For a change the weather in the Western Cape has been passable and the rivers are looking in good shape. I hear reports of some good trout coming out of the Smalblaar, but with a bout of plantar fasciitis in my left heel – it feels like you're walking with a sharp stone in your shoe – I haven't been able to get out, although my physiotherapist is optimistic that I should be river-ready in a week to 10 days.
All my spare time now is going into getting the editing of Yet More Sweet Days completed. Writing a book is not a task to be taken lightly, believe me. The cross-referencing, checking the spelling of place names, correcting obvious errors – and the not so obvious ones – are all tiresome labours of the trade, made all the more sharp-ended by the hovering knowledge that once printed there's no going back. The book covers my fly fishing from 2009, with chapters on salmon in Iceland, trout from Hampshire chalkstreams, trips to Rhodes and surrounds, stays on Birkhall, thoughts on modern fly pattern designs, leader and tippet dynamics and more. I use my diary record of trips to streams and lakes, mostly in the Eastern Cape Highlands, and in the narrative of each chapter I weave thoughts and ideas on how best to catch trout or, conversely, how to fail. So Yet More Sweet Days is a book much along the lines of Hunting Trout.
Click in images to enlarge them
The Sterkspruit River on Birkhall, Eastern Cape Highlands
Quotes of the week
Spring is officially here and the new season has begun. It's a time that often brings to mind this lovely poem written by Steve Raymond and included in his book, The Year Of The Trout.
of an angler's winter dream;
a chance again
the silent silver secrets of the stream.
And here's a second more down to earth quote:
But when I look around me at a fishing show or on the water, and when I look behind myself at my own backcast, I can't help feeling that my guide friends are right. The secret to hooking more fish and losing fewer is not trying more and more complex flies or buying more rods or switching to another brand of miraculous leader material. Learn to throw a good line that has a good knot at the end, and your guide suddenly becomes a whole lot better at his job. And happier.
From A Fishing Life is Hard Work by Art Scheck (Stackpole Books 2003)
I had a note from Vicky Bell, owner of Highland Lodge near Molteno, who had this to say ...
The guys had a good time the weekend before last (that would be the last week in August this year. TS) catching more than a few double-figure trout. The photos are of Jonathan Owen. The long fish was 10.5 lbs from Bernard’s Dam and the fat fish was 11.3 lbs taken from Syd's Dam.
Thoughts on a trip to Iceland...
I had an email from my friend Tim Holden after a long lapse in the correspondence between us. He now lives in the UK and we fished for steelhead together in British Columbia some years back. We did two trips to the rivers of glorious Skeena River system, fishing the Kispiox, the Bulkley, the Suskwa and the mighty Skeena itself) where we caught our fair share of those magnificent and terrifyingly fast trout. Here's what Tim had to say on Iceland:
Recently I had the good fortune to go fishing in Iceland for the first time, and also to seek for the first time to catch an Atlantic salmon.
I’ll cut to the chase. The fish had not yet properly entered the river because the water was too cold even though the season had started six weeks before. There was, however, a deep gorge where you could climb down a metal staircase and get to a pool that held a few fish at a point where the river made a sharp right-angled turn.
The deep gorge
Because the water was vodka-clear and the area of slack current was a mere fifty feet from the precarious spot from which it was possible to make a cast in the swirling wind, one was virtually eye-to-eye with a dozen fish as they waited obligingly for my unpractised casts to deliver a fly into the key area where a fish might lazily open its mouth and complete its side of the contract.
Despite numerous sloppy casts using the heavy fly favoured by my guide Helgi , a predatory Icelandic gentleman, every time a fly was delivered into the critical square foot demanded by flow and depth of the river, there was a willing response from those fish.
Tim (right) with Helgi
Unfortunately each strike was immediately followed by an expectoratory reaction that might be described as 'suck-and-spit'. Helgi is a sharp-eyed man of some passion. “Strvike! Strvike!” he yelled, followed by gestures of fury as I missed numerous times. I learned that you had to strike as the fly moved into the right position before you saw the fish swallow the fly.
This of course led to several bungled attempts where the fly was pulled away from the fishes’ mouth just prior to the inevitable take. Icelandic passions can magnify to dangerous levels during these occasions.
Ultimately I was redeemed and my first effort at Atlantic salmon fishing produced three fish of 7-10 lbs each in a matter of thirty minutes. Triumph. Quick photos. Fish returned to the river.
Of course it took several days to getter another. I can make excuses about the river and the rain, and the fact that I started a rather cavalier effort with the old Bomber flies you and I once used on the Bulkley River in British Columbia, but beginner’s luck had plainly run out in the space of that furious, precious, memorable early half hour when I got it all absolutely right on the banks of the Hafralonsa River in North East Iceland.
By the way, that corner in the gorge of the Hafralonsa was six miles from the sea. A steelhead two hundred miles upstream in British Columbia has nearly twice the fight – by a generous estimate – of an Atlantic salmon.
My new Freestone 7' 3-weight bamboo
Steve Dugmore delivered my new bamboo rod this week, a pretty 7' 3-weight with a wooden ferrule. This is unusual I know, but we thought it was worth trying. The butt and wrappings have a patterned brown trout theme and the rod carries 16" and 18 " marker points above the handle. I hope they come into use more than just occasionally!
From Mark Yelland with these words and this fish...
Says Mark, in his usual clipped, understated, matter of fact way…
A Smallmouth Yellowfish, sight cast to with a # 16 dry fly on a 5x tippet.
(Does it get much better? TS)
(Mark Yelland's Fly Fishing Academy and Guiding Services. 083 616 0505
Robin Douglas reports
When Robin told me that he and his wife, Rose, were off to visit their son Ian in California this August into September, I thought of the fires and the drought they're having and secretly wished him good luck. But it seems the trip turned out okay. Here are some despatches from him:
We finally arrived in fly-fishing heaven...We stayed at the SteamBoat Inn (take a look at the movie 'Mending the Line' http://mendingtheline.com/), which is on the North Umpqua river and had stunning trout fishing 50 yards from our cabin.
But we hired a guide to take us Steelhead fishing. He took us to a few favourite spots and struggled to teach us the art of Spey casting and finally put us onto fish. The ultimate trout the steelhead.
Ian caught a one of 7-8 lbs and I got a fish of about 9lbs. Both tore the line out the reels and put huge smiles on our faces. We also each missed fish. The technique is 180 degreed from trout fishing. DO NOT STRIKE! You have to let the fish hook itself. Extremely difficult but an Incredible day out of heaven. Check out the clarity of the water...
Despatch Two –The Lamar in Yellowstone
Talk about a day out of dry fly heaven..... this was it. We found a section with two strong currents leading into a DEEP pool. We caught only cut throats and we got them on Para-RABs, Klippies and nymphs .... it really did not seem to matter. I guess we must have caught in excess of 50 fish each and probably missed twice as many. Most were in the 10 to 12 inch range but there were a few that went 16 inches and one that went 18 or 19 inches, an absolute beauty. This place is just crazy....
Despatch three – The Madison:
Ian and I hit the Madison today. It would be fair to say we came down to earth with a bump after fishing the Lamar. The Madison is difficult, really difficult. Lots of fish to be seen but super selective is an understatement. Ian managed five browns and missed a few others. I caught possibly the smallest trout in the USA on a #16 CDC caddis. Other than that....zip. That's fishing. Attached is a picture of a fly they call the Mormon Cricket. I think the guy in the fly shop was having us on but we are determined to fish it. Will let you know how it goes. Fishing 1st meadow on Slough creek tomorrow. Can't wait.
The Mormon Cricket
Despatch Three - 1st Meadow on Slough Creek:
This was a serious hike. The sign board says it is 2.5 miles but it doesn't tell you that most of that is seriously uphill. When we got to the creek, water levels were really low and I thought we were in for a rough day. Took us a while to find some decent holding water and then we started getting some action. The fishing was not easy but we managed a few.
I got a pretty good CutBow (hybrid cutthroat) and lost a few others. Ian got five beautiful cutthroats and also lost a few. There was a really tiny little white mayfly coming off and we just couldn't crack the code. The fish we got were on Para-RABs and Para-Adams(18's and 20's). Ian also got one on a tiny little CDC midge. Needless to say the hike out was ugly.
I think we need to go back to the Lamar...... but Slough was a great experience.
Despatch Four (from Robin's son, Ian): The Henry's and Gallatin:
A picture of the "Ranch" at Henrys Fork...wow!
Two pictures of a stunning brown dad caught on the Gallatin river....double wow!!!
Wild Trout Association dinner
Dave Walker reports:
Saturday evening, the 22nd August, was a momentous occasion in Rhodes when a Wild Trout Association dinner was held at Walkerbouts Inn. The purpose of the event was to convey the association's sincere thanks to riparian members without whose support and fly fishing water, there would be no association.
Founder members: Basie & Carien Vosloo, Debbie & Marius Robertsen and yaws trooolie!
It was also an opportunity to highlight the contribution that the association’s activities have made to the local economy. Day permit sales since inception in 1991 to June 2015 amounted to almost R1,1 million of which more than R800 000 was disbursed to riparian members, the balance being used to administer the organisation.
Based on the number of permits sold, extrapolated accommodation and local spend figures plus the value of the permit sales amounted to a contribution to the local economy over the period of almost R18 million!
Martin le Roux and Daryl
Martin le Roux and his delightful daughter Daryl, a budding fly fisher-lady. Martin has been a regular festival participant and brought his daughter fishing.
Ed Herbst writes:
I was last able to fly fish and to drive five years ago – illness and advancing age – and so I had lost touch with the extent to which costs had escalated.
Tom Sutcliffe tells me that a day’s fishing on the Smalblaar, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, costs him around R400 for petrol and about R60 for the toll fees at the Huguenot Tunnel.
This came to mind when, at short notice, I wanted to give a few Para-RABs to a fly-fishing surgeon who, to an exceptional extent, has improved my vision.
I am now able to see better but I have yet to solve my fly tying problem of shaking hands so I phoned the originator of the Para-RAB, Philip Meyer of Winelands Fly Fishing near Somerset West.
Two days later four of his flies, now considered essential on local streams, were delivered to me at a cost of R20 a fly and the courier fee.
I considered that to be very reasonable. Firstly, as a fly tied by the originator, it is something of a collectible and secondly Philip tells me that he has caught ten trout on one of his Para-RABs and it is still more than fit for duty. He uses stainless steel wire for the rib and constant tiny touches of head cement to ensure this durability as well as the best materials and hooks available.
Philip Meyer’s Para-RAB – deadly and durable
Alan Hobson, of the Angler and Antelope in Somerset East says that the flies which he ties for sale cost between R15 and R30 depending on complexity and materials used.
I have profiled Alan and his wife Annabelle on this site and he has written an article, ‘Micro-nymphs and 8x tippets for yellows at Sterkies', which outlines the patterns and techniques which produced 30-fish days at that demanding venue.
Alan tests his flies on the water weekly and they are now starting to produce fish all over the world as local people send them to friends and relatives abroad and the news spreads.
Colin Hobson with a Lohantan cutthroat trout caught in Pyramid Lake, Nevada on one his brother Alan’s tadpole imitation
You can see a catalogue of Alan’s flies on a new website www.wildflyfishinginthekaroo.co.za/ which also gives you an idea of the of the exceptional range of fly fishing – trout, bass, yellowfish and barbel – which is available in the region.
If you don’t tie flies yourself then, given the costs each trip, it makes sense to buy flies of proven efficacy and durability.
Roy Gordon writes on a trip to the Skeena in British Columbia
I thought about you whilst fishing the Skeena last week and still recall the picture of you proudly cradling a monster Steelhead. Friends and I had a wonderful week – I think about 20 - 24 Steelhead between us, (I had four), in addition to a variety of salmon – Springs, Coho, Sockeye, Chums and Pinks. The only species I did not catch was a Spring salmon but one of our group hooked and landed a 40 pounder! My biggest fish was a 22lb Chum that gave a terrific fight but still not as good a fight as the knee-trembling 15lb Steelhead that ran off at least half my backing.
I had two Spey-casting lessons before the trip, splashed out on a good rig and returned having enjoyed the Skagit/Spey casting even more than using a single-handed rod. It seems to be almost ballet-like, inducing a sense of peace and balance - keeping with the beauty of the surroundings... Would you agree?
(Sadly not Roy. I used a 15 foot rod Spey casting in Iceland for a week and felt – and looked – anything but like a budding ballerina. But each to his own.)
Paul Colley. Is he already in a league of his own in underwater trout photography?
Yes, I think he is. I came across an image of his on Earth Shots, a weekly photography newsletter I subscribe to. (see Earth Shots.org). then I had a look at his website and I was left in no doubt that he is a master of the art of underwater photography generally, not just trout. See his website http://www.mpcolley.com and click on 'The Trout Project'.
An example of Paul's work
Mavungana Fly Fishing lunch at Franschoek; an invite from Jonathan and Sarah Boulton