Posts Tagged ‘Cape Streams’

Net Winged Midges

October 11, 2014

NetWingedMidgesHead

Net Winged Midges

I have to admit that most of the time I love tying flies: there are those evenings, of course, after a long day on the water when the clients have eaten into the stock, and I am forced to burn the midnight oil in wet clothes when the allure wanes a tad, but for the most part that isn’t the case.

I have at different times taught fly tying, written books on fly tying and as with many of us given demonstrations of fly tying. There are a few YouTube videos out there with my name on them and I am not averse to seeing what others are up to on the fly tying front on the same forum. I like innovation, delicacy, and clever use of materials in fly tying, I love the intricacy of woven bodies, and even the slick shine of flies coated in UV resin. I have been known to fashion the odd ultra-realistic hopper leg or the occasional cute bass mouse when the mood takes me but all in all I like simple flies. Simple flies are frequently as effective and often more effective than their more artistic counterparts and as a fishing guide the efficacy of the pattern is more important to me than the artistic impression.

When you get right down to it, effectiveness on the water, durability and speed of tying become more important when fishing provides one with an income and there is little point in whipping out patterns which take hours. The knowledge that your lovingly fashioned creation is but a wayward cast away from an ignominious end in the bankside herbage tends to have you consider the time spent on its creation. But equally one cannot escape the fact that if you are to convince your clients that you are worth your salt, it is pretty important that your flies do entice more than a few fish to eat them.

Now it so happens that of late, the past week or so at least, the trout on our local streams have been unusually selective, or at least tricky and they have studiously ignored more than a few of my most lovingly wrapped dry flies. Ignored is probably the more polite term, I am not sure if trout are capable of utter distain but I could have made a reasonable argument for such over the past couple of days.

You see much of the time these crystal clear, slightly acidic and nutrient poor streams tend not to produce massive hatches and the eager trout, with an appetite and a bit of attitude is likely to consume most reasonably well presented flies so long as they are not too large. But of late there have been masses of Net Winged Midges all over the place. These, to an angler, annoying little bugs , which look rather like miniature flying bicycles, all legs and not much substance, tend to fly millimetres above the surface and the fish, particularly the smaller ones , will clear the water to intercept them. That represents a serious problem of presentation as one simply cannot match the behavior and these hatches can prove to be some of the most frustrating that you will ever encounter. However of late the numbers have been so significant that there are numerous dead and drowned midges stuck in the film and the trout, accomplished predators not given over to wasting energy seem to have keyed into the bugs stuck in the film. The rises have all been nebbing breakages of the surface film with hardly a ripple to indicate the fish’s presence.

NetWingedMidgeAdult Net Winged Midge, pretty much all legs

I suppose that on freestone streams much of what is consumed by the trout is in fact dead, drowned and or dying and the fish happily recognise a messed up tangle of tiny fibres as food, rather putting the kibosh on notions of close copy imitation. It seems that the more straggly, the more insubstantial, the more tangled the imitation the better, but the illusion of life, or perhaps in this case recent demise holds allure that the fish find hard to resist.

Unusually then over the past week or so the neatly tied, although simple, dry flies that I usually rely on have proven ineffective, but after some fiddling about, and trust me when I tell you that fiddling about on a trout stream is a very valuable skill to master, we came up with a killer solution.

SoftHackles and FrenchiesSome CDC Soft Hackle midge patterns and three “Frenchie Nymphs”

The fly of the moment is a CDC Soft Hackle, fashioned of little more than a pinch of dun coloured CDC and some fine (Gordon Griffiths Midge) black thread. The pattern is simplicity itself, although perhaps to the uninitiated it wouldn’t tend to provide too much confidence. As a client recently commented: “You would never be able to sell these flies in a shop”, and they are right, the darned things look far too small for a trout to take notice and far too poorly manufactured to have many anglers willingly swap hard earned cash for a dozen. Particularly when you could put twelve of them on a 50 cent coin and still have space. Insubstantial would be a gross exaggeration of their profile, this is near as dammit a bare hook with legs, but in the water it is the closest copy of those drowned midges that you could ever hope to find and attempts to make ones pattern more “meaningful” tend to reduce the effectiveness.

NetWinged Midges

Net Winged Midges in their hundreds on a Cape Stream

The only real issue in fishing these flies is that they are invisible, to the angler if not the trout, and a two fly rig of a more noticeable dry fly on a dropper and the midge on the point is the only real manner to fish them effectively and have hope of spotting the take. The trout will take them in the film and you can frequently see that, so long as you know where you are supposed to be looking.

Darryl Lampert also has a very effective dry fly pattern to imitate this hatch, also a CDC fly but tied as a dry with a bright indicator built in so that one can fish it as a dry on it’s own without recourse to the two fly rig we have been using with the Soft Hackle approach.

DarrylsMidgeDarryl Lampert’s CDC hi-vis midge: Courtesy of Tom Sutcliffe’s “The Spirit of Fly Fishing” page

http://www.tomsutcliffe.co.za/fly-fishing

To be frank, I love simple flies and simple, translucent, under-dressed, insubstantial and rather scruffy flies in particular, but even I have been astounded by the effectiveness of these patterns over the past few days. The fish simply would refuse virtually all else and then commit suicide to intercept a well presented soft hackle, it happened over and over again. I suppose that won’t last, some other naturals will take precedence in time and we will be back to the standard parachutes, Elk Hairs, Biot Caddis Flies and other favourites, but right now the fly of the moment is something you could teach your grandmother to tie after a ten minute lesson. Perhaps best of all, on those evenings when I am in wet clothes, contemplating a seriously depleted fly box, lashing furiously at the vice to fill the gaps before the morrow’s outing. The simplicity is a real boon, knowing that, despite the lack of skill or time required, I shall still have a dozen really effective patterns done and dusted in time to catch the late night news.

Some more information on Net Winged Midges:

These insubstantial little bugs are from the family Blephariceridae in the order Diptera and they have a number of most unusual attributes. Ref: http://www.ent.iastate.edu/dept/research/systematics/bleph/biology.html

Firstly their larvae don’t look anything like what most of us consider to be midge larvae, that classical inverted question mark picture beloved of Stillwater anglers. Nope, these odd little critters have larvae with six little suckers on their ventral surface. The larvae are filter feeders and the suckers help them stay put in the fast water they prefer to inhabit.

NetwingedMidgeLarvaeThe pupae are no less unusual either, the pupa emerge from the larvae and stick themselves to the rock substrate, often the larvae migrate to specific areas before this happens such that “colonies” of pupae will be found in certain areas and depressions in the rock. The pupae look like tiny dark black or brown tortoise shells, and to the casual observer don’t appear to be anything alive at all. On emergence the adults rupture the pupal case and rise to the surface in an air bubble. Their wings are fully formed before emergence allowing a speedy getaway on reaching the surface of the water.

NetWingedMidgePupae

The adults appear very similar to miniature Crane Flies, with long legs dangling and relatively short wings. Currently they are appearing in their thousands on the local streams here and the fish know all about them..

NetWingedMidgeAdultNet Winged Midge Adult

GuideFliesCover

The CDC Softhackle and many other simple and effective flies are described in detail in the author’s book “Guide Flies”

Available on line from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za in both eBook and Paperback format.

Counting your Blessings

June 3, 2013

BlessingsHead

Fly fishing is filled with metaphors of life, at least it seems like that to me but perhaps that is just a fly angler’s passion showing through. Maybe golfers or climbers say the same thing, you know like “missing a putt is like life really” or “you can’t climb if you are afraid to fall”. I don’t know but to me fishing is a central theme and with that I see life’s ups and downs reflected within.

One of the less pleasant aspects of modern life is that we are all encouraged to be dissatisfied, particularly if some corporate entity somewhere can profit from our discontent. Watch the TV and you will soon discover that your skin isn’t smooth enough, your arse is too big, your kids too wayward, your car too small and your washing not really that white. It is an endless attack on contentment and a space all too easy into which one can fall.

Men’s magazines constantly have you worrying that you aren’t smart enough, sufficiently wealthy, healthy, skinny, sexy, muscular or any of an endless array of apparently critical failings. Women’s publications are worse, the covers in every single monthly edition suggest things that you should really be doing in the bathroom, the garden, the kitchen and the bedroom, all of which you have apparently gotten wrong up to now. (it’s a miracle that you are still kicking)

Read a bit closer and in general all you need to do to get yourself on track is to pop the pill, buy the appliance, change your diet, have the surgery or throw more funds at something. Apparently that’s all it takes,  just chuck a bit more money at it and all will be well, you will have tight abs, a gorgeous lawn, an eye catching car, you will get the women (or men), you will have the success, acolytes will travel the world to fall at your feet and you will awake in nirvana..

Fly fishing magazines are beginning to follow the same tiresome rhetoric, where once one may have enjoyed an article on someone’s modification of a classic fly pattern now there are endless destinations (always priced in dollars), there are fish that you should be catching, exotic locations you should have visited if you are to call yourself a real angler. There are rods, reels and lines all which will supposedly enhance your experience, catch you more fish and have you casting into the next county. Not last week I saw a line cutter that cost as much as my first car, admittedly it wasn’t much of a car but you get the point..

Magazines

Plus of course the magazine covers always show HUGE fish, much in the same way that women’s mags always have super models on the front,  or men’s publications show V8 Supercharged, candy apple red Mustangs or something similar. Discontent is BIG business, and someone somewhere it throwing millions of advertising dollars at it to help you into a state of depression.

It is the way of the world, what I like to call “The Marketing Department” and nothing wrong with it except that it encourages unhappiness more than anything else.

Just recently I went fishing with a friend, it wasn’t a guiding trip, there was no financial transaction and only a moderate outlay of funds. We fished with basic tackle, perfectly suitable for the task at hand but not expensive. We skipped the toll road and took a little longer to reach the river but it didn’t matter as we weren’t in a hurry. The stream was flowing crystal clear after some recent rains and there were a few mayflies coming off as we hit the first run.

PeterSB1

It was a day of familiar banter about a range of subjects, some even related directly to fishing for that matter. We cast nymphs and dries over familiar water, we spotted some fish before we cast and we had more than a little success. Perhaps less than we might have and yet certainly more that should righteously be expected.

There are more exotic locations, with greater numbers of fish, bigger fish and perhaps even slightly clearer water. There is tackle that is fancier, more expensive and just maybe even a little more efficient. But you know, we fished on public water unbothered by anyone else, a result of the beat system that spreads the angling load. We caught some really rather good trout, a result of committed catch and release regulations and we did all of that not more than an hour’s drive from a major metropolitan centre.  We enjoyed the familiarity of known waters, with a good friend, a day of blessed solitude, trout and fantastic mountain scenery and we still managed to be home in time for tea.

Peter Release2

Fly fishing is, or at least can be a simple pleasure, and aren’t those always the best kind? When you get right down to it, on the river it is about you, about how you perform, what choices you make, your entire universe compressed to just you and the fish. Life cut down to the simplest of things. You get it right you catch some fish, you get it wrong, well then you catch less and above all it doesn’t really matter because you were going to put them back anyway. It’s not life and death, but it is life.

In these parts we don’t have a great deal of fishing, but what we do have is pretty darned good. One could fall asleep disheartened that you may never get to wade New Zealand’s South Island, fish the Ponoi Peninsula or crack it on a Seychelles bonefish flat. Hell you could slip into discontent that your reel isn’t the latest bar-stock aerospace aluminium, or that your nipper is a nail cutter from the local drug store. You could even fret over the idea that you probably never will wake up with a physically sated supermodel who is dying to cook your breakfast before she catches a plane for the Bahamas to get to an advertising shoot.  Or you can simply say, “darn it, this isn’t half bad”.

There was a little publication doing the rounds a year or so back that suggested that if you had money in the bank you were in the top 8% of the world’s population, if you are healthy you are better off than the million or so people who won’t see the end of the week. If you can read and write you are way ahead of some three billion people who haven’t learned how to,  if you had food in the fridge or indeed even had a fridge, well you were near in the realms of the Gods.

Peter Release

I don’t have DSTV, a smart phone, a 4×4 vehicle, sexy ab’s or even my youth , but I figure that if I have clear, catch and release trout water, with fish up to 20” that will regularly rise to dry flies, glorious scenery and friend or two to fish it with not an hour from my home, well that isn’t too bad.  Right now it’s pissing with rain, the temperatures have plummeted, the river season is closed and there is snow on the mountains. But I shouldn’t be complaining, I am able to read and write, I own a fridge and I have a roof over my head which keeps the rain off………..

Hell I could have be born a bait fisherman.. 🙂

KidsFun

So today say a little thank you that you are a fly fisherman, do something nice for someone less fortunate, hug your kids, tell your wife (or husband) you love them and plan to hit a river or lake sometime soon. I don’t suppose it takes a lot more than that to be happy, not if you really think about it.

SignatureCompendium3

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

December 26, 2012

           Christmas

On the Twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me:

Twelve hatches hatching12Hatches

Eleven rainbows rising11Rainbow

Ten trout a-leaping10Leap

Nine mayflies dancing9dancing

Eight Spinners falling8Fall

Seven nymphs a-swimming7Nymph

Six caddis laying6Caddis

Five dimpling rings5Rings

Four black bass4Bass

Three large fish3LargeFish

Two careful casts2CarefulCasts

And a Brown Trout on a dry fly.1BT

I wonder where do traditions come from? I mean we all have our own idea of what Christmas means, maybe it is sitting around the tree, or heading to the pub wrapped up in all the clothing received as presents. Perhaps, as was the case in my youth it is ginger marmalade for breakfast, or midnight mass. Maybe it is Christmas Eve which is celebrated, but mostly it involves too much to eat, too much to drink and hopefully, at least nominally good will to your fellow man and loved ones.

Now it has been the case more than once that I have gone fishing on Christmas day, of course around these parts the weather is warm and the fishing season in full swing , so that all helps. Plus few people venture out so the world is one’s oyster, at least in piscatorial terms.

Many years back three friends ventured up a stream with party hats, champagne and even a roasted turkey in our back packs and I still recall my friend Gordon rather incongruously stalking a trout in a clear run whilst wearing purple and yellow paper headgear. Perhaps where this all started but it isn’t unusual for me to go fishing on Christmas day. My best friends celebrate on Christmas Eve and so long as I don’t over indulge I can generally rip myself from the bed early enough to get on the water before things get too hot.

This year I was up at reasonable hour, I had a particular brown trout in my mind and I figured that he wouldn’t be expecting me what with it being a holiday and all. They are darned smart these fish you see. 🙂  As things turned out he wasn’t at home when I got to his lie under the bushes but it mattered not, I found another one and a good few rainbows as well and enjoyed a super morning in quiet solitary contemplation, casting at a few rising fish, taking a couple of more than respectable trout and returned home early enough to have another go at polishing off the left-over trifle. What more could one ask for?

The day is after all a religious holiday and fly fishing is my religion, where better to spend it that on a river?

I hope that you all had a wonderful day, that you got the presents that you asked for, as indeed did I, and that you felt joy, a warmth of spirit and a genuine appreciation and a blessing for the things and people you love, as I indeed felt blessed out there in the water, doing what I love most. MERRY CHRISTMAS 🙂

Soft Rods, Soft Hands and Soft Tippet

November 13, 2011

A bad start to the day ends with some experimentation and a lot of fun.

Yesterday started a little poorly if I were honest, I was (at least I thought I was), due to be guiding a client on the local streams but we had battled to communicate due to problems with e mails and I was still awaiting confirmation of a pick up point. To cut a long story short, there I was bags packed, water booked, new flies pristine in their boxes, lunch and refreshments at the ready and with a full tank of gas, just no client. Turns out that when he had said “Saturday” I understood it to be this one and he had meant the next one and I finally established that at this very moment he was fishing a thousand kilometers away in another province.

Well there wasn’t much for it but to make the most of a bad job and go fishing anyway, you might imagine that this took some considerable time to decide, I think perhaps a nanosecond at least.

There were a number of local anglers in the car park, the nature conservation guys got a free packed lunch courtesy of the otherwise occupied and currently absent “client” and after a brief discussion and the standard “tight lines” we were on our way to our various beats. (Water hereabouts is booked on a section by section basis and one can therefore enjoy uninterrupted angling).

I did proffer some advice to a relative novice and suggested that he perhaps consider cutting down the diameter of his tippet a bit, it looked as though he was heading out after blue marlin. When I told him I generally fish 7X with the dries he commented that “I can’t use that stuff I just break off all the time”. I didn’t give it too much thought, I was heading for a day alone on the stream and I was looking forward to the experience.

Oddly I haven’t fished much for my own account of late and actually by the time I had hiked in to the section I was fishing and allowed the sweat from my brow sufficient time to stop fogging up my polaroids I was more than in the mood for a spot of angling and perhaps a little experimentation as well.

One of the great disadvantages of guiding all the time is that one sticks to what is known, practical and within the abilities of the client and that tends to result in a less than experimental outlook. The clients want to catch fish, I want them to catch fish and I thus forego much of the fiddling about that I am apt to enjoy out on the river alone. Of course fiddling about is a rather underrated skill and it can often result in breakthroughs of technique or at the least a bit of fun.

I rigged up with a small spun dun, there were no fish moving, the weather was rather variable and I determined that I was going to focus on just getting good drifts and if a fish came up all the better. There is something about a good dry fly drift that can bring joy to one’s heart, even if it goes uninterrupted by the attentions of a trout.

I am very much a fan of long leaders and have a tendency to over do things in that department, at least at the start of the day. Sure enough the 7X tippet was a struggle to turn over at the end of 20 feet of mono but I figured I would sort it out as time went on. After all I was fishing, fishing for my own pleasure and there was no pressure. I eventually managed to get the fly to at least hit the water in a slightly troublesome breeze and was contemplating whether I shouldn’t cut the leader back a tad, but then there was that awesome drift of the fly. The slack allowing the spun dun to ride the vagaries of the complex currents as though completely unattached and sure enough a fish thought that it was good enough to eat and promptly did so.  A fish in the very first run and I was feeling more than a little chuffed with myself.

There was little activity on the water, few rises, large numbers of micro caddis about and the odd mayfly popping off but it was nice to be out and I carried on with my casting and drifting of the fly over likely looking spots. Just having fun and catching some fish.

In fact I was enjoying it so much that for no particular reason I decided to fine down even more and put on some 8X tippet, perhaps those words in the car park were sitting deep down in my subconscious. I have taken to fishing 7X as standard, not because one needs to all the time but because then you get used to it,  such that if forced to go fine it isn’t a problem. I figured that maybe I should start getting used to the 8X stuff in the same way, if I lost fish it wouldn’t matter.

Despite the previously good drifts the soft Stroft 8X  produced an immediate improvement, I thought I was getting good presentation before but now it was awesome. The fly would alight like the proverbial thistledown and proceed to ride the currents with uninterrupted ease, just like the naturals that were beginning to show up more and more.  A few olives started to come off and I switched to a size 18 BWO parachute, I wouldn’t say that I was hammering the fish, they weren’t really rising but by day’s end I had landed somewhere between 20 and 30 fish, a few of more than respectable size and I had popped the tippet on only one small fish that had charged the pattern with such enthusiasm as to have taken me by surprise causing me to overreact.

This Olive parachute worked wonders on the fish, particularly once the BWOs started to come off.

I suppose that isn’t entirely extreme, a client recently told me that on his home waters when fishing the trico hatches you have to go down to 10X to have a hope of a take but still most local anglers here don’t go close to that fine.

I am not sure if the tippet is much less visible but it certainly does aid in presentation, with soft landings and quality drifts time after time and in the end that has to improve the catch rate. What puts everyone off is the risk of breakage.

There are three or four things which make an essential difference to this risk:

Firstly you want the hooks razor sharp, you simply cannot apply a massive strike force to such fine nylon, I always sharpen my hooks but take extra care when fishing this fine. (for the record, barbed hooks are hopeless for this game, the barb stops the hook penetrating and you will lose fish after fish if you use them).

You want to have a long leader and perhaps a boiled one, the stretch again adds a level of protection from sudden lunges by the fish.

You really do need, and may well battle to find, a soft actioned rod. I dislike fast action rods at the best of times and for this work they are hatefully inadequate. I was using a relatively inexpensive Stealth Deep Red #3 weight which is wonderfully good at protecting find nylon.

You need a reel that will spin smoothly and you need to develop what cricketers refer to as “soft hands”. Those aren’t the ones you dream about giving you a massage when you get home, they are the ones that allow you to instantly back off pressure and let line run off the reel when needs be.

The only way to develop these skills is to force yourself to fish lighter, fish softer and get the feel of it, it is quite remarkable how hard you can play a fish on such gear with some care. Please do also always net the fish, removing a hook without benefit of a net with such fine tippet makes it all to easy to have the fish slip from your hands and end up with a fly in its lip unnecessarily.

One final point, it is equally a good idea to glue the leader into the fly line so as not to have any knots. A sudden catch of the leader / flyline joint in one of the snake guides as a good fish makes one last plunge is a recipe for disaster.  You can download a pdf file on how to make this super glue joint on the following webpage: http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za/Leaders.pdf I am further hoping to post a video clip on how to achieve this joint easily within the next few weeks. Thanks for reading and “tight lines” , if you are fishing fine, just not too tight.

Fly Fishing and the Marketing Dept.

March 23, 2011

Fly Fishing and the marketing department.

I remember years back when my friend Gordon Mc Kay had a fly fishing shop here in Cape Town and a customer came in asking “What fly he should use on a particular local stream”.

We both told him “ it doesn’t really matter, just make sure that it isn’t bigger than a size 16 and you will be fine”.  With that the guy’s face clouded over, you could see him thinking “this pair of dullards obviously don’t know much about fly fishing” and he politely said “Ok thanks I am going down the road to XYZ’s to find out what they suggest”.. and there it was a sale lost and another angler set well on the road to frustration and financial ruin in search of the magic bullet.

Truth be told it didn’t matter so long as the fly wasn’t bigger than a size 16 but he wanted a complicated answer. He wanted something along the lines of “you have to have a dark Choroterpes parachute mayfly spinner with a Zylon trailing shuck and olive tinsel rib in size 18”. He wanted expertise, or at least what he thought of as expertise and in his mind that meant complexity.  Had we made such a recommendation then I am sure that he would have purchased a dozen, walked out the shop thinking that we were tremendously helpful experts and fished with confidence, probably would have caught some fish too, if only because he was fishing with a fly “that wasn’t larger than a size 16”.

One can only imagine what may have lain ahead, buoyed with his success and new found status he would no doubt have then proceeded to send images of all his fish to his mates, told them that the had received excellent advice from the experts at the local fly shop and Gordon’s business would have taken off into the stratosphere. Within a year or two Gordon could have been seeking additional finance and listing on the local stock market, been featured on Oprah Winfrey as the “best fly selector in the angling world”, had his own TV show, “Gordon on flies”, published a book and retired at thirty five to small cottage on a select trout stream to fish and count his money. .. Well probably not but you get the point. Making simple things complicated sells better than the perhaps more honest alternative.

Success has more to do with getting the basics right than finding some magic silver bullet.

There seems to be a huge market in making things complicated, modern media is inundated with “experts” who are quite willing to tell you (usually at exorbitant cost) how you should dress, how you should cut your hair, how you should decorate your lounge. What flies, lures or the like you should use for success. How to pick up girls, win a tender,  pass a job interview, bring up your kids or any number of other inane and ridiculous suggestions, most of which you could happily well achieve on your own with a bit of planning and a modicum of research. Not only that but many of these experts only true expertise is in making something quite simple overly complicated to justify their own existence.. Frankly I find it annoying and I find it particularly annoying when it comes to fly fishing because that is something very dear to my heart. Fly fishing is essentially simple, it may not always seem like it but for the most part it is.

Put a fly that looks like food, near to a feeding fish in a manner that it behaves like food and your piscine quarry is more than likely going to make a mistake and chomp it. It helps a bit if the fish doesn’t know that you are there of course but isn’t exactly rocket science either.

Mind you it doesn’t escape me that the experts are generally doing financially better than I am so perhaps I am the fool? I would however like to suggest that at least I am an honest and pragmatic fool none the less. So here is the low down, most of the time fly fishing isn’t that complicated and getting oneself bogged down in the minutia of “Mayfly wing venation”, “Hatch Charts” and the difference between the male and female spinners  probably isn’t going to help you a whole lot and particularly not if you don’t get the basics right.

I was recently on the stream with two delightful clients on a particularly tricky day which illustrated the point once more. For starters it was the day after a long weekend so the fish had been hammered, the water was low, there was a bit of a cold front blowing in and a tricky wind to deal with swirling about the place.

You may think that being a fishing guide is a pretty stress free way to make a living but it isn’t always, one wants success for your clients, even the ones who perhaps don’t deserve it and particularly the ones who do and that isn’t always easy to achieve.

This time however I knew that I was in for an enjoyable day as soon as the one client asked “Can I wear the blue shirt or would it be better with the olive?”  Here was a guy who understood the value of a pragmatic approach, never mind the fly or the leader or the hatches of the day, lets get the basics right like making sure we don’t scare the willies out of the fish before we even get started..

As said it was a tough day, there were some flying termites about after the overnight thunder showers and that brought a few fish to the top, although not a lot. We experimented a little with fly patterns but in all honesty it didn’t make too much difference and we only experienced one solid refusal during the day.

What did matter was (as always) the presentation, these guys could cast which of course is not only a pretty neat starting point but also made my job a heap easier. What was noticeable was that the majority of the fish came on the very first cast to a likely spot. One good solid, accurate, drag free drift over a suitable lie and “whallop” fish on. It happened time and again, sure there were exceptions but it was noticeable that the most effective method was to get the first drift right.

So with reference to all that precedes this and at risk of making myself out to be the worst and most simplistic pleb in the angling world, do yourself a favour and work on the basics.

  • Make sure that you can cast well enough to put the fly where you want it.
  • Have your gear and in particular your leader rigged in such a manner that it assists in getting good presentations and drag free drifts. (That usually means longer and finer than you might normally use)
  • Have a selection of flies in different sizes that you can try but don’t get hung up on them, don’t be afraid to change but don’t get caught up in some frenetic lucky dip.
  • Remember that the fish are wild creatures and are not entirely keen on making a mistake or being caught, so wear muted clothing, take off your watch and flashy paraphernalia, wade carefully perhaps make fewer casts and spend a little more time watching the water.
  • And if all else fails, well as we say in competitive angling, “sometimes the only thing left is perseverance”.  Consistently good quality casts and drifts in likely looking spots is still the mainstay of effective angling.

We all like pretty flies, but they won't counter poor presentation.

A simple pragmatic strategy to getting more good casts and good drifts over fish or at least likely looking spots, to cover the water carefully and be stealthy and accurate with your approach will do you a heap more good than chucking heaps of money at new rods, reels, lines, flies and gizmos that you can dangle off your vest. All of which probably explains why I am a fishing guide and not in marketing, but it will catch you more fish, reduce the pressure on your wallet and increase the strain on your line, which I think is actually a pretty good deal.

If none of that works, I suppose you can always consult “an expert”.. happy fishing..

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

What Makes the RAB work?

November 3, 2010

Why does the RAB work?

Tony Bigg’s RAB (Red Arsed Bastard) has achieved a legendary status amongst Cape based fisherman and held it’s place there for a couple of decades and yet what does it imitate and why on earth should it be effective?

It is no secret that I am very much an “it’s not the fly” kind of fisherman, that is to say that for most of the time I don’t believe that the actual pattern makes a whole lot of difference. I suppose you would say I was a presentationist, believing that presentation is ALWAYS at the forefront of effective fishing even when the trout are being a little picky over their afternoon snacks.

We all have our favourite fly patterns that’s for sure, confidence being a major element of the game and to many local anglers the RAB represents the first line of attack in their armoury. Certainly the pattern has evolved a good deal, more people fishing parachute versions, variations of water mongoose and even vervet monkey fur as “legs” and the almost universal acceptance of Coq du Leon feathers as part of their make up.

The concepts behind the RAB are almost as old as fly fishing itself, designed around what the Americans refer to as “variants”. Those being flies with overly sized hackles compared to the recognized standards. I can’t recall as I write but some years ago there was even an article entitled “Butterfly Fishing” using skated variant patterns by a famous angler who equally currently escapes my recall, but the idea is old.

It has seen some reemergence over the years, the original Klinkhammers that caused such a stir when used for Grayling had massively oversized hackles with a “throw” of inches according to Oliver Edwards in his epic tome “Oliver Edwards Fly Tying Masterclass”.  Yet in the “Match the Hatch” obsessed world of dry fly angling these patterns don’t make a lot of sense.

On our local streams there are few bugs that achieve the size of RABs with even modest dimensions, and the hints of red in the tags, ribs or other of these patterns, a universally accepted part of the RAB genre represent little if nothing actually available as food.

Some people believe that perhaps they imitate the spiders one sees dropping from the bankside vegetation or perhaps the Dragonflies which some of the fish target, particularly in the longer still pools where the trout can track them in the air but who knows? I can’t really see that as enough to make these patterns as effective as they sometimes appear to be.

In fact because I don’t understand what they hell they are supposed to imitate I have neglected or even actively avoided using RABS much of the time and years have gone by without me having so much as a single representative of this family of flies in my boxes.

However I was intrigued watching MC Coetzer tying his version of the Parachute RAB at the recent Bell’s Festival. MC is an angler of consummate skill, blessed with immense talent and equally a thinking fisherman who ties his flies with unerring perfection (unlike me where I frequently figure that fast and furious tying is just as effective and maintains fly box stocks with less effort).

MC’s flies were of such appeal that despite my misgivings I actually tied up a few, the first RABs that I have cast on a stream in years. On a recent visit to the rivers with relative novices I had occasion to try these flies. Just as expected some of the fish refused the patterns, they are large and even with high water a number of trout weren’t fooled, but then again that is true of almost any large fly on our catch and release waters. Truth be told though the RAB (para), did draw up fish and some pretty good fish at that and the occasional violently explosive take as well, something of a rarity these days. But why? I can’t fish flies that I don’t, at least in my own little mind, “understand” and the RAB is something of an anathema.

With a little more time however there was one unassailable truth, the fly presents exceptionally well without need of many of the more complex devices of the dry fly fisherman. You simply cannot present an RAB on a tight leader, the size and delicacy of the pattern in itself creates sufficient resistance that it falls gently and leaves slack in the tippet, virtually no matter how short you go with your leader make up or how aggressively you cast.

The anglers I was guiding were relative “newbies” and not comfortable with the ultra long leaders that I prefer but the RAB managed to achieve the same result as my leaders. That is the darn thing virtually presents itself. Providing delicate landings, longer drag free drifts and a hint of lifelike movement in the “legs”, and I believe that for those reasons they are effective. At least until the water gets really low and the fish particularly picky, the style represents the ideal “beginners fly”. That isn’t meant to be disparaging in any way,  but what it does do for the neophyte is overcome a lot of the problems with drag and micro drag without you having to understands a whole lot about it.

Of course I could be way off base, perhaps the pattern suggests some food form of which I am unaware, perhaps it does have some “magical quality” but for my money the real key to this style is that it overcomes a lot of the more complicated elements of presentation. I have gone back to carrying more than a few of these flies in my boxes of late. I doubt that they will become the mainstay of my dry fly attack but they sure will be whisked out for newcomers for the presentationist reasons already expounded upon above. The fly or at least the style is I suspect going to keep it’s supporters for years still, and when you get right down to it you don’t necessarily have to understand why it works to know that at least some of the time it does.

For the record the one really good brownie which refused the RAB on a recent trip to the streams eventually succumbed to a size 20 red wire brassie on the first pass, so you still need to be prepared to “go down” and fiddle about some of the time but with presentation to my mind the most essential ingredient, the RAB genre offers an advantage which is hard to beat.  In fact the above process was repeated on another beat only day’s later when another good brown trout refused the RAB and took a micro caddis pattern on the first pass, which only goes to prove that you can’t rely on one pattern, no matter how famous or effective it may be.  If there is a drawback it is that as soon as you change to a pattern of more modest dimensions you are going to be forced to modify your leader. You simply cannot present a standard pattern properly on the same leader that works with a RAB but I suppose for many anglers that won’t matter a whole lot. Whichever way, one has to consider that the RAB in one of its many guises is an effective pattern for the streams and carrying a few at least is probably not a bad idea.

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

CPS Newsletter Sept 23rd 2010

September 22, 2010

With the Cape Piscatorial Society’s office still not fully functional and Jean away, the regular newsletter is once again posted here for the benefit of the members. I trust that you will find it useful.

Cape Piscatorial Society Newsletter September 23rd 2010

Of course it could simply be that I am getting old, I don’t remember fishing so many times in the early season and being so darn cold all the time. Perhaps my memory is failing, perhaps my blood is thinning or possibly it is simply that for years the rivers have been too high to fish in September so I never noticed?  Hell I don’t know but it has been a “Funny Ol’ start” to the season.

Perhaps it is simply that over the course of the close season our dreams are made up of rising trout, clear water and blazing sunshine because that is how we like to think of our fishing more than the fact that it is the actual reality of things. Apparently memories are selective, which is why we have larger families than perhaps we should for the well being of the planet. According to the experts, if women really remembered what child birth was like and didn’t simply switch on false recollections of sweet little glowing cherubs then we would be into negative population growth in short order.

Either way be it reality or a false recollection of “the way things were”, I have to say that I have personally had something of a disappointing start to the season and haven’t really “Hit it right” as of yet.

I have received some reports of anglers who have had great fishing but I would have to say that on average the reverse has been true and most seem to have enjoyed less sport than they expected.  There are other oddities as well, I like to believe that everything in nature has a logical answer; trouble is that we don’t necessarily understand or see that answer.

Take for example the browns on the Smallblaar/Molenaars beats. Not a week or so ago in pretty grim conditions Mike Spinola took a number of really good quality browns whilst I didn’t manage any and only caught small rainbows. A week later Mike fished the same water and lo and behold he only caught rainbows, that is the same angler on the same beat, odd.

I have for a while wondered if browns don’t respond differently ( compared to the rainbows),  to variations of water height, barometric pressure and the like but I don’t really have an explanation for this state of affairs, although as said I suspect that there is one. It could be an advantage in that when one species isn’t playing ball the other is but it is something of an oddity none the less.

Anyway perhaps the cooler and variable conditions are a blessing, one suspects that we have had a lot less rain than usual and should things heat up too quickly we are likely to be in for a hard time of things come summer, I say come summer as it obviously has yet to arrive based on the time it takes in a hot shower for me to recover after a day on the water.

Fun experimenting at Fizantakraal,

Fishing tiny dries on fine tippet to large cruising fish proved very interesting.

I shan’t bore you with all the details here, you can look them up on a previous post on the Paracaddis Blog (Big Fish on Fine Tippets) if you so wish, but I did have a very interesting trip last weekend.

I suppose that every fishing day is a little different and the purpose of the day can change unexpectedly. Some times I am happy working on getting great presentations, sometimes I want to catch a lot of fish and then there are those outings when I simply want to target one particularly tricky trout, it all depends. One thing that I do enjoy on occasion is to experiment, to see how fish react to different things and for that matter how I react to them. This past weekend I unexpectedly found myself experimenting on how large a fish I could tackle on tiny flies and ultra-fine tippets and the results were quite amazing. I took fish up to nearly three kilos on size 18 dry flies and 7X tippet and broke off or lost an amazingly small percentage of the fish. Don’t kid yourselves, these weren’t simply flaccid, tailless stockies, these fish went wild when hooked and I saw my backing more than once, something of a rarity on my three weight I have to say.  Again I would recommend that you have a look at that post on the blog, but one thing that it did make clear to me, there is absolutely no reason why one should feel under gunned fishing ultra-light tippet on the streams. Further that if these relatively uneducated trout react so positively to tiny dries and so negatively to the nylon then it does behoove us to take a little more care and consideration when targeting the trout in the streams. In fact I would suggest to you that if you don’t already take a spool of 7X with you (and quite possibly 8X for that matter) and that you don’t carry some form of leader de-greaser as well then you are limiting yourself, particularly as the water levels drop and the sun comes out. I do hope that it will come out, one supposes that will be the case at some point.

Weather Information:

It appears that one site that I have been using and recommending for weather info and barometric pressure had some problem with it however it seems to be working fine again now the link for the main site is http://www.southafricanweather.co.za.

Detailed Barometric Pressure Charts are available from this site.

I have however found another one which will give you a long and detailed forecast for the Worcester area, which of course is nearer to the fishing than the Cape Town one. You can reach I on http://www.windfinder.com/forecast/worcester_airport

The detail is quite amazing and I include a screen shot of the forecast for the weekend as an example.
It however doesn’t seem to be deadly accurate as I was on the river on Tuesday and whilst the forecast indicates no rain, it rained for most of the day, at least in the mountains.

Parachute Flies:

I have been having a lot of fun with parachute patterns of late, as per the above and I have developed some great improvements in the way that I tie them which makes them more durable, I think more imitative and a whole lot easier to tie, particularly in small sizes. I shall be giving a demo of these techniques at the Stream X Fly Fishing Heritage Day celebrations at Stream X on Friday if you would like to learn more.

Some but no longer all, of the modifications can be found in a free downloadable E-book at Smashwords if you have yet to look at that.

River conditions: From fishing on Tuesday I can tell you that the water levels are up again, probably a welcome thing in the longer term but there must have been more rain in the mountains than there was in Cape Town one would imagine, so be prepared to take some nymphs with you and a rain jacket. Luckily we did both but the wind was very chilly and the rain on and off for the entire time we were up there.

The weather is still looking a little cool and dodgy over the next few days, but one is going to hit right at some point and as my old saltwater fishing mate Greg Clarke used to say “in fishing there it is no good waiting for the news, you need to get out there and make the news or you are going to miss it”.

So wherever you are heading over the long weekend, as always “Be Careful Out There”. Tim

Newsletter hosting courtesy of Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris:

This newsletter is hosted on “The Fishing Gene Blog” courtesy of Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris, the Cape’s longest standing full service trout guiding operation.

Big Fish on Fine Tippets.

September 20, 2010

Small flies, fine tippets, big fish and broken reels.

I was recently invited to join a group at Fizantekraal Lodge in the Limietberg. The venue is stunning but the fishing in the ponds isn’t really my cup of tea most of the time and the main attraction was the opportunity to fish parts of the Kraalstroom River, a tightly overgrown crystal clear stream that runs through the property.

On the first day we fished sections of the stream, it was tricky stuff with trees enveloping the river and making casting extremely testing,  forcing us to resort to “bow and arrow” presentations a lot of the time and flipping both dry flies and weighted nymphs into the runs and plunge pools in search of fish. The fishing was thankfully quite reasonable and it was fun to experiment on these relatively naïve and seldom targeted small stream trout.

However having walked up parts of the river to a section that seemed to be devoid of fish for some reason I headed back to the lodge to join the other guests for lunch. The route taking me right past the stocked ponds which hold fish anywhere from 1 kilogram up to 3 plus. They are relatively small impoundments but the fish are only stocked at a rate to replace those taken by visitors and as a consequence things aren’t always quite as easy as one might imagine. The fish have seen it all , or so you may think, and can prove difficult and spooky in the clear water.

As I was walking past one of the ponds I saw a large fish cruising and despite the fact that I was rigged up for the river with a #18 parachute dry fly and 7X tippet I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to have a cast.  The fish lazily deviated slightly from his previous path, hovered under the tiny dry for a few moments and then inhaled it with confidence.  That was where the fun started, to date it was by far the largest fish I had tackled on such fine gear and I had to be exceptionally careful to let the line spin off the reel each time the fish ran, jumped or shook its head. To be honest I had little real expectation of landing it, but after a spirited and lengthy battle he was netted. The fish weighed in at approximately 2.5 Kilograms, a very large fish to be taking on 7X tippet material and a tiny fly.

Fizantakraal Lodge.

After lunch and a little more thought it struck me that the one thing that these fish don’t see from most anglers is a tiny dry fly and they would on occasion rise to naturals as there were good midge and mayfly hatches on these ponds.  So I headed out to see if I might repeat the process with another fish and sure enough the same result, a solid take an exceptionally spirited fight and a fish of just over two kilos in the net. I seemed to really be on to something and proceeded to experiment more and more, the gambit worked like a treat although the fish did prove to be very tippet shy and even that fine nylon needed to be degreased and sunk below the surface to avoid a lot of refusals.

The Author with one of the tiny parachute patterns that proved so effective. Yes that is 7X tippet !!

By the end of the weekend I must have taken well over twenty five fish using these tiny dry flies and fine nylon, fished on a Stealth Deep Red 8’4” 3wt rod. I actually only broke off on three fish the entire time and trust me that wasn’t because they didn’t put up a battle. The largest fish which jumped feet in the air on several occasions was estimated at well over three kilos and I lost him after he took me well into the backing, dislodged the pawl on my CFO reel due to the speed of the runs and finally snagged me in some sunken bushes. One more fish also ran me into the bushes and pulled the hook out. The final breakoff was from a tiddler which had entered the dams from the stream, a fish of no more than eight inches. This fish took the fly just as I was pulling in to re-cast and without the shock absorption of a soft rod to protect it the tippet broke like cotton.

This tiny Olive Parachute proved particularly effective.

The whole exercise proved to be extremely interesting and I think that the key points were these:

Firstly that it is in fact entirely possible to land such large fish on such light gear with more than a modicum of success, to be frank I didn’t think that it could be done with any regularity  until I tried it.

Secondly that even in a stocked pond environment it proved to me that the fish, as with their natural stream cousins,  are more than a little susceptible to a well presented small fly and it proved to be a truly winning tactic despite the fact that it was really discovered by accident.

Thirdly it was obvious that one really needs to develop what cricketers refer to as “Soft Hands”, that is the ability to play a fish carefully, pulling hard when you can but ready at a moment’s notice to let go when the need arises. I think that this is a skill that takes time to develop and I know a lot of anglers don’t like to fish so fine even on the river where the maximum size of the fish is probably twenty inches or so.  Although this was really pushing the envelope I do fish this fine nylon regularly if not indeed most of the time. I suspect that the more one uses such light tackle the more one gets used to it and compensates, which is a great advantage when called upon to fish light  as one still maintains ones confidence.

Finally the role of the rod is critical and again reinforces my view that many rods are far too stiff, perhaps offering some advantage to distance casting but failing to protect light tippets when a fish is hooked. This to me it is essential, that a rod, and particularly a light stream rod, provides functionality for casting, controlling the drift and protecting the tippet when one hooks a fish. It proved quite amazing how much pressure one could put on a fish with such light tippet so long as the tip was there to protect against sudden resistance from the fish.

It has long been my position that sharp small hooks actually hook fish better than larger ones and it was interesting that with the size of these trout  the hook ups were frequently in the bony jaws of these fish and yet the hooks penetrated and held, often being quite resistant to removal. Given the limited pressure one could apply on the strike due to the light tippet this provides more evidence still at how effective sharpening hooks and removing the barbs can be.

I know that I shall have a lot more confidence fishing 7X tippet on the rivers in the future and have another tactic to try on stillwaters when the opportunity presents itself.

Courtesy of Inkawazi Flyfishing Safaris: This post is brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris, Cape Town’s premier full service trout guiding suppliers, in the interests of better fishing.

Disclaimer: Google Ads are sometimes attached to these blogs, we have no control over them nor do we receive any reward for their presence. Whilst they may prove useful, their presence doesn’t indicate any relationship with or endorsement from the participants in this blog.

Handling the pressure.

September 6, 2010

Darn, three months without fishing can be a long time and in these parts we are blessed that our closed season on the trout streams is so short. In other parts of the world it can last a lot longer and limitations of fishing aren’t only dependent upon the legislation but you have to put up with frozen waters, snow and even fish kill so I suppose there isn’t too much to complain about.

However the fact that anglers across the globe have more limited options than we do here in Cape Town doesn’t make those three months pass any faster and by the time the season opened I was more than ready to hit the streams.

There have been distractions, fly tying for myself and others and of course  some time on stillwaters boat fishing which alleviates the pain a little but what I really wanted was some time on a stream.  I do consider myself something of a stream specialist if only because casting a fly over moving water is more entertaining, perhaps one might even argue that it can be entertaining even when unproductive, something that lake fishing rarely manages in my mind.

So it was  the rivers although high were  at least at fishable levels in the first weekend of the new season, a rarity of late it has to be said, Mike and I headed for the water. Fly boxes filled to the brim with crisp new patterns in abundance and buoyed with enthusiasm, not least because we had only recently watched “The Source New Zealand” on DVD. Our trout weren’t going to go to those proportions even on a good day but we did hope for some top water action. There is little that raises the spirits more than watching even a moderate fish rise on the current to intercept a carefully presented dry fly.

As said the water was high but more than fishable and we had carefully selected a beat which had some width to it allowing for the presentation of dries in relatively shallow water despite the fact that the season was only recently opened.

Mike rather likes a spot of nymphing and we experimented with varying methods between us, at first simply reveling in the pleasures of casting over moving water. The wind was bad though and getting worse, a howling NW gale straight into our faces, that direction of the compass a harbinger of cold fronts more often than not and with them the drop in barometric pressure.

Now I have for a very long time held that the fishing goes off when there is a sudden barometric drop and frequently there is little to explain the sudden disappearance of the fish but for the weather charts, even in the middle of summer.  There are plenty out there who still doubt this but I have been snookered more than once for no apparent reason only to find rain within the next 24 hours. It isn’t that the fish are picky, they simply aren’t there and one doesn’t even spook them when wading never mind actually see any rising.

We battled the wind and really to be honest had quite a bit of fun trying against the odds to find a cooperative fish. In fact at one point I did find one and a trout appeared under the dry before refusing it. It seemed a little odd this early in the season for the fish to be as fussy but closer examination revealed a dreadful little tangle of nylon around the fly, the result of bashing it into the force ten gale for most of the morning. Usually I would pick up on something like that in short order but conditions were such that the mishap wasn’t that obvious except of course to the fish which promptly decided all was not well and wouldn’t come back again.

Mike is a good angler and better friend and we work well together on the stream, in fact we both commented that we seemed to be having a great deal of fun despite the appalling results, by which I mean we never saw or rose another fish the entire day. We fished methodically and carefully, played with getting some camera shots of the fly floating down the stream and other diversions but it was apparent that the fish really just were not on and there was nothing to be done about it. Our hopes were raised with the appearance of some blue winged olives along the bank but still not a fish moved and I was ready to take bets on the movement of the barometer, I know these streams and there are fish there and they should have been feeding but they weren’t.

The next day was cloudy and I was expecting rain at any moment but by late afternoon things still remained dry and I was beginning to doubt my predictions, surely Mike and I couldn’t have fished that badly, it had to be the pressure. Late evening and the heavens opened and the rain poured down so I went in search of a record of the atmospheric pressure to see what had been going on.

The graph below, courtesy of www.southafricanweather.co.za clearly illustrates the cause of our poor day.

A plummeting barometer and the fishing goes to hell.

The bottom dropping out of the glass precisely at the point we headed for the stream. Somehow the trout know about the weather even when the anglers don’t and once again this adds fuel to the fire when it comes to argument. To me it is simply proof, the fish don’t feed well on a rapidly dropping barometer, or at least the trout in our streams don’t.  I am too scared to look at the barometer before I go fishing, it could give me too good an excuse for non performance but seeking answers in retrospect seems reasonable.

So whilst I still hold to the maxim that the best day to go fishing is any day you can get away, I am equally convinced that  the day you can get time away from the office and the car from the family, you would still do well to pray that the event coincides with a rising barometer.

We will have to delay catching the first trout of the season, but we did at least learn something and we had a great time casting into that gale. With fish rising and light winds next time (we hope) it is going to seem dreadfully easy. So I am not sure if the season has really started for us, based on going fishing it has, but should one consider the capture of the first trout in September, well then we still have to wait our turn.

Obviously some people had more success than us over the weekend, at least that is what I hear but at the same time the numbers weren’t fantastic. You may be interested to see some great underwater shots on Morne’s blog http://theafricanflyangler.blogspot.com/ check it out.

This blog is sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris, http:// www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za”

You can find out more about fishing the steams of the Western Cape on that address, loads of free downloads, fly patterns and more. If you enjoy this blog don’t forget to leave a message, it’s nice to know we have readers out there who appreciate the effort.

May the road rise to meet you, the wind be always at your back and the barometer rise when you head for the water..

Disclaimer: Please do note that we don’t have any control or gain any benefit from the Google Ads that sometimes appear on our posts. Their presence therefore, whilst perhaps useful doesn’t imply any relationship or endorsement of those links by the writers of this blog.

Happy Birthday Paracaddis

June 6, 2010

A year in the life of the Fishing Gene Blog.


Goodness me, it is pretty much the Paracaddis Birthday and what started out as a means to occupy some time and perhaps do a little good in the cold days of a Cape Winter has turned into something a little bigger than expected and perhaps a little smaller than was hoped.

The paracaddis blog has to date published some 34 Posts, received 35 comments and had well over 4000 views. Not exactly Facebook I suppose but the activity has been pleasing none the less and it certainly has been an interesting project.

THE MOST POPULAR

Of all of those posts the most visited in a single day “The Ultimate Catch and Release” was in fact not directly a fishing one at all, but about the release of two Ragged Tooth Sharks from the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. The blog not only focused on the release of the sharks but also the dreadful abuse of the sharks of our seas and the seas in general for that matter. Great to know that there are so many concerned and eco-minded people out there.

The release of two sharks back into the wild and its focus on the plight of our much abused marine life proved the most popular piece of the year.

Over time the most visited blogs were related to fishing small streams, particularly those in the Cape Province of South Africa.

Fishing Cape Streams part 1 focused on preparing for a new season. Primarily about what could be done over those gray weekends of winter to get ready.

Fishing Cape Streams part 2 was all about the tackle that would serve best and what modifications you could make to be best prepared for your new season.

Fishing Cape Streams part 3 featured information about all those gadgets and gizmos some of which you might actually need.

To start with though with the rivers closed most information related to fishing stillwaters:

Drift boating: a bit about experiences with this style of fishing, particularly in a place where it is still a fairly new phenomenon, where lakes don’t have their own boats or bailiffs or day tickets. It was one of the first posts on this blog and set the tone for many of the future posts.

First find the fish: Experiences in drift boating when the going is tough and the mantra of all boat anglers is to “Find the fish, find the depth, find the fly”.

Targeting Daphnia Feeders: Experiences with targeting deep water daphnia feeders. A frequently difficult proposition but one that can be over come with the right search tactics and a handful of flies.

All of the above posts received a good amount of attention and that was most rewarding as above all else it was always the hope that this blog would actually help people enjoy their fishing more, primarily by getting better at it.

Of course it couldn’t all be too serious and there was the odd post that was more than a little tongue in cheek. Perhaps the most notorious being the rather naughty new version of the DDD, perhaps one of SA’s most famous flies.

Would the real DDD please stand up?: Well what can I say? This post elicited more comment than most, it seems to still get regular hits and when all is said and done perhaps reminds us that sometimes we take this fishing lark all a tad too seriously.

Duckworth's Dirty Dangler, caused some comment.

On the flip side, there were some onerously detailed, near scientific bits, such as the piece about weighting flies and the myths and unscientific assumptions of anglers about what difference more weight on your fly has. Sure it took a bottle of Jack Daniels, a late night on the keyboard and the revisiting of some long lost school boy maths but the results were interesting. Sink rates, Brass, Tungsten and the great unknown took a seriously detailed look at beaded flies.

Just occasionally we included complex mathematics and got serious.

In the same vein sometimes I took the view that what was really needed was some “talking turkey” and of all the limitations of most fly anglers it is my belief that it is their casting that provides the most trouble, and creates the greatest limitation. Fly Casting Is Yours letting you down? An exploration of why it is that people don’t tend to sort out their casting once and for all. Maybe not what people want to hear but more than likely what they should, call it social responsibility or maybe crass marketing of my book “Learn to Fly Cast in a Weekend”, either way that post still gets quite a bit of attention.

Finally there were a few bits about flies and fly tying, you can’t really have a blog about fly fishing without including some stuff on flies and fly tying I suppose.  Flies, Compara’ and Spun Duns. A pretty detailed look at what I consider to be some of the very best dry flies ever invented and a step away from the more normal Halfordian, Catskill style and parachute patterns.

All in all it has been a busy year, those weeks seemed to whizz by and often times fishing took a back seat, having something worthwhile to write about was on occasion a struggle when I hadn’t been on the water. But now a year later I hope that those efforts provided all the readers with something of interest, something to amuse and occasionally something that really did help you enjoy your fishing more and improve your catch rate.

When I was a child the recipe for our Christmas stockings went along the lines of: Something to eat, something to play with now, something to use long into the future, something educational and something frivolous and my mother would try to include all those things. Hopefully the mix of this blog hasn’t been too different.

Variety is as they say “the spice of life” and one hopes that in writing this blog over the past twelve months I have achieved enough variation to entertain, educate, annoy, amuse and stimulate the readership. Thank you to those who have supported the blog and taken time out to read the musings contained within. If you are a newcomer then I hope that some of the past posts will still prove worthy of your time and that future blogs will prove to be better as experience grows.

Thank you all and happy Birthday “Paracaddis”.