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.
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.
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?