If one were to ask who the most influential freshwater fly angler in South Africa had been in the past half-century, there would only be one answer – Tom Sutcliffe.

The doyen of South African fly-fishing, who had been in ill-health for the past two years, passed away peacefully in the presence of his loved ones on 8 April. FOSAF extends its heartfelt condolences to his widow Kathy and his children Theresa, Victoria Anne, Robert and Alison. 

The expressions of mourning reflected in social media posts are a manifestation of the esteem in which he was held and the sense of loss which his passing has created.

Aside from the personal virtues of this kind and principled man, his main influences were threefold:

Firstly, he authored seven books, starting in 1985 and one of them, 'Hunting Trout’, was reprinted three times, so great was the demand. An extract from Hunting Trout ‘The Lakes at Inhluzane’ was included by publisher Nick Lyons in a 2010 compendium The Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told which included angling tales by Rudyard Kipling, Guy de Maupassant, Lord Byron, Lefty Kreh, Norman Maclean, Jimmy Carter and others. His website ‘The Spirit of Flyfishing’ played a huge role in enhancing the image of fly angling in the country and his monthly newsletter was read in 92 countries. He illustrated his own books and his flyfishing artwork was much sought after.

The second factor was that in 1981 he journeyed to Manchester Vermont and obtained the South African agency for Orvis. This resulted in the opening of South Africa’s first dedicated fly-fishing shop.

The third factor was the role played by three of his fly patterns, the DDD a spun and clipped deer hair pattern, which pioneered dry fly fishing on South African dams, his Zak Nymph, a weighted mayfly nymph imitation and his Single Feather Midge. They have become enduring favourites among local fly anglers having deceived countless fish.

His role in FOSAF was significant. Initially as a founder member in 1986 he helped lay the foundation for fostering flyfishing interests in South Africa and more recently as National Chairman and then National President. Tom provided wisdom and pragmatic leadership, guiding FOSAF over the last decades. We thank his family for sharing him with us.


On the upper Eerste, Stellenbosch- photo by Leonard Flemming.

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