My mother told me that “little things amuse little minds” which means then that I must have a somewhat stunted cerebral ability because little things, or more specifically, “little flies” provide me with a good deal of amusement, well if not amusement at least entertainment. On occasion they also provide a modicum of success on the tricky waters of the Limietberg as well.
Take this past Sunday when I was privileged to guide Eton Price on a trip to the river. The day was glorious, a “Champagne Day”, one of those pre-winter dawns of clear blue skies and light winds which make autumn such a wonderful time to be out and about in the wilds of the Western Cape.
The sort of day when it all seems too good and one wonders if there isn’t some celestial payback coming for being afforded such and opportunity.
That payback seemed to be in the form of an approaching cold front, there was no sign of it in the skies, at least to my uneducated meteorological mind but the fish were having none of it. The numbers of fish moving as the sun hit the water, usually a switch that turns them on and gets them out in the current feeding hard was very limited.
Although we saw a few fish they were not there in numbers and the ones that were in range had a nasty tendency to “do a runner” before a line was cast and opportunities were limited. Eton spent some considerable time fishing over a really good fish that was feeding mostly in the surface film, ignoring our offerings despite fly changes and eventually did eat a nymph, but after so many casts the take came as something of a surprise and the chance was lost.
It was a struggle to be sure, not a lot of targets and those which were out and about on the fin were being particularly “ornery” making for few chances and limited ones at that, not the easiest introduction to Western Cape streams. Mind you at the back end of the season in low water and after nearly eight months of consistent catch and release fishing this is a tough place to play. School fees are in order and minor mistakes and poor presentation cost a lot.
Eventually after consistently searching for feeding trout we broke the duck but it was hard going and we certainly spooked more of those target fish than we hooked, not that surprising but what was making it particularly tricky was that the opportunities were so few and far between that it was difficult to establish a rhythm or to “get one’s eye in”.
However we persevered, or more particularly Eton did, I was just shouting instructions and trying to spot the odd fish, when we came to a long still pool half way up our designated beat. This pool, like so many others on the stream when the water is still low, held good numbers of trout. In fact embarrassingly good numbers given that we couldn’t get near them, probably thirty fish in our sights with no chance of fooling one in the clear water.
There was however some hope, the fish in this particular run do on occasion make forays into the slightly flowing currents at the top of the pool to feed and eventually we spotted a fish lying on the far side in a small current lane, feeding sporadically and at least in sufficiently wrinkled water to offer some chance of a cast without scaring the living daylights out of the fish.
By now though we had become a little cagey ourselves and before the cast was made the leader was lengthened to ludicrous proportion, the tippet fined down to a good amount of 7X and degreased whilst the fly exchanged for a tiny size 20 comparant pattern. The fish had proven very tricky to date and the ant is a secret weapon that will sometimes overcome piscatorial shyness, it seems that trout simply love ants, enough on occasion for them to give way to their dietary preferences without heed of the consequences and the hope was that this would be enough to get this fish to make a mistake.
The first cast landed a fraction short but then it was a long throw with an ultralight outfit and as said one of my “famous” stupidly long leaders. The second presentation was right on the money, the tiny fly just visible in the flow at such a range. Without hesitation the fish dropped back and sipped in the tiny black and white Judas with total confidence. Eton held his nerve to strike lake, an essential element of hooking fish on such tiny patterns and the fight was on. The cooler water had obviously energized the fish, there being a little more oxygen available in the cold water and eventually the it came to the net. Not a massive trout perhaps but more than decent and well deserved on what had been a hard day.
The ant pattern is a dreadfully simple one, focused on providing the fish with the classical “two segment” profile that seems to trigger a response to ant patterns and a poly yarn wing that allows the angler to be able to track the tiny fly on the surface.
As said it wasn’t a huge trout but it was a classic, one of those fish that will live on in memory, not for its girth but for the difficulty of deceiving it, the requirement of a quality presentation and the right fly on a particularly tough day. A fish, where I will be able in times to come,to simply close my eyes and see him, finning in the current and inhaling that fly.
In the end that is what makes fishing worthwhile for me, not the numbers of the fish or the size of them but those glorious moments when the dedication , the hard work, the practice and the accumulation of understanding of fish come together to achieve success.
“I just love it when a plan comes together”.. Well done to Eton on his first foray onto our tricky waters, it isn’t always that tough but just in case it is well worth keeping a few of those tiny ants in the corner of your fly box, they can despite their size sometimes save the day.