"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - Ilan Lax
So here's the thing - how often do you go fishing and have a blank? This happened to me again recently and in a way it was blessing in disguise. The context was a weekend away for my wife's birthday. ("Is he mad, fishing on such an occasion?" I hear you ask.) Well actually my dearly beloved boots me out of the place to go fishing or play squash or whatever else, because when I get back I'm a far better person to deal with, having recovered my equanimity and bonhomie. However, I have been known to abuse this largesse to my detriment. (You'll understand when I doggedly maintain this is because of my singular ability to get totally lost and absorbed in what I'm doing.) This time I did manage to stick to the agreed time slots and earned the proverbial brownie points.
I regard blanks as an opportunity to focus on the other things that make fishing the obsession it becomes for most of us. Not a fish in sight? Well let's try a different fly or let's see how the fly and the line react when cast across that eddy, rock or whatever. Experiment, innovate and test. These are things one doesn't get to do if the fish are rising everywhere and the fever grips one. I also use such times as a chance to better observe the water and what's in and around it. Listening for rustles and sounds of movement on the water. This was how I saw the green water snake (Philothamnus Natalensis) crossing the stream just behind me. My cast hit the bush behind me and the movement of the snake attracted my eye. These reptiles are such superb swimmers and climbers and are harmless to humans. If I'd been more engaged in the fish I'd probably have missed this beauty.
On the NEMBA AIS front, in my last editorial I reported that DEA have unilaterally reneged on the Phakisa agreement. We have achieved unanimity within the flyfishing and aquaculture fold and Aquaculture SA the apex commodity group has now written to the Phakisa Steering Committee expressing its deep concern at this breach of trust by government which reflects a failure to honour the good governance principles of participatory democracy enshrined in the National Environmental Management Act and the Constitution.
|RECALLING THE X-FLIES - by Malcolm Meintjes|
Have you, over the years, run across flies that appear to have a magic ingredient that produces success when others fail to impress the fish? My first such pattern, or so I thought, emerged almost half-a-century ago and was an exquisitely tied Durham Ranger. It clearly had supernatural properties, invoked one morning at the dam below Royal Natal National Park hotel. For a day-and-a-half I had begged every fly in my meagre selection to conjure up a trout when, grudgingly, the beautiful salmon pattern was unhooked from my Loch Leven Eyed Fly Box and carefully attached to the leader.
Three casts later, a lovely brace of rainbows had been netted. I did not ask 'why" for, undoubtedly, the Durham Ranger had sorcery about it. .
Yet, unaccountably, it never enticed another trout for me. Mysteriously, it disappeared without trace for certainly it was not in evidence five years later to challenge the heavily bushed Kenya rivers around Kericho-Sotik. I was crestfallen but, on the Kipteget, a bubbly forest stream with plenty of wild 8-inchers (in the 'ou taal'), it was the fiery Thunder and Lightning that wrought havoc.Sadly, the Thunder and Lightning also only had enough stamina to last the trip. This was disappointing to a young flyfisher, but this trend might have continued had it not been for the emergence of a nondescript apparition, plucked from a dusty little shop in downtown Jo'burg; an establishment from which Harry Potter might well have bought a Cloudcatcher 3.
This creation was no one season wonder but, unlike the Durham Ranger and Thunder and Lightning it was not eventually set aside because it did not catch more fish. Rather, it became redundant as it was too successful. Often, upon netting a trout, anglers would ask what fly had been used and upon being told, they would respond " Oh well what can you expect..." as though no skill at all was required from the angler. It was, in those heady days, a supreme Troutcatcher Number One.
But I am sure you will forgive me if, like He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, anonymity prevails for a while as we survey other 'remarkables' which have stood head-and-shoulders above.
Over the next three decades, I raised my floppy hat to various candidates. Such as, on an expedition to fabled Argentinian rivers, where a sparsely tied Black Zulu proved irresistible to the arcoiris and marron of the Chimehuin and Malleo. So tempting was it that, one morning, I sat on a rock on the Toreador accessio of the Chimehuin and appreciated GEM Skues parable of catching trout so repetitively that it qualified one for the highest of Dante's levels of Hell.Such triumphs were not only the domain of the trout. After initial awkwardness with casting concoctions reminiscent of Amazonian parrots, I came to have total confidence in a #4 Yellow Rabbit fly for tigerfish - a pattern so innocuous that it often invited disbelief. And yet it conjured up striped waterdogs from hand-size to arm's length from the Okavango and Zambezi.
It became clear that an emerging trend of these successes was simply - simplicity. Who can deny the efficiency of a scruffy Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear or the charm of the original Sawyer's Pheasant Tail Nymph, the latter original not even requiring tying silk? Additionally, the vague illusion of a tiny Black Smut is indispensable on so many stream and rivers.
One needs only black tying thread and an accommodating black hackle; a few wisps to fashion the tail, a dozen turns of thread and a scraggly hackle at the head. Voila!
Can I forget afternoons on the Welsh Dee near Llangollen when these dark no-see-ums proffered wonderful dry fly fishing? Both browns and grayling sipped the Smut off a gently wavering current and convinced me that they should always have a revered place in my flybox.
Surely, I wondered, such nondescriptness cannot be a prerequisite for all seasons? But wait... what about the deadliness of a small gold bead head 'nymph' that required only a light twist of black marabou? A tiny tuft at the tail, a slim marabou body and Hey Presto, it ties up faster than preparing One-minute noodles. You may not have heard of the Emperador Guillermo stream that lies in southern Chile. Not a famous water, for it had none of the monster trout for which the south of the continent is famed but it did have a surplus of frisky 25 - 35 cm (new 'taal') trout.
The stretch I fished - twenty meters across - comprised one fifteen meter long pool and 150 meters of straight 'run'. It had a depth shallower than my evening bath and crystal water that disclosed only the whereabouts of a few mid-stream rocks.
If there were any trout in this beat, would they not have retreated to the sanctuary of the pool, I reasoned? Yes, some were there, but when I finished provoking them, I headed unenthusiastically back to the top of the beat and aimed this unimposing Marabou nymphet a few inches from the far bank where a creeping shadow was encroaching on the water.
'Eureka', as Archimedes would have exclaimed, two hours later a relentless procession of perfectly speckled forms had rushed out from beneath the overhang and attacked with mucho gusto.
And, off the cuff, I can think too of the Diawl Bach and, of course, the Barehook Nymph... but, surely, more exotic flies, imaginative in the extreme, can be added, for there are remarkable fly-tyers whose craft is enviable, I never cease to marvel at the willingness of these aficionados to land their masterpieces in front of fish rather than encase them on the mantelpiece. And they have given us their own likenesses plus variations upon deviations - choice beyond belief and imitative patterns of dragon, damsels, mays and caddis.
So, now we venture forth with more flyboxes than we had patterns in the early years.
It was then that I was reminded of The Fly-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Had its magic, I wondered, diminished with the course of time?
One evening, on the shoreline of Spurwing, I waited for the late eventide feeders. There was a swirl and this time it took only two casts to emulate the Durham Ranger brace... and it brought back memories of seasons of success upon success.
I was nostalgic... for the Troutcatcher No 1 of almost half-a-century ago still has its allure for our trout.
But then who of that generation can ever really forget the Red-bodied Walkers Killer?
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