Old School

March 18, 2014


The more things change the more they stay the same:

It is, perhaps, unnecessary that I should here dwell on the advantages  which a knowledge of fly dressing gives to the angler, since it is to be expected that they are already known and felt by those who read these lines. At the same time such a course seems natural, and  – with the reader’s pardon- its adoption gets me out of the difficulty of knowing how to open up my subject. Opening paragraph of “The Trout Fly Dressers Cabinet of Devices or How to Tie Flies for Trout and Grayling Fishing”, H G McClelland (the Athenian)

Not only do I totally agree with the words above in that, to my mind, a fly angler will never reach his or her true potential without dabbling in the dark arts of feather and fur constructions, but equally find that McClelland simply puts his case in such poetic style.

CloeteCover“The Trout Fly Dressers Cabinet of Devices aka How Tie Flies for Trout and Grayling”

I am looking over an ancient tome, the fifth edition of the above mentioned book which came into my possession over forty years ago and was published in 1921. Not only is the book delightful in and of itself but this particular copy is all the more special for the annotations inside both covers in the most elegant hand, written with perfection in pencilled copper plate , one presumes by a certain  EB Cloete who had inscribed his name and the date 1926 therein  in pen and ink.

On the inside cover a list of “Naval Members of the Fly-Fishers Club 1926″, then on the next page the addresses of :


S & E.G Messeena “Importers of Foreign Birdskins, Feathers , quills and everything for fly tying”, 94 Upper Clapton Road, London E5.

Col. G Carnegy DSO. Libbear Barton, Shebbear, Highhampton, N. Devon

A.F Voelcher MD, FRGP. Langrord Hill Marhamchurch N.Cornwall.

The Fly-Fishers Club 36 Picadilly, with the additional information that entrance would set you back £3.3.0 (three guineas), and membership £4.4.0 (Four guineas) if you lived in Londong  and only £3.3.0 (Three guineas) if you were a country member.

One cannot avoid the impression that at this point fly fishing was very much viewed as an upper class sport, the references to Rear Admirals, Captains, Vice Admirals, Doctors and DSO’s without so much as a sniff of an Able Bodied Seaman tell a tale about the history of fly fishing and fly tying.

Then on the inside back cover in similarly beautifully crafted pencil annotations as to the cost of fly tying materials, including that you would have to pay the princely sum of one shilling and sixpence for a water rat (although one presumes not a live specimen.)CloeteMaterials

What is most interesting of all about this book from the angler’s if not the historian’s perspective is that the content discusses and perhaps battles with the very same things that fly tying books of a more modern age still struggle. The hooking properties of different shapes of hook, how to perform a whip finish, a discussion on the “Exact Immitation Theory” and even the construction of extended mayfly bodies (In this instance using turpentine and strips of unvulcanised indiarubber, one presumes such things were easily obtainable at the time).


Further on the subject of extended body flies (in McClelland’s case referred to as detached bodies), he notes that many anglers had reported lack of success with such flies but commented that given that most anglers only experiment when things are slow the reliability of the subjective assessment is to be questioned. McClelland put it as such “….the trials are, as a rule, most desultory; accorded perhaps, under unfavourable conditions – “when things are slack”, as the saying is – and not so much to make a test as to excuse a condemnation.. (of detached body flies) “

So how many of us are perhaps guilty of exactly the same, only testing flies when things are slow, condemning patterns and fishing concepts primarily because we want to find evidence of their ineffectiveness? I am certainly of the opinion that any fool can change flies when things are not working out, but those blessed with a truely enquiring mind may very well change things when they are catching fish.

The book is a delight, elegantly written in wonderful , if rather “stiff upper lipish”, prose,  but the discussions, concepts and thoughts are much the same as for the modern angler and fly dresser. We still discuss, argue, pontificate and experiment with the exact same things as did McClelland’s generation, although one suspects probably spend just a little less time waxing moustaches, calling for one’s batman and shouting “Tally Ho”.. .

Delightfully the book also contains “advertisements” for other angling publications, which appear quaintly naive compared to the machinations of the modern marketing machine:


Advertisements for other fly fishing related books

CloeteGazetteAdvert for the “Fishing Gazette” in which McClelland wrote under the pseuodymn “The Athenian”

One can find a complete archive copy of this book to read on the link:


Thankfully today we have far greater flexibility in terms of our fishing, you don’t need to be a Rear Admiral or make the honours list to crack a bit of water, or at least not everywhere, and we better recognise than we used to that all of us struggle with the same concepts, the same disappointments of lost fish and the queries about hook design that come with that. The same battles to better understand the nature of trout and their food. Although fly fishermen now hail from all sectors of the community, and have at their disposal, modern materials, macro photography and even electronic books,  I suppose it is simply a case that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” and there really is very little truly new in fly tying.

So in many ways my latest book “Guide Flies” is really only a continuation of a theme that has occupied fly anglers since the very first time some Macedonian ripped a bit of red wool from a neighbour’s nickers to manufacture an artifical fly. That said you may very well enjoy reading the book and it has the advantages over McClelland’s tome of being available in full colour on paper and in electronic format. (One has to wonder what “The Athenian” would have made of that).

Guide Flies Front CoverYou can order a copy of Guide Flies from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za


March 15, 2014


A quick trip to paradise

Not more than a 90 minute drive out of town lies a remote kloof, a canyon I suppose you might suggest. It is steep sided with a gradient to match, remote, rocky and unspoiled, unspoiled in a way that so few places really are. Through this little piece of paradise flows the most crystal clear water outside of an Evian processing plant, water with the transparency of London Dry Gin, and in that water, camouflaged by eons of natural selection hide trout.

Glorious trout, pretty trout, near invisible trout, even some large trout, trout given of a green hue and pink side bar which can bring tears to the eyes of fishermen and artists alike. Trout of which dreams are made, fish that appear and disappear in ghostlike fashion as they hover over the boulders, trout that really make you wonder if God wasn’t an artist who just got a little carried away putting on the dots.

StreamXRelease1Crystal Clear water and trout which are as pretty as hell.

In fact some of the ancestors of those trout were carried into the canyon over twenty years back by myself and other anglers to re-stock a stream that was becoming seriously under populated. Manually portaged in as tiny fingerlings ensconced in highly oxygenated water, sealed in plastic bags and stuffed into back packs. Carrying haversacks filled with swashing water and baby trout up a steep sided valley is something that would only be undertaken by the dedicated or insane, it was hard work and took the entire day. Stocking trout like this is analogous to planting a shade tree, you have no idea if you will ever reap the rewards of your labour but at least hope that others will benefit in the future, the ultimate example of “Paying it forward”.

Over the intervening years myself and many others have reaped such benefit, the trout thrived for a while although numbers now seem to be somewhat diminished once again. The fish that remain however still manage to reproduce, perhaps more effectively some years than others, and whilst it can be hard fishing it still is wonderful fishing. A rare venue of genuinely remote aspect, difficult to reach and totally unspoiled by the excesses of the modern world. Too remote to be over utilized and too steep and rugged to offer any hope of commercial intervention, building, farming and such. The water continues to quietly erode the sandstone cliffs my microns each year as it has since the beginning of time and the fish lead relatively untroubled lives hidden away in the deepness of the natural world.

StreamXPMClimbing  The climb in to the remote sections isn’t for the faint of heart.

That said the valley hasn’t been without its political troubles, at one time the powers that be changed the regulations in an ill-considered attempt to encourage the masses to embrace nature. Increased numbers were provided permits, a car park of sorts was built and bridges across the small streams that stand as sentinels to valley were manufactured. It quickly became apparent that such intervention threatened the wellbeing of the river, the paths became eroded, the car park washed away leaving a badly scared landscape. The bridges broke and the signboards that sang the praises of a natural world which they themselves sullied by their presence have been lost to the vagaries of winter weather.

Quietly the kloof is returning to its natural state but the experiment led to its complete closure for a while and even now one can only gain access with a special permit issued by lotto once a year. That lottery offers little assurance that one will get to visit this special place and absolutely no control of when you may get the official nod to do so even if you are lucky.

StreamXTroutinWaterA spotted green ghost hovers in a pocket.

So it was that this past weekend I had permission to enter the kloof, at a time when business commitments, workloads and all manner of other worldly interventions threatened my opportunity. In the end the only option other than to waste the chance was to make a rapid fire trip and we decided to hike in and fish high up the canyon, sleep rough overnight to avoid a potentially dangerous hike out in fading light and return to the car first thing in the morning.

What keeps this valley in its pristine state as much as anything is the difficulty of access, the hike into the upper section were we would make camp is an hour and a half from the parking spot. The fishing took us well up the river with an arduous 90 minute boulder hopping, rock jumping, cliff climbing and river wading trip back to camp.

The river proved well worth the effort, we found fish, not perhaps a lot but then again more than enough, many hovering in small pockets of the crystal clear water, frequently only revealing their presence by the cast of their shadows on the stream bed. The low water made presentation tricky and we didn’t win all the competitions between angler and fish. Floating tippets on the calm water provided sufficient warning that was not all well to have the fish distain our efforts more than once but then again in some spots we prevailed.

StreamXPMFishAfter hours of driving, hiking and climbing, Peter claims his reward.

One particularly lovely and large fish taken by Peter on a small Goose Biot Parachute Caddis after we stalked the feeding trout for a few minutes, tracking it carefully as it disappeared in and out of areas of shade that mottled the surface of the pool.

StreamXRelease2Trout pretty enough to bring a tear to your eye.

The light was just beginning to fade when we turned tail and legged it down the river and back to camp, “tired but happy” as my mother would say. It had proven to be a spectacular day, with perfect conditions, virtually no wind and the water beginning to cool nicely as the evening temperatures dropped with the onset of autumn.  Having slept rough we packed up at first light and followed the trail out arriving back at the car by 9.30am and ready for the drive back to the city.

StreamXTRHikeoutAfter a brief visit it was time to pack the bags and hike out.

Even after a single night out in the bush town seemed hectic, traffic pushing and shoving, racing to the nearest shopping centre. People, oh my goodness there seemed to be so many people, all in a rush despite it being the weekend, all apparently too busy to consider the beauty of the remote places that lie all around them. Before we had reached the centre of town I was more than ready to turn tail and head back to the stream. Back to some quiet solitude, glorious scenery and of course those trout. Who knows when I can go again? That quite literally is a crap shoot, but at least we made it this time and that is enough for now.

A selection of books from the author of this blog available from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za

Newly released “Guide Flies” Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish: Now available in both eBook and Softcover formats.


The “C” Word

March 6, 2014



I have been tying a lot of flies recently, mostly with a forthcoming trip in mind. The trip will take me back to waters I haven’t fished in four decades and as a result I have been researching more than a little on hatches, fly patterns and all things related.

I like tying flies and I like going on a trip with boxes full of newly minted patterns to cater, one hopes, for any eventuality, it is all part of the process. But it does strike me that when you look at all the different fly patterns out there  one would have to consider the possibility the trout would pretty much eat anything at some point in time. One has to ask the question if it is possible to tie a fly that is so poor that a fish wouldn’t eat it.

Given the numbers of artificials  one could be forgiven for imagining that you could be wrong all the time or equally that there is no wrong and the fish will eat whatever you have tied on the line if properly presented.


So what to do if you are on some strange water without too much of a clue? The answer to my mind is to fish something generic that could be “all things to all fish”. I can’t be alone in this thought process, the propensity of Hare’s Ear Nymphs, Pheasant Tails, Adams Dries and Elk Hair Caddis patterns in everyone’s fly boxes around the world suggests that we all come back to a similar solution to the problem. You pick something that is a reasonable facsimile, a pattern in which you have confidence and then fish it with care, because confidence in fly fishing really is the ultimate “C-Word”, it matters not one jot if your mate likes this fly or that fly, this wing or that wing, if you don’t have confidence in it the darned thing won’t work for you.

My mate Mike regularly fishes, amongst his team of three flies on a lake, an olive soft hackle pattern, and more to the point catches fish on it. I have used the darned thing, casting it for hours, hooking fish on the other patterns on a three fly rig without a single sniff from a trout to that fly. It just doesn’t work for me and the more it doesn’t work the less confidence I have in it, and the less confidence I have in it the more it doesn’t work.


As a general rule when tying flies, if I am not excited about the prospect of fishing them as they come off the vice they go into the recycling jar. The recycling jar nominally allows me to cut off the dressing and reuse the hook, in reality most of the flies go to other anglers, school kids with limited budgets and such who might appreciate them. The rub is they will probably catch fish on the things, but if the fly doesn’t excite me coming off the vice it isn’t going to get used and will sit quietly rusting away in the corner of a flybox until it is eventually turfed out to make space for something more useable and less tarnished.


We are all different, for some a precise imitation begets confidence, for me most of the time at least, delicacy of the fly gives me faith that it will work, delicacy in a dry fly and movement in a subsurface pattern. I could very well be the only fly angler alive who has no confidence  in Woolly Buggers, I strongly dislike them, I really do. I don’t understand what they are supposed to be and so I don’t understand how to fish them. Actually I think that here at home they mostly get taken by the fish because they think that the fly is a dragonfly nymph, but then I would as soon tie on a dragonfly nymph pattern, in which I have a great deal of faith. Other anglers with a different viewpoint see the woolly bugger as the catch all “everything to all trout” kind of fly and do well with it. For me the Velcro Brushed Hare’s ear nymph is probably about as near to a universal subsurface pattern as any, the shaggier the construction the better.


So how much of it is about the fly? I am convinced that much of the time not a great deal at all. But your confidence in the fly, well that is a different matter entirely.  It isn’t simply mystical, if you are confident you cast more carefully, retrieve with purpose, maintain concentration, fish slower, move more carefully. In short your fishing style changes when you are confident and confidence can be the most elusive of on the water emotions.

There is however an oddity to this discussion, a fly which has never worked for you previously, a fly in which your faith is extremely limited can become a favourite almost instantly should it prove successful, even only once.

On the streams we mostly fish with one fly at a time, so it takes some commitment to make a radical change to the fly pattern, away from those in which one has untold confidence. On a lake and bobbing about in a boat we generally fish three flies and so the trauma of testing a previously none productive pattern isn’t quite as great.  Then when that fly takes fish your confidence builds and before you know it you have a “new favourite”.

I like to carry a lot of flies, probably too many to be honest but the confidence that it gives me to know that I could cover almost any eventuality gives me confidence, even though 80% of the flies rarely see the light of day, never mind approach becoming intentionally damp.


In various parts of the world different things seem to be valued as confidence builders, the hot spot in a Czech nymph is paramount for some people, the inclusion of real jungle cock in a pattern is another obvious affectation the lack of which will cause some anglers to simply pack up and go home. I personally have less confidence in parachute dry flies with bright fluorescent posts because I am convinced that they result in more refusals from the better fish, other anglers cast them with alacrity. There are fly tyers who will dye and blend their own mixtures of furs and feathers because they are seeking a specific colour and have remarkable blind faith in such and I have had one client in a past life who wouldn’t fish an Invicta but that it had a red tail instead of the traditional yellow one of Golden Pheasant Crest. There are those who consider that a damselfly nymph imitation should have red eyes despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of evidence that real damsels are kitted out with similarly bright opthalmics. It is all a bit odd and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense except for the fact that if you are confident you fish better and if you fish better you catch more.

One of my favoured patterns on our local streams is an absolutely minute brassie, a fly so lacking in physical presence that I generally don’t tell the clients that I have tied it onto the tippet. If they see the fly before they catch a fish they have no confidence in it at all, so I wait until we get a hook up and then say something along the lines of “do you want to see what that fish ate?”, something generally then followed by gasps of surprise from the angler.

Confidence isn’t easily obtained but there are certain criteria for most of us which help nail down this ephemeral emotion. Preparation leads to confidence, having lots of flies, practising knots, carrying spare leaders, having waterproof (as opposed to leaking) waders, being able to cast well, knowing the water, fishing a lot, reading a great deal.. all those things lead to a state of relative confidence and that will in turn catch you as many fish as all the fancy and complicated accoutrements, which the tackle industry might care to throw at you.

In the end I suspect that is why many of us, and probably all of the best anglers tie their own flies, it may not be that their own flies are better than any others, but they do give confidence and that is a good enough reason for all the slaving over a hot vice.

If you are a neophyte fly tyer you will probably start out, as indeed did I, with a lack of confidence in your own flies, but in time that will change and the commercial ones will lack the allure they once held.

Here are a couple of great resources if you want to start tying flies, tie better flies or perhaps gain confidence in tying and fishing them.

Essential Fly Tying Techniques: A eBook on critical tying techniques which will help you tie more effective and durable patterns.


See inside the book:

Download from Inkwaziflyfishing

Download from Smashwords

Order on disc

Order on disc from outside of South Africa

Guide Flies: A book and eBook available currently on disc and in printed format covering the flies that give me the most confidence. How to tie simple, durable and effective flies that really work.


See inside the book:

Order a copy on compact disc.(South African Clients)

Order a copy of the softcover version (South African Clients)

Order either from outside of South Africa

As always feedback in the form of comments is most welcome, what flies bring you confidence? Are you as happy with a commercially fashioned pattern as ones of your own manufacture? Have fun out there and remember that if you have confidence then half the battle is already won.

Thoughts on selectivity.

March 3, 2014


Thoughts on selectivity:

Much is made of a trout’s selective feeding in a great many angling publications, in fact it comes up so frequently that one would have to imagine that it is a fact, and if not fact at least commonly accepted wisdom based on subjective observation. Certainly although I don’t fish alkaline waters with strong hatches of insect I most definitely have seen fish apparently eat nothing else but flying ants for example, or become seemingly fixated on egg laying spinners that are hovering just above the surface. So selective feeding must be the thing right?

Well to play Devil’s advocate I have also just finished looking through (I am not sure that one could call it reading) a book by Jerry Hubka and Rick Takahashi called “Modern Midges”, published by Headwater Books. There are over a thousand midge patterns in there, all displayed in glorious Technicolor. A thousand different patterns of every possible interpretation of midges, from larvae to emergers, pupae to drowned cripples and to be honest half of the time I am struggling to see the difference between one and another, I have to question if the trout could. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a fascinating book.  Equally if the trout did when eating midges really require only one of the patterns in that book our failure rates on the water would be staggering. You couldn’t carry a thousand different patterns even if you wanted to and even supposing that you could find the one you wanted when necessary. That would particularly be the case when you consider that you might have to carry similar numbers of caddis flies, mayflies, stoneflies etc etc. So therefore by deduction selective feeding by trout can’t be true can it?

Two virtually diametrically opposed viewpoints based on the observation of either the fish, the angler or both. There are arguments that the trout are selective not because they are smart but because they are dumb and become preoccupied, there are those who believe the fish have such a discerning pallet that they will pick only one bug out of the drift. Which is right? Is either school missing the point?

Well let me say that I personally believe that all fish are feeding selectively all the time, the question isn’t about whether they are or are not being selective, it is more a case of how selective. They are simply being more or less selective than each other.

As a further adjunct to the equation, we tend to think of selectivity as being a “fly pattern” issue, but I would put it to you that much selectivity is a “Presentation issue”. The trout on my local streams will for the most part eat any reasonably small and dead drifting fly pattern, but no matter the fly, if that delicately feathered tid-bit should twitch in the current they won’t take it. Hell they won’t even take a real fly that twitches in the breeze. Here the fish are more “selective” in terms of presentation than they are in terms of pattern. I would venture more selective in terms of fly size than fly pattern too for that matter.

So my current views go along the lines of this:

Every trout you encounter is somewhere along a line of selectivity where at one end they will eat anything from Bananas to drowned Elephants (i.e. virtually none) and on the other they will only take a size 16 pale morning dun emerger pattern on a curved hook with silver rib and a genetic hackle of medium dun cock hackle, (equally virtually none).

SelectivityLineIt seems apparent to my way of thinking that pattern selectivity is going to be primarily a function of the prevalence of a particular insect or stage of insect at any given time. Such that selectivity itself is going to become more apparent as the density of the hatch, spinner fall or whatever increases. Even then though one might expect a distribution amongst the population of fish that some will be ultra selective and some not as picky, it is a normal Gaussian distribution found in all things in nature.

The propensity for such “selective” feeding is equally likely to be enhanced on waters which are rich, alkaline and produce regular opportunities to feed on specific occurrences of high density food availability, in effect the fish can “select” not to feed at all during periods of low food availability, something that fish in less nutrient rich waters probably cannot to do.

SelectivityCurvesYou can see larger versions of all these graphics by simply clicking on them.

One might well posture that the pattern selectivity curve would move more towards the right in the attached graphic when certain insects were prevalent and move to the left when the hatch was over or there was no hatch in the first place.

Selectivity Curve Animated

One would expect the selectivity curve to move to the right when there is a prevalence of specific insects available to the fish and to the left when there is no hatch on.

However I would equally add that “selectivity” is generally viewed as a function of the close copying of the prevalent insect or stage of insect at the time, and has given rise to the notion of the “imitation versus presentation” schools of thought as though they were mutually exclusive. To my mind selectivity combines both at the same time, a trout may well not select a fly because of its presentation but it most certainly can and will “deselect” a pattern that behaves inappropriately, here I am mostly thinking of dragging and unnatural movement of the fly. More so on waters which see good amounts of angling pressure and that sensitivity to presentation is all the more prevalent on catch and release water.

Then again there are other parts to the presentation situation, for example the presentation depth, were it the case that the fish were feeding on a specific and concentrated food source occurring at a specific depth it would make sense that presentation of the artificial occur at that depth such that perhaps the successful fly pattern is effective more due to its sinking properties than its actual construction. Much the same would hold true of presenting a floating fly in the drift where the naturals are occurring as opposed to the back eddies where they are not.

So whilst “pattern selectivity” is most likely a function of specific food availability so “presentation selectivity” could be expected to be more closely linked to angling pressure. Thus with increased angling pressure (particularly associated with catch and release fishing) one would expect the sensitivity of the fish to move to the right in the attached graphic and to the left in remote and unfished waters. This is something that is pretty much accepted as the rule for most anglers. It is probably why some have a tendency to cough up large quantities of cash to get to remote and unfished spots, very simply the fishing would be expected to be easier.

Presentation Selectivity

Presentation Selectivity is more a function of angling pressure and enhanced on catch and release waters.

To me, “selectivity” isn’t really a singular concept of close imitation of specific bugs, that is only part of it. Fish may well be selective in terms of “what they eat”, “the behaviour of what they eat”, “the position in terms of depth or location of what they eat” and perhaps a good deal more. When considering selectivity one needs to look at the overall picture. There are various pressures on the fish to be “more or less selective” based on food availability, angling pressure, quite possibly a lot else,  and in some instances one pressure will tend to outweigh another. So for example:

On a relatively infertile stream where large hatches are not the norm but where there is considerable angling pressure and catch and release fishing one might well expect fish to be highly sensitive to presentation but far less so in terms of pattern.

On waters where regular significant hatches occur the bias would tend to be towards pattern itself.

I think that this dynamic is best seen as a variable quadrant of behaviour under the influence of different “selectivity pressures”.


There is an additional, well documented and interesting variation in a situation such as “Duffers fortnight” on the chalk streams of England, where the prevalence of Ephemera Danica adults, combined with their large size (and consequently high calorie value) seem to cause the fish to  give into the pressure of making the most of the food source over a short duration such that presentation selectivity pretty much disappears, even pattern selectivity can become less pronounced simply as a result of the need to make the most of a highly nutritious food source that is only available for a very short period of time. It is as though despite the high food density and the expectation of pattern selectivity the sheer value of the feeding opportunity makes the fish “throw caution to the wind”.

So when considering “selective trout” one should perhaps look at a wide number of variables, which may well include the presentation side of the equation. “Imitation and presentation” are then both parts of the same discussion, both linked to some form of selective behaviour on the part of the fish and they cannot simply be broken into two different approaches, but rather seen as a continuum of variable factors and responses which provide a near infinite variety of situations and fish behaviours.




A New Arrival

February 28, 2014


Well would you know it, I have a new baby.  It has taken the better part of two or more years to get to this point, people might think that in-vitro fertilization is a long and troublesome process but with no real motivation towards fatherhood and with a natural human longing to leave something behind on my demise, I decided to produce a book, Ok another book so I should have known what I was getting into, but I never realised that the birthing process would make the gestation of the African Elephant seem like quick trip to the shops.

GuideFliesBabyPramMy New “Baby”. . :-)

In hindsight simple conception, even fertilization in a small glass tube might have proven less troublesome, had I managed to skip the glass tube bit it could have been a heap more fun too for that matter. If I had simply required some lasting acknowledgement of my existence I could have chosen to go with the now almost universal tagging option. Got hold of a spray can and scribbled my name in relative permanence on a variety of train carriages or roadside brickwork. It seems to work well for people like Banksy but then again it isn’t really that permanent and has the added disadvantage of being, to my mind at least, eminently anti-social, destructive and not really worthy of the epithet of “art”. It would however have had the allure of speed.

I suppose I could have simply opted for a spray can to achieve some level of immortality.

One might imagine that having done this previously in print and electronic formats, with publishers and without, well it would all be a piece of cake wouldn’t it?

Alas writing a book isn’t the hardest thing on the planet, it is all the other stuff that goes with it that proves to be the troublesome part, particularly if you have perfectionist tendencies and are pedantic about things like graphics and video content. Yes there was a hiccup right there, having produced eBooks with video content previously (and probably a world first when it comes to fly tying tomes) I found myself rather backed into a corner, some people expressed their dissatisfaction with reading off a screen, wanting to hold and flip the pages, fold down the corners and all that goes with a “proper book” but then again they didn’t really want to miss out on the video bits. So this book includes a CD of video clips that you can read on your computer.

Having produced “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” in electronic format I ventured to produce this publication in similar vein, with a little more anecdotal information on the fishing and thought processes that go into the flies that I fish and use in my work. Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish, is what it says on the cover.

It says “Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish” on the cover.

Once the decision is made the challenges come thick and fast, to go with photographs, easy in this digital age, or stay with the somewhat retro graphics option. Firstly I like graphic drawings, they have more feel to them somehow compared to photographs, more to the point in a graphic you can clearly demonstrate the exact position of a single turn of thread and other such detail lacking in a photo, it is no mistake that authors such as Oliver Edwards used graphics in his exceptional “Oliver Edwards Fly Tyers Masterclass”.

Fig21Fig5I like graphics over photo’s and that seemed a good enough reason for all the work.

Trouble is that I am not an artist, certainly not with pen and ink anyway so digital graphics had to be the way forward, just that there is a steep learning curve if you want to do something as odd as try to draw peacock herl on a computer screen or convey the ethereal delicacy of a CDC plume. Some feathers had to be constructed fibre by fibre in painfully slow attention to detail. How on earth does one “draw” marabou, or crystal chenille? In the end it all proved to be good entertainment, if frustrating at times.

Fig55 Fig50Drawing things like marabou and crystal chenille posed something of a problem.

Still that was all going well, I found myself a publisher in the form or Barbara Mueller at “New Voices Publishers” and Barbara proved to be a real asset, she, as the name of her business would suggest, specialises in assisting authors to self publish. Having been down the spectacularly unrewarding process of publishing a book with a recognised major publisher in the past I didn’t wish to follow that route again. It is galling in the extreme to see a book that you created with your own blood, sweat and tears sold where the government makes more money from the tax on it than the author gets from the sale.

WealthWarningThere were many further hurdles, how to set up a system where someone might purchase the book? It is remarkably tricky and the banks, despite their constant advertising for “entrepreneurial clients” actually close the shutters just as soon as you say the words “self-employed”. In the process it has necessitated rebuilding my website, learning some basic HTML code and more. I am not sure that it is entirely solved but it is mostly solved.

PayFastLogoThe book “Guide Flies” has been completed in eBook format for some time but now finally the glossy printed, page turning, corner folding, paper textured “real book” is available. Not only that but it comes with its own compact disc containing video clips of every fly in the book so even if you prefer to do your bedtime reading with nothing more electronic than a decent lamp you can still check out the tying processes on screen next time you return to the computer. I suppose it really is the best of both worlds when you get right down to it.

“Guide Flies” boasts some 150 pages, 60 odd full colour graphics, detailed descriptions of the flies, the tying process and perhaps as importantly the thought process behind their development. The CD has 25 video clips of fly tying covering everything from the torque of thread on a parachute dry to the ultra-durable “Super Glue Whip Finish” and effective fly patterns to cope with almost every trout fishing eventuality from stillwater to spring creeks.


It has been a labour of love, a learning curve of stupendous gradient but I am well pleased with the result, in the end I suppose that “the proof of the pudding will be in the eating”, if not yours hopefully the trout’s..

If you would like to obtain a copy of my book in either paper or electronic format you can do so in a variety of ways:

Email me your request on rolston@iafrica.com

Purchase on line from my website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za/bookshop.html

Purchase from Netbooks on line at www.netbooks.co.za

Purchase from a fly fishing outlet http://urban-fly-fisher.com/ or www.streamx.co.za and hopefully more in due course.


Handling Rejection

January 19, 2014

Rejection Head

I suppose handling rejection is something we all have to deal with at different points in our lives. Maybe your fumbled advances to the prom queen (or Football Jock: this is a non-sexist blog), were greeted with those immortal words “Bug off Four Eyes”. Maybe the girl that you knelt before, ring in hand, gave you the cold shoulder or the job interview for a position you just knew suited your skill set perfectly unfortunately still left you back on the street cap in hand. Truth is rejection is a fact of life and it turns out that hiking for a few hours and camping rough under the stars in an effort to escape many of the trials and excesses of urban living still won’t protect one from being given the bird, the trout are more than happy to let you know that you don’t have all the answers and need to be put in your place.

A case in point this past weekend when myself and a few friends fished high up on the Jan Du Toit’s river, a spectacular piece of the countryside, dominated by an arduous hike, rough camping on the side of the steam, clear water, steep cliffs and of course trout. As is often the case, trout found in moving water aren’t that difficult to fool, even clear moving water. They have the disadvantage of limited time to make a decision and a slightly wayward view of things through the agitated surface. The really tough ones are those who are in the flat calm.

JDT2013-1Flat and Crystal Clear, you can expect some refusals from smart trout.

On this specific stream it seems that many of the fish have a particular behaviour pattern of holding for a while in the moving water at the head of a pool before taking a leisurely swim around the confines of their naturally formed impoundments. The structure of the stream, which is notably steep, seems to produce pools which shelve off into shallow water just prior to dropping into the next run. Where some rivers have deep water at the back of the pools on this stream slow moving shallows are the norm and the fish seem to have adapted to that.

In addition one suspects that the food chain isn’t that strong and that terrestrials feature quite heavily on the menu of the trout. So it is well recognised that the fish will go “walkabout” into the quietest and shallowest back ends of the runs every so often, even with dorsal fins out of the water, just to check if there is anything worth eating stuck in the surface film. It is a behaviour that the angler can use to his or her advantage. Where in such water a cast at a fish would almost surely result in one’s piscatorial quarry taking flight, here, if you are smart and can hold your nerve, you can put out the fly and wait for an interception.

JDT2013-4Despite some sneaky rock hiding, Craig’s Tenkara just wasn’t up to the challenge of the flatter sections.

Having reached one particular pool; and one must add that previous experience suggested that playing the waiting game here could be to one’s benefit, we held back and watched. The clock ticked and time passed and then a cruiser appeared. These fish are remarkably well camouflaged and not easy to see, such that they seem to just appear and disappear at will, not unlike those infernally frustrating 3D images which only reveal their proper nature to the truly attentive.

So the fish appears, following a defined and lazy circuit of the pool at which point I lob out a small dry, an elk hair caddis I believe, on 7X tippet and a 20’ leader a good way ahead of the trout. The fish approaches and spots the fly, speeds up slightly until directly under the Judas caddis pattern, halts directly under it and touches it with his nose before turning away. Just as well we were a long way from the nearest betting office because I would have put serious money on the fact that the fish was going to eat that fly.

JDT2013-3We managed some success, even on fish bigger than this, but not every time.

We wait and there appears another fish and this time I put out a flying ant pattern, a sure fire winner under such tricky conditions, again the apparently committed inspection followed by an up close, and in this case very personal, rejection of the fly.  Twice in two casts, very good casts I might add, I thought that I was on the top of my game but it wasn’t enough to fool those fish.

Unlike being given the boot by the prom queen or the potential paramour however I actually laughed at the fish, they were in their environment doing what they do and the truth be told that no matter how good I thought the presentation and the imitation it wasn’t good enough. Good luck to the fish, it is what motivates me to head up the mountains in the first place.

Mind you, no matter that I failed, I managed to take the rejections in my stride, but there is still some satisfaction in seeking retribution. So I re-rigged with an even longer leader down to 8x this time, left the flying ant pattern on (trout can sometimes be persuaded to lose their heads a bit when it comes to ants), and tried on a third cruising fish. As he swam down the pool he picked up a real morsel in the film and perhaps confidence boosted by that minor success approached the ant. The same approach, the same apparently casual inspection, the same frozen moment directly under the fly and then the take. Bingo, after a brief fight he was netted and released, and I felt a little better that I had fooled one fish. He was the smallest of the trio, and one assumes therefore the more impetuous of the crew but I didn’t feel quite so bad about missing out on the others.

JDT2013-2Clear Water: The secret lies in the presentation, and it has to be perfect.

On a technical note, perhaps the slightly finer tippet helped, maybe that the fish having eaten something real not moments before making an error did have an effect, maybe the mildly longer delay before the trout arrived gave the tippet a little more time to settle and sink a tad into the film. For that matter maybe like the egotistical and self- important prom queen, when rejected you can always ask the slightly less attractive side kick for a dance, and this slightly smaller and perhaps less wise trout really amounted to not much more than second best.  It didn’t really matter that much,  fly fishing isn’t a matter of life and death (and yes I am well aware of the quote that suggests “it is much more important than that). But it was a really fun excursion, a good bit of exercise, pleasant company, fantastic scenery and some fly fishing education thrown in. The trout won some rounds and we won others, nobody was hurt and we returned home with fond memories, a bit of sunburn, tired legs and backs and all too soon we will be thinking on those trout once more and trying to get a spot to head back out there.

JDT2013-5The scenery makes up for any sense of failure.

One thing for sure though, I am convinced that the tippet is the culprit most of the time (see: The Fishing Gene: Should Tippets Float). Arguments about whether it should sink or not fall on deaf ears around here. It should sink and anyone trying to prove otherwise is welcome to hike up a mountain with me, camp overnight on the river bank, and climb up to a crystal clear and frighteningly still pool to try to intercept cruising fish under a blazing African sun, where the shadows of a falling human hair scare the neighbours and you know that if you make a mistake your next trip will only come around again in a year’s time if you are lucky.

Experiences like this are what drive me to fish, the failures can sometimes be just as motivating as the successes and I am sure that most of us would quit all too quickly if every trout we threw a fly at jumped at the offering.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be so much fun if every prom queen gave in to our advances either, although I can’t really comment on that. :-)

Editor: This river is under the control of Cape Nature, access is strictly limited, a permit is required and catch and release fishing with barbless hooks is mandatory. Unauthorised entry, fires and killing fish are illegal, in addition the nature of the terrain, difficult hiking and high access traverses make the river potentially dangerous for the inexperienced. Parties with permits should insure an experienced hiker who knows the river is included in the group.  Access permits can only be obtained by lucky draw available to members of the Cape Piscatorial Society.

Note: This is the 150th post on “The Fishing Gene Blog”, and I couldn’t imagine a more fitting subject that a trip up this pristine river. How many pristine rivers do we have left and what are we doing to protect those that are still unspoiled?  You can find more writings by the author of this blog on the following link:


Backpack Paranoia

January 17, 2014


Things have been a bit of a whirl of late, what with the silly season (which closely aligns with the festive season in these parts). Guiding days, handyman jobs, urgent fixes, hot weather, a trip out to the lake and a great deal of traipsing up and down the stream valleys in search of fish.

 I suppose that in some way that is an excuse for the lack of activity on this blog, although really it should have provided more than a little material to play with as well. Right now though the panic hasn’t ended, and I am heading out again over the weekend to a remote river valley which one only gets to see based on a lucky draw ticket.

It has all been a bit of a rush and at the kind invitation of Craig Thom at Stream X, Cape Town’s best fly fishing shop, I am due to hike into the Jan Du Toit’s Rver with him in search of pristine conditions and hopefully more than a few trout.

JDT 2The River is something very special and worth the effort to reach it.

This river is unique in so many ways as to render it virtually indescribable to anyone who hasn’t visited it previously. The hike in to the overnight camp is a couple of hours and the going is pretty steep, the river itself is crystal, benefitting from that age old conservation mechanism that protects places that require physical effort and some risk to reach. There are fairly well worn paths if you can keep on them as they cross and re-cross the river but it is a remote and beautiful piece of the countryside and demanding to fish. Not so much that the fish are particularly educated, although they are far from stupid, more tricky because the water would make a fine bottle of London Dry Gin look a tad murky, although to be fair at depth the stream takes on a slightly emerald hue, and the boulders in the river range from pebbles to the size of a double garage.

Because of the hike everything needs to be stripped down to the bare minimum, my six fly boxes have been compacted into just two, one for the dry flies and another for subsurface patterns. There is plenty of room in two boxes but the heap of flies will be tricky to sort on the water, and it will take more time than usual to find the ones that I want.

I shall forego the normal fishing boots and run the risk of slipping more, but carrying in two sets of footwear is unnecessarily troublesome and the wading boots would occupy too much space in the backpack so I shall walk and fish in the same pair. Leaving me with wet feet on the way home which isn’t too much of a problem and the risk of slipping which could be far more serious. Up there there aren’t any easy options of escape should one pick up an injury.

JDT 4Deep enough and the water takes on a brilliant emerald hue.

Of course I am a fisherman so more preparation goes into the tackle than the food and camping requirements, but it all has to be stripped down. I have checked and rechecked the gear list, rod, reel, tippet and fly boxes, a spare leader or two, polaroids (in such clear water it would be a travesty to forget those), net and my lanyard with hook sharpener, nippers, floatant and such all attached. The lanyard is a winner because so long as I don’t forget or lose it it carries most of the little tools and nick nacks which I might require on the stream. Then of course there has been a little bit of last minute fly tying, it seems that the last flies tied before a trip, usually wrapped rapidly in a state of mild panic, often prove to be the most effective.

I have also had to unpack my fishing vest, the one I have been using is too bulky for travel. With moulded pockets that tend to have one feeling like Mae West out on the water, all a bit front heavy,  it is simply too bulky to pack and I have dug out an old and tattered vest from the past, hidden in the back corner of a cupboard, which can be rolled up and stuffed into the pack. Of course, unpacking a fishing vest is a dangerous operation, all too easy to forget something important and even if not forgotten it could be a trial to locate what one is looking for. Unpacking and repacking a fishing vest can become a little like fiddling with a solved Rubic Cube, you might never get it back to the way that it was.

Hopefully with the fishing gear list all ticked off I can then move on to the logistics in terms of clothing and food. I suppose that it says something that I am far more willing to go hungry than to be missing an essential piece of fishing equipment and then again probably less keen to be cold or wet than to be starving. It all comes down to priorities, and on my list fishing gear comes first and food last, a sort of “Maslow’s hierarchy of fishing trip packing”. In short if I forget the biscuits it will be annoying but if I forget the 7X tippet it has the potential to ruin the weekend.

JDT 1Fishing takes priority, food and clothing come second.

The real problem with these trips is that there is no turning back, up in the highest portion of this steep sided valley one is hours from the car and further still from the nearest fly shop, what you forget you do without and that’s about the sum of things.

So the lists have been typed out and will be checked and rechecked, somewhere along the way, in the car or on the path I will have the customary panic that some essential item has been left on the kitchen counter, it is all part of the process, a case of backpack paranoia and which of us hasn’t pulled over to check a pocket during such a venture in the past?

I have fished this particular river a few times a year for well over a decade so at least I know what to expect, there will be some serious hiking, rock scrambling and at a few notable spots some death defying rock climbing to reach better fishing water. (When did a potentially lethal fall stop any of us seeking out better angling?)

In the steep sided kloof the sun will leave early and arrive late and I shall probably end up sleeping for far longer than I ever would at home. The sleep though is generally interrupted by rustling in the bush at some point of the evening, a visit from a near tame Spotted Gennet that always seems to know when there are people and therefore potential food in the valley. Years back some wag wrote “Scorpion Cave” in charcoal on the side of the cliff were we overnight, that alone can leave one rather fitful when trying to doze off and if we are fortunate we might get to see dancing fireflies  jetting about on the far side of the stream when it gets dark.

JDT 5Pretty streams begat pretty fish.

My first trip up this river years ago was part of a restocking programme, we all carried baby trout on our backs, suitably ensconced in plastic bags filled with clean water and pure oxygen. Twenty babies to a bag and two bags to a person. The terrain is such that the river’s fish can easily become isolated from one another due to numerous barrier falls and so we stocked a couple of fingerlings in each pool taking care to spread them out and provide the best chance of creating a self-sustaining population. For the most part it seems to have worked, although there are still sections where the trout are thin on the ground or absent completely, then it is a case of hiking to the next barrier and trying again.

All in all I am looking forward to it, perhaps not the hike so much but definitely the fishing, with luck I shan’t forget anything essential but I think that I had better go and check that packing list again just in case.


Merry Christmas

December 8, 2013
2013 Animated Christmas Card

Merry Christmas to all the readers of “The Fishing Gene” Blog

Merry Christmas,

May your festive season be filled with Love, Joy and Happiness

May you find much to be thankful for and even more to look forward to in the year to come.

Wishing you all a wonderful festive season and a Happy and Prosperous New Year

Oh and of course lots of time to go fishing and lots of fish when you do.

Best Wishes,

Tim ……………  aka Paracaddis.

The Uneducated Trout

December 3, 2013


I have on occasion written down, both here and in other scribblings,  my thoughts on selective trout and that supposedly mythical beast the “educated trout”. Of course that has equally led to a level of derisive commentary from some, sufficiently determined argument that can on occasion have me questioning if I have missed the point and simply bought into the concept that fish learn from their mistakes if given the opportunity.

Indeed there was a time when I discussed the idea that there were no such things as selective trout and that the angler’s long held belief was simply an excuse for poor angling ability.. you can get yourself into a lot of trouble making known such thoughts, particularly if you are not careful about who you might offend.

In fact I have of late been reading through an entire book on the subject,  “What trout want, the educated trout and other myths” by Bob Wyatt, (Stackpole 2013) and it makes for some interesting cerebral gymnastics. Trouble is that there are still things that happen out on the river which suggest that fish do indeed become educated.  I don’t believe that they are going to fuss overly that the rib on your March Brown is slightly the wrong shade or that you have foolishly tied in four tails instead of three but fish that receive more angling pressure behave differently to those which don’t,  of that I am pretty darned certain.

Witter River Brown Trout Cape TownEducated or not, the trout on this stream are exceptionally pretty.

Take for example a recent trip to the high country of the Witte River in the Western Cape, a long haul hike up a pretty steep mountain to reach a river that has the longest history of Catch and Release angling of all our local streams. The water is crystal clear, holds relatively few fish and is renowned for being tricky. Personally I don’t think that this river is particularly technically demanding but to be sure you don’t get that many chances at a fish in the course of a day, so errors tend to have a significant influence on your catch rate. Not so much that the trout are harder to fool but more that if you do miss a couple of opportunities  you could easily be making the long walk back to the car with a dry net.

Witte6Into the high country in search of naive trout.

So it was that having not visited this particular watershed for some time and drawn by the lure of complete isolation, quiet fishing time and spectacular scenery I headed off alone, high into the hills.

Now hill country in general and this valley in particular is known for vagaries of weather, it is almost entirely impossible to predict and despite checking the weather forecasts and such one can find local climatic conditions changing suddenly as you gain elevation.

Driving up Bain’s Kloof Pass to the start of the hike into the valley I meandered through areas of complete stillness and the next moment had the car rocking in the gale. In the nearby town of Wellington the smoke from barbeque fires was floating straight up into a clear blue sky, on the pass the trees were bending dangerously as the air funnelled down the valley at near hurricane force.

Adopting the “you are here you might as well fish” mantra of the dedicated angler I headed uphill, puffing and panting to reach the stream. The wind wasn’t quite so bad on the high ground but still represented more than a bit of a challenge, buffeting downstream and into my face.

I am a great believer in the benefits of careful fly presentation, which normally then begets long leaders, small flies and fine tippets, but after a few practise casts it was obvious that such a rig wasn’t going to offer much hope under the conditions. I cut back the leader to around 12’, forwent the benefits of fine 8x tippet in favour of more sturdy stuff  and lashed on a large hopper pattern which when damp could at least be persuaded to cut into the gale and land, albeit with something of a “plop” roughly where I was aiming to throw it.

Witte4At least I got to wet the net.

I fished on, searching likely runs, there were a few hoppers about and the wind should be sending the odd hapless individual into the stream, I figured that I was at least in with a chance of a fish.

This is a notoriously bushy bit of water requiring some pretty gung ho orienteering to gain access to certain parts of the stream. Eventually after much struggling and rather splashy casting I came to a run amongst the bush where a trout held over a flat rock feeding merrily and occasionally coming up to the surface to engulf some tiny morsel. I decided that the hopper and the short leader just weren’t the ticket and re-rigged to a finer set up with more and thinner nylon and set about casting for my prize. The first cast looked good but was ignored by the trout so I changed flies, the second cast was a tad too far to the right and the third ended up with the line snagged in the bush. At some point during the retrieval process the fish must have got a glimpse of me because when I turned around he was gone.

Never mind early days and I pressed on in search of new quarry. The long leader set up really was troublesome so I reverted to the hopper and the shorter stiffer terminal tackle, bashing the fly into the gale in likely looking spots all to no avail.

Then, finally another trout, a big one and holding in the tail out of a long smooth run, feeding quietly in between two tufts of river grass and oblivious to my presence. This time I figured I would stick to the hopper despite the slow flow and made what I thought was a good cast, slightly to my side of the fish and a fraction behind his head. I figured that the “plop” of the hopper would be sufficient to induce him to spin and engulf the pattern. Not a chance, he spun around for sure, had a good look at the fly and bolted for the bankside brush, obviously less than impressed with something, either the fly or perhaps the tippet.

I fished on, things were looking a little grim, on this notoriously understocked river (actually it isn’t stocked and hasn’t been for decades), I thought I might be facing my first ever blank day. I have always managed to scratch a fish or two, even under the most trying conditions. Finally I fooled a small fish, at least the blank was avoided and it heartened me that the small fish was evidence that the occupants of this remote water were still managing to find the odd partner and breed. Most encouraging as their hold on survival is at best a little tenuous.

Witte3I wonder if this fish is now a bit better educated

I hiked higher up the valley, reaching waters that are rarely fished, the flow was becoming minimal and much of the river looked far too shallow to provide trout habitat. By now almost two hours from the car and a long way above where most anglers would turn back I threw the hopper into a shallow run with a slight depression amongst the boulders and got an instant hit. A nice fish and my second for the day. The next run I overcooked the cast, the hopper and the tip of the fly line splashing down hard into the water as the wind momentarily abated and I turned away in disgust at my error. When I turned back the hopper was gone, replaced only with the swirling rings of an obvious take, the ripples rapidly being flattened out by the still onerously strong breeze. I struck late and hooked a really good fish, surprised that it would swallow such a poorly presented fly at all. The next run and another fish, then another. High up in the valley where the angler’s trail all but peters out and where one imagines few ever cast a line the fishing became easy. Presentations, even poor ones frequently resulted in a take. The hopper splashed down, the fish rose up and I took trout almost at will from virtually every piece of water that had a little bit of depth.  After a poor start I ended the day with ten or so wild brown trout, some of pretty reasonable dimension and no doubt could have landed more but for the pressing need to turn tail and head home before it got too late.

Witte2Were it not for the need to hike back I probably could have increased my tally.

In the end I can’t come up with a better explanation of the day other than to suggest that the higher I went and the less fishing pressure the water received the more naïve the trout became. So perhaps “The Educated Trout” is a myth, but if that is the case how do you explain the concept then of the “Uneducated Trout”? Are they not opposite sides of the same coin?  The browns high up in this valley, which one presumes are rarely troubled by anglers machinations were heartbreakingly naïve, foolhardy to a near suicidal level. If I were honest, the only real difference I can come up with is that they haven’t had the chance or necessity to learn better.

For more musings on educated and naive trout, fly casting, fly tying and more from the author of this blog a number of thought provoking and educational titles are available on line and from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za


Don’t Panic

November 23, 2013


A lucky escape:

I have a favourite quotation from one of my all-time favourite books “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. The scenario plays out something like this. Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect (an alien with a carelessly chosen pseudonym) are in the pub just prior to the destruction of the planet earth. Ford Prefect, who is well versed in the ways of the universe, has told the barman several times that the world is about to end but the barman keeps on going on about that afternoon’s soccer match in which he seems to think Arsenal don’t stand too much of a chance.


The dialogue follows as such:

Six pints of bitter and quickly please. The world’s about to end.

Oh yes sir nice weather for it. Going to watch the match this afternoon?

No, no point.

Foregone conclusion you reckon sir. Arsenal without a chance?

No it’s just that the world’s going to end.

Ah yes you said. Lucky escape for Arsenal if it did.

Well it so happens that just recently my own personal planet earth was facing something of an apocalypse. You see I had just been out on a three hour hike, something that I do from time to time to generate what has become an infrequent but at the same time regular newspaper column, focusing, as you might guess on outdoor things, nature walks and such.  On returning home with a few hundred pictures of ostrich babies, bontebok, seascapes and much more I settled down to edit the images and write the column.

On my computer the files all appeared in date ordered files but the card was almost full so I figured that I would get rid of a pile of old images that were cluttering up the place. That’s where it started to go wrong. Apparently, although the computer “saw the images” in folders the camera felt that they were all in the same folder and when I went to delete a few of the extraneous pictures the device decided to wipe out the entire lot.

There I sat with the camera’s screen showing “NO FILES FOUND” and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I won’t tell you what I was repeating under my breath, this is a family blog. :-)

CSIHowever I have seen enough CSI on the telly’ to know that files that are “deleted” aren’t really most of the time actually destroyed and if Grissom and his team can find deleted images on the computer of some nepharious criminal there should be some chance that I might recover mine. That was the hope anyway.

Off to Google “recover deleted images” and as fortune would have it I found some useful information and a piece of free software that cheerily offered to “get my pictures back”.

GoogleSearchRecuvaRecuva software will search any drive and allow you to get back files/images or whatever having accidentally deleting them. You can download a copy of this software from the following link: http://www.piriform.com/recuva

Of course I am a fifty plus year old semi technophobe and as with so many things it didn’t all go quite according to plan. It seems that the software, wonderful as it might eventually turn out to be, simply didn’t see the camera. The computer saw it, Windows Explorer saw it but the software didn’t and therefore I couldn’t search it for the lost files. I thought at one point I had managed that and waited an hour or so for it to do whatever it was doing only to return the message that the files found were ignored.

Finally I recognised the problem and ran the same software on someone else’s computer which harboured within its workings a card reader drive. Lo and behold, there was the card with a drive allocated to it, “Removable disc (I: ) or some such and I was able to run the program and find my files.

So I am now back in possession of my much missed images and have been out and bought, at nominal cost,  a card reader which will plug into the USB ports on my computer allowing me to better manipulate data stored on cards in the future.

If you find yourself in a similar position perhaps what I found will help you with your problem:

Firstly download recuva from http://www.piriform.com/recuva

Ignore the wizard and click cancel in the bottom right hand corner.


Select the drive which you wish to search for deleted files (remember the system will not see a camera as a drive so you need to use a card reader to get to it).


Under the options/advanced tab select the search criteria. I used the following hoping to be sure that it would find the lost images.


You can also suggest what types of files the system should be looking for


Then click “scan” and your files will reappear as if by magic in the file name box, you can even see a preview so you know that you have the right pictures.


You can then select which ones you wish to save and click “recover”. Just save them to a different drive on your computer and you are good to go.

It took a bit of fiddling, mostly because I didn’t realise that cameras don’t get recognised as drives on the computer. But there will be champagne and caviar tonight, this little bit of cyber searching and technology just saved me a great deal of extra work and trouble. Perhaps with this information it might save you a similar problem should you wipe out all those images of giant trout from your trip to Labrador or something.

All of which brings to mind another piece of useful information from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”


Oh yes a few of the images which I feared lost, I am so glad that they were not after all.


On my less technologically challenged days I publish a range of electronic fly fishing related books, you can download them or purchase them from my website or drop me a mail to enquire further about the various titles..



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