Posts Tagged ‘Mike Spinola’

Desert Fishing

September 29, 2015

DesertFishingAlternativeHead

It’s an act of faith going fishing in a desert, but then sometimes one simply has to follow one’s heart (or gut for that matter) and take the plunge. I have fished the Orange River flowing along the Namibian/South African Border for more than a few years and there is always the same mix of excitement and trepidation.

Of course if you get it right it is wonderful, even, as with this past trip, spectacular, but then again there are plenty of things that can go wrong. If the water is high wading is limited, fishing less good and water clarity can be reduced to that of cocoa. The wind can howl, sandstorms can wreck the camp and dump grit on everything such that microscopic quartz crystals become a recognized condiment, sprinkled liberally over all that one eats.

It is a long way off, remote with a capital “F”, and no matter how many times one undertakes the drive there is a point, under the desert sky without sign of water , that you feel something of a twit carrying a fly rod at all.

DesertPanorama600
When this is the view out of the window you wonder if bringing the fly rods was such a good idea.

I have however spent enough time out in nature to know that the only certainty is if you don’t go you will miss out. Simply being there is an invitation for something wonderful to happen. This is one of those, fortunately numerous, venues where nature puts on the play and all you have to do to enjoy it is buy a ticket,a place where the motivation is fishing but in the end the rewards come from much more than that.

AlbeNiceYellowAlbe with a superbly conditioned Smallmouth, taken Euro-Nymphing in the rapids.

Whilst out there this time we caught fish, a LOT of fish, something in the region of a hundred or more per man per day. We caught smallmouth and largemouth yellowfish, Kurper, Barbel (Catfish), and Mudfish. But we also saw Giant Kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Herons, Otters, Scorpions, Social Weaver birds and a mindboggling mudfish spawn which left the river black writhing sexually charged bodies.

MudfishHandOrange River mudfish, most were too preoccupied to eat a fly. Odd to look at but they fight like hell.

AlbeLargemouthA baby largemouth Yellow, when he grows up he will be a serious predator.

BarbelMike2The barbel hunted the mudfish , so Mike hunted the barbel, seems fair.

7X Challenge for FBSmallmouth Yellowfish were our primary target

We watched barbell hunting the spawning muddies and in turn we hunted the barbell. We fished dry fly with success, French/Euro-nymph techniques, mono indicators, yarn indicators, Czech style and more and caught fish on all of them. We walked, waded and swam. Fell in , or at least I did (three times), my more sure footed colleagues managed to avoid the unplanned bath.

Barbel5Barbel entered the shallowest of runs in pursuit of the spawning mudfish.

The water levels rose and fell but all in all the clarity was beyond expectation, we sight-fished much of the time, something rare on this water, and we experimented. One of the great advantages of such a place is that there are plenty of fish and no pressure. So one can play with leader setups, indicators, techniques, flies and more.

The “Three Weight Challenge”:

Before departure I was encouraged to take on this limitation, the idea? That you only fish other gear having first caught a yellowfish on an AFTMA #3 rod. For those not in the know, fishing for yellows is frequently a lot like fishing for grayling, but don’t make a mistake. These are “grayling” with an attitude and they can fight like demons, particularly in fast water. Such tackle as described above is generally viewed as seriously under gunned. Still we rose to the challenge and added our own corollary.. only 7X tippet. We didn’t intend to stick to that very long but as time passed and the fish count mounted it was hard to stop. The fine tippet provided exceptionally good sink rates on the nymphs and better bit detection such that in the end we fished much of the first day like this. Somewhere between 50 and 100 fish landed I changed up to 5x, just in case I hooked into something unstoppable. I didn’t however switch to the five weight outfit, not for the entire trip. Fishing with the lighter gear was just too pleasant. Better control and sensitivity, less weight in hand and a pleasure to fish.

I really enjoy these outings, not simply for the fish but for the solitude, the abundance of nature around one and the opportunity to experiment. Guiding for trout in the Cape Streams one always has to consider the client and with that the simplest and most pragmatic means of hooking up. Here without such pressure one is free to play, change tippets, change leader setups, experiment with different mono, coil, yarn and mud type indicators. Sharing those experiments, innovations and theories with like-minded friends in such a spectacular environment, well that simply makes it all even better. So thanks to Mike and Albe for joining me; the days have passed, the fish have all been released and I have finally got the sand out of my fishing gear, but the memories will live on, and isn’t that one of the main reasons we go fishing in the first place?

 

Join us:

Our next planned excursion for yellowfish will be a hosted trip to the Bokong River in Lesotho (at the very top of this same river system) in February, staying at a superb camp run by Tourette Fishing and aiming to get some terrestrial dry fly action on large smallmouths in this crystal clear river.

If you would like to inquire about joining us click here for some further information. Click Here

 

The Fishing Gene Blog has now received 67000 views over its lifetime, thank you to all those who read it and comment on it.

 

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

 

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Preparation

September 18, 2014

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“Preparation is never wasted” that was a lesson from my youth and unlike a great deal from that era this particular phrase has stood the test of time. I am quite sure that it applies to pretty much everything but in fishing, where there are so many variables to start with, having “all your ducks in a row” becomes highly advantageous.

On the competitive scene being sure that you have all that you need and that you have back-ups of the back-ups can be the difference between success and failure, perhaps not quite so much because of the items at hand but the lack of stress in knowing that you have done all you can to be ready.

Generally for me that means having a check list when guiding, insuring that I have the client’s details, any specific food or health requirements, the correct location from whence to collect them in the morning and all that sort of thing. It isn’t just a question of rods, reels and lines.

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Albe Nel with a nice mudfish from a previous trip

I should mention that most of these preparations have been born out of the crucible of abject failure at some point. I have in the past forgotten to take the net, forgotten to take the rods (which is even more problematic) and on one occasion forgotten in which hotel my client was residing, the latter a professional faux pas I wouldn’t care to repeat. So now there are lists and lists of lists, things don’t go in the box without being ticked off and they don’t get ticked off until they are in the box. Even then I went fishing last week without the net, although to be fair that was because, being a purely social trip to the stream, I didn’t check the list.. Live and learn.

PrepMikeMike Spinola braves the midges for some more fishing time.

Right now I am in the midst of preparing for an extended camping trip on the Orange River with clients, where we intend to target the smallmouth and perhaps largemouth yellowfish. It is a remote spot, remote in the sense that there isn’t a shopping centre for miles, in fact there is, if you will excuse the expression, “Bugger all for miles and miles”. A mistake out there and you could be doing the “David Carradine, walk through the endless desert thing.” It’s all very well being well prepared in terms of the fishing tackle, but out in the desert, excepting within the narrow expanse of the river, a fly rod and waders probably come under the heading of the two most useless things that you may wish to have with you.

So everything has to be taken along, from wading boots to water and right now my check list includes amongst other things:
58 Apples
32 Bread rolls
16 Potatoes
3 Cabbages
3 Bags of Carrots
34 Cereal Bars
44 Cheese wedges
1 Large Camembert
14 Kebabs
2 Large Jars of coffee
16 Boxes of custard
1 Large box of porridge oats
30 Packets of biscuits
6 Packets of bread mix
and something in the region of 80 other items in various volumes all contained within 8 large boxes and two coolers, and that excludes any of the fishing gear.

Of course, no matter how hard one tries something will be forgotten and you just hope that whatever it is won’t prove to be too critical. If one runs out of batteries for the headlamps then camp would be near intolerable, but if I forget the 5x tippet then we will have to make do with the 4x and it won’t be quite such a train smash.

PrepTimThe Author with a decent yellowfish taken from under the reeds

To add to the complexity we are on the cusp of spring and summer here, but the vagaries of the former season haven’t quite given way to the relative stability of the latter yet and climatic conditions are due to vary from 30°C heat to near freezing temps at different times during our stay. That makes packing all the more fraught, not to mention bulky if one doesn’t have a mind to keep things minimalistic.

Of course the concept behind preparation is twofold: Firstly to allay one’s fears as far as possible and avoid that near inevitable “Packing paranoia” which will see one pulling off the road to check in a box at the back of the truck for some insignificant item you wonder if you packed. The second part of the process is supposedly at least to insure effectiveness whilst out there in the wide blue yonder. With some planning the amount of time spent fiddling about in camp is reduced and the amount of time left for actual fishing hopefully increased, that is at least the theory.

PrepCamp

Flytying “Al Fresco”, remote camps are by necessity basic in nature.

After all of this there is no guarantee that the fish will be cooperative, we have cast our plans, checked the weather and done the trip before at the same time of year, so disappointment shouldn’t rear its ugly head but it isn’t an impossibility, and that I suppose is the rub when it comes to fishing. The barometer could plummet, the flow rates could be high or non-existent and the water could be anything from crystal to chocolate. Those things you can’t foresee which is why one tries to cover all the bases under one’s control, to minimize the risk of failure.

So there are boxes of flies, pre-manufactured leaders, indicators, braided loops. There are spare lines and spare reels, a spare pair of sunglasses, (and at my age spare reading glasses too). There are maps so we don’t get lost, permits so we don’t get arrested, sunblock so we don’t get burned, water so we don’t get dehydrated and at least a small amount of scotch so that we don’t go mad.

PrepDesert

The desert: unforgiving but at the same time spectacularly pretty.

Actually I am already questioning that last statement, we are going to all this trouble, driving for hours on both tarmac and dirt roads, burning goodness knows how much fuel so that we can eat sandy food and live in near darkness with a view to catching some fish which we have no intention of eating and for that matter aren’t really edible anyway. I suppose there is a fine dividing line between passion and insanity when you come to think of it, and we are all no doubt walking a tightrope on that front.

PrepAlbeAnother good fish for Albe, taken nymphing in the rapids

Perhaps the best reflection of such a mission came from an indigenous resident alongside the river on a previous trip. Having watched us all fly-cast from dawn to dusk for days on end, this itinerant, and relatively uneducated goatherd posed the following question: “Hoekom julle slaan de water so?”, translation.. “Why do you beat the water so?” Not a bad question really is it?

 

Note: “The Fishing Gene Blog” has now seen over 50,000 views since its inception, not a lot by some standards but a milestone none the less, a milestone that motivated me to write this when I should be checking the lists and packing the boxes. Thanks to all those readers and followers who keep me at it..

Fair Weather and Foul

June 10, 2013

FairWeatherHead

Fair weather and foul.

What’s that thing from the US Postal Service? That motto about “rain or snow?”.

Well apparently it isn’t an official motto, but inscribed on The James Farley Post office in New York City are the words:

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

It sounds pretty impressive, but then they actually nicked the phrase from Herodotus, describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers. Yes we all thought that that was invented by the Pony Express but apparently the Persians came up with the idea well before Charlton Heston and Rhonda Fleming.

USPS

Anyway I digress, the point is that I suspect that the same immortal words could be applied to fly anglers, with the useful adaption of “appointed rounds” to something along the lines of “pursuing fish” . Living and fishing in South Africa I get to fish mostly in nice balmy weather, it has its drawbacks low water, clear blue skies, spooky trout and nine inch wide shadows from 7x tippet but mostly it is pleasant out there. Except not now, now is winter, now the rivers are closed and in flood, now the temperatures have plummeted, now there is snow on the mountains, now it is actually pretty unpleasant and the only options are stillwater fishing.

In fact the stillwater fishing here is generally far better in the cold winter months but perhaps many people don’t realise that winter here, on the southern tip of the African Continent is pretty much like winter most places, lots of rain, high winds, and biting chill.

So apart from tying different flies, rigging different lines and gearing up the boat for launch, it also means searching through the cupboards for the thermal nickers and all that stuff to ward of hypothermia.

Matroosberg

It so happens that the weather forecast for the high country was for rain on Saturday and sunny skies on the Sunday, and it would have seemed an obvious choice to head out on Sunday, but alas that wasn’t on the cards. My very good mate and regular boat partner Mike had other commitments for the Sunday so it was go on Saturday and deal with the weather. After all we are men not mice right? A bit of rain never heart anyone after all; we are supposed to be outdoorsmen, intrepid adventurers, to go behind beyond what no one has gone behind beyond before and all off that. This is fishing, you can’t let the weather dictate what you do, just get out there and fish. Anyway we all know that the fishing is often best when the weather is at its worst, at least on stillwaters. If the quality of the fishing is in inverse proportion to the horror of the weather we were in for a high ol’ time.

SmartPhone

So it was a case of digging deep in the cupboards for the wet weather gear and girding up the loins for some foul weather fishing. In the end Mike couldn’t make it anyway (there is some karma coming his way for that no doubt) so I drove the two hours to Ceres on my own, lashing rain, puddles and some frighteningly blinding spray from the trucks on the road. I met up with Albe Nel at his home in Ceres and we headed for the water in the pre-dawn darkness. The fancy little LED screen in the car boasting that the temperatures had risen to nearly 8°C, positively tropical for this part of the world during the winter months.

At the lake we were greeted by friends who were staying out there in the fishing hut and were most grateful of an early morning cuppa and the shelter of the porch whilst we donned waders, fleeces, rain jackets, hats and whole nine yards, knowing that we were to be sitting in the downpour for the entire day. The boat was inflated and launched without mishap and although things looked more than a little grim, with low cloud, lashing rain and a moderate and bitterly chill wind we were committed now. Plus it has to be said that I had a new reel and a couple of new flylines with which I was desperately keen to experiment.

GoneFishing2

The first drift of the day was a rather torrid affair, we haven’t boat fished for months and were out of practise, the wayward breezes switched direction constantly and the rain lashed down. The boat spun about and refused to settle into a nice neat track but right at the end of that first drift we hit a fish. A bright silver triploid stockie from last season, fit as a fiddle, feeding close up against the bank.

The sun didn’t come out but it felt a little as though it had now that the blank had been avoided. Outside of fishing circles it is a little recognised fact that although mathematically the difference between nought and two and one and two is the same, in fishing the former is an order of magnitude more significant that the latter and it is always an uplifting moment to get that monkey off your back.

We rowed back to repeat the drift, pushing the boat into the waves with long pulls on the oars, the rain at times now near horizontal. On the second drift we were a little better organised and hit fish with some regularity. Both fishing intermediate lines, Albe’s sinking a little faster than my “Hover Line”, remarkably all the fish took small nymphs fished on the top dropper, I suppose that for whatever reason that was what they wanted.

So the day progressed, it rained, we caught a few fish, it rained more and we caught a few more fish. We would occasionally take what my American clients euphemistically refer to as a “Comfort Break”, which mostly involved walking about to stretch sore and stiff muscles, lighting a fag out of the full force of the gale and perhaps taking a pee, risking exposure of one’s nether regions to the rapidly dropping temperatures.

Trying to undo waders and coat zips with frozen fingers reminded me of a quotation about the most difficult part of climbing Mt Everest. I don’t recall the commentator’s name but the response was “taking a piss with a three inch dick in nine inches of clothing”, we weren’t exactly at camp two on the Lhotse traverse but it darn well felt like it.

Snowflakes

For one all too brief spell the weak winter sun broke through the clouds and we basked in radiant heat for all of five minutes before the weather closed in again, but we persevered. At one point Albe got to three fish more than me,(during the day we had never been more than a fish or two away from equality), so I switched to a faster intermediate line and immediately nabbed two fish to bring the scores near level once again.

It is interesting that one has to pick out the right depth to be fishing and even in these torrid conditions and the chore of tying knots with frigid fingers , good technique dictates that one is prepared to adapt and making the right moves pays dividends in the end.

We pushed things too late, the clouds lifted a tad to reveal snowfalls on the high peaks around the lake, not more than a few hundred meters above us, it just served to make us feel more chill than we already were. The boat was filled with rainwater, every single thing from fly boxes to boat bags were completely drenched and by the time we packed up it had got dark. We just chucked everything into the back of Albe’s truck and decided to sort it all out in the light and relative warmth of his garage when we got back to town. The air temperature by now had dropped to 5°C.

It was an act of insanity really to fish so late, we had caught plenty of fish, more than thirty for the day between us, but I suppose when you are fishermen out fishing and the fish are biting it is just a little too much to simply walk away. Anyway what’s a little hypothermia between friends?

SoftHackleBanner

I still had to venture out into the darkness and downpour to open two gates on the way home and if I can find the guy who invented the heater in Albe’s truck I might well be prepared to perform and unnatural act as gratitude for his foresight.

Many thanks to Wendy, Craig, Isaac, David and Sarah for allowing us to occupy the hut during our breaks and for plying us with hot coffee to stave off the chill.

It wasn’t the most auspicious start to the winter season, but we can’t complain about the fishing, having spent the night at home under two duvets and a couple of blankets my core temperature has returned to near normal. My body still feels a bit bruised and battered and there is a pile of wet fishing gear and a filthy boat to be sorted out but the sun is shining outside and in a week or two I shall be ready to try again. I suppose there is a fine dividing line between madness and passion and I am hoping that perhaps there might be a little sunshine on the next trip. A few more days like this and my body will lose all its pigmentation, rather like those weird creatures that live out their lives in the chill dank of deep caves, but I know that whatever the weather, it isn’t going to stop me wetting a line and I figure that is the way things should be.

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A Question.

June 21, 2012

Can you catch eight or so fish and honestly claim that it wasn’t a good day’s fishing?

That probably sounds a dreadfully egotistical question and more so if the answer is yes, but actually on a recent trip to a local lake the answer was undoubtedly in the affirmative, I did catch eight fish and no it wasn’t a good day..

It is pretty much accepted that most of us go through various phases in our fly fishing lives. The sequence varies slightly from author to author but the general list looks something like this.

To catch a fish
To catch lots of fish
To catch big fish
To catch a specific fish
To catch fish in the way that you would like to.
To catch a specific fish in the way that you would like to.
The list probably goes on with variations of more species or specific fish such as trying to catch “Ol Bert” who lives next to the third pylon on the road bridge and has become a local legend. The permutations are endless really but pretty much all of us are in a “phase”.

Now I am going to add another, to catch a fish such that you think at least that you understand why you caught it. There is something soulful about doing this, even if it is a figment of one’s imagination. One of the reasons I don’t like to pump fish stomachs too often, the contents can ruin what was up to that point the perfectly happy illusion that I had cracked the code.

So for example you flip a perfect drift over a rising trout and he ignores your offering, you change patterns and still the fish simply rises to a natural next to your imitation. You persevere and notice some flying ants on the rocks. You switch to an ant pattern, the fish takes on the first pass and when you finally land it you pump its stomach only to find ants, ants and more ants, does piscatorial life get better than that?

There is a certain wholesomeness to that scenario, a closing of a circle, a combination of dexterity, skill, observation and deduction that takes fly fishing far above the level of throwing out a woolly bugger and dragging it back. Sort of Zen Buddhism versus WWF wrestling.

Just recently I visited a productive lake which I have fished three times now in close succession. Normally I would be drifting it with my mate and regular boat partner Mike, I have to take him as he owns half of the boat and will cough up for some of the petrol, but this time around he was tied up with work projects and unable, at the last minute, to make it.

Missed you Mike.

So I set off alone a two and a half hour drive arriving at the water in the pre-dawn, air temperature 3°C and set about pumping up the boat and sorting out the gear. Launching was only moderately more challenging than with two people and I was afloat and heading for the first drift within forty minutes or so.

My view and Mike’s view of boat fishing a lake is that one should first drift to find the fish, the wind was variable with some calm spells and it took a long while to locate even one fish. That taken on a hare’s ear nymph dragged behind the boat whilst changing position so it didn’t really count.

By lunch I had only that one fish despite flailing madly, changing lines from Di5 up to slow intermediate and back.  It is times like this that you get to truly value the benefits of a good boat partner and I am already realising that I shall have to apologise about the jibe in respect of owning half the boat. With two of you fishing, different sink rate lines, different flies and covering twice as much water is should be easier to find a concentration of fish, indeed I would suggest logarithmically easier. On my own I hadn’t found more than that odd one.

Then I hooked another fish trolling the line behind me as I moved, it really isn’t cricket to catch fish like this and again to my way of thinking it didn’t really count , but at least I figured that the fish perhaps wanted something moving faster, or shallower or both.

I then hooked yet another trout whilst on the move, why would a trout attack an orange blob fly moving at 15 Kms an hour? It didn’t make sense and finally with a very rapid retrieve I hooked and landed my first “legitimate fish”, a hen that poured roe all over me and the boat when I landed her.

This now raises yet another question, you see many of the fish we have taken in the past week or two have been bright silver, rounder in aspect and more salmon like, showing none of the expected colouration and gravidity that might normally be seen in the early winter months. I strongly suspect that those silver fish are indeed triploids, part of a stocking years back who are now unaffected by spawning urges.

I landed a few more fish on either orange blob flies or red and green boobies which are in fact a pretty fair imitation of a dragonfly nymph when retrieved at speed., but in all honesty I never quite got with the program. I didn’t have any working hypothesis as to why I caught when I did or failed when I didn’t.

When I got home that female trout was with me, she had been badly hooked and was bleeding so was put down and brought her home for supper.  Her stomach contents? Four small boxy dragon fly nymphs no more than a 10 mm in length, each as though a sibling of the others, not exactly a suggestion of a feeding frenzy.

So here are my thoughts, I suspect that the dam is currently harbouring two distinct populations of fish, the sexually active ones who are hardly feeding and responding more from aggression than hunger and the triploids, which I failed to find this trip, feeding happily somewhere out there in the watery expanse.

So I ended up with eight odd fish to the boat and I was none the wiser by the end of the day than when I had started. That is annoying, we generally start out without too much of a clue but gradually find fish, hone in on the correct depth and then suitable flies such that we have worked out the formula for the day. This time I didn’t manage that and the numbers of fish didn’t ameliorate my disappointment.

It isn’t egotistical to suggest that this wasn’t the best of days, sure a few fish in the boat makes it seem worthwhile but in the end I learned very little. It has to be said that I would far rather catch feeding fish than purely aggressive ones and if this was a victory is was to my mind a little bit of a hollow one.

Never mind, next time I am out I shall have Mike as a wingman and we can perhaps hunt down those triploids who are behaving a little more normally, go back to imitative patterns and kid ourselves that we have worked it out. Just so long as neither of us decides to check the stomach contents and spoil the day.

Fish, Fish, Fish.

May 18, 2012

The “How Small a Trout” Every day in May Challenge.. May 18th  Fish Fish Fish.

Last winter my regular boat partner, Mike Spinola, a good friend and I suppose something of a protégé were fishing our favourite local winter fishing lake. We approach things from a slightly competitive viewpoint, not that we are competing against one another, I think that we both have the good grace to wish fortune on the other. No we have both competed at high level and lessons learned from that dictate to a degree the way that we fish.

So the rule is: First find the fish, then the depth and then the fly, it is a mantra that has been told and retold on these pages and others for years. I suppose that one could argue that if you don’t know the depth or the fly how are you going to find the fish? Well it works in much the same way as looking up the spelling of a word in a dictionary, how do you find it if you can’t spell it?

So you have some working idea and when it comes to drift boat fishing what you do is you keep drifting and you keep changing sink rates of the lines until you find trout. If you are smart you and your partner fish different lines to increase the chances. Now of course we also have a fairly routine means of establishing if we have “found ‘em”. One fish isn’t enough that is just good fortune. A single fish without more in close proximity doesn’t count, A brown trout counts less than a rainbow in this game as they are so frequently solitary that hooking a brown, nice as that is, doesn’t offer too much of a clue. No when you find them you both go solid at once, or you get too hits in consecutive casts, or at least follows or bumps which indicate a concentration of your quarry, occasionally you even hook two fish at the same time.

There we were making the first drift of the day, usually designed to be a long one depending on the wind to settle things down and get organised.

After about half an hour I get a fish, but nothing else happens and we decide to move. Mike gets a fish, but again no follow through with any more and we move again. Then we are on a drift into a particular bay, maybe fifty metres from the shore when I go solid into what seems like a very energetic trout only to find that I have hooked a rainbow on one fly and a brownie on the other at the same time. Two fish at a time on anything other than stockie bashing waters is rare, two species, well that’s pretty special.

Mike casts and gets two rainbows, I cast and get a rainbow, Mike re-casts and gets two more rainbows, and then another two and then another two. I swear he caught eight fish in four casts whilst I caught four. In short we were “Hammering ‘Em”. Twelve fish in the boat for the price of a total of eight casts and this isn’t a particularly well stocked piece of water.

We eventually drifted too shallow and turned the boat about to go over the productive water again, and the wind changed. It is a common occurrence on this particular lake, with high mountains all around the wind is fickle both in strength and direction.  We drifted into that bay over and over and over and picked up the odd fish, in fact four more fish for the rest of the day. We simply couldn’t find them again. But when we had found them the first time is it was very much a case of fish , fish , fish, fish, fish, fish… It was just silly to be honest. Did we learn much from that? I am not sure but it certainly convinced us once again that although you may not find fish in those concentrations that often, you at least can find them, and when you do it is play time. So don’t settle for a fish, aim at least for fish, fish , fish. You may not get there but it won’t hurt your chances of getting the odd loner anyway so you have little if anything to lose. On the days that you do find them and the wind behaves itself, well you are in for a red letter outing. Winter is coming and shortly we are going to be back out there in that boat looking for Fish, Fish and more Fish. 🙂

A little (mis)Adventure.

February 23, 2011

When the going gets tough the tough get going, or at least go fishing.

Now things around here have been a little slow on the fishing front, it’s mid summer with bright blue skies and hot as Hades, the water is low and the fish have been further educated by another half season of catch and release fishing.

The younger fish are just completing their degrees in artificial fly identification and the larger and older ones seem to have specialized for their Masters with theses including “Artificial fly avoidance”, “Drag: tell tales signs if imminent danger” and “Auditory Signals of Angler Approach…an overview”

If the sarcasm appears to indicate a level of frustration, well yes you are quite right it does, because the fishing has been difficult and slow and it’s all getting just a bit much.

Breaking the monotony:

In a gallant effort to break the monotony Mike and myself set off last weekend on a trip in search of some carp. It is an experiment that had been some time in the planning and further delayed by various inconveniences best left unmentioned but mostly to do with earning a living and keeping loved ones happy. Still we finally got a clear day and headed off to the Berg River for a drift down a section never previously visited by us but known to contain at least some carp.

The start went well, we met up at a garage along the way and Mike, as with all good fishing partners is eminently reliable and so was there on time as always. We did the usual ritual of allowing ourselves to be ripped off to the tune of 16 bucks for a cup of what only the marketing department at Wimpy could refer to as a large coffee. Luke warm slightly discoloured milk with about as much caffeine punch as a baby’s bottle. When you get right down to it the servings wouldn’t be considered large by any creature of greater dimension than a hamster and the caffeine content probably wouldn’t be sufficient to wake up the same rodent after consumption of half a wine gum.

No matter we were going fishing so we swallowed the stuff, washed down the odd hot cross bun with the unappetizing contents of our paper cups and set off to the first stop where we were to drop one vehicle. All went well, we checked the portage out of the river to insure that we would be able to exit with the boat later in the day and headed upstream.

Some fifteen odd Kilometers upstream we were kindly afforded the chance to park the second vehicle in a pleasant car park only metres from the water and unloaded and inflated the boat.  Things were looking up, and whilst being taken for a ride on the coffee front we got to park our car for free so I suppose the two balanced out to some degree. Thanks to the people at Riverside for their kindness.

We hit the water and drifted down a section before rigging up the gear, the water was far clearer than we had anticipated which on the one hand was very encouraging, the river looking for all the world like a New Zealand stream or a Western American River and we were filled with hope of success.

What a glorious piece of water, high mountains surrounded us and not a soul in sight as we tripped along in the reasonable current, a water flow that was the result of the outflow of the relatively new Berg River Dam. There had to be fish in here surely? It was just looking so very very good. On spotting the first carp or two we stopped and rigged up, spending various amounts of time in different spots Czech nymphing and swinging wet flies in the hope of hooking one of these monsters, all to no avail.

We have had success catching carp at other venues.

It seemed that perhaps the clear water was to our disadvantage as the fish that we spotted were spooked within moments of us getting close enough to see them.

 

We did see carp, in fact in reasonable numbers in some parts but the story was always the same, get anywhere near close enough to make a cast and they would be on the run. I suppose that we were beginning to doubt our prospects and despite catching a few small mouth bass we remained carpless.

Methods that had worked before failed us on this trip.

 

 

Then we got to a large weir which was clearly labeled with “keep out” signage but for one rapid water shoot with indicators that this was the legal and preferred route of canoeists heading downstream. It looked a bit tight but the alternative was to lug the boat around the obstacle in a tiresome portage. So Mike, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor took the camera and a few other bits and bobs out of the boat and walked around whilst I eyed the prospects of surviving the drop on the sluice.

A little (mis) adventure.

 

When Mike was in position to film the event I lined up the boat and heading down the river rowing backwards I hit the rushing water of the drop, all went well for the first second or so but then the boat slewed around, there was no room to adjust with the oars and the rubber duck got stuck between the walls. Every effort to release it from the concrete’s grip would simply allow it to be pulled further into the back eddy, swamping the craft which had it not been inflatable would have sunk for sure.

Finally after much battling I managed to use my body as a sea anchor and dragged the boat out, soaking wet and sitting up to the gunnels in water. The inside of the craft awash with floating rod tubes and the like. Still it was a hot day and I warmed and dried fast and was no worse for my adventure, still though no success on the fishing front to speak of.

The boat shipped a bit of water during the escapade.

 

 

The river narrowed in places and once or twice we were forced to shoot rapids overgrown with trees. At one point a hidden branch came into sight too late for any structured avoidance tactics and I was forced into the position of simply shouting “Duck” as we whizzed through the foliage. Mike was a tad slower than I and caught the bow straight in the chest, knocking him overboard backwards and hooking up the lines in the trees. Reels screamed as Mike’s head bobbed in and out of view above the choppy surface and by the time the was some semblance of control restored we had metres of fly lines running up and down the river and wrapped about the branches. Now Mike was soaked as well, but I figured it served him right for laughing back there at the weir.. Karma Karma

We persevered, regularly spotting and spooking carp without ever really having a decent chance at one, Mike caught a bass or two and then we figured that it was time to put in some effort to exit the river before dark.

The river obviously meanders more than the road so the estimated distance to be covered was probably closer to twenty kilometers than fifteen. We rowed and rowed as the sun sank gently behind the hills and reached the car after a portage detour caused by picking the wrong channel and a few more close encounters of the tree kind. It was almost dark as we hauled out and reaching the car found that our gear, carefully packed away in a waterproof Ziploc bag was drenched. Mike’s cellphone swam forlornly behind the plastic window, for all the world looking like one of those goldfish you used to win at fairgrounds. I also found that during one of the semi arboreal incidents my flip down reading glasses had been whisked from the peak of my cap and on taking stock we found that we were minus two cellphones, one alarm remote for the house, had two soaked wallets and a damp car key. Oh my God the car key, without that and without comms we were going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without so much as dry clothes..  You can say what you like about Toyota but that key worked like a dream and the submersion didn’t seem to have affected it at all. Who can deny the power of prayer after that?

We eventually packed up the boat, put on dry clothes and returned to pick up Mike’s car still parked in the dark upstream. Delayed by roadworks for another twenty minutes we headed home well after eight.

All of this for two or three small bass, hardly seems worth it but the situation on the trout streams had driven us to such measures and whilst we didn’t have any great success we had a good day, got some exercise and are already planning another adventure. I figure that in fishing sometimes you have to get out there and make the news. If we keep going, and more importantly survive the attempts, at some point surely we will find some decent fishing and when we do I am not going to write about it. I figure we will have deserved the chance to keep any finds secret for a while, but for now we still have to find one.

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

 

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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.