Saturday, 18 October 2014 06:33

Hosting two young hitch-hiking Canadians - 

Yesterday Robin Douglas and I took two young Canadians (confusingly both named Matthew) up one of the Cape’s smaller mountain streams. It was a day when the water was pure crystal, nothing but 7X would do, the breeze was thankfully upstream and gentle and the pair of 2- weight Sage Circas we lent the boys did as sweet a job as you would imagine.

Click in images to enlarge them

1 Typical Capemountain trout stream PA110242


There was no hatch to speak of, but here and there I spotted feeding trout and even the occasional rise, I assumed to net-veined midges of the family Blepharoceridae, either hatching midges or adult females returning to lay eggs, because we saw the typically fluttering gatherings of these insects in the lee of many river stones and a few adults clinging to rocks. 

2 The Blepharoceridae Mountain Midge PA110271

A net-veined (mountain) midge, possibly newly hatched, perched on Matthew Van Ostdam’s finger

The dry fly did the damage with pretty-looking rainbows taking both the Para-RAB and Single Feather CDC Midge. I think you could take trout from a rain barrel with either of these two patterns.

The fish were as quick as lightening when hooked and the boys lost more than a few before they could get them anywhere near the net. They marvelled at the lightness of their colour and their iridescent beauty.

The Cape streams aren’t easy going and not long into the drive back to Cape Town I noticed that one of the youngsters was dead to the world on the back seat of my truck.

4 The two Matts

Matthew Gruchey (L) and Matthew Van Oostdam (R) with a small rainbow in hand and a heap of memories in mind

These were two extremely keen and very pleasant young men who not only fished well, but were great ambassadors for their country. They got more than enough action yesterday to take home many good memories of small stream fly fishing in South Africa. They also had a wonderful time fishing the Injasuti in the Drakensberg and leave for Canada on Tuesday after a six month fishing and hiking tour through six African countries, including Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana – all of it done hitching rides!


Says Nick Taransky, Australia’s premier bamboo rodmaker

Just to show bamboo is not only about big fish!

 5 Nick Taransky fishing1

Fishing the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, USA, for native Brook Trout.  

This photo, maybe more than any other, I feel defines me as a fly angler.  I spent the day with my wife Miri and we caught beautiful native brookies. I like how my vest (made by a friend and mentor’s sister) and other clothes blend in.  My Aussie “Drizabone” hat even looks like a granite rock.  Flowing water, on the other side of the world from where I live, and the same passion is as strong as ever.  It reminds me of a small quote stuck on the wall of Tiemco legend Kenshiro Shimazaki’s wall in Japan, when I visited there.  It read “Man’s passion whirls on the other side of the beautiful world”…   Technical?  I can talk all day about technical…  But really, at the end of the day, what is really important?  Robert Traver’s “Testament to a Fisherman” maybe says it best.

I have a growing respect for Nick Taransky. I have posted a really thoughtful piece from him on the technical advantages of fishing bamboo. Watch this space. It is real food for thought. see my website.

And here, by the way, is Traver’s Testament to a Fisherman…

I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful and I hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant - and not nearly so much fun.

Robert Traver, Trout Magic

 A lunch with fly fishing friends

It originally began back in April this year with a lunch in a Stellenbosch restaurant involving three fishing authors – myself, Piet Beyers (author of Waaraan ek Dink as Ek Terug Dink), Duncan Brown (author of Are Trout South African?) and one serious saltwater fly fisher, Riaan Heyns. We had come together for no better reason than to enjoy some good food and wine under the cover of a little fishing talk. We liked it so much we decided on a return match.

So this week we met in a Cape Town restaurant for a second lunch, with our party swelled to include another author, Pat Garratt who wrote Crazy – Adventures of a Marine Biologist and, to add a little variety, we invited Robin Douglas, Ed Herbst and Steve Boshoff. The lunch was far from formal, extremely liquid and lasted until 4:30.  

6 IMG 1132

Left to right: Steve Boshoff, Duncan Brown, Ed Herbst, Riaan Heyns, Pat Garratt, Robin Douglas, self and Piet Beyers.

At our first lunch, Piet had presented me with Writings and Reflections (a selection of essays by my favourite angling author, Roderick Haig-Brown) and A Leaf from French Eddy by Ben Lampman, described in a review as, ‘A book as clear and refreshing as a cupped handful of water from a rushing trout stream.’  He gave Duncan two classics, Negley Farson’s Going Fishing and Arnold Gingrich’s The Fishing in Print – a Guided Tour through Five Centuries of Angling Literature.

At this week’s lunch, Piet gave copies of his book to those who had not read it and, similarly, Pat Garratt handed out copies of his book. Very generously, Piet presented me with a priceless set of leather-bound editions of the Piscator journal starting from Volume 1 (1947) and going through to Volume 62 (1965). In addition, he brought a barrel-load of the finest German wines to the table.

7 PA120278

Leather-bound volumes of ‘Piscator’

Gifts were not part of our original ‘lunch-club’ contract and were a simple act of well-meaning generosity on Piet’s part. But given the repeated largesse at this week’s lunch, it might yet become a pattern of sorts for future gatherings. If so, we look forward, perhaps at our next lunch, to Steve Boshoff bringing us each, say a 7’9”, swelled-butt, 3-piece, 3-weight – or something similar. It’s scheduled for Stellenbosch in March 2015. Is that enough time Steve?

 Yesterday’s lunch was, we thought, a mildly upbeat version of Charles Ritz’s International Fario Club, whose members dine annually at the Ritz Hotel in the Place Vendome in Paris.

98787 90 The International Fario Club

Our discussions were far-ranging; from a very plausible argument that the Somali pirates had saved a whole fishery by keeping the rapacious and marauding international fishing fleet trawlers out of the western Indian ocean, to great literature from both the northern hemisphere (Harry Middleton, James Babb and Ted Leeson featured) and the southern hemisphere (Greg French’s Frog Call, a collection of brilliant vignettes on Tasmanian fly fishing, got high praise).

8 River Music by Babb

James Babb’s ‘River Music’

9 frog-call

Greg French’s ‘Frog Call’

Then Ed Herbst entertained us with hilarious accounts of his life as a journalist and Piet mentioned the best first page of any book he had ever read. It was in Dirk Bogard’s An Orderly Man. Pat Garrat told us you hadn’t lived until you’d read The Rational Optimist by Mat Ridley, a counterblast to the prevailing pessimism of our age, suggesting that, however much we might think to the contrary, things are getting better.

It was around then that I counted 30 empty wine glasses on the table. In a way it wasn’t so much a lunch, as more like one of those fishing trips where foul weather sets in and you all get trapped in the hut and suddenly laced with booze and good food, fall into amiable discourses about life, literature, philosophy and women, with the odd reference to fishing, fly rods and places where the fish are – or aren’t – known to be biting.

 But in a non-secular sense, there was also something vaguely spiritual about the gathering, though I can’t quite get a handle on that as yet.

 Patrick Garrat’s book ‘Crazy – Adventures of a Marine Biologist’

I thought it might be dry, soberly scientific, and drearily didactic. Was I wrong! This book riveted me to the very last page and the title’s two words ‘crazy’ and ‘adventures’ were a constant theme throughout.  I will be doing a full review on my website soon. What a marvellously refreshing read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

10 Crazy-MD-bookcover

New Voices Publishing, Cape Town, 2012. The book is available through the Two Oceans Aquarium shop, Netbooks and Loot

 Gink and Gasoline’s fly fishing photography tips and contest

Louis Cahill, who together with Kent Klewein, produces Gink and Gasoline, a very interesting and highly useful USA-based fly fishing blog, recently struck a serious chord in my mind about photographing fish. In an article on taking pictures of fish when on your own, Louis, who is a professional photographer himself, reminds you that fish have no lungs so they cannot hold their breath. I found this not so much a revelation, as a really apposite reminder of just how much care we need to take with any fish out of the water. You can read his full article here:


By the way, this stunning under water image by Reuben Browning won the Gink and Gasoline fly fishing photography contest for 2014. Well deserved I’d say. Clarity, sharpness, composition, subject interest, it’s all there.


11 Reuben browning award winning image

To see Louis’ wonderful fly fishing images visit his website at http://louiscahill.com/FlyFishing.html

 The art of Craig Bertram Smith

 In January 2010 Craig had his final month as a graphic designer and became a full time artist. He has never looked back and deservedly so. His work ranks with the best in the world in my view and it’s no wonder he gets commissions from way beyond South Africa, with strong interest from Australia and the USA.

With his art appearing in books, magazines and fishing product labels, he has realized his life’s dream of becoming a world-renowned artist.

Depicted here is a work recently commissioned by friends for Tom Lewin’s 50th birthday where Tom is depicted fishing one of his favourite streams, the Witte River in the Western Cape.


12 Tom Lewin by Craig Smith

See http://www.craigbertramsmith.co.za

 Largemouth yellowfish in the Orange River

Jeff Tyser, who with his wife, Kerryn, hosts a truly amazing blog passthemap.com, wrote this piece and included these lovely images:

My friend Ben has an uncanny (and enviable) knack of tangling with very good fish on a very regular basis. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to watch him get his best yet: a huge largemouth yellowfish, sight fished on a tiny bead head nymph of all things. What made the whole situation even more ridiculous was that Ben was fishing his trusty smallmouth rig: a 5-weight rod with 6lb tippet. For those of you who don’t fly fish, that’s a bit like taking on a Samurai warrior with a flick knife.

With all the spawning fish in the shallows at the moment, we decided to head out to a venue with some deeper runs and pools. A largemouth is always a possibility in this kind of water, and Ben had swum across to the opposite bank in search of one. He was perched on a little rocky outcrop when he first caught a glimpse of the behemoth. From his body language, Myles and I could tell he had spotted something of considerable proportions. Exhibiting the patience of a hungry leopard, Ben crouched down amongst the rocks and waited, hoping for his fish to return. A short while later, it did exactly that.


13 Jeff Tyser 1

The little nymph plopped down in just the right place. With the grace of a brown trout sipping on mayflies, the old girl sucked it in. All hell broke loose as she tore off up a side channel, and then charged back downstream into a large pool. Twenty minutes later, after a few close calls with a submerged tree, Ben gently worked her into a backwater where, hands shaking, he was able to tail her. Quite conveniently, he had also managed to be towed back across the river by this stage, meaning I didn’t even have to get wet to snap a few pictures. After a quick photo session, we watched in awe as the Queen swam strongly back into the depths of her pool.


14 Jeff Tyser 2

A fish this size could probably take out an Egyptian goose. It’s hard to say what it was doing eating a number 14 bead head nymph. But who cares. Well done, Ben! I don’t know many people who have spent as much time working out the Vaal. If anyone deserves a fish like this, it’s you.

(See http://flyfishingandhunting.co.za for details of camp-in fly fishing safaris on the Orange River)

 Not so much a quote as a perceptive and pensive piece of piscatorial prose

How’s this for some stylish writing…

Fly fishing demands more brains than muscle, a tolerance for the exasperating as well as the moving, the beautiful, the profound, and sometimes, whether a cartwheel off a slick rock in a mountain stream is involved or not, there is even the occasional brush with miracles – the unexpected – undiluted and sublime. That’s the part I like best: you never know where a trout stream will lead, or where a hooked trout might haul you. There is no pressure on the fly fisherman, at least not those who, like me, keep mostly to themselves. Some of my best days as an angler have been those when I have not wet a line or set a hook, but only sat and watched the stream and the daylight and by the day’s end my senses, if not my creel, were overflowing. Angling brings with it a certain pleasurable degree of democracy, the right to hook a fish or simply pursue an especially intriguing day, one filled with soft light and a wild labyrinth of shadows.

 15 1545668 Harry Middleton

It’s from Harry Middleton’s book On the Spine of Time – a fly fisher’s journey among mountain people, streams and trout. (Simon and Shuster New York, 1991.)

 Harry Middleton’s fly rod by the famous maker George Maurer

Says Clem Booth:

The Starlight Creek "Harry's Rod" is an 8 foot 5 weight. The interesting thing about this particular rod is that it was pretty much the last rod that George Maurer was working on when he passed away in February of 2008. The rod was complete except for the wraps which Wyatt Dietrich did for me. So, I guess I have one of the last ever pieces by the master who was known as "Dr Taper" due to his expert knowledge of bamboo rod tapers. It is a crisp dry fly rod which I use a lot on the chalk streams.


Harry Middleton’s fly rod

The "Starlight Creek" designation comes from Harry Middleton's most famous book, ‘The Starlight Creek Angling Society’. I'm lucky enough to have a mint edition copy signed by Harry, one of 500. Sadly Harry passed away the year after in 1993 as a young man. Harry and George seemed to have had a close friendship and it's sad that these two icons of our passion passed away so young.

 17 Star Light Creek 

The Starlight Creek Angling Society

Jan Korrubel, KZN fly fishing guide, reports

I am very pleased to report that after another couple of days of blistering heat early in the week, it seems that the rains have finally started.  ‘Nothing for free’ and ‘Be careful what you wish for’ as they say. The rain might have come in overabundance reports Simon Bunn from Peak Trout up at Cathedral Peak. Simon, Nina and staff were up all night while ‘The perfect storm’ raged, dropping some serious hail; up all night trying to contain the effects.

18 Cathedral hail

He has had no time to confirm with his rain gauge, but estimates are that they received 100mm+ overnight.  The winter burn of Cathedral Peak Reserve added to the runoff, bringing heaps of soil down into the hatchery waters. Simon reports that they don’t even know if there are any fish left in their holding ponds so dirty is the water. 

19 JK PeakTrout-2-this morning

Peak Trout hatchery post the storm

20 JK PeakTrout-3-holding pond this morning

While I measured 15mm in my gauge this morning, bring the monthly total to 30mm so far, reports from further afield are : 13mm at Giant’s Cup from Wolf Avni, 15mm in Underberg from Miles Divett, and 19mm at Giant’s castle from Matt Haden.

The pre-storm weather brought a howling wind and mizzle yesterday – certainly not pleasant to be out chucking fluff.  Visiting anglers Brett Giles and Shan de Waal, who had driven down from Gauteng on Friday for a weekend of Midlands fishing, promptly turned tail and head back north yesterday morning.

Mungo Poore, also down from up north, had come in search of stream fishing and finding the rivers still low and clear (that was yesterday), opted for an Natal Fly Fishers Club water up in the Kamberg and managed a couple of takes on a black Crystal Woolly Bugger, but managed nothing to hand and called it quits in the obscene weather.

He had better luck this morning on the Furth Stream, in the Dargle Valley, bringing a lovely brownie to hand on the same Crystal Bugger.

While this morning dawned bright and clear after the storms of yesterday, the wind and clouds came back by mid-morning and reports are that the wind was still howling up the valley.

Tomorrow night sees Wayne Stegen tie his giant killer fly, the ‘Salmo Taddy’ (recently responsible for Anton Smith’s 13.2lb rainbow trout), for the monthly meeting of the Natal Fly Dressers Society.  Meetings are held the 2nd Monday of every month at Chamber House, in the Pietermaritzburg Royal Showgrounds. The meeting starts at 7pm.  All interested fly tiers are welcome.  Please contact the Chairman, Graeme Steart 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. , or myself the vice-Chair, 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., for more info.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Final quote

Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish.

Mark Twain


You can subscribe to my Newsletter and receive it by email each Sunday evening hot off the press as it were by going to the 'Subscribe' tag on the Home page of my website. We are now well over 1000 subscribers.

21 signing a copy of-My Way with Trout Tom Sutcliffe

Here’s signing of until next week.

Picture above by Jeanne Bence, of my ‘signing’ his copy of ‘My Way with Trout’ with a quick sketch of a trout, the picture taken at Highland Lodge, 2013.

Tom Sutcliffe 

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