Waters & words : a celebration of flyfishing

Posts tagged “truttablog

Stoneycroft then and now

Stoneycroft

If, in 1936, you had consulted the newly published guide to the “Inland Waters of Natal”, with a view to fishing the uMngeni (then spelt Umgeni), you would have been pointed to Mr WJ Mc Donald. This would have been through a listing of the various country hotels from which one might venture out to fish for Trout, which had been in some of these waters for close to 50 years. The guide shows that McDonald could have put you onto five miles of the Inzinga River, but elsewhere he is listed as the contact for 2 miles of Brown Trout fishing un the “Umgeni” at Stoneycroft.

If you go driving the Dargle district now, looking for the farm Stoneycroft, you will be disappointed.

Old Topo maps show a farm named “Stoneycroft”, which is now, and has for a long time, been called “Wakecroft”. The title deeds of Wakecroft indicate that the farm is a subdivision of Wakefield Farm , the upstream farm that still bears this name, given it no doubt by its first owner under the British Crown in 1851, Mr Frederick Edgar Shaw, who hailed from the Yorkshire town of the same name.

If you had fished there in 1936, we can imagine that you would find a clear flowing stream, passing through sweeping grasslands, broken only by patches of forest on the south facing slopes, and ribbons of forest pioneer species tracing the tributaries as they fell from the escarpment in the south west.

It is not clear where the boundaries of the two-mile stretch might be. If your permit allowed you upstream, you would  no doubt have been on the property belonging to Helli Lasch, possibly on to the next piece belonging to my grandfather, DS Fowler. Otherwise you would have gone down a little onto the farm Furth, where the Morphew family settled about the same time that Shaw did.

You probably would have fished downstream then, as was the custom, so the escarpment known as the “Heatherdon ridge” would have been on your right shoulder. You would have regularly had views of Inhlosane mountain to the south, but it is not impossible that its original Afrikaans name of “Spitzberg” might have lingered on the lips of locals.

Inhlosane Mountain circa 1930

Just off that mountain to the east the Speir family might have still been in residence at Mount Park. You would have caught Browns between half a pound and three pounds.

The absence of literature on this particular flyfishing experience hints at the fact that the stream would not have been heavily fished.

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If in 2023 (a mere 87 years later), you were to join the Natal Fly Fishers Club and book to fish this beat, you would probably be facing upstream as you fish, as is the custom of the day. The Heatherdon Ridge would be at your left shoulder, and if you occasionally glanced back you would see Inhlosane Mountain (and no one would know that it ever had another name).

The chances are you would be making a day trip, or you might be staying at Beverley Country Cottages or Mount Park, both of which are closer than Impendle (and Impendle would not be on the list of likely alternatives). If you scouted around the valley or spoke to some locals you would come across Morphews, Lasch, Fowler, Shaw and other names that were pinned to the landscape back in ’36 too.

You would get Brown Trout of between half a pound and Three pounds descended from the same Trout now 133 years in residence. I can tell you that you will not encounter other anglers on the water: It is lightly fished.

Stoneycroft

There is a timelessness to places like Stoneycroft.


Season’s Bookends

uMngeni River

I managed to fish the first pool of the day in shirtsleeves, but by the time I was throwing my dry fly into the tongue of current at the top I was shivering, and I didn’t stick it out as long as I would normally do. A cold , dry southerly wind had sprung up, and I was soon off up the hill. There I retrieved the keys from their hiding place in the rear wheel arch, and I was relieved to pull on my jacket, and stem the cold that had seeped into me. I could have tolerated the cold wind if I had been waded into warm summer water, but the water on the last day of the season was at less than 10 degrees C. I shivered one last time and returned to the river where Anton was diligently working the next run, swooning at the beauty of the water, and trying not to curse at a now buffeting wind.

The wind gained strength and threw dust and dry leaves up into the air over the river. As we drew closer to the forest, trees creaked and leaves rustled in a dry hushing sound, somehow distinct from the sound they make at the approach of a humid summer storm. I looked down the valley, where under the view of the same mountain that commands the south-western flank of the valley, I had fished in the sticky heat of summer.

I remember a day when I described the water as “beautifully clean”, but if I had to be honest, it was not a patch on the late season water up here, several kilometres up the valley. That day, was one of many where I watched the sky with suspicion and a modicum of caution, in the knowledge of the impunity with which those  heavy clouds are known to throw down storms.  In the final analysis, during the period from the season’s opening in September to Christmas, we weren’t often  chased  off the water with fearful lightning storms. Sure, we had those in December as we normally do, but September opened after late August rains, and the river presented with bountiful clean water from the get-go. Through the next 3 months we had days of soft soaking rains, the rivers stayed full and clean, and the heat stayed at bay. It was a glorious season, and I knew it. I have fished enough seasons to know that dry, hot, algal springs are more the norm, and the conditions that unfolded demanded a level of consciousness if you were to be awake to the brilliant flyfishing opportunities. I felt like an evangelist when I phoned my buddies and said things like “Just do it…just go…this doesn’t happen often…don’t miss out…just grab the opportunity”.  Some listened. I listened to myself. I went fishing, and I did it often. By Christmas I had chalked up a dozen trips to the uMngeni, and had visited Lotheni, the Mooi, the Ncibidwana.  The fishing was fabulous. 

When the deluge of late summer came, and streams were dirty everywhere for days on end, I was able to tolerate the situation in the knowledge that I had squeezed my fair share of  days out of the four months prior. I had landed my best brown ever on the uMngeni, and had had some great fish in other catchments too.

I was content to pick days and dash out to capitalise on narrow windows of opportunity that presented when the sun broke through and the flow subsided for a bit. My cup was adequately full that I could tolerate the odd long trip out to a stream that was more a danger than a delight. I shrugged, tried a few stillwaters to slake my need to be on the water, and wrote and tied flies and marveled at the levels of saturation in the catchments.  The Viking and I got caught in a storm on the Mooi, just like Rogan and I had a few weeks earlier. We discovered tributaries swelled to the point that they were now Trout streams, not trickles. We got stuck in the mud. We phoned one another, and hung on threads of news of streams that may just be fishable.

When April came around, we were off to the North Eastern Cape, where we encountered strong flows and dirty water. We fixed that by going upstream to the high mountain stuff, where previously dainty and almost fragile streams now presented bold flows, and strong fish.  We satisfied our desire for cold high altitude Trout, in successive days of indulgence.

On my return, I was back onto the local streams, to fish the patch between when it frosts at Moshesh’s Ford, and when it frosts at Drinkkop.  Lo and behold, I snatched what felt like just a few days here and there, and then we were into April floods. There was a short gap (which I took advantage of), and then we were into May floods, of all things. Just as those subsided, and three golden weeks of autumn perfection unfolded, I was struck down by COVID, and robbed of it all.

But here I was, back on the river, coughing now and then, but regained in strength enough to enjoy the last day of the season. The late autumn colours of a pin oak contrasted the deep green of the forest and the silver sparkle of the water from a low afternoon sun.

The contrast from my two days in the first week of the season on the same river struck me. It was enormous. Those days had been dark and brooding and warm. They were full of the pregnancy of spring, and the fish had been eager to pack on weight after the winter.

Today the fish were all but extinct. Perfect deep runs over pale, yellow speckled rock were apparently devoid of fish. We couldn’t even spook one. I glanced downriver, where just four weeks earlier I had landed a lovely 18 inch Brown. Today the paper dry wind moaned and the river flowed pretty and empty of willing Trout.  

We were there, I suppose, for ceremonial purposes. The water was pretty and clean, and the sharpness of early winter light threw deep shadows and startling contrasts.

The ceremony marked a full month of river days. They started on the uMngeni in September. They ended on the uMngeni in May. Between was a catalogue of well spent days with great friends across a dozen different streams. Today was the closing book-end. September was the opening one. The season was now packed away in a string of photos, memories, journal entries, and anecdotes.  It was done. We strolled back to the bakkie and I had my first cold beer in weeks.

I was fishless and happy.      


Reekie Lynn

Mooi river Trout

Grab a coffee

Brown Trout

This one is a little longer…..

The water colour is interesting in this video. In the bright morning sun it appears red-brown. Through the Canon SX60 it looks darker but more clear. The underwater shots show the suspended matter, and then later in the day, in different light it looks lighter and just a little milky. In one shot off the north bank with the Canon it looks crystal clear. For me, summer spate water colour like this is as difficult to define as a photographer’s light. Either way, it didn’t seem to deter the fish from taking a fairly small fly.


Big fish, small net!

Trout in a net


Fifty Two sits well with me

Last year around this time, I started a little “side-page” here on Truttablog in which I share my local fishing conditions. Not catches and flies and techniques  mind you. Just water temperatures , which streams are blown out, which rivers are low, and the like. And then also just the ones I happen to know about, or have crossed in the last few days, or which friends have told me about.

It is an irregular and perhaps slightly unpredictable thing, because my travels are erratic and unpredictable. The result is a little bohemian, and certainly not something you can rely upon alone  to plan fishing trips. I also only occasionally share the posts on Facebook and Twitter (which I am increasingly disenchanted with, by the way), the result being that the reports are something an interested fisherman would have to go looking for.  

That sits well with me.

In some ways it is like the camaraderie and buzz that we used to have to go looking for before the internet came along. We would go into the fly shop in Maritzburg and hang around for a morning, eavesdropping and hoping to pick up on some news of where was fishing well. Or we would visit the booking office in Underberg and prick up our ears for news of what was producing, or which stretch of river was clean. We attended the fishing club meetings with similar objectives, and we hung on every word.  The combination of information, as well as the inferences we were able to draw from multiple comments, reports or rumours, was what we used to plan our next day out. Or perhaps it was what guided us on whether it was worthwhile to go out at all. We had to work at it. Nothing was handed to us on a plate.

So in the last fifty two weeks, there have (co-incidentally) been fifty two reports on the page. No, not one a week: remember, I said they were erratic;  but there have been fewer than two thousand views. That sits well with me too. Like the fact that internet searches generate more than five times the Truttablog site traffic than all social media channels put together.  

In a world where people are punting themselves, and competing for attention on frenetically busy media channels in which worthwhile content is only discovered by endlessly sifting through a lot of noise, I for one am starting to move away from that.  I arrive at a question or interest, and I go looking for the information that I want or need. I use a browser that limits tracking and blocks all advertising, and I do a lot more searching and a lot less sifting (or “scroll and judge” as my daughter calls it). And I enjoy the process more, find a lot of older content, and find more well-researched stuff.     Do I spend less time online?  Probably not, but I definitely waste less time. I also find cool stuff, and go down Google rabbit holes  (actually “Duck Duck Go” rabbit holes) that completely absorb me, and have friends asking “how the hell did you find that?”

So, after fifty two weeks of running  the water conditions page experiment, I think I will just keep it ticking over, un-punted and low key with no ego invested in the stats. If you happen to read it, and it helps you plan a day on the water, then maybe I have shared some of what I remember enjoying at the fishing club meetings, the fly shop, or the booking office. 

That sits well with me.


Warts and all

I took a break from work the other day, and fished for about two hours on my local stream in the late afternoon. I thought I would share it here….warts and all (Including not catching, losing fish, catching little ones, and hooking logs).

It is not refined videography, and it is not New Zealand; but it is real.

Perhaps it will encourage those who feel outdone by all the slick perfection on offer on the internet. Perhaps some locals will have their eyes opened to what we have on our doorstep in these parts.

I hope you enjoy it.


Winter


A pretty scene

John Gierach

John Gierach

“It was a pretty scene – the kind of thing that sticks in your mind as a slice of what fishing is all about, one of those times when esthetics outweighs success” John Gierach, The View From Rat Lake

I am often surprised to see posts representing a day out on the water, in which only anglers and fish are captured with the camera. Perhaps it is because I am inclined to be a bit of a loner, but my albums are swollen with landscapes. I guess you could say that for me, aesthetics outweighs success most of the time.

While the British and the Americans spell “Aesthetics” differently, it is the definitions of the word that resonate with me:

  • The branch of philosophy dealing with such notions as the beautiful, the ugly, the sublime, the comic, etc
  • The study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty.

Think on that.


Density, Distance and Distractions

Flyfishing in the Drakensberg

I started out the morning with a #16 ant pattern in the dropper position, on some 7X tippet, and trailing about two foot below that, a #20 Pheasant Tail nymph with  a small matt tungsten bead on it.

The flow was quick enough that the point fly didn’t sink the ant over a 10 to 15 foot drift and a fish went for the ant on the second drift. The problem was that I couldn’t see the ant.  When you can’t see the dry fly, the take surprises you, and that slows your strike time to the point where you will most likely miss the fish. I could have added a drift indicator (AKA Strike indicator), to help me locate the dry…a kind of reference point, but knowing these small fish, some of them would take that instead of the dry. I hooked a small fish on the very next drift on the nymph. I had managed to track the dry on that particular drift and its sudden disappearance was my signal to lift into the fish. But soon after that I got tired of trying to find  the dry on the surface, so I pulled it in and put on a parachute dry , tied with pale grey CDC halo hackle.

Since the fish were looking up,  and the parachute was on a barbless hook, I left the nymph on my fly patch for later, and just fished the parachute on its own.

That worked, and I landed several fish in the next two runs.  Then the fish began to ignore the dry. I switched to something with a barb, that I could quickly tie the little nymph back onto, with its piece of 7X still trailing from my patch. That was a #14 Ed’s Hopper, which I chose because it had a highly visible red wing, and because the breeze was blowing hard enough to imagine that a hopper might land in the stream. From mid-December onwards, there tend to be enough hoppers around that I can fish the Ed’s Hopper without feeling like I am fishing an attractor pattern.

The fish continued to ignore the dry, and I did begin to wonder if they might have had a go at the parachute pattern if I have left it on. I do that a lot: second guess and start to doubt the wisdom of my fly change. Anyway, I had some fish go at the nymph on the point. I missed two of them, merely seeing a flash below the surface. A flash that I think a great many anglers probably don’t even see, especially if they are diligently locking their vision onto the floating indicator fly. Then I landed a fish on the point fly. Soon after, I switched the dropper to a larger nymph (#14), lengthened the distance between the two flies, and put a yarn indicator on.

That larger nymph, a slightly different looking Pheasant Tail Nymph, was heavy in the hand, but in fishing it, I quickly realized that the point fly was sinking much faster, and that the larger and seemingly heavier dropper fly, was in fact not helping things and was staying high in the water column.

Let’s dwell on that a moment. If you closed your eyes and dropped first the #20 point fly into your palm, and then the #14 dropper fly, you would quite correctly say that the larger fly was heavier. It was. But it was less dense. In other words, the size/weight ratio didn’t match that of the smaller fly. In fishing these two, the difference in sink rate was remarkable. Both were tied to 7X tippet, but that point fly was plummeting compared to the bigger pattern.  The thing is, that the bigger pattern probably would have needed a 3mm tungsten bead on it to match the density of the point fly, and I didn’t want to be throwing a 3mm bead on my 2 weight outfit.  So I changed a few things.  I put on a more dense #16 dropper fly. I also started using a tuck cast, and I was careful to add enough slack in the cast by employing a bounce into the tuck cast. (Cast hard and stop suddenly so the fly bounces back, and at the same time end the cast with the rod high and tilt it down to point at the water from on high as it rolls out….it bounces back, and the flies enter the water column first) . So now I had two small, deep nymphs, fished under an indicator, light enough to throw on the two weight with pleasure. All set.

The problem is, I stopped catching fish. My colleague, who was employing different tactics altogether, also stopped catching. Learning that from him surely saved me from a time occupied more  by fly changes than fishing. It is useful to share some info with mates. So I settled into focusing on where to find the fish, and I concentrated on some concealment and reducing my false casting. I also played around with distance…standing further back and battling drag with longer drifts, and then later, getting in close with short casts, but kneeling in the stream behind rocks.

Before I knew it, we were five hours into the day, we had covered I think 2 km of river, and our agreed departure time had already passed.   Five hours of mental  absorption and puzzle solving, in clear mountain air, with cold clean water tugging at my legs, and without a thought of work, or the world’s troubles.

Total immersion and distraction, and fuel for several days of mulling and musing. Isn’t this flyfishing thing a glorious pastime!


Photo of the moment (118)

Brwon Trout
A lovely little brown from the Mooi

Copper Tones

Fly Tying

The video is blurry and the caption tells me it is 11 years old. The Good Doctor’s hairstyle hasn’t changed, but it seems his beetles have. A bit. I tie the originals anyway.

They look enough like the beetles I emptied out of my pestle and mortar set. I was about to make a mutton curry, and the tools of the trade sit under the light we leave on in the kitchen at night.  So if you want beetles, or if you are making a curry; its best to empty the stash from the mortar.  It is a wooden set which I bought from Kubela stores two decades back. They are aged, and emit a bouquet of rich spices.   

The beetles glow gold under the lamp on my tying desk, and I decide they are a little more shiny than the carcasses that lie beside them, so I give them a stroke with a brown permanent marker.

It does dull them, but some copper tones won’t go away; like the memory of the bottle label with the kid’s bikini pulled down by a pup to reveal the extent of the tan.

Some things aren’t cool any more. Like tanning, the original beetle without rubber legs, hairstyles and eleven year old videos that only ever got 400 views.  

But the glow of a copper tone lives within, like the soft warm light from a fly-tyers lamp. I note that I am tying under the same lamp as Hans was in that old video. I note that the trout are still eating copper beetles. My Pestle and mortar still work, and so will the beetle, even though I replaced the hackle with biot legs.

Beetles

Kubela stores isn’t Cabelas. It won’t ever have a website, and is still there, with bicycles and pots and bags of mealie meal. Last week I used that new, fangled Perdigon material from Semperfli to rib my Pheasant Tail Nymphs, but my curry recipe hasn’t changed. Nylon is ousting fluorocarbon for a comeback, and trout may yet be cool again.

Last night’s curry was superb by the way. It’s the same old recipe from way back. 

Leftovers heated up for lunch today were even better.  

I can’t wait to try the beetles.


Hot fishing

winged ant

Sunday dawned hotter than all the rest. Hot and still.  I was up at five in the morning, and set out through the wet grass to look for rising trout, and it was warm then.  The sun was shining at a low angle across the water and my eyes ached as I scanned the water and tried to track my dry fly. A fish swirled here and there. Once or twice within casting distance. I changed dry fly several times: Beetles, para RAB’s, a DDD, and a midge, damsel and Copper John on the dropper.  I held my hand up to screen my eyes. Later I stood behind a small willow, merely for the relief its trunk gave me. I positioned myself directly behind the trunk, in its narrow shade, and then side cast my fly under the willow fronds, merely to escape the piercing rays. It was then that I realized I was grateful for the slender shade of the trunk, and at the same time that it was now hot. It was 6 am.

I walked back to the cottage. As I did, I noticed more swirls, and also the dimples of fleeing minnows, and the formula dawned on me. My fly box with minnows in it was back at the cottage.

Later, after a hearty breakfast, and time with our feet up, my wife and I decided to set up under a willow, with bottles of cold water and our books. I moved the deck chairs, put on sunscreen, took off my boots, and sighed at the prospects of a hot day. The three days prior had been cloudy and windy and stormy and misty: all changing and interesting, and cool. Weather as interesting as a broken landscape, and with patches of great promise between, when the trout would surely come on the rise. Periods of wind change, or calm after a cooling storm, or breezy with scudding clouds and patches of mist. Times that breathed promise and opportunity. But I had yet to hit it right. I had not connected. Sure, I had caught 2 or 3 fish:  one off the front lawn in near darkness on a dry fly. One on a dragonfly nymph just after the storm, that sort of thing. But I had missed fish, had takes, been broken off twice due to poor knots, and not landed more than two in any one day. On the Saturday I put in a solid six hours and all I had to show for it was a missed follow. You know the thing where you pull the fly out of the mouth of a following fish, and watch it turn as it sees you. And you curse your stupidity for hours thereafter.  And that had been it.

Now, as I put the chairs down and resigned myself to a day of waiting out the stifling still weather, I saw one or two last bulges. Last remnants surely, of the morning’s minnow gluttony. My wife was still busy inside, so I found the box with minnow imitations in it, and tied one on. She still wasn’t out of the cottage yet, so I quickly threw all my stuff into the canoe, and leaving my water bottle under the tree, and wearing an old pair of crocs, I pushed off.   Just off the front lawn I dropped an anchor, and started casting a minnow imitation in the direction of one or two more swirls I had seen. The water was a pea soup of food. There were midges, and ants, and corixae and damselfly nymphs. Dragonflies darted over the water, swallows swooped, and the sun beat down mercilessly.

Nature would surely take a break any minute now and sit out the searing heat of day as I was about to do.

Then a fish grabbed the minnow strongly, and set off for open water. I raised the rod tip triumphantly, gathered the loose line, and got my mind in gear to fight a fierce fish, which was pulling line. That’s when my knot gave in.

When I had finished muttering and swearing and analysing the errors of my ways, and tying on a new minnow pattern, I looked up, and saw more fish were moving. I threw the minnow out again. I retrieved in a manner as alluring and enticing as I could conjure in the dead calm sticky conditions. I sucked the minnow back in, just under the surface, there under a burning white sun. More fish were rising now. Porpoising. I had a take on the minnow….just a tug, and then it was gone. I threw it again, but fish were porpoising everywhere now, so after a few casts I changed to a midge. That was when fish started cartwheeling into the sky. I quickly rigged the other rod with a caddis, and threw that out before retrieving the one with the midge on. The next five fish porpoised. I tied a sunk buzzer below the emerger I had on the five weight, and when three casts of the caddis drew no result, I put that back out. Now the fish were swirling. I looked at the water. There were copper beetles. I took the caddis off and threw it into the canoe, and tied on a beetle imitation. The fish were back to cartwheeling. I threw the beetle. A hundred fish swirled. Twenty porpoised. A dozen cartwheeled. I looked into the water beside the boat. Caenis; hoppers; beetles (Black and copper); one or two winged ants, midges. I put on a tiny ant imitation, throwing the buzzer and emerger in the boat.  I cast. The tops of my feet were burning.  I threw off the crocs and dug in my vest for sunscreen, which I rubbed on my feet. I cast the tube aside.  Fish were getting airborne again. My leader was sinking. I pulled it in and coated it in silicone paste, threw the tub in the boat, put the caddis back on and cast. I readied the other rod with a larger ant. The caddis was being ignored by fish that were taking insects either side of my line.  There were a lot more winged ants around now .

winged ant
The winged ant that was driving the trout crazy

The fish were going nuts now.  I pulled in the caddis, and started tying on ants. I needed more tippet. Fish were rising right beside the hull of the boat.I was battling to see the fine nylon, and my hands were shaking. “Andy!   Look behind you”, my wife shouted from the shore. “To hell with behind me” I muttered. The fish had practically been splashing water into the canoe for the last hour. “I Know!” I said politely. “Yes, but that fish is just rolling around on the surface continually” she said. Said she had never seen anything like it. My hands shook. I finally got both ants on, tossed the tippet spools in the hull, and threw the team out. This leader was sinking. I had treated the other one. I pulled it in, and went scrambling through the junk in the boat searching for the silicone paste.  Fish started porpoising again, and my ants went unnoticed.  I rigged the other rod with a big black DDD, and a few minutes later I cast that, and then changed the small ant on the point to a little black emerger. Threw the ant in the boat. Pulled in the DDD . Tossed the ant team. Fish were in the air again. I stood on the sun cream. Sweat ran down my neck. My line wrapped around a discarded croc. I kicked it away and I retrieved and threw again. My feet burned. Fish rose. The sun baked.

And then it happened.

To the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” , sung by a choir of a hundred maidens, and with an orchestra in grandiose accompaniment playing in my mind, a small and gracious rainbow, porpoised over my large ant in slow motion. I raised the rod in celebration, the hook set, and the knot held.  My wife videoed from the shore. I took a photo.

The fish swam off. And the rise was over.

I paddled back, and tipped all the junk out of the boat to sort out later, and crawled gasping to the willow tree, croaking “water!”.  The lake  returned to the lifeless state of the past three days, The sun beat down hard,  and I sat under the tree, took off my sweaty hat and shook my head in disbelief.   

I wonder if this is what Isaak Walton had in mind when he said to “be quiet and go a angling”…


How to make oatmeal Porridge

Oats

I’ll just leave this here.


A bank fishing interlude

I spent a winter’s afternoon on a local stillwater, and share some of the tactics and the experience in this short video.


Pewter and Charcoal: Colour

I know. It is a contradiction. But consider the richness of contrast.

Just look at the contrast:  of shade, texture, light and dark. Think of the feelings and depth of thought that it invokes.

 

Neil (1 of 1)-2

And then, having done that, employ the technique of introducing colour, and relish the richness of it.  No one does that quite like Middleton:

“With each breath of wind the landscape shuddered, became almost liquid, a geography of colors rather than of fixed landmarks and boundaries, colors endlessly mingling one with the other. On the far west ridge, damask reds and vermillion giving way to softer Chinese reds and the blunt reds of aged wine, and these in turn, mixed with leaves of moody sallow and the dull yellow of sulphur and raw cream, and among these were newly fallen leaves still bright as jonquils” 

and he goes on with

 “ ……pumpkin orange….daring blotches of apricot…wrinkled browns….and the colour of tarnished copper and well-worn  leather “  Harry Middleton, On the Spine of Time”

Now look again:

Umgeni-29

It’s been fun exploring some quotes from books recently read and re-read. And exploring “Pewter and Charcoal”, but I will end this little series here, for a while…..

I hope you have enjoyed it.


Pewter and Charcoal: Solitude, Middleton and Gierach

I don’t always fish alone, and I often enjoy company. But some days are hermit days, full of thought and reflection, in which one becomes just a little misanthropic.

Anton (1 of 1)

“Since fly fishing is a solitary sport, its hard not to think of other fishermen- collectively, if not individually –  as the enemy”  John Gierach: A Fly Rod Of Your Own.

“In trout fishing, and especially in mountain trout fishing, one angler and trout borders on the idyllic,or some version thereof. Two anglers and trout is a crowd, claustrophobic and unbearable.”  Harry Middleton, On The Spine of Time”


Pewter and Charcoal: a little Brown and Catlow

“It was one of those times that I think come to all fishermen: when we win back something of the vision of our angling boyhood, but at the same time experience it with the deeper gratitude of a grown man”  Laurence Catlow, The Healing stream

I think Catlow’s comment is befitting of those times, when you land a Trout, even a very small one, and in the  moments before you release it, you admire it and think “Damn I love these fish, and I love this pastime”

Brown (1 of 1)

Pewter and Charcoal: Gierach and conservation perfection

On obsessing about conservation while fishing, Gierach once wrote:

“I can’t say I spent a lot of time brooding about this: the fishing was too good for that, and I also understood that if you chase perfection too far down the rabbit hole, you can end up growing your beard down to your belt buckle and carrying a sign that reads “The End Is Near”. “

(A fly Rod of your Own:  John Gierach)

I am trying to avoid the beard and the sign, but I do relish this one place, which to me represents a degree of conservation perfection attained. It is very dear to me.

Bird pool view (1 of 1)

Pewter and Charcoal: La Branche and my hausberg

I always take time to stop fly fishing and take a look at my hausberg. Its a wonderful term that. In short, and as translated to suit me, it means ‘the mountain that looks out over the district of my birth, upbringing, and current abode: a psychological anchor of place, and a symbol of purpose and direction, normally viewed from below, but sometimes, as a means of re-setting ones compass, from atop’ 

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and I think La Branche would have identified with my obsession for the Inhlosane mountain:

“The man who hurries through a trout stream defeats himself. Not only does he take few fish but he has no time for observation, and his experience is likely to be of little value to him.”  George LA Branche: Dry Fly on Fast Water 1914.