Posts Tagged ‘Flyfishing Cape Town’

A Fishing Story

January 14, 2015


American humorist Don Marquis labelled us all with the quotation below and it seems remarkably unfair that an entire subset of the human population should be labeled as dishonest simply because they choose fishing as their passion. Actually I am pretty sure that most of us aren’t quite so immoral but the general perception, and as they say “perception is reality”, is that one should take fishing stories with a pinch of salt.

Actually I know more than a few fly fishermen who, in reading Marquis’ comment, would take greater offense at the suggestion that they wore tattered hand-me-downs than the idea that they were less than forthright when it comes to tales of their success or expertise. In some circles dapper togs are seen as more important than honesty. I have to confess that on the stream I generally look like something the cat dragged in, pragmatism overcoming any sense of fashion and perhaps that lends some additional credence to the stories I choose to share.

I find suggestions that my fishing attire is somewhat low brow quite acceptable but I do take offense at being labelled a fibber. In the end though I suppose we all have our own set of “fishing stories” you know, the real ones not the hyperbole of anglers given over to exaggeration or the fabrications of the overtly dishonest but real anomalies which push the bounds of credibility but remain none the less actually true.

In general I figure that stories that aggrandize the skills of the angler are more worthy of suspicion than those which highlight their inadequacies, such that the “I hooked the bushes for a third time” sorts of tales are, for the most part, more honest than the “it was definitely into double figures” accounts of capture.

Given that the latest odd happening on stream suggests no skill on my part, one hopes that the telling of it will have some level of credibility.


GordonGordon McKay in the high country searching out cooler water and active trout.

Myself and an old friend had hiked high into the mountains on a dreadfully hot day in the hope of finding some cooler water and active trout. It is a remote location, dangerous even from the perspective that escape in the case of mishap would prove tricky at best. The stream is home to both trout and bass although another reason for the hike in is that as one gains elevation the ratio of bass to trout leans further in favour of the salmonids.

The fishing was slow, the water warm and I wasn’t fishing well. I had lost two trout before I noticed that there was a small burr on the point of the hook which had obviously limited its penetration. Not checking after the first loss is a sign that my fishing has deteriorated,  I am an avid promoter of hook sharpeners and checking the fly in the event of any question as to its soundness, that I had failed to do that was indication that I had let things slide. Then I spooked a number of fish with poor casts or line flash and in turn was broken off by a really nice fish which headed around numerous clumps of riverine grasses snapping the tippet. In fact, a combination of poor fishing and even poorer conditions meant that at the end of day one my net had remained dry as a bone.

The following morning I headed out with renewed hope, setting off from camp in the early dawn trusting that the slightly cooler conditions and relatively low light might see more active fish. I also thought that perhaps having had a day of practice, I don’t get to fish anywhere near as much as I used to, would have got me “back in the groove”.

After a short hike downstream I sat quietly and re-rigged a new leader, fresh tippet and tested the outfit with some exploratory casts. Happy that all was well I proceeded up river fishing carefully and seeking out likely pockets as well as constantly scanning for active fish in the clear water.

The first trout spooked at the sight of the fly on what I thought was a really good presentation, the day was looking like being just as trying as the previous one. Then I came across a fish feeding in some moderately fast flow and after it ignored the dry fly on three drifts I changed tactics and added a nymph to the terminal tackle. The fish was obviously feeding but apparently reluctant to come to the top. That trout took the nymph and so I carried on with the same set up, missing a couple of opportunities and at the same time landing a few trout. It seemed that the subsurface pattern was the way to go and each fish in turn ignored the dry to consume the tiny nymph fishing a few inches under the surface.


The combination of pragmatic functionality and hand crafted beauty. My Deon Stamer landing net.

The trout on this stream are particularly partial to feeding right in the tail-outs of the runs and it can prove tricky to get your drift into the correct spot before the leader is whisked away by the current and entangled in the ever present riverine grasses. I had spotted a fish lying tucked tightly at the back of a small run and fortunately got the cast right first time. The fish took the nymph dragging the small dry fly underwater and I struck into a solid hook-up. It wasn’t a particularly large fish perhaps twelve inches long but as soon as it began to struggle against the line a bass began chasing it all over the small pool.

This isn’t a scenario that is particularly rare, frequently hooked fish get followed about by another, either a trout or a bass for that matter. After a spirited fight the trout came to the net and I prepared to land it prior to release. The net I use is a gorgeously hand crafted tear drop made for me by local net builder Deon Stamer. It is a thing of both beauty and functionality but not overly large. Still I slipped the net into the water and scooped up the trout only to have the bass follow my prize right into the mesh, such that to my absolute surprise when I lifted the net from the water it contained not one fish but two, only one of them actually attached to the line. The nymph hooked trout and the overly aggressive smallmouth. I don’t dislike bass particularly but I am not overly fond of having them in trout streams and so unfortunately for the bass its predatory zeal proved to be fatal. The trout was returned to the water unharmed and perhaps with slightly better prospects given that a competitor for the resources of the pool had been removed.

TroutandBassThe proof of the pudding, two unhappy bedfellows, a trout and a bass netted at the same time.

In some forty odd years of fly fishing I have witnessed and been party to a good many oddities, I suppose that if one does something often enough all sorts of strange things happen, but this still has to rate as one of the more bizarre. Bizarre perhaps, but at least true.

More (hopefully) entertaining, educational and occasionally apocryphal stories from the author of this blog can be downloaded from Smashwords and Inkwaziflyfishing.


Getting your Mojo Back.

February 9, 2013


An interesting little hypothesis:

It is an annoyingly common complaint I suppose, you set about doing something that you love for a living and then find that you don’t actually get to do too much of it as a result. Fly fishing guiding is no doubt one of those enterprises which on the surface provides the opportunity to immerse oneself in a passion and then at the end of the day turns out that you don’t have the time to enjoy it as much as perhaps you should.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I greatly enjoy teaching and guiding, I have had the opportunity of late to guide a good many novice anglers and to see the surprise and joy of catching their first fish on fly is worth any amount of struggle.


A young Jake Amaler, contemplates the complexities of the next run.

Plus I have a lovely office, surrounded by a wallpaper of gloriously majestic mountains, carpeted with cool clear mountain water and sporting a ceiling of bright blue sky in which the occasional fish eagle or perhaps a giant king fisher will show itself. It’s just that when the working week is over it is tricky to motivate oneself for the long drive back to the streams to enjoy them for one’s own personal pleasure. Plus at that point the clients have generally used up a heap of flies and I need to set at the vice in preparation once more, I just rarely seem to actually get to go fishing for my own pleasure for an entire day.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother day at the office  

As a result many of my very few casts over fish are hurried and pressurised once offs in demonstration to a client. I generally don’t fish when I guide so the opportunities are few and far between, generally at tricky fish which the clients offer up to me when they are tired, or perhaps simply recognise the difficulty is beyond them and figure they will “give the guide a shot”.


Luke Criticos puts the benefits of some on stream coaching to good effect.

All of that means that I am nowhere near as practised as I once was and never really “get into the groove” as it were. On top of that the clients are generally outfitted with slightly shorter leaders than I would use and larger flies because they struggle to see the tiny ones. Over time one gets used to this set up and then when I cast a fly with my own gear it lands further away than I expect, I have trouble picking up the tiny morsel in the current and being out of practise miss the strike. Or at least that is what I thought was happening.


Visiting Aussie angler with his first ever trout on fly.

So it turns out that recently I was coaching a lady angler on the rivers, it was a voluntary thing and as such I was unlimited by the commercial constraints of not fishing and shared the time on the water. With that I had the chance to hone my skills a little, make more casts than usual and get used to my own set up, the longer finer leader and the smaller flies and would you believe I didn’t miss a fish.


Have I got my Mojo Back?

I would love to imagine that I have “got my mojo back”, but I don’t think that is actually the whole picture. It seems to me that the smaller and better presented flies illicit a far less circumspect view from the trout. They take the patterns with more confidence, slower and more deliberately. The minute hooks are not as easily detected by the fish in a mouthful of water and as a result they hang on a tad longer. All of that makes it easier to time the strike correctly and allow the small hook to gain a significant purchase.

This is how I always used to fish, it’s just that over time, with so many novice anglers or at least less proficient ones I had got into the habit of fishing a little less finely and as a result was missing fish left right and centre. Fishing “properly” is more tricky, troublesome at times but it does work, I suppose that’s the point.  Back in the groove, with long fine tippets, measured presentations and smaller flies the game has changed back to the way it was.

GuideFlies 001

I prefer small sparse parachute patterns for much of my fishing.

I suspect that there may be a good many anglers out there who experience the same thing, perhaps for different reasons. But if you have become used to the larger flies, the shorter leaders and the generally “easy” way of fishing beware. The process can be deceiving, it still looks as though you are being successful, the fish will frequently rise to the large patterns, success seems but a hair’s breadth away but at the end of the day you find that you missed a lot more than you actually hooked. Changing down to smaller patterns, pushing the limits of your leader, in both length and diameter and settling into a focused rhythm might just see your success rates climb again, it has proven to be a valuable lesson. Perhaps now I really do need to find the time to get out there on the water again for my own pleasure.