One minute I am sitting tying flies, pondering the new fishing season and the vagaries of the weather that had required some subtle changes to the tactics on our local streams, the fish tucked up amongst the boulders out of the man currents, and the next I am thrust into the world of music concerts, all noise, video, security and crowds. Two worlds as divergent as you might be able to conceive, two kinds of rock if you will.
It all started with a phone call, not in itself a particularly unusual circumstance, an enquiry about fly fishing guiding from a party in an exclusive local hotel. It was coming into summer, the trout streams were recently opened from the winter closed season and the tourist trade was picking up in conjunction with the warmer weather. All to be expected, or at least hoped for.
The trouble was that I was due to be going to the Kings of Leon concert at the Cape Town Stadium and wasn’t going to miss that, a guiding trip could have made a late night out a bit tricky, fishing guiding generally requires considerable preparation, and an early start in the morning, things not easily accomplished if one is out on the town at a rock concert.
But the perfect solution was to find that the clients were going to be at the concert as well so there wouldn’t be a clash of schedules, the kicker was that they weren’t going to be watching they were going to be on stage playing. It turns out that Matt Followill is a very keen fly fisherman (actually a pretty good one at that I was to discover) and he was about as excited at the prospect of some fishing as I was at the prospect of the concert. Now in short order plans were laid and instead of simply watching the concert I was summoned to meet up with the band before they went on stage and a simple fishing guide from the backwoods ended up where only the most privileged and fortunate rock fan might dare hope to venture.
Under the stadium tucked away in an anonymous concrete corridor with the muffled sound of the crowds and the music of the supporting acts filtering down into the bowels of the massive structure I was surrounded by “Men in Black” lookalikes. All radios and ear phones, VIP badges and pre-concert tension, discussing the fishing potential of the following day with a bone fide rock star. Funny how a phone call can change your life.
In short “the weather was a bit dodgy, the prospects for some dry fly action were reasonable, there were a good number of micro caddis and a few midges about.” “I knew a lot more about fishing than I did about rock bands and we would give it our best shot in the morning.” I think that the mention of the baboons, the snakes and the recent sighting of a leopard on one of the rivers caused a little consternation for the men with the earphones but Matt seemed oblivious to anything but the prospect of casting a line on a Cape Stream. I liked the guy already; you need to be pretty focused to discuss dry fly fishing ten minutes before you get on stage to entertain a crowd of thousands.
The following morning we were on a gorgeous stream, the weather wasn’t great and there was a cold front approaching, making the fishing less than brilliant. A cold wind whipped down into our faces and the fish weren’t being particularly cooperative. You might imagine that my client, who has enjoyed some of the best fishing the world has to offer and who showed me images of massive striped bass and king salmon caught on previous sorties would have been discontented. Not at all, he had to good grace to suggest that this was one of the prettiest places he had ever fished and even though the fishing was slow he didn’t become disheartened, even after breaking off a couple of nice trout. It is tricky to get in the zone of fishing 7X tippet when your last trip to a river was to chase massive salmon on much heavier gear. With the prospect of slightly improved conditions the following day we planned to head out again for the morning, time was limited, the band was off to Johannesburg the next day for a further concert.
We had more success this time, a few more trout rising and Matt enamoured with the idea of watching the fish rise up to the fly in the clear water. Both he and JT got their first African Trout, and seemed as pleased as punch that they had. The highlight: casting for a rising fish whilst baboons watched from the cliff faces above the river, not something particularly common in Nashville one supposes.
I imagine that to many Matt Followill is a guitarist, a music legend or heartthrob, but having spent time with him on a trout stream to me he is an angler, a remarkably passionate and talented angler, a man who like many of us carries the fishing gene deep in his DNA.
I listen to “Closer”, “Crawl” and “Cold Desert” in the car more often than I used to, but I don’t see a stage and a light show in my mind. I see a man doing what he loves, throwing a line over a trout, a smile on his face whilst the baboons appraise his casting from a vantage point on the rocks. It was great to be on the water with him and I am thankful of the opportunity to have done so.