Archive for August, 2010

Should I do the washing?

August 26, 2010

The trouble with doing the washing.

Here we sit with the trout fishing season opening on the crystal clear waters of the Limietberg Reserve only days away and it has started raining. Of course we all need rain and I like to console myself that in the end it isn’t so much just rain but “housing for trout”. The early season periods over the past few years have been dogged with high water levels and unfishable conditions and this time we have been lulled into a false sense of security by some unseasonable bright and sunny weather.

I had been thinking that for once we might actually get out on the water for the official start, that was until I had to do the laundry. There is nothing so attractive to a lurking cold front than newly scoured bed linen on a washing line, the effect is magnetic and those rain clouds come sweeping in from the deep south in search of damp cotton like descending Mongol hordes, only carnage on their minds.

So as I sit the proposed trip to the streams in a week’s time hangs in the balance, of course it could still be OK, it hasn’t yet developed into the holocaust of previous seasons and one still has to be ready just in case this is a false alarm and the waters will be running low and clear after all, but it is worrisome.

The early season is a special time, not only has one been stuck indoors with the fire blazing, whipping up flies by the dozen but gradually one’s psyche takes a knock, my patience wears thin and I become all the more “the grumpy old man”. I need to go fishing now and more importantly I need to go fishing on a river. There is something about moving water, the wending currents and holding fish that is just that little more magical than pounding out a line on a stillwater. Plus of course if the fishing on these catch and release streams is ever going to be easy then it is early in the season.

To be honest it is rarely easy even then, years of catch and release fishing have artificially manufactured a population of overly educated trout and whilst they might have their guard down they won’t have forgotten all the lessons from the previous season. Perhaps though the higher water affords one some modicum of advantage, the faster flows hiding to a degree the failings of one’s presentation and offering a better chance of deceiving a lunker.

Then of course the first few trips up a familiar stream reveal subtle changes, the odd fallen tree creating a new lie, the flow of the currents altered by the scouring effects of winter floods. New opportunities appear and occasionally old favorite haunts of the trout regress leaving the angler with the challenge of relocating the best water. These changes as said are rarely gargantuan but there are changes none the less and for a week or two one is finding one’s piscatorial feet again.

We used to plan a trip away for the first weekend of the season each year in celebration of the event, but of late that has died due to constant battles with foul weather and unfishable conditions. Right now I am still hopeful, the rods are ready, the lines newly appointed with fresh leaders, the reels with a new coat of lubricant. The fishing vest has been sorted into yet another manifestation of what I think will be an efficient distribution of various bits and bobs. I have cut down on the fly boxes this year and worryingly seem to have spare pockets which currently don’t have a portfolio but in the end it all hangs on the weather.

I am even wearing the same clothes for days on end in an effort to reduce the need for laundry and I haven’t washed the car in months I don’t want to incur the wrath of the Gods at the eleventh hour.  If the water is low enough I will be out there in a week’s time and I suppose if not then it will just have to wait. Part and parcel of fly fishing is being in touch with the natural rhythm of things, the water flow, the hatches, the behavior of the fish and in this case the weather. There isn’t much to be done about it and over the years I have realized that prayer whilst offering some consolation is ultimately ineffective. The rivers will be ready when they are and that is about it, but at least this time around, when they are ready I shall be too… now what have I done with those darn wading boots? I am quite sure that they aren’t “in the wash”. 🙂

Coming soon on Smashwords.. “100 Tips, Tricks and Techniques”.


I am expecting to launch my new E book on Smashwords before the end of September, it could be earlier but of course if the weather permits I am going to be out fishing not stuck in front of the computer 🙂  But it is in the final stages of proofing and contains a lot of bits and pieces which should be of help and interest to fly fishing types. Keep an eye on my page at Smashwords Link

Looking for more fly fishing and fly tying information?

Check out the free downloads and links available from Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris Downloads

or Search the archives on this blog.

Some key pieces:

Sink Rates. Brass, Tungsten and the great unknown.

Comparaduns, Spun Duns and derivatives.

Fishing Cape Streams Part one.

Fishing Cape Streams Part two.

Fishing Cape Streams Part three.

Thought for the day:

“Competition Fly Fishing is rather like sex”….. “It doesn’t matter how well you are doing, you always think that everyone else is getting more”.


Hook Sharpener Modification

August 17, 2010

Ok I am motivated at the moment, not least because this blog received over 170 views in a single day last week which encourages me that I am getting something right. I don’t suppose that Larry Page is in a state of panic but the numbers are encouraging to me at least. With that in mind some more information that comes from my new E book which is still work in progress. With our fishing season here about to start the time is right to start preparing and what better way to do that than with a little project.

After comments received from the previous post it seems that there are two kinds of anglers out there, those that don’t have a hook sharpener and those who simply can’t find theirs. (There are apparently a few who do own and use them but chaps we are obviously in the minority here).

So how do you keep your hook sharpener readily at hand and not drop it in the river on the first trip of the season?

Here is a simple diagram explaining how to modify your hook sharpener so that you won’t have those problems. The graphics come from a new E book that I am working on and which should be available shortly, ( unfortunately they don’t always render as well on the blog pages but it should be enough to give you an idea). The book  contains over a hundred tips, tricks and techniques on rigging fly fishing gear and will be available from Smashwords shortly I hope.

In the meantime there are still some downloads available for free from Smashwords and of course there is a lot of information also for free download from our website at http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za/Downloads.html

Please don’t forget that if you enjoy one of the Smashwords publications to go back and leave a comment, and a rating, it is nice to know that these things are of use and of course it helps other people find stuff that they might find of value themselves.

Anyway if you want a project to get in the swing of things before the season here starts up then you could do a lot worse than getting and modifying a hook sharpener.

Remove the pen type cap and discard it.

Drill or melt a hole near the end of the plastic handle, the file doesn’t go all the way up inside of the handle so it shouldn’t be a problem to do.

Put a split ring through the hole, an old key ring will do just fine.

Attach the sharpener to your lanyard (you can download a pamphlet on making your own one from Smashwords), or attach a piece of cord and a snap swivel so that you can clip the sharpener to your vest.

If you want a copy of this diagram that is a bit clearer then you can mail me for one just click this LINK to open up your e mail program and send a message. Plus of course don’t be shy to leave a message or comment, it all helps to keep the motivation and spread the word.

Sharp Hooks are Happy Hooks.

August 13, 2010

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

It often strikes me that there is so much information about fly fishing available and so much debate about the various merits of different methods, tackle options and which fly to use that we lose touch with the basics. I have to keep things basic, I’m not smart enough to make them complex but even if you are a rocket scientist the same holds true.

For me the most basic improvement that anyone can make to their tackle set up is to be using sharp hooks. After all that is pretty much the business end of things and driving for hours in your multi million dollar 4X4, casting with your shiny new ultra modern, super light  graphite rod and mending your hand crafted degressive flourocarbon leader isn’t going to be worth a jot if the darn hook falls out or fails to penetrate when you eventually get a strike.

You see hooks and their sharpness become all the more critical when you are fishing ultralight gear and for most people fishing a Cape Stream that is going to mean rods from triple “ought” to #3 weight and tippets down to maybe 8X. With that gear you can’t exactly wrench a doorstop of a hook into the mouth of a fish and failings in your terminal tackle show up like the proverbial dog’s wedding tackle.

Barbed Hooks are by definition blunt.
We all use barbless hooks if only because those are specified in the rules on the catch and release waters that we fish, however there are plenty of other compelling reasons for converting, even if the rules don’t expect that you should.

Firstly barbless hooks are undoubtedly better for the fish, and even if you intend keeping some of your catch you are still going to hook the “young-uns”  and fish that you don’t want to keep so it is only reasonable that you use barbless patterns.

The more compelling reason is that you will catch more fish because barbed hooks are always effectively blunt. Barbless hooks are far, far more effective at hooking fish and keeping them hooked, particularly noticeable when you are fishing light. The barb on a hook probably at least doubles the frontal area that needs to penetrate on the strike and that quadruples the force required to drive it home properly. Requiring a force to drive it home that will rapidly exceed the pressure exerted with a two weight rod and 8X tippet. Barbs are in effect wedges that PREVENT the hook going home so removal of the barb or using barbless hooks is the first step to improving your hook up and catch rate, no matter where you fish. The second step and it is important to remember that even new hooks aren’t really sharp, is to sharpen them.

If you don't carry a hook sharpener, and use it you aren't being serious about your fishing.

Most (although not all) barbless hooks are manufactured in the same manner as the barbed ones with the simple skipping of the step where the barb is cut into the metal. That means that the hook is generally far thicker than it needs to be at the point and you can remove a goodly amount of hook before affecting its strength in any significant way.

Further the strength of the point isn’t that important, what you want is the hook to penetrate all the way to the bend, when penetrated to its full extent the hook is remarkable strong. If it only goes part the way in then the forces of fighting a fish can and will open up the hook.

We have all heard the stories of “it was a huge fish, straightened the hook“, you cannot straighten a hook that has penetrated all the way to the bend, it is a virtual scientific impossibility unless you are using tippet more properly designed for hand lining giant tuna. Hooks that don’t penetrate properly are the problem and the number one reason that they don’t do so is the barb, followed by the fact that they are not sharp.

So when I tie on a fly, that is EVERYTIME I tie on a fly I sharpen it, no matter that it is new, no matter that it is chemically sharpened or whatever, ever hook gets the same treatment. I like to triangulate the point if possible and thin down the point such that full penetration requires minimal force. My favourite tool for this is an EZE Lap Model “S” ™ diamond dust hook sharpener.  The tool  has a parallel rounded file of diamond dust with flat side and a rounded side in which there is a groove.

To sharpen the hook I first file the sides of the point at approximately 45 degrees using the flat side of the file and then give a few strokes with the grooved portion of the file backwards over the point.

If you would like to experiment or test the effects you can try the following.

An experiment that you can do for yourself, particularly useful if you are something of a doubting Thomas. Probably all of my clients have at one time or another been forced to have a try with the following test, it is proof that sharpened barbless hooks penetrate better and catch more fish as a result at least when using light gear which is pretty much the norm around these parts.

Take a barbed fly from your box and pull it through a piece of thin card or stiff foam, the card from a cigarette box is about the right stuff to use.

You will feel the resistance and probably get a distinct “pop” sound when the barb finally pulls through the card.


Remove the barb from the hook or fly and test it again, you will almost certainly feel a considerable difference in the force required.


Then sharpen the hook carefully and repeat the test once more, the difference between the untreated barbed hook and the carefully debarbed and sharpened version should be enough to convince you for ever. If it doesn’t the number of fish that you hook and land once you have changed your habits probably will.

Oh and if you liked the graphics and the information keep your eyes on Smashwords because they are from a new E book that will be published soon on various tips tricks and techniques that you can use to improve your fly fishing. There are already a couple of free downloads on there that you may like to take a look at but there is more in the pipeline. You can see the books published by myself simply by clicking the link Smashwords

Don’t forget to leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece, it all helps to keep the motivation going and thanks for reading. Paracaddis aka Tim Rolston.

Exploration and Paydirt.

August 9, 2010

Visiting new places on the Orange River:

I think that maybe my mates and I should join “The A Team” cos hell I love it when a plan comes together. We had been talking of exploring parts of the Orange River, previously unknown to us for some time. The debates of when to go, should we go and even should we perhaps settle for something more known to us dragged on until the decision was made. Fishing time is precious and one doesn’t want to waste time and energy in the wrong spot. But then there is also the question of forging your own path and taking some risk and in the end that is exactly what we did.

Hitting paydirt, the results of exploration on the Orange River

Armed with maps, GPS and plenty of fishing gear we headed out into the desert some 600 odd kilometers from home, not sure that we would even find the river. Deserts are not the places most people consider as venues for quality fly fishing and although we knew that the Orange River was there there was little guarantee that any of the trails would put us close enough to reach it.

Desert Landscape, not exactly the place you expect to find fish.

Previous trips to the Richtersveld reserve nearby have been productive, but the landscape there is scared by monuments to man’s unassailable greed, massive mine dumps the result of the search for diamonds and as a consequence it lacks something of the raw splendor of our new destination.

We hit the desert after an all night drive and were greeted with a spectacular dawn, low angled winter light softening the harshness of our surroundings. First stop was a small settlement called Henkries where one can obtain the odd essential item from a shop that is little more than a house’s garage, sparsely stocked with a coke fridge and the odd bar of soap, the nearest thing to a town that we would see for five days.

The trail requires that one loop around the mountains to touch with the river here and there and at the first stop we found both a wonderful campsite at the water’s edge and what appeared to be a decent rapid. The fishing was however disappointing, we got some fish and at least didn’t spend the first night under canvass with blanks on the scoresheet but it wasn’t as good as we had hoped.

Fly Tying Alfresco: Albe and Mike whip up a few nymphs at the waterside camp.

The next morning some exploration brought us to three new rapids further upstream, all virtually unreachable on account of the depth and speed of the currents but determination won the day and we eventually crossed higher up, taking some considerable risks in the strong flow. Of the three stretches of good looking water only one really produced but it produced fish in style. My own definition of hitting a “honey hole” is that you get one of the following three occurrences:

You hook two fish at the same time.

You and your partner both hook fish at the same time.

You hook fish on consecutive casts.

Albe Nel, trying out for the Al-Qaeda fly fishing team, with a baby largemouth Yellowfish. The "Buff" was actually an anti fly swallowing measure.

On this stretch, after several hours of trying other water for only a fish a piece we managed all of the above in short order and proceeded to “hammer em” for several hours. Odd that other good looking water nearby produced very little but this stretch really did hold huge numbers of fish and we were well pleased with the results. A lengthy walk back to camp through the bank-side vegetation and the flies that inhabit it virtually terminated my long standing vegetarian status and the numbers swallowed would no doubt have added up to a decent steak in terms of protein but we were happy, we had found fish and been able to test out some tackle and various rigs to good effect. Mike and Albe returned to the hot spot for the afternoon whilst I decided to play with some alternative methods in the water nearer to the camp. The result was that I took only a single fish for the session whilst they had bent rods for most of the afternoon until they tired and returned for sundowners much later.

The morning saw us once more on the trail, this time another loop around the hills, driving in an environment where one seriously questions the wisdom of being in a solitary vehicle. The chances of walking out alive should there be a mishap not appearing particularly good, miles and miles of sand, broken rock and shattered quartzite which looks for all the world like broken glass. In fact the illusion is of driving over a massive land fill site.

Camping desert style, this is probably the biggest tree for miles.

We reached our new destination by late afternoon and were able to see a glorious rapid not far from the camp. Again the results were disappointing, some fish but not a lot of them and treacherous wading in the lower sections. It was however the first time on the trip that I was totally out of control, a good sized mudfish taking yards and yards of line down the raging currents necessitating a precarious chase over the sunken boulders.

We fished the same rapids the following morning, did a bit better having located a few nice holes but still we were taking fish by the dozens and we wanted more. An almost desperate search higher upstream where the water looked flat and wide however revealed a maze of small channels amongst a smattering of islands and here we found fish. In fact we found fish in abundance, that first evening we landed over thirty fish a man in less than a couple of hours and returned to camp in the near darkness, not wishing to stop.

Mike with a nice fish from one of the channels.

This proved to be the highlight location of the trip and we returned to explore the channels and islands several times. We still never got to fish all of the water available however and there is good reason to return. It is difficult to estimate and we didn’t keep count but at a guess the three of us took somewhere between 700 and 900 fish including the slow days when we were searching for the right water. By the time we were finished we had learned a lot , refined our tackle, methods and perhaps most importantly where to locate numbers of fish. This was some of the best yellowfish fishing I have ever enjoyed anywhere, the only possible lack was that we didn’t land any that were truly massive although I think we all lost at least one real lunker at some point.

Part of the journey, consider having to walk out of here.

The final mornings fishing was an affair of mixed emotion, we continued to catch fish in numbers, in fact a day or so before I had managed to take nine yellowfish on consecutive casts if that gives some indication of the quality of the venue. In the end we had to pack up camp and head back to civilization. It is hard to walk away from that kind of fishing, all the more so when you know that it could be a year before you return but the experiment paid off, we worked hard, covered a lot of ground both in the vehicle and on foot and in the end the plan came together. Absolutely awesome fishing, the only crowds the occasional herd of goats, the only competition from the resident fish eagle and the otters which had left tracks all over the sand bars and which we actually saw on one mornings excursion.

I just had to put in one "rod in the mouth" image, apparently it's expected if you are a serious angler. 🙂

Highlights of the trip?

The incredible desolate scenery.

Myself and Albe taking two largemouth yellowfish at exactly the same time.

Catching nine fish on consecutive casts.

Albe catching a fish with the leader in his hand and not attached to the line.

Sharing such an amazing venue with incredible anglers and good friends.

Collectively taking seventeen fish from a run the size of two bath tubs.

The desert stars at night and the amazing sensation of space.

Spotting Otters in the river.

The list of firsts:

First person to take a fish… Mike

First person to take the grand slam: Largemouth, Smallmouth and Muddy….. Albe

First person to take a Muddy… Me

The bizarre looking mouth of an Orange River Mudfish.

First person to take the royal flush: muddy, smallmouth, largemouth and barbel.. “currently vacant”.

First person to catch a fish with the collar of his shirt (it’s a long story)… Me

First person to knock a sand martin out of the air with his rod… Me (we all did this by the end of the trip)

First Largemouth.. .Mike

Best landed fish of the trip… Albe.

Albe Nel with what was almost certainly the best fish landed during the trip.

So there it was seven days, nine hundred odd fish, some great exploration, and the gamble of either a watery or firey death in the river or the desert if something went wrong. I think by the last day we would have gone in peace, this was the fishing trip of a lifetime, or until we return it will be.  Best wishes from the “A Team”.

Orange Fever

August 4, 2010

By the time you read this I should have one of these in my hands, at least I hope so.

Due to the wonders of modern technology, and for me anything more advanced than a slide rule is pretty wonderous I have to admit, I can post this when I am nowhere near a computer. In fact I am nowhere near anything much, or at least that is the plan.

By now we should be happily camped on the edge of the Orange River on the Namibian border with nothing to do but cast for yellowfish and perhaps tie the odd fly if the situation dictates. Preparations have been hectic, one minute we were chatting about a possible trip and the next thing we were going. It didn’t help that I found that I had the dates incorrect and had a day less than expected to prepare, but then as with all these types of things, eventually one realises that if you have forgotten something you will have to do without it and that is all that can be said.

The only real worry is that Mike, Albe and myself are all avid anglers which means we will no doubt have a plethora of rods, reels, lines and flies. Probably some alcohol and a few items of clothing and if we are really fortunate one of us is going to remember to bring some food.

Years back I did spend three days on the Vaal with little more than three bottles of beer some bread rolls and a packet of chips, but the fishing was good and I lost some weight, it is amazing what one will do to catch a few fish if you have the fishing gene.

Big Water, Big Sky, Big Desert and great fishing.

For those not familiar with yellowfish they are the unsung heros of fly fishermen in Southern Africa. Living in Cape Town we don’t have any really good quality yellowfish water near by and a trip out into the sticks is something of a winter ritual. It helps that the waters of the Orange River (it isn’t called the Orange because of its colour, although often it could be), run clear and low at exactly the same time that the Cape Streams are unfishable.

There are a number of species of yellowfish and related species which are technically not yellows but tend to be referred to under the same umbrella. An interesting evolutionary divergence is that each is pretty much tied to specific riverine systems.

The Smallmouth and Largemouths (our two targets on this trip), live in the Vaal / Orange River system, the Clanwilliam Yellowfish and the Sawfins are found in the Oliphant’s system, closer to home but hard to access. The Natal Scaly is found in the Eastern part of the country in Natal and the Smallscale and Largescales are found in the Limpopo systems and the occasional Witvis in the Breede River Catchment.

The trouble with all of that is that it makes conservation a problem, one can’t simply transplant fish from one watershed to another and whilst some of the species are not under threat the Clanwilliam and Sawfins are.

Still back to the Orange and our trip:

For those not in the know yellowfish were thought to be virtually uncatchable on fly for many years and those that were caught seemed to be some sort of lucky aberration. However advances in techniques of both fishing and fly tying saw the catch rates climb rapidly, particularly with spread of understanding of the Czech nymph style of fishing. Yellowfish are for the most part bottom feeders, focusing on larvae and pupae of aquatic insects hard on the bottom and frequently in very fast water. (The Largemouths as juveniles feed in much the same way but then become piscivorous once they gain size, and they can gain some serious dimensions).

Some of the species available on the Orange River

We will probably practise a variety of techniques, some because they are effective and others perhaps simply because they can be more fun. But the standard is to fish heavily weighted Czech nymph patterns on either a normal Czech nymph rig or even fishing with pure mono and no casting of any real sort.

The trick is to have the patterns running hard on the bottom in white water conditions on occasion and to still be able to detect what can frequently be very subtle takes. For those familiar with grayling fishing this is much the same except that the fish are far bigger, far stronger and the current and size of the rivers more vicious than most. Some Scandinavian rivers probably are of similar dimension and flow but few English rivers would be as large.

If one finds the fish and you are proficient at the methods you can literally “hammer ’em” and frequently after a while we will change to upstream indicator nymphing in the slightly slower and shallower waters, if only for some variety.

After years of competative angling where indicators other than flies are out of bounds it is going to be fun to experiment with variations and I have a few tricks up my sleeve worthy of testing out.

Then of course there is the chance if the water is clear that there could be some dry fly action, down on the lower reaches this isn’t common but it can occur and casting small dries for fish well above the average size of most trout makes for some exciting sport.

Plus we really should spend some time with streamers trying to nail some Largemouths, we have caught a good number on the lower reaches but usually as a byproduct of fishing for the smallmouths. It is amazing how large some of the fish are that will still take a tiny nymph, but to seek out really massive specimens we should focus a bit with some hard-core streamer fishing. This time we might even get around to it.

So if we don’t get lost, starve, drown or meet some equally dreadful fait such as poor fishing, there should be some more photos when we get back. Until then I am thankfully out of touch with the modern world.