it, are you?
Neither was I !
They would appear and then disappear again, like ghosts. Given that it was flat calm most of the time, I daren’t cast until a gust of wind came. The fish were moving up and down, and I could only see them when the breeze abated. But when the calm set in, I would surely line them. So I waited for Nirvana: I needed to spot a fish in dead calm, and keep it in my vision until a puff of wind ruffled the surface. Then I would cast to a point 2 yards in front of the fish, and wait for it to intercept. Maybe tweak the fly as it came along.
In an hour and a half, that scenario presented itself just once. It was a cast demanding a double haul to get there. The fly landed perfectly. Although the water was now riffled, I saw the mouth open as the Trout took my fly. I struck.
And it came free.
I did land two fish later on, fishing blind, but for me, fooling that fish earlier, was what made my day, even if I didn’t get a hand to it. And was it worth and hour and a half?
Footnote. The photos were taken at ISO800 on 1/80th of a second and zoomed to about 800 to 1000mm. They were lightened and contrast and highlights enhanced in Lightroom to make the fish more visible. When there was no wind at all I concentrated on photographing them instead of trying to catch them, as I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance!