The trout were difficult on an outing last week despite a clear day and good flows, but after recent rains and a dusting of snow on some nearby mountains the water was a cool 12 degrees. And we had to contend with a really tricky upstream breeze that teased the tippet this way and that, mostly just as the fly was landing. My companions were Robin Douglas and his son Keith and we'd decided on dry fly only for the day and we stuck with it, though there were times when we just knew, or at least could seriously surmise, that a deep-sunk nymph would have taken trout from likely lies that produced nothing on the dry fly.
There was a hatch of one sort or another all day; a few tiny mayfly spinners, a couple of smart-looking September Brown duns, micro-caddis, net-winged midges and plentyof those ubiquitous tiny black bugs you just can't even guess at.
A September Brown mayfly dun that I photographed on the day
Cick in images to enlarge them
Here and there we saw a fish rise, but the rises were strangely sparse given the number of bugs on the water, though when we did see a fish come up we invariably caught it, if not on the first drift, then on the second or third.
On some outings I set out with a particular plan in mind and yesterday it was to get a series of photographs of a trout being released, never an easy task and one that requires that you carefully set up the camera, take note of where sunshine is lighting the streambed, position the angler accordingly, and sort out a heap of other incidentals well ahead of shooting the actual sequence. Here's the result:
So we chalked up a lovely day on this tiny Cape stream and spent time remarking on the beauty of its rainbow trout with their hues of blue and lilac and shades of apricot and spots spread as randomly as stardust. They're that pretty it's no wonder we don't care they aren't any bigger.
Hues of blue and lilac, shades of apricot.
Sitting on the tailgate of my truck at the end of the day Robin looked at my wading boots as I was about to slide out of them and hinted that I could safely invest in a new pair. Can't really see why. This pair just looks nicely worn in to me.
Robin and I will be back on a different stream in a day or two when I've promised myself I will fish a few Oliver Kite dry fly patterns; the Imperial, his Mayfly, Hawthorn Fly and Black Gnat, all in sizes 16 to 18. More about these interesting patterns and how I go with them in my next newsletter. And as we head into what looks like another dry summer with the water already thinning fas., I will be lengthening my tippet and dropping to 8X mono – even 10X, if I can find some.
Quotes of the month
'The trout flanks are the streambed in miniature. In a brief moment of still, the small fish in your hand is the dappled streambed itself. Chestnuts, and burnt match heads. Silverware and blushing streaks. Teal and pewter specks. And in an instant he has wriggled free and left you there with the water tugging like a persistent toddler at your trousers, which you ignore in the moment it takes you to free yourself from the illusion that is reality.'
From Andrew Fowler's much celebrated book, Stippled Beauties – Seasons, Landscapes & Trout.
The second quote is from Clem Booth from fly-fishing author Harry Middleton...
'I loved this piece from Harry Middleton's book 'On the Spine of Time'. He's ruminating on the state of the planet. He wrote it in 1999 but it seems more relevant than ever:
'And what's a pessimist with optimistic yearnings to do? What he can. Go trout fishing. Cast a line, set a hook, feel the raw pull of life. Use fewer plastics. No styrofoam. No pesticides. Less pesticides. Less air conditioning and no spray cans, which means less fluorocarbons in the air. One cat. Two economical boys. My vote and my money, where there is some, for sanity, for what is wise rather than expedient, for the earth, rather than for man alone. A person ought, I suppose, to support his home, and this planet is the only home we have. And, too, there ought to be some time set aside for mountains and mountain streams, and fat, truculent trout. After all, where there is such water and trout, there is, I choose to believe, hope - hope not only for what is but for what is possible.'
I don't pretend that Harry is easy to read; he isn't and one needs to read and reread in order to digest all the richness of his craft as a wordsmith. He kind of sums it up here; yet sometimes I fear that humanity may not always be listening. But, like Harry, I remain an optimist and for as long as there are trout in our rivers, I will remain so.
The third quote is also from Clem...
Here is a piece I love from Todd Larson's very special book 'The Magic of Bamboo'. This is from the chapter written by Gordon Wickstrom.
'If, dear reader, as you have trundled along the water, you have never held two or three sticks of bamboo fly rod at your side, never felt their aliveness in your hand, if you've never felt how eager a cane rod is to get out there and work for you...well, you owe it to yourself to have that experience. It can change you.'
Just sort of says it all.
Bamboo rod on Jurassic Lake Argentina. The rod is a Chris Carlin 8' 9" in a four-piece format. Photograph per Clem Booth.
Jade dos Santos writes...
Spring has taken its hold and the yellowfish are said to be moving into the shallows on the Vaal. I am heading out this weekend to see if the rumours are true.
It might be the antithesis of rivers like the Bokspruit or Sterkspruit, but I have been patiently waiting for the Vaal season to start since I arrived back in South Africa.
I did get to spend some time chasing yellowfish in the Jukskei river, avoiding the Jukskei grand slam of bilharzia, cholera, and E.Coli. I did however manage a monster smallscale for efforts.
A monster smallscale
Offer from Diane Grigoratos
The above 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom croft is on the market for R18000. It gives 7 night's accommodation during August which falls within the private school holidays. It is a Gold Crown Resort which is beautifully furnished and serviced twice per day. It has well-stocked trout dams and river and plenty of outdoor activities for the whole family.
Image of the month
I took this picture on a virtually unknown and very tiny Cape stream, not thinking we'd catch a fish from it, never mind a rainbow as chunky as this. And yes, that is a DDD.
From Peter Brigg
Here's my new look Wolf Spider – replacing the pheasant tail front legs with a few squirrel tail hairs tied Para-RAB style, but kept level with the hackle. This should improve durability and function. The hackle is ginger from a cock cape, nothing special. CdL would be a good option. It is more just to give a better profile.
Clem Booth on the end of the UK season
The end of September beckons and with it the end of the trout season on the lovely Loddon; such a pretty stream only 30 minutes from my home in Ascot. Bittersweet in a way, as yet another season is over after so many since 1969 yet if seasons didn't end, they also wouldn't begin! So I accept this circle of life and start looking forward to the spring of 2017.
The lovely Loddon
My last day on the river was rather special. Occasionally and especially if there's no wind, I fish a little 7 1/2 bamboo rod, a 3-weight of the late George Maurer's range rather aptly called the "Spring Creek". A delightful wand, it is at its best with tiny flies and subtle presentation.
On this particular day, I'd picked up a bunch of gorgeous brownies and had been blessed with a 2 1/2 chub as well (these crafty fish are so very special on the fly!).
Last knockings, I decided to fish one of our weir pools; home to leviathans at least in the mind of the ever hopeful fly fisher!
Armed with my toothpick, a big fish affixed itself to the business end second cast and proceeded to tear up the pool. Eventually, my little Maurer did the job and I drew a beautiful 3 1/2 rainbow over the net. Tried to get it to pose underwater a la Tom Sutcliffe/Darryl Lampert/Jean Bence style but it was having nothing of that and it took off like a scalded cat! And so ended my trout season on this wonderful stream. An appropriate omega it seemed to me; now the wait for the alpha!
A discussion with Peter Brigg
Peter and I had a chat last week around mitigating the risks that the scant and precarious populations of trout in really small, swift-flowing mountain streams face and we came to a few conclusions around that. In short, angling pressure has to be minimized or at least strictly controlled (never easy), very quick catch and release protocols need to be in place, a barbless-fly-only rule and we'd both be hesitant to fish streams like this in high ambient temperatures when the oxygen saturation falls.
Just such a stream. The Injisuthi in the KZN Drakensberg. Photograph per Peter Brigg
Ed Herbst writes:
Anglers have been fly fishing for trout near Cape Town for more than a century and one would think that there was little more to learn, but Marcel Terblanche, the Franschoek-based professional fly tyer, surprised us all when he broke the news in the most recent issue of Flyfishing magazine that we have scuds in our local streams. You can read the full account on his website.
His best-selling fly, by far, at the recent Lourensford fly tying expo was his RAB which is big, sparse and has a broken-spectrum hackle reminiscent of Art Flick’s Grey Fox Variant but which sticks to the basic Tony Biggs template and uses stripped peacock quill for the legs.
Two views of the Marcel Terblanche RAB which uses a CDL hackle in the mix.
Microcaddis and a magic fly tying material
As in all mountain streams, the big hatches occur in spring and in the streams near Cape Town one of the predominant early season hatches is the Glossosoma microcaddis – the Baetis of the caddis world whose tiny white dome-like cases coat the rocks.
US fly tyer Dennis Potter ascribes magical properties to UTC Mirage tinsel which changes from opal to green as the light changes. In the Master’s Fly BoxDennis says: “I carry no dubbed caddis flies – none. All my X-Caddis, all my Elk Hair Caddis, all my caddis flies have bodies tied with opal tinsel. I beat this into people: Tie a few of your caddis or mayfly patterns with opal tinsel bodies. I don’t know what, but it is as close to a magic material as I have ever used.”
This design adds very little weight to a dry fly hook but on a size 22, the internal diameter of the eye is the equivalent of a size 16! This makes them much easier to tie to your tippet, particularly when the light is bad.
The initial results look very promising and, to ensure durability, Marcel superglues the tinsel to the hook shank.
Marcel’s Opal Tinsel Poly Caddis which he ties down to size 24
I am pleased to see that the Frontier Fly Fishing online catalogue is available again and my fly tying desk is now much tidier thanks to two recent purchases – the TMC tool stand and the C&F rotary tool stand.
Tool storage products from C&F (left) and Tiemco.
In a recent newsletter I spoke about the Dohiku 302 wet fly hook which is derived from competition fly fishing and which I got from John Yelland of Upstream Flyfishing in Cape Town.
Marcel Terblanche tells me that it offers significant advantages in that, like a jig hook, it automatically turns upside down so that the hook point rides uppermost. Marcel says that, unlike jig hooks, this design does not tend to fall on its side and it does not occlude the hook gape to the same degree.
Tiemco has a similar design the 108SP-BL which is available down to size 16 from Frontier.
The TMC Dolphin Shank hook which uses a spear point design for the sharp end
Another product which caught my eye in the Frontier catalogue is an ultralight plastic barbell eye which adds something to bass poppers without adding too much weight.
Marcel tied me a lovely foam frog for a friend using these eye.
Marcel’s foam bass popper using the lightweight plastic eyes.
In a conversation with Grip hook proprietor, Arno Laubscher, at the Lourensford fly tying expo he told me that he now has an exciting collection of new materials as well as a range of hooks, based on competition designs.
The range includes a wide selection of dubbing materials, some of which include the increasingly popular purple tinges, dyed ostrich feathers and poly wings.
Some of the dubbing materials now being distributed by Grip Hooks
From Jan Korrubel in KZN
Spring has had a slow start in the Midlands – there has been some severe winter-like weather which I strongly suspect has kept the anglers at bay waiting for the proverbial better day.
On the stillwater front, reports in from anglers who braved the weather is that there are fish about – damsels, dragons, woolly buggers in olive being the flies and colour of choice at the moment.
As I write this, Andrew Fowler reports from the Mooi River that the clouds have lifted revealing (more) snow on the southern ‘Berg. I will be joining him tomorrow, so will get to see first hand what the river is looking like.
Further upstream in the Thendela Community just outside Kamberg Nature Reserve, Trevor Sithole reports that although the river is still low, he has been catching decent fish on nymphs fished deep.
Image per Trevor Sithole
We ended September just shy of 55mm in my rain gauge here in Nottingham Road – according to my records, the best September rainfall since the 100mm of 2012. Another frontal system arrived yesterday dropping 4.5mm last night. Long may it continue.