“ON THE LINE ” - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR – ILAN LAX
I great you all from the shivery chill of the first real wet cold front to grace our province of KZN this winter. The weather has actually been pretty warm and we have had little need fires to warm our lounge with the usual hearty fires that complement a bit of the old amber fluid. What that says about the winter fishing is another thing and judging by the reports on the FOSAF website and elsewhere some great fishing is there to be had.
I was fortunate to be guest speaker at the Durban Fly Tiers AGM at the Westville Civic Centre. It is really heartening to see such a vibrant group of committed fly tiers and anglers. The Club is in rude health with a supportive membership and I got a chance to boast about FOSAF’s many achievements and to encourage people to join us and support us in our work.
I also received some excellent feedback on the FOSAF publications. Incidentally, FOSAF had donated some copies of the new Guide to the Protea team that fished in New Zealand. The team used the books to as gifts for the other teams competing and to publicise South Africa and its flyfishing. I am told the book was incredibly well received both for its content and the quality of the publication. Copies are available at R115. In addition the Favoured Flies series is also available as a Members Special at R280 and a Members Package of the FOSAF Guide plus the Favoured Flies Series at R360. It will be self evident that given the discounts for members on these books alone will cover the cost of your annual subscription.
Turning to the dreaded Alien and Invasive Species Regulations issue: We have been communicating with the Department of Environmental Affairs over the last few months. What we have been able to establish is that the previous framework that FOSAF and other stakeholders were consulted on has been found to be not permissible under NEM:BA. Ironically, this was something we tried very hard to tell the officials at the commencement of the process, but they would not listen. Exactly what will now replace the previous framework of demarcated areas is still not certain but the situation does not look good! We are extremely concerned particularly because the Department does not intend to consult further on its new formulation and the regulations will be published for implementation. As far as we are able to fathom the publication process will still take some time and we are hoping to make our collective voices heard in due course. Watch this space because we may well have a fight on our hands in the near future.
FOSAF turns 25 this year and plans are afoot to celebrate this milestone in the Eastern Cape where it all started. There will be more information on this in our next edition.
In the mean time, this is a good time to repair and service your tackle, tie a few flies and write up a story or two of trips to your favourite waters. If you should make the occasional foray to your favourite still water remember to keep warm while winter casts it frosty mantle over us.
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OF FOOLISHNESS, FLY FISHING AND FADDISMS
Some seventy five years ago a medical doctor by the name of Walshe introduced what became known in fly fishing circles as “The Great Debate” with these words:
“To begin with it is clear that there can be no rational basis for any such discussion. Beyond all cavil and by any standard of reason and sportsmanship the nymph has justified its use in chalk stream fishing.”
He was of course speaking of the debate over the relative merits of fishing dry or wet. He ended his address saying:
“The fact is that the dry fly purist is a would be dictator who presumes to decide how we should all fish. We must whistle to his shrill and antiquated tune. He is an obstructionist who is trying to hold up the development of our art.”
And so the great debate began. One might ask how it ever got started given that introduction but it did and a lifetime later and despite a library of writing to the contrary, it still splutters on. One still finds, for example the spectacle of the self-proclaimed dry fly man, often armed with light tackle, sporting tiny barbless flies and impossibly light tippets, decrying those who fish any other way.
I can feel a cold front brewing in the Western Cape as I write this so let me quickly say that this is not an article about the merits or foolishness of fishing only dry. My sense is that we generally fish as we were taught and adapted to what our own experience tells us will work. My experience of fishing Western Cape streams is limited to a single outing wading the Holsoot with a one legged cousin who had left his sports leg behind. The sight of him wading up a freestone stream dressed with the artificial leg he uses every day and which was also buoyant and thus unbalanced him by trying to float, had us both in fits of laughter. Not much fishing got done as a result. But even from the depths of my ignorance I can’t help wondering if the dry fly method is favoured in the Cape firstly because it works and secondly because a greater number of the early fly fisherman that arrived in the Cape came off the chalk streams of the South of England whereas Natal, where fly fisherman tend to the wet again because it works, attracted those from the North.
And that brings me to the nub of this article. You see I am certain that fly fishing was not invented as an elitist alternative to fishing coarse. It was invented because it catches more fish.
This was brought home to me a couple of years ago. The officials who run things at Midmar Dam in Kwa Zulu Natal released a lot of water during winter thus exposing the cascades that are situated where the Umgeni enters the dam. These were still exposed when the yellowfish began their spawning run upriver. The fisherman that gathered to enjoy this bounty ranged from the poorest of subsistence hand liners to fly fishermen who also ranged from the most basic combo rig to the best that money can buy. For a brief moment we had a real community of fisherman drawn to this narrow defile from every walk of life and circumstance. It was wonderful despite the filth and the blatant opportunism of the few blasphemers who illegally jigged for the carp which were also running. What made it even better was the fact that we fly fisherman comprehensively out fished all other fishing disciplines. So it should come as no surprise that it wasn’t long before we were asked how one got into this fly fishing business. And here is the rub. It was not the complexity of the sport that proved an obstacle to what was a rapidly swelling crowd of wannabe fly fisherman; it was the cost. You see, it does not matter how cheap fly fishing tackle has become, the cheapest combo rig, once you have kitted yourself out with a selection of flies, is well over twice the cost of the equivalent spinning rig. The majority of fishermen present were dirt poor. They could not afford the cost of entry.
Check the website www.fosaf.co.za for the latest book prices to Members.
It has ever been thus, well at least ever since fly fishing evolved from a line tied tenkara style at the end of a pole. It is the cost of entry that gives fly fishing its snob appeal and we should never forget it. Indeed if one looks at the early development of the sport in England, as Peter Lapsley did in the February 2011 edition of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying, it is evident that the so called gentlemanly nature of our sport owes more to the commercialisation of fly fishing than any inherent quality in the sport itself. Thus the dry fly movement becomes not a pure exposition of the art but rather a business strategy designed to create an illusion of exclusivity and thus increase the value of riparian rights and the businesses that exist downstream of those rights. It has to be said that the strategy has done exceedingly well which may in turn explain why the so called dry fly man still exists.
Thankfully we are now moving away from such foolishness and back to the essence of fly fishing as it has existed for millennia. Fly fishing in its purest form is the art of deceiving a fish to take as food something which is not. It is a close cousin; one might even say a kissing cousin, of lure fishing. Though it is generally understood to be defined by the method of casting, the popularity of the tenkara method and the Czech and various other nymphing techniques shows this distinction to be an illusion, perhaps even an affectation spawned by the dry fly movement.
What separates fly fishing from lure fishing is not the method of casting or even the nature of the fly but rather the manner of its presentation and retrieval. And it is in that that I think we find the true magic of fly fishing. If fishing is the art of deception, then fly fishing is the epitome of that deception. It is a modern sport that perhaps, with the exception of falconry and bow hunting, and here I mean the African version of that sport rather than its rather contrived American counterpart, that best offers modern day man with the purest of hunting experiences.
Unlike those sports hunting success at fly fishing comes relatively easily. Thus a novice can derive as much pleasure chuck and chancing it in a put and take dam as the aficionado does pursuing the wily Salmo truttain thin gin-clear mountain streams. You see no matter how inept the chuck it and chance it fly fisherman may seem to the aficionado, they are both enjoying the heady delight of fooling a fish. That is the bedrock of what makes fly fishing so enjoyable.
It is true that the joys of the put and take dam begin to pall as a fisherman gains experience but that is natural. Increased skills open a fly fisherman’s eyes to the wider opportunities that the sport offers and thus begins a wonderful journey where fly fishing intertwines with life itself. A constant in this experience, no matter where on the road you may be, is the primal joy we all have for the hunt.
It does not matter how good you are, or the equipment you use, or even the techniques you employ. If you present something artificial to a fish in the hope that you may, by the manner of its presentation, deceive the fish into taking it you are a fly fisherman.
Or so I thought at least until I handed this article to my wife to proof read. (typos and other careless errors are all hers) She told me it was all so sad, that fly fishing and fishing with a lure is one and the same thing and that fisherman fished because fish were about the only things dumb enough to be caught by them. She said she had hoped for a husband with a little more ambition and the fact that I am a fly fisherman did not alter this one little bit. This is no doubt why if you Google “fly fishing foolishness” you are invited to enter a blog entitled “A flyfisherlady’s life”. But that, as they say, is another story.
Favoured Flies and Select Techniques Vol 1 to Vol 5 are now R75 each to members
The winner of the August/September 2012 Member’s Draw is Mr Grant Gammon of Edenglen whose prize is flyfishing equipment from Frontier Flyfishing in Bryanston. The winners of the October/November 2012 Member’s Draw are Mr Willie Jooste of George and Mr & Mrs Johan Janeke of Brandfort whose prizes are each a copy of Tom Sutcliffe’s “Hunting Trout”.
DISCOUNTS FROM FOSAF AFFILIATES AND MEMBER CLUBS
Discounts are available to FOSAF members from the following Affiliate Resorts:
Southern Drakensburg/KZN: Giants Cup Wilderness Reserve, Lake Naverone, Riverlea, Sani Valley Flyfishing and Game Lodge and Wildfly.
Gauteng and Mpumulanga: Kloofzicht, Stonecutters Lodge, Vaal Streams, Witkop Feather and Hound Estate and Treeferns Trout Lodge.
Discounts are available to FOSAF members from the following Affiliates: Frontier Flyfishing, and from the following Member Clubs: Underberg/Himeville, Belfast, and Dullstroom.
Contact details and information are available from Liz 011 467 5992 and on the FOSAF website.
Finsbury Estate, Anford Country House, Highland Run, Komati Gorge Lodge, Lunsklip Fisheries, Millstream, Oxbow Country Estate, Stealth Rod and Reel, Transvaal Fly Fishers Club, Tudor Estates, Verlorenkloof, Whiskey Creek, Mavungana and Nooitegedacht Trout Reserve.
Details are on the FOSAF website – www.fosaf.co.za
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