ON THE LINE – EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR
Spring has well and truly sprung. We've had some light rain in KZN and I'm sure more is required across the country so the farmers can get planting and the rivers can start to produce some excellent fishing, whatever the species you prefer to stalk.
As usual we have been pre-occupied with keeping up to date on the NEM:BA Alien and Invasive Species Regulations saga. Many of you may have seen Ian Cox's thought provoking articles on how the regulations fail to cut it legally and practically. The Department of Environmental Affairs failed to honour its undertaking to share with us and other stakeholders the underlying legal interpretations that they say allow them to implement the regulations contrary to the plain meaning of NEM:BA.
FOSAF has received support for our work on these regulations from a range of organisations and stakeholders. Most recently Professor Peter Britz of Rhodes University's Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science has joined the fray on a very similar basis to that which FOSAF has been arguing and we have agreed to work together going forward.
Trout (and other alien species) are now listed as invasive species (category 1b). The regulations are not yet in operation and we are informed this will most likely only happen in April 2014. In the interim the confusion is having a negative effect on the industry as landowners and other investors reconsider the impact of all of this on their investments. NEM:BA has been amended to allow for exemptions. We understand (without confirmation) that the regulations are being re-written to permit exemptions to take place along the lines FOSAF previously suggested should happen. We remain very concerned that the DEA lack the resources and capacity to properly deal with these matters. DEA’s failure to take stakeholders into their confidence does not auger well given the high handed attitude of some officials. FOSAF will continue to fight to ensure your interests are taken into account.
FOSAF is worried that the DEA’s attitude may leave stakeholders no option but to seek legal redress. If this becomes a reality FOSAF needs your support to get all of this work done. Please show your support by becoming a member membership and making a contribution to our costs.
We assume that many of you are aware that FOSAF does a huge amount to promote flyfishing and flyfishing interests. Visit our website and Facebook page and get involved in helping us help you. As the days warm I wish you great fishing wherever you may be.
Keep your loops tight, your casts light, mend the drag and drink in the splendour of the countryside we practice our sport in.
OF SIMPLICITY AND MYSTIQUE OF FLYFISHING - Malcolm Meintjes
Flyfishing has always had a mystique attached to it. This is not a bad thing, for it showers one with a sprinkle of intrigue - which magic is what is undeniably attractive to many. Yet, at the same time, let me admit, it should not appear so daunting that newcomers are put off by what they regard as beyond their realm. I suppose we, who scribble notes from time to time, can be so carried away by delving into the intricacies of our pastime, that we sometimes overlook the simplicity.
Let me give you an example of the best still water dry fly fishing I have ever experienced. It happened, as it seems to be with most things these days, a long time ago. I was at University and, during the term break, my most pressing decision was whether to drive down to the fleshpots of the Natal Midlands or the then Eastern Transvaal. One vacation my mental anguish was solved by spending a few days at one of the semi-public venues which lay between Belfast and Dullstroom.
Even in those years, I loved visiting different waters and so each morning I set off for some new secret venue, only returning to Elandskloof after dark. One evening, my car headlights happened to swing across the surface of one of the 'home' dams and, unexpectedly, I thought I discerned signs of rising trout.
The next evening, at dusk, I determined to wait by the side of the dam to see if the spectacle would be repeated. Nothing moved for quite some time. It grew darker and then around 7.30, with the murmur of myriads of small irritating insects buzzing in my ear, I dimly saw the first rings of trout moving.
For the next few nights, around the same time, I enjoyed the most wonderful surface fishing even though I could only vaguely see what was going on. Sometimes I could only react when I heard a splash close to where I thought my fly was. Sometimes there was a trout on the other end.
Now you may think, as things stand today, that I should now launch into a ' matching the hatch' exposition to explain this success to you. However, that would be a little fanciful, for the truth is that, in those days, I only had two dry fly patterns in my fly box. One was a Troutbeck Beetle and the other a Tups Indispensable.
I can tell you with certainty that I had little appreciation of what the trout were rising to; I took no untoward care in the construction of my leader and I don't recall carefully ensuring the flies floated or the tippet sank. Indeed, there was no intuitive reason why I chose the Troutbeck Beetle first; nor why, when I ran out of my stock on the second night, the Tups did equally well. If you know them, they are quite dissimilar in their attractions and are designed to imitate very different beings.
Now, fly selection is a favourite topic which certainly can invoke deep-rooted feelings. In this regard, I also drew on youthful memories when my parents and I spent a few days at the Royal Natal National Park. There was a dam at the bottom of the hill once one walked down over the Mahai stream. Fishing was not easy and though I changed flies regularly, I saw only one or two flashes of trout turning away at the last moment. It seemed I was not destined to be successful in deceiving anything but myself.
A day-and-a-half of nothing was, however, interrupted when I made a momentous decision to put on my one-and-only Durham Ranger. The first two casts produced a brace of trout from the same spot that had previously yielded squat. The beautiful Durham Ranger rapidly became my 'most favourite' fly and though it seduced no other fish for the remainder of the stay, that brief interlude of instantaneous success was imprinted on my brain.
I think that the experience awakened a thought that all flies were not perhaps equal. This was confirmed, some years later, when I chanced upon a nondescript pattern which filled me with great expectation – it was called a Walker's Killer. Fred Bowker, whom you may not have been introduced to yet, had his Mountain Swallow, I had the Walker's Killer.
Perhaps a little background on Bowker? Fred (also known as 'Kingfisher') fished the Cape waters at the turn of the 20th century catching many and big fish.
He achieved some notoriety by arguing to confirmed ' imitationists', that it didn't really matter what fly one used in South African rivers. Previously he had recommended that four patterns – the Claret and Mallard, March Brown Silver, Silver Wilkinson and, coincidentally, the Durham Ranger were the only patterns one would need. Later he stirred the controversy to boiling point when he dumbed down the debate by designing the untrouty looking Mountain Swallow. This he used exclusively over a season or so, to show that fly selection was far simpler than it often made out.
Unashamedly, I can tell you that 70 years later, I too, if not wedded to the Walker's Killer certainly had an extended engagement. Nevertheless, I shook my head at Bowker's assertion that it was irrelevant which fly you used, since there were so many occasions when I would employ other recommended patterns, without success, only to tie on a Walker's and immediately hook a trout.
This led me to consider that some trout flies were more equal than others – and that was the beginning of the end of simplicity in my world.
I mention this because if, today, I have to advise a beginner on Mpumalangan waters, I could go little wrong in passing him a sinking line and a Walker's. What has changed is that it is now almost impossible to find a well-tied red-bodied Walker's anywhere. Instead, the new favourite is the Black Woolly Bugger (with blue flash) that has attracted many affidavits that nothing else will work.
So now I must return to this fascination for mystique, for my quest was then to discover which flies might be superior in specific situations. At Ron-Ann dam near Nottingham Road, I recall how magnificently a Red Setter worked on daphnia-feeding trout; at the innovatively christened Dam 13, my newly designed Kering'ende nymph (a dragonfly nymph suggestion) had a red-letter session and on Wolf Avni's stunning Giant's Cup dam, how the tiny bloodworm pattern Digger's Red was seemingly irresistible. Simplicity was rapidly immersing in an ever-increasing desire to dabble deeper.
Since then there have been many more revelations about imitation, suggestion and even, as a conjuror does, presentation - but, when all is said and done, I'm still to enjoy the same dry fly success as I had on those balmy summer nights when I didn't really know what I was doing.
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