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Monday, 04 July 2016 10:13

On Fishing -

For those of us living in the Western Cape the recent rains have been welcome and already the dams are rising. The streams are running high and ice cold, not that it matters because the season is closed. But my friend Robin Douglas and I spent some time last week on a few spring-fed ponds that are open to fishing, catching trout of around a pound and a half. We kept two for the pot.

What this stretch of fishing lacks in raw naturalness it makes up for in its delightful setting; a series of tiny ponds like a string of pearls flowing through stands of old oak trees set against a backdrop of vineyards and the towering peaks of the Helderberg mountains.

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A string of pearls, flowing amid old oak trees set against a backdrop of vineyards and the towering peaks of the Helderberg mountains.

Click in images to enlarge

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On one of the pools nature has contrived a convenient fisherman's bench, an old fencing post deep-grown into the stump of an old oak tree, maybe 50 years in the making, and protruding just far enough to sit and rest in rustic comfort.

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The water temperature was 6 degrees so nothing came to the dry fly, but we took a few fish on deep-sunken nymphs as long as we gave them some upward movement to feign emergence.

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A rare image. for me to take. Two trout resting on autumn leaves, destined for the pot – with lots of black pepper, salt, butter, garlic, sprinkled with a touch of dill, and served with fresh lemons from my garden

In the mid-afternoon we ate a modest lunch, packed up unhurriedly, and left feeling relaxed and peaceful, which, come to think of it, are exactly the sentiments I could ascribe to the fishing itself.

Quote of the month

Some people are under the impression that all that is required to make a good fisherman is the ability to tell lies easily and without blushing; but this is a mistake. Mere bald fabrication is useless; the veriest tyro can manage that. It is in the circumstantial detail , the embellishing touches of probability, the general air of scrupulous – almost pedantic – veracity, that the experienced angler is seen.

Anybody can come in and say "Oh, I caught fifteen dozen perch yesterday evening;" or "Last Monday I landed a gudgeon, weighing eighteen pounds, and measuring three feet from the tip to the tail."

There is no art, no skill, required for that sort of thing. It shows pluck, but that is all.

No; your accomplished angler would scorn to tell a lie that way. His method is a study in itself.

Jerome K. Jerome. Three Men In A Boat. 1889.

Images of the month from Gerhard Laubscher

Says Gerhard:

Attached find some images from some of my recent adventures, including the trip to Cuba. I hope you like them... (What a question ! TS.)

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(Gerhard is a longstanding friend from the days I first published Hunting Trout. In fact, he accompanied me on my country-wide tour promoting the book and his help was invaluable. He now owns and runs Flycastaway a highly respected, multi-destination fly fishing tour company.)

The South African Fly fishing and Fly tying expo 2016

Says Gordon van der Spuy:

For years numerous people around South Africa have been contemplating a local Fly fishing and Fly tying Expo. Jay Smit and Peter Brigg were discussing the idea a few years ago, as was Tom Sutcliffe, who told me of an event he once attended in Natal years ago which was magnificent. He tells me it was the best fly-fishing event he ever attended. This took place in the Royal Natal National Park in the early 80’s so it must have been good for him to still be singing its praises. A massive gathering of fly-fishing addicts just talking fishing and tying in the spectacular surroundings of the Drakensberg Mountains.

Tom actually spoke to me last year of perhaps doing a tying expo in the Cape. "We can have it out at Lourensford” , he said, “ Imagine the likes of Krige, MC, Philip and all the other guys just tying and talking fishing for a day; it’ll be great”. 

 Then at the end of last year I got a call from SJ Roberts from ‘Flytying South Africa’ who had a similar idea. Richard Wale and I had funnily enough been discussing something similar, 3 months prior to this. So basically, the energies in the air were guiding us to actually do this thing.

I sent out a few emails, spoke to a few people, had a few meetings with people who were keen and lo and behold, it’s now happening. We have people from Boland and Western Province Fly fishing as well as a number of other passionate fly fisherman from both the CPS and other parts of the country who have offered their services to us free of charge. It’s not owned by an individual entity but is instead a community based initiative, run by fly fisherman for fly fisherman. All proceeds will go towards worthwhile fly-fishing related causes. The event aims at making the proverbial circle bigger by uniting fly fisherman from across the country, from all disciplines of the sport, for a fun filled day of fishing and feather talk. This is what we’ve come up with.


The South African Fly-fishing and Fly-tying Expo 2016’ will take place on 30 July this year at Lourensford Wine Estate in the Western cape. The event is being hosted by Boland Fly Fishing in conjunction with the CPS and Lourensford Wine Estate and has had strong support from FOSAF. It promises to be the largest expo of its kind in South Africa and will cater exclusively for fly fisherman but will in fact appeal to any outdoor enthusiast. The list of personalities who will be there include fly-fisherman and fly tyers who have made a huge contribution to the craft. They are pioneers in their respective fields, and have all played an important part in the development of fly fishing in this country. 

There will be 20 fly tying demonstrators in all, a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the craft.

The list includes the likes of Tom Sutcliffe, the doyen of the sport in this country; Ed Herbst, our leading fly fishing academic; Peter Brigg, author, artist and small stream devotee;  MC Coetzer, captain of the Protea fly-fishing team; Conrad Botes, salt water guru and his bother Herman, yellowfish specialist and creator of the legendary Papa Roach; 

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Herman Botes' Papa Roach

Ruhan Neethling a world-rated classic salmon fly tyer; Alan Hobson of the Angler and Antelope in Somerset East  whose original  patterns and techniques are changing our thinking about dam fishing;  Darryl Lampert whose CDC patterns are now essentials in our fly boxes ; Matt Rich, Protea angler whose choice of patterns for local streams was recently profiled on Tom Sutcliffe’s ‘Spirit of Fly Fishing’ website; Tim Rolston, leading Cape stream guide and author of numerous fly fishing books and Leonard Flemming, travelled fly fisherman extraordinaire.

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(Gordon is modest. Above is his latest rendition of a traditionally tied salmon fly, the Jock Scott. Tom Sutcliffe)

Patrons of the festival will have the opportunity to meet and interact with exhibition tiers and talk to them face to face about what they love best. You will watch them tie the patterns for which they are famous and have the opportunity to quiz them on their thinking and their techniques.

If the feathers talk gets too heavy there will be various other activities on show including casting demonstrations by the IFFF (International Federation Of Fly Fishers), competitions and numerous tackle exhibitors and outfitters on hand giving you the ideal opportunity to see what’s hot and happening on the local scene regarding new products and developments.

There will also be a special Fly-Fishing Crafts section on show where fly-fishing related crafts will be on display including the work of some of the country’s top rod builders, net makers, sculptures, artists and writers.

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Chris Bladen, bronze sculptor will be exhibiting

This countries fly fishing Artisans are incredible, boxing far above their respective weight divisions. We have some serious talent here, people who are internationally recognised for what they do.

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One of Steve Boshoff's hand-crafted Tenkara nets

 The festival will conclude with a fly auction. We will auction off a once in a lifetime collection of flies tied by all the exhibition tiers at the festival. This will be the only collection of its kind in the country. All proceeds from the Auction will go directly to Trout SA to assist them in their work.

Entrance to the festival will be R100/person for adults and R50/person for school-going children. The festival is not owned by an individual entity. It is the direct result of the fly fishing community at large getting together to put on a really meaningful and memorable event in aid of further promoting and developing our sport.

If anyone would like to make a contribution in any way possible please feel free to contact me. All proceeds of the event will go to the development programmes run by Boland Fly-Fishing as well as TroutSA and the CPS.

For more information, or to book a stand at the expo, please contact Gordon van der Spuy on 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. .

Gear for sale

Says Liesel Venter:

We are looking at selling some fly fishing gear.  We have the following:

Deane graphite Brooke Rod 8ft 3-4 wt rod (Bought in 1997 at the Pajero Women’s festival).

Neutrad F3  3-4 WT Japanese fly reel with floating line used once.

G.Loomis Stream Dance GLX 9’ – 4 weight High Line Speed rod.

Orvis CFO II Disc-drag with a Cortland Peach WF4 floating line.

Contact Liesel Venter [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.]

From Clem Booth in London

Couple of hours on the Rriver Lodden; no especially big fish but more than a half dozen of wild, absolutely gorgeous little brownies. Love the red spots. The river was swollen and discoloured after plenty of rain but I was able to winkle out a few. Special times...

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Then went to the Avon and wow! Was a red letter day. These  fish are all over three pounds and the last one is huge! Over 5 pounds and perhaps even 6. Huge fight. All on dry fly. Look at the red spots on that huge wild fish a couple down! Just beautiful. A gift from God in fishing terms. 

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From Nick Taransky; on his trip to BC Canada and the small mountain streams in the Snowy mountains in NSW Australia

Canada was interesting.  The best part was spending some time with Bob Clay at his place on the Kispiox River.  Bob specialises in two-handed bamboo Speys (mainly penta configuration), with significant hollowing.  I cast a couple of his models on the Kispiox with him, and could really feel the benefit of the hollowing, over the couple of 12 foot two-handers I’ve made in the past.  He was very generous with his time and information on his general building and hollowing techniques.

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Nick Taransky and Bob Clay, Kispiox BC

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Casting Bob's two-handed bamboo Speys

The other highlight was the Corbett Rod maker’s gathering in Kamloops (which was the basis for the trip in the first place).  To meet up with 60 other bamboo rod makers from Canada and the USA was a wonderful experience.

I had a look at the Bulkly River.  It looked very nice (though coloured at the time), and we also drove all the way down the Skeena to Prince Rupert to catch the ferry south.  I can’t believe how big it was. Below are a few pictures with Bob.  

I enjoyed your “Shadows on the Stream Bed", and read it while on my travels in Canada.  Your chapter on photography really struck a chord with me. More and more lately I’m inclined to leave the rod at home and take the camera. I’m still frustrated by my own photography – I seem to always want to fit too much into the shot, rather than working on a single subject.  At least I know some of what I need to improve.  My rod making mentor Jeff Wagner is a wonderfully artistic photographer.  He is making his own lenses, and buying old ones (including Russian ones), and mounting them in creative ways to his DSLR to get all sorts of effects - semi/soft focus etc.  He has an annual month long break at his trailer on Penns creek, where he just fishes, reads or whatever he needs to nourish his soul.  Have a look at this (and his discussion on the picture). Says Jeff Wagner

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A nearby field that blooms in phlox – Photograph Jeff Wagner

'… for years I've been admiring a nearby field that blooms in phlox but never took the time to take pictures. this year I went there 4 times, shot well over a 100 shots with various lenses etc. I like a bunch of them but think this one is among the best. What I was shooting for was an impressionistic look via miss-focusing, high ISO's, etc.  I think this one, printed large enough, strikes just the right balance between clarity and softness...if you blow it up it looks like brush's only been adjusted in Photoshop for contrast and brightness as old lenses usually don't have much contrast. Best-JDW.'

 More from Nick on some small stream gems in NSW Australia...with images from a tributary of the Snowy

We have 3 main areas that we fish, with overlapping times that they are at their best.  I’ve never gone to the trouble of writing down a season overview of these places from a 20,000 foot level, but thought it might be useful to your readers (as well as useful to me)!  The website of my fishing mate Paul Bourne (a full-time guide) is also worth a look, as it has a month by month fishing report on the region as well:

Images from a tributary of the Snowy per Nick

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Snowy Mountains

High Country, freestone streams, mostly in the Kosciuszko National Park, of different sizes.  Larger rivers (still not large by international standards) like the Eucumbene, Thredbo, Murrumbidgee, and a large number of tributaries.  A mix of browns and rainbows (often together in the same stream), with one notable stream with wild Brookies too (as well as rainbows).  The fish are for the most part unselective, with a range of dries (terrestrials, mayfly, caddis and “standard") patterns usually being productive. Same for nymphs.


This is the plateau below the east of the Snowy Mountains, between the mountains and the coastal escarpment.  Slow, fertile streams (a mix of black basalt and granite), with the fish (nearly all browns) cruising pools, connected by (usually fishless) runs or trickles.  The rivers all run through private farmland but permission is pretty much always granted for access.  The rivers are a mixture of weed/rock/silt bottom, and there is virtually no wading.  It’s not wilderness beauty of the Mountain streams, but they have a pastoral charm to them, and each has their own character.  It’s all sight fishing and stalking, often best with a second “spotter” concealed up on the bank somewhere calling out instructions to the person with the rod.  The fish are mostly selective (among several species of Mayflies) and nearly always very spooky.  It’s our Blue Ribbon fishery and world class in my view, as much of the action is dry fly, heart in your mouth stuff to fish from 1 1/2 pounds to 6 pounds or more.  It’s the "little girl with the curl” though.  Water levels, weather and other factors contribute to the possibility of success.  Multiple fish days are certainly possible, but any time I catch a fish on the Monaro I am satisfied.  And some days you we walk and look and never unhook the fly off the rod if we don’t see a fish.

Delegate Region

This region is south of the Snowy Monaro, sort of the shoulder of the mountains, but cooler than the Monaro.  The streams run through peaty forest, and are again mainly on farmland (with access never an issue).  The largest river (still a stream, really) is the Delegate, along with many other smaller rivers.  Most have a silt or weed bottom, and run with a little peat colour.  In contrast to the Monaro, fish are usually right through the runs and flowing water.  Some can be sight fished to (either polaroided, or to the rise forms), but sometimes it pays to just fish the bubble lines and likely holding water.  The fish are nearly all browns, with fish size more like the mountains (8-20 inches) than the larger Monaro fish.  Generic dries can work, but when there are hatches of course it pays to try and match them.  

Queanbeyan region

Just as an afterthought, there is some reasonable fishing within an hour or so from where I live in Monaroregion of NSW.  I wouldn’t base a whole trip around it, but there are a few streams, including a couple of gems. A couple are in state forest, and a couple are on private property. 

Ed Herbst writes:

Capetonian Sean Mills has made his Carp Fritz an iconic fly in local circles for what Dave Whitlock calls a freshwater bonefish.

So when my friends Bruce and Pami Simpson informed that they had found a venue where carp could be seen cruising in clear water from one to two metres deep, I felt the Carp Fritz was good starting point.

However a Google search indicated that a fly even more deadly was based on the notorious Squirmy Wormy.

The problem is that the fly is not very durable and tends to break at the bend of the hook where the material is compressed by thread. John Yelland of the Upstream Fly Fishing shop in Plumstead, Cape Town has the answer.

His ingenious solution is to secure the Squirmy Wormy material onto the hook, a Dohiku 644 scud hook, after it has been tied in behind the bead, with Dohiku clear Body Stretch, which is wound to the bend of the hook and then back to the bead. This makes for a beautifully translucent but protective covering.

For thread I chose the strongly-fluorescent Demmon Hot Spot, although Semperfli Fluorobrite, both sold by Morne Bayman of the African Fly Angler website, would be just as good. Because superglue and conventional head cements erode rubber and silicone-based materials I sealed the final thread wraps with Loon water based glue.

A carp fly needs to rest hook eye down, hook point up in the silt where bloodworm thrive and the Squirmy Wormy material, being buoyant, facilitates this design approach.

The Dohiku 644 hook is very sharp and the hook point is offset which assists strikes. To ensure that it turned upside down I tied some fine lead wire to the top of the shank. Here is a tying sequence:

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X Upstream Squirmy 2

John has, at my request, imported the Dohiku 16 SPR, a fine wire version of this hook which will accommodate the smallest 1.5 mm beads. This facilitates a hook point up drift without being as extreme as a jig hook.

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he Dohiku 16SPR nymph hook

Professional fly tyer, Marcel Terblanche, has both these hooks and can tie you his version of the Upstream Squirmy Wormy or replicate your favourite nymph in #16 on the Dohiku 16SPR.


Tom Sutcliffe






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