Posts Tagged ‘Sharland Urquhart’


November 12, 2014


An old family story has my mother chastising my (at the time little) sister, over her apparent disparaging commentary in respect of a small boy who shared her class at primary school. According to my sister, this boy apparently lacked any skill with regards mathematics or some such academic subject. “Darling, you must understand that everyone is good at something” say’s mother, to which my sister apparently replied “Well I should think that he is good at digging holes, because his granny is always taking him to the beach”..

Now I have always tried to hang on to my mother’s message, there is talent all around us and we don’t necessarily get to choose at what we are talented, there is to my mind a high likelihood that at least part of it is genetic. Actually the very reason that this blog is called “The Fishing Gene”, because I have always loved to fish, no matter that I cannot see any direct relationship with a recent ancestry which appears almost entirely devoid of piscatorial interest. But the point is that there is talent surrounding us and within all of us, frequently we don’t see it, not in others and as importantly not in ourselves.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book: Outliers, one of the themes is that to be exceptional at something one needs to spend 10,000 hours at it, all well and good but it doesn’t escape me that you are highly unlikely to put in that amount of time without passion.

Certainly those , to my mind, tedious “Britain’s Got Talent”, “America’s Got Talent”, “X-factor” and similar shows have a place, and they do afford gifted people to show off their skills, but they focus entirely on the show business, music industry sorts of things, as though that was all there was as a measure for excellence. In the end I can’t get past the idea that it is more about whether Simon Cowell and his ilk can make some money out of your skills than whether the world might appreciate those talents.

Here in South Africa we seem to have developed a near paranoia about our own value, the stigma of the Apartheid years, the vilification from the world at large, the economic downturns and more have left many with the feeling that “imports are better”, that “other people and other nations” have skills and that we should sit back as the whipping boys of the global stage.

So it was more than a little refreshing this past weekend to be amongst a number of truly talented people, certainly only a microcosm of what talent lies about us but at least a sample. A sample of excellence that is world class, people who need not bow their heads in front of any international audience and who, to be quite frank the rest of the world needs to know a bit more about. Not because there are no other talented people , they are I suspect on every street corner but because the media control who you hear about and who not. Because those TV shows only give a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg in terms of skills that abound.

OpenGardenGarden Open Day in aid of Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust

The event was an open garden day in the upmarket suburb of Bishop’s Court in Cape Town, the garden an absolute picture, good enough to be appreciated by even as accomplished a plant killer as myself. I may well have talents, but green fingers don’t feature amongst them, as generations of desiccated, abused and yellowed vegetation in my garden can attest.

The garden in question is the proud creation of Sharland Urquhart, and it was opened up for the day to raise funds for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust. An organization providing assistance to South Africa’s and quite possibly Africa’s best centre of paediatric care.


But Sharland’s talents aren’t limited to gardening and landscaping, she has the ability to collect around her some of the most talented and interesting people you may care to meet.

So from that day here is my own “South Africa’s got talent” offering:  all these people who participated in the day and gave of their time and profits to the cause of the Hospital Trust.


 Tom Sutcliffe: Actually it is Dr Tom Sutcliffe but he wouldn’t tell you that unless you knew. Tom is in terms of South African fly fishing “the John Gierach of the South”.

TomBooks Books by Tom Sutcliffe

He virtually single-handedly put South African Fly fishing and South African Fly fishing writing on the map. He was party to the country’s very first dedicated fly fishing retail outlet “The Fly Fisherman” in Pietermartizberg and now has a library shelf of very readable and informative titles to his name. Including “My Way with a Trout”, “Shadows on a Stream Bed” , “Hunting Trout”. Sadly some of his books are out of print, but you may still be able to rustle up a copy on line if you are prepared to pay for them. But on top of being an exceptional author and medical doctor Tom is also an accomplished artist, capturing the very essence of trout and rivers in lovingly fashioned water colours and he still finds the time to manage a blog/newsletter on line on a weekly basis. You can link up with Tom via his newsletter/website at

Tom Watercolour

Tom Sutcliffe Watercolour


Tom Sutcliffe drawing of Rhodes


Gordon van der Spuy: Actor, fly fisher and fly tyer, Gordon is one of the few who have the patience to spend hours creating the perfectly balanced salmon fly. Actually if you met him you wouldn’t believe that he could sit still that long. His talent and passion is only ouweighed by his absolute enthusiasm for all the things that he does. Gordon, along with Ed Herbst was giving fly tying demonstrations during the course of the day.


Sandy Griffiths: I hadn’t come across Sandy’s work previously but it really is quite exceptional, Sandy doesn’t only make pewter objects but equally is again a writer with several books about pewter work to her name.

SandySandalsSandyNotebookSandyCandleThe sheer variety of Sandy’s work is remarkable.


As said, I don’t know a lot about Sandy’s work other than this one day, but that was enough for me to need to own a piece of it, I figure that is recommendation enough. Book titles include: “Easy Pewter Projects”, “Pewter It” and “Pewter Impressions”.

You can find out more about Sandy’s work and books on her website at and you can obtain her books from Kalahri

Stephen Boshoff: Stephen is a town planner or something of that ilk in his “real life” but actually that is simply a front for a man who is far more at home being anally retentive about wood.

BoshoffSignageEven the signage says something about Stephen’s Talents

You won’t believe that Steve can do with wood and thankfully he ploughs much of that talent into wood that has a fly fishing theme. Cane Rods and wooden nets, fly boxes and even chest packs, his attention to detail is frightening to us mere mortals.


Cane Rod with Cape Disa engraved butt plate

Crystal clear wraps on the rods and even a model that incorporates the reel in the design for better balance. You can purchase a custom built cane rod from Stephen for a fraction of what you might pay to better known makers but chances are you are likely to “get in on the ground floor” of an investment because I am quite sure that his work is going to become internationally recognized and cherished in time.


Steve’s remarkably innovative “Centre Axis” Rod design


Chris Bladen: Dental technician turned Sculptor. I can still remember the days when Chris was making jewelry in the centrifugal devices used for casting dental implants and false teeth. I am not sure if he was supposed to be doing that, there may well be a little old lady out there somewhere with a trout secretly embedded in the back of her dentures.

ChrisDoradoBronze Dorado and Flying Fish

Another of those people for whom attention to detail isn’t just a fleeting thought but a way of life. Now Chris is internationally acclaimed for his work in bronze, with a particular emphasis on fish. When it comes to fish sculpture I doubt that Chris has a peer, from schools of flying fish to life sized leaping sailfish his work is simply beyond compare.


Giant Trevally

That Chris studies fish, catches fish (on fly of course), and watches fish is immediately apparent in the form of his works. These art pieces capture the very spirit of the wild, every sinew straining, every muscle taught, movement in a static object, simply wonderful. Chris has pioneered a lot of patina techniques which give his creations life-like colour and already he creates the trophies for the Del Brown Invitational Tournament in the Florida Keys. You can find out more about Chris’s work on his website at

ChrisTarponLeaping Tarpon

Red Cross Children’s Hospital: Finally the Doctors and Nurses of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, they are equally talented, world class to be frank and desperately underfunded, which I figure was the point of the open garden day in the first place. Talent isn’t talent unless it is shared, who can question if the beauty of Sharland Urquhart’s immaculate garden, Stephen Boshoff’s hand crafted rods, Chris Bladen’s Sculpture’s, Sandy Griffiths’ pewter feathers or a Tom Sutcliffe’s water colours will ever outweigh that of the face of a smiling child who was sick and is now well?



Talented people, helping talented doctors put smiles back on children’s faces.

I doubt that this is much of a list of South African Talent, but if this amount of skill, dedication and passion can be found in one exquisite garden on a Saturday afternoon, who knows what lies out there?

I know that there are still lots of other people like Mario Geldenhuys (rods and nets), Steven Dugmore (Cane rods), Deon Stamner (Wooden nets), Peter Brigg (Author) and many more who have passion and talent in abundence.

At least it’s a start, a start in recognizing that talent is everywhere, not just amongst others but amongst your countrymen and women, amongst your friends and if you look closely I strongly suspect you may well find some within yourself.

I doubt that there is any higher calling than doing what you do well, whether you are simply an exceptional father, mother, partner, fireman, metal worker or doctor, talent is within us all, and talent, to be of value should be shared.

So here’s to talent, to the skill and passion that enriches our lives and the lives of those around us.


The Great East Cape

March 31, 2013

Great EastCape Head

The Great East Cape … The Wild Trout Association Festival in Rhodes.

High up in the far North Eastern corner of the Cape Province, on the edge of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho sits the tiny village or Rhodes, nestled in the hills of the Southern Drakensberg range. It’s an isolated spot, serviced by dirt roads and protected by the natural barriers of high and often snow-capped peaks, well off what most people might consider to be the “beaten track”.

The Great EastCape
A little Easter Weekend Graphic frivolity.

If you are one for night life, theatres, entertainments of various kinds or even a reliable supply of electricity then it isn’t going to be your cup of tea. This is somewhere where children still arrive at school on horseback, it is a place of rugged 4 X 4 trucks, poor cellphone reception, and a shop that may or may not have the most basic of foodstuffs depending on the latest interval in a shelf restocking program that involves a lengthy drive to the Aliwal North several hours away. An unpredictable spot where the weather can turn on a sixpence and one might experience baking sun or freezing hail pretty much any month of the year. A proclaimed conservation area surrounded by remote sheep farms and not a lot else. Well not a lot else unless you are a trout fisherman, because if you are, the place boasts more running trout water than you can shake a rod at.


If this picture doesn’t make your mouth water, you aren’t a fly fisherman.

The headwaters of the mighty Orange River, South Africa’s largest river, flow down the slopes all around the village and the Wild Trout Association, a conglomeration of riparian land owners who allow angling on the waters that flow through their farms provides access to literally hundreds of kilometres of trout stream. The Bell, Sterkspruit, Bokspruit, Riflespruit, Klopperhoekspruit and other smaller streams all meander in an extensive network of prime fishing water bringing the rain waters and snowmelt down the valleys to join the Kraai River and ultimately the Orange.

Sharland Urquhart nets a fish on the Bokspruit.

In the summer months yellowfish move up into the highlands to spawn and all year round trout inhabit the clear cool waters, thriving an impressive food chain of various aquatic insects and breeding prolifically in the extensive redds of clean gravel. It is a trout’s and therefore by default an angler’s paradise.


Shadows and Clear Water on the “Bok”.

Each year the WTA (Wild Trout Association) hold their annual Fly Fishing Festival, a laid back and yet in some ways intense get together for those of piscatorial bent, where the talk is of fishing, fishing and more fishing. Although conditions can vary dramatically from frigid downpours to baking droughts the scope of the angling generally means that there is still good water to be had, irrespective of climatic conditions. One can sit in the pub at Walkerbouts, WTA guide in one hand and a glass of the good stuff in the other and select your fishing as one might select a fine wine from an expansive cellar.


Morne Liebenberg plays a fish on a very low flowing Bell River.

If the waters are low, as they were this year, one might venture further down river in search of flow, at times of high water the feeder streams high in the mountains could be the ticket. This year the wandering thunder showers which affect the valleys in a rather aberrant manner, caused some streams to become murky whilst others flowed clear. One river might be near high and dry whilst just down the road and alternative catchment will be flowing smoothly over its green hued bedrock.

In fact some anglers ventured a good way downstream to the Kraai to target some remaining yellowfish which had yet to retreat from their summer haunts in the high-country whilst others chose to wade the gin clear waters of the Bokspruit which held so many fish that nymphing became the norm simply to avoid the constant re-drying of soaked dry flies.

There is something about rural life which is as appealing as it is amusing.

All in all approximately forty anglers converged on the village to participate, there was some late night fly tying around the pub tables, a lot of idle chatter about flies and fly rods and some really great fishing.

Whether you choose to participate in the festival one year, a great introduction to the region’s angling, or simply plan to add a visit to your bucket list Rhodes and its surrounds should be in your fishing diary somewhere. Fishing guides are provided to those in need during the festival and outside of that Fred Steynberg and Tony Kietzman both provide guiding to visiting anglers. To put a South African spin on a popular book title, it really should be one of the “Fifty places to fish before you braai”.. 🙂

Contact information:

Books available from the author of this blog from Smashwords


How Small a Trout?

November 12, 2012

How Small a Trout:

The title comes from a quotation courtesy of one of my favourite authors, John Gierach:

“Maybe your stature as a fisherman isn’t determined by how big a trout you can catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed”

It also happens to be the name of one of my favoured fly fishing blogs “How Small a Trout” at

But the point was brought home to me on a remarkable day this past weekend where I was able to actually push both ends of the size envelope within the same day, from a particularly large brown to a tiny and totally wild rainbow within hours and not more than a kilometre or two of one another.

I had received a most gracious invitation from Sharland to join her at Fizantekraal Lodge in the Du Toit’s Kloof mountains. The lodge is top notch, with exquisite views, five star cuisine, and of course in this instance most pleasant and entertaining company. The real attraction though, at least for those of us in possession of “The Fishing Gene” is that it boasts three small trout lakes and a section of pristine trout stream headwater. A tiny, distinctly bushed in and closely wooded top section of the Kraalstroom River.

The lake fishing isn’t really my thing, I would have to admit, the dams are too small and the surroundings just a tad too contrived to really sit well with someone who would far rather be on a river or a large expanse of water, bobbing in a boat perhaps or searching the shallows in the hope of finding feeding fish. However on previous visits I had already established a Modus Operandi which makes the fishing considerably more entertaining than might otherwise be the case and Sharland and I have pretty much perfected the technique.

The thing is with these small clear dams and large fish sight fishing is more than simply possible, it is virtually assured. The impoundments despite their small stature contain some really rather large and not entirely stupid fish. They have been stocked mostly in relatively small sizes and grown on without artificial subsidy of diet, they have equally grown more than a little wary of anglers and eschew pretty much any fly or lure that most people would consider standard fare for the lake angler. Woolly Buggers and such are frequently followed but ultimately ignored and the dams therefore provide a wonderful possibilities for experimentation.


Even with 7X tippet and #18 dries, refusals prove all too common.

It was on a visit a year or two back when , returning from the stream and under strict instructions from my hostess “Not to be late for lunch” that I passed one of the dams carrying my #3wt stream outfit, rigged with 7X tippet and a tiny #18 dry fly. The story is told in full in a previous blog “Big Fish on fine tippets” .

In short having sighted a fish on my way back to the lodge I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a cast, knowing , or at least mostly knowing that you weren’t supposed to throw such tiny flies on such fine tippet at 2 to 3 kilo trout. It isn’t done; but of course I did it and landed a superb fish. In the following hours and on into the next day we repeated the trick over and over. The fish would be very tippet shy and entirely avoid any moving subsurface pattern but would take well presented tiny parachutes.. It was tremendous fun and afforded the chance to push the limits of what was possible.

In fact those experiments worked so well that on this trip I didn’t venture to include anything heavier than a three weight rod in my gear. I caught some great fish in similar size ranges and a number of “tiddlers” which had entered the lower dams from the river over time. In fact I rarely fished a nymph at all for the duration of my stay but in the late morning I was returning to the lodge again, feeling more than a little dehydrated as it had become really rather hot and I thought that I would enjoy a drink before a planned trip to fish the river in the afternoon.

On the way back there was a sense of De ja vu when there appeared in the shallowest section of the dam a very large fish which boiled at something on the surface. I unhooked the dry on its gossamer tippet, trying to stay hidden behind a large grass tuft I flipped the dry out onto the surface not a few feet from the bank and waited. The trout appeared from behind the grass, a massive brownie, spots showing clearly in the sunshine and a simply huge head, with a seriously kyped jaw, broke the surface and engulfed the fly. It was a heart stopping moment, the mouth was so large that I could easily imagine pulling the fly right out of it and hooking nothing but thin air. Really, it seemed impossible to hook up, as though one had tossed the fly into a fire bucket and was hoping to catch up on the sides. I delayed the strike, lifting firmly but not overly quickly and the next moment there was solid resistance and a huge thrashing of foam on the surface as the trout felt the prick of the hook.

To start with it seemed the huge fish had failed to notice that it was actually attached to the line, he would shake his head from time to time but mostly just moseyed along a few feet out, hardly bothering to take more evasive action. I applied all the pressure I dared, pretty well as much pressure as I could with a #2 weight rod anyway and provoked a considerably more violent reaction, letting line whizz off the reel on occasion and trusting that in the end I would tire the fish sufficiently to land him.  After much delicate toing and froing, alternatively taking in and then rapidly giving back line I netted the fish. It is incredible what can be done on fine tippet if one has a sufficiently forgiving (soft actioned) rod and equally soft hands, ready to give line when necessary. Quite possibly the biggest brown trout I have ever caught, the kudos of the moment ameliorated slightly by the artificial surrounds but equally enhanced by the ultrafine gear that was being used. (#2wt Sage ZXL, 18′ leader to 7X Stroft copolymer tippet)

Brown Trout (mouth size inset), the weight and length estimates only

I removed the hook that was set well back in the giant fish’s throat, actually managing to fit my entire fist into his mouth in the process, a simply massive mouth for a freshwater fish, took a few quick pictures and put him back into the water. Unfortunately he got away from me a bit early before I was happy he was well set and proceeded to dive into a weedbed where I could see him laying, ostrich like,  head in the weeds and not looking entirely OK. He was too far out to reach with the net so stripping myself of my vest, glasses and such I dove into the dam after the fish, hoping to get him back in the net or provoke him into swimming away and driving some more oxygen through his gills. He shot off and appeared to recover fully. Soaking wet I returned, probably a little late for lunch.

Brown Trout Fizantekraal

This fish had been stocked years back as a 350gm baby

In the afternoon I headed up the Kraalstroom, the first section is impossibly bushy and Lilliputian, you wouldn’t swing a mouse no matter his proverbial adversary but as I walked the odd pocket opened up. Each time there was a pocket in the rocks there would be a beautiful wild rainbow trout of between six and eight inches sitting right in the tail-out. The difficulty wasn’t so much fooling the fish as getting the fly into the water.

I contrived numerous casts, variations of switch. roll, flick and goodness knows what else in the tight brush. Casts which may not appear in Gary Borger’s “Presentation” and would probably be righteously excluded from a book with such a title, but I hit the water often enough and each time I did I hooked a gorgeously marked baby trout. Flushed cheeks and classical metallic blue finger shaped parr markings.

Gorgeous little fish, naïve as girls at the school dance and pretty in much the same way too. All dressed up with nowhere to go in the tiny stream. On one occasion, and probably as much through luck as judgement I managed to flick a cast under an overhanging tree, get the leader to settle just before tangling an overhanging bush and as the fly drifted into the shade of entangled herbage a slight flash indicated the take and I hooked into a twelve incher. A monster really from this water and a most satisfying challenge to even get near, I was ecstatic with that result, the fish as deserving of praise and joy as the massive brown of the morning. One fish no more than twelve inches long demanding a dreadfully contrived and somewhat fortuitous cast , the other a leviathan, known of but never or rarely previously hooked in a small dam and landed on the finest of tippets.

Kralstroom Rainbow

Beautifully coloured baby bow from the Kraalstroom.

I have to say that I enjoyed catching them both, each represented different challenges, each had their own beauty, each was a fish and each was caught by a fly angler. My fishing gene obviously doesn’t discriminate, this is an equal opportunity adventure and any fish can join in. As to the title quotation, none of those fish during the course of the day had me feeling the slightest bit disappointed, I was feeling blessed to have received a most kind invitation to fish and revelled in the diversity of it all. Special thanks to my host Sharland Urquhart and to Ryan for providing information on the stream. Ryan informed me later that the brown, estimated at 3Kg on capture had been stocked years back at a miniscule 350 grams..   You can find more information on the lodge at

As with all the posts on “The Fishing Gene”, you are welcome and encouraged to leave comments. Thanks to the regular readers “The Fishing Gene” blog recently passed the 30,000 views mark and hopefully will continue to grow in popularity.

Information on the style of tying the parachute patterns used can be downloaded for FREE from Smashwords in the book “Who Packed Your Parachute” on the link

Other books available from the author: Click on the image to find out more:

Journey to the centre of the universe.

April 17, 2012

Rhodes in the distant Eastern Cape is an enigma, it offers some of the best fly fishing you could possibly hope to find, but of course that comes with a corollary. Over 700 kilometres of fishable water in the immediate surrounds, clean bed rock and crystal clear waters on the right days, but at the same time the place seems to be cursed by the weather Gods. The town has a permanent population of some 25 people, it is a long way from anywhere and no matter what you do you are in for hours of driving and a good amount of that on a dirt road. The journey isn’t enhanced by endless “Stop and Go” road-works, which have been interrupting traffic for the better part of the last decade. The place is thousands of metres up on the borders of Lesotho meaning that it is frequently beset with extremes of weather. Snow, gale force winds, hail and frozen rain, droughts, floods you name it you can get it in Rhodes and more than a few of the above in the same day.

Up here the sheep have thick woollen coats for the same reasons that you may want one, it can be frigid or hot on virtually any day of the year and there is little to be done to predict things. Within spitting distance is Tiffendel South Africa’s only remotely reliable ski resort, just to put things into perspective. No doubt the vagaries of the weather and the dirt road, the distances and the heritage status have prevented this location from becoming yet another fly fishing Riviera, so don’t expect the “My house is bigger than your house” competition and thank goodness for that. This is a place where men are men, sheep are nervous and fishermen, well they are hard-core.

The fishing, most of it under the auspices of The Wild Trout Association, is a fickle mistress and more than a few people have travelled for hours and burned up their annual leave only to find themselves trapped in town by snow or flooding or perhaps sun-baked and twitching flies through intermittent stagnant pools after months of no rain.

To be frank I have always rather written it off, it is just too far and just too risky and the chances of getting caught out by the variations of climate and altitude make a trip there the piscatorial equivalent of putting all your funds on a single number and spinning the roulette wheel, in short a gamble

But of course as with gambling there is always the chance of hitting the jackpot and based on the past week in the centre of the universe I am seriously considering getting some Lotto tickets.

I was invited to join Gavin and Sharland Urquhart in the small town where they have recently set up a second home. An early morning start, a flight and a five-hour drive represented pretty much the most direct route. To get there any faster you need to be living in a pretty rural environment already, as said, it may be the centre of the universe but it is miles from anywhere.

The “Centre of the Universe” tag apparently comes from people spinning in inebriated state around a pole at Walkerbout’s , the pub, accommodation and centre of social gatherings. Walkerbout’s is required stop over on arrival and departure as well as the place to share fishing tales, learn the state of the water and celebrate or commiserate with fellow piscators. The place has enough paraphernalia on its walls to provide some interest through a weeklong flood or drought and more than one fisherman has killed time here, drinking and staring at the endless knickknacks, drawings, flies and caps which pass for décor in a rural pub.

People come to Rhodes for one of two reasons; to do something or do nothing and many of the “something” people are there to fish, although it has to be said that it is a pretty neat place to do nothing as well.

On arrival word in the bar was that the Bell (the nearest stream running right through town), was running a tad high and a little coloured but the prediction was for fair weather and dropping water. The distances involved mean that, no matter what, you are likely to have a night’s troubled sleep, it is hard to get there in time to actually fish on the first day so chewing the fat and listening in on fishing conversations is virtually mandatory as a prelude to wetting a line. (You need to drop in to book water anyway, but that is hardly onerous). All in all your first evening it is pretty much the fishing equivalent of foreplay.

After a deep sleep filled with dreams of trout and endless waters the morning dawned dull but not cold and we headed out for the first foray. A quick recce suggested that maybe today was one to play with different tactics so we carried two rods between us. One rigged for “normal” upstream dry fly and nymph fishing and the other with pure mono for some extreme nymphing. Turns out that despite a few takes on the dry and dropper rig the mono was the winning formula in the slightly turbid waters and in technical terms we “Klapped them”.. Apart from numbers I hooked into a monster estimated at five pounds plus but my partner had circumnavigated a tree and was a long way off with the net attached to her vest, so an unintentional long distance release (LDR) meant that the trout remained unmeasured and haunting my dreams.

Day two I was on my own on the upper Bokspruit, or as high into the upper sections as would be reachable without four wheel drive. The river has a reputation for lots of fish but of rather meagre dimensions. It turned out very much to be the case and I think that I finished with something in the region of 150 trout for the day. Make no mistake there were a few respectable ones in amongst the hordes and even the babies were fat, these streams manage to maintain an obviously strong food chain. It was a good way to get into the groove after not a lot of fishing recently although I am not sure it did much to improve my rusty technique, it was really just too easy. Even an unexpected dip early in the day didn’t dampen my enthusiasm however and I had a great day. The scenery was spectacular and the poplars along the river were turning with the change of season. Bright yellow Roman Candles reaching for the clear blue skies.

Day three dawned a good deal crisper with a hint of frost in the air and we headed a short way up the Bell to Malpas, by now the water was crystal but anglers on the beat the day before had fared poorly with only three fish each. Concerns were that perhaps the place had been overfished. It turned out to be far from the case and we caught dozens of fish on dries and small nymphs. The brassie and the Para-RAB featuring highly in the fly department. There were still babies but some very good fish as well and Sharland landed a couple of beauties, drinks at Walkerbout’s later in the evening had a definitively celebratory bent.

Day four and we were hoping for the best as we had booked to fish high up on Boarman’s Chase, a section of water renowned for large and tricky fish, strong winds, freezing temperatures, crystal waters and the complete absence of trees due to the altitude. The wind was gale force moving to hurricane force later in the day and we struggled gamely, we fell into holes in the grass and were blown off our feet on more than one occasion. We caught some great fish but presentation was a problem and we were limited to smacking down hopper patterns in the hope of luring monsters out from the undercut banks and curtains of bankside grass. It wasn’t the best day but the potential was obvious, in calmer conditions one would have been able to sight fish for some very good trout. Still we both managed more than respectable fish, despite the gales and returned home wind beaten and content.

Day five and I was on my own again, this time on Dunley, yet another Bell River section a short way out of town. The skies were leaden and threatening and there was frost on the ground and the windscreen. The fishing turned out to be pretty good though, despite deteriorating conditions and I gave up early afternoon once I started getting pelted with frozen rain, but I earmarked the place for a return visit should the weather improve. I was also a little out of sorts having discovered that I had lost a fly box filled with Rhodes specific dry flies somewhere in the hurricane the day before.

Town wasn’t filled with anglers though and I took the risk of booking the same beat for the following morning in the hope that I might make the most of the obvious potential on this stunning piece of water.

Day six dawned cloudy and cold, frost on the grass and the car but the skies seemed to be clearing and I decided, particularly after the chill of the previous day, to wait of the sun to warm things up.

A return to Dunley provided one of the best days of river fishing I have ever experienced anywhere in the world.  The lower section of the beat was reminiscent of the grass banks of Boarman’s Chase. The first fish was in great condition, perhaps 18″ in length and fat as a brewer’s apron. Several more fish followed of similar size and each one putting up a spirited fight.

During the day several interesting encounters provided highlights to what was already tremendous fishing. One very good fish was netted and the hook removed only to find excess nylon wrapped around the net. Careful following the line backwards I found the fish still had a large bead head hare’s ear nymph in its throat. The hook was safely removed with the use of forceps and the fish released. There is a fellow angler out there somewhere ruing the windknots in his leader that’s for sure.

The offending fly and yards of nylon removed from a fish that had just happily swallowed my dry fly.

Then later in the day as the angle of the sun permitted I was able to sight fish for a good sized fish in the tail of a long pool. The first few presentations resulted in no response but the fish didn’t appear spooked. A change of flies resulted in no more interest and then I hooked a smaller fish to the right of the prize. Pulling the fish out of the pool as hard as possible I persevered, still my target fish seemed to be feeding sub-surface and I added a nymph to the dry on the line. Another smaller fish was hooked and again whisked out of the “zone” in the hope of avoiding upsetting the larger trout. Changes of flies still did little to improve fortunes and I stopped for a smoke, the fish was still there and apparently uninhibited. Then on the umpteenth cast I saw the trout tense and then charge the nymph. Coming so aggressively that I didn’t strike but simply held the line tight. I couldn’t understand the change of demeanour of the fish until it was netted after a spirited fight. Turns out that he was blind in his right eye and I had, as normal practise would dictate, been casting on my side of the fish, his right-hand side. It would seem that all those carefully measured casts were unseen and that in fact the “winning” presentation had been just a little too far to the left affording the fish the chance of seeing the fly and the resulting overly aggressive response. An interesting if time-consuming interlude.

Turns out the trout was blind in its right eye and unable to see most of my carefully measured presentations.

I was buoyed with enthusiasm as I entered the pub that evening, stories to tell and a wonderful day’s fishing but nobody to tell but disinterested old ladies on a flower tour, it was the only disappointment of the entire week.

Day seven I had limited time to fish, so elected to ignore booking and fish the public waters. Sometimes such waters are thought to be overfished and therefore actually neglected. I caught a lot of fish, mostly but not entirely, small ones and enjoyed a morning playing with various methods. Upstream dry flies produced, so did dry and dropper rigs with light but fast sinking brassie nymphs and finally on my way back to the car swinging wet flies down and across in the most ancient of trouting techniques. It was a fitting end to a wonderful trip, totally relaxed and simply playing with the options.

Rhodes may be troublesome to reach and require some good fortune to hit on the right day, but it offers an amazing variety of fishing, both waters and techniques as well as spectacular scenery and wonderful hospitality that would be hard to match anywhere in the world.

The journey home was perhaps a little tedious but I said a little prayer of thanks for every bump on the dirt road and every stop and go on the way back. Because it is the very remoteness of the place that makes the residents so hospitable, the town so unspoiled and the fishing so good.

Thank you to all my new found friends in Rhodes, we are bonded by a passion, a passion for peace and quiet, great fishing, glorious scenery and wonderful hospitality. I think that I might have had more fun on occasion, but never for ten days and never vertical.


This is the eightieth post on “The Fishing Gene Bog” , I think that it is fitting that the milestone was represented by some of the best fishing I have had in years, by a time with some special friends in a new place and some new friends in a special place. Perhaps you will forgive the longevity of this piece, but the place, the people, the new friends, the scenery and the hospitality couldn’t be adequately represented with less words. Thank you for reading. Tim