Posts Tagged ‘Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris’

The End of the Road

January 29, 2017

endoftheroadhead-fw

If you follow the road out of Cape Town and travel north for long enough, if you wind your way over mountain passes that make your head swim and your brakes smoke. If you wend your way past dam walls and dirt roads, ox carts and donkeys. If you push on, heading higher into the hills and back in time you eventually come to the end of the road, literally. From here on in it’s donkey tracks only, remote Basotho villages, and shanks’pony. As a reward you look down on the crystal waters of the Bokong River, one of the two primary feeders of the massive Katse Dam , the pride and joy of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

basothoA Basothu man in traditional hat and blanket rides his pony along the path above the Bokong River

It so happens that in constructing this dam indigenous yellow fish were trapped behind the concrete barrier of the dam wall and now, isolated as they are, the fish travel up the Bokong River to spawn during the summer months. Thousands, or tens of thousands of these hard fighting fish migrate upwards into the remotest reaches of the Bokong River, swimming past the Makhangoa Community Fishing Camp, our home for the past five days.

timyellowfishIndigenous Yellowfish, our target, and the what brought us this far. The chance to catch these wonderful fish in clear water and on dry fly.

It makes for something of an odd journey, miles and miles of straight road heading out of Cape Town and through the arid expanse of the Karoo. As one puts in the miles and the hours eventually the vegetation changes, you reach the summer rain fall areas to the north and semi desert gives way to verdant cattle pastures and then mile upon mile of sunflowers and corn.

sunflowersSunflower fields as we drive the last sections of straight road before hitting the border.

Having spent in the region of twelve hours driving virtually in a straight line one reaches the final outpost of the Republic of South Africa at Ficksburg, paradoxically at present a town without water, which is odd because we were hoping to be heading towards water, and some pretty special water at that.
From Ficksburg, and having enjoyed a breakfast of toasted sandwiches and some of the best fries on the planet, we crossed the border and within a matter of a few hundred metres leapt back in time.

deloreanIf you want to head back in time, perhaps a Toyota 4×4 is a better bet than the DeLorean.

Doc Brown’s modified DeLorean time machine couldn’t transport you back into the middle ages as quickly as a trip across the Lesotho border, and as the road winds on the calendar spins backwards to a simpler age of basic agrarian living. Up to this point progress is swift, but once one hits the winding roads of “The Mountain Kingdom” it is snail’s pace from here on in. Those luxurious straight highways of the Free State give way to the most tortuous mountain passes and the 130km to Katse take nearly four hours of nerve wracking and brake smoking driving.

passThe top of the Mafika Lisiu Pass and close to the source of the Bokong River

Winding up, and then back down, the Mafika Lisiu pass, over a high point of some 3090 meters above sea level one eventually crosses one of the arms of the massive Katse Dam before once again heading uphill past Lejone and Thaba Tseka before passing downstream of the massive wall of the dam itself.

It is but a short hop now before even the vaguest trappings of modern western living are left far behind. The yellow striped taxis are no more and even the ox carts are less frequently seen as the roads become too narrow for their use. You won’t find a shop here, or a garage,
From here on in. as the tarred road gives way to dirt, vehicular transport becomes a rarity and donkeys and horses hold sway.

camppanoramaPanoramic view of the Makhangoa community camp.

A final thirty odd kilometres of winding gravel and one reaches the Makhangoa Community Camp, perched majestically atop a spur above the Boking River. Down in that river are thousands of yellowfish, migrating upstream and given over to eating terrestrial insects to sustain themselves during their journey.

They are what we have driven all this way to find, hard fighting, bright coloured indigenous fish willing to cleave the clear waters to take a well presented dry fly.

We were at the end of the road, but our journey had only just begun.

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

 

This Blog is brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris. www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za Cape Town’s best full service fly fishing guiding operation.

Where’s Summer?

October 25, 2013

Summer

It’s a common joke out on the river with clients, we look up at the sun drenched mountain landscapes, the bright profusion of flowers and perhaps an eagle in the sky or a klipspringer on the rocks and someone will say “nice office”.  It’s a bit of a giggle, because it is a nice office, taxing to reach perhaps but not in the same way as suffering the indignities of a two hour urban commute.

Reaching my office might require some tendon stretching hiking; you may end up with sore joints or bashed toes. But then to me at least it is preferable to cramp in your left leg from repetitive stamping on the clutch whilst edging your car through the clotted arteries of the early morning concrete jungle. The birdsong a more pleasant reveille than hours of mindless phone-in radio listening to some mumbling egotist request a song from Bing Crosby for his mother’s birthday.

There is however a flaw, the world is not perfect and the outdoors world suffers more than most from a lack of control, I have a nice office but the roof leaks and it has been leaking a great deal of late.

SummerfishingSummer fishing is supposed to be like this.

It is supposed to be summer, or at the very least it is supposed to be late spring. The winds should have swung to the south, the sun should be blazing out of an azure sky and we should all be worrying that the rivers are dropping at an alarming rate, hoping that the flows will maintain into the New Year.

But that isn’t what is going on at all, we keep getting inundated with late rains, sweeping cold fronts and temperatures that simply will not climb with any consistency. I have been out on the water already this season more than a few times in pouring rain and freezing cold. The streams have been pushing so strongly that wading has been a tricky, potentially dangerous, fraught with the risk of an unexpected and frigid swim. Rain jackets have been proven to be less than effective, clothing has become soaked and I have finally, after I must say a valiant struggle by my overtaxed immune system, succumbed to the flu. It isn’t supposed to be like this, it should be bright and warm, I should be at the drug store purchasing sunblock, not bloody pseudoephedrine HCL, I should be worrying about dehydration not consumption.

Summerfishing2Instead we have high water, frigid conditions, waders and rain jackets.

In short it is a flipping mess and turning into a costly one to boot, I have repeatedly had to cancel trips or at least reschedule them. One day we are casting micro caddis patterns at brightly coloured trout in gin clear water and the next battling Hurricane Hilda and praying that the sun might just peak out from behind the dark clouds for a minute or two to ward off imminent hypothermia.

It is all becoming a little tiresome; perhaps it is encouraging that the flows will still be strong later into the summer than usual. Prospects of better fishing should last well into the New Year, but right now my head is filled with cotton wool, I keep getting the shivers and my hands are shaking too much to replace the few micro caddis patterns that we have lost to trees on the good days out on the water.

Hot ToddyI am making these when I should be tying flies.

Just for the present, a comfy commute in a warm vehicle, albeit travelling at snail’s pace, is beginning to look more attractive than it should, it is probably the fever that’s doing it, but it is a worrying development none the less.

SummerWeatherThe forecasts are all a bit depressing.

A few more weeks of this and I could seriously consider a socially acceptable “proper job”, and ditch the fly rods for squash racquets, then the weather man can do his worst and I won’t have to worry.

Personally I blame the anglers up north; they have been suffering drought conditions and praying for rain, I need to have a word with them. When in contact with those deities responsible for precipitation I think that they need to be more specific, perhaps include GPS coordinates or something.  We have had enough rain down here in the south boys, more than enough.

Books available from the author of this blog from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za

SignatureCompendium3

SnapShots

April 19, 2013

SnapshotsHead

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

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

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

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

AlbumRainbows

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

AlbumBrowns

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

AlbumClients

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

AlbumUKTrip

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

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

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

AlbumFriends

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

AlbumStillwater2

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

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

SignatureCompendium3

Two Kinds of Rock

November 21, 2011

One minute I am sitting tying flies, pondering the new fishing season and the vagaries of the weather that had required some subtle changes to the tactics on our local streams, the fish tucked up amongst the boulders out of the man currents,  and the next I am thrust into the world of  music concerts, all noise, video, security and crowds. Two worlds as divergent as you might be able to conceive, two kinds of rock if you will.

It all started with a phone call, not in itself a particularly unusual circumstance, an enquiry about fly fishing guiding from a party in an exclusive local hotel. It was coming into summer, the trout streams were recently opened from the winter closed season and the tourist trade was picking up in conjunction with the warmer weather. All to be expected, or at least hoped for.

The trouble was that I was due to be going to the Kings of Leon concert at the Cape Town Stadium and wasn’t going to miss that, a guiding trip could have made a late night out a bit tricky, fishing guiding generally requires considerable preparation, and an early start in the morning, things not easily accomplished if one is out on the town at a rock concert.

But the perfect solution was to find that the clients were going to be at the concert as well so there wouldn’t be a clash of schedules, the kicker was that they weren’t going to be watching they were going to be on stage playing. It turns out that Matt Followill is a very keen fly fisherman (actually a pretty good one at that I was to discover) and he was about as excited at the prospect of some fishing as I was at the prospect of the concert. Now in short order plans were laid and instead of simply watching the concert I was summoned to meet up with the band before they went on stage and a simple fishing guide from the backwoods ended up where only the most privileged and fortunate rock fan might dare hope to venture.

Under the stadium tucked away in an anonymous concrete corridor with the muffled sound of the crowds and the music of the supporting acts filtering down into the bowels of the massive structure I was surrounded by “Men in Black” lookalikes. All radios and ear phones, VIP badges and pre-concert tension, discussing the fishing potential of the following day with a bone fide rock star. Funny how a phone call can change your life.

In short “the weather was a bit dodgy, the prospects for some dry fly action were reasonable, there were a good number of micro caddis and a few midges about.” “I knew a lot more about fishing than I did about rock bands and we would give it our best shot in the morning.” I think that the mention of the baboons, the snakes and the recent sighting of a leopard on one of the rivers caused a little consternation for the men with the earphones but Matt seemed oblivious to anything but the prospect of casting a line on a Cape Stream. I liked the guy already; you need to be pretty focused to discuss dry fly fishing ten minutes before you get on stage to entertain a crowd of thousands.

On stage and in the public eye, a bone fide rock star.

The following morning we were on a gorgeous stream, the weather wasn’t great and there was a cold front approaching, making the fishing less than brilliant. A cold wind whipped down into our faces and the fish weren’t being particularly cooperative. You might imagine that my client, who has enjoyed some of the best fishing the world has to offer and who showed me images of massive striped bass and king salmon caught on previous sorties would have been discontented. Not at all, he had to good grace to suggest that this was one of the prettiest places he had ever fished and even though the fishing was slow he didn’t become disheartened, even after breaking off a couple of nice trout. It is tricky to get in the zone of fishing 7X tippet when your last trip to a river was to chase massive salmon on much heavier gear.  With the prospect of slightly improved conditions the following day we planned to head out again for the morning, time was limited, the band was off to Johannesburg the next day for a further concert.

Switching from guitar to fly rod and demonstrating the same skill with both, battling a nasty breeze on the stream.

We had more success this time, a few more trout rising and Matt enamoured with the idea of watching the fish rise up to the fly in the clear water. Both he and JT got their first African Trout, and seemed as pleased as punch that they had. The highlight: casting for a rising fish whilst baboons watched from the cliff faces above the river, not something particularly common in Nashville one supposes.

I imagine that to many Matt Followill is a guitarist, a music legend or heartthrob, but having spent time with him on a trout stream to me he is an angler, a remarkably passionate and talented angler, a man who like many of us carries the fishing gene deep in his DNA.

J.T. Williams, Tim Rolston, Matt Followill Elandspad River Cape Town

I listen to “Closer”, “Crawl” and “Cold Desert” in the car more often than I used to, but I don’t see a stage and a light show in my mind. I see a man doing what he loves, throwing a line over a trout, a smile on his face whilst the baboons appraise his casting from a vantage point on the rocks. It was great to be on the water with him and I am thankful of the opportunity to have done so.

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

The Dohiku Dry Fly Hook Test

October 22, 2010

The thinking angler. Testing Dohiku Dry Fly Hooks.

In a recent post I was suggesting that too many anglers focus all of their attention on the fly and not a lot else. Much as I have believed that for a long time a very interesting discussion with Mike recently brought the idea into further focus.

You see Mike and I had obtained some Dohiku dry fly hooks and were experimenting with them, they are neat looking competition hooks with long points and a dull black japanned finish. They also sport something that seems to have become a standard in many competition hooks, a distinctly turned up point.

This sort of bothered me because I am something of a fanatic when it comes to hooks, sharpening hooks etc and many years ago I threw out all of my up eyed dry fly hooks because I thought that they direction of pull wasn’t correct. In that case probably because in days of old anglers used the “Turle Knot” which effectively gave a straight pull when striking but with more modern knots the strike effectively pulls the hook at the wrong angle. Dozens of dropped or missed fish convinced me and the stock that I had went into the bin. Pity, dry flies tied on up eyed hooks look really neat, it is just that they don’t do a good job of hooking fish which sort of defeats the object.

Back to the Dohikus, I tried them on the stream and started to think that I was missing fish that I shouldn’t be, then a few times I struck to feel a distinct pull as though the timing was dead right only to have the fish swim away seconds later. Eventually having missed or dropped a good many trout I took out the forceps and bent the very point of the hook straight, effectively removing the turned up point and providing a very long straight point to the fly instead. I didn’t miss another fish.

Mike and I were sitting at home chatting about fly fishing, competition fishing and much more, a sort of fly anglers jam session. I suppose were we rock musicians instead of anglers we would have been trying out various combinations of chords or something. Generally chewing the fat and testing verbal hypotheses.

So the subject of these hooks came up and Mike mentioned that he was losing faith in them and wondered if they were really that effective. I then recounted my similar concerns and we started to work on ways that we might test them. It so happened that I had several identical flies tied up on the Dohiku dry fly hooks so we took out two and tied one each at the end of a loop of 7x tippet. One fly received the forceps treatment the other was left untouched. Then putting the nylon through our fingers, one piece between the little and ring finger and one between the middle and index finger we pulled the loop upwards. This effectively applied exactly the same force, same speed etc to both flies as they slipped through the fingers of the closed hand.

Would you believe it the unmodified hook simply popped right through without hooking up whilst the straightened one hooked up? We repeated the process and exactly the same thing happened. Trying to be scientific about it we muddled the flies up so that we didn’t know which was which, the same thing happened. I tried it , the unmodified hook simply popped through whilst the modified one hooked. Mike tried it, the same result. All in all we estimated that the unmodified hook failed to catch around 9 out of every ten times. The modified one never missed.

So it would seem that there is something wrong with the design, but why make a hook that doesn’t work?

I suspect that with the focus on Czech nymphing in competitive fishing the curved in points of many of the hooks works well, the fish are effectively hooking themselves as they turn away with the nymph but on a dry fly the same forces are not in play and one is striking as opposed to allowing the fish to hook themselves.

Which ever way it works not only to my mind does the design fail to work  properly on a dry fly hook I think that I can prove it to you.

Below is a graphic illustration of our experiment, maybe you would like to test it out for yourselves. One thing that I do know, whilst I actually very much like the modified hooks, I like the colour and the shape and have a lot of faith in them when modified, I shan’t be using any that are in the original format. Neither Mike nor myself have any faith in them at all and if you do the test below, you probably won’t have either.

 

Try this test and see for yourself

 

Links related to Dohiku Dry Fly Hooks.

Single Barbed Blog

itieflies Blog

UK Flydressing Double Duck

I haven’t been able to find any  posts or comments suggesting a problem with hook ups but if you do please let us know, it would be interesting to compare our thoughts.

This post is brougth to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris in the interests of better and more thoughtful angling.

 

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

 

On Stream Arms Race

October 11, 2010

I can still recall the early days when I fished the streams of the Limietberg, Schalk Van Der Merwe and I would climb down the concrete retaining blocks of the old road bridge to access the river. There was no fancy tunnel through the mountains and the trip would always be prolonged by the slow progress of trucks up over the Du Toit’s Kloos Pass in front of us. With only a few places to overtake and the fishing awaiting us on the other side it was frequently a frustrating journey.

On the river there were no beats, no catch and release, you only had to notify the club that you were going to be on the water and that was it. We rarely saw anyone else but there were a few spots which we might stake out early where late arriving anglers wouldn’t be able to get in front of us on the stream.

There were more trees on the rivers in those days, the new freeway had yet to be conceived and on some sections of the stream the old road ran close enough to the river, with picnic spots along the way such that it wasn’t uncommon to sneak around a bend in pursuit of trout only to find someone bathing in your favourite run.

 

We didn’t have two weight rods back then either, the standard was a #4 weight, although of generally sloppy action and we used to fish a mixture of dries and nymphs although the dries where our favorites, we already had visions of some kind of “purism” despite the fact that the trout would pretty much eat anything. I can recall that we experimented with all manner of indicators and tied weighted nymphs to represent the heptagenid mayflies as well as the more standard baetis going to some lengths to flatten the bodies and weave in legs and eyes and all manner of subtleties. To be honest we thought that we were pretty hot at this.

Occasionally we would venture further into the mountains, but there was no real path in those days and a long hike up the river would require and equally long return trip back down the river bed at day’s end.

 

Big bushy high floating flies were all that was required.

 

Dry fly fishing was a case of flipping a buoyant dry into the pockets and waiting for a take, if you missed it there was little real problem, another cast, perhaps with a little more focus and in a serious looking crouch and the fish would come again. They would always come again and give you a second chance. The flies were huge by today’s standards, size 12 or even 10, buoyant deer hair patterns, Elk Hair Caddis, Humpies and the like. I seem to recall that one of my favourites was a “Royal Humpy” whilst Schalk preferred a “Rat Faced McDougal, some days we would venture out with little more in the fly box than a selection of hoppers, matching the hatch was for sissies, these were real fish in search of a real meal. Darn I think that there were still barbs on those hooks and certainly Schalk would always take a few fish home for supper.

I recall once fishing behind Schalk when he broke off on the strike to a fish, a remarkable achievement in itself; I doubt the tippet was less than 6 lb breaking strain. That Rat Faced McDougal popped up from the depths right in front of me and I picked it off the water and gave it back to Schalk, some indication of the size and buoyancy of the pattern.

If you wanted to kill a fish the size limit back then was 10” and I think that one could keep quite a few fish if one wished, It could have been as many as ten per day although I don’t honestly recall. What I do remember is that by the season’s end almost all the fish in the stream would be nine and a half inches long or less.

Regretfully Schalk passed on and new fishing partners came and went, but we kept on working on improvement.

We also developed a highly effective manner of dealing with the occasional difficult or selective fish, we simply went and found another one that was more accommodating, it worked every time. If you do that today you are going to be finished with your beat by lunchtime, some level of experimentation and effort is no required and you can’t simply move on to the next fish at each refusal.

Of course over time things change and they did for us, we promoted catch and release fishing, to start  with only the upper beat of the Elandspad was subject to this regulation and even then the old school were complaining about it. Comments such as “it isn’t really fishing if you don’t take a frying pan with you” were commonplace and we were troublesome young bucks with some hidden agenda, equally vilified and distrusted by the more established anglers.

Mind you as with everything else there was more pressure on the streams, more trouble with people getting in each others way on the river and leapfrogging groups would effectively put the fish down for everyone. The beat system was born where you could book your section for the day which not only meant that one could enjoy uninterrupted fishing, but equally that you didn’t have to rise at sparrows fart simply to secure some privacy.

The catch and release regulations spread, the fish, given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes started to get smarter and better educated. No longer would they always come twice and the rainbows started to rise in far more circumspect fashion than was previously the case. Reacting more like cautious browns, sipping in flies and eschewing any poor presentations or dragging flies.

 

The fish were getting smarter, they still are.

 

In fact on our brown trout stream some of the fish had been tagged and we would discuss the relative condition and latest measurements of number 423567 as each season passed. It wasn’t scientific but it proved one thing, that the fish would survive capture if you were careful with them and it laid to rest the argument of the old timers who insisted that the trout was going to go “belly up” anyway so you may as well chuck it in a pan and have it for lunch.

We started to change tactics in response to changes in the fish’s behaviour, gradually flies got a lot smaller and I well recall bringing back from Australia the first size 22 hooks that we had ever actually seen. We stopped simply using nylon and purchased “tippet” material on neat little spools that cost the earth but offered better presentation. Gradually the terminal tackle got thinner and we started going out on a limb with 6 X tippet and eventually 7X (currently the extreme is 8X and even 10X is now available in local stores).

We built our own ultralight rods, to start with the Orvis “Superfine 7’ 9”  #2 weight became the standard, those with the old favourite “Osprey #4’s” were now regarded as little more than hackers.

 

The availability of fine soft tippet material is still probably one of the greatest weapons in the stream angler's arsenal.

 

With the advent of light rods and catch and release we were now fishing barbless hooks all the time, we had figured out that you actually land more fish on those and we started to sharpen our hooks, first with pebbles from the stream bed and later with purpose built diamond dust hones carried in our pockets.

Leaders got longer and finer, we degreased them to make them sink and took much more care in our positions and presentations on the streams. The fish were larger now, larger and wiser and consequently more demanding. There were even occasions when one would have to match the hatch, particularly if there were ants on the water.

A further and oft ignored development of the Catch and Release regulations was that at one level information was more easily passed from one angler to another. Now there was no need to hide the truth about the flies which one fished or the best beats or your knowledge of a good fish on a particular section. Previously one would keep quite, not wishing to encourage someone to improve only to go and whip out your favourite nineteen incher tucked away under the bushes of “dry fly run”.

Whilst all the time the fish were getting better and better at the game as well, it may seem an unfair battle , what with us using micrometer measured tippets, carbon graphite rods, camouflage clothing, fancy dry fly floatants, hooks sharpeners and all the mod cons but I am not sure that our catch rates ever climbed that much. We would do better for a while but the fish would get smarter and things would level off again.

 

Of all the improvements in gear, using your brains is still what will keep you ahead.

 

Today the streams of the Limietberg probably offer the most technically demanding fishing in the country. There are plenty of fish to be sure, and there are some really good ones too for that matter, but they are a whole heap more demanding of the angler compared to the days of climbing down those bridge supports in search of supper.

We don’t actually fish in a pristine natural environment, much as we may enjoy the illusion, we fish in the midst of a highly technical arms race where we get better weapons and the trout continuously update their defenses. I have to confess that this is the way that I like it, but there is one down side, beginners to the sport are in for something of a rough ride without help. The trout on these streams have already received their education and if you are a neophyte angler you start off at something of a disadvantage. The only option is to go out on the water and start working on your education to catch up.

 

Bells provide essential support for the education of neophyte anglers

 

Shortly the Cape Piscatorial Society, together with Bell’s Whiskey, will host the latest “Bell’s Fly Fishing Festival“. Unlike most other fishing festivals it isn’t a competition. In the context of this article it is more like “infantry school”, where newcomers can get some on stream experience from old hands and learn some of the subtleties and tricks of the trade. In times past this may have simply been a fun way to spend the weekend and a means of perhaps improving one’s catch rate. Today, with the arms race if full swing it is more of an essential right of passage. Without some help it is going to take the average newcomer a lot of time on the water to catch up. As said previously, if you are starting out, the fish are way ahead of you and learning more each season.

This article is dedicated to those who came before us and created this fishery and the people who still look after it for the benefit of all. It is also in recognition of the assistance offered by Bells and the dedicated anglers who act as guides, who provide the means for so many newcomers to get a start at this wonderful obsession we call fly fishing. Welcome to the arms race.

Brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris and Stealth Fly Rod and Reel.

 

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

 

 

This blog was brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing in conjunction with STEALTH FLY ROD AND REEL.

 

Disclaimer: These blogs sometimes attract Google Ads advertising, we have no control over their appearance nor do we derive any financial benefit from their presence. Whilst they may prove of value to you appearance of these adverts does not  infer any relationship with or endorsement by the participants of this blog.

Cape Piscatorial Society News

September 16, 2010

Cape Piscatorial Society Newsletter.                Thursday Sept 16th

This time around, as Jean is out of the office the newsletter such as it is, is being posted on this blog and this will continue until the office is up and running at full capacity again.

Of course it also means that we can have some images in the news, something problematic with the e mail versions due to all those darned corporate firewalls. Yes we know that you read this stuff at the office. 🙂

So here is the news, Brought to you courtesy of :

INKWAZI FLY FISHING SAFARIS and the “FISHING GENE” Blog.


LOW PRESSURE BLUES:

I have had a number of people contact me about the variations in the barometric pressure since the previous post on the Fishing Gene Blog

It would appear that despite my desperation and loss of confidence, what a thing confidence is when fishing, a lot of people have endured what appeared to be perfect conditions without seeing much or any activity at all. Nick King wrote to me to say that despite perfect conditions and hatching Holsloot spinners on the river of the same name he saw precisely no activity on the part of the fish. I have been out three times since the start of the season and things have been poor.

The first trip produced one faint hearted refusal from a fish in the shallows. The second with a client was chilly and again without much by way of activity although we did find one feeding fish which was missed three times after the obligatory changes of flies. On Sunday I fished with Mike Spinola again and once more the conditions looked great. There were towering clouds of mating mayfly spinners above the parking spot and the sun shone out of a blue sky. The first pool showed no rising fish, rather unusual for that particular piece of water, and we battled on. The first fish a brown took my fly right up against the bank and promptly turned downstream into a strong current under the overhanging trees and hooked up the leader in the branches. Not an auspicious start to the season.

The going was slow but Mike did far better than I did with a number of really great browns around sixteen inches or so and fat as the proverbial brewer’s apron. Mind you the luck wasn’t totally with Mike either when he lost a good fish which after jumping a few times headed under, what he obviously knew to be a good rock hidey hole and stuck Mike’s leader under the boulders, it was that kind of day.

I only managed a number or small rainbows, at least I finally broke the duck for the season but the fishing was very poor, except for a period around three thirty in the afternoon when all of a sudden we picked up fish back to back in a number of pockets, catching more fish in half an hour than we had all day to that point. A review of the barometric chart once at home showed a falling glass all day with a leveling off for a period around three thirty, a coincidence? I think not.

I do wonder if we never noticed this as much in the past or whether with the rivers being fishable earlier in the year than normal we are still in the midst of some spring like unseasonable pressure changes. It would appear however that right now if you are out on a rising glass you do well and if not then you are in for a hard time of things. If you would like to check out the pressure charts for Cape Town you can visit the link HERE it won’t help a lot but might provide a decent enough explanation or at least excuse.

HOLSLOOT BLUES

Shane Saunders was also in contact to say that he did poorly on account of the pressure drops, and also that beat two of the Holsloot is badly in need of some brush clearing, apparently things have got so bad on this notoriously overgrown section that now less than half of it is actually fishable.

Perhaps time for a working party on that piece but we need to liaise with Cape Nature as to how best and when best to tackle the problem. Cutting back the bush at the wrong time of year or in the incorrect manner makes things worse not better and one can replace a single old branch with a dozen new shoots if one isn’t careful.

HOOK UP BLUES:

Yet another day on the river trying to beat these cold fronts and really not that nice, low cloud, fog, howling gales in all directions and pretty darn chilly but that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was my striking. Odd isn’t it? when it is working we pay it no heed and when not, well it is I suppose like the golfer’s yips, you simply cannot get it right. I suspect that I was snatching at things a bit too eagerly, what with waiting for days to get a half decent chance at a feeding trout, or even finding a feeing trout for that matter.

I think that perhaps the timing of the strike and the tempo of it as well for that matter is one of the most difficult skills to master. Not least because you cannot practice it without willing fish and I have noticed that it is one of the abilities that seem to be lost over the course of the closed season.

Anyway I missed far more takes then I should have done and that was frustrating. All the more so when you know darn well that the fish aren’t going to give you a second chance. A few times I resorted to a nymph and hooked up on the fish that had been missed or perhaps had “come short” previously but as said, somewhat annoying.

When one is fully tuned in, probably from a lot of fishing and therefore practice, one adapts to the fish , a slow rise and a slower strike, a snappy rise and a suitably hastened response, whatever it is I am currently missing it but hopefully in time I shall get back into the groove.

On the plus side the rivers are in fine fettle but then again they probably shouldn’t  be at this point on the calendar and without more rain it is going to be a warm and low water summer season so the best weather you can find at this juncture should be the time to get out there.

YouTubeVideo:

I have also recently uploaded a couple of clips of feeding trout in the Limietberg Reserve, watching fish, even on video does tune the eye and helps develop the skill of fish spotting when out there on the water. If you would like to check out the video you will find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DxpT7of4MM

A still shot from the video capturing a trout at the very moment of rising to take a fly.

Don’t Forget:

Presentation from Liquid horizons at the club rooms this evening. 16th Sept


A presentation on fishing in Pategonia with Liquid Horizons, complimentary snacks will be provided.

7.00 for 7.30 at the clubrooms in the Mercantile Building in Hout Street

Flyfishing Heritage Day at Stream X.


Stream X are hosting their open day on Heritage Day, that is September 24th in case you have forgotten.

This is usually a fun event and a great place and time to meet up with various anglers, experts and novices alike. Learn some new tricks and enjoy some socializing over a draught beer.

I am planning to be there and for one thing will be demonstrating my improved methods for tying parachute patterns, so I hope that we shall see a good turnout.

Volunteers: Cape Stream fishing data capture.

With all the variations of the fishing of late and the reports I have been receiving from various anglers I an considering undertaking  a study of the fishing through the season and I am looking for anglers who might be willing to participate in the project. What it would require would be some fairly specific data on catching fish on our streams, the requirements would be specific but not overly detailed and the results would be kept anonymous. Obviously I am looking for straight no bullshit, no inflating the figures types of information. If you fish fairly regularly and would be willing to provide some detailed reports on a regular basis please contact me on the e mail rolston@iafrica.com

The information wouldn’t reveal your favourite beats or best fly patterns or anything like that so you need not worry on that front, I am just interested in collating a lot of data and it would be helpful to have more information from more anglers than just that which I can collect on my own.

Finally:

As with previous newsletters which are sent out personally from the secretary: I end with the following thoughts. If you are out fishing, driving, watching rugby or simply surfing the internet. “Be Careful Out There”

Tim

Wanna Share?

You can easily share links to these blog posts using the Facebook, E mail and other icons at the bottom of the page. If you think that some of your mates might be missing out or would enjoy the information contained herein feel free to promote the content. This blog now averages some four hundred views a month, I am still hoping that it will continue to grow. Thanks

Disclaimer:

Please note that from time to time Google Ad’s appear at the bottom of these blog posts.
We have no control over them nor do we receive any remuneration from them, therefore whilst they may be useful to you their presence in no way indicates any association or recommendation of the links by the writers or participants in this post.

Exploration and Paydirt.

August 9, 2010

Visiting new places on the Orange River:

I think that maybe my mates and I should join “The A Team” cos hell I love it when a plan comes together. We had been talking of exploring parts of the Orange River, previously unknown to us for some time. The debates of when to go, should we go and even should we perhaps settle for something more known to us dragged on until the decision was made. Fishing time is precious and one doesn’t want to waste time and energy in the wrong spot. But then there is also the question of forging your own path and taking some risk and in the end that is exactly what we did.

Hitting paydirt, the results of exploration on the Orange River

Armed with maps, GPS and plenty of fishing gear we headed out into the desert some 600 odd kilometers from home, not sure that we would even find the river. Deserts are not the places most people consider as venues for quality fly fishing and although we knew that the Orange River was there there was little guarantee that any of the trails would put us close enough to reach it.

Desert Landscape, not exactly the place you expect to find fish.

Previous trips to the Richtersveld reserve nearby have been productive, but the landscape there is scared by monuments to man’s unassailable greed, massive mine dumps the result of the search for diamonds and as a consequence it lacks something of the raw splendor of our new destination.

We hit the desert after an all night drive and were greeted with a spectacular dawn, low angled winter light softening the harshness of our surroundings. First stop was a small settlement called Henkries where one can obtain the odd essential item from a shop that is little more than a house’s garage, sparsely stocked with a coke fridge and the odd bar of soap, the nearest thing to a town that we would see for five days.

The trail requires that one loop around the mountains to touch with the river here and there and at the first stop we found both a wonderful campsite at the water’s edge and what appeared to be a decent rapid. The fishing was however disappointing, we got some fish and at least didn’t spend the first night under canvass with blanks on the scoresheet but it wasn’t as good as we had hoped.

Fly Tying Alfresco: Albe and Mike whip up a few nymphs at the waterside camp.

The next morning some exploration brought us to three new rapids further upstream, all virtually unreachable on account of the depth and speed of the currents but determination won the day and we eventually crossed higher up, taking some considerable risks in the strong flow. Of the three stretches of good looking water only one really produced but it produced fish in style. My own definition of hitting a “honey hole” is that you get one of the following three occurrences:

You hook two fish at the same time.

You and your partner both hook fish at the same time.

You hook fish on consecutive casts.

Albe Nel, trying out for the Al-Qaeda fly fishing team, with a baby largemouth Yellowfish. The "Buff" was actually an anti fly swallowing measure.

On this stretch, after several hours of trying other water for only a fish a piece we managed all of the above in short order and proceeded to “hammer em” for several hours. Odd that other good looking water nearby produced very little but this stretch really did hold huge numbers of fish and we were well pleased with the results. A lengthy walk back to camp through the bank-side vegetation and the flies that inhabit it virtually terminated my long standing vegetarian status and the numbers swallowed would no doubt have added up to a decent steak in terms of protein but we were happy, we had found fish and been able to test out some tackle and various rigs to good effect. Mike and Albe returned to the hot spot for the afternoon whilst I decided to play with some alternative methods in the water nearer to the camp. The result was that I took only a single fish for the session whilst they had bent rods for most of the afternoon until they tired and returned for sundowners much later.

The morning saw us once more on the trail, this time another loop around the hills, driving in an environment where one seriously questions the wisdom of being in a solitary vehicle. The chances of walking out alive should there be a mishap not appearing particularly good, miles and miles of sand, broken rock and shattered quartzite which looks for all the world like broken glass. In fact the illusion is of driving over a massive land fill site.

Camping desert style, this is probably the biggest tree for miles.

We reached our new destination by late afternoon and were able to see a glorious rapid not far from the camp. Again the results were disappointing, some fish but not a lot of them and treacherous wading in the lower sections. It was however the first time on the trip that I was totally out of control, a good sized mudfish taking yards and yards of line down the raging currents necessitating a precarious chase over the sunken boulders.

We fished the same rapids the following morning, did a bit better having located a few nice holes but still we were taking fish by the dozens and we wanted more. An almost desperate search higher upstream where the water looked flat and wide however revealed a maze of small channels amongst a smattering of islands and here we found fish. In fact we found fish in abundance, that first evening we landed over thirty fish a man in less than a couple of hours and returned to camp in the near darkness, not wishing to stop.

Mike with a nice fish from one of the channels.

This proved to be the highlight location of the trip and we returned to explore the channels and islands several times. We still never got to fish all of the water available however and there is good reason to return. It is difficult to estimate and we didn’t keep count but at a guess the three of us took somewhere between 700 and 900 fish including the slow days when we were searching for the right water. By the time we were finished we had learned a lot , refined our tackle, methods and perhaps most importantly where to locate numbers of fish. This was some of the best yellowfish fishing I have ever enjoyed anywhere, the only possible lack was that we didn’t land any that were truly massive although I think we all lost at least one real lunker at some point.

Part of the journey, consider having to walk out of here.

The final mornings fishing was an affair of mixed emotion, we continued to catch fish in numbers, in fact a day or so before I had managed to take nine yellowfish on consecutive casts if that gives some indication of the quality of the venue. In the end we had to pack up camp and head back to civilization. It is hard to walk away from that kind of fishing, all the more so when you know that it could be a year before you return but the experiment paid off, we worked hard, covered a lot of ground both in the vehicle and on foot and in the end the plan came together. Absolutely awesome fishing, the only crowds the occasional herd of goats, the only competition from the resident fish eagle and the otters which had left tracks all over the sand bars and which we actually saw on one mornings excursion.

I just had to put in one "rod in the mouth" image, apparently it's expected if you are a serious angler. 🙂

Highlights of the trip?

The incredible desolate scenery.

Myself and Albe taking two largemouth yellowfish at exactly the same time.

Catching nine fish on consecutive casts.

Albe catching a fish with the leader in his hand and not attached to the line.

Sharing such an amazing venue with incredible anglers and good friends.

Collectively taking seventeen fish from a run the size of two bath tubs.

The desert stars at night and the amazing sensation of space.

Spotting Otters in the river.

The list of firsts:

First person to take a fish… Mike

First person to take the grand slam: Largemouth, Smallmouth and Muddy….. Albe

First person to take a Muddy… Me

The bizarre looking mouth of an Orange River Mudfish.

First person to take the royal flush: muddy, smallmouth, largemouth and barbel.. “currently vacant”.

First person to catch a fish with the collar of his shirt (it’s a long story)… Me

First person to knock a sand martin out of the air with his rod… Me (we all did this by the end of the trip)

First Largemouth.. .Mike

Best landed fish of the trip… Albe.

Albe Nel with what was almost certainly the best fish landed during the trip.

So there it was seven days, nine hundred odd fish, some great exploration, and the gamble of either a watery or firey death in the river or the desert if something went wrong. I think by the last day we would have gone in peace, this was the fishing trip of a lifetime, or until we return it will be.  Best wishes from the “A Team”.