Posts Tagged ‘Brown Trout’

Grogarth Beat #35

June 13, 2018

Grogarth  Beat # 35 of the West Country Angling Passport Scheme.

This section of the Fal River, one of several  rivers running into the Falmouth Estuary, is one of only two West Country Passport Venues within close proximity to Truro, my current base of operations.

After the struggle to find the water on the Tresillian River the previous day I have to admit to having had some feelings of trepidation. Back home “difficult access” may mean a long hike, even up a long hill, even in hot sunshine. What it doesn’t mean is a life and death struggle with out of control herbage ,such that one feels part of a reenactment of “Day of the Triffids” , all so that one can simply to get one’s feet wet.

Getting into the water is frequently the most difficult part of the fishing

This beat, at least on paper, looked a tad easier to find than that of the previous day. The beat starts directly above a road bridge, so no real difficulty there, and the passport ticket box was just where it was supposed to be, underneath the style which provided access to the public footpath along the river, all of which served as confirmation that I was in the correct place.

Even then it became quickly apparent that getting into and possibly getting out of the water may prove more troublesome than might be assumed from first glance. For the most part the banks were five feet above the water with a lush verge of protective nettles and brambles cascading down into the water. Access from the right bank (that is looking downstream, an English convention which can be confusing to start with), was near impossible and after exploring high stone walls and steep clay banks I decided to reconnoiter the other side of the stream.

Here at least, after walking a short distance, I could see some flattened grass suggesting that previous anglers had maybe accessed the water at this specific point in the recent past. Yes the nettles stung and the brambles tore at me, but at least I had the good sense not to wear my new waders .

Fox Gloves and other wild flowers dot the hedgerows

I may have been battered, bruised, stung and on one memorable occasion electro-shocked in the balls by a pulsing cattle fence but at least my waders would remain pristine in preparation for my trip to Wales. As an aside, it appears that wet lycra provides spectacularly effective conductivity when pulled tight around one’s nether regions and then pressed against an electrified fence. Although not exactly painful, the sensation is more than a little disconcerting.

Stinging Nettles are everywhere and one is left with little option but to simply brazen it out, wade through the darned things and accept that the fishing should take your mind off the stings.

So I plopped the last few feet down the bank into the water, feeling just a little out of sorts, surrounded by a canopy of tangled trees and still wondering how I was to get back out.. My learning curve of the previous day meant that I was already factoring in the low angles of casting and striking in such tight confines and although possibly trapped, I was at least ready to fish.

The canopy over much of the river meant that my normally functioning Polaroids, geared for more sunny climes were hopelessly too dark for the environment in which I found myself and I was forced to fish without them for most of the beat.

This is about as open as any section of the beat was, too dark for the most part to be wearing the polaroids.

The water was a little off colour and I opted for a dry and dropper rig with a silver bead PTN on point.  I quickly changed the dry to a simple indicator, two flies being roll cast under such a dense canopy of herbage was more of a struggle than it was worth.

With the two fly rig I am sure I hooked enough different types of vegetation to have put together a pretty reasonable stand at the Chelsea Flower Show.  Eventually one learns not to wave the rod needlessly, not to attempt anything remotely looking like a real cast and to manufacture all manner of rolls, flicks and bow and arrow presentations. Whatever allows the flies to hit the water.

The trout, although small, proved to be more than obliging and I had three out of the first run. Thank goodness that they aren’t too picky, presentation here means “hit the water”, there isn’t sufficient space to do a great deal more than that.  From then on it was a case of wending one’s way under the canopy, watching out for sunken logs and slippery clay banks and prospecting as best one could with the flies. Roll casts and horizontal strikes were the order of the day and I think that I made perhaps a dozen overhead presentations the whole morning.
In the end I landed in excess of 40 fish , most tiny and a few of about 10”,(The blurb on the beat suggests that maximum for the browns is around 11” here so that wasn’t bad going). In the end I had a lot of fun, it is very different to the fishing than I am used to and required some serious adaptations to make things work.

A native Fal River Brown Trout, beautifully decorated with red and black spots.

By the time I was done for the day I had become used to the near constant burn of the nettle stings and was able to appreciate the fishing and the natural beauty. The hedgerows are filled with Foxgloves and the air heavy with the scent of new mown grass and wild flowers.

Even the brambles can appear pretty if you are not trying to force your way through them to the water

The surrounding hillsides are a patchwork of greens and golds, random shapes on a quilt of cultivated lands and there is constant background noise of running water , the chirping of song birds and the harsh squawks of pheasants hidden in the undergrowth. The weather has been unbelievably good for the past few days and exploring new waters, troublesome though that has proven at times, has really been something of a delight.  I may still get to fish another passport water before I leave the West Country, but if you are visiting the South and you are, like me, miserable if you cannot fish. I would recommend that you visit

The Westcountry Angling Passport Book contains information on all the beats with thumbnail maps and descriptions of the various pieces of water available through the scheme

You can obtain a booklet with all the beats and beat descriptions: combined with a book of tokens and a UK fishing license ,  a wide range of waters are opened up to you.   These sorts of passport schemes have opened up a lot of previously closed potential for stream and river fishing in the UK. In a little less than a week I shall be enjoying similar benefits on the Wye and Usk in Wales. More on that later.




The Uneducated Trout

December 3, 2013


I have on occasion written down, both here and in other scribblings,  my thoughts on selective trout and that supposedly mythical beast the “educated trout”. Of course that has equally led to a level of derisive commentary from some, sufficiently determined argument that can on occasion have me questioning if I have missed the point and simply bought into the concept that fish learn from their mistakes if given the opportunity.

Indeed there was a time when I discussed the idea that there were no such things as selective trout and that the angler’s long held belief was simply an excuse for poor angling ability.. you can get yourself into a lot of trouble making known such thoughts, particularly if you are not careful about who you might offend.

In fact I have of late been reading through an entire book on the subject,  “What trout want, the educated trout and other myths” by Bob Wyatt, (Stackpole 2013) and it makes for some interesting cerebral gymnastics. Trouble is that there are still things that happen out on the river which suggest that fish do indeed become educated.  I don’t believe that they are going to fuss overly that the rib on your March Brown is slightly the wrong shade or that you have foolishly tied in four tails instead of three but fish that receive more angling pressure behave differently to those which don’t,  of that I am pretty darned certain.

Witter River Brown Trout Cape TownEducated or not, the trout on this stream are exceptionally pretty.

Take for example a recent trip to the high country of the Witte River in the Western Cape, a long haul hike up a pretty steep mountain to reach a river that has the longest history of Catch and Release angling of all our local streams. The water is crystal clear, holds relatively few fish and is renowned for being tricky. Personally I don’t think that this river is particularly technically demanding but to be sure you don’t get that many chances at a fish in the course of a day, so errors tend to have a significant influence on your catch rate. Not so much that the trout are harder to fool but more that if you do miss a couple of opportunities  you could easily be making the long walk back to the car with a dry net.

Witte6Into the high country in search of naive trout.

So it was that having not visited this particular watershed for some time and drawn by the lure of complete isolation, quiet fishing time and spectacular scenery I headed off alone, high into the hills.

Now hill country in general and this valley in particular is known for vagaries of weather, it is almost entirely impossible to predict and despite checking the weather forecasts and such one can find local climatic conditions changing suddenly as you gain elevation.

Driving up Bain’s Kloof Pass to the start of the hike into the valley I meandered through areas of complete stillness and the next moment had the car rocking in the gale. In the nearby town of Wellington the smoke from barbeque fires was floating straight up into a clear blue sky, on the pass the trees were bending dangerously as the air funnelled down the valley at near hurricane force.

Adopting the “you are here you might as well fish” mantra of the dedicated angler I headed uphill, puffing and panting to reach the stream. The wind wasn’t quite so bad on the high ground but still represented more than a bit of a challenge, buffeting downstream and into my face.

I am a great believer in the benefits of careful fly presentation, which normally then begets long leaders, small flies and fine tippets, but after a few practise casts it was obvious that such a rig wasn’t going to offer much hope under the conditions. I cut back the leader to around 12’, forwent the benefits of fine 8x tippet in favour of more sturdy stuff  and lashed on a large hopper pattern which when damp could at least be persuaded to cut into the gale and land, albeit with something of a “plop” roughly where I was aiming to throw it.

Witte4At least I got to wet the net.

I fished on, searching likely runs, there were a few hoppers about and the wind should be sending the odd hapless individual into the stream, I figured that I was at least in with a chance of a fish.

This is a notoriously bushy bit of water requiring some pretty gung ho orienteering to gain access to certain parts of the stream. Eventually after much struggling and rather splashy casting I came to a run amongst the bush where a trout held over a flat rock feeding merrily and occasionally coming up to the surface to engulf some tiny morsel. I decided that the hopper and the short leader just weren’t the ticket and re-rigged to a finer set up with more and thinner nylon and set about casting for my prize. The first cast looked good but was ignored by the trout so I changed flies, the second cast was a tad too far to the right and the third ended up with the line snagged in the bush. At some point during the retrieval process the fish must have got a glimpse of me because when I turned around he was gone.

Never mind early days and I pressed on in search of new quarry. The long leader set up really was troublesome so I reverted to the hopper and the shorter stiffer terminal tackle, bashing the fly into the gale in likely looking spots all to no avail.

Then, finally another trout, a big one and holding in the tail out of a long smooth run, feeding quietly in between two tufts of river grass and oblivious to my presence. This time I figured I would stick to the hopper despite the slow flow and made what I thought was a good cast, slightly to my side of the fish and a fraction behind his head. I figured that the “plop” of the hopper would be sufficient to induce him to spin and engulf the pattern. Not a chance, he spun around for sure, had a good look at the fly and bolted for the bankside brush, obviously less than impressed with something, either the fly or perhaps the tippet.

I fished on, things were looking a little grim, on this notoriously understocked river (actually it isn’t stocked and hasn’t been for decades), I thought I might be facing my first ever blank day. I have always managed to scratch a fish or two, even under the most trying conditions. Finally I fooled a small fish, at least the blank was avoided and it heartened me that the small fish was evidence that the occupants of this remote water were still managing to find the odd partner and breed. Most encouraging as their hold on survival is at best a little tenuous.

Witte3I wonder if this fish is now a bit better educated

I hiked higher up the valley, reaching waters that are rarely fished, the flow was becoming minimal and much of the river looked far too shallow to provide trout habitat. By now almost two hours from the car and a long way above where most anglers would turn back I threw the hopper into a shallow run with a slight depression amongst the boulders and got an instant hit. A nice fish and my second for the day. The next run I overcooked the cast, the hopper and the tip of the fly line splashing down hard into the water as the wind momentarily abated and I turned away in disgust at my error. When I turned back the hopper was gone, replaced only with the swirling rings of an obvious take, the ripples rapidly being flattened out by the still onerously strong breeze. I struck late and hooked a really good fish, surprised that it would swallow such a poorly presented fly at all. The next run and another fish, then another. High up in the valley where the angler’s trail all but peters out and where one imagines few ever cast a line the fishing became easy. Presentations, even poor ones frequently resulted in a take. The hopper splashed down, the fish rose up and I took trout almost at will from virtually every piece of water that had a little bit of depth.  After a poor start I ended the day with ten or so wild brown trout, some of pretty reasonable dimension and no doubt could have landed more but for the pressing need to turn tail and head home before it got too late.

Witte2Were it not for the need to hike back I probably could have increased my tally.

In the end I can’t come up with a better explanation of the day other than to suggest that the higher I went and the less fishing pressure the water received the more naïve the trout became. So perhaps “The Educated Trout” is a myth, but if that is the case how do you explain the concept then of the “Uneducated Trout”? Are they not opposite sides of the same coin?  The browns high up in this valley, which one presumes are rarely troubled by anglers machinations were heartbreakingly naïve, foolhardy to a near suicidal level. If I were honest, the only real difference I can come up with is that they haven’t had the chance or necessity to learn better.

For more musings on educated and naive trout, fly casting, fly tying and more from the author of this blog a number of thought provoking and educational titles are available on line and from



April 19, 2013


Fishermen I suspect see the calendar a little differently than most; it is Autumn here, well banging towards winter to be honest. The temperatures have dropped and I was up early which means that my feet are chill inside my slippers and it has taken an age for the skies to brighten.

I was contemplating the past year, for most the year starts in January but for me the year starts and ends in May. That is the last of the stream fishing for another season and at the same time the beginning of what one hopes will be some fine stillwater angling.

Come to think of it I was born in May and perhaps that was some sort of evolutionary mandate to allow me as much time as possible to grow before the opening of the season, much as sea birds give their chicks the time to learn to fly before the food source blooms, or Wildebeest time their breeding to coincide with the rains. You never know.

My life and my calendar are defined by fishing, I am not sure that I want it like that so much as that is just the way things are. I was born to fish and whilst I am interested in a lot of things, little or nothing grabs my attention quite in the same way as fly fishing does. So unremarkably the year is remembered in snapshots, moments in time, mostly related to fishing.


The season has been kind, there have been more than a few days of angling, the early forays into the swollen and frigid waters, with some nice rainbows and of course a few tiddlers too. Mind you the tiddlers are inordinately pretty, with blue parr markings, reminiscent of inky finger stains on the flanks of the juvenile rainbows. There were a couple of wonderful browns, a fortunate happenstance courtesy of a damaged screen in a local trout farm a few years back. The browns have done better than anyone expected and packed on weight such that a 20” brown trout is, if not common at least within one’s sights.


The rainbows have managed to breed well over the last few seasons too, plenty of fish to go around and all happily protected by catch and release regulations. They have provided sport for myself and clients alike, and I have been fortunate to be part of the capture of the very first fly caught trout with a number of anglers. There have been a few girls too who have ventured out and caught their first fish, little do they suspect that they may well end up as hooked as the fish were.


There has been some travel, a trip to the UK to my old stomping grounds for a wedding, and of course a spot of fishing. My brother became betrothed for the first time and I fished a genuine English Chalk stream for the first time too. I met up with old friends, family and some new acquaintances who kindly helped me keep my line wet and fishing fever at bay.  I watched small children catch crabs from “Iron Bridge” which probably represents the geographical start of my love affair with fishing and wandered the West Country to try out some stillwaters and rivers that I had either never fished or only fished years before.


I walked country lanes and drank real ale in country pubs, thick granite walls, smoke stained wooden beams and roofs of local slate. There were hostelries with names like “The Fisherman’s Cot” and “The Trout Inn” and wondrous ales , my personal favourite being “Doombar” from the Sharps Brewery near Rock.

Memories of endless rain and gloriously verdant countryside, I suppose the two go hand in hand for obvious reasons.

Then there was the Wild Trout Associations festival in Rhodes, a lovely village set in the high country of the Eastern Cape, buckets of water or one should perhaps say “Miles of River” as the water was a bit low on some of the streams and a bucketful might have caused something of a flood. The fishing was however good and I was able to assist some anglers make the most of their trip. It has been a good year all round for the neophytes, with lots of coaching and guiding, some keen little kids and some older fly fishing beginners all getting into the swing of things and catching some trout. It is always a special pleasure to be able to help the newbies.


Now the season here is drawing to a close, I have fond memories of fishing on my own on Christmas Day and a trip out with my friend Mike on Good Friday, which was fun until the river turned to chocolate due to out-flow from one of the local trout farms.  Sometimes the opportunity to fish doesn’t present itself as often as one might like but all in all it has been good. The rivers will start to fill now, the night time temperatures are dropping such that the fish will turn their minds to breeding shortly. Just as that happens though the stillwater fishing will come into its own and there is the drift boat fishing to look forward to.


A chance to drift a lake with the snowcapped Matroosberg as a backdrop, hopefully some larger trout and relaxed angling.

All these things are memories, snapshots of a season passed or almost passed at least. What the future holds who knows but fishing is going to be part of it, that’s for certain.


How Small a Trout?

November 12, 2012

How Small a Trout:

The title comes from a quotation courtesy of one of my favourite authors, John Gierach:

“Maybe your stature as a fisherman isn’t determined by how big a trout you can catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed”

It also happens to be the name of one of my favoured fly fishing blogs “How Small a Trout” at

But the point was brought home to me on a remarkable day this past weekend where I was able to actually push both ends of the size envelope within the same day, from a particularly large brown to a tiny and totally wild rainbow within hours and not more than a kilometre or two of one another.

I had received a most gracious invitation from Sharland to join her at Fizantekraal Lodge in the Du Toit’s Kloof mountains. The lodge is top notch, with exquisite views, five star cuisine, and of course in this instance most pleasant and entertaining company. The real attraction though, at least for those of us in possession of “The Fishing Gene” is that it boasts three small trout lakes and a section of pristine trout stream headwater. A tiny, distinctly bushed in and closely wooded top section of the Kraalstroom River.

The lake fishing isn’t really my thing, I would have to admit, the dams are too small and the surroundings just a tad too contrived to really sit well with someone who would far rather be on a river or a large expanse of water, bobbing in a boat perhaps or searching the shallows in the hope of finding feeding fish. However on previous visits I had already established a Modus Operandi which makes the fishing considerably more entertaining than might otherwise be the case and Sharland and I have pretty much perfected the technique.

The thing is with these small clear dams and large fish sight fishing is more than simply possible, it is virtually assured. The impoundments despite their small stature contain some really rather large and not entirely stupid fish. They have been stocked mostly in relatively small sizes and grown on without artificial subsidy of diet, they have equally grown more than a little wary of anglers and eschew pretty much any fly or lure that most people would consider standard fare for the lake angler. Woolly Buggers and such are frequently followed but ultimately ignored and the dams therefore provide a wonderful possibilities for experimentation.


Even with 7X tippet and #18 dries, refusals prove all too common.

It was on a visit a year or two back when , returning from the stream and under strict instructions from my hostess “Not to be late for lunch” that I passed one of the dams carrying my #3wt stream outfit, rigged with 7X tippet and a tiny #18 dry fly. The story is told in full in a previous blog “Big Fish on fine tippets” .

In short having sighted a fish on my way back to the lodge I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a cast, knowing , or at least mostly knowing that you weren’t supposed to throw such tiny flies on such fine tippet at 2 to 3 kilo trout. It isn’t done; but of course I did it and landed a superb fish. In the following hours and on into the next day we repeated the trick over and over. The fish would be very tippet shy and entirely avoid any moving subsurface pattern but would take well presented tiny parachutes.. It was tremendous fun and afforded the chance to push the limits of what was possible.

In fact those experiments worked so well that on this trip I didn’t venture to include anything heavier than a three weight rod in my gear. I caught some great fish in similar size ranges and a number of “tiddlers” which had entered the lower dams from the river over time. In fact I rarely fished a nymph at all for the duration of my stay but in the late morning I was returning to the lodge again, feeling more than a little dehydrated as it had become really rather hot and I thought that I would enjoy a drink before a planned trip to fish the river in the afternoon.

On the way back there was a sense of De ja vu when there appeared in the shallowest section of the dam a very large fish which boiled at something on the surface. I unhooked the dry on its gossamer tippet, trying to stay hidden behind a large grass tuft I flipped the dry out onto the surface not a few feet from the bank and waited. The trout appeared from behind the grass, a massive brownie, spots showing clearly in the sunshine and a simply huge head, with a seriously kyped jaw, broke the surface and engulfed the fly. It was a heart stopping moment, the mouth was so large that I could easily imagine pulling the fly right out of it and hooking nothing but thin air. Really, it seemed impossible to hook up, as though one had tossed the fly into a fire bucket and was hoping to catch up on the sides. I delayed the strike, lifting firmly but not overly quickly and the next moment there was solid resistance and a huge thrashing of foam on the surface as the trout felt the prick of the hook.

To start with it seemed the huge fish had failed to notice that it was actually attached to the line, he would shake his head from time to time but mostly just moseyed along a few feet out, hardly bothering to take more evasive action. I applied all the pressure I dared, pretty well as much pressure as I could with a #2 weight rod anyway and provoked a considerably more violent reaction, letting line whizz off the reel on occasion and trusting that in the end I would tire the fish sufficiently to land him.  After much delicate toing and froing, alternatively taking in and then rapidly giving back line I netted the fish. It is incredible what can be done on fine tippet if one has a sufficiently forgiving (soft actioned) rod and equally soft hands, ready to give line when necessary. Quite possibly the biggest brown trout I have ever caught, the kudos of the moment ameliorated slightly by the artificial surrounds but equally enhanced by the ultrafine gear that was being used. (#2wt Sage ZXL, 18′ leader to 7X Stroft copolymer tippet)

Brown Trout (mouth size inset), the weight and length estimates only

I removed the hook that was set well back in the giant fish’s throat, actually managing to fit my entire fist into his mouth in the process, a simply massive mouth for a freshwater fish, took a few quick pictures and put him back into the water. Unfortunately he got away from me a bit early before I was happy he was well set and proceeded to dive into a weedbed where I could see him laying, ostrich like,  head in the weeds and not looking entirely OK. He was too far out to reach with the net so stripping myself of my vest, glasses and such I dove into the dam after the fish, hoping to get him back in the net or provoke him into swimming away and driving some more oxygen through his gills. He shot off and appeared to recover fully. Soaking wet I returned, probably a little late for lunch.

Brown Trout Fizantekraal

This fish had been stocked years back as a 350gm baby

In the afternoon I headed up the Kraalstroom, the first section is impossibly bushy and Lilliputian, you wouldn’t swing a mouse no matter his proverbial adversary but as I walked the odd pocket opened up. Each time there was a pocket in the rocks there would be a beautiful wild rainbow trout of between six and eight inches sitting right in the tail-out. The difficulty wasn’t so much fooling the fish as getting the fly into the water.

I contrived numerous casts, variations of switch. roll, flick and goodness knows what else in the tight brush. Casts which may not appear in Gary Borger’s “Presentation” and would probably be righteously excluded from a book with such a title, but I hit the water often enough and each time I did I hooked a gorgeously marked baby trout. Flushed cheeks and classical metallic blue finger shaped parr markings.

Gorgeous little fish, naïve as girls at the school dance and pretty in much the same way too. All dressed up with nowhere to go in the tiny stream. On one occasion, and probably as much through luck as judgement I managed to flick a cast under an overhanging tree, get the leader to settle just before tangling an overhanging bush and as the fly drifted into the shade of entangled herbage a slight flash indicated the take and I hooked into a twelve incher. A monster really from this water and a most satisfying challenge to even get near, I was ecstatic with that result, the fish as deserving of praise and joy as the massive brown of the morning. One fish no more than twelve inches long demanding a dreadfully contrived and somewhat fortuitous cast , the other a leviathan, known of but never or rarely previously hooked in a small dam and landed on the finest of tippets.

Kralstroom Rainbow

Beautifully coloured baby bow from the Kraalstroom.

I have to say that I enjoyed catching them both, each represented different challenges, each had their own beauty, each was a fish and each was caught by a fly angler. My fishing gene obviously doesn’t discriminate, this is an equal opportunity adventure and any fish can join in. As to the title quotation, none of those fish during the course of the day had me feeling the slightest bit disappointed, I was feeling blessed to have received a most kind invitation to fish and revelled in the diversity of it all. Special thanks to my host Sharland Urquhart and to Ryan for providing information on the stream. Ryan informed me later that the brown, estimated at 3Kg on capture had been stocked years back at a miniscule 350 grams..   You can find more information on the lodge at

As with all the posts on “The Fishing Gene”, you are welcome and encouraged to leave comments. Thanks to the regular readers “The Fishing Gene” blog recently passed the 30,000 views mark and hopefully will continue to grow in popularity.

Information on the style of tying the parachute patterns used can be downloaded for FREE from Smashwords in the book “Who Packed Your Parachute” on the link

Other books available from the author: Click on the image to find out more:

Red Letter Day

September 18, 2012

After a poor start to the season fishing the remote Witte River in mono-vision, due to the loss of a contact lens en-route to the stream, I decided that the weather was looking good and it was time for me to head out onto the water and, if you will excuse the pun, “get my eye in”.

The weather was perfect with a very slight downstream breeze on the river, the first few runs didn’t show any fish and I switched from a spider to a beetle. Then I spotted the first rise, I have to admit I was somewhat in haste and made the cast from a less than idea position. The fish came up for the beetle but an intervening current grabbed at the leader and drag set in, game over.

I chastised myself for being impatient and carried on up-stream taking more care, slowing down, scanning the water carefully; and then I saw it. The languid rise of a massive trout, bigger than I have seen on these rivers before and quite obviously a brown, even at this distance the spots were easily recognisable, it looked huge.

I watched for a while, and now and then, the brown would put in a spate of rises, each time his tail wagging good-bye well above the water. Large trout head and tailing give away their size from the delay between the break of the surface with their noses and the wave of the dorsal and then tail as they sink back to the depths. This one took an age and was obviously huge by local standards; by most standards to be honest.

After the previous error of judgement I was determined to keep cool and get into position, a practise cast for the distance and I delivered a little olive over the lane in which the fish was feeding. Not a murmur, I changed the tippet down to 7X and pushed the leader to 18 feet long. Another cast and the fly was ignored, so I added a nymph. The tiny brassie which tends to be all things to all fish landed perfectly and drifted back over the fish, but again no response. I feared that I may have put the fish down, despite my care and stealth, I waited, the fish fed in batches, three of four rises in quick succession followed by a pause that had me thinking that he had gone down again, I waited some more and he rose again. A long drawn out languid roll on the surface to something far too small to see..

This time a size twenty ant was affixed to the leader, it is a very good bet when you are stuck and the fish was obviously not eating anything particularly large, this pattern has produced most of my bigger fish on these streams and I was hopeful that it would break the impasse, however two drifts and the ant was equally ignored, not so much as an inspection rise and I was getting stumped. I knew that it was only a matter of time before a wayward cast put the fish down but what to try next?

The fly that eventually fooled the fish was a version of the above pattern.

I tied on a #12 black and red parachute spider pattern sporting long wiggling Coq de Leon halo hackle and lots of life simulating movement. I hoped that perhaps, although much larger than the natural fodder on which this trout was focused, it may trick the trout into thinking a tasty terrestrial had dropped out of the bush representing easy pickings.

The fly alighted without so much as creasing the surface film and drifted down the slow current on the edge of the stream that held the trout, I mended the intervening line upstream to compensate for the different current speeds and the fly drifted perfectly over the fish’s lie. A tilt of his fins and he glided up and inhaled the fly with total confidence, I had to steel myself not to strike too soon, very easy to mistime things with these larger fish, particularly the browns which seem feed with a remarkable lack of haste.

Trouble was that, after setting the hook, the game was far from over, this fish was huge for this stream and pretty close to the limit of what one may hope to land on 7X tippet in relatively high water. He bored away upstream and I kept as much pressure as I dared on him, being forced to give line and then more. Fortunately it was quite a large run and he had space to move without too much risk of finding a hidey-hole.  He got about fifteen metres or so upstream before I turned him but then made a dash for some overhanging bush. I had to hold the rod horizontal with the tip underwater in the hope of avoiding getting snagged. He made a second and third dash upstream, each time the power of his large tail registering in the bend of the delicate two weight rod that I was fishing. It meant that I couldn’t apply a lot of force but equally was protecting that gossamer tippet. The fight seemed to go on for an inordinately long time. Hereabouts for the most part the fight of the fish is short lived, even on light gear but not this time. The line jammed twice along the side of the reel, which I think had been slightly overfilled with backing, a dangerous situation when tied to a trout of this size, but I managed to clear the jam each time and maintain a modicum of control over the fish. After some minutes he was almost ready to come to the net but far too large to be able to lift his head out of the water and I stumbled around trying to get into a good position to net him.

Eventually after what seemed an absolute age with heart pounding and legs shaking I landed my prize, an absolutely gorgeous dark spotted brown trout of 21 inches. Fat as a brewer’s apron and probably touching the scales at around four pounds. A massive fish for these waters, possibly the fish of a lifetime.

I took some photos of him, but of course that is tricky when one is on one’s own and the fish won’t fit in the net easily. The fly in his jaw, about the largest pattern that I generally fish on these waters, looked tiny against the size of the fish’s head and after releasing him I just sat in the early summer sunshine and calmed down.  Not only a fantastic fish but equally only the second fish of the season for me and the first had been spoiled by the monocular vision and lack of control brought on by the loss of that contact lens. What a start to the season. There is little hope of repeating such a capture in the near future. I have fished these rivers for about 26 years and have captured two fish this size before. One a rainbow of 22” and the other a brown of 21” but the brownie had been thin and past his prime, nothing like this specimen. Undoubtedly the heaviest fish I have ever landed from a local river, to be honest I would have been pretty happy to get him out of a stillwater somewhere.

I fished on, even caught some fish,but even the ones that I would have considered large simply confirmed how huge my brown had been. I dropped a rainbow of about 18” later in the day, I didn’t even mind to see her get off, my day was complete and nothing was going to top that experience or detract from it. It had been a red letter day and eventually sunburned and tired I headed home, just hoping that some of the photos had been in focus and that I had a record for posterity.

Note: The Coq de Leon parachute spider is one of the featured flies in my book, “Essential Fly Tying Techniques”,  you can see how to tie it on the following private You Tube Link.

Depth Perception

September 15, 2012

A funny think happened on the way to the river:

This past week my friend Ian Lourens and I headed for the Witte River, high up above the “Bainskloof pass”. It is a far flung spot given to vagaries of weather and wind that are frequently at odds with conditions in close by but different areas, predictions of what to expect are fraught with danger. The stream is notoriously tricky with some gorgeous brown trout, although not many, low numbers of fish contributing considerably to the possibility of getting skunked. In short it is a troublesome stream to fish and arduous to boot.

A gorgeous Witte River Brownie, worth the hike. 🙂

Access can be gained either by a long hike along a jeep track or a short cut straight up the side of the mountain which swops effort for time. You get there faster but more beaten up, particularly as the short cut route doesn’t have a path and one has to bash through brush and deadfall to reach the trail higher up.

I hadn’t fished so far for the season, the rivers had only just opened a week and a half previously and even then, although officially in the frame, they had been actually too high to fish for much of that time.

So I was not well prepared to start with, there is the extremely arduous hike up the mountain to deal with and further walking still to reach the water. It is not too far from an epic adventure and fraught with risk of failure if indeed not personal injury.

I slept little the night before, I had troublesome thoughts that something would go wrong and as a consequence I checked and rechecked my gear, boots, rods, leader and fly boxes, and then stopped the car on the way there to double check.

All was fine and Ian and I met up, switched to one vehicle and headed off, we parked on a remote pass and headed straight up hill, our gear safely stowed in our rucksacks for deployment when we got to the water. (It is a good idea on such ventures to carry one’s fishing kit and change near to the stream, affording one the option of dry clothes, socks and boots for the hike out).

All went well, the hill seemed inordinately steep, but then neither of us was fit after a three month layoff, and anyway the hill really is steep.

At the top we joined the path, level ground pretty much and started to tramp along, joy in our hearts, pleasant thoughts of fish and dry flies filling our minds, and then disaster. I had an eyelash sticking into my left eye and without a thought I brushed it aside, something I have done hundreds of times before. This time, the movement knocked my left contact lens out of my eye and into the bush. It was a most depressing moment, after wearing contact lenses for over thirty years without mishap; here I was on the top of a mountain, brown trout within reach and one eye out of action.

We searched of course, wasting a good half an hour or more on our hands and knees in the vain hope that we might be fortunate, but to no avail, and eventually I thought back to an exercise with a sports psychologist when part of the National Fly Fishing Team. Without going into too much detail we had been instructed to “fish” with completely mismatched tackle and after some fumbling we all discovered that we could prevail. The lesson was that if you are truly good at something you can manage, “make a plan” as it were. Not perhaps perform at one’s peak but at least make do, it was a lesson well learned. Anyway I figured that I should just have to make the most of a bad situation and anyway in the worst case scenario I could provide guiding support to Ian, who was still in possession of all his faculties.

So we carried on along the path, rigged up gear, changed clothing and boots and headed for the water. The oddest thing, I was actually quite capable of casting with reasonable accuracy, although should a branch be in the way it was tricky for me to judge exactly where it was. But I could cast and fish and that was a plus.

Spotting fish was a little more troublesome, one doesn’t realise how much one relies on binocular vision when looking “through” the water, so that was an issue, but the most difficult, in fact the positively dangerous aspect was the inability to walk and to wade.  Depth perception is everything when walking over broken ground, either under the water or not, and my ability to “rock hop” was severely hampered.

After some hiking, wading and falling, (mostly falling), which included a dreadful tumble that ripped off a substantial piece of my thumbnail we actually spotted a fish. I was quite surprised that I could see it at all, but he was there and Ian and I spotted it at the same time.

I really wasn’t feeling too confident and Ian was in pole position so he made the cast for the trout. The fish moved slowly (as only browns can), inhaled the fly and it was game on, a brownie close to 18 inches in the net. Darn we had some success, despite all the troubles and the memories of that psychologist came flooding back again, “you can do it”, “It doesn’t need to be perfect”..

Feeling somewhat buoyed with confidence I took the next run and got a slightly smaller female brown that ran straight into the bushes, depth perception had me thinking that she had some way to go to reach the bank and equally prevented a chase. Ian was dispatched to dig her out of the twigs and our second fish was landed.  Actually during the course of the day I didn’t fish well, it is tricky to spot fish or time the strike with one eye. Ian faired a tad better as one might expect. It wasn’t the best opening of the season I have ever had and the hiking was dreadful, it is simply the most trying experience attempting  to walk on broken ground without the use of both eyes and the walking and wading caused me a lot more trouble than the fishing, even though that wasn’t perfect.

In the end there were two thoughts that were predominant despite having a body that felt as though it had just lost an argument with a Sherman Tank.

You can prevail when things aren’t going right, the wrong line, forgot your favourite fly box etc, don’t quit because you know how to fish so just fish.

The second, more troublesome consideration, having spent the day in two dimensional purgatory, is what would happen to your fishing if you were permanently limited in such a manner?

It really brought home the fact that you should absolutely not fish without eye protection, this was a temporary setback and on arriving home I was able to restore my vision with a spare lens. A hook in the eyeball could mean that every fishing trip thereafter would be like this one, something I don’t wish to contemplate.

Last year I got as close as I ever have to sticking a hook into my eye, a wayward cast combined with an unexpected gust of wind had me dangerously close to being renamed “Cyclops”, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

The River Piddle

August 11, 2012

The River Piddle: Fishing Fellowship Part ll

After the exceptional hospitality afforded me in Tiverton by Adrian Howell and Darren Blackburn I set off on a day trip further afield to meet up with two anglers who once again I had never previously met and who had promised me assistance in accessing some fishing. This was however really rather special for a number of reasons. Firstly Tony King and Richard Slocock operate REFFIS, (Register of Experience Fly Fishing Instructors and Schools), an organisation established to provide a means of identifying quality angling instructors and guides. They also had access to the most Southerly Chalk Streams in the UK, the rivers Piddle and Frome in Dorset. I have actually, up to this point, never fished a genuine English Chalk Stream and was most excited by the prospect. I headed out of Tiverton in the early morning along winding country roads and negotiated numerous complicated sets of that most British of inventions the multiple “mini” roundabout, losing my way on occasion but finally found myself crossing the border into Dorset.

Richard and Tony run REFFIS. The Register of Experienced Fly Fishing Guides and Schools. Click on the image to find a REFFIS guide near you.

It proved an interesting journey and I was fascinated to see how as I moved further East the cottages changed subtly, appearing a tad more cosy and warmer in aspect than the dour constructions of the South West. Obviously this is a primarily the result of the use  of different stone, these older villages having been built using whatever materials were local. The cottages of Cornwall and Devon frequently manufactured from granite blocks and with local slate roofs having a cold and somewhat forbidding outlook, as though permanently huddled down against the wind and rain. The Dorset houses fashioned from lighter and warmer looking stone and generally topped with thatched roofs appeared much less dreary and welcoming in some way. The change in archictectural styel providing an interesting diversion as I motored past the parking for the Olympic Sailing events being held at Weymouth.

True to his word Tony was waiting for me at Lawrences Farm, Richard’s home in Tolpuddle, and first order of the day was coffee and some fly fishing chatter in the kitchen. There could be little doubt that there is a brotherhood amongst fly anglers as we settled in easily to discussion of fishing, guiding, REFFIS and the pro’s and con’s of instruction. It is rather like suddenly finding others who speak the same language and with communication barriers removed one settles into familiar conversation like old friends despite the newness of the acquaintance.

I spent some time with Tony on the lawn, casting various rods and going through the paces of an assessment to insure that I could actually cut the mustard when it came to fly fishing and the instruction thereof. It is interesting to see how different people approach fly casting instruction and although we didn’t entirely see eye to eye on the best means of transferring such knowledge it was equally apparent that we both knew what we were up to and agreed on all the more important aspects. So having passed muster it was time to head out to a beat on the Piddle for a spot of fishing. The weather wasn’t as kind or unkind as it might have been, a little gray and windy but at least not pouring down and we found the stream flowing strongly and crystal clear.

Tony King fishes the Piddle near Tolpuddle.

Tony proved to be a mine of information, instructing me on such gems as the traditional explanation that the many towns in the area, Tolpuddle, Afpuddle, Briantspuddle, Puddletown and the like had indeed been “piddles” in the past, the names changed to avoid causing affront to visiting royalty at some point in time.  There is apparently little evidence that this is truly the case but it is a nice story. The River Piddle however remained such and looking at the crystal water and waving weed fronds of this glorious little gem of a stream it was quite obvious that any association with bodily functions or sanitarywares was purely coincidental. Ref:

Tolpuddle is equally famous for the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of 19th century farm labourers who formed a friendly society in protest of the reduction of their wages. The Combination Acts which made gathering for such purposes had been repealed and the formation of Trade Unions was no longer illegal but the martyrs were prosecuted under an ancient law with respect to the swearing of secret oaths and ultimately sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. They became popular heroes and 800, 000 signatures were collected demanding their release. Supporters organised a political march and eventually their sentences were overturned and they were released some two years later. Ref:

With history put to one side Tony and I focused then on the fishing. The Piddle at this point is a narrow if frequently deep stream, and “lightly keepered” which means that it doesn’t sport the overly mown and tended lawns of some of the more famous chalk streams, it also and importantly remains un-stocked and hosts native brown trout . In fact the bankside herbage was more than averagely unkempt due to the heavy rains which had made grass cutting impossible in the preceding month, which made stalking and casting more tricky than it might have been, but the fishing was no worse for the challenge.

However conditions left us battling an unruly and troublesome breeze attempting to land flies in a fast flowing stream which in some parts was only a few feet across. Tony I have to confess was far better at spotting the trout than I was, but we did get to target some specific fish under tricky conditions and in time I had my first genuine wild native brown trout on the bank.

The chill wind and damp conditions were not conducive to insect hatches and the better fish fell to nymphs, I was sure that we could have caught more with a long rod and some weighted Czech nymphs but I don’t think either of us really considered this as a righteous option on such a spectacularly gorgeous stream. I think that we spooked more fish than we caught but it didn’t matter, we caught and release a number of trout, a few of good size and were more than happy with our efforts. On the walk back to the car Tony spotted a large Pike holding in the clear water, I suspect they he was already planning to come back and remove this predator at some point in the near future.

Tony with a gorgeous native wild Piddle Brownie, you can click on the image to go to Tony’s website.

The drive back to Tiverton was briefly interrupted for us to share an ale at a roadside pub before we bid one another farewell and went our separate ways but I am most thankful to Tony and Richard for affording me the opportunity.  Fishing on both the Piddle and Frome can be organised through Richard and information on these lovely and reasonably priced waters can be obtained from If you find yourself in the vicinity of Dorset I can heartily recommend that you give these lovely streams a try and if you are particularly fortunate you may be able to arrange for Tony to guide you. The images above provide links to REFFIS and Tony King’s Website.

Many thanks to Richard and Tony for the opportunity, two more anglers who selflessly contributed to my most enjoyable holiday.


May 24, 2012


How Small a Trout, Every Day in May Challenge.

Much has been made of trout’s memory, or lack thereof, and anglers differ in their views of what fish do and don’t recall from previous encounters. Do they remember the fly or the mistakes they made, do they become smarter? (In my opinion they do and on catch and release waters they definitely get harder to catch). But what of our memories, what do anglers recall, what pleases us or haunts us as the years pass?

Probably most of us have caught hundreds of fish, perhaps even tens of thousands and which ones do you recall? For me it is the ones that I didn’t catch that remain clearly engraved in my cerebrum. Those fish which by ill fortune or poor planning were lost or missed only to live on in glorious Technicolor beneath the sweated brow of troubled dreams.

There is for instance a very large brown trout which haunts me still. I brought him up to the fly against a brambled bank on the Mooi River during a competitive session in the South African Team trials years back. A tricky little back eddy amongst the overhanging blackberry bushes which required a dangerously adventurous cast with disaster only inches away. The fish rose wraithlike from the depths as I mended the line and the fly hovered for a second before twitching in the current. That twitch was sufficient to change his mind as to the wisdom of engulfing my offering and he faded back into the slightly coloured waters.  However, all was not lost, it was early and I earmarked the spot for a last cast at the end of the three hour session.

Fishing on with a dry and nymph combination I asked the controller to tell me when there were five minutes left on the clock and planned to return. I caught fish to be sure but that brown trout lurked there in my thoughts and I had to give him another try.

Hours passed until the session was nearly up and with warning from my controller I headed briskly back down the bank positioning myself across and slightly downstream from his haunt under the thorns. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to come out from his hidey-hole and equally that I was taking a big risk to throw a weighted nymph into the tangle. Without time to re-rig I simply added another dry to the point of the 7X tippet so as to be able to land it with some margin of safety inches from the bankside vegetation.

The fly alighted and as the current tugged at the leader I was able to mend the line and hold the fly, hovering quietly in the reverse current. A massive shape appeared slowly under the caddis and as I held my breath in anticipation his mouth opened flashing white. Steeling myself to wait I eventually struck into the fish which dived for the security of the roots.

The controller who was supposed to stay relatively uninvolved in proceedings squealed with delight when he saw the size of the fish uttering the entirely understandable if somewhat unprofessional “F#$% he’s got him”.. A massive struggle ensued, the brown fighting for the protection of the bank and my battling gamely to hold him off without breaking the tippet. I was over time for the session but the rules allow that one can land the fish after the whistle and by now my prize was nearly done.

Tired and in midstream he was mine, his head showed above the surface most of the fight in him gone and I slipped the net under the water. The huge trout glided along the surface towards the net, his bright red spots catching the sunlight, his energy spent and inches from capture, he was all but mine, and then the hook pulled out. No drama, no snapping tippet, no pop or bluster, it simply fell out of those massive white jaws and tension was lost.  The fish lazed there on the surface, not entirely sure that he was free and quietly sank bank into the depths, a feeble flip of his tail waving a disappointingly poignant goodbye.

I did very well in that competition made the National Team and booked a place to go to New Zealand for the World Championships. One would think that was sufficient reward, but that trout haunts me still. Thoughts of him hover in my memory and for all the fish I have caught, before or since I would still like to have held that one in my hands.

When I close my eyes at night I can still see that huge shape drifting momentarily at the mercy of the current. Still visualise those bright red spots, fading from view as the slightly turbid waters of the Mooi swallowed up my prize and I break out in a sweat as in my mind’s eye that massive tail waves a feeble au revoir.

Fishing is a bitter sweet pursuit but for some reason the bitterness of failure lurks longer in one’s synapses than the joy of success, perhaps that is how things should be. For it isn’t success that drives one to venture out onto the water so much as the determination to right past wrongs, to redress the balance of one’s failures. To push to succeed where previously one has lost the game. And to think that some people don’t understand why we do it, it’s a strange world 🙂

CPS Newsletter Sept 30 2010

October 1, 2010

Cape Piscatorial Society Newsletter                        September 30th 2010

Despite the fact that the fishing has been a little slow in the early season I suppose it is fair to say that it hasn’t been quite as slow as previous years when we couldn’t even fish. No doubt not only a plus for the anglers but equally for those small towns downstream of the fishing who haven’t seen half of their houses washed away this year.

Fly anglers I am convinced are a rather perverse lot, in the end it isn’t the fish that you catch that make you return to a specific water but rather those that you see but don’t tempt. Much the same with the poor fishing, I have been out on the streams more in the past month than I have for a long while, again that perversity, had it been good I probably wouldn’t have been quite so motivated, the sense that “we have to crack it one day” has kept me going.

A trip to the headwaters:

With that in mind I set off yesterday , of course hence the late posting of this newsletter, for the Upper Witte. This is a stream which I used to fish regularly, in fact in my youth we would head up there two days on the same weekend, making the trip twice in quick succession although rarely to fish the same beat. Back then there were fish in the lower beats, I suspect they are now gone or the numbers further diminished. The place suffers dreadfully from the over abstraction of water from the summer flows, bringing the water levels lower down to a standstill and I am sure that can’t be good for the trout, or for that matter for any indigenous fishes that aren’t yet on the evolutionary brink of growing legs and lungs.

I keep thinking that I should do an exploratory trip up the lower sections whilst the flows are still reasonable to find out for sure if there are any fish left down there. It is a pity, years back on my birthday I caught a 22” brownie below the hiking hut and it breaks my heart to think that, what at this time of year looks like excellent water, has been reduced to such a state by narcissistic self interest.

Irrespective of past agreement it does seem to me to be insane that anyone, person or organization for that matter should be allowed to abstract the entire flow of a river and one hopes that in time sanity and the law will prevail and the water in the Witte will once again flow during the summer months.

Headwater brownie, spectacularly colourful.

Mind you people all tell me that everything has an up side to it and if there is one here it is that there is fishing higher up, not only that but you need to be seriously motivated and relatively fit to access it. Hence there is less pressure on this water than almost any other beat under out control.

My little jaunt on Thursday probably equated to a round trip on foot of some twenty odd kilometers, I think that is enough to stave off the advances of the average couch potato. I did however find fish, a few I spotted and duly spooked and several I picked up prospecting at longish range.
The water up here is ridiculously clear despite its amber hue and the fish are equally not used to seeing anything much by way of movement so are particularly quick to take offense at any intrusion. Paradoxically at the same time I don’t think that they are particularly fussed about fly patterns and the like, they don’t see enough of them to form an opinion.

Presentation Presentation, the fly didn't seem to be too important.

It is a trip that I haven’t made in years, in fact I ventured further up the stream than ever previously and it was both challenging and fun despite the near crippling stomp homewards. These fish are as pretty as they always were; a particularly noticeable feature of the strain is a frequently bright red dotted adipose fin, such that for a second they look almost as though they were tagged. High up the pickings are thin and the water thinner so I doubt that there are many monsters up there, but there could be a few and I think that I shall have to make the trip again in the not too distant future, I just need a bit of time for my calves to recover. Still it was worth it, wonderful scenery, clear water and some genuine wild trout, not a lot of them but some. Working on the same basis that I measure the fuel consumption of my car you could say that working on the distance walked it averaged out at about fourty trout per hundred kilometers an entertaining if entirly useless statistic.

So October is upon us, the first month of the season passed and that means that summer should be around the corner, more stable conditions and removal of the rain jacket from your back pack to make way for the sunblock. The Cape Piscatorial Society’s Bells Fly Fishing Festival takes place in October, I don’t know if it is fully subscribed as I type but if it isn’t then you definitely want to enquire about it if you are a novice angler on our waters.

This festival has a special place in my heart because the one disadvantage of our catch and release regulations is that the fishing is a whole lot tougher than it used to be. I like that, I like the fact that it is more challenging, that there are more and bigger fish and that they demand greater expertise from the anglers. I also like the fact that if one finds and releases a 19” fish you know that it isn’t going to be whipped out next week by someone else and end up under a grill with some toasted almonds.

I even like the fact that because of the catch and release issue most anglers will offer quality advice to newcomers, something a whole lot less likely to happen if they think that their neophyte protégée is going to be having a good ol’ fry up with the product of his learning.  But it does make it hard if you are a beginner and the Bells Festival with its opportunity to fish with some of the best anglers in the province at least allows anglers to learn the ropes a bit faster than simply bashing about on their own without guidance. It is something quite special and if you are looking to improve your angling, or currently struggling on the streams then there cannot be a better investment than to attend this one.

I shall be posting some information and images of my recent Witte River Trip on my next post on this blog so keep you eyes open for that.

For now the sun is shining, the barometer seems to have settled somewhat from its roller coaster ride of the past month and things are looking up. If you are out and about on the streams over the weekend, as always, “Be Careful Out There”.


Farewell to a season

May 23, 2010

My final day on the streams for a season, a mixed bag and a lot of hard work but some good fishing and a memorable day.

Farewell to a season.

This was to be the last chance for the season, the rivers hereabouts close in a week’s time and various commitments, work, a Nature Conservation course and the possible arrival of another cold front meant that I had one last chance at getting in some river time.

The streams had settled back from their flood conditions just in time to offer some last hope, and I had already missed out on a trip with Peter earlier in the week. We had planned to get out for an afternoon; it is a long drive for a few hours fishing but needs must as the clock was ticking. Plans had been made and I was all ready to go when some inconsiderate decided to take the chance to smash my car window and when I should have been happily driving to a rendezvous with Peter and some fish I was busying myself trying to get a new drivers side front window. Worse still Peter apparently “hammered e’m” and took some twenty five fish so I was doubly annoyed about the glass, more so than the stolen GPS that went with it.

I managed to sneak away for a few hours the following afternoon and ventured out on my own. For some reason the fishing wasn’t as “on” as when Pete was there the day before, I took a few fish but it wasn’t spectacular and I worked hard at it for maybe half a dozen trout before the fading light and the poor visibility of casting into the setting sun put paid to the trip.

Mind you I rarely fish well under such circumstances the mad dash drive up the freeway, the hurried tackling up and the rush in the hope of getting into some fish before the light fails isn’t the best way to set about something which always seems to work a lot better when one is relaxed.

I still had one booking left, here we book the water on a beat system, which works well and means that not only don’t the fish get constantly harassed but that you can arrive late in the day and still have water to yourself. The idea had been that I may have been fishing a competition trial but that fell through so I had the water to myself and one last chance at it.

To be honest though I didn’t awaken filled with enthusiasm, it was a late and rather boozy night the evening before, the local rugby team having made it to the finals of the Super 14 and that was cause for celebration, maybe a little too much celebration for an early start to a fishing day. So when I finally raised my weary head from the pillow, made some coffee and packed the gear the sun was well up.

The weather forecast was good with balmy “berg winds” but that also meant a strong likelihood of an impending cold front, a dropping barometer and blustery breezes into ones face on the river, and so it was when I arrived.

I was fishing one of the lowest beats on the streams we fish, “The Molenaars” section. This is for us big water, not so much the volume but one of the few sections where the river widens, it traditionally holds less fish but some of the best sized ones around and they seem to always be in particularly good condition. The idea being to finish the season with something of a “bang”.

The Molenaars Beat, slightly bigger water and usually the home of some large trout.

I think that some sort of celestial power was trying to keep me from the water, not only had I had to deal with the window incident only days previous but now on the way out through the Huguenot tunnel , a long passage of some four and a half kilometers through the mountain it became obvious that there was a problem with the car’s headlights  and I couldn’t get them to dip properly. More time wasted as I did running repairs at the road side and finally, FINALLY, I was rigged up and ready to go.

The wind was howling downstream and for the first hour I didn’t so much as sniff a fish, see a rise or anything else of note. I became convinced that the barometer was dropping and that it was going to be a struggle, but this was the last day and I had to persevere. I added a nymph to the rig and fished both dry and dropper studiously in all the likely looking spots to no avail. Then eventually there was a boil just as I lifted off a fast pocket and a second presentation produced the first fish of the day. A gorgeous brownie. This is something new; these streams haven’t ever contained brown trout until this season. I am still not sure from whence they came, rumour has it that they were escapees from a trout farm, but they would have had to have lost a lot of fish, reports of brown trout being caught have increased and increased over the past few months. Still there is something wonderfully seductive about the take of a dry fly by a brown trout. They don’t seem so much to rise to the fly as simply appear beneath it and then make a languid roll or simply inhale the pattern with hardly a blip on the surface. I managed to steel myself not to strike to rapidly, a fatal error on browns and he was on and in the net in short order.

A brown trout, a new addtion to these waters.

If they have one lack for all their gorgeous colouration and delicate rise forms they don’t fight like the rainbows do. Generally here they make little tumbles and you know almost instantly that it is a brown, even if you didn’t pick that up from the rise form.

I pressed on the wind shifting 180° in the space of one cast and making presentation difficult, the wind will almost never make it impossible for me to fish, but it does make it difficult and sometimes impossible to fish well and I really wanted to fish well on my final day of the season.

The next fish was one of the smallest rainbows I have taken this year, and all the more remarkable as this is generally big trout water, but it is encouraging to see them, it means that the stream is healthy and there are more fish coming on. These rivers are unstocked catch and release water, completely self sustaining wild, and by now pretty educated fish.

The wind settled down a bit and I saw a rise, a cast to cover that and another brownie, what is it that they seem to be coming up when I can’t find a rainbow?

The next three fish were all browns and despite the lack of rises I never got a take on the nymph, when they wanted to eat they wanted the dry and that was fine by me, I love to see a trout take a dry fly and all the more a brownie. It is slow motion, heart stoppingly beautiful, the defining moment if you are a dyed in the wool dry fly man, the fight doesn’t count for as much as watching that take.

Then I started to take rainbows, one after the other in some cases, the odd brownie mixed in but a couple of the bows were in tremendous nick, up to 18 inches and fat enough to look good coming out of a dam.

The day and with it the season was however drawing to a close, the light was failing and the river turning silver in the setting sun, tricky to read the water and spot good holding lies never mind see the fly. I kept on in the hope of one more final fish for the year, it is a fatal flaw the moment one decides “this will be the last” things either dry up or go wrong. I dropped two fish out of successive pockets due to the dry having tangled in the wind and I was pulling it backwards out of their mouths. One super rainbow in the 18” range tangled itself in the dropper during a prolonged battle and the line snapped trying to land the fish tail first in a strong flow. Then a brilliant drift over a fast current lane into slow water under the trees, with a reach mend and lots of additional mending to get the drift right. A fish came out from the shadows, inhaled the fly and was on, a fitting final fish for the season I was thinking but he came off the hook. The takes dried up and I kept on in the hope of one more, just one more. A small rainbow of about twelve inches was the final fish of the season, not a grand finish I suppose but compared to the way things looking in the morning I hadn’t done badly and was well pleased with the way I had fished.

The browns seemed far more active than the bows for most of the day.

Sometimes perseverance is the only answer and at some point in the day the fish certainly woke up a bit and by then I had got my eye in and was getting good drifts. It was a rewarding day; I probably landed fifteen or so fish maybe a few more. A fitting end and time for me to concentrate on tying some flies, fishing stillwaters and maybe taking things a little easy for a while. The fish are I am sure more pleased to see the end. It means freedom to eat without worry and no harassment from anglers for three months or so. Plus the chance to have sex and I suppose one can’t sneeze at that. September seems a long way off but there are things to be done and the fish deserve a rest. Actually the fishing guides deserve a rest too for that matter.

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris, Cape Town's only dedicated fly fishing guiding service.