"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR- Ilan Lax
As I sit in my office writing this editorial I am struck by two contradictory feelings:
☹ On the one hand, I am heartened by the fact that we are witnessing a renaissance in our passion that is flyfishing. I was privileged to attend the Durban leg of the amazing Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) - "A Decade in The Deep". Although now in its 10th year, this was its South African debut. The team of Jako Lucas (Captain Jack Films), Keith Rose-Innes (MD, Alphonse Fishing Company), Joanne Clayton Rose-Innes (By Invite Only), and Pieter Taljaard and Colin Campbell (Vagabond Fly) achieved sold-out shows at Johannesburg (320 seats), Cape Town (175 seats) and Durban (250 seats). They kindly allowed FOSAF to promote membership at the three shows. We recruited 45 new member and others donated generously towards FOSAF funds. I was encouraged by the enthusiasm of all present for the varied film offerings on show. Each provided a taste of the multifaceted smorgasbord that is the sport we all love. Many thanks to the F3T team for giving SA this insight and vicarious enjoyment of their passion for flyfishing. Please do it again next year.
☹ On the other hand the mostly country-wide lack of rain is deeply concerning. I am told we are in the grip of one of the worst droughts in living memory. Just before the season closed I was able to cast a line on the Bushman's. While it was not the lowest I have seen it (and I have been blessed with fishing it over many years) what I found surprising was the fact that there were no fish to be seen - nothing moving, nothing to scare and very little other visible activity. So the question is where have the fish gone to? Various possibilities have been offered, the most likely of which is that the fish have moved upstream to spawn. Of course the positive is that with the low water one gets to see the current topography of the river. Provided no massive flooding takes place in spring, this is useful information to deepen our knowledge of where to fish after some rain and when the season opens.
|On the NEMBA front, it's worth noting that notwithstanding our agreement with DEA officials, some important detail has not yet been nailed down. Despite this, meetings with provinces to agree "where trout occur" have been taking place. While there has been some contestation, by and large (in most provinces) the process has been amicable. This is a positive development. Meetings are yet to take place in the Free State and Mpumalanga. We are also awaiting the next draft of the regulations prior to their publication for public comment. This will, we anticipate, be followed by further negotiations around firming up the detail of this important framework which must still be finalised, hopefully soon. Then I can go back to more regular fishing again. |
As FOSAF we have operated from a position of adopted principles. These have guided our strategy and inform the outcomes we have worked so hard to achieve. We cannot simply adopt the most expedient solution if this is not informed by the ethical and principled positions we have set ourselves. The FOSAF EXCO is currently reviewing these principles and our position on flyfishing ethics. Once revised these will be available on the website for comment by interested members.
Whilst speaking about our website (and Facebook page), may I also remind members that they are entitled to a number of discounts. These include lower subscription rates for Flyfishing magazine. Please see the website [www.fosaf.org.za/] for details. Please also visit and like the FOSAF Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Fosaf/.
Like all things the El Niño cycle will eventually change and the rains will return. We tend to forget that South Africa is primarily a water-scarce country. This means that less water is the norm rather than the largess of the "good years" of the cycles. I believe we can all make a difference in how we utilise water and other resources. It's my hope that we can be mindful of these issues so that we leave this planet of ours a better place for future generations.
REMINISCING by Ryan Weaver
As a young boy I recall having a poster above my bed in my room depicting a marine ecosystem. My father is an environmental scientist so all our posters were educational to some or other extent. This one was one of those cross-section views showing a seaside town in the background, dunes, a beach scene with families picnicking and sunbathing, surfers on the waves and in the foreground and dominating the frame the underwater world of kelp forests, beautiful reef fish, crayfish, crabs and, if you looked closely enough, a small hidden mermaid. The artist had taken a bit of creative license here and, although I knew mermaids were a thing of fables and fantasy, this vision kindled within me a passion for exploration.
There are many roads that lead from South Africa into Lesotho. The legendary Sani Pass, the commercial gateway through Ladybrand into the capital, Maseru or the Clarens sandstone gateway at Caledonspoort. This last one is my personal favourite. The sandstone cliffs that flank the road leading to the border post loom over one much like the sphinxes from A Never Ending Story that judge the pureness of a passers intent. Border officials generally put this same sort of fear into one without requiring any form of intimidating stature and those at Caledonspoort are no exception. Living and working in Lesotho requires us to pass the border monthly in order to have our passports stamped and after standing in many a passport control queue I have gained huge respect for the border official's ability to smell out folk of, if not impure, certainly impatient manner. You can be guaranteed that the person who arrives at the check point with a hurried or arrogant manner will be stopped, delayed, inspected and nuked by the fiery official glare... well not quite, but they often do turn a rather interesting shade of frustrated red. I sometimes think the officials get a bit of a kick from this and do it deliberately, but be that as it may, my pointers for a smooth passing are simple: be friendly, patient and have a few shopping slips on hand for the Lesotho Revenue Authorities who ask if you have anything to declare. One of Lesotho's biggest sources of income is VAT claimed back from SARS each month. Just don't have eggs or alcohol on those slips.
Caledonspoort border offers a brief buffer of countryside before one enters the third world bustle of Butha-Buthe. For the uninitiated traveller in Africa this can come as quite a shock. The roads are marked only where absolutely necessary, the traffic flows on whichever side of the road has the least potholes and the taxis converse in friendly hoots to potential clients. The road is shared by pedestrians, cattle, donkey carts and cars alike and no one is in any particular hurry. The market at the T-junction is a great spot to get a freshly fire roasted corn on the cob, fruit, veg a sim card and airtime. Fuel is significantly cheaper in Lesotho as it does not incur the same fuel taxes as it does in South Africa, though banking on fuel stock or access to a filling station can be a bit of a gamble.
The road from Butha-Buthe to Katse is passable by normal sedan car, but don't be fooled by the distance indicators. 160 kms in Lesotho, with it's windy mountain roads, steep passes and interesting assortment of rural traffic usually translates into at least three hours of travel.
In contrast to South Africa the taxis are generally the slowest and most cautious drivers on the road (I suspect this has to do with insurance costs) and the large South African registered 4x4s the fastest.
After turning left at Hlotse towards Katse the towns start becoming smaller, the mayhem thins and the countryside begins to unfold. Western square style brick houses in fenced off yards give way to cultivated farmlands below neat villages of round stone huts. The fences disappear completely and the open rambling paths leading from the valleys up into the mountains give one a great sense of freedom. Every valley, and there are many, holds a cold crisp stream which tumbles down the rocky slopes occasionally holding long enough in a pool to allow a trout to rise.
The rivers and streams of Lesotho were stocked extensively with fry brought up in saddle pouches by the early traders and the Basotholand mounted police. My great great grandfather was a trader in the Mokhotlong district at the turn of the century and his son in law was a member of the Basotho land Mounted Police so, aside from an obsession with trout and a professional interest in the growth potential of Katse dam's aquaculture industry, I felt I had an ancestral calling of sorts to return to these mountains. I have never been a particularly good fisherman. My approach has rather been to find the dumber fish, those less accustomed to the wily ways of the artificial fly. Generally the further one travels from the madding crowd, the easier these fish are to find. So when I was asked to move to Katse at the end of 2015 it was very tempting. Knowing that almost every stream that one crosses has the potential to hold wild mountain trout is enough to give any self-respecting fly fisher goosebumps. Add to that the fact that many of the streams are cool enough to carry their inhabitants through the summer and have good natural nutrient loads to make one to two pound trout fairly common not to mention good populations of smallmouth yellow fish to test the drag grease from time to time on hot summer's days and I was sold!
My family and I now live in the Katse village near the Katse dam wall. It is the very end of the tar road that left that hustle and bustle of Butha-Buthe. During the week I am tasked with the management of commercial trout production for Highlands Trout and over the weekends we explore the surrounding rivers, the dam and its assortment of bays and the occasional trip out on donkeys into some of the more remote villages. The people of Lesotho are incredibly friendly, welcoming and hospitable and in the end the richness of the experience depends largely on the depth to which you are willing to dive. There are numerous tour operators that will show you the sites, take you from lodge to lodge and give you a surface glimpse of Lesotho. Alternately you can self-guide and drive in, stop whenever the light and view is right or when the river tempts. Take the time to explore the markets, learn about the traditional herbs and drink a cup of home brewed beer in a white flagged hut. If you do hike into the mountains and intend to camp make an effort to find the local chief and ask for his permission and be prepared to sit down and talk. These sessions have led to mutton braais and long philosophical umqombothi fuelled discussions on love, life, religion, politics and, occasionally access to forgotten magical streams. Though these could well just be tales of fables and fantasy.
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