"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR – ILAN LAX.
I was sitting in my office last week listening intently to the wonderfully liquid call of the Burchell's Coucal perched in the hedge that borders our property. This skulking harbinger of rain was sadly confused as it called and called to no avail. It appears that El Niño will once again wreak its periodic drought ridden havoc. I am told by those who record the signs and have almanacs as long as your arm that the drought cycle has been well and truly foretold and that it is unlikely that we will have a wet summer. This will see a water scarce summer with the dams, rivers and streams struggling under the weight of water abstraction and other problems. Let's try and be mindful of this by making some changes to our water wasting practices. I recently heard of a woman who has created small wetlands in her garden to deal with all the grey water emanating from her home. The resulting water going back into the ecosystem is pure and drinkable. Makes you think doesn't it!
Talking of fishing venues please take note that the New FOSAF Guide is due out soon. In the words of that doyen of flyfishers Ed Herbst the Guide will be to flyfishers what Roberts Birds of SA is to birding enthusiasts. Visit our website for more information.
I was recently asked why it is that our clubs appear to battling for membership. I posed the question to a few of my friends over the weekend and was intrigued by the replies. "Membership fees are too high!" said one; "Too elitist!" said another; "So little information!" complained yet another. Each of these responses is plainly wrong: All clubs are happy to receive new members and I have found most clubs have people from various walks of life. Membership fees range from R740.00 to R500.00 per annum with varying once-off joining fees. People will pay a daily rod fee of R100.00 or more at many venues, so R65.00 per month, even in these tough economic times, is not the hardest of asks. A quick search on the internet provided masses of information, so there must be some other reasons for this.
From the reports I receive almost all flyfishing clubs have experienced a serious drop-off in membership. Some years ago one of the angling equipment suppliers introduced a new fly rod which I'm told sold somewhere in the region of 35 000 rods. If this information was correct it means that there are a hell of a lot of fly anglers out there that are not joining clubs. Which begs the question why? We in FOSAF have spent some time trying to get to the bottom of this conundrum without much real success. We would value any views you may have in this regard which would help us address the situation.
All of this aside nothing can beat the thrill of catching one's first fish. Let's all try and create the space to introduce someone to flyfishing. By sharing our passion for this wonderfully rewarding sport we kindle the spark of discovery for another person to join us in our piscatorial journey. Only good can come from that!
A FLYFISHER LAWYER'S FOIBLES by Bob Frean
The more I learn about fly fishing the fewer fish I catch. While I was still young and dumb I caught two nice rainbows on my first visit to lovely Highmoor dam under Giant's Castle. Still a greenhorn and on my first trout river outing (to the Mkhomazana near Himeville) I caught a brown and later two more in the nearby Umkomaas . On my first sea flyfishing sortie, at Cape Vidal near St Lucia, I caught three shad. Since then I usually blanked at all these and other venues; totally bewildered, despite reading widely and clinics, attending lectures, fishing videos and trying to emulate guys who DO catch.
Hemlock to my soul is that my pal, old Tanglefoot, who does everything wrong, catches more fish than I. A stealthy approach to the water's edge is not for him, as he stands at the water edge, often wearing bright, fish-scaring clothes. His casts splash the water and he makes waves when he retrieves to recast. His leader is knotted and tippet frayed. Once when we shared a dinghy he hooked a fish on his back cast. People seeking my advice, after seeing my boxes of flies and paraphernalia, look nonplussed when I say I am a dupe and they should consult successful guys about what fly, sinking or floating line, deep or shallow, up- or down-stream, morning or afternoon, gloom or sunshine and so on.
In this story the only constructive advice I can proffer is to warn anglers that if they should associate with such as our gang they will be surprised, as the old geezers once they have caught their fill want diversion. The main perpetrator of such tomfoolery is Tanglefoot who targets his fly-fishing chums. At his work he is all kindness and patience when clients bring their marriage problems to him and he often saves feuding couples a fortune. At work he will drop his voice so that his partners don't hear him avoiding work. "Listen, I will tell you this only five times;" he tells clients, "you will suffer if you divorce. Take your money and go on a second honeymoon to the Seychelles, Greece, anywhere you like. It will save you stacks instead of paying for two houses, more cars, two families who can no longer afford sport tours; golf, ballet and swimming lessons; horses; the beach and mountains."
His patient listening to people's marital woes makes him fiendish by the end of the week. Not that he kicks the dog or shout at his family but he only seems to recover his equilibrium when he can trample over us Wino Lineshooters. Recently he must have had a terrible week and again I was the victim of his deviltry. For two weeks I dreamt of blooding my new four-weight South Fork system, a present from my daughter in America. At a club dam I lovingly tackled up but Tanglefoot, waiting till I was otherwise busy, scooped up my rod, climbed into my dinghy and was off. I remonstrated but he called back: "Use my rod!". That left me bereft. In his bumbling he breaks rods regularly and his only survivor is an old seven weight sans its matching reel and eight-weight line. These he lost in a pub after he celebrated the weekend's only fish, a four-pounder which he had foul-hooked. Onto his dreadful heavy rod he put a small reel and three-weight line, part of a lovely two-three weight system, a gift from a grateful client. This light rod had fallen foul of a badly designed car door and he was too slack to have it mended or replaced.
His seven/three weight mismatch gives no pleasure; to use it hurts my wonky elbow, caused by throwing too many cricket balls, serving too hard with a heavy racquet and bar-counter elbow wrestling. Only by babying the lightest rods am I able to fish without strong painkillers, despite the horrendous fees spent on surgeons, anaesthiologists (It seems they have doubled their fees since they are no longer just anaesthetists) and hospital. I have urged him to buy a three-weight rod with office petty cash when his chairman is not looking as even a modest rod would make him enjoy his outings more and cure his predations on us.
Tanglefoot also previously annexed another pal's rod but taking a shortcut stumbled into brambles which hooked him, his clothes, the rod and the line, losing the owner's only Royal Coachman before he reached the water. We enjoyed his comeuppance when at the Himeville Parks Board top lake he mistook grass carp for huge trout. Arm-length carp were wallowing in a stream feeding the lake. He cast and cast, changing fly after fly. Eventually he gave up in disgust and rejoining us he commented that these "monster trout" had become fly- and leader-shy. Only then did we edify him that they were fish which do not take flies.
I am quite embarrassed when Tanglefoot, although not a sponger, shamelessly preys on unsuspecting chaps who join us Winos. Us grizzled old buggers become almost polite when into good, thirst-quenching chilled whites and then a good red with the braai will further induce bonhomie and hopefully get them to sleep it off until tea-time. The gruffest of the lot, given the oxymoron name of Happy, says that the braais and the fishing give him a peace like no other pursuit.
When Tanglefoot feels mischievous he will sum up an unsuspecting "newboy's" wine. With false charm he will say: "I say, I have read and heard excellent reports of your wine. I would appreciate a drop to taste." Usually the "a drop to taste" evokes flowery bunkum which often earns him half the bottle, or more. He uses the same ploy in acquiring flies and the finest tippets but his "victims" get more than quid pro quo as he is generous in sharing his victuals and beverages.
Sometimes we don't take our rods out of their cases, preferring to socialise, watch birds and take in the scene as the day changes. The fellows may sound a petulant lot but they are inherently good. At a club dam on one occasion we put our paraphernalia into a thatched shelter until another club fisherman said that we were keeping a pair of swallows from feeding their chicks. We saw three tiny heads peeping out of a beautiful little nest under the roof. Without any demur we then enjoyed peeping as the parents swept low into the shelter, alight on the nest. feed the chicks and fly out to catch more insects. When we leave at the end of the day there may be trampled grass and wood ash, but no rubbish, not even cigarette butts.
One soporific post-winey-prandial afternoon Tanglefoot and I were drifting in a dinghy. Too tired to cast we just sat and I heard him spell: "A-l-z-h-e-i-m-e-r-s." I asked him if he was not tempting fate and he replied: "No, my guru says that if you can spell it you haven't got it!"
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