Posts Tagged ‘Dry Fly Fishing’

A Throw of the Dice Two

February 4, 2020

A throw of the dice and the best day ever. Part two

We encounter rain as we sit for a spectacular supper, the guides do as good a job on the catering front as they do on the water. The only problem is that the rain pours as much as the whisky and the clouds are gray and threatening. Eventually the skies open up and the deluge lifts the river levels to a point where we know fishing would be hopeless if not dangerous. But we are HERE.

Supper time, the rain pours down and we hope for better weather in the morning.

Sleep is undisturbed in the comfortable rondavels, but the morning dawns with the roar of a river in spate. The ice rats which live in the wall around the camp don’t put on their normal morning entertainment, they are hiding from the weather.

The Ice Rats didn’t come out in the morning, the weather wasn’t to their liking, or to ours for that matter.

Things are not looking good and we elect, with input from the guides, to drive the hour long track around the dam to fish the Malabamatsu below the dam wall. The Katse dam hasn’t been full in years and thus the rains don’t negatively affect the fishing lower down. Not our first choice but the opportunity to throw a line and hang onto a decent trout, the yellowfish are for the most part absent.

At least it is hot, the skies clearing and perhaps tomorrow will offer up what we hope for, we catch some trout and I lose a good fish in a weedbed. The river here hasn’t had a blow out in a long time and weedbeds predominate, offering both sanctuary for fish food and equally easy escape for decent trout. It is only day one, a lost trout isn’t the end of it.

Dense weed-beds on the Malibamatsu make it tricky to land larger trout.

We return to camp, not unhappy, but perhaps disappointed, this was good fishing, but not what we came for.. Perhaps tomorrow will be better?

Morning and the river is in full spate, well not quite, it appears to have cleared a bit and we elect to target the yellowfish with Euronymphing techniques. There are two problems however, this isn’t the method of choice on these trips and the fish know exactly how to take advantage of the high water. Hooked fish, and there were a lot of them, scream line off the reel, with no distinction between pools they head downstream at astonishing speed and one finds oneself  rapidly out of control.

Peter Mamacos fishes heavy Euro-nymphs in the fast murky water. We are catching fish, but this isn’t what we had hoped for.

Sure we landed some fish, even good fish, but I was becoming overly familiar with my backing, the reel was sticking a bit and I lost more fish than I would normally be happy with. That said, it was great fun, if somewhat sobering.

Tales of lost fish abound around the dinner table; everyone has hooked and lost a Bokong Bus, often without so much as seeing the fish in the turbid waters, but the skies have cleared. Hope springs eternal.

Things improve the next day, a few of the crew take some fish on dry flies, but not sight-fishing, really, just seeking out slower water in the tail-outs of large pools, but again it is encouraging, the skies are still clear, the water levels are dropping and things are clearing up. Fish in the lower sections have run back to the dam on account of the cold water and we had to work hard for fish. You quickly realise that fly fishing isn’t just about catching fish but catching the way you would prefer to. For us this means sight-fishing with dry flies and the weather isn’t being kind.

We sleep, praying for no more rain.

We know that things can get really good really fast if the rain stops.

 

After breakfast the next morning we hike up river, the water is for once looking clear, the spate has finally abated and the water is gradually getting that blue/green clarity that makes a fly angler’s heart sing. Today is the day, it better had be, this is the last throw of the dice, it is now or never. We have caught fish, even a lot of fish, but not what we hoped for, what we hoped for was sight fishing with dry flies to large smallmouth yellowfish. Was today to be the day?

We walked hard up the donkey track to an area known as the “Skate Park”, named by me on a previous trip on account of the sloping rock sides reminiscent of a “half pipe”.

We come across a couple of fish in shallow but fast water and try the dry fly, they don’t look up. It is often the case that in the mornings the fish are less inclined to rise to dry flies, when the water warms things may well change. In the meantime we resort to nymphs, I cast out  a dry and dropper rig and hook a fish on the bead head brassie nymph. After a spirited battle it throws the hook, was this to be a disappointing day?

We started taking plenty of powerful fish but they were still reluctant to come to the top.

We had discussed luck and my view is that luck has little to do with things; it was an opinion that was to be threatened in the next hour. I lost fish after fish on the nymphs, over hit the takes and snapped the tippet on three fish, calmed down and hooked a nice yellow which took me into the backing before another fish grabbed the dry fly I was using as an indicator and pulled the hook out.

After an hour or so I was nil to seven down, the fish winning easily and James my great guide for the day, laughing as much as professionalism would allow at my misfortune.

All I can say is that after that seven I never lost another fish for the day, karma!!!

After the problem with the dry fly being taken or hanging on the rocks I elected to switch to a yarn indicator in the hope that would improve the chances of actually landing one of these speedsters.

We fished on until lunch with the indicator rig, the water was still high if clearing, at one point I hooked and landed five yellowfish in six casts. That sounds rapid, but in reality each fish required a considerable run down river and five to ten minutes of battling to get into the net. At least I didn’t overcook the strike or break off during the fight.

By lunch time I had landed close to twenty fish but now it was decision time. Peter and I decided that this was it, we would forgo the nymphs and focus on dry fly, seeking out suitable water and visible fish, the decision would surely reduce the numbers of fish caught but provide perhaps the entertainment we had traveled all this way to enjoy.

Finally the water warmed and the fish started looking up, time for some dry fly fishing with ant patterns. Game on

The first was a sighted fish just above a cauldron of white water, it took the dry on the third drift and all hell broke loose. Driving downstream and into the rapids, James carefully kept the line from wrapping around the rocks as the fish bored down into pocket after pocket. The battle was exhausting, not just for the fish but for me too, but finally a dry fly caught yellow in the net.

It was Peter’s turn as we had pretty much decided that it wasn’t productive to both fish , better to take turns targeting sighted fish as the opportunities arose. The water continued to drop and clear.

Peter took a couple of great fish on dry fly on the side of a long run, I had ended up on the wrong bank with too much fast water to be ideal and headed upstream, leaving Peter and James to tackle a number of fish in the shallows on the far (for me) bank.

Peter getting in on the act, a nice fish from the bedrock runs of the “Skatepark”.

Once we had reunited it was “my turn” and there was a good fish moving along a shallow run underneath the overhanging grass. James (The guide) couldn’t see the fish but could still see my floating parachute ant and on my call of “he’s seen it” the fish moved out and inhaled the ant with quiet determination. The fight was epic, the real screamed and then stopped screaming as the drag mechanism failed under the strain. Another great fish on dry in the net and smiles all round.

The other anglers also started to enjoy some dry fly action. Piers with a superbly fit Bokong Yellowfish.

The day progressed like that for both Peter and I, sighted fish, dry fly fishing in clear water, all to fish between probably two to four or five pounds.. By now the water had both cleared and warmed further and some fish were actively holding high in the water seeking out food on the top.

Several times fish were spotted and taken on the first cast at them, each hook up followed by a sensational battle to get them into the net. Although it was day five, the power and stamina of these amazing fish still impressed.

Smallmouth Yellowfish are incredibly strong and have amazing stamina, putting an extreme bend in my #3 weight outfit.

The day was coming to an end, and our trip with it, I found myself a little ahead of Peter and David, above a conspicuous waterfall named “The cascades”.. James joined me and we were on our way back to join the others, it was time to go.

Then a yellowfish showed, swimming in the shallows not two feet from the grassy bank, it was going to be a tough call. Either I would catch the grass, or catch the fish, there weren’t other realistic possibilities. The cast laid out just between two potentially problematic tufts of herbage, the yellowfish continued quietly, showing no indication that he had seen the fly, or thankfully seen us either. He swam slowly upstream, encountered the ant pattern and promptly inhaled it, the strike was well timed and for the last time on this trip the reel sang. After some battle we netted the fish, took a photo and released him, as we do with all of the fish in this stream.

A photograph of the photographer. Plenty of pictures and smiles all round on a brilliant day on the water.

What a perfect end to a pretty perfect day, perhaps the best day’s fishing I have ever had, not just the fishing, the change of fortune, the great guiding , stunning scenery and the wonderful company of my fellow anglers. Lesotho is something special, I am not sure that I will ever be back, things change and life moves on. But I will always have memories of the trials and tribulations on the Bokong River, the highs and lows and what may well be the best day’s fishing of my life.

Many thanks to James, our guide for the last day, fish spotter extraordinaire. We appreciated his enthusiasm on the water and his culinary skills in camp. In fact all the guides were superb and made the trip that much more enjoyable for everyone.

 

 

 

 

An Ode to Dry Fly Fishing

November 18, 2015

DryFlyHeader

A recent post by Dan Morris linking to an article on the Field and Stream Blog by Kirk Deeter caught my attention, it was about the ever increasing prevalence of “bobbers” on trout streams. He, like me, doesn’t think that it is quite the done thing and perhaps like much in life, whilst in moderation a level of errant behaviour can be given some leeway, an excess really is just that, excessive.

I generally fish dry flies, and I am fortunate that my local trout will most of the time eat them if they are well presented. Even then I occasionally resort to “dry and dropper” methods, or in extremis: Euronymphing or fishing with coloured nylon built into the indicator. Dry Fly Fishing is my passion, it is intimate, delicate and visual and it really is the essence of our sport, at least for many.

This “battle” between the surface and subsurface fly has lasted decades, Frederick Halford maintained that anything other than a high floating dry fly was sacrilege, whilst G.E.M Skues was villified for having the temerity to suggest subsurface patterns were perfectly acceptable in the eyes of man and God. All that back in the late 1800’s.

Halford-Skues

So with a a glass full of scotch and a belly full of righteous indignation at the use of “Thingamabobbers”  my mind turned to things poetic. The result below:

ThingamabobbersOde to the Dry Fly

 

Dry Flies

 

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..

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