Monday, 22 June 2015 09:41

News on The Spirit of fly fishing newsletter and my next book, Yet More Sweet Days

 After careful consideration I have decided to send out this newsletter once a month rather than once a week, at least until the next book, Yet More Sweet Days, is finished. Regular contributors – possibly also many readers! – will doubtless heave a sigh of relief. This newsletter, now into its fourth year believe it or not, has been lots of fun and, thankfully, much appreciated. I sincerely hope people keep sending in material I can use! A perfect example of that is the lovely image I recently received from Matthew Fitzsimons, which I feature in this week's newsletter.

As for my next book, well it's more or less a sequel to Hunting Trout, covering anecdotes and reflections on fly fishing, together with thoughts on modern developments, especially in fly patterns and presentation techniques. I have done the introductory pen and ink sketches for more than half the chapters as well as the sketches that accompany the fly patterns. I will have a 100 leather-bound limited-edition copies printed and, to reassure those of you who have already placed orders for the limited-edition copy, I have studiously kept a list of your names!


Click in images to enlarge them

All in one! Quote of the week, the review of a book and an interesting take on chalkstreams

First, the quote:

'I became fascinated by chalkstreams long before I saw or fished one. I had a book on angling,  and in a section on trout fishing, found a colour photograph of a chalkstream. Though I've lost the book I have the picture in my head: high summer, a bright day. Trees overarch the river. Alongside the river is a meadow full of wild flowers, and heavy tussocks of grass. A thatched-roofed hut is in the background. The stream runs towards me from a row of hatchways. It is blousy but clear. Patches in the weed show clean gravel between. Was there a trout in the picture, or did I place it there? I used to fish that river in my imagination.

Now I fish rivers like it for real and I find the foundations of that first captivation remain the same.'

 From the book Chalkstream – Fishing the Perfect River, by Charles Rangeley-Wilson. Medlar Press 2009.

When you think of the chalkstreams of England, around half a dozen will come to most people's minds. They will likely include the Test, the Itchen, the Avon, the Wylye, the Hampshire Bourne and maybe the Kennet. Some may know of a few more; like the Nadder, the Anton or the Lambourne. But I was far short of the mark when it comes to the total number there are! In his book, Rangeley-Wilson lists 218 chalkstreams in the UK alone and a few more in Normandy in France! You are forgiven if you haven't yet heard of chalkstreams like the Hiz, or the Hun, or the River Nar. I could go on!

But let me return to Charles Rangeley-Wilson's lovely words in his introduction to this book...

'If I try to think of a perfect trout river I know that it is a chalkstream. Limestone streams are more widespread, and often flow through less spoiled parts of the world, but a chalkstream at its best is unbeatable. All the qualities of a spring-fed river – constant, equable, cool, fertile – are magnified in a chalkstream. Chalkstreams have a constancy that spans the seasons; they have a verdant opulence that the rougher-edged limestone stream cannot match, a sedate grandeur too. In this limpid environment of marbled currents wild trout thrive, growing fat and fantastically fussy.'

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A verdant opulence. The upper Itchen. Photographs Tom Sutcliffe



I have been lucky enough in my life to have fished many chalkstreams. I have fished the Test frequently, the upper Itchen (regarded as the finest trout water in the world) twice, the Avon with Bill Latham, the Anton with my son Robert, the Dun and the Wallop Brook at Stockbridge. So I've been a very fortunate angler. But there's a sting in the tail here.

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A wild brown trout holding in the upper Itchen. Tom Sutcliffe photograph

Sadly, Rangeley-Wilson ends the introduction to his book by saying ... 'there is no chalkstream flowing quite as it should.' And this for the usual reasons; pollution, ever expanding agriculture with associated phosphorous and nitrogen leaks, foreign plant invasions, over abstraction of water, and so on. The author goes on, 'And so this book, which started in concept to celebrate the world's finest trout streams, has become a plea for their restoration and preservation.'

 Chalkstream – Fishing the Perfect River is a delightful anthology of essays and notes covering countless chalkstreams. Contributions  from a variety of writers, many of them celebrated anglers or authors, have clearly been carefully selected for their interest and relevance to these amazing waters. The book is a wonderful read as well as a great reference source.

Rangeley-Wilson is a well-respected author, conservationist and a founder of the Wild Trout Trust. His passion for chalkstreams and for their restoration is obvious. The book is available in South Africa from www.netbooks.co.za

Fly fishing a Cape stream and a series of spring-fed ponds

Last Saturday was blustery in Cape Town, the wind bitingly cold and variable in direction, though mainly from the northwest, meaning more rain on the way. Robin Douglas and I still thought the conditions were fishable and when I heard that the Lourensford Club waters were open, we decided to try the river.

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At first sight the stream looked perfect. The Lourens on 13 June 2015.

At first sight the stream looked perfect, but on closer inspection it was carrying a lot of debris from the rains of the last few days and the water temperature was down to 10 degrees. Our dry flies were ignored in a number good-looking runs while the wind steadily got more and more unpleasant. In the end we took ourselves off to a nearby series of ponds fed by a perennial stream and sheltered by large oak trees.

Some ponds were carpeted bank to bank with leaves, but in a few pools we found gaps of clear water that allowed for carefully threaded casts and we hooked a number of trout that were strong and in perfect condition.

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A few ponds allowed for carefully threaded casts

Most of the fish took tiny Brassies fished under CDC dry flies. I dressed out a couple for my neighbour who was well pleased to have them for dinner.

It was a different day's fishing, but interesting and challenging in its own way and we enjoyed ourselves. We agreed to get on the river as soon as the wind and the water settle, but looking at the forecasts for this part of the world, we might be in for a long wait.

On pike in Ireland

Martin Rudman writes:

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This photo is of a giant ceramic salmon in Belfast. The other photos are of our pike fishing at Barons Court in Northern Ireland. There were two beautiful lochs connected by a narrow channel. I hired a boat and fished them over three days with my wife, Mareza, providing the necessary crew.

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The best part (apart from the lush woods surrounding the lochs) was that we had the water all to ourselves  while we were there. The Duke of Abercorn’s manor (below) overlooked one of the lochs.

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I focused on spinning plus a bit of fly. Tough, tough weather and therefore my face and everything else is obscured by wet and cold weather clothing. At one stage I think poor Mareza went into hypothermia! Still, an awesome experience and what cool fish pike are to catch – all attitude, mouth and meanness! Can’t wait to fish for them again.

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(Martin Rudman and Edward Truter collated the book, Fishing Stories For Africa, essays selected from the first ten years of The Fishing and Hunting Journal. You will enjoy this read whether you like fishing or not, because the stories are so well written they belong more in the genre of true essays than simple angling tales. In fact, given the quality of the writing, the depth of interesting content and the frequent attendance of humour, this book takes on something that could well have been written by the likes of Herman Charles Bosman, J D Salinger, Guy de Maupassant or John Updike. Highly recommended. If you are interested in a copy contact Martin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Tom Sutcliffe )

Michael van Breda makes an interesting observation on used tackle ...

I wanted to test the water with you about maybe posting a query on your newsletter (and under the Used Goods tab on your website), proactively asking your readers if they have any tackle that is collecting dust (rods, reels, good lines).

Quite a few of us avid young(er) fly fishers are now able to appreciate the fine craftsmanship of above entry-level equipment, but haven’t built up the budget to buy it new. And then there might be some guys who are sitting with good backup tackle that is collecting dust while it should be out on the streams and dams. It would be cool to connect the dots, so to speak.

(If you have any higher-end tackle gathering dust I will happily place it for sale on my website as a service to younger anglers. Tom Sutcliffe.)

More on carp from Sean Mills

Just read your last newsletter on carp taking berries and berry pattern imitations. Grass carp are very different to common carp in habits. I have caught a few on fly. I know that many anglers chum with grass and then cast a chartreuse coloured fly at them. I have caught them on #10 Hair's-Ear Nymphs, Red Setters, Chartreuse Flippers and Chartreuse Hoppers.

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Image per Sean Mills

I read an article in an American magazine about a guy catching them in a canal in Florida, sight fishing with chartreuse hoppers. I also know that in certain sections of the  Vaal River where they have pretty well taken over, they will eat just about any fly...


Spiderwire Ez

By the way I have been experimenting with fly fishing for carp and bass on fly using Spiderwire Ez braid in 20 pound braking strain.

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Image per Sean Mills

I was tired of being broken off by bigger bass for no apparent reason. So far my success rate with the very thin and sensitive but strong braid has been very good. What is  great is the fact that you only need a little lift of the rod to set the hook and takes are very positive. Braid is difficult to knot though and care needs to be taken. My experimenting continues. The diameter of the braid is 0.20mm which is much thinner than the 0.25mm flouro and copolymer that I usually use.

(As an aside, Ed Herbst showed me a very well produced, interesting and comprehensive book on carp flies he just got.

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It's by Jay Zimmerman, whose partner is Erin Block, famous for her lovely fishing blog, Mysteries Internal. It is called Best Carp Flies – How to Tie and Fish Them and Ed says it is way ahead of anything else. The book is available from www.netbooks.co.za. A review by Ed Herbst will follow in a future newsletter.)

18th Women's Fly Fishing Festival

Jackie Steytler Lamer writes...

 We'll be holding the 18th Women's Fly Fishing Festival on 22 until 24 October this year and we hope to target more avid or beginner women anglers to this event being hosted by Maclear Fly Fishing Club in Maclear and Ugie. Our waters are low at the moment, but we're grateful for the cold and  the snow on the Drakensberg, still there after a week.

Interested fly fishers can contact Jackie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Image of the week

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An image taken from a drone of Andrew Macuff fishing the Orange River at De Hoop, Richtersveld National Park by Matthew Fitzsimons.

The CPS Vice Squad Ed Herbst writes:

On Thursday night Tudor Caradoc-Davies and Cape Piscatorial Society (CPS) secretary Louis de Jager hosted another Vice Squad evening at the Society’s office in Cape Town’s CBD.

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Korrie Broos tying his X-Factor CDC dry fly (above) and the patterns (below).

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Tudor had assembled another stellar cast of tyers, Korrie Broos tying his X-Factor CDC dry fly which I have written about before on this website; Tim Rolston tying his Monty Nymph; Ruan Neethling tying a 'fishable' salmon fly – the Green Highlander – and Andre van Wyk tying his simplified version of the Petersen Spawning Shrimp.

Tim’s nymph is named after Monty a much-loved cat now deceased who lives on in Tim’s memory because the Abyssinian Red/ tabby cross had a beautifully mottled coat which Tim dutifully brushed every day, carefully storing the resulting fur harvest.

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Tim Rolston's Monty Nymph

Tim is very much a tyer, when it comes to nymphs for dam fishing, in the Polly Rosborough Fuzzy Nymph school. His nymph also has Czech nymph influence in that it incorporates a subtle “heart.” The tail is CDL fibres, the rib is pearl Flashabou which he stretches to reduce its size and because it then takes on a blue tinge. The thorax is slightly darker fur. Tim is adamant that all-synthetic materials have less appeal to fish than natural furs or a combination of the two because guard hairs make it fuzzier. He says that one of his most important tools is a strip of velcro and he uses it with a vengeance to rough up his fur nymphs.

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A box of Ruan Neethling's  f'ishanle' salmon flies

Ruan Neethling was next up and he tied a 'fishable' Green Highlander in about an hour with Gordon van der Spuy providing the narration. Compared to the incredibly advanced Pink Floyd-inspired art flies Ruhan ties, this was an impressive feat to accomplish in an hour. To speed up the tying he uses a Norvise and that company’s automatic bobbin. He provided a fascinating insight into the early origins of the British salmon fly tying including the fact that apprentices used to spend two years just perfecting the butt!

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Andre van Wyk's Spawning Shrimp

He was followed by Andre van Wyk who is a regular contributor to one of the most fascinating fly fishing websites extant, Feathers and Fluoro. His account of targeting juvenile tarpon on a 30-year old Deane fly rod bought from the Flyfisherman shop in Pietermaritzburg is a delight and he is part of a team which is seeking fly fishing in urban surroundings – have a look at the articles on sight fishing for carp in the middle of Paarl!

He had just returned from a trip to St Brandon’s atoll off the coast of Mauritius and one of the benefits of these evenings is the fascinating information that each tyer imparts during the demonstration. The next Vice Squad meeting will be held in late August. Subscribe to the CPS newsletter and keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

At the end of the evening I was left feeling humbled and elated. Humbled because it brought home to me just how confined my obsessive concentration on small stream trout was, given the vastness of what fly fishing now encompasses and elated because in my 37-year association with the Society I have never experienced the dynamism and cohesiveness with which it is now functioning. Our new secretary, Louis de Jager has been very involved with competition fly fishing for many years, particularly at youth level and the arrival of Tudor Caradoc-Davies, a journalist who started the Vice Squad evenings has seen the attendance at such evenings quadruple. He joins a talented team of regulars ably led by Chairman Leonard Flemming and former chairman M C Coetzer. It is all very encouraging.

Jan Korrubel's KZN report

Last weekend saw Leg 1 of the Tops Trophy Challenge (TCC) taking place on stillwaters in and around Nottingham Road.  It’s stillwater 'Silly Season' now, and the Boston Fly Fishing Festival (BFFF) also took place this weekend.

Frank Ferguson, after winning the Kamberg Trout Festival (KTF), stayed on to fish the TCC and started off the week with another fine fish on a Natal Fly Fishers Club water up in the Kamberg Valley.

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Frank Ferguson

There was a frontal system forecast for the latter half of the week, and while decidedly on the chilly side, the weekend's weather prospects were much better than that for the Kamberg Festival the previous weekend.  The system came in on Thursday and we even had some rain. I measured 2.5mm in my gauge on Friday morning, just enough to put the dust down for a couple of hours; it’s as brown and dry as tinderbox out there now.  The moisture resulted in snow higher up, some lovely pictures are to be found on www.snowreport.co.za.

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Snow on the KZN Drakensberg. Photograph per Ray Doherty.

The TCC is centred around the legendary (some would say infamous) Nottingham Road Hotel, with anglers running out to their waters and returning for lunches and dinners and the nightly festivities.

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Festivities in the Nottingham Road Hotel

 Just shy of 500 fish were brought to the tape measure in the this first Leg over four fishing sessions on Friday and Saturday, the biggest being 62cm caught by Clinton Savage of Team Mercedes Benz. 

Local angler Sven Turner, after landing only two fish in the KTF, returned to form, bringing a total of 27 fish to hand, comfortably easing his team, The Notties Nutters, into second place overall. 

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Sven Turner's 44 cm fish

Top team honours went to Paarl Media KZN.  The second Leg of this event takes place at the end of the month over the weekend of 25-28 June.

The Hilton-based team of Roxanne and Wayne Stegen, John Barr and Matt Swemmer took part in the Boston Fly-Fishing Festival, landing some good looking fish, reporting that the biggest fish came in at 65cm. 

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Roxanne Stegen with a 52 cm rainbow

Today I had the honour of being visited by Andrew Savides, who delivered a stunning custom-made, small-stream net with my 'Anglerfish' logo hand-painted on the handle.

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And Peter Brigg, brought me a beautiful pen and coloured pencil sketch.

Finally from my dear friend Clem Booth...

Had an interesting time this week on the Ballysadare River in the West of Ireland. Prolific fishery at times with a lot of fish showing themselves. Had five salmon on, one for the better part of 10 minutes, and all five came off! No explanation for this, but just one of those things. At least two were big springers which were super powerful in fast flowing water. Interestingly, before 1850 very few salmon could negotiate the 20 foot falls until a fish pass was built. This is understood to be the oldest fish pass in Europe. Seems to be a case of people doing something useful to assist nature! 

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In any event, I will return soon; having made the acquaintance of some very nice salmon, it would be impolite not to have another crack at actually landing one! But those who pursue Atlantic Salmon know full well that expecting a fish is bad karma indeed. Better to assume the worst and sometimes be surprised! 

Future newsletters

The next newsletter will be sent to my subscribers list in mid-July. If you are not a subscriber and wish to receive the newsletter, simply click on the 'Subscribe to my newsletter' link on the top right corner of the Home page of my website and follow the instructions.

Tom Sutcliffe



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