ON THE LINE – EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - ILAN LAX
By the time you read this missive, 2013 will have commenced and we will all have survived the supposed calamity some pundits called the "end of the Mayan calendar". Despite the hype, what another classic example of how people fail to let simple common sense and the facts get in the way of their preconceptions.
It's a bit like the present debacle around the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations proposed by the Department of Environmental Affairs under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act. The statute defines species' invasiveness in relation to their potential for environment and health risk rather than the species track record in other places. So for example the invasiveness of trout in the Karoo is plainly non-existent and given this fact there can be no logical reason to regard trout as anything but an alien species in that context. This is true for much of South Africa. The scientists and purists advising the DEA don't see it that way.
We were due to meet with the Department to discuss the framework being proposed by them at the end of last year but the meeting was postponed at the last minute. It will now hopefully take place on 4 February 2013. We'll keep you posted on the outcome.
FOSAF is twenty five years old: this was officially celebrated and fêted at a wonderful evening on Saturday 3 November 2012 at the Eagles Ridge Hotel, Stutterheim, the very same place the organisation was founded. The Eastern Cape Chapter did us all proud by hosting the event. Ronnie Pitt received his Exemplary Service award from FOSAF and reminisced a little on his involvement in fly-fishing. Martin Davies was honoured by the EC Chapter for his enormous contribution to fly-fishing in the EC and nationally. His gift of the gab is legendary and he regaled us with his passion for fly-fishing. Both were at the founding meeting so it was fitting that they attended. Thanks must go to Alan Hobson, Brian Clark and the EC team for organising the event.
In twenty five years FOSAF and the people who have been part of our organisation have achieved an enormous amount. Please go to our website at - http://www.fosaf.org.za/milestones.php and just see some of what has been achieved in this time. We can all be justly proud of what has been done.
FOSAF's EXCO is due to meet on 9 March 2013. If there are any pressing issues members would like us to raise or address please let me know. Summer is now upon us and the rivers are looking excellent if not a little full. While most parts in the east of the country have had good rains, the north is pretty dry. Despite this there have been excellent reports of good fishing from across the country. We should be heading for an excellent autumn as the rains taper off and the rivers slow just a little.
I can't wait to try a few dries on my favourite stretches of stream. Perhaps I'll bump into one of you on the water! Have a great summer!
The Laird of "Itldo" by Tim Rolston
Back in the mists of time I had a regular fly fishing partner: Gordon, and as fishing partners go he is a pretty good one. Good partners are not that easy to come by, it isn't just a question of who has a suitable vehicle to get you to the river or the person with an extensive fly box from which one can steal a pattern or three. Good fishing partners fish in the same manner that you do, they go at the same pace and are prepared to wait it out if you are trying to fool a quality fish, they will resist the temptation to throw a nymph when they know that you would prefer to stick to the dry.
Good fishing partners are predictable, at least on the water and one instinctively knows where they are going take their next step, where they will present the fly on the subsequent cast, in short they fish as you would, and even when you are waiting your turn you have the confidence that if they are not catching neither would you have been.
Gordon when on the water had all those attributes, he did have a tendency to lack patience on occasion, more often with himself than anyone else and was I must admit frequently ill prepared. Actually sufficiently ill prepared that it was inevitable he would forget something, one only hoped that it wouldn't be an overly important item. A lack of flies we could overcome, a lack of a rod (and yes that did happen), well that proved more troublesome although rarely insurmountable. Mind you I miss him, he's off in the Middle East now, apparently "teaching English as a foreign language", a perfect career move, Gordon's Scottish and for him English is a foreign language. Back then he ran a fly fishing retail shop, which meant early morning starts all week, including Saturdays, a fact that equally determined the only night he could actually let his hair down. If you knew Gordon you would recognise the phrase is purely euphemistic and had little to do with his coiffure. The conflicts arose because, for the same logistical reasons, the only day that he was able to fish were Sundays and the combination of these factors meant that he generally fished with some level of hangover, were we to set out particularly early, even possibly a state of lingering inebriation.
Therefore fishing trips with Gordon tended to start with frantic bashing on his window to awaken him, all who fished with Gordon new not to arrange for him to pick them up, to do so would invite complete confusion, as keen to fish as he was Gordon had mastered the art of either hitting the snooze button on his alarm or managing to ignore it completely. If you wanted to fish with the man you had to be prepared to go and rouse him from his slumbers in the pre-dawn.
For all that he was a natural and thinking angler; we would pontificate on the salient points of the day and mostly agree that it was the little things that made the difference. The drive to the river would invariably be filled with discussions on knots, leader set ups, hook sharpening and myriad other little tricks of the trade. I would generally drive and chat, Gordon would put in the odd objection to the discussion whilst Blue Grass music blared from the car's tape player and his liver battled to dehydrogenate the remnants of the previous evening's excesses.
Between us we had a number of critical beliefs which had stood us in good stead whilst fishing. That longer leaders resulted in better drifts, less drag and more fish. We had on occasion pushed the limits to excess, fishing with leaders which were near uncontrollable but which did raise a lot of fish when we managed to land them on the water. I would ask, Gordon "how's that leader working?" to which he would reply "It's a little unruly", he was a master of understatement.
But we were a good team, it wasn't all about catching fish, it was about testing theories, stretching the imagination, trying new things and Gordon was in that respect a great fishing companion.
One of our greatest beliefs was the error of what we referred to as the "it'll do rule" , that is that when you find yourself saying "it'll do", either aloud or in your own mind it most assuredly wouldn't do at all. Pull a knot tight, and think "it'll do" and the very next fish was sure to bust you off. Put on a larger fly than you knew you should, thinking "it'll do" and sure as eggs you wouldn't get a take for hours.
The one thing that absolutely won't do is to have a blunt hook, it seems dreadfully obvious that it is a complete waste of time to purchase expensive tackle, obtain permits, drive for an hour or two, pay toll fees and petrol costs only to labour away on the river with blunt hooks. When you fish, as we did, with light and soft #2 weight outfits and fine (7X) tippets any flaw in the penetrative power of your hook would show up in the form of lost or missed fish. You simply cannot pull hard enough on such gear to overcome the resistance offered by anything that is less than surgical.
The most blatantly obvious error being to have a barb on the hook in the first place. You may not notice it much flinging a five weight, but on a #2 every other fish will simply drop off. A barb is little more than a doorstop on a micro level and well before it became the rule we had ceased entirely to use barbed hooks. On top of that we would always sharpen the hooks with a diamond file before fishing, the difference in catch rate, or at least the rate at which hooked fish were converted to landed fish was obvious to even the most lackadaisical onlooker.
So there we were, journey behind us, the Holsloot river stretching before us, trout rising and the fishing on. Gordon hooked and dropped a fish, and then another.
"Did you sharpen the hook Gordon?"
"Yes yes of course I did".
He hooked and lost two more
"Did you sharpen that hook Gordon?"
"Yes , I always sharpen them", the man did have a tendency towards stubbornness and now I strongly suspected that indeed not only had he failed to sharpen the hook but was caught on the horns of a dilemma, either keep losing fish or admit to his laziness. He struck and missed yet another fish and the wayward backstroke planted his fly in the streamside herbage. I volunteered to retrieve the line, as we normally would do for one another. On picking the fly from the branches I immediately could see that it hadn't been modified in any way. My eye followed the leader , down the line, stretching out to the middle distance where it was adjoined to the tip of a fly rod at the bottom of which stood Gordon, I doubt I have ever seen a more sheepish look in my life. Not a word was spoken, the fly was reeled in, the hook sharpener searched out of a pocket and the necessary adjustments made in complete silence. From then on we both caught fish, landing most of the ones we hooked. Every time I hear those words in my head "it'll do", I think of Gordon and I know most assuredly that it absolutely won't do at all.
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