Quotes of the month
I've chosen two quotes this month from one of fly fishing's most skilled and prolific writers, Nick Lyons. The first is a longish piece that perfectly illustrates Nick's remarkable skills as a wordsmith. His prose is right up there with the best angling writers of all time in my view.
Here's the first quote:
Then the swallows, fork-tailed and fleet, begin to dip and dart and disappear beneath the bridge and reappear. I try to follow one and cannot. I strain, but as hard as my eyes try, until they blur, the birds deftly interweave in aerial ballet, cross and vanish beneath the bridge and then reappear again, and I cannot tell one from another. They are identical shuttles moving at phenomenal speed. Only if I watch closely can I see them balance vertically in the air, poise, open their bills, and nab a salmon fly in flight. Behind the sky tapestry, there is a bird and death, the fleet hunt and blood. It's not a game.
From Bright Rivers, 1977
The second quote is suitably brief, and sobering.
If you saw a piece of steak moving unnaturally on your plate would you eat it?
From Confessions of a Fly Fishing Addict, 1989.
I hope you enjoyed both of them.
Time on a tricky trout stream
Last week I fished with Andrew Fowler from KZN, on a low, glassy stream under a cloudless sky. He's new to the Cape waters and I'd hoped for better conditions; a few more inches of flow, less brightness, less of the sharp, gusty, downstream breeze. (Breeze? Well, actually a wind, and it played havoc with our long leaders and ruled out any thought of using my delicate Sage 0-weight.)
Click in images to enlarge them
Andrew Fowler on gusty, bright, cloudless, clear-water day.
But we had some moments straight from the mould of small stream perfection, in that a few good trout were out feeding, dancing lightly and holding shallow over assorted mosaics of riverbed pebbles, the fish so clear to see that as we spotted them, we instinctively froze and held our breath.
We could easily have been skunked, but fortunately there were sporadic hatches – mountain midges and a tiny Baetid mayfly dun among them – so the fish were keen enough to come to the surface. By the time we called it quits, Andrew had landed around a half-dozen small trout, missed as many, lost a few, one of them a real honey that snapped him off.
The tiny Baetid mayfly dun
And on the walk out, the fynbos was alive with wild flowers, including purple Watsonias and butter-yellow irises. We are blessed in so many different ways with our fishing in the Western Cape.
A wild Iris along the riverbank.
Remember that lovely mayfly I posted in last month's newsletter? Well, here's what Dr Helen James has to say about it:
The beautiful Leptophlebiidae male in your photograph is Adenophlebia, probably dislocans. I have never seen one in life. It's lovely.
- Helen Barber-James is a freshwater biologist in the Department of Freshwater Invertebrates attached to the Albany Museum. She has more than 25 years of research experience, in particular on freshwater invertebrates, especially mayflies. By the way, I've often seen this mayfly on Cape streams, from late September through to early December. I've even had one land on the butt of my fly rod!
The Leptophlebiidae male
Fly fishing for fundraising
I've long held the belief that fly fishing easily lends itself to gatherings of expectant people keen to learn how to cast and to catch a fish. We held such an event two weeks ago on the beautiful Lourensford Estate in Somerset West. It was arranged by the Children's Hospital Trust in aid of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital. Nedbank kindly sponsored it all and we had 15 keen beginners as our guests. I rustled up no less than nine guides, including many luminaries in South Africa fly fishing circles. The weather was perfect, people learned how to cast – well, more or less – and most of them caught their first trout.
Photographs by Candice Douglas, who gave up her day to act as the official photographer.
On the banks of the spring-fed ponds, Lourensford
Brita Lomba with guide Robin Douglas
Just for the record, the following fly fishers generously helped me with this worthy event:
Sharland Urquhart, Robin and Keith Douglas, Tim Rolston, Sean Mills, Steve Dugmore, Gordon van der Spuy, Ruhan Neethling, Gerhard Compion and Craig Thom.
And Ruhan Neethling kindly donated a traditionally dressed salmon fly of his own tying, a perfect rendition of the Killarney Pet, an Irish classic, that we auctioned after lunch. It fetched a staggering R7000, which I believe may well be the highest price yet paid for a South African tied fly. It was worth every cent, both for the fly's intrinsic value (Ruhan is a master class tyer), and for the good cause it served.
Ruhan Neethling's impeccably tied Killarney Pet. Does it get better? (Photograph per Ruhan Neethling.)
The successful bidder,Hywel George, between Ruhan Neethling(left) and Gordon van der Spuy (who acted as auctioneer) right. (Photograph per Candice Douglas.)
In case you want to tie a Killarney Pet, here's the recipe – and the best of luck to you!
Tag: Gold twist and crimson silk.
Butt: Black herl.
Tail: A topping, Summer Duck, and tippet strands.
Body: Light yellow silk, and light orange silk, equally divided.
Rib: Gold tinsel (oval).
Body hackle or legs: Jay, from second turn.
Throat: Light orange hackle.
Wings: Tippet (strands), Golden Pheasant tail, Bustard, Summer Duck, Swan strips dyed crimson, yellow, blue and orange, Red Macaw, and Mallard.
Horns: Blue Macaw.
Head: Black herl.
Originator: Mrs. Courtney.
Reference: The Salmon Fly, 1895.
One of the things a regular biannual fly fisher's lunch reminds you of is that time speeds by. It seemed we'd only just ended our first lunch in March this year when we were back around a table this month sitting down to the second lunch of the year. Eight months had just blinked by.
This time we gathered at Magica Roma, an Italian restaurant in Cape Town. The food was excellent, members were in top form, Piet Beyers brought some delightful wines and I brought a guest, the First Lady of South African fly fishing, Sharland Urquhart.
Our fly-fishing lunch group. (Picture by an unknown waitress.)
From left to right: Ed Herbst (who wanted to know from Riaan Heyns when his book, 'Triggerfish on Tenkara', was coming out), Riaan Heyns, self, Pat Garratt (author of 'Crazy – Adventures of a Marine Biologist' who is about to retire as Director of the Two Oceans Aquarium to concentrate of long board surfing and fly fishing), Sharland Urquhart (artist, philanthropist and fly fisher), Steve Boshoff (perfectionist bamboo rod maker of considerable reputation), my regular fishing companion, Robin Douglas, and Piet Beyers (author of 'Waaraan Ek Dink As Ek Terugdink'). Missing, with profuse apologies of course, was Duncan Brown, author of 'Are Trout South African?'.
The finest ultra- light-weight graphite fly rod ever made ?
I had a visit from KZN fly fisher, Graham Steart, last week when the conversation, as you won't be surprised to learn, turned largely around fly fishing, and in particular, small stream fly fishing. On the matter of rods, I expressed the view that the finest ultra-lightweight graphite fly rod ever made was Sage's 0-weight SPL, a rod that in its own way now seems iconic. Of course, the other iconic graphite stick has to be Orvis's 7' 9" Far and Fine.
Fly fishing artists
Tony Kietzman on the Kraai River at Moshe's Ford. (Tom Sutcliffe photograph.)
Fly fishing art is gaining popularity in South Africa and the number of artists is increasing with the demand. New to the fold is Tony Kietzman, fly-fishing guide and botanical expert living in Rhodes in the Eastern Cape Highlands.
Here are two examples of Tony's recent work:
Why I fly fish and what does it mean to me?
Text and images from Darryl Lampert.
Why I fly fish has definitely changed over time. When I started fly fishing around 40 years ago, the main draw was an opportunity to spend some quality time with my Dad. He worked long hours first as a GP and then as a gynaecologist and with two older brothers, I didn't get a lot of time to spend with him on my own. Luckily out of the three of us I was the one that took to hunting and fishing, and have many great memories from that time.
When I moved down to Cape Town 23 years back, fishing became less about something to eat and more about something to do. I guess the real addiction kicked in about 15 years ago when I was doing a lot of trips to the Richtersveld to fish for yellowfish, and fishing the Cape streams for trout. Since then I have been fishing nearly every weekend.
So why do I fish now and what does it mean to me? On a superficial level, I fish to de-stress and unwind from work. My days at work are spent solving problems and answering emails. I am on call 24/7 and I never have the luxury of just switching off my phone. On the river the first thing I do is turn off my phone, and the most pressing problem I have to deal with is what fly to tie on and how to present it.
I also love the fact that I am out in the mountains, as opposed to sitting on my bum staring at a computer screen. I remember having a discussion with Leonard Flemming a couple of years ago, whilst fishing a remote stream together. Leonard couldn't really understand why I would want to fish the same stream week in and week out. He couldn't bring himself to fish the same stream twice in a year, unless it was something really special. For me it is more important to be out on a stream, and less important which one it happens to be.
On a deeper level, I find fly fishing an alluring addiction. A day on the stream is made up of many fleeting moments, and using my other passion of photography, I try to distil some of these moments.
From the delicately spotted pectoral fins on a rainbow parr, to the fluorescent orange spots on the adipose fin of a Witte brown, the fragility of a newly emerged mayfly, the nervousness of a river frog waiting for the last moment before it springs its escape. All of these moments add up to a tapestry of memories, which drift around in my head long after I have left the water.
Trout fishing is a lot like BDSM, although instead of getting your jollies from some spandex clad dominatrix stepping on your nuts in high heels, we submit ourselves to equal parts pain and pleasure whilst fishing.
So what's it all about, this standing in a freezing cold stream with the wind howling down the valley, your hands frozen to the point that tying on a fly requires the concentration of micro surgery, your feet so cold that just standing still is a major effort, and then a rising trout calmly noses your ugly mess out of the way to eat a perfect natural for the umpteenth time? It's what I call fun, relaxation, happiness, insanity …
Tanya Raath with Billy Pate reels for sale
I am selling 2 brand new Billy Pate fly reels. The one is the Bonefish reel and the other is the Tarpon reel.
Both reels are brand new, have never been used and will come with all original packaging. The most stunning salt water real and a real dream come true for any serious fly fisherman.
The reels are going for R4000 each, which can either be bought together for R8000 or individually. The price does not include shipping. I am based in South Africa. The reels normally retail for between R6500 and R7500 excluding shipping and VAT.
Please contact Carl on +27 741 942 197 for enquiries.
A note from Robin Douglas via his son Ian in California
Ian sent me this photograph of a Lahantan cutthroat trout caught in Pyramid Lakes by a climbing pal of his. My mind boggles!
Musa Ibrahim on the Hardy Kenya fly rod
I am writing from Nairobi, Kenya and I am an avid fly fisherman and a coffee trader by profession. Kenya was blessed, and still is still blessed, with some very beautiful trout rivers. It was estimated in the 1950 we had 2,200km of trout rivers, which unfortunately now is a down to around 600km by my estimation(not confirmed). When Kenya was at its prime, Hardy issued a Hardy Kenya Fly Rod made between 1934 to 1957. It was an 8ft 5-weight rod and very appropriate for the Kenyan rivers. I am currently asking any of your readers who might have used this rod, or still own one, and any who might want to find a better home for one, to contact me as I am looking to buy one.
Bamboo ferrule and new reel seat on rods made by Steve Dugmore
Here are some interesting new bamboo concepts recently posted on my website:
Visit Stephen Dugmore’s website for more information:
On Marcel Terblanche's fly tying and art by Ed Herbst:
I have just posted an interesting interview Ed Herbst had with Marcel Terblanche on my website under:
Marcel Terblanche with one of his art works