Waters & words

Posts tagged “Umzimkulu River

Books, Boarding School, and Beats

“Often enough, the best position for a trout to see and catch these active nymphs is near the river bed”   ……..

”It is useless to try to tempt such a fish with an artificial nymph fished just below the surface, or to cast a dry fly over him” 

The words of Frank Sawyer, from the book Frank Sawyer, Man of the Riverside, compiled by Sidney Vines.

Frank Sawyer was famous for, amongst other things, The Pheasant Tail Nymph, which you can watch the man himself tying in this link.

Sawyer’s book “Keeper of the Stream was first published in 1952. In 1958 it was followed by “Nymphs and the Trout”, which was revised and re-published in 1970. Sawyer died in 1980, and Sidney Vines compiled “Man of the Riverside” after his death, and published it in 1984.

Frank Sawyer-1

In 1984 I was a schoolboy. A mad keen fly fishing schoolboy.

In that year I fished, amongst other places, Hopewell dam near Swartberg, Lake Overbury, A couple of dams in Underberg, The Umzimkulu, The Umgeni, and the Mooi on Game Pass.  It was my second visit to Game Pass. Back then it was privately owned, but fairly choked with wattles. My photos make for a valuable before-and-after record.  I also fished the Mlambonja at Cathedral Peak, and several dams in the Dargle. I also fished some water in the Hogsback, and fell in at a dam in the Karkloof.

My log book reflects that I was using 3X tippet on the dams and 5X on the rivers.  My best fish of the year was a “four pound, nine ounce” rainbow from “John’s dam”.   I remember this fish well. PD and I had walked up to the dam, and we fished the evening rise. It was in the dead of winter and ice cold overnight. I took forever to land that fish, and by the time I was done, it was pitch black.  We had no torch, and walked back the couple of kilometers to the farmhouse in the dark. Later PD confided that he couldn’t see a damned thing, and that he just followed the pale colour of the back of my shirt all the way home.

fly fishing memories-1

 

What is puzzling, is that in 1984 I was in boarding school, and I think you will agree that the above fishing exploits were substantial for a youngster with no means of transport who spent most of the year limited to the school premises.

Its best to sit and consider these things to favourite music.  Call me a hillbilly, (which most of my music links will confirm) , but I really like this guy’s stuff:

Artist Justin Townes Earle on Spotify

Image result for justin Townes Earle

And in case you thought I was talking about a different sort of beat:

A recent catch return showing a pleasing number of browns caught on the Ncibidwane has my mind wondering back to our explorations there not so long ago.  I remember hiking up there with my family on a day so hot that what we mostly did was sweat and swim. I remember a day when we went up higher than we have ever done before, and then hiked back and saw a fish of near 20 inches within sight of the car. PD remarked “Why the hell did  we hike all the way up there?”. And I remember another long hot day of hiking with my friend Roy. On that day we found ourselves weakening by mid morning, and only then realised we had forgotten to eat our breakfast. We sat under the scant shade of a Protea, and Roy proceeded to eat a tub of yoghurt with his fingers….he had forgotten to bring a teaspoon!

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It’s time I got back there. I have a car nowadays. I am not limited to any premises. I might throw a Pheasant Tail nymph…….


Neville Nuttall and first Trout

By Paul De Wet

By the age of ten I must have read Neville Nuttall’s chapter entitled “My first trout”, in Life in the Country a hundred times, and I think I could quote bits of it verbatim.  When, aged ten, I finally did catch my first trout (in the upper Umzimkulu) my Mum persuaded me that I should write and tell Neville all about it, which I did.  I was so touched by his reply – I still am!

I don’t remember if I told Neville about the details of the catch – I am sure I would have.  I had followed my Dad endlessly up and down rivers for years without catching anything. 

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the late John DeWet on the Pholela 1981

That weekend, we were up at a cottage on the upper Umzimkulu and it was our last morning – I thought I was going to go fishless once again!  I was pulling my line back up a rapid when I felt what I was convinced was a fish on the end of my line!  I shouted to my Dad who came charging along with the net, grinning from ear to ear until I pulled a stick out of the water!  I was bitterly disappointed and I still remember watching my Dad trudge sadly back to his rod, deflated, with slumped shoulders while he folded up his landing net.  I cast my line down the rapid once again and was almost immediately into a trout – 9 ¼ inches long!  I pulled it straight in and onto the bank with no finesse whatsoever.  My Dad came charging along with the net for which I had no use.  He lifted me up in the air and swirled me around while the hapless trout flapped about on the bank! 

That was over 35 years ago now and was the start of an ongoing love affair with trout fishing.  My now late father and I shared thousands of hours together on the water.  I doubt that a father and son have ever caught less but had more fun!  I have always felt that Neville’s book, and particularly his chapter “My first trout” sparked my imagination long before I ever caught a trout.  For that and for his kindness in taking the time to write back to me I will be eternally grateful.

PD & John (1 of 1)

Paul and his Dad

Comment by Andrew: I do not know ANYONE in South Africa or beyond, who has “earned their stripes” , blanking on second rate waters, and with poor tackle for as many hours as this man did. Most flyfishermen I know today would have given up. The outcome is a man who, whilst he does not fish as often as he would like to, has a deeper appreciation of our sport than most.

Paul and I have fished together regularly for 34 years.

video, featuring Paul.

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PD (1 of 1)