The C word (Covid) dominated our lives in 2020, the year of 'epic derangement' as columnist Rod Liddle recently described it in The Spectator magazine, and, as it happened, I'd stopped writing my regular newsletter just a month before the viral avalanche suddenly shrunk the world like a popped balloon.
There have been few blessings in the lockdown, with good news anywhere hard to find, other than to say that my lovely wife Kathy hasn't thrown me out yet and I have managed to get through a Herculean amount of reading.
As for my newsletters, I didn't give them that much thought until I slowly began to miss them, like you miss a good friend who's gone on an extended trip, and the missing of them gradually turned into a kind of nostalgia that really took root as the lockdown progressed and the world seemed to close for business.
I had stopped writing the newsletters mainly due to the escalating costs off sending them out and because arthritis had held me back from doing enough actual fishing to write on the subject with sufficient authority or relevance. But as my joints improved, and as I began and find fishing easier, I began to wonder at the wisdom of my decision to stop them.
To add to it, I kept catching myself thinking, 'Wouldn't this or that have been great for a newsletter?', and getting emails from people kind enough to say they missed them (though not exactly massed sobbing!), and their missing of them was entirely understandable in a world growingly filled with otherwise sorrowful news.
So when I pulled all these bits and pieces together, put the costs into proportion, it was easy enough to decide that I should sit down, pull out the reference books and at least do a newsletter to celebrate the dawn of 2021 – and hopefully the Coming of the Vaccine – and to wish you all a better year ahead.
Some might remember Santa from last year's newsletter. He's back, I'm afraid, pulling the same stunt.
The regular trips I made during the lockdown to Lourensford Estate, where I'm a member of the fly fishing club, had obvious advantages, not least a chance to remove my mask and breathe reliably uncontaminated air again and to free my mind of the one-eyed focus of current television news. Which in turn often made me think of Robert Travers' insightful observations on the relative merits of getting out fishing in his Testament of a Fisherman when he said;
'I fish because I love to. Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and 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...
And as I sat sipping coffee yesterday at Lourensford I thought of his words because the environs were indeed that beautiful and the views of the distant mountains seemed strangely comforting in their comparative solidity.
The mountain views over coffee on Lourensford
Lourensford is also only a short drive from where I live, so day trips are easy. I just fill a thermos with coffee, load a rod and my fly vest, which are now permanently arranged at the front door, and in less than 40 minutes I'm on a series of spring-fed ponds, around eight of them that run with the trickle of a stream through scattered stands of century-old oaks whose shade helps keep the water cool. Occasionally an otter dirties a pool chasing after trout, but the fishing is otherwise bullet-proof, certainly little affected by weather, though recently the mother of a storm ripped through the farm with torrential rain and gale-force winds that completely upended a couple of big oaks and tore branches off others the size of roof beams, and for a long while we were careful about parking under any of the bigger trees.
It's a lovely place, Lourensford, and if you like stillwater float tubing there's a picturesque dam that I haven't yet had the need to try, and a long stretch of a small, typically Cape freestone stream where the wild rainbows take dry flies semi-reliably and a good fish will go around 15 inches.
Keith Douglas took this lovely photograph on the Lourens Stream just as the trout we'd spotted rising took my fly!
Lourensford's Blue Gum Dam – Photograph Robin Douglas
We prefer fishing these ponds 'technically', meaning we only fish small sunken nymphs and watch for the slightest twitch in the sinking leader. It's a lovely way to take trout and it makes the fishing at least partly meditative.
The ponds on Lourensford
Of course, some days the fish are dead easy and on others they are as hard to catch as smoke. But that's as it should be with any fishing. Then there are days when the water gets that clear you can sight-fish and start imagining you're on the Bourne or the Upper Itchen, only you're fishing nymphs not dry flies. In fact, we do occasionally try dries here, often in response to bold rises that typically come suddenly out of nowhere to who-knows-what. But we've never had much luck, at least not like you'd imagine from the boldness of these rises, and it can leave you wondering why an otherwise good-looking dry fly, like a scraggily #14 yellow DDD, or one of Gordon Van der Spuy's masterly parachutes, can drift right over the spot and be so bluntly ignored.
Occasionally I keep a trout for a neighbour; properly gutted and wrapped in wet newspaper. (Is there any other way to hand over a gifted fish? They keep cool for hours in wet paper and it's one of the oldest cooling tricks in the book that makes use of the simple expedient that evaporation cools. I remember my grandfather hanging canvass water bottles off the front bumper of his Buick as if he was about to cross the Sahara Desert not just drive from Johannesburg to Krugersdorp.)
My regular companion here is Robin Douglas who I've known for as long as I've been fishing this place and who is the perfect fishing buddy. I don't make it a rule, but if he's not able to come along I'd mostly rather not be fishing here, though we're philosophical about it when we can't meet up, not that it happens much because we're both old enough now not to have many scheduled meetings or hectic social diaries any longer, and neither of us is complaining.
Robin Douglas on the ponds at Lourensford
When it does happen that Robin can't make the fishing I'm reminded how important a fishing pal is, often think back to the people I've had as fishing pals, or been a fishing pal to, like Mark Mackereth, Taffy Walters, John Beams, Tony Biggs, Hugh Huntley, Ed Herbst, Billy de Jong and realise that being a fishing pal is an important station in life with its own assorted and reciprocal obligations that over years gradually takes on a measure of respect and status in both your lives, I guess, a little like being the best man at a wedding, only not for just a day.
Then finally, after a long, seemingly endless break from the pleasant joys of wading fast flowing water due to my creaky joints, my condition seems improved enough to fish a stream again, which I plan to do at Lourensford with Robin, hopefully in a matter of days.
It's all rain and roses in Rhodes
Earth-drenching, mulch-making, tadpole-pleasing summer rains have arrived in Rhodes and Barkly East. I know they were good rains because the farmers said they were happy. And I heard today from Basie Vosloo who said conditions are pretty good and folk are catching trout and yellowfish in the rivers. This means that the fishing will be world class for the Wild Trout Association Festival (17 to 21 March, but subject to Covid, backup dates on 14 – 19 April have been set.) And Dave Walker of Walkerbouts Inn in Rhodes tells me the village is decked with beds of bright roses and is looking lovelier than he can ever remember.
I upgraded my website over the last few months. You should find it a lot more user friendly now.
The Third Edition of Hunting Trout
It's out and I am delighted with it. And it's some relief to have copies of Hunting Trout, even if was a small print run, after years of having to respond to people looking for copies here and overseas with the sad reply that I had none.
The book has had a complete makeover; new cover, a complete edit, added text, new illustrations throughout and was designed to be the twin in looks and feel of Yet More Sweet Days.
Hunting Trout, third edition, 524 pages. Printed by Tandym Press, Publisher Burnet Media (Tim Richman) Designers Sean Robertson and Ania Rokita. ISBN 9781990956157.
The CPS turns 90 this year
Established in November 1931, the Cape Piscatorial Society (CPS) celebrates 90 years of service to its members this November.
AC Harrison in the crucible of South African dry-fly fishing, the CPS clubrooms. Photograph by Tom Burgers
Many South African fly fishers cut their teeth with the CPS and will look at this picture and remember this man, and these rooms, very well and no doubt fondly. The man is AC Harrison, long time secretary and sage of the CPS, when the clubrooms were at 122 Longmarket Street in Cape Town in the '60s and '70s. I unofficially refer to them as 'the crucible' of South African dry-fly fishing, which they were. With regular visits from members like Mark Mackereth, Tony Biggs and John Beams the rooms became a forum and melting pot for the art of dry fly on fast water. It was here that you could talk to AC himself, or listen to Beams, Biggs and Mackereth who were fishing the Smalblaar, Holsloot, Elandspad, Witte, Jan du Toits and Dwars largely with dry flies, like Biggs's RABs, Mackereth’s Caribou Spiders and his Wickham's variants (sans wings and with gold Lurex-ribbed bodies) and Beams' Snipe Fly, their prototypes often pinned up on the noticeboard because back then members, including myself, were hearing about these patterns for the first time – and fly fishing and fly tying instruction wasn't yet a commodity.
Mackereth, who I think we can rightly call the 'Father of South Africa dry fly fishing', used a Pezon et Michel bamboo fly rod, the Super Parabolic Fario Club, with two tips, an 8'5" for a 5/6-wt that I coveted like mad and still in my memory remains the best rod I have ever cast. I'm not sure what he paid for it back then, but he was a man of modest means so I guess not a fortune. I've just looked at one on the Vintage Tackle website, going for £845, or close on R17 000, perhaps another upside to buying a good a bamboo rod.
The father of dry fly in South Africa Mark Mackereth on the Smalblaar Western Cape
The Pezon et Michell FarioClub
Three expat South Africans I know will remember ACH and these rooms; Clem Booth now retired in London, Roy Gordon similarly in Vancouver and Hugh Rosen, a medical scientist living in La Jolla California. There will be other expat CPS anglers scattered around the world and I invite them to send in their memories of the CPS so we can build up a 90 year retrospective portfolio titled something like, A Life in Fly fishing with the CPS.
A gala dinner will be held on 6 November 2021 at the Kelvin Grove Club in Cape Town. Clem Booth will be the guest of honour and speaker for the evening, so there is much to look forward to.
A new bamboo rod
I have a new bamboo rod made by Steve Boshoff.
It's a 6' 4-wt designed on a taper developed by the Italian Bamboo Rod Maker's Association (IBRA) in honour of the late Roberto Pragliola whose casting prowess was legendry in Italy. The taper is code named 7232.
Roberto Pragliola Photograph per IBRA
Note the reference to IBRA and Taper 7232
The Pragliola casting style is known as Tecnica di Lancio Totale (TLT), or the Italian Fly-fishing Style. It involves a more extended cast with unbroken drifts on both the back and forward casts aimed at damping rod tip vibration. So there is no distinct stop between the end of the back cast and the start of the forward cast, which apparently also accounts for the high line speed the technique is known for.
On the art and science and merits of owning bamboo rods.
Back when I was a young angler with lofty aspirations and minimal hopes of realising them, I regarded bamboo rods with the reverence reserved for great works of art, maybe even half-believed the myth that the really good bamboo rods were made by a bunch of reclusive geniuses labouring under candle light in cobwebbed attics.
I've since shed most of this folksy thinking, but I'm still in awe of the people who make bamboo rods; still can't figure how they actually do it and still hold the view that bamboo rods are among this earth's prettiest things, never mind how well they cast. And, yes, I'm sure there are a few dud bamboo rods out there; it's just that I never cast one from a known maker that was anything but good.
The pervading gospel around bamboo rods still hinges, at least in large part, on the assumption that anything handmade is superior to anything machine-made, even if that notion is shaky. Consider Purdey shotguns, Bogdan reels and Jay Smit's vices, all are machine-made works of art and all products you would dearly love to own even just one of. That said, precisely because they are handmade, bamboo rods seem more intimate possessions, almost to have identities of their own if only by virtue of their close and unmistakable human lineage.
I have a lot more rods than I need, including a clutch of bamboos made by Steve Dugmore and Steve Boshoff that still remain more special than the heap of other technologically advanced, lighter, faster really good graphite rods I own from various upmarket American companies. As I mentioned, I used to think of bamboo rods as special in the sense that they were made by a living craftsman, which of course they all are and it's a very pleasing notion in a traditional, homely sort of way, but it's a weak reason to invest in a bamboo rod. Rather you want buy a bamboo rod because of how bamboo casts, which if you allow some generalisation, comes down to this;
(a) they load more easily than graphite, so you can fish closer in,
(b) they roll-cast better,
(c) you can actually feel the rod loading and unloading, which makes timing your cast easier and its far easier for beginners to learn casting with a bamboo rod,
(d) they protect light tippets really well and then finally and importantly,
(d) bamboo rods dampen out your casting mistakes and are far better instruments for beginners to learn to cast on.
John Gierach summed it up in one short sentence in his book Fishing Bamboo. (Lyons Press, 1997.)
'The handful of truly great rods I have ever cast have all been made of bamboo.'
He goes on to describe bamboo as being ;
'...more alive, more graceful, more forgiving',
and I endorse that, and I also endorse his wonderful insight when elsewhere in the book he suggests that owning something handmade 'is also an act of defiance'. In this techno-dominated world, there's a lot to like in that. It's maybe also a part of what Travers was hinting at in his Testament when he said, '... in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing what they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion. '
And contrary to the myth that bamboo rods break easily, they do, but no more easily than any other kind of fly rod. Fragility has less to do with the material a rod is made from and more to do with the behaviour of whoever is in charge of the butt end.
As it happens, my new rod was not made in some dark attic under candlelight, but in Steve Boshoff's brightly lit workshop in Scarborough that looks a lot like a modern operating theatre.
No sign of candlelight. Steve Boshoff's workshop
The rod is corn-coloured, has understated pale-orange bindings, a slightly swelled butt, is truly flawless and casts beautifully, meaning I lift and squeeze it and the fly somehow appears where I want it, which I also can't exactly explain, other than to say has less to do with my casting than with the inherent qualities of the rod itself.
Let me mention that the rod has a first for me, a scarf joint, which replaces the usual metal ferrule, something I got the hang of quicker than I thought. It now takes me less time to tape up the two pieces than to tie a small dry fly to a 6X tippet. The point of the scarf joint is to keep the rod's natural action throughout its length by removing the central dead mass of a metal ferrule. The tape used in the photograph below is 18 mm transparent 3M Scotch Magic Tape, but common masking tape is good if less pleasing aesthetically.
If you are interested in a bamboo rod for general stream fishing as opposed to fishing the really tight streams I enjoy, I'd ask Steve whether a 7' rod might not be a more versatile option.
And whilst on the Italian front...
Some years back I had a guest for a day's fishing who at the time was the captain of the Italian fly-fishing team. His name is Edoardo Ferrero and we still correspond. That day we visited a spread of glass-clear lakes high on the slopes of the southern Drakensberg inland of Maclear, where Edoardo caught half a dozen sizable rainbows (some sight-fished) and a really heavy brown trout and by his own admission, had the stillwater day of his life. At one point, when he was even more than usually overcome by the solitude, the scenery and the fishing, he lifted himself tall and suddenly bellowed, 'El Paradiso!' to an unseen host of heavenly angels he thought must surely be watching over him from the peaks of the towering Drakensberg.
El Paradiso! Edoardo Ferrero on a day the angels watched
A milestone in South Africa's fly-tying rite of passage
The Feather Mechanic is the name of Gordon van der Spuy's long-awaited book and I was invited to say a few words at its launch in the gardens of a brewery on the banks of the Breede River in Paarl on a sun-perfect Saturday afternoon last month.
There may even be a few limited edition leather-bound copies left.
A smug observation
Apropos Gordon and his book, allow me a smug observation. In all major aspects of modern fly fishing you will find a few South Africans who are world-class at what they do. Be it making bamboo rods (Steve Boshoff, Steve Dugmore, Dirk de Villiers), fly tying (Ruhan Neethling (traditional salmon flies), Murray Peddar, Gordon van der Spuy, Arno Laubscher, Mark Krige, Alan Hobson), fishing art (Gavin Erwin, Marcel Terblanche, Chris Bladen (bronzes), Craig Betram Smith, Peter Brigg, Conrad Botes, Johan du Preez), fly-tying vices (Jay Smit), guiding (Tim Ralston, Fred Steynberg, Alan Hobson,Tony Kietzman, Mark Yelland, James Christmas, Leonard Flemming, Keith Glover, Trevor Sithole, Keith Rose Innes and many more all over the world), fly-fishing bibliophiles (Paul Curtis, Dean Riphagen, Piet Beyers, Tim Howse), true small stream masters – read if you like, 'addicts' – (Tom Lewin, Ed Herbst, Angelo Komis, Peter Brigg), handmade nets (Shaun Futter, Steve Boshoff, Mario Geldenhuys), photography (Wolf Avni, Leonard Flemming, Darryl Lampert, Billy de Jong, Gerhard Laubscher), fly-fishing academia (Ed Herbst, who, let's face it, is in a league of his own now globally). I'll stop with Ed, but I could go on. This was a quick overview, so don't shoot me at 40 paces if I missed someone you know. I'll expand on this someday soon. But for the moment you can see how blessed we are in South Africa.
A rare visitor to my garden
A large dragon fly settled on a shrub at my front door the other evening that I thought was a common Blue Emperor, but Warwick Tarboton, author of Fieldguide to the Dragonflies of South Africa, says; 'It is the crepuscular and rather scarce Evening Hawker'. (If like me you didn't know the word 'crepuscular', it means 'largely nocturnal'.) Warwick is another renowned South African, an ornithologist of national and international acclaim and author of many reference books on birds, dragonflies and damselflies. His website is well worth a visit if you enjoy birds. We went through school together, sitting side by side from the Grades to Matric, and regularly spent holidays photographing nesting birds from a homemade hide and already back then Warwick was an accomplished ornithologist.
I was sad to hear of the sudden passing of Win in Pietermaritzburg this week. He was a long-serving committee member of the Natal Fly Fishers Club and a founder member of the Natal Fly Dresser's Society and many KZN fly fishers will remember him with great respect and fondness.
My condolences to his wife Christine, his friends and family.
(Answers are at the end of the newsletter.)
1. Who wrote the little masterpiece, The Wisdom of the Guides and whose portrait is this on the cover?
2. What is this pretty little South African mayfly and is it male or female? (From the Lourens River, Somerset West.)
4. What well-known nymph is this and who invented it?
5. Who is fishing for what here and exactly where?
(Photos Tom Sutcliffe)
6. What very famous traditional salmon fly is this?
7. What trout area in South Africa is sometimes known as 'The Land of the Silver Mist' and which are the two oldest fly-fishing clubs/societies/associations in South Africa?
8. Who was Sparse Gray Hackle and what book did he write that is so loved by anglers the world over?
9. What ethereal, mountain-top section of a famous South African rainbow trout stream is this and on what farm is it?
10. Which of these European rivers or streams are not chalkstreams?
The Andelle, the Dove, the Kennet, the Lambourn, the Töss, the Arle, the Driffield Beck, the Usk, the Risle, the Avon, the West Rangá.
11. Who among these people are, or were not great bamboo rod makers?
JD Wagner, Mike Lawson, Nick Taransky, Bob Church, Tom Ivens, Per Brandin, Paul Morgan, Tom Moran, Harry Middleton, Glen Brackett.
12. Who were the authors of these two angling classics: (a) Where the Bright Waters Meet and (b) In the Ring of the Rise?
Wordsworth, Walton and Lyons – from the May 2015 newsletter
I recently came across my best opening sentence in any book on fly fishing. It’s from Steven Meyer’s San Juan River Chronicle – Personal Remembrances of One of America’s Best-known Trout Streams. Here’s the sentence:
My house rests on the border between two worlds – two worlds as different as ice and fire – that are connected to each other by clear running water and trout.
And it got me wondering what might be the best opening chapter and I ended up voting for Nick Lyons’s Bright Rivers – Celebrations of Rivers and Fly-fishing.
Cover art by the author's late wife, Mari.
In Gray Streets, Bright Rivers, the first chapter, Lyons examines the value of his life on trout streams by comparing it with his life in New York City, much as Wordsworth did in his haunting poem, Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, when he used the peace and calm of the Abbey on the restful banks of the River Wye to compare with the five long years he had spent in the ‘din of towns and cities’.
Lyons' piece is beautifully written and in many ways, and with equal grace and insight, he sums up the predicament of so many of us fly fishers who daily balance our longing to be free on a trout stream instead of cramped in an office block or stuck in soulless traffic.
To make his point, Lyons cleverly weaves in lines from Wordsworth’s poem. But first, let’s read what Nick has to say of his life in New York City. (Please write to me if you don't see at least a part of yourself in this paragraph because it would be interesting to meet you!)
'I do not want the qualities of my soul unlocked only by this tense, cold, gray, noisy, gaudy, grubby place – full of energy and neurosis and art and anti-art and getting and spending – in which the business part of my life, at this time in my life, must necessarily be lived. I have other needs as well. I have other parts of my soul.'
And, in contradistinction, here are his thoughts on rivers and fishing. Note how seamlessly Lyons weaves Wordsworth into his text:
'Nothing in the world so enlivens my spirit and emotion as the rivers I know. They are necessities. In their clear, swift or slow, generous or coy waters, I regain my powers; I find again those parts of myself that have been lost in the cities. Stillness. Patience. Green thoughts. Open eyes. Attachment. High drama. Earthiness. Wit. The Huck Finn I once was...
'As Wordsworth said in Tintern Abbey, about the calming nature of the countryside he still felt, but no longer could actually live,'
'…I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart…
Yes, I owe rivers that. And more.'
Walton and his allegory for all angling: 'Study to be quiet'.
This truth is the one that Izaak Walton valued most highly. It embodied his philosophy and his way of life, and so important was it in his angling that he chose to end his famous book Compleat Angler with these four words: Study to be Quiet.
Walton is buried in Silkstede's Chapel in the south transept of Winchester Cathedral, where a marble slab marks his last resting place. Above the slab is a painted glass window of him fishing the Itchen. This small chapel is a place of pilgrimage for anglers from all over the world, the stained-glass window a gift from the fishermen of England and America just before World War 1.
On the concept of drag in dry flies...
The downside of drag in a drifting dry fly is sometimes hard to convince beginners of. It seems strange to most I have taught that if your dry fly drags a little, even by just a millimeter, the fish will be alerted. I came across this sentence that metaphorically-speaking might help to explain the result of drag to beginners.
If you saw a piece of steak moving unnaturally on your plate would you eat it?
From Nick Lyons, Confessions of a Fly Fishing Addict, 1989.
A bit of chalkstream history from Bill Latham
'The attached are early images of some Killer Bugs tied by Frank Sawyer’s wife Margaret. She did most of the commercial tying of these, the PTNs, Bow Tie Buzzers and Grey Goose Nymphs.
'Her flies were always supplied on slips of paper and from memory came in 10s, not dozens as one might expect.
'Note the sizes, 4 or 11, 4 being the old hook sizing. Frank used these bugs to reduce the population of grayling in his beat of the Avon. He never succeeded, but it was a joy to watch him working a shoal using his famous induced-take.
'The bugs were tied with a sock darning wool, Chadwicks 477, no longer available but Lureflash is a passable substitute.
'Cards of the original 477 can sell for as much as £70. In the picture is one of my cards. I have three.
'Frank lived just up the road from where I grew up in Amesbury and I met him many times when I was cutting my teeth on chalkstream fishing. One day when my mentor Doug Newell took me up the valley to fish on the Services water, Frank introduced me to his friend who was fishing. His friend turned out to be Charles Ritz, but as a 13-year old boy, I was unimpressed!
'This was also around the time I was caught poaching by Oliver Kite, and ended up with a cuff around the ear.'
Bill Lathan fishing the Avon on Heale Estate (Photograph Tom Sutcliffe)
Answers to the quiz:
1. Paul Arnold wrote Wisdom of the Guides and that most famous of famous guides, Al Troth is on the cover. If there was one man I'd love to have dinner with it is him!
2. You might remember that I posted this pretty mayfly in a newsletter some years when I was struck by Dr Helen Barber-James's reply:
'The beautiful Leptophlebiidae male in your photograph is Adenophlebia, probably Adenophlebia dislocans. I have never seen one in real life. It's lovely.'
(Dr 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 on freshwater invertebrates, especially mayflies. By the way, I've often seen this mayfly on Cape streams, from late September through December. They are very tame and I've had one settle for a long rest on the butt of my fly rod!)
3. The Bell is in the upper left and the Sterkspruit in the upper right of the photograph and the Kraai flows from their confluence. As seen near the old iron bridge at Moshesh's Ford, Eastern Cape Highlands.
Fishing the Kraai below the bridge on a windy day judging by the lean in those willows.
4. The Prince Nymph. It was developed by Doug Prince of Monterrey, California who first called it the Brown Fork Tail Nymph sometime in the 1940s while tying commercially for Buz Buszek, a well-known fly-tier and fly shop owner from 1943 in Visalia, California. Buz wanted to add the peacock bodied fly to his catalogue but couldn’t recall the name Doug Prince had given it, so he christened it the Prince Nymph and for many years it has been the favourite of many anglers, especially across the western United States.
Just of interest, the International Federation of Fly Fishers’ Buz Buszek Fly Tying Award is said to be the most prestigious award in the world of fly tying. It was established as a memorial to Buz. Previous winners read like the Who's Who of fly tying. Well, the Who's Who of American fly tying anyway. Gary Borger, Steve Fernandez, Andre Puyans, Art Flick, Dave Whitlock, E. H. "Polly" Rosborough, George Harvey and Helen Shaw.
5. Darryl Lampert (right with a pretty yellowfish) and tour operator and guide, Jacques Marais, on the Orange River near the town of Douglas in the Northern Cape.
6. The Jock Scott. One of the most famous of the traditional salmon flies, it was created in 1850 by John (Jock) Scott, born in 1817 in Roxburghshire in the southern uplands of Scotland. This one was tied and photographed by Gordon van der Spuy.
7. This was how author John Buchan (1875 -1940) described the Magoebaskloof area during the time he fished the home streams of the Haenertsburg Trout Association (HTA, established 1906). Along with the Frontier Acclimatisation Society (King Williams Town), established in 1894, these are the two oldest fly-fishing associations in South Africa.
8. The book is Fishless Days, Angling Nights, and the author was Sparse Grey Hackle, the pen-name of Alfred W. Miller (1892-1983). He was a Wall Street journalist and angler whose amusing articles on fly fishing appeared in many publications, including The New York Times.
9. This is the source of the Bokspruit River on the farm Pondo Pass inland of Rhodes in the summit of the southern Drakensberg, Eastern Cape Highlands. Lower downstream is Gateshead Cottage.
The source of the Bokspruit River
10. Those not chalkstreams are;
The River Usk, a trout and sea trout river in Wales; the Wiese, a brown trout stream in the Black Forest of Germany (where I caught a few descendents of the true of Salmo trutta fario strain). The River Töss, a delightful and very tough freestone brown trout stream in the Canton of Zurich in Switzerland that I fished once with modest success.
The River Töss (photograph Tom Sutcliffe)
The River Dove, the principal river of the Peak District, flows through limestone country but is not a true chalkstream. The East Avon comes from chalk, whereas the West Avon rises in greensand and because of this the River Avon is not considered to be a chalkstream in the strict sense of the word. The West Rangá rises at the foot of Mt. Hekla, an active Icelandic volcano. The river is entirely spring-fed making it very consistent, but not a chalkstream. Rather it is described as a 'very large spring creek', with a little poetic license, I think.
Fishing the West Rangá in Iceland – a giant spring creek?
The chalkstreams are:
The Lambourn in Berkshire and the Kennet (one of the many chalkstream tributaries of the River Thames), in south England. The Driffield Beck is a chalkstream in the Yorkshire Wolds and is the most northern chalkstream in England. The River Alre (also, occasionally, Arle) is a chalkstream tributary of the Itchen in Hampshire.
The Risle is a chalkstream in Normandy, France, comparable with the best chalkstreams in England. The Andelle, also a chalkstream in Normandy, was made famous by Charles Ritz in his book A Fly Fisher's Life and, legend has it, it was the venue of secret encounters between Churchill and Eisenhower, both fly fishers.
Just a brief note. Of all the chalkstreams, the Itchen is regarded as the purest. (Ref. Charles Wrangley-Wilson, Chalkstream, page 21, Medlar Press, 2009.)
The Itchen at Stoke on Mill
... and its carrier stream on Stoke on Mill that I found way beyond just tough
A brown trout I never caught, holds out in the open in the Itchen carrier stream at Stoke on Mill. I was lucky to photograph it even with a long 70-200mm lens
11. The bamboo rod makers are:
JD Wagner (USA), Nick Taransky (Australia), Per Brandin (USA, who some say is the greatest living bamboo rod maker), the late Tom Moran (UK, whose rods now fetch huge prices) and Glen Brackett (USA, the founder of Sweetgrass Rods in Montana).
The non-bamboo rod makers are:
Mike Lawson, a famous guide on the Henry's Fork, Bob Church, a highly regarded UK stillwater fly fisher, Tom Ivens, author of Stillwater Fly-Fishing, a seminal book on the subject in its time, Paul Morgan, owner of the internationally known book dealer, Coch-Y-Bonddu Books, in Wales, Harry Middleton author of some of the best books on fly fishing ever written, including, On the Spine of Time, The Earth is Enough, The Starlight Creek Angling Society and Rivers of Memory.
12. Harry Plunket Greene and Vincent C Marinaro, respectively.
I hope you enjoyed the read.
I will do another newsletter for February 2021.
Tom Sutcliffe Cape Town January 2021