“ON THE LINE” – EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR – Ilan Lax
It is now Spring, or so the calendar indicates - longer days and earlier sunrises. Yet it's late October and the rains have missed their cue! All is not well! I understand from those who rely on the rain and therefore keep a very beady eye on such matters as weather records, that this is one of the driest Springs we have for a very long time. Those of us living in the Summer rainfall part of the country are concerned. Our fishing season has yet to get off the mark as the rivers we love to fish are all too low.
As flyanglers we tend to be pretty aware of matters environmental. Our literature and lore reflect a love of nature and natural places - and the care many of us have taken to ensure the health of the places we value and where we ply our favourite craft. This should be self-evident. Yet some question our bona fides on such matters because many of us have taken a stand to ensure reasonable regulation of some of the species we fish.
This is a huge pity because we, as flyanglers, have steadfastly offered to partner with those whose difficult jobs it is to find the balance between socio-economic rights and the preservation of our natural places and the species that depend on these environments. As FOSAF we have developed principles and policies to guide our approach to these matters and we have consistently stuck to our values.
This approach has borne fruit. Because much of trout based angling relies on aquaculture, we have partnered with aquaculture and formed Trout SA - a commodity group comprising fish producers and processors, recreational anglers, academics and the rest of the trout based value chain including property owners, hospitality/tourism venues, etc. In the process and because of the economic opportunities aquaculture and trout offer and the sound arguments and submissions we have made we have garnered widespread support for the entire value chain.
As mentioned in our last Tippet FOSAF and Trout SA have been working to achieve a practical and relatively simple framework for regulating trout. We were able to ensure that trout were not listed as invasive when the lists where published recently. Although a temporary measure, this allowed the regulations to be published while we continue our discussions with the DEA and other stakeholders. Our belief that this is possible has been vindicated. Some key principles have been agreed among all stakeholders at a national and provincial level on a way forward and we are slowly but surely ironing out many of the difficult details.
All these positive signs make us hopeful that we can enter a new a more amicable phase of interactions with the authorities around these vexed matters. As the saying goes "the devil is always in the details", however we are confident, based on our experience in problem solving, that common sense will prevail.
Changing flies and context, we are happy to announce that our discussions with FLYFISHING "The Official Magazine of FOSAF" have been successful. As from the New Year, all FOSAF members have the option of subscribing to FLYFISHING at a discounted rate, therefore benefitting even further from your membership of FOSAF. The reduced subscription will be R120 per annum, a saving of R51 on the news-stand price. This arrangement will be managed through FOSAF's Secretariat so the sooner you pay your subs the sooner you can take advantage of this benefit.
FOSAF depends on its members and supporters and we really do value your ongoing support for our work. As we move forward we will continue to keep your interests at heart and keep you posted on developments.
AN OVERNIGHT SENSATION By Wolf Avni
"Are the unseen and uncaught fish always bigger? I should hope so".
A few weeks back Surly Ghillie and Puffadder Bill organised a day of fly-fishing at an obscure water in a hidden valley in the foothills of the southern Drakensberg, not far from Masubasuba. It was very much in the dead of winter and the only creatures likely to be active in the icy waters were the minuscule micro midges and micro caddis which so easily confound our local anglers. Surly and Puffadder are getting on a bit now -in years that is - and they struggle to tie the micro patterns that we have fished so diligently these past long years. They invited me to join their party.
"We would love for you to join us", said Puffadder as he rifled through my fly-box, his fingers hovering covetously over my size 28 dun caenis emergers. "Are not these the flies on which you caught all those lunkers last July", he casually enquired?
Not fooled for a moment, I committed to join them. I needed the break and would gladly have traded a fistful of my home-ties for the amusement of a day in their company. On the appointed day we met at dawn beneath a breathless sky. Off in the west a batik of blushing cirrus sailed overhead in the jet stream. "Red sky at morning, a fisherman's warning", muttered Surly.
He was right as usual and things didn't turn out quite as we had planned. By the time we reached our destination, a savage, icy wind was hammering out of the north west and a vicious chop upon the water put paid to any resolve of fishing. We decided instead to breakfast in the shelter of a break of wattles at the water's edge, and with eggs, bacon and all the trimmings sizzling fatly in pure cholesterol, Surly fell into one of his infamous soliloquies. And this is what he said.
"If a fish jumps, unwitnessed by any other creature, does the splash make a sound? Do the ripples paint themselves upon reflected landscapes in chocolate-box perfection? If an angler happens to be picked up by the fish of a lifetime, but, because of a moment's distraction at the critical instant, he does not feel the take at his end of the line and the fish is gone without his knowing, or, perhaps he feels the knock but it is in no way different to the bump of any other fish, then does time still stand as frozen as when that same angler knows he is connected by his fragile tackle to a fish bigger than any he has ever seen?"
"The Greek philosophers...." began Puffadder Bill, but Surly was building a good head of steam and cut him short.
"Fishing and the alchemy of conjuring fish from unseen depths has been at the centre of men's wanderings from the beginning of time and it is claimed that in our modern world, angling disciplines attract as many adherents as all other recreational pastimes combined. It is a formidable assertion, automatically making us partners in a vast fraternal network. The claim is boldly made as well may be, for it has a nice ring and it is just about impossible to refute. And so we are partners, anointed and bound in this brotherhood... el Cosa Nostra (#2). Nevertheless, as with Cain & Abel, Sodom & Gommora, Romulus & Remus, or Isaac & Ishmael, that is where equality ends and where reality begins with a brutality and an abruptness that sooner or later can only prove fatal."
"No more than life itself," I broke in nimbly. Puffadder Bill pulled out a battered old stainless steel thermos and poured from its wide neck a thick and poisonous brew which he fondly referred to as coffee. He filled three mugs and Surly paused long enough to scald his lips on a wallop of pure caffeine.
"The brotherhood (of fisherfolk) has from its beginning contrived inventions which attest to a near-infinite creativity of the human mind and reflect the inner man with a clarity that can be quite startling. From the exquisitely carved, Neolithic bone fishhook of a quarter million years ago, right through to the latest miracle of side-scan sonar, or the stellar vision with which pods of bluefin tuna cleaving through the mid Atlantic wastes at better than 80 kilometres an hour are tracked by satellite, the way we fish is a mirror image of whom we are, not only as a species, but as individuals. From the most incidental of
anglers, who may or may not, on occasion, here or there plonk an incidental bait, or lay a languid cast, to the lunatic fringe-obsessive whose entire life is structured around the incessant pursuit of one or another piscatory prey, the way we fish and what we fish for defines us and our social processes as clearly as if we were rats in a laboratory study of rodent psychology. Like a body language or a dress code, a man's fishing comportment makes him as transparent as a prepacked, shrink-wrapped take-away-lunch".
"Speak for yourself", Puffadder hissed, balling his gnarled knuckles into an unplayful fist.
"How did we get here? From Alianus' early account of fly-fishing in Macedonia two thousand years ago, it seems likely that the first flyfishermen chose their method simply because the hippurus fly, on which the fish were feeding, could not be threaded on a hook and the only effective way to bait the fish was to tie an imitation of the living insect. And so they did and were rewarded with good catches of what Alianus records as "fish of a speckled hue"(#3). But the motive was pure predator. Anyway, for about fifteen hundred years not too much gets heard or published about fly-fishing. It bumbles along in a backwater, an equal, if esoteric arrow in the arsenal of deceit that has made the human predator so successful. Nothing more, nothing less".
Surly paused and held out his empty mug for a refill. "For Pete'sake", I implored, "don't give him any more of that. It will tip him over that edge from whence there may be no return."
"Yeah", drawled Puffadder, grinning evilly and handing the Surly Ghillie a tureen full.
"Sometime around the sixteenth century we find the indolent rich reviving the concept and attaching it to a highly stylised code of social conduct, recreational fishermen choosing to fish in a particular way where style is held to be as important, and perhaps more so, than the mere end result. Eureka.... "piscator non solum piscatur". This awareness lay at the core of the early recreational fly-anglers, who chose to model their fishing on a concept of style and the process of its perfecting, rather than a mere tally of the kill. It was a refinement which took what was at essence purely predatory and set it on its head. A good number of these fly-fishing folk were as comfortable with a pen as they were with a flyrod and the evolution of their techniques, deeds and thinking has been lavishly chronicled ".
We argued the point, or at least tried to, but Surly is on medication and does not always get his dose right. With a glint in his eye and a manic edge in his voice, he swept on.
"Not unlike bullfighting, fly-fishing took the process of slaughter and turned it into high ritual. And, just as in bullfighting the intellectualising saw a rapid growth in divergent schools of thought, each one championing a particular style, holding to its own icons and creating cults around them. Over the next few hundred years the techniques and their rhetoric were honed and buffed and proselytised to the point almost of religion, till, by the end of the nineteenth century, you had ass holes masquerading as gentlemen, angling in suits, wearing bowler hats and carrying folded newspapers under their arms as they cast their silk lines on delicately crafted split cane rods. The point of the newspaper was, I believe, to restrain extravagant movement in the elbow and shoulder as this was considered, then as now, pretty shabby form."
Surly paused and turned his gaze upon Puffadder who was fossicking with our breakfast, spooning great dollops of grilled mushroom, tomato, sausage, bacon and God knows what else onto our plates. The wind moaned in the branches above us.
"Get a move on", he enjoined, I could eat an otter."
Give the man a plate of food. It may shut him up for a while", I suggested to Puffadder.
"Are you an optimist, or just naive", he sardonically wheezed?
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