"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - Ilan Lax
It's suddenly winter, in full blast and there is frost about in fair measure! The autumn afterglow seemed to keep the winter unseasonably warmer. This got me thinking about our fears around climate change and its impacts and the prevailing drought still gripping parts of our country. On the one hand there appears to be little doubt that we humans are doing our worst to leave a lasting impression on the planet, something many of us find deeply worrying, while on the other hand there appears to be positive energy working slowly but surely to counter this trend through awareness raising and promoting alternative approaches and lifestyles.
What does this have to do with flyfishing you may wonder? Well to my mind it has everything to do with it. Flyfishing is water dependant and South Africa is a water scarce country. As we do our worst to pollute and degrade the rivers, wetlands and water sources we depend upon, the fish we fish for and the aquatic habitat and organisms they depend upon are put under greater pressure with less and less chance of survival. The crucial issue becomes not whether there are problem species and issues in our waters, but rather whether there is anything at all that will survive there.
We face a massive problem in environmental governance and compliance. South Africa has some of the most detailed and comprehensive environmental laws, regulations and standards in the world. In my respectful view much of this is serious over kill and out of all proportion to the real issues and problems we face as a nation, our capacity to achieve compliance, our needs and requirements for sustainable economic development and our capacity to achieve reasonable service delivery. Not only are these laws extremely punitive but the agencies charged with implementation appear to do so with a zealous disregard of sound constitutional practice or a reasonable and practical appreciation of the consequences of their actions.
At the same time the many breaches by the state itself suggest that these laws are honoured in breach. Many state structures seem incapable of complying with or implementing the most basic levels of environmental prudence. The almost total breakdown of municipal systems across the country bears testimony to this. The rate at which municipal sewerage is spilling into our waterways and the lack of accountability for this is a serious concern. Add to this the failure to properly exercise oversight of mining and other pollution and our waterways have very little chance of surviving intact.
What is the point of all this excessive control and authority if it is only exercised selectively and in a manner that fails to address the glaring problems facing us while focusing on purist agendas and minutiae.
It is in this context that DEA's listing of a huge number of species as invasive needs to be seen. Their recent reneging on the Phakisa agreement with regard to trout is a further example. The total failure of this legal edifice has meant it is simply being ignored across the country. We now have much more work to do, having been lulled into a false sense of security by the bad faith negotiations that we had been engaged in with the DEA. Just when we were led to believe that we were reaching the end of a process the DEA have simply told us they will go ahead with implementing something completely different. We will be calling on you all to rally around and express your displeasure with this state of affairs.
Our EC Chapter did us proud and put on a great AGM and related events. Alan and Annabel Hobson were splendid hosts and Brian Clark and the rest of the EC team made our stay eventful and memorable. The turnout was excellent with support from the local membership and useful discussions. The fishing was outstanding and our grateful thanks to the Banksberg club for opening their waters to us. Those of you passing through or close to Somerset East should seriously consider sampling the excellent flyfishing opportunities available.
In closing, I'd like mention the excellent work done by Gordon van der Spuy and his team, who against many odds put on another excellent flyfishing and flytying Expo. The event was well attended by luminaries in these various aspects of our sport but also by clubs, tackle dealers, artists, guiding and tour operators and many of us who simply enjoyed associating with like-minded people. The Expo reflects a renaissance in our sport and all its facets. We wish Gordon and his team well for the next one. It is also worth mentioning that the auction held during the Expo raised R42 000. Gordon is donating these funds to FOSAF and the Blue Ribbon Umgeni project. We are most grateful for this assistance.
I wish you all a restful winter and hope you will use it to get ready for the season ahead.
IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE FISHING by Peter Brigg
There is more to fly fishing than meets the eye.
I was reminded of this when I recently read American fishing writer, John Geirach's book Standing in a River Waving a Stick. His essays are written with wit and wisdom, noting the benefits as a sport, philosophical pursuit and even therapy, As he puts it, "The solution to any problem - work, love, money, whatever - is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be." I like to believe there is some truth in those words, but it is a small part of a much larger industry.
Due to the demands of increasing numbers of flyfishers, a multi-million Rand fly fishing industry has grown in South Africa, creating many jobs in hatcheries, specialist fly fishing stores, guiding outfitters and venues specifically developed for anglers. There are geographical areas and towns that have built their tourism around what they can offer the flyfisher and if not survive entirely from it, benefit substantially from the income derived from visiting anglers. It is estimated that the industry generates revenue in the order of R1bn per annum and employs thousands of people - nothing to be sneezed at.
Flyfishers are also notoriously compulsive collectors - books, from standard copies to signed, numbered limited editions, art, modern and vintage tackle, some of it steeped in the history and traditions of fly fishing, no less in this country than elsewhere in the world. With it has come a wealth of angling writers who since the early 1900s, have contributed to the rich and diverse body of fly fishing literature in South Africa from the historical to technical "how to do it" books, pictorial coffee table books and anecdotal stories based on personal experiences. It is generally accepted that Sydney Hey's acclaimed and now hard to come by book published in 1957, The Rapture of the River, is the all time South African angling classic - a story of his fascinating fishing life over a period of some 50 years. But, foremost author in this country is the doyen of fly fishing, Dr Tom Sutcliffe who has penned no less than six books with perhaps his most popular being Hunting Trout and Shadows on the Stream Bed. Other books recently published like my own, Call of the Stream include Are Trout South African by Prof. Duncan Brown, Guide Flies by Tim Rolston and Meandering Streams by Roger Baert. These and the many others books are an Africana literary and piscatorial treasure-house on aspects of our national heritage. In his book, Fishing the Margins, Paul Curtis through meticulous research has provided a valuable chronological historical record of this 100-year heritage - a recommended read for all who share a passion for fly fishing and collector of angling books. Digressing for a moment, the problem writers sometimes have is the high regard others hold of the written word. The assumption is that they know more about fly fishing than those that read the stories. The truth though is that they are no different to any other flyfisher, but rather that they know perhaps a little more about writing.The interest in personalised handcrafted items has also increased and with it the emergence of local craftsmen especially builders of bamboo rods and nets. Those with a love of fishing bamboo rods speak of entering 'the dark side' and caution of its obsession. Convert, John Geirach in his book, "Fishing Bamboo" said, 'The
handful of truly great fly rods I've ever cast have all been made of bamboo.' Locally Stephen Boshoff and Stephen Dugmore have become recognised as two of the leaders in their craft, building exquisite bamboo rods. Stephen Boshoff also makes beautiful nets with a combination of bamboo and hard woods like besembos and wild olive as does, Deon Stammer, Mario Geldenhys and new kids on the block, Andrew Savides and Shaun Futter - the band of craftsmen is growing almost by the day. It is not unusual to hear comments like, "I have a Boshoff, modelled on Paul Young's original Midge taper". When asked about his rods Stephen Dugmore of Freestone Rods said, "At the risk of straying into suspect metaphysics I believe bamboo rods have 'soul' and fishing with one is a form of 'soul-fishing." These rods have authority yet with a forgiving sensitivity in their castability - they ooze craftsmanship and heirloom quality. The Boshoff's and Dugmore Freestones have already made their mark in local fly fishing history and apart from being practical fishing tools have attained collectable status keeping alive traditions of the past. While owners think warmth and tradition, the makers talk more about tapers, milling machines, planes and forms, glues and varnishes, heat treating and where to get the best stripping guides. For those of us who are fortunate to own and use bamboo rods, we are inclined to formulate the poetry and romance, while the makers simply work hard to build the best and continuously striving for improvements in style and function.
Another growing interest is collecting fly fishing art. A number of artists are now recognised as leaders in this field. The beautiful water colour paintings and pen and ink sketches of leaping trout or trout swimming in pebbled streams by Dr. Tom Sutcliffe are in demand as is the work of Craig Bertram Smith and up and coming young artists Gavin Erwin, Johann Du Preez and Marcel Terblanche - depicting fish in the dappled light of their natural watery world. And, then there is sculptor Chris Bladen, best described by the opening paragraph on his web site, "Christopher Bladen is widely recognised as one of the world's best wild fish sculptors. Working in his Cape Town studio, this South African artist strives to capture the essence of each species, the nuances of their movement and subtleties of their outline, bringing them to life in bronze." This is no exaggeration; his stunning bronzes reflecting detailed expression of form and shape are acknowledged and sought after by collectors worldwide as are the variety of small pieces he crafts.
Then there is the remarkable success story of the J Vice acclaimed internationally as one of the finest fly tying vices with rave reviews from fly tyers around the world - in itself a work of art. The creator Jay Smit, an engineer by profession, designed, machines and assembles his vices in a well-equipped garage workshop at his home in Kloof, KZN. He continuously strives to add to its functionality with accessories that will assist tyers in tying artificial flies from small aquatic and terrestrial insect patterns used in fresh water to large salt water bait fish imitations.
This small selection of South African authors, craftsmen, artists and the others not mentioned, have used their passion for fly fishing, the love of the natural world, the places and the people for creative motivation and inspiration in their beautiful products and works of art.
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