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Why I fly fish text and images by Greg Carstens

Sunday, 19 April 2015 12:21

- I am often asked why I fly fish and, to be honest, I have spent the better part of 25 years trying to figure that out myself. The reasons are as simple and complex as life itself and just when I think that I’m close to figuring out the answer, my perspective shifts ever so slightly and I start all over again.

 I love high altitude streams for all their moods and finding enjoyment up there simply with a feather-weight fly rod in my hand lost in my own silence. Why standing knee deep in a mountain stream makes me smile can be as simple as breathing mountain air, or as complex as the mysteries in the patterns of tiny black spots sprinkled across the olive backs of a mountain trout no bigger than my outstretched hand.

Click in images to enlarge them

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For us fly fishers there is a shared consciousness and, if like me, dusting small streams with dry flies is the pinnacle of your pursuit, then you’ll find similarities in the experience no matter where in the world you are, and even more bizarrely, regardless of who you are. Heraclitus wrote “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.” So, in ever changing world, simplicity it seems is reason enough to derive enjoyment from being stream side.

I enjoy casting a fly to all fish. Tubing big lakes, working the weeds with a two inch dragon, has its own explosive addictions. I have fished both saltwater and streams, and tied flies, for as long as I have fished. But given the choice, I would live and die in a little, remote mountain stream, and if you asked me to tell you exactly why, I would need to pen a never ending story.

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The patterns of tiny black spots

I suppose I love the solitude, engulfed by massive outcrops of imposing stone, knee deep in tumbling crystal water, and seeking diminutive beauty with tiny flies. It gives me perspective on my own world; time to evaluate myself and those around me, to see through the hype of city life that makes my head spin. I leave the stream a better man each time, never mind the tally.

 I have yet to feel heavy-hearted at the end of a long, stream-side day. I lack the requisite intensity to be considered a really good fisherman, but this never leads to disappointment on less than stellar days. I rather put my efforts into appreciating the world around me, because, as we all know, perfect fishing days are few. The truth is something in fly fishing feeds my soul, lifts my spirit and tidies up my increasingly cluttered mind. I leave streams a better person.

Pen sketch on myself

I will be 44 years old in a month or so. I live in Northcliff, Johannesburg, with my second wife Tracey and a collection of five children, ranging in ages between six and 17. My earliest fishing memories are catching kurper on earthworms at the local dam aged four.  I started my working life after matriculating at the age of 17 in the service of Telkom as an apprentice data technician where as luck would have it, I was paired with Murray Pedder the fly yyer. Back then I was a keen bass fisherman and thanks to Murray I started tying up bass flies before I could even cast. We started our love affair with the stream on the Elands in the town of Waterval Boven. In 1992 at the age of 21, I moved to Vancouver BC and fished a myriad of small mountain streams for cutthroats, rainbows and dolly varden. I returned to South Africa in 1996. I am the co-owner of e10 Petroleum South Africa, an independent petrol company that wholesales and trades in fuel with a network of over 40 gas stations. So my days are filled with a multitude of challenges, but mostly I manage people's expectations. My fly fishing companions include my son Jason, my brother and nephews. I enjoy all aspects of fly fishing, but my first love is the stream and I tend to focus on the spiritual and less on the technical. My influences include John Geirach, Thomas McGuane, and Tom Sutcliffe. They are guides that point out the joys of simplicity. My favourite destination is the highlands of the Eastern Cape and the whisky-coloured streams of the Western Cape, but I find beauty in all the streams I am lucky enough to find myself on. On truly wild streams it just easier. I hope to find myself living in Stellenbosch in the future and chasing trout wherever they roam.

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