Archive for June, 2009

La Ferme Fishing Competition

June 30, 2009

Fly Fishing at La Ferme,

Many thanks to Mercedes Labuschagne for her invitation to join in at the recent fly fishing competition held at La Ferme in Franschoek.

An angler in the gorgeously attractive surrounds of La Ferme in Franschoek.

An angler in the gorgeously attractive surrounds of La Ferme in Franschoek.

It was, after all of the horrendous weather of late, a totally glorious day and the drive out there through the countryside with the winter colours and the sun just peaking over the mountain tops made for a great start. To be honest the weather may have been a tad too nice for good stillwater fishing and the fish seemed a little reluctant to come to the fly. Some were cruising the shallows a sure sign that they were getting into spawning mode and not helluva interested in food. Mind you I suppose that most of us wouldn’t be that interested in food either if in a similar state of arousal………… just a thought.

Paul Cochrane with a 1.2 Kg fish taken during the competition.

Paul Cochrane with a 1.2 Kg fish taken during the competition.

It was doubly satisfying that most of the fish were measured and released back into the water, that is the way it is done in international competition and I think shows considerable responsibility on the parts of most of the entrants and the organizers. It is more tricky to run a competition like that but shows better understanding and empathy for our environment.

There was a pretty good turn out of anglers and although the fishing was perhaps a tad slow it seemed that most people enjoyed the day and I think that majority had some success.

For myself I was fortunate to pick up a fish but others fared better than I did and I have to confess that I really did try rather hard, particularly later in the afternoon when a few fish were rising on the dam, perhaps to some terrestrials that were blowing across the water. Despite cutting down on tippet diameter and switching lines and flies ad nauseum it made no difference and further success eluded me.

La Ferme offers accommodation as well as fly fishing and it is in the most beautiful setting you could imagine, well worth consideration should you be looking for a nice weekend away from the madding crowd without having to drive too far out of central Cape Town..

I was privileged to have the opportunity of doing a fly casting demonstration and also to assist a few anglers with their form and received some very positive feedback from that. The standard of casting amongst many of the competitors I thought a little better than average actually, and it is something that I always notice. Fly casting being a great interest of mine and something that fascinates is that many people who have fished for years actually cast rather poorly. In fact I suspect that most are in one way or another unhappy with their form and would prefer to do better. When guiding on the streams I find that the single most limiting factor for most of the clients is their inability to cast accurately and efficiently. It can seem remarkable that a man who has spent thousands on fishing for exotic fish in even more exotic locations hasn’t taken the time or money to learn to do it well.

Perhaps in the next missive I will take some time to explain why I think that most casting instruction isn’t very useful but for now a simple thank you to Mercedes and her crew and to the fellow anglers who made the day worthwhile. You can contact La Ferme via their website at

June 25, 2009

Cape Piscatorial Society Newsletter. Thursday June 25th, 2009

Well not a whole lot going on in my little fishing world right now, the poor weather and the desperate need to actually do some work has sort of interfered with things a little. I did have another attempt at the carp over the weekend in the good company of Tom Southwood. Tom really just wanted to get the hang of some shortline nymphing technique before he heads up to the Orange River and he did at least hook a carp. Close enough for him to get something of a surprise as to the size of the brute but the line snapped or something and it was lost before hitting the net. Mind you it stayed on just long enough to make the look on his face a real picture.

Commonwealth Championships.

For those who haven’t kept up to date with these things it was refreshing to note that the South African Team at the Commonwealth Championships fared far better than the World Championship team and came in a credible fifth place. I have been criticized in the past for suggesting that the Commonwealths are more difficult than the Worlds and although the level of competition may be a tad lower there are other factors to consider. Not the least that in the Commonwealths, especially when held somewhere in Great Britain you are competing against almost entirely “local” teams. England fielded one team, Scotland both a men’s and ladies team, Wales two teams, Isle of Man two teams. That’s already seven teams who have intimate knowledge of the style of fishing and quite often the venues. So it is tough for the “outsiders”. The Aussies also put up two teams as did Canada , so there were only four teams to beat who one could consider didn’t have some sort of “home advantage”, and even the outsiders had the benefit of being able to share information with ten anglers per country fishing. I think that it was a great effort and well done to the South Africans a really good effort. There is some more information about the results on my blog at and full results and information about the tournament can be found at

Although my life is spectacularly boring from the fishing perspective there are a number of events and happenings of note in the near future which may well be of interest to you all.

Fly Fishing competition in Franschoek.

La Ferme are hosting one of their fishing competitions out in Franschoek on Sunday the 28th, and there is a strong rumour that I will be giving a casting demo at some point during the day. Mind you my mother always told me that pride comes before a fall, which in this instance more than likely means I shall end up with a fly in my ear and egg on my face. Wonderful language English that you could do both of those at the same time.. I understand that English is the only place in the universe where you can tread on thin ice and end up in hot water.. now there is something to think about. Details from

Juniors Fly Fishing Festival at Jonkershoek.

Then Jonkershoek are hosting in conjunction with Develo Flies a Junior fly fishing festival out at their venue in Stellenbosch on the 11th of July. You can pick up more information about the event from the following links. but just in case you think that it is only of interest to juniors there will be a raffle for a grand prize of ten grand’s worth of Sage fly fishing gear so might be worth taking your son along, entering the draw and having some coffee whilst you wait to see if you are a winner. Proceeds will go to the Pebbles project to assist children with special needs.

New Stocking at Fly Talk / Eikendal.

Phillip tells me that they have restocked and have put some fish in the bottom dam now as well, so your chances of success are accordingly increased.

Events Calendar at StreamX..
You can also access an up to date list of forthcoming local events at the following website.

FOSAF joint meeting with Yellowfish Working Group, the committee supplied me with the following information for publication to draw your attention to the following.

The Western Cape FOSAF chapter is enjoying a fresh start. We currently see yellowfish and other indigenous species as priority species in the Western Cape and would like to expand yellowfish waters for recreational as well as preservation purposes in the province. Hence, FOSAF WC would like to engage
with the WCYWG in an official meeting on Tuesday evening, 30 June 2009, at 19:00 h at the Bells Jonkershoek Flyfishing Academy. All interested parties are welcome to attend, the main objective of this event would be to select committee members for both parties and hopefully engage for future
prospects. From a WCYWG perspective, the main topics of discussion will include the draft scope of the WCYWG as set by Jan Rossouw, and stocking and regulation of yellowfish waters in the Western Cape. This will hopefully create a foundation for a positive future for our indigenous species

So there it is, all news and no news really, a lot going to be happening in the near future but not a lot to tell you about right now.

Keeping track. (Use RSS feeds to keep track of updates to this blog.)

In  case you don’t know, and to be honest I didn’t until a few weeks ago, you can be notified of updates on this blog by clicking the RSS feed notification at the bottom of the page. You can then elect to have notifications sent to your e mail (Microsoft Outlook for example) and not have to check in to see if there is anything new as you will be notified of any updates when you log into your e mail.

So as I sit the rain is hammering down outside, the rivers will be in full flood and for once I need not worry about it as the season is closed. In fact it has been almost a month and although the withdrawal is severe we are almost a third of the way through the doldrums and before too long I am going to have to start sorting out those fly boxes, organizing some new wading boots and generally getting myself in gear for spring. Well it is still a long way off but no harm in dreaming about it.

If you are venturing out over the weekend, as always “Be Careful Out There”..


Scotland Take Gold

June 20, 2009

Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships Final Results.

Images courtesy Mike Dow, CommonwealthFlyfishingScotland 2009.

Scotland take the honours, get piped at the post for the individual gold by their arch enemies from the South whilst South Africa’s team raised the game from their poor World Championship performance for a far better finish.

Scots Take Gold

Scots Take Gold

Scotland took gold in the Bowmore Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships this week, with their anglers Robert Irvine, John McCallum and Ian Jones taking the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places respectively and being pipped at the post by England’s Phil Dixon who took top honours with individual gold.. Which means that Englishmen took Gold at both the World Championships and Commonwealths in close succession.  England took the team silver medal and Australia the Bronze.

English Team take individual Gold and Team Silver medals.

English Team take individual Gold and Team Silver medals.

Aussies take the Bronze

Aussies take the Bronze

South Africa’s Team faired far better than their compatriots in the World Championships coming a very creditable fifth and a well done to Mark Yelland (9th), Terry Babich (13th), Ian Lourens (23rd), Cameron Anderson (28th) and Martin Ferriera 35th).

South Africa raise their game to come creditable fifth.

South Africa raise their game to come creditable fifth.

Full final results can be obtained from

I think that the South Africans could have done better if they had been drinking brandy instead of single malt but it was a good performance and the team faired far better than the World Championship team who got a bit of a hammering. Still experience will out and SA are still the new boys on the block when it comes to this form of fishing, always fishing out of their home waters and comfort zones. Given the South Africa has virtally no large trout lakes, a complete lack of drift boat fishing opportunities and that most of the team spend their time fishing for other species they did really well.

So now if we can organise a competition with brandy and coke as the sponsors and yellowfish as the target we might just kick a bit of butt. Mind you maybe we won’t? so best left alone.. 🙂

Hopefully the “Boks” will boot the Lions out of the park this afternoon in the rugby and our National Pride will be restored.. Good thing about Rugby is that you can only come second..

Fly Fishing for Carp

June 19, 2009
A fish from a previous visit to the same venue

A fish from a previous visit to the same venue

I have just spend a couple of hours at my closest fishing venue fly casting for carp. Now it has to be said that whilst trout live in the most gorgeous of surroundings carp don’t seem to be anywhere near as fussy and this place isn’t the type of venue where you would wish to take a dunking never mind actually drink the water.

On the other hand it does contain some very large carp in running water and that is the beauty of the place. I suppose that there are those that would sneeze at fishing what amounts to a virtual sewage outfall but the lure of 20lb fish that run you into your backing and can take half an hour to land is enough to get those of us carrying the fishing gene pretty excited.

I haven’t visited the venue for a long time, the fishing there blows a bit hot and cold and can be slow, especially if the locals have been fishing the carp out for supper, a frequent occurrence, plus of course here in SA carp are not only looked down upon but are actually listed alien species. In short to the majority they are vermin and like all good vermin they are plentiful :-).  South Africa must be one of the best carp venues in the world and nobody really gives a toss about them except for the few of us that like to catch them occasionally. Even the bait anglers use methods far less sophisticated for the most part than their Northern Hemisphere brethren with their boilies, hair rigs and encampments, here a bit of bread or some sweet corn is about all you really need, unless of course you elect to go “fly only”.

It was a sunny winter’s day here, the river’s usually meager flow was a tad better than normal and that may have helped things along. There were a few bait anglers, that is hand lining for supper types  but for the most part here the carp are used to feeding on natural food and a well presented blood worm pattern can really do some damage when things are on.

The methodology was born out of a need to practice Czech nymphing or mono nymphing for yellowfish on the Orange and Vaal River. Mono is best for carp, the takes are very subtle and even with a short line the inclusion of a fly line in the mix dampens the takes significantly.

The method is based on flipping out a well weighted fly, usually containing a large tungsten bead in the dressing as well as a couple of other ones of slightly less weight. When fishing for yellowfish or grayling one can rely on the tick tick of the flies on the bottom to indicate that you have the correct depth but here the bottom is sand and you can’t be sure. Experience has shown that heavier is better if only to be certain that you are in the zone. Which when it comes to carp means hard on the bottom.

I always thought that carp were primarily olfactory feeders, feeling and sniffing out food in the murky waters they tend to inhabit. However after some experimentation it shows that they will respond visually to flies, in particular blood worm patterns and the odd dragonfly nymph for that matter.

The judas bloodworm, securely in mouth "A"

The judas bloodworm, securely in mouth "A"

The sluggish, pig like features of many stillwater carp, particularly those heavily fished with bait and buckets of ground bait have given the humble carp a lack of street cred’, whereas these naturally occurring and moving water fish are sleek, fast and powerful, worthy adversaries tricky to hook and battlers to the end when you try to land them. They are also huge and fish of seventeen odd pounds (about eight kilos) are quite normal.

It wasn’t a particularly productive afternoon; I missed a take, nearly foul hooked one and got another fair and square in the lips. (What the old hands at mono nymphing euphemistically refer to as “mouth A”, you can foul hook a lot of fish when they are thick on the ground). The fish I landed was estimated at around eighteen pounds, and proved to be good fun on a five weight rod.

I really do now need to do some work but it was worth the few hours spent and as said the place is the nearest thing to home that I have where it is really worth throwing a fly. It might be grubby and carp may not be a glamour species but it provides a worthwhile distraction when one has to get a fix.

Drift Boating

June 18, 2009

We are rapidly approaching the shortest day, in fact according to me, and I am notoriously unreliable with such matters it should be on Sunday but I am not entirely sure, based on the amount of work done in the day before running out of time it seems to me that all the days have become pretty short of late but that could just be old age.

Apparently reading further the winter solstice only occurs for an instant, that is the moment that the sun is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equator, or something like that, but for most of us it represents the whole, albeit foreshortened day. Well the day isn’t shorter, but that part of it where you aren’t dependent on Eskom if you wish to read a book is.

None of which has anything to do with the fact that my recent trip up to Lakensvlei with Mike Spinola was foreshortened. In fact twice, firstly because Mike had a forgotten prior engagement that meant we couldn’t go out and share the hut as we had first planned and secondly because I overslept and Mike’s “where are you” phone call actually served as an alarm and I had to admit that I was still wrapped up warm in bed and not overly keen to vacate it either. So after a belting dash with dirty contact lenses and the sense of overwhelming dread that something critical had been forgotten I arrived at the point of departure about forty minutes late and we arrived at the dam some little time after dawn.

The lake was mirror calm other than for the wakes of ducks and bobbing float tubers already afloat, for the record the float tubes are distinguishable from the ducks in that they are more brightly coloured and considerably larger although at a distance it can be confusing.

We managed to inflate the boat, rig up the tackle and get onto the dam in short order and perhaps the slightly later than planned hour meant that we weren’t quite as cold as we might have been, but it was a tad chilly. Competition angling has however taught me, finally, that when rigging boats and tackle it is very much a case of “more haste less speed” so we were well balanced in our approach and preparations went off without the usual hitches of forgetting the bung, tangling the leader or leaving the polaroids in the car.

Spare rods were stowed, more of the importance of that later, and we were off. The decision to wear waders turned out to be a good one later but even at the outset the pleasure of not wetting one’s tootsies and having to sit crunched up and frigid for the day was welcome.

Lakensvlei is probably our best venue and certainly our best drift boat venue, however it is a cantankerous mistress and the wind there is fickle in the extreme. There was a lovely gentle breeze by the time we launched blowing directly down the lake and we factored in a super long drift past the hut for the outset. Positioning ourselves up in the first inlet arm and lined up to skirt the reef just off shore things were looking good until we deployed the drogue. Now if you know anything about climatology you will know that the very best way to stop the wind is to deploy a drogue on a drift boat, and sure as eggs no more than seconds after the canvass hit the water the wind died again.

So we pulled in the underwater parachute and paddled a tad further out, things were still not looking that good so we headed for the tiniest bit of breeze not that far from the middle of the dam in the hope we would get a drift and perhaps find some daphnia feeders out in the deep.

About half an hour into things there was a flash under my flies as I lifted off and repeated retrieves and “hangs” eventually produced a fish for me and a take for Mike which he missed. Then another fish and the breeze stiffened a tad blowing us towards the bank in front of Bob’s house. Coming into the shoreline a fish chased the flies up as I lifted from the hang, a quick drop of the wrist to allow him a second chance and he took the point fly, a good fish and I was pleased to have him as we were working hard.

A repeated drift along the bank produced another fish for me and Mike remained fishless, the waves now becoming rather unpleasant and our drift speed too fast despite the drogue. I think that my drogue works a tad better and would have slowed us more but we in the end opted to switch banks to the more sheltered lee shore and try some slower drifts.

It seemed that the fish were deeper than we expected, in the bright calm conditions of the morning I had expected it but now with a good wave I was hoping for the fish to come up and switched lines to an intermediate, Mike stayed with the Di3 and started to catch up, landing four fish whilst I got a fat toffee.

We only connected with fish quite deep and well off shore for the most part, although Mike did pull one fish right after we deployed the drogue near the bank, he was busy fishing whilst I was still getting the boat into position, a somewhat aggressive competitive tactic but one that could be forgiven since I had delayed his departure in the morning and he was rather fired up.

We continued with things like this for much of the day, pulling fish but never really locating a solid concentration of them. The drift across the mouth of the bay opposite the hut was the most consistent and we did hook up on each drift at least once. The beauty of drift boat fishing being that if you can locate the right drift you can go back over the fish and hammer them on a good day.

After I switched back to a faster sinking line I was back in the game and took a couple more fish, one good one which we kept, partly as I haven’t eaten a trout in over ten years and rather felt like it and partly because I really wanted to see if our suspicions were correct and that the fish were in mid-water feeding on daphnia, I couldn’t really imagine any other reason for them to be out there.

The last hours were spent on fruitless drifts up in the pump house arm, all the way into the trees which only produced one small fish for the two hours that we were there. In the final hour Mike casually “adjusted” the alignment of his rod guides which had turned a tad skew, and there was quite a crack from the carbon fibre. I suggested that it sounded more as though he had broken the rod than adjusted it and he commented back that we would find out on the next cast. Which indeed we did when the lower section and the upper parted company without taking too much notice of the position of the ferrule.

Hence the comment early about the spare rod, which Mike rigged up , but being a couple of line weights lighter than the one he was using turned out to be something of a dog and the combination of the cold wind, the setting sun and the poor fishing up at that end of the dam had us heading back for shore.

I think we landed something in the region of sixteen fish between us for the day but we worked hard, covering a lot of water and I think that all things being equal it was something of a slow day. The float tubers who had stayed near the first inlet I think had as good or better fortune than us fishing the area we had vacated in the early morning calm.

The wind had turned bitter as we packed up and we were offered coffee by some new arrivals freshly cooked up on a gas stove and tasting like the finest cappuccinos after a long day afloat.

Fingers thawed around the mugs and the boat was packed away in short order and we headed home.

Cleaning the one fish taken proved the point, a few daphnia in its stomach and two crabs, one the size of a fifty cent piece, one couldn’t help but wonder if killing this fish didn’t put it out of its misery, I would imagine that a crab is a fairly uncomfortable thing to have stuck in one’s gullet. But there were daphnia in there and I suspect that most of the fish that we had taken out of the deeper water were feeding on them.

This freshwater crab was found in the stomach of the one fish we killed.

This freshwater crab was found in the stomach of the one fish we killed.

The killing flies for us varied but a dark brown nymph pattern and an orange blob on the hang worked for me, Mike did well with his favoured brown woolly bugger with a tan tail and also took a couple of fish on an orange fly.

The depth seemed more important than the pattern and fishing on the hang from the boat after a lengthy retrieve was definitely the most effective ploy for most of the day.

I suspect that the food sources near the bank have begun to wane as winter sets in and the fish have moved a little further out. The fish killed was full of eggs and spawning mode is just around the corner, focusing on the depths or the gravel shallows is likely to produce the goods in the next month I would imagine. But the venue remains our premiere stillwater and the fishing is still very good, certainly well worth a visit, just set your alarm and put it out of reach so that you can’t hit the snooze button when half asleep.

Going Fishing..

June 9, 2009

Welcome to “The Fishing Gene” blog,

This project is still under construction but hopefully when it is working and my brain is functioning properly it will contain some useful and readable information. Right now there is work to do and fishing gear to get ready for the weekend, life is tough..

Still the weekend promises some great fishing and the cold winter weather should mean that the fish are strong fit and healthy, they seem to like the cooler temps more than I do so I have to add rain gear and warm fleeces to the fishing tackle. Plus I really need to whip up a few more flies, not because I don’t have hundreds but just that history teaches that the ones that you tie just before you go turn out to be the winners more often than not.  So a few frantic hours at the vice cold pay off.

I have borrowed Ian’s boat, he is off to the commonwealth champs in Scotland so it was a great opportunity to get afloat and a spot of drift boat fishing on our best stillwater will be just the thing to ward off those winter blues..