Archive for September, 2015

Desert Fishing

September 29, 2015

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It’s an act of faith going fishing in a desert, but then sometimes one simply has to follow one’s heart (or gut for that matter) and take the plunge. I have fished the Orange River flowing along the Namibian/South African Border for more than a few years and there is always the same mix of excitement and trepidation.

Of course if you get it right it is wonderful, even, as with this past trip, spectacular, but then again there are plenty of things that can go wrong. If the water is high wading is limited, fishing less good and water clarity can be reduced to that of cocoa. The wind can howl, sandstorms can wreck the camp and dump grit on everything such that microscopic quartz crystals become a recognized condiment, sprinkled liberally over all that one eats.

It is a long way off, remote with a capital “F”, and no matter how many times one undertakes the drive there is a point, under the desert sky without sign of water , that you feel something of a twit carrying a fly rod at all.

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When this is the view out of the window you wonder if bringing the fly rods was such a good idea.

I have however spent enough time out in nature to know that the only certainty is if you don’t go you will miss out. Simply being there is an invitation for something wonderful to happen. This is one of those, fortunately numerous, venues where nature puts on the play and all you have to do to enjoy it is buy a ticket,a place where the motivation is fishing but in the end the rewards come from much more than that.

AlbeNiceYellowAlbe with a superbly conditioned Smallmouth, taken Euro-Nymphing in the rapids.

Whilst out there this time we caught fish, a LOT of fish, something in the region of a hundred or more per man per day. We caught smallmouth and largemouth yellowfish, Kurper, Barbel (Catfish), and Mudfish. But we also saw Giant Kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Herons, Otters, Scorpions, Social Weaver birds and a mindboggling mudfish spawn which left the river black writhing sexually charged bodies.

MudfishHandOrange River mudfish, most were too preoccupied to eat a fly. Odd to look at but they fight like hell.

AlbeLargemouthA baby largemouth Yellow, when he grows up he will be a serious predator.

BarbelMike2The barbel hunted the mudfish , so Mike hunted the barbel, seems fair.

7X Challenge for FBSmallmouth Yellowfish were our primary target

We watched barbell hunting the spawning muddies and in turn we hunted the barbell. We fished dry fly with success, French/Euro-nymph techniques, mono indicators, yarn indicators, Czech style and more and caught fish on all of them. We walked, waded and swam. Fell in , or at least I did (three times), my more sure footed colleagues managed to avoid the unplanned bath.

Barbel5Barbel entered the shallowest of runs in pursuit of the spawning mudfish.

The water levels rose and fell but all in all the clarity was beyond expectation, we sight-fished much of the time, something rare on this water, and we experimented. One of the great advantages of such a place is that there are plenty of fish and no pressure. So one can play with leader setups, indicators, techniques, flies and more.

The “Three Weight Challenge”:

Before departure I was encouraged to take on this limitation, the idea? That you only fish other gear having first caught a yellowfish on an AFTMA #3 rod. For those not in the know, fishing for yellows is frequently a lot like fishing for grayling, but don’t make a mistake. These are “grayling” with an attitude and they can fight like demons, particularly in fast water. Such tackle as described above is generally viewed as seriously under gunned. Still we rose to the challenge and added our own corollary.. only 7X tippet. We didn’t intend to stick to that very long but as time passed and the fish count mounted it was hard to stop. The fine tippet provided exceptionally good sink rates on the nymphs and better bit detection such that in the end we fished much of the first day like this. Somewhere between 50 and 100 fish landed I changed up to 5x, just in case I hooked into something unstoppable. I didn’t however switch to the five weight outfit, not for the entire trip. Fishing with the lighter gear was just too pleasant. Better control and sensitivity, less weight in hand and a pleasure to fish.

I really enjoy these outings, not simply for the fish but for the solitude, the abundance of nature around one and the opportunity to experiment. Guiding for trout in the Cape Streams one always has to consider the client and with that the simplest and most pragmatic means of hooking up. Here without such pressure one is free to play, change tippets, change leader setups, experiment with different mono, coil, yarn and mud type indicators. Sharing those experiments, innovations and theories with like-minded friends in such a spectacular environment, well that simply makes it all even better. So thanks to Mike and Albe for joining me; the days have passed, the fish have all been released and I have finally got the sand out of my fishing gear, but the memories will live on, and isn’t that one of the main reasons we go fishing in the first place?

 

Join us:

Our next planned excursion for yellowfish will be a hosted trip to the Bokong River in Lesotho (at the very top of this same river system) in February, staying at a superb camp run by Tourette Fishing and aiming to get some terrestrial dry fly action on large smallmouths in this crystal clear river.

If you would like to inquire about joining us click here for some further information. Click Here

 

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Casting About

September 27, 2015

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Casting about.  (As published in Vagabond Flyfishing Magazine)  

This is one of a series of articles to appear in Vagabond Flyfishing Magazine in the coming months, a kick start really but one hopes worthy of a read. You can’t escape it, fly fishing is about fly casting, or at least that is the starting point. So in the next few pieces for Vagabond I am going to be looking at some structure in terms of what makes fly casting work, what is happening when it is going wrong and how to fix it. So this and other articles on casting will also appear on The Fishing Gene Blog, for the benefit of those yet to discover Vagabond.

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As a guide I estimate that over 80% of my clients could do few things more useful in, terms of improving their catch rate, than learning to cast more effectively.

Actually you can ask any guide, saltwater flats specialist, small stream technician, lake angler and more and the same frustrations will arise. Clients who spend the equivalent of Greece’s national debt on fly fishing trips don’t get the best of them because they can’t cast. Guides like me, will on occasion, spot a fish and never mention it to the “sport”. Because we already know that attempting to cast to that fish, under the branches and over a fast current seam is a recipe for failure and more than likely frustration too. Perhaps a professional faux pas but a pragmatic necessity on occasion.

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I personally know people, people who I like, people I admire, who pontificate about cane rods, digressive or weight forward leaders, wild olive reel seats, hand crafted fishing nets, aerospace aluminium reels, Teflon drag systems, snake guides, the best time to visit Chile or New Zealand, and the wonders of CDC who couldn’t hit a bucket with a fly at five paces.

In some circles making negative aspersions about a guy’s casting is like telling him you know for a fact that he has a small willie and a number of other physiological problems which might only be solved with a visit to “The Men’s Clinic”… People don’t like to have it suggested that they can’t cast well, it is an affront; so guides tell them that “it is a bit breezy”, that “the Tarpon or Permit are difficult when coming down wind” and all manner of other excuses. (Bear in mind that a guide’s job is to put you on fish, not to teach you to cast and not to catch the fish for you). All this to salve the egos of anglers who, for the price of a couple of bucks on a lesson or two and a bit of practice could enjoy their fishing and become a great deal more effective at it.

My first question though, is why should so many anglers be poor casters? It never made sense to me that people who participate in a particular sport, a sport where casting is in effect an essential skill, fail to master it. One doesn’t carry on with soccer if you can’t kick a ball, or rugby if you can’t pass one, so why struggle with Flyfishing when you can’t cast? So here are some thoughts:

Firstly I think that there is a problem in that casting is really very unlike anything else we learn and doesn’t neatly slot in with other skills picked up as children. Children throw things, so when they take up cricket or athletics in later life throwing stuff is part of their nature. Sure they hone their skills but some of the muscle memory and understanding of throwing is already ingrained. The trouble is that casting isn’t throwing, much as some might try to make it so. Throwing actions and fly rods just don’t go together, (except when you heave the rod and reel into the water because you cocked up a cast at the fish of a lifetime).

It is frequently apparent at casting clinics that women don’t throw things as much growing up as their “Y” chromosome bearing, testosterone driven associates, and thus don’t try to “throw” their flies with the rod which in general makes women easier to teach.

Casting2_4BlogCasting Instruction can benefit even better than average casters. Here the elbow is too high, forcing a reliance only on wrist rotation and a complete lack of casting stroke, which in turn means wide loops and ineffective casts. 

Secondly many people make far too much of the complexity of fly casting, suggesting that it is “an art”.. Casting a fly rod is no more of an art than hitting a golf ball, shooting a bow, firing a rifle, riding a bicycle or touch typing. Fly casting is simply a learned skill, one that anyone can manage with the correct tuition and some practice.

That leads on to point three, practice.

Fly anglers for the most part never practice; somehow they manage to convince themselves that things will be different next time on the water. Perhaps that the wind will be kind, the fish will be within range… etc etc whereas they would be far better off to get out on a grass field and spend some time just casting and practicing. Golfers, hunters, snooker aficionados…all practice, in fact virtually every sport I can think of involves practice, but for some reason fly anglers imagine that doesn’t apply to them. Oh! and let me tell you, you CANNOT practice casting when you are fishing, it doesn’t work.  It is odd, but this lack of practice seems to be a universal truth. Then there is another aspect of practice – what to practice?

Golf SwingEven the best golfers practice, so why not fly anglers?

Most people “Learn to fly cast” from their buddies, fathers, uncles or such and to be frank, most of the “tutors” don’t really understand casting any more than their pupils. It is a bit like learning to drive with a relative, you simply pick up their faults and idiosyncrasies.

Having taught fly casting for a decade or more by now I recently undertook the IFFF (International Federation of Fly Fishing), Casting instructor course and exam. It proved to be a wonderful experience, allowing plenty of discussion and learning new things, as well as reinforcing others about casting which I had always held to be true. Mostly however it provided a standardized means of teaching casting with internationally recognized nomenclature such that all IFFF qualified instructors are speaking the same language.

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In a series of articles for Vagabond, I will be looking at some key elements of fly casting, some common faults and how to fix them and some understanding of what really happens when you attempt to throw a small twist of fur and feather on the end of a weighted line.

For now I would just suggest that it is worth considering the benefits of being able to cast well. Less tangles, less hook ups in the bankside foliage, less having the fly fall short of the fish of a lifetime. Less frustration, more enjoyment and more fish. Better control, better fly presentation, greater distance and more accuracy.  You will equally score points with your guide when he isn’t forced to return to his arboreal roots in an effort to reduce the carnage taking place in his fly box. I think that we could all agree that those benefits outweigh the trouble of some learning and practice.

Yes we have all heard the arguments that “The fish are often under the boat” or “close to the bank”, “The streams are small” , “you don’t need to cast a full line” or “I am a poor caster but I catch fish”.. Wonderful! but for the fact that if you can cast well you can present a fly both close and far. You can mend line to get a better drift, you can contrive to avoid the tangle of branches and the tug of wayward currents and you can cast wide and narrow loops at will, as the situation demands. In short there is no really good reason not to be able to cast well and a pile of excellent reasons for mastery. So I hope that you will read the forthcoming pieces, grab the nettle, and decide that now is the time to really get that monkey off your back and learn to cast effortlessly.

 

Tim Rolston is a fly fishing guide, past World Flyfishing Championships competitor, SA National Team:captain and coach, an IFFF certified fly casting instructor, a fly tyer and author. His book “Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend” can be downloaded from his website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za . He is also available to run fly casting workshops for groups, clubs or fishing venues as well as offering personal tuition. Tim can be contacted on rolston@iafrica.com

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Various books, including one on fly casting are available for download on the website www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za

and from on line book distributor “Smashwords”.