Waiting

Annually, in the small rural enclave of Rhodes, in the far Eastern Cape of South Africa, the people celebrate a “Stoepsitfees”. A festival of sitting on the veranda doing as little as possible. It is a celebration of, not exactly laziness, but rather the benefits of quiet contemplation and neighborliness.  It is certainly something that could only reasonably be appreciated in an abjectly rural setting. You sit there on your Stoep (porch), perhaps with a brandy in hand, and chatter to those passing by. People who find this level of inactivity tricky to master can perhaps knit a scarf, crochet a blanket or tie some flies whilst participating.

However, for most of us, mastering the art of doing very little is really quite tricky, before long one yearns to be moving, building, hammering, tiling, writing, casting a fly or whatever it is that blows your hair back. The entire process of doing nothing is really rather difficult for some, myself included.

Now it so happens that I have recently spent a month in the UK, a large part of that without my own transport, and waiting has become an intrusive but unavoidable necessity. Turns out that I am not very good at it.

Firstly, the link between flights from Cape Town to Schiphol and then Schiphol to Bristol, which used to be a matter of about an hour and a half, now takes far longer.  What was just enough time to grab a coffee and catch the next plane, has been extended to five and a half hours. Five and a half mind numbing, foot tiring, and expensive hours of boredom. I say expensive, because not only will I not get this time back, but of course in a desperate effort to diminish the frustration one buys stuff. First a beer that you don’t really want, then perhaps a bagel or burger to mop up the beer, then if not careful one is tempted into the duty free or motivated to set up one’s credit card to make use of the WiFi. Some of those temptations I avoided but not all. It is simply such a massive waste of time and it was only the beginning.

Waiting seems to be an unavoidable consequence of travel

Making use of public transport, wonderful as that is in many ways, means spending time waiting. Of course, bus and train trips don’t neatly intersect with seamless fluidity, but rather require hold ups and delays, one arrives early in fear of missing ones chosen conveyance, and then waits for the connection. If fortunate there is a coffee shop nearby and it isn’t pissing with rain. On other occasions one is trapped in a small bus stop, hiding from a downpour and trying to read what has now become a rather damp paperback.

And so it was with much of the first couple of weeks, wait for bus to Crackington Haven, wait for bus back to Bude, wait for Airport Shuttle, wait for shops to open, wait for the tide to turn, wait wait wait, it all seems such a complete waste of time.

Later, with a view to heading to Wales and some time spent both reconnoitering and fishing, much of the transport related wastefulness was avoided through the simple, but costly expedient, of hiring a car. In this case a diminutive, but comfortable Kia Picanto with a dashboard from the Starship Enterprise and a rather jumpy automatic gear box. I have to confess I rather liked the rear-view camera and the dash mounted “Sat Nav”, although the keyless ignition thing failed to impress; not least because I could never check if the boot was locked if the key was in my pocket.

It is a technological advance beyond my comprehension. One still needs to carry this “key” about, despite the fact that there is no actual key, and then each time one turns off the car you have to find it, because of course it isn’t stuck in the ignition where it would be readily located. To my mind it is something of a pointless affectation, without merit, but for the ego boosting sense that one might be James Bond or Captain Kirk when you press the “start” button on the dash and the whole thing bursts to life.

Neon lights and dashboard screens flicker in unison as one is warned that there is now a “vehicle systems check” in progress. I was never quite sure if I should just push the gear stick to drive or cry out “Beam me up Scottie”.

Anyway, with my own personal vehicle at hand, and no need to drag suitcases behind me at each turn, I headed to rural Wales with my eye on the fishing. It was of course summer in the UK, and that means long days, dawn at four in the morning and dusk only arriving some seventeen hours later. There is a lot of time to fish, in fact too much time were one to choose to spend the day at it.

I did however have some other commitments and chores to attend to, so generally headed out onto the water late afternoon. The fishing seemed slow, but perhaps the near continuous chilly downstream breezes put the fish off or restricted the insect hatches.

This wide gravel bottomed flat looked like prime water if only the fish would be persuaded to start moving.

One evening on a glorious section of the Wye I watched the insect hatches grow more and more dense as time passed. Small Yellow Sally Stone flies, Olives of various types and the occasional huge Danica May coming off, whilst barely a fish moved.

I did cast flies at the occasional sporadic rise, but on the calm flats it was tricky to pin down exactly where the fish had been and they weren’t feeding hard. A rise here, a splash there, nothing to allow any degree of proper “target acquisition”.

In the end I resolved to simply wait, I had had enough practice at it, although more in bus stops than on trout streams. I waited, the hatches solidified and finally on the far side of this wide flat there was a rise, then again and then another. A feeding fish that seemed to holding station and was coming up on a regular basis. The waiting, I hoped, was over, and I carefully waded across the flat to get into position.

My modified F fly at the ready, clinched to a 20’ leader, tapered down to 8x, and with plenty of space to swing the rod I was able to make a long cast, floating the fly down the line of current where the fish was showing. The take was immediate; one really does wonder sometimes, how a trout can hone in on a fly that fast. I set the hook as a glorious Wye Brown Trout leaped skywards, jumping over and over again.

Having convinced myself a long time ago that I could manage to land even large and feisty fish on such light gear was wasn’t overly worried, although of course, considerable care was taken not to make a mistake. After a spirited fight I slipped the net under a deep set and beautifully spotted prize, my best Wye trout. I am not good at estimating but this fish was several pounds in weight at the very least.

This large Brown Trout, targeted and stalked after a long wait made my day

It was enough to make my day and to confirm, that sometimes the best course of action is indeed inaction, that the Stoep Sitters up in Rhodes, might be on to something, and that maybe it is true that “all things come to those who wait”.

I did target and capture a number more fish, now that they were moving, but even then, the evening rise never reached its potential. It didn’t matter, my day was complete already, and I headed back to the car, through wonderfully verdant old growth forest, my thoughts turning from catching trout to downing an ale in celebration of a lovely evening on the water.

The walk back to the car, through lovely old growth forest.

Readers interested in more thoughts on fishing with light gear may enjoy these other excerpts on
The Fishing Gene Blog:
Thoughts on Playing Fish
8X Challenge
Line Control

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