Posts Tagged ‘Albe Nel’

Desert Fishing

September 29, 2015

DesertFishingAlternativeHead

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.

DesertPanorama600
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

 

The Fishing Gene Blog has now received 67000 views over its lifetime, thank you to all those who read it and comment on it.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 

Preparation

September 18, 2014

PreparationHead

“Preparation is never wasted” that was a lesson from my youth and unlike a great deal from that era this particular phrase has stood the test of time. I am quite sure that it applies to pretty much everything but in fishing, where there are so many variables to start with, having “all your ducks in a row” becomes highly advantageous.

On the competitive scene being sure that you have all that you need and that you have back-ups of the back-ups can be the difference between success and failure, perhaps not quite so much because of the items at hand but the lack of stress in knowing that you have done all you can to be ready.

Generally for me that means having a check list when guiding, insuring that I have the client’s details, any specific food or health requirements, the correct location from whence to collect them in the morning and all that sort of thing. It isn’t just a question of rods, reels and lines.

PrepMuddie

Albe Nel with a nice mudfish from a previous trip

I should mention that most of these preparations have been born out of the crucible of abject failure at some point. I have in the past forgotten to take the net, forgotten to take the rods (which is even more problematic) and on one occasion forgotten in which hotel my client was residing, the latter a professional faux pas I wouldn’t care to repeat. So now there are lists and lists of lists, things don’t go in the box without being ticked off and they don’t get ticked off until they are in the box. Even then I went fishing last week without the net, although to be fair that was because, being a purely social trip to the stream, I didn’t check the list.. Live and learn.

PrepMikeMike Spinola braves the midges for some more fishing time.

Right now I am in the midst of preparing for an extended camping trip on the Orange River with clients, where we intend to target the smallmouth and perhaps largemouth yellowfish. It is a remote spot, remote in the sense that there isn’t a shopping centre for miles, in fact there is, if you will excuse the expression, “Bugger all for miles and miles”. A mistake out there and you could be doing the “David Carradine, walk through the endless desert thing.” It’s all very well being well prepared in terms of the fishing tackle, but out in the desert, excepting within the narrow expanse of the river, a fly rod and waders probably come under the heading of the two most useless things that you may wish to have with you.

So everything has to be taken along, from wading boots to water and right now my check list includes amongst other things:
58 Apples
32 Bread rolls
16 Potatoes
3 Cabbages
3 Bags of Carrots
34 Cereal Bars
44 Cheese wedges
1 Large Camembert
14 Kebabs
2 Large Jars of coffee
16 Boxes of custard
1 Large box of porridge oats
30 Packets of biscuits
6 Packets of bread mix
and something in the region of 80 other items in various volumes all contained within 8 large boxes and two coolers, and that excludes any of the fishing gear.

Of course, no matter how hard one tries something will be forgotten and you just hope that whatever it is won’t prove to be too critical. If one runs out of batteries for the headlamps then camp would be near intolerable, but if I forget the 5x tippet then we will have to make do with the 4x and it won’t be quite such a train smash.

PrepTimThe Author with a decent yellowfish taken from under the reeds

To add to the complexity we are on the cusp of spring and summer here, but the vagaries of the former season haven’t quite given way to the relative stability of the latter yet and climatic conditions are due to vary from 30°C heat to near freezing temps at different times during our stay. That makes packing all the more fraught, not to mention bulky if one doesn’t have a mind to keep things minimalistic.

Of course the concept behind preparation is twofold: Firstly to allay one’s fears as far as possible and avoid that near inevitable “Packing paranoia” which will see one pulling off the road to check in a box at the back of the truck for some insignificant item you wonder if you packed. The second part of the process is supposedly at least to insure effectiveness whilst out there in the wide blue yonder. With some planning the amount of time spent fiddling about in camp is reduced and the amount of time left for actual fishing hopefully increased, that is at least the theory.

PrepCamp

Flytying “Al Fresco”, remote camps are by necessity basic in nature.

After all of this there is no guarantee that the fish will be cooperative, we have cast our plans, checked the weather and done the trip before at the same time of year, so disappointment shouldn’t rear its ugly head but it isn’t an impossibility, and that I suppose is the rub when it comes to fishing. The barometer could plummet, the flow rates could be high or non-existent and the water could be anything from crystal to chocolate. Those things you can’t foresee which is why one tries to cover all the bases under one’s control, to minimize the risk of failure.

So there are boxes of flies, pre-manufactured leaders, indicators, braided loops. There are spare lines and spare reels, a spare pair of sunglasses, (and at my age spare reading glasses too). There are maps so we don’t get lost, permits so we don’t get arrested, sunblock so we don’t get burned, water so we don’t get dehydrated and at least a small amount of scotch so that we don’t go mad.

PrepDesert

The desert: unforgiving but at the same time spectacularly pretty.

Actually I am already questioning that last statement, we are going to all this trouble, driving for hours on both tarmac and dirt roads, burning goodness knows how much fuel so that we can eat sandy food and live in near darkness with a view to catching some fish which we have no intention of eating and for that matter aren’t really edible anyway. I suppose there is a fine dividing line between passion and insanity when you come to think of it, and we are all no doubt walking a tightrope on that front.

PrepAlbeAnother good fish for Albe, taken nymphing in the rapids

Perhaps the best reflection of such a mission came from an indigenous resident alongside the river on a previous trip. Having watched us all fly-cast from dawn to dusk for days on end, this itinerant, and relatively uneducated goatherd posed the following question: “Hoekom julle slaan de water so?”, translation.. “Why do you beat the water so?” Not a bad question really is it?

 

Note: “The Fishing Gene Blog” has now seen over 50,000 views since its inception, not a lot by some standards but a milestone none the less, a milestone that motivated me to write this when I should be checking the lists and packing the boxes. Thanks to all those readers and followers who keep me at it..

Fair Weather and Foul

June 10, 2013

FairWeatherHead

Fair weather and foul.

What’s that thing from the US Postal Service? That motto about “rain or snow?”.

Well apparently it isn’t an official motto, but inscribed on The James Farley Post office in New York City are the words:

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

It sounds pretty impressive, but then they actually nicked the phrase from Herodotus, describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers. Yes we all thought that that was invented by the Pony Express but apparently the Persians came up with the idea well before Charlton Heston and Rhonda Fleming.

USPS

Anyway I digress, the point is that I suspect that the same immortal words could be applied to fly anglers, with the useful adaption of “appointed rounds” to something along the lines of “pursuing fish” . Living and fishing in South Africa I get to fish mostly in nice balmy weather, it has its drawbacks low water, clear blue skies, spooky trout and nine inch wide shadows from 7x tippet but mostly it is pleasant out there. Except not now, now is winter, now the rivers are closed and in flood, now the temperatures have plummeted, now there is snow on the mountains, now it is actually pretty unpleasant and the only options are stillwater fishing.

In fact the stillwater fishing here is generally far better in the cold winter months but perhaps many people don’t realise that winter here, on the southern tip of the African Continent is pretty much like winter most places, lots of rain, high winds, and biting chill.

So apart from tying different flies, rigging different lines and gearing up the boat for launch, it also means searching through the cupboards for the thermal nickers and all that stuff to ward of hypothermia.

Matroosberg

It so happens that the weather forecast for the high country was for rain on Saturday and sunny skies on the Sunday, and it would have seemed an obvious choice to head out on Sunday, but alas that wasn’t on the cards. My very good mate and regular boat partner Mike had other commitments for the Sunday so it was go on Saturday and deal with the weather. After all we are men not mice right? A bit of rain never heart anyone after all; we are supposed to be outdoorsmen, intrepid adventurers, to go behind beyond what no one has gone behind beyond before and all off that. This is fishing, you can’t let the weather dictate what you do, just get out there and fish. Anyway we all know that the fishing is often best when the weather is at its worst, at least on stillwaters. If the quality of the fishing is in inverse proportion to the horror of the weather we were in for a high ol’ time.

SmartPhone

So it was a case of digging deep in the cupboards for the wet weather gear and girding up the loins for some foul weather fishing. In the end Mike couldn’t make it anyway (there is some karma coming his way for that no doubt) so I drove the two hours to Ceres on my own, lashing rain, puddles and some frighteningly blinding spray from the trucks on the road. I met up with Albe Nel at his home in Ceres and we headed for the water in the pre-dawn darkness. The fancy little LED screen in the car boasting that the temperatures had risen to nearly 8°C, positively tropical for this part of the world during the winter months.

At the lake we were greeted by friends who were staying out there in the fishing hut and were most grateful of an early morning cuppa and the shelter of the porch whilst we donned waders, fleeces, rain jackets, hats and whole nine yards, knowing that we were to be sitting in the downpour for the entire day. The boat was inflated and launched without mishap and although things looked more than a little grim, with low cloud, lashing rain and a moderate and bitterly chill wind we were committed now. Plus it has to be said that I had a new reel and a couple of new flylines with which I was desperately keen to experiment.

GoneFishing2

The first drift of the day was a rather torrid affair, we haven’t boat fished for months and were out of practise, the wayward breezes switched direction constantly and the rain lashed down. The boat spun about and refused to settle into a nice neat track but right at the end of that first drift we hit a fish. A bright silver triploid stockie from last season, fit as a fiddle, feeding close up against the bank.

The sun didn’t come out but it felt a little as though it had now that the blank had been avoided. Outside of fishing circles it is a little recognised fact that although mathematically the difference between nought and two and one and two is the same, in fishing the former is an order of magnitude more significant that the latter and it is always an uplifting moment to get that monkey off your back.

We rowed back to repeat the drift, pushing the boat into the waves with long pulls on the oars, the rain at times now near horizontal. On the second drift we were a little better organised and hit fish with some regularity. Both fishing intermediate lines, Albe’s sinking a little faster than my “Hover Line”, remarkably all the fish took small nymphs fished on the top dropper, I suppose that for whatever reason that was what they wanted.

So the day progressed, it rained, we caught a few fish, it rained more and we caught a few more fish. We would occasionally take what my American clients euphemistically refer to as a “Comfort Break”, which mostly involved walking about to stretch sore and stiff muscles, lighting a fag out of the full force of the gale and perhaps taking a pee, risking exposure of one’s nether regions to the rapidly dropping temperatures.

Trying to undo waders and coat zips with frozen fingers reminded me of a quotation about the most difficult part of climbing Mt Everest. I don’t recall the commentator’s name but the response was “taking a piss with a three inch dick in nine inches of clothing”, we weren’t exactly at camp two on the Lhotse traverse but it darn well felt like it.

Snowflakes

For one all too brief spell the weak winter sun broke through the clouds and we basked in radiant heat for all of five minutes before the weather closed in again, but we persevered. At one point Albe got to three fish more than me,(during the day we had never been more than a fish or two away from equality), so I switched to a faster intermediate line and immediately nabbed two fish to bring the scores near level once again.

It is interesting that one has to pick out the right depth to be fishing and even in these torrid conditions and the chore of tying knots with frigid fingers , good technique dictates that one is prepared to adapt and making the right moves pays dividends in the end.

We pushed things too late, the clouds lifted a tad to reveal snowfalls on the high peaks around the lake, not more than a few hundred meters above us, it just served to make us feel more chill than we already were. The boat was filled with rainwater, every single thing from fly boxes to boat bags were completely drenched and by the time we packed up it had got dark. We just chucked everything into the back of Albe’s truck and decided to sort it all out in the light and relative warmth of his garage when we got back to town. The air temperature by now had dropped to 5°C.

It was an act of insanity really to fish so late, we had caught plenty of fish, more than thirty for the day between us, but I suppose when you are fishermen out fishing and the fish are biting it is just a little too much to simply walk away. Anyway what’s a little hypothermia between friends?

SoftHackleBanner

I still had to venture out into the darkness and downpour to open two gates on the way home and if I can find the guy who invented the heater in Albe’s truck I might well be prepared to perform and unnatural act as gratitude for his foresight.

Many thanks to Wendy, Craig, Isaac, David and Sarah for allowing us to occupy the hut during our breaks and for plying us with hot coffee to stave off the chill.

It wasn’t the most auspicious start to the winter season, but we can’t complain about the fishing, having spent the night at home under two duvets and a couple of blankets my core temperature has returned to near normal. My body still feels a bit bruised and battered and there is a pile of wet fishing gear and a filthy boat to be sorted out but the sun is shining outside and in a week or two I shall be ready to try again. I suppose there is a fine dividing line between madness and passion and I am hoping that perhaps there might be a little sunshine on the next trip. A few more days like this and my body will lose all its pigmentation, rather like those weird creatures that live out their lives in the chill dank of deep caves, but I know that whatever the weather, it isn’t going to stop me wetting a line and I figure that is the way things should be.

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