FLY-FISHING NEWSLETTER – JUNE 2019
Yet More Sweet Days – Notes from a fly fisher's Life
My latest book, Yet More Sweet Days, was delivered to my home this week after a long time in the writing and in the protracted process of publishing and printing. But, happily, the finished product is lovely. The book has a feel of comfortable sumptuousness, the cover is pleasantly evocative and the pen and ink sketches have been excellently reproduced. So I am a very happy author, thanks to my punctilious publisher, Tim Richman of Burnet Media, and his professional team.
A pen and ink sketch from Yet More Sweet Days
To order a copy please send your physical address and your cell phone number. This is for The Courier Guy, who will be delivering the orders for me.
Yet More Sweet Days sells for R320 and the courier cost is R70 (for up to three books per courier bag).
I am still waiting to hear courier costs to the UK, the USA, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
To pay for an order my bank details are:
Account Freestone Press, Standard Bank, Rondebosch, code 025009, Account number 071483861.
I still have a few copies of Shadows on the Stream Bed and The Elements of Fly Tying (both R185), but sadly Hunting Trout is sold out. My publisher, Tim Richman, spoke briefly about printing a third edition of Hunting Trout, but for the moment, Yet More Sweet Days is enough to keep my undivided attention.
Title: Yet More Sweet Days- Notes from a fly fisher's Life; Burnet Media, 2019; pages 472, chapters 20, pen and ink sketches 50. ISBN 9781928230717. Distributed by Jacana Media.
The Limited Edition of Yet More Sweet Days
The leather-bound limited edition copies will be delivered this week hopefully. It is well over-subscribed with a long waiting list, so if you ordered one and have since changed your mind, please let me know. Again the book will be couriered to you so I will need your physical address and cell phone details.
A New South Wales mini-grand slam; rainbow, brook and brown trout from tiny Australian streams
In New South Wales, Australia, my friend Nick Taransky makes fine bamboo rods. He is also a small-stream fanatic and as we were coming to the end of our respective fishing seasons, and perhaps in recognition of our shared love of tiny, twiggy waters, he sent me an interesting email with a few photographs. They lit a bright fire in the small-stream-addiction-centre somewhere deep in my brain, and if you are similarly small-stream addicted, hold onto your socks right now!
It’s feeling very Autumnal here, but some reasonably warm weather got me away from rods and renovations with my mate Troy to try for an Australian 'mini-Grand Slam'; rainbow, brook and brown trout. We started out with rainbows and brookies.
Targeting wild rainbows and brookies...
There were plenty of rainbows and Troy got a handful of brookies, but it took a few hours for me to get mine. I fished my Madake 4 piece, bamboo ferruled 6’3” #3 weight, while Troy fished his 7’3” Japanese “Naoto Shibuya Favourite” Glassmaster #3.
Then on the way back to Cooma we stopped at a tiny roadside creek for 20 minutes to catch a brown. Again, Troy got one in 2 casts but I missed a few chances before landing one.
Nick Taransky with the small stream rainbow...
We realised that a true grand slam needs 4 species, but that’s not really an option here on the mainland. So in the future, a diversion to a little dam on a tributary to catch a native galaxia minnow might be a cool thing to do.
Thanks, Nick for a lovely article and great images...
A different kind of fishing...
I fished with a bunch of well-known anglers recently in different circumstances. We were on two large ponds on the La Ferme Estate near Franschoek, at an event put on by Western Province Fly Fishing (WPFFA), hosted by disabled fly fishers Duggie Wessels and Mark Swartz.
Ponds at La Ferme near Franschoek
I have taken part in fly-fishing clinics for wheelchair-bound people on a number of occasions over the years, but this was different, in that us so-called 'able-bodied' anglers were also strictly confined to wheelchairs. We caught a few fish that, as you would imagine, were nowhere near as difficult to hook as they were uniformly difficult to land from a wheelchair. So it was a challenging and revealing spell of fishing where I discovered just how much I take my own mobility for granted.
I now have added admiration for people in wheelchairs which, I guess, was the point of the exercise to begin with, and I was left with the strong feeling that it would be good to see more fly-fishing venues offering disabled people appropriate access, throughout South Africa.
'Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.'
― Horace Mann.
Matching the Minnow by Ed Herbst – Streamers for yellowfish?
Writing ‘Matching the Hatch’ saw a young university student, Ernest Schweibert, join the pantheon of fly-fishing greats, but by serendipitous accident I discovered that a similarly analytical approach to imitation and selectivity is being used here in South Africa – but with minnows.
But to get back to my story. At the beginning of the year, my friend, Andrew Ingram, was planning a winter trip to fish the Orange River in the Richtersveld and I decided to tie some flies for him in anticipation of the trip.
A typical fly fishers’ camp on the Orange River in the Richtersveld. Photo by M C Coetzer
MC Coetzer, one of the country’s leading competition fly fishers, has often fished the area so I approached him for advice on what nymphs to use because Czech-nymphing the rapids can provide days when dozens of yellowfish are caught.
His answer surprised me. He said,
‘The fish in the Richtersveld are not picky at all. It’s generally more a question of finding them as some rapids are devoid of fish while others are jam-packed with them.
‘After my last two trips I have switched to fishing streamers for large- and smallmouth yellowfish. A 6-wt rod with an intermediate line, and black, tan or grey streamer patterns, works extremely well. This avoids the smaller fish and you will still end up with 20-plus fish a day.’
M C Coetzer with a typical yellowfish from the Orange River which separates South Africa and Namibia.
Alan Hobson, one of the country’s most innovative fly designers, guides lucky anglers to stellar fly fishing for trout, yellowfish, bass and barbel in beautiful surroundings from his Angler & Antelope guest house in Somerset East.
His research on the role played by predacious diving beetles and snails in the fish diet in his home waters saw him featured in a recent edition of The Mission magazine.
When I approached him for advice on streamers for Andrew Ingram’s trip to the Orange River, I discovered that he has adopted a similarly analytical approach when it comes to imitating our indigenous minnows.
His journey started when a guest gave him a poster produced by a Knysna company, Korckposters, which produces big and beautiful natural history posters.
Alan Hobson with the minnow chart in his Somerset East fly fishing shop, the poster which started him on his ‘Match the Minnow’ journey was Freshwater Fishes of Southern Africa – the Smaller Species.
He found that there is a significant colour range within a single minnow species depending on the water conditions it is found in. Alan says,
‘My minnow patterns originate from either catching minnows at an actual venue, or observing what I see at the water's edge and then using the appropriate materials to match the hatch – shape, size, colour and movement. It is actually a lot more difficult than it looks.
'The Chubby Head Barb is very prevalent in many waters throughout South Africa. What is interesting is how the colours vary from water to water. For example, the Chubby Head Barb in Somerset East - DSCF 5757 on the poster - differs enormously from of the same minnow species found in the Winterberg waters.
'The more the water colour looks like rooibos tea with milk, the more silver the minnow appears and, in the Winterberg, where the water is dark brown, the minnow is more golden.
‘The same phenomenon is found in the Orange River system, with the Orange Fin Barb and the Namaqua Barb.
‘These area-related minnow patterns definitely excite largemouth yellows and bigger trout.
‘The internet’s ‘Global Village’ enables people from all over the world to order my bespoke patterns. I receive a lot of orders for the customised patterns from anglers doing trips to the Richtersveld, Van der Kloof dam, KZN waters and our trophy Eastern Cape waters and have the flies couriered door to door.’
Alan Hobson’s Chubby Head Barb imitation for Thrift Dam, a legendary large trout venue in the Eastern Cape.
The Chubby Head Barb
There are subtle material and design differences between Alan’s imitations of the Chubby Head Barb (above) and the Namib Barb (below) which is prolific in the Orange River in the Richtersveld.
The Namib Barb
Matching the Minnow – the Eastern Cape Redfin which is common in rivers and dams close to Somerset East
One of the staples in the diet of both yellowfish and trout in South Africa is the tadpole of the African Clawed Frog – known colloquially as the ‘Platanna’ – and Alan’s HOT Fly (‘Hobson’s Original Tadpole’) is a justifiably legendary imitation. He is now selling an articulated version which is receiving excellent reviews.
The articulated version of Alan Hobson’s Platanna Tadpole imitation
Another veteran Richtersveld visitor is Richard Wale who, with his partners, bought the Upstream shop from John Yelland and moved it to new premises in Main Road, Kenilworth in Cape Town.
Richard Wale (left) and Andrew Apsey outside the new premises of Upstream in Kenilworth, Cape Town
Richard says that gold materials have proven particularly effective on the Orange River yellowfish and the way he incorporates dumbbell eyes into his streamer is innovative. These flies are available from Upstream as custom ties.
Richard Wale’s Zonker for the Richtersveld yellowfish features gold materials and an innovative way of weighting the fly.
My own contribution to Andrew Ingram’s trip to the Richersveld was designed for largemouth yellowfish, which is a 'wait-and-ambush' predator. It was based on the smaller version of the Mangum Dragon Tail which has exceptional movement in the water.
I tied it on a #6 Hanak H950 BL streamer hook and, between the tail material and the dumbbell eyes, I palmered in some Zonker fur trapped in a dubbing loop of 12/0 Nanosilk thread. I tied some foam rubber beneath the tail to stop it from wrapping around the hook.
The author’s Mangum Tail streamer which targets largemouth yellowfish.
MC Coetzer pointed out another advantage of fishing a streamer down and across rather that high-sticking a heavily-weighted nymph in the rapids is that it is not as tiring as constantly wading against the current.
Sadly, the Orange River was in spate when Andrew got there and the water was too high and too swift to fish safely. This was a useful reconnaissance trip however and he is planning another trip in spring.
Thanks, Ed for a delightful piece, as always, from South Africa's supreme investigative fly fisher!