In the height of summer, our stillwater fly-fishing is a fickle affair. Picking your day is difficult, and hap hazard at best.
If like me, you are a working man, you already have the formula wrong. You will not pick your Trout fishing days: Government and organised religion will do it for you. You will have more fishing days available over Christmas, than at any other time of year. And these are the days you will be lumped with:
The water is flowing out of every orifice in the hills. It rushes and gurgles through tall lush grassland. Grassland that waves like a sea in the ever present north wind. A wind that fans giant swathes of obedient seed heads, blown and baked in white hot sun. It is a white hot sun, with a tinge of fierce copper in its light, that has your shirt sticking to your sweaty skin, and your face is glowing red at the end of the day. And that gurgling water that that runs in the grass, seemingly everywhere, enters the dams, where you realise it is peat stained. Brown, but somehow still cool against your waders. Out there on your float tube, the sunscreen is little comfort as your forearms cook in the sun. You splash them with water, apply more sunscreen, roll down your sleeves, and wet them again, unable to escape the veritable oven. Your legs meanwhile dangle in cool, but heavily weeded water. Water that offers up an irritating tendril of weed for your hook on every single cast, until you find yourself retrieving faster and faster to try to keep the fly up out of the stuff.
And while you are out there clouds will form up on the horizon.
I was very definitely assembled somewhere in Europe, or perhaps North America, but either way, my design was intended for climes closer to the arctic circle than the equator. I do not suffer heat gladly. Neither do the trout of course, and I see this as a significant parallel far beyond mere co-incidence.
This neat alignment; this poetic symphony of affairs, is shattered every summer however, here in my South African home town.
Pietermaritzburg, and even the village of Hilton, can turn into a cauldron of thick hot air, day after day at the height of summer. Right now it is February and my general demeanour is at its least palatable point in the annual cycle.
A hot day on the Bushmans
On Sunday I awoke to my alarm clock at the ungodly hour of 3:45am, and flopped out of bed into my waiting ‘fish clothes’.
I had prepared everything the night before, so having pulled on my clothes I eased myself into the pickup and set off upcountry.
In mid summer you don’t want to be late. I speak of that time of year around Christmas when most people are on holiday, and when by breakfast time you might just encounter the first bead of sweat running down your face. Its hot and rainy and humid. Sunrises over crisp wet lawns are good. Sunsets are spectacular. The white hot hours between are best spent in deep shade, where one should move as little as possible. And even if you don’t move, these hot times are not good. Not to me anyway.
So anyway, there I was, barrelling along at a good speed so as not to be late for PD. 4:30 at his house. On the water by 4:45 am. Sunrise was scheduled for 4:56 am.
Surprisingly enough there are one or two people around at this time of morning. This time there was an old man perched on the front steps of the general dealer’s at Lidgeton. We stared at one another, long and hard, as I loomed out of the dark, and zoomed past him. What the hell was he doing up so early? The damn place is hardly going to be so crowded at opening time as to justify a four hour head start on the other shoppers! (and its Sunday dammit)
I guess he wondered where the hell I could be going so early.
Its funny how at this time of the morning one feels at least somewhat unique. Your friends are all tucked up in bed. The air has a sweet aroma to it. A sort of “after the rain” bouquet, with an ice cured edge. The light is everything. It unfolds a dull grey from the east, and then suddenly it’s golden and startling, and shining in great big streaks, right past you onto a hillside.