Posts Tagged ‘Gordon van der Spuy’

The Feather Mechanic

October 19, 2020

 

The Feather Mechanic

The sun is barely rising over the green hills of the high country of Lesotho and shimmering on the waters of “Home Pool” of the Bokong River. Most of us are wearily rising from our beds, shaking off the aches and pains of the last few days of intense fishing and high altitude hiking. The Guides will be up in a bit, brewing the first of many pots of coffee and slaving over the stove to manufacture another incredible breakfast.

Fly Tyer and consummate entertainer

We are all a bit tired, the fishing is intense and hiking into high beats along elevated donkey tracks in the rarefied atmosphere takes a toll. But apparently not Gordon, he is sitting hunched over a fly tying vice wrapping flies. I very much doubt he needs them, we were all well prepared for the trip and carry boxes full of numerous patterns. He just can’t stop himself.

So he sits, peering through (or perhaps over) his thick spectacles which are reflecting the early morning light, intensely focused on some diminutive morsel that is taking shape trapped in the jaws of the vice. Gordon ties flies in a posture reminiscent of the Hunchback of Notre Dam, his nose near in contact with the hook, his bobbin holder millimeters from the gradually evolving pattern. On the table is a disheveled pile of materials and a few flies already tied up whilst the rest of the camp was still snoozing and dreaming of the day to come.

Early morning focus, Gordon at the vice

Every wrap of thread is precise, there is no waste of materials or casual usage of the limited space available on the hook shank, the thread is repeatedly unwound to provide a smoother base, each wrap and pinch is precisely measured.

“Form follows function”, a classic example of Gordon’s strategy of simplicity and functionality in a fly pattern.

Then “David” , the 100 kilo camp pig, and mobile garbage disposal unit, waddles past, grunting as he goes. In a flash Gordon leaps up, declares that his most recently fashioned fly is “KAK” (shit) and decides that it is now time to “hand weigh” Davids, admittedly very impressive testicles.

David, the camp garbage disposal unit.

Gordon performs this , to my mind potentially risky operation, with apparent disregard for his own safety. David is quite placid generally, but it is obvious from his size that he would represent a formidable adversary were he upset, nobody has actually checked if he might turn violent on feeling cold hands grab his balls first thing in the morning.

It probably has less to do with bravery and more to do with entertainment, most of the guests are up now, there is an audience, and Gordon, an actor by profession, simply cannot refuse the opportunity to entertain, even at risk of losing a hand to a porcine chomp.

It is typical “Van Der Spuy”, focused one moment, engrossed even and then arms flail, expletives scream out, and he engages in some ludicrous act, grabbing a massive pig by the nuts probably not the most risky ever attempted..

Gordon is the ONLY angler I know who does a fair version of “The Macarena” whilst playing a four pound fish on light tippet. He doesn’t simply “set the hook” he leaps into the air as though all the time he had been standing on a now exploding airbag, he screams, and then provides running commentary on the take and the fight.. It is quite something to see, as said he is an entertainer, and if there is nobody else about he will simply entertain himself. With some anglers you may not know if they are enjoying themselves, Gordon leaves nobody in any doubt.

Gordon’s new book “The Feather Mechanic” is filled with gloriously handcrafted images

It would be easy to imagine that Gordon, renowned for such antics as described above, would be in some way imprecise, wayward even, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to fly tying he is a driven man and exceptionally focused, obsessive even, a man who will take days to tie a traditional salmon fly when a thousand miles from the nearest salmon. He blends functionality and art into every wrap of thread and a logical approach to fly tying which is remarkably rare and to me greatly valued.

There are fly tyers who simply follow recipes, or copy YouTube videos, there are those who feel that it is impressive to cram as many materials as possible onto a hook, who labour to produce “near anatomically correct but function-less flies, or like me who really want to whip out some patterns fast and furiously and get onto the water.

Not Gordon, there is a focus and logic to it, his favourite and rapidly becoming famous phrase of “form follows function” can be seen in every fly he ties.. Here is a man who may consider fishing a less expensive rod but will use the best fly tying vice available.. (in this case the J vice). He doesn’t simply pick a feather, he can tell you where it came from and who bred the bird, he has a deep understanding and appreciation for the materials he uses and is obsessive of creating the best with them

Not only is he an exceptional fly tyer and wonderful entertainer he is equally a highly gifted artist and consummate tutor. He is launching his book “The Feather mechanic” shortly; filled with exceptional insight about fly patterns, with even more exceptional hand crafted artwork and numerous anecdotes as well as critical information of value to anyone wishing to tie better and more effective flies.



The Feather Mechanic isn’t simply “another fly tying book” it is quite possibly a game changer, it deserves international acclaim for the thought, the focus and not least the art.. It is likely to become a collectors piece and I doubt than any fly fishing or fly tying library can be considered complete should it be lacking a copy..

‘The Feather Mechanic will be available shortly, a stunning book worthy of international acclaim.

 

 The Feather Mechanic will be available from the following outlets:

UK/Europe

Cochy-Bonddu Books

https://www.anglebooks.com/

orders@anglebooks.com

Australia/New Zealand

Fly Life Magazine
https://flylife.com.au/

USA

Sideling Hill Hackle
https://www.etsy.com/shop/sidelinghillhackle

sidelinghillhackle@gmail.com

RSA

Pretoria: The Fishing Pro Shop
https://fishingproshop.co.za/

Johannesburg: XFactor Angling
https://www.xfactorangling.co.za/

Natal Midlands: Wild Fly

Durban: Xplorer Fly Fishing
https://www.xplorerflyfishing.co.za/

Direct from author: gordon.vanderspuy@gmail.com

 

Micro-Movement in Slow Water

January 28, 2019

We have just returned from a tough, low water trip to the Bokong River in Lesotho, targeting Yellowfish which we had hoped would be in the runs in a faster flowing stream. That wasn’t the case, the rains hadn’t come,  and the flows were minimal , the water gin clear and the fishing tough.

Of course that leads to experimentation and the sort of anally retentive fiddling that can only arise within a group of dedicated anglers and fly-tyers faced with tough low water conditions.

All those flies so lovingly prepared ahead of time, trying to cover all the possible bases were mostly ineffective. The preparations had expected high water, or good flows, but not really the slack water with which we found ourselves confronted.

Preparation is frequently the key to success, but sometimes you get it wrong.
Dozens of ant patterns remained nearly untouched.

It became apparent that the fish were fussy and being “locked” in the pools for the most part, were easily hammered by group after group of anglers and they weren’t going to easily escape the situation until the thunder showers returned and put some water in the river.

Despite low water conditions we achieved some success. A very pleased James Leach with a Bokong Yellow from the “Cascades pool”

Some of the fish could be taken on dry flies, (our preference really) when the going was good,  but for the most part subsurface patterns provided more fish. The trouble was that the traditional nymphs which we would have expected to work well were less than totally effective and in the end small patterns with split thread CDC collars proved to be the hands down winners.

The author with a cracking fish taken in stillwater with a CDC soft hackle

On one occasion, having caught a fish or at least elicited a take every cast (including three hook ups in three casts) I eventually used up the couple of CDC collared nymphs I had,(break offs due to a  sticky reel drag not helping the situation)  Once limited to non CDC nymphs, the sort of faster sinking, slim profile flies that would be the mainstay of Yellowfish fishing on moving water, I didn’t get any more takes on the nymph.

Variations of this fly worked for all of the anglers .

It was obvious that there was something about these patterns which the fish wanted, or at least something that triggered a response that the less mobile flies didn’t.

The working hypothesis was that with such little flow there wasn’t much to cause the nymphs to “look alive”, but the mobility of the CDC provided, even in dead water, enough movement to suggest life and elicit a strike.

A remarkably calm Gordon van der Spuy, admires a dry fly caught yellow.

I have used CDC collars on a lot of soft hackle patterns on trout streams to great effect, and have always considered that their very “helplessness” might be a trigger to the fish. (see: https://paracaddis.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/vulnerability-a-super-stimulus/) .But here I think that there was more going on. What we had in effect were “Ultra-soft” soft hackles and they worked like a charm.

Low numbers perhaps , but a few quality fish were taken once we had worked out the system

It has long been recognized that movement and even micro-movement in flies can provide a real trigger to the fish. Brushing out the dubbing on your hare’s ear nymph, adding a marabou tail and such seem to improve effectiveness and it would seem that when there is so little water movement, the more mobile the fibres the better.

So then it was that we all, virtually to a man, ended up fishing a dry and dropper rig with the dropper a lightly weighted and simple CDC collared fly that did the business.

All the fish were carefully released.

Well worth consideration next time you are on the water, particularly where there is little movement, perhaps a lake or a slack stream pool, that addition of micro-movement may well save the day.

Certainly I am going to consider this in some of my stillwater flies, it seems likely that micro-movement in flies fished static in still water may be a very good way to go.

Fishing trips are often a gamble, but the ability to work things out, to experiment and learn something are often the defining memories of  tough conditions.

 

CDC is frequently seen as a dry fly game changer, but inclusion in some of your sinking patterns is well worth consideration.. particularly for those fishing low flows or stillwaters.

Author’s note: The Bokong fishery at the Makangoa Community Camp is run by Tourette Fly fishing the camp provides exceptional comfort, both yellowfish and trout angling at different times of the year, quality guides and the sort of vibe that makes for a great fishing trip. The location is remote and at high altitude, hiking abilities are pretty much essential , the road ends just above the camp. But if you are up for some spectacular angling and beautiful scenery, combined with some big fish and clear water check it out.