Farewell to a season.
This was to be the last chance for the season, the rivers hereabouts close in a week’s time and various commitments, work, a Nature Conservation course and the possible arrival of another cold front meant that I had one last chance at getting in some river time.
The streams had settled back from their flood conditions just in time to offer some last hope, and I had already missed out on a trip with Peter earlier in the week. We had planned to get out for an afternoon; it is a long drive for a few hours fishing but needs must as the clock was ticking. Plans had been made and I was all ready to go when some inconsiderate decided to take the chance to smash my car window and when I should have been happily driving to a rendezvous with Peter and some fish I was busying myself trying to get a new drivers side front window. Worse still Peter apparently “hammered e’m” and took some twenty five fish so I was doubly annoyed about the glass, more so than the stolen GPS that went with it.
I managed to sneak away for a few hours the following afternoon and ventured out on my own. For some reason the fishing wasn’t as “on” as when Pete was there the day before, I took a few fish but it wasn’t spectacular and I worked hard at it for maybe half a dozen trout before the fading light and the poor visibility of casting into the setting sun put paid to the trip.
Mind you I rarely fish well under such circumstances the mad dash drive up the freeway, the hurried tackling up and the rush in the hope of getting into some fish before the light fails isn’t the best way to set about something which always seems to work a lot better when one is relaxed.
I still had one booking left, here we book the water on a beat system, which works well and means that not only don’t the fish get constantly harassed but that you can arrive late in the day and still have water to yourself. The idea had been that I may have been fishing a competition trial but that fell through so I had the water to myself and one last chance at it.
To be honest though I didn’t awaken filled with enthusiasm, it was a late and rather boozy night the evening before, the local rugby team having made it to the finals of the Super 14 and that was cause for celebration, maybe a little too much celebration for an early start to a fishing day. So when I finally raised my weary head from the pillow, made some coffee and packed the gear the sun was well up.
The weather forecast was good with balmy “berg winds” but that also meant a strong likelihood of an impending cold front, a dropping barometer and blustery breezes into ones face on the river, and so it was when I arrived.
I was fishing one of the lowest beats on the streams we fish, “The Molenaars” section. This is for us big water, not so much the volume but one of the few sections where the river widens, it traditionally holds less fish but some of the best sized ones around and they seem to always be in particularly good condition. The idea being to finish the season with something of a “bang”.
I think that some sort of celestial power was trying to keep me from the water, not only had I had to deal with the window incident only days previous but now on the way out through the Huguenot tunnel , a long passage of some four and a half kilometers through the mountain it became obvious that there was a problem with the car’s headlights and I couldn’t get them to dip properly. More time wasted as I did running repairs at the road side and finally, FINALLY, I was rigged up and ready to go.
The wind was howling downstream and for the first hour I didn’t so much as sniff a fish, see a rise or anything else of note. I became convinced that the barometer was dropping and that it was going to be a struggle, but this was the last day and I had to persevere. I added a nymph to the rig and fished both dry and dropper studiously in all the likely looking spots to no avail. Then eventually there was a boil just as I lifted off a fast pocket and a second presentation produced the first fish of the day. A gorgeous brownie. This is something new; these streams haven’t ever contained brown trout until this season. I am still not sure from whence they came, rumour has it that they were escapees from a trout farm, but they would have had to have lost a lot of fish, reports of brown trout being caught have increased and increased over the past few months. Still there is something wonderfully seductive about the take of a dry fly by a brown trout. They don’t seem so much to rise to the fly as simply appear beneath it and then make a languid roll or simply inhale the pattern with hardly a blip on the surface. I managed to steel myself not to strike to rapidly, a fatal error on browns and he was on and in the net in short order.
If they have one lack for all their gorgeous colouration and delicate rise forms they don’t fight like the rainbows do. Generally here they make little tumbles and you know almost instantly that it is a brown, even if you didn’t pick that up from the rise form.
I pressed on the wind shifting 180° in the space of one cast and making presentation difficult, the wind will almost never make it impossible for me to fish, but it does make it difficult and sometimes impossible to fish well and I really wanted to fish well on my final day of the season.
The next fish was one of the smallest rainbows I have taken this year, and all the more remarkable as this is generally big trout water, but it is encouraging to see them, it means that the stream is healthy and there are more fish coming on. These rivers are unstocked catch and release water, completely self sustaining wild, and by now pretty educated fish.
The wind settled down a bit and I saw a rise, a cast to cover that and another brownie, what is it that they seem to be coming up when I can’t find a rainbow?
The next three fish were all browns and despite the lack of rises I never got a take on the nymph, when they wanted to eat they wanted the dry and that was fine by me, I love to see a trout take a dry fly and all the more a brownie. It is slow motion, heart stoppingly beautiful, the defining moment if you are a dyed in the wool dry fly man, the fight doesn’t count for as much as watching that take.
Then I started to take rainbows, one after the other in some cases, the odd brownie mixed in but a couple of the bows were in tremendous nick, up to 18 inches and fat enough to look good coming out of a dam.
The day and with it the season was however drawing to a close, the light was failing and the river turning silver in the setting sun, tricky to read the water and spot good holding lies never mind see the fly. I kept on in the hope of one more final fish for the year, it is a fatal flaw the moment one decides “this will be the last” things either dry up or go wrong. I dropped two fish out of successive pockets due to the dry having tangled in the wind and I was pulling it backwards out of their mouths. One super rainbow in the 18” range tangled itself in the dropper during a prolonged battle and the line snapped trying to land the fish tail first in a strong flow. Then a brilliant drift over a fast current lane into slow water under the trees, with a reach mend and lots of additional mending to get the drift right. A fish came out from the shadows, inhaled the fly and was on, a fitting final fish for the season I was thinking but he came off the hook. The takes dried up and I kept on in the hope of one more, just one more. A small rainbow of about twelve inches was the final fish of the season, not a grand finish I suppose but compared to the way things looking in the morning I hadn’t done badly and was well pleased with the way I had fished.
Sometimes perseverance is the only answer and at some point in the day the fish certainly woke up a bit and by then I had got my eye in and was getting good drifts. It was a rewarding day; I probably landed fifteen or so fish maybe a few more. A fitting end and time for me to concentrate on tying some flies, fishing stillwaters and maybe taking things a little easy for a while. The fish are I am sure more pleased to see the end. It means freedom to eat without worry and no harassment from anglers for three months or so. Plus the chance to have sex and I suppose one can’t sneeze at that. September seems a long way off but there are things to be done and the fish deserve a rest. Actually the fishing guides deserve a rest too for that matter.