"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR- Ilan Lax
I recently came across this aphorism: "Direction, not intention, determines destination." Our purpose and duty as the leadership of FOSAF is to find that direction and inspire you to join us on the journey and what a journey it is!
Today I received the link to the short movie about the 2016 Flyfishing Expo held at Lourensford near Cape Town at the end of July, made by Platon Trakoshis and his team from Lucky Fish Productions. What a heartening reminder of the inspiring event I and others were fortunate to be a part of. If we ever need a reminder of why we love fly fishing and much of what it entails this piece does the job. Gordon and his team who put the EXPO together deserve our gratitude and appreciation for creating an event that drew so many fly fishing-related people together in a spirit of sharing and cooperation that I had not experienced before. This augers well for our sport and next year's event will be held over two days on 24 and 25 June 2017 at Toadbury Hall Country Hotel Muldersdrift, Gauteng.
Spring has finally sprung and many of the pundits and fundis are predicting the change to a La Niña cycle of wetter weather. I am told by those who appear to work less than me that the rivers are starting to look truly fishable and that the fish though sparse have returned and will readily sip a well presented fly.
On the NEMBA front, it's worth noting that the long process of mapping of "where trout occur" has been completed to a large extent with the agreement of all stakeholders. This is a very positive achievement. We believe that we can now move on to discuss the next important aspects of the process. This will entail agreeing the regulatory framework and the terms of reference for how a balance can be struck between socio-economic and significant biodiversity concerns in line with what was agreed to at the Phakisa conference. We have written to DEA suggesting a round table discussion of these matters as soon as possible so that we can bring this long delayed and much contested process to an acceptable conclusion.
|Back to the thought about our direction - FOSAF has for as long as I have been involved, adopted principles and policies to guide our objective, strategy and activities. These have been our strength and this approach has guided us through some quite difficult decisions and tricky waters. We will not accept the expedient and we will keep on striving to do what is considered to be in the best interests of fly fishing and fly fishers. |
I am pleased to be able to inform you that we have kept our subscription increase as low as possible with a tiny raise of just R10 to R290 for 2017. I am also happy to tell you that there will be no increase to FOSAF members of the lower subscription rates for Flyfishing magazine. Please see the FOSAF website for details. Please also visit and like our FOSAF Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Fosaf/. Please join and show that you support what we do for flyfishing.
I recently had the pleasure of re-reading that wonderful fly fishing story "Theodore Castwell" by G.E.M. Skues courtesy of the Bobbin which one of the many excellent newsletters produced by our various clubs and guilds. It is truly amazing that so many people find the time and have the energy to produce this material which is readily available online. I believe we are seeing a renaissance of fly fishing and flytying. I am so heartened to learn of new clubs and groups of people getting together to fish or tie flies or just shoot the breeze about matters piscatorial.
I believe the future of Southern African fly fishing is bright and that we are richer for having organisations like FOSAF and SAFFA (our competition partners) working together to give us direction and purpose. I hope many of you will join us on this magical journey.
I wish you all a wonderful spring season.
TROUT STREAMS OF HOPE by Andrew Fowler
"Trout streams tug at the mind with an insistent, contradictory pull, presenting both a plain and perfect simplicity and a subtle link to sources of hidden significance" Ted Leeson, The Habit of Rivers
In recent years, I have somehow felt moved, or perhaps the word is "compelled" to champion some of our lesser known waters, and more specifically our streams.
I don't know what has triggered that compulsion. It is something deep within, which quite frankly, I myself do not understand. I just go with it.
I do however like to read the old flyfishing books. The South African ones. To start with there is Rapture of the River. Without passing any commentary on the literary depth and quality of that great book, just consider the feeling you get when you turn the last page and put it down with a satisfied sigh. That sigh is always one of "I wish I had lived then". Why? Because Sydney Hey describes a world (to quote "a River Runs Through it"), with the dew still on it. His forays with his tea kettle and a horse or a wagon are adventures into relatively untouched land of great beauty, into which he had introduced trout, and in which they then thrived seemingly without bounds.
Then you read Bob Crass' lovely little book on Trout Fishing in Natal. (He and Nuttall should have got together and swapped titles...Crass' book is all about the "Trout streams of Natal", but that title was already taken.) In there he described stories of this and that fly-fisherman who caught a big fish there and many here. It is amazing that despite him not having had Facebook and Trout Talk as we do now, he still got news of who caught what and where. The bush telegraph must have been incredible, or more accurately Crass must have had a brilliant network. Either way, we know that him and his fly-fishing colleagues had brilliant fishing. That fishing took place on the Bushmans and the Mooi and other rivers still well known, but it happened on the Yarrow, and the Elands, and the Inzinga, and the Lions and countless others that you won't find mentioned on Facebook or anywhere else today.
Looking back, the KZN midlands was a "world with the dew still on it" when Crass wrote his book in 1971. I am sure if you had presented it to Bob Crass that way back then, he would have either denied that that was the case or scratched his head and said "I suppose so". To us looking back now, there is no question at all: They had it good!
But in the intervening years, for a variety of reasons, people just stopped fishing these streams. I suspect it had a lot to do with the plethora of dams that were built around that time. Fly-fishermen started to catch trout in still waters, the sizes of which just took people's breath away. It was relatively new and novel too, so quite apart from taking breaths away, it took our stream fishermen away. Our custodians and our guardians.
In his recently released book "The Last Wild Trout", Greg French says... "It emphases the ongoing importance of fostering participation in outdoor pursuits so that advocacy is never diminished"...
That book parcel arrived safely from Australia the same day I received a call from Stuart Tough at FOSAF asking if I would mind writing something for the tippet. That evening, in the very first chapter I encountered that line, and I instantly began to put this piece together in my mind.
French has explored the globe for wild trout. That is to say, ones that are not stocked. They may be "aliens" or "invaders" as defined by all those involved in that battle, but like the browns in the lakes of his Tasmanian lakes, they are nonetheless wild. As the book goes on (and I haven't finished it yet), you immediately realise that he is singling out wild trout that have not been displaced by fish stocked to try to match fishing pressure and environmental limitations imposed by man.
Now as I write this, I confess that some of us have recently been speaking about the concept of re-stocking some of the lesser waters mentioned by Bob Crass. You know...just give them a shot in the arm. A leg up. A bit of help. If this were to happen, would we not be falling into the very trap that French would fear: One in which we try to push back environmental degradation and fishing pressure by replacing wild fishing with canned fishing?
To my mind we need to stop and consider WHY we don't catch browns in the Lions River anymore. We need to explore that, and see what (if anything) we can do to put that right first. Maybe it has to do with global warming, in which case the answer is about as easy as getting the smoke back down your chimney, to quote Gierach. But I would be surprised if that is all it is. One reason may be that we just don't go out and give it a try! Coupled with that it is likely to be a combination of pollution, erosion, siltation, afforestation, and irrigation. If you go and read some of the Trout Unlimited (TU) stuff on those problems, you will see how they have worked with farmers, and frackers (yes...FRACKERS!), and others, and the amazing things they have achieved.
If you read the blurb on the TU DARE (TU Driftless Area Restoration Effort) web page, you might see how many millions of dollars they have spent doing this work. At this point I do get just a little dejected. They are a first world country. They have millions of middle class fly-fishermen. What do we have? We have so few of us flyfishermen here in South Africa, and then if you take away the salt water guys and the Stillwater guys, how many of us stream enthusiasts are left. Not enough!
Not enough to stand in front of bulldozers, to donate money, to build gabions, or to sway retailers to behave the way we would like them to. Not enough to get all the streams fished and looked at regularly.
So what do we do?
We eat the elephant. And you know how you do that, don't you. Yes: one mouthful at a time.
So here is what I want you to do. Please.
Go fish a stream. If you are not experienced, choose an easy one. Get your technique going. Catch some trout. Then go exploring. Find that long forgotten stream, and go on an expedition. Report back and let us all know what those streams need. Maybe it is a re-seeding (legal of course!) Be adventurous. Go creeping through the undergrowth in search of trout. Maybe you will catch "Uncle George" and they will put you on the front page of the Natal Mercury, as well as on Trout Talk. Then your mate will want to fish it too. I doubt your little stream will get swamped by fishermen. It is more likely to just attract a medium sized band of devotees.
When those devotees see a road drain into their beloved stream that has its grass scraped away by the roads department grader every year, so that summer silt invades their hallowed water, maybe they will make some phone calls. Perhaps they will hack the odd wattle tree, or pick up a chip packet. Maybe I will join them in the pub, and they can come fish my secret stream, and perhaps if I buy them enough beer, they will show me theirs. And maybe all of us will buy the revised and updated "Trout fishing in Natal" when it comes out one day, and between its pages it will have as many lovely trout streams described as Crass was able to muster in 1971.
Perhaps the least well known is Greg French's book. This is because it was published and launched just a few weeks before this piece was written. When I discovered it, I mailed a particular book store to try to buy one. They didn't do overseas shipping, so I had to buy it elsewhere, but they did mention that Greg was in their shop at that very moment, signing books on day one of the launch. I acted immediately and secured myself a copy the same day. I rather hope that you will act with the same conviction and speed when you respond to my request above.
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