Archive for October, 2009

World Class

October 27, 2009
Bell's Festival

The Bell's Festival in Cape Town provides tuition for neophyte anglers.

I have been out participating as a guide at the Bell’s Fly Fishing Festival, sponsored by that iconic brand “Bell’s Extra Special Scotch” and held on the gorgeous streams of the Limietberg Reserve .

The Cape version of this festival, one of many Bell’s Festivals throughout the country, is just a tad different. Us Capetonians rather like things to be a little different and here instead of competitive fishing the focus is on assisting neophyte anglers to overcome and master the technicalities of fishing catch and release waters full of some pretty well educated trout. Guides and experienced anglers give up their time and freely pass on their expertise to the newcomers with on-stream guiding and tuition and it is always a wonderful event.

I doubt that any fly angler, no matter how skilled or egotistical could honestly vouch that they have never benefited from the guidance of another, and the Bell’s festival provides orchestrated means to give something back.

We had some glorious fishing, the waters had dropped and were at near perfect levels, slighting stained by natural tannins leached from the surrounding soils to the colour of well watered whisky, appropriate perhaps given the business of our main sponsors.

It was good but not overly easy, a great combination when you are teaching, you don’t wish to give the impression that things are too simple, and yet you do hope that your “cients” will at least enjoy a modicum of success. We found trout rising freely in the morning, things quietened down a few times during the day but all in all it was a great outing, my “clients” I think appreciated the assistance, benefitted from the experience and we all enjoyed a glorious day out in the most splendid of locations. Ericas and pelargoniums provided colourful counterpoint to the rather drap fynbos, and troupes of baboons wandered near the road as we walked in.

It was a superb summer’s day in Southern Africa and all was good. The Sunday saw everyone leave for home quite early, to the point that only myself and Stephen Dugmore were left at the hotel, drinking coffee and discussing fishing, until we both thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to drop into one of the beats for a quick cast or two on the way home.

We decided to just check things out as we drove past, make sure that the wind wasn’t howling and then make a decision. Of course once standing looking at a crystal clear trout stream the decision is already made, even if you try to pretend it isn’t and we decided to give it “an hour or two”.

Those few hours provided some of the best angling I have enjoyed in ages, although there weren’t fish moving much we both took fish in the first run. Really good fish, in the region of sixteen inches or so, which ran line off the reel and made us both work really hard to get them in the net. In fact we netted each other’s fish so as to get them in a little quicker, really cracking fish in perfect condition. Fish that had they come from a dam wouldn’t have looked out of place.


The fish taken were larger than this one, but all safely released to provide sport another day.

On releasing them their camouflage in the golden coloured stream was so good that they virtually disappeared in front of our eyes, often only their shadows on the rock bottom revealing their presence. World class stuff. Then we came to “the fish of the day”, an equally good fish, in the tail out of a large pool. She was holding high in the water, although still tricky to see, even in the flat water.

Moving this way and that taking mostly subsurface food and occasionally nebbing to pick a drowned morsel from the surface. The first cast saw her swing downstream following the fly but I don’t think that she actually took it, or I missed. The tiny elk hair caddis was removed and replaced with a minute biot micro caddis, (there were a lot of them on the rocks and I thought that a good choice). She never even looked at that, so I lengthened the leader and put a size 18 brassie nymph over her, feeling that would do the trick. But again not a twitch from the fish although she kept feeding. Finally I tried a #20 comparant pattern, the fly landed just off to the fish’s left, she swung in the current and with an almost imperceptible nudge of the surface film inhaled the fly and was on.


It took all these flies to finally deceive the fish, all great "go to patterns', but in the end it was the ant that proved her downfall.

She ran some  20 metres up the run attempting to break the tippet in the overhanging trees, then down past us, all the time straining the 7X tippet. Eventually after something of a battle she was netted, the minute pattern stuck in the scissors of her mouth. We revived her and let her go. This is what makes fishing for me, the challenge and the ultimate deception and we both agreed that really, this was world class stuff. The fishing that you see in your dreams, clear waters, nebbing fish, microscopic dry flies and battles of wits around the boulders. We fished on a bit and Stephen lost a good fish later in the morning but by then I think we had had enough. Not a lot of fish but good ones and well caught. What more can you ask for?

Focus on Education

October 21, 2009
This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

Focus on learning

This week seems to have something of a “back to school” theme, firstly I was invited to provide some casting tuition to learners from Tafelberg High School in Seapoint. These are a keen group of young anglers who have started a fly fishing club, and they invited me to provide them with some assistance on a glorious day on the beach front in Seapoint. We got a few odd looks from the array of dog walkers, pram pushers and designer jogging crowd but in the limited time available the learners seemed to pick up some of the basics and hopefully will be better prepared for their next outing on real water..

Learners from Tafelberg High School get some casting instruction from SAs "Master Caster" Tim Rolston

Learners from Tafelberg High School get some casting instruction from SAs "Master Caster" Tim Rolston

They also received a copy of “learn to flycast in a weekend” for their school library, and I suspect that after the tuition session that book is likely to be booked off the shelves for the foreseeable future, I only hope that they take out the odd copy of “mastering mathematics” as well, I wouldn’t like to be personally responsible for their academic downfall, or for that matter to simply provide a convenient excuse for it either.

Bell’s Fly Fishing Festival Cape Town.

Then this weekend The Cape Piscatorial Society in conjunction with Bell’s Scotch Whisky are hosting the “Bell’s Fly Fishing festival”. Although these events occur all over South Africa, the Cape Based event is unique in that there is no competitive portion.

Various expert anglers, guides and local sages on things piscatorial give up their time to assist and guide relative newcomers to the sport. With on stream practical tuition, guiding and advice. Whilst there are prizes to be had, they are all selected on a lucky draw basis.

The event is fished on the various trout waters of the Limietberg Reserve, managed by Cape Nature Conservation. The waters all operate on a strict no kill, catch and release only , barbless hooks only regimen of controls and are looked after in conjunction with CNC by the Cape Piscatorial Society.

The rivers have come down in levels after late rains that adversely affected the National Championships which were held on the same waters last week and the fishing and weather is set to be awesome. On the national front, the WP A team took the national title, M.C Coetzer finishing in first place. WP B team got the bronze and Gauteng took second place with their top angler Gary Glen-Young taking silver in the individual competition. WP’s Korrie Broos taking bronze .

International Day of Climate Action.


I figure that if you are interested in fishing you are more than likely interested in our climate as well, so you may like to be reminded that Saturday 24th October is “International Day of Climate Action” the goal being to draw attention to the 350 parts per million Carbon Dioxide levels in our atmosphere as a sustainable target based on the most recent scientific findings. If you are interested to learn more or find an action day event near you, or even to organize your own you can find out all you need to know from

High Water for the National Champs

October 16, 2009
This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

High water levels help clean out the streams

Following on the post about pollution on the Smallblaar I am very happy to be able to report that a combination of action from Cape Nature Conservation, Du Toit’s Estate and Molopong Aquaculture seems to have nipped the problem in the bud. That and the cleansing affects of yet another early season deluge that has sent flow rates soaring and cleaned out any of the silt that was flushed into the river.

As I was taught in my childhood, “it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good” and in this instance the cleansing effects of the high water has definitely been good for the river, although much less so for the National Championships or for guiding operations for that matter.

Adaptability is going to be key in the National Championships.

I fished the Smallblaar on Wednesday for a few hours in the afternoon before heading out to say hello to old friends and some new ones, down in the Cape for the Nationals. The river was high, in fact nearly too high to fish and the nasty swirling downstream winds made for very trying conditions. I generally find that the wind will never stop me fishing, but it does stop me fishing well and fishing well is really what it is all about.

The high waters made for difficult if not positively dangerous conditions in the pocket water and the wind prevented much in the way of line control. On the water the currents whipped the line and dragged the flies almost immediately and if one lifted the rod tip the wind would simply cause the same problem.

Quality drifts, and quality drifts are the name of the game on these catch and release waters, proved extremely hard to come by and so therefore did the fish. In the wider and slower sections I picked up some fish on pure dry flies, fishing along the edges and out of the main maelstrom of current I could find trout feeding, not many and they weren’t rising but they were there.

In the pocket water I fished nymphs hung under high floating dry flies and even resorted to fishing pure mono rigs with tungsten beads. Both methods produced fish but would have, I am sure produced more if the wind hadn’t interfered with the line control as much as it did. In three hours I managed to land about ten fish, the best in the region of 19”, but didn’t fish much of the water, it was too onerous a task to try to wade up the stream and the going was of necessity slow.

Having had more rain over the past two evenings I suspect that conditions for the early part of the National Championships is going to sort out the men from the boys, both in terms of fishing technique and aggressive wading styles. There are going to be some swimmers by the day’s end I am pretty sure. raging currents and slippery rocks make for a lethal combination at times.

Classic Dry Fly Fishing isn't likely to produce the goods for competitors and adaptability is likely to be the key to success.

Classic Dry Fly Fishing isn't likely to produce the goods for competitors and adaptability is likely to be the key to success.

It is a pity really, these streams offer such good quality technical dry fly fishing much of the time and that is what one would have expected to sort out the top anglers from the “also rans” in this Nationals. Now it is going to be a question of who can adapt best to less than ideal conditions, what beats they get and how well they manage to make the most of the water in front of them.

Changing techniques throughout the session, and adapting from the wider slower runs and back to the raging pockets is going to make for a busy time for the competitors and those with the widest variety of skills and the ability to change from one technique to the other are likely to be those who come to the fore.

The cold snap is however likely to be good for the lake sessions, Lakensvlei has been fishing very well towards the back end of winter and the guys in the boats are likely to have an enjoyable time of it. Those with boat sessions on the first day will be more than happy to give the rivers time to settle down a bit, although it won’t give them an advantage as they will only be competing against other anglers with the same draw.

It is going to prove an interesting competition and I am pretty sure that there are going to be some odd methodologies put to use and some good stories of adaptability and technical variation come the end.

I am hoping that the waters will recede a bit, there is guiding work to be done and I won’t take clients on the stream if the conditions are unfishable. For now the sun is due to come out, weather conditions are likely to be fine, even hot, but the water levels are going to keep everyone away from classical upstream dry fly fishing on many of the beats for at least the first part of the National Competition.

I like rain, rain is water and water is housing for trout, but I think that is enough already, time for some summer sunshine.

Mud and Aquaculture

October 8, 2009

Mud, Trout, Small Flies and Long Leaders.

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

You may have seen the story in the Cape Piscatorial Society’s Newsletter about the pollution of the Smallblaar (Molenaars) River. You will find below the images of the filthy water pouring into the stream from the Du Toit’s Estate.

However apparently Deon Roussouw of Nature Conservation has been in contact with the transgressors and they have agreed to close the outlet from the dams whilst the work is underway and only reopen them once the water has had time to settle out.  With rain today hopefully most of the filth will be washed out of the system in short order and be back to normal.

Digging out old ponds caused severe discolouration of the waters of the normally pristine Smallblaar Stream.

Digging out old ponds caused severe discolouration of the waters of the normally pristine Smallblaar Stream.

So well done to Deon and to Molopong Aquaculture for taking action to protect the stream.. I understand that the new owners of the estate have requested a meeting with the CPS chairman to obviate similar problems in the future, all of which are good signs of some concern and cooperation..

I am not sure that really makes me feel a whole lot better about having an intensive fish farming operation on the banks of a pristine mountain river but it is a start that they have taken our concerns seriously enough to stop or reduce the damage, and that is all to the good..

DuToits Polution #1

Gone Fishing:

Due to the pollution of the river, as mentioned above, and to avoid a total waste of my afternoon having been booked to fish on the Smallblaar, I rescheduled to fish the Elandspad, Phoned the office, established that there was no-one booked and managed a couple of hours of remarkably good fishing given the late hour, near dark conditions and a nasty, cold and gusty wind..

The tiny tiddlers that seemed to be the only fish we could take a week ago were replaced by some nice fish and a decent hatch of mayflies did no harm, although most of the fish weren’t rising.

The only word of warning is that despite the still moderately high water, the lack of sunshine and the blustery wind the better trout were still quite reluctant to commit to any fly that was too big or which dragged in the slightest. A difficult presentation to make when fishing with a long fine leader in an inconsistent gale. It would however have been impossible with a shorter leader as the complex currents would have dragged the fly in moments.

I didn’t fish well, so the “good fishing” epithet refers to the trout and the stream and not the efficacy of the angler. I missed fish, broke off on fish and messed up more often than I would normally expect. Mind you the weather wasn’t nice and didn’t make things easy.

The top fly? Yet again the Spun Dun, although the smaller poly yarn version worked better it was very tricky to see in the poor light and much of the time I had to use a slightly larger deer hair version, which was more visible but I am convinced that some of the fish failed to commit to it at the last moment and , as the Brit’s would say “Came short”. When possible under the conditions, 7X tippet, an 18’ leader and smaller more sparse fly patterns did the trick, and if the fish are being that discerning already we are going to have our work cut out later in the season. I think that I might start breaking out the #22 hooks shortly.. 🙂

Something new: I ran out of floatant the other day and in a rush didn’t have much choice, the tackle shop where I stopped only had one lonesome container of Loon Payette Floatant, there were no alternatives available so I took it. It is a fairly solid paste with the consistency of “lip gloss”,  in a small plastic “bucket” type of container and you simply rub a smidgen onto your fingers and then on to the flies. Having sullied almost all of my fishing shirts with greasy dribbles from the normal “upside down” semi liquid floatants this stuff looked to have an advantage. It worked really well and proved to be far less messy, plus it doesn’t have the problem of squirting all over the place due to the change in pressure from driving up to the mountians. If it can stand the heat in summer without pouring all over my shirt fronts I might have found something of a winner here.  I think that it is probably supplied by Jandi Trading here in South Africa and you should keep your eye open for it, currently I am quite taken with the stuff.

I will say that it is a long time since I have been on the water in the late afternoon, it is frequently not that productive and usually I am either returning a client to his hotel or simply too tired to carry on into the dusk. I really must try it more often, despite the adverse conditions the fishing was, as said, very good and had I been “on form” I would have had thirty fish in a couple of hours.

Would the real “DDD” please stand up.

October 3, 2009

DDD  (Duckworth’s Dirty Dangler) (With apologies to Tom Sutcliffe)

Will the real DDD please stand up? It becomes obvious that our version is the only one that can.

Fly tying is a creative pastime, demanding of skill, intuition, an understanding of the natural world and biology. However it helps that you have nothing better to do on a Saturday night, and have a new bottle of Jack Daniels to help those creative juices flow.

The original DDD

The original DDD

The DDD is perhaps one of the most famous dry flies in South African Fly Fishing history, designed by Dr Tom Sutclife with a primary role as a still water dry fly. Best heaved out and left well alone until a trout discovers its whereabouts and inhales the tasty looking morsel. The fly was named after Bill Duckworth and as a result of Sutcliffe’s success with the pattern on the lakes of the Dargle region was given the name Duckworth’s Dargle Delight.. The DDD

However whilst appealing and having gone through a number of transformations, not the least of which was substitution of the cock hackle collar for one of deer hair, we think that our new variant is far more appealing and a lot more fun to tie and to fish.

Duckworth's Dirty Dangler.. the modified DDD


Some years ago a lady asked if we could custom tie flies and of course the response was yes, our response to requests from attractive ladies is always yes, never mind the actual question. But then she suggested that as a fun present for her husband she would like us to produce a fly representative of male genitalia, certainly an odd fly tying request but one we felt for which we must rise to the challenge, if you will forgive the pun.

The Duckworth’s Dirty Dangler was born, the name derived because of the exclusive use of spun deer hair in its construction, much as its namesake, and the all too suggestive maintenance of the original acronym.

Duckworth's Dirty Dangler.. the new DDD

The foolishness was intensified when we decided to add “specific fishing instructions” to go along with this oddity, so for the record here is how best to fish the DDD (modified)..

Tying and fishing notes for the DDD:

  • The fly is tied in the semi-erect form as it should be remembered that this is primarily a cold water pattern.
  • Care should be taken when trimming, as variation in ethnicity is easily and frequently erroneously achieved should one become overly zealous in the use of the scissors.
  • The fly is best fished with a slow sink and draw motion and is particularly effective around interesting bottom contours.
  • Should the fly become tired and flaccid from over use the application of proprietary silicone paste can prove effective although rejuvenation is generally easily achieved by squeezing gently in soft absorbent fabric.  Ladies Lingerie seemingly producing the most miraculous results.
  • The pattern can be tied inverted but seems to lose much of its appeal in this form.
  • Most respondents suggest that the pattern is best fished both deep and slowly, with an occasional increase in the tempo of the retrieve to ellicit a response..
  • Whilst normally subtle, takes can on occasion be breathtakingly violent and caution should be exercised to keep your rod up at all times.

We trust that you will have fun with the pattern, most people seem to..