"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - Ilan Lax
It feels somewhat strange and unfamiliar, as I sit here back at my desk after a wonderful festive season break. 2018 is already upon us and heading out of the starting blocks at lightning speed! I wish you all an exceptional year and the peace, energy, health and focus you may need to make the things you wish for a reality.
This festive season is the first time in many years I have failed to get a line onto the water. I make no excuses - other important priorities and considerations, especially family and friends made the prospect of getting onto the water with a flyrod a non-starter. I've thus had to catch up on the action on-line, in between other activities. It was great to vicariously appreciate the collective enjoyment by the many flyfishers out there, even if one could not actually get the chance to do it one's-self. Facebook and the many flyfishing fora and websites provide an astoundingly varied and eye catching array of viewing and reading opportunities to be enjoyed. Thanks to the editors, and administrators who manage these media for people like us to immerse ourselves, comment on, and contribute. Of course it goes without saying that this means I get to bank this time to fishing during the coming autumn season.
We have had very little movement or action on the NEMBA AIS front since my last editorial. While Aqua SA have continued to pressurise the powers that be as best they can on our behalf, we have continued lobbying to ensure unity and harmony in our value chain so that when and if the proverbial does possibly hit the fan, we are able to respond appropriately and with a clear mandate. Thanks to all of you for your widespread, continued and wholehearted support. Our objectives remain unchanged - we continue to work for an outcome that will be practical, balanced and cost effective on the one hand whilst taking account of the need for socio economic development and environmental factors on the other. One missing component in this administrative quagmire remains the lack of proper lawful policy (i.e. publically consulted upon) that will determine the matrix of factors to be considered in arriving at rational decisions by the Minister. We continue to urge government to work with us and other stakeholders to develop this important omission.
May I also take this opportunity of thanking those of you who have paid your 2018 subscriptions. We truly appreciate the support. Just a reminder for those still to pay: the ordinary membership sub is R300, Silver Supporter is R500 and the Gold Supporter is R1500. Your on-going support is vital to our success.
We have recently been informed by Angler Publications that with effect from the Feb/March issue Flyfishing magazine will in future only be published in digital format and the this will now be available on-line free of charge on 1st February. Whilst on the one hand this is regrettable as many of you enjoy the hard copy publication, on the other hand this is an interesting development in line with the trend for such publications to go digital thereby reducing publication costs and allowing for innovation. We will continue to work with Flyfishing which has given us such wonderful support over the years and which remains our official magazine. The affected members who had ordered Flyfishing for 2018 have all received a personal communication from the Secretariat.
In line with EXCO's decision to move the National AGM around the country, the 2018 AGM will be held in KZN before the end of April. We are busy finalising the arrangements with the KZN Chapter and will provide further details shortly.
FOSAF recently became aware of the apparent discovery of a small population of the Maloti Minnow (Pseudobarbus quathlambae) in a tributary stream of the Umzimkulu River by staff of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. We have congratulated the organisation on this find and have offered our assistance and support to broaden this research and develop suitable conservation measures to protect this newly discovered population. Similarly, the KZN Chapter will be working with researchers to support the Aquatic Ecosystem Research Group, UKZN Yellowfish VI Tagging project. These are exciting opportunities for flyanglers to support research.
In closing please spare a thought for those people in our drought stricken regions. South Africa is a water scarce country. Drought is a regular occurrence. It is heartening to see how our citizens, by and large, have rallied to find ways to use water effectively and have adjusted to a more water wise lifestyle.
In this regard I would like to congratulate the Northern Chapter (with Chris Williams' leadership) on the developing schools river health programme and KZN (with Andrew Fowler's initiative) for the highly effective Blue Ribbon Umgeni river restoration project. See their awesome work - (https://blueribbonumgeni.wordpress.com/).
It is up to us all to make a difference wherever and because we can.
|FISHING A SURE THING - Wolf Avni "Alez-Oop!"|
Matthew is a Frenchman. He rolls up on our doorstep one midsummer day, in a hired jeep with a pretty Gabonese wife and their lovely daughter. He has a sorry tale to tell... having just come from a week of fishing at a venue which he sourced and booked over the Internet. Reality has not delivered on the promise inherent in the web site. In five days he catches fifty half-pound 'stockies', each a clone of the previous, and then finally, his last fish, on a dry fly... 5lbs of flaccid-bellied, tatter-finned spent-spawner. Yet the web site had promised 'Trophy trout in a pristine setting'. "Not the sort of fishing you want to travel six t'ousand kilometres for," he tell me wryly. "I can fish like that at home. Here, I want to catch beeg, wild feesh." I see his point and feel an empathy.
But then he wants to know how many fish he might expect to catch in a six-hour period on the water. "Between naught and thirty," I tell him with all the certainty that I can muster in the face of my rapidly waning enthusiasm for the man. I can see that he finds my answer unsatisfactory. Clearly his experience has been fashioned in the kind of water where the fish queue to take a hit at the hook, and anglers queue to take a hit at the fish. It informs his expectations. I blink and in the instant my eyes are closed see his future in a flash of prescience. It is filled with a lineament of frustration and ungratified expectation. It's one of those irresistible force/immovable object moments we learn about in physics.
He stays with us for one night, fishing hard on both sides of it, spending every daylight moment out on the water with the sun slowly roasting his Eurocentric skin to a painful puce. He fishes from late morning, through the midday heat and well into dusk. The sun burns fiercely out of an azure sky, with not a shred of cloud for cover. The water is warmer than it has been for weeks. The fish will be sulking deep somewhere below the thermocline and to top it all, Matthew is at heart a river fisherman unfamiliar with deep still water strategies. He fishes hard, but conditions are against him. As shadows quicken the gloom and swallow the water, he begins the long, slow row back to the boathouse and I head down to meet him at the waters' edge. "How did it go?", I ask as he slides onto the darkening mooring.
"Not so good," he tells me in a thick accent. " I see many fee'sh,", "but only two bites. One I catch, maybe two 'ondred gramme. One, she take strong, but smash me quick. Maybe because I not know thi 's conditions? "
"Perhaps things will pick up in the cool of the dawn", I encourage, as he heads for the warm glow of lodge lights.
Early the next morning I wake in the soft predawn and glance out the window over the water. There, hard at work in the distance, on the far bank near the reed beds, is Matthew, fishing the shallow ledge we call no-man's-land. I doubt he'll find too much action on that barren flat, and silently wish him over to the deep weed beds as I go about my business. Later, when he comes to book out, at about midday, I repeat the question. "How did it go?".
The poor man by his own account has not done well. He has managed a half dozen fish, the best of which was a fraction under two pounds. "It ees ve'ree pre'tee, but not fishing for which I travel six t'ousand kilometre" , he reminds me. I sympathise, but without real empathy.
While he feels ready to take on the challenge of an open, balanced system, he wants the certainty of a can't-miss-stew-pond. It implies a sense of entitlement entirely in keeping with the norms and standards of consumer driven willing buyer-willing seller economics... but beyond my ability to reconcile with my own ethos of angling.
It gets me thinking. Is fly-fishing not so attractive to us precisely because it is about stepping outside the realm of certainties... of guarantees? Is that not why we call it fishing.... instead of say, shopping?"
While empathising , I could not help but think that Matthew is, at least partially, the architect of his own misfortune. On one hand, he wants an authentic angling experience in an open self-sustaining and balanced system, but on the other, his fishing ethic is one where he honestly expects the certain gratification of a-fish-a-cast, with a couple of trophies guaranteed. His expectations nurtured in some stew-pond environment are entirely unrealistic in this new, more natural context in which he now finds himself. Yet avoiding an audit of his most basic assumptions, he starts by blaming the world around him. The fact that he had lost a big fish the day before - perhaps because it had been bigger than any trout he had ever seen before, perhaps because it tested his capacity as an angler, had been quickly forgotten. All he would remember was that he had 'caught no feesh '.
That fact alone would under-whelm everything else - the eland grazing at the lake edge, the water birds, the raptors soaring above the rugged ridges, the stunning mountain-scapes and the stillness of the wilderness all around him. It would all now mean less , if not simply vanishing into the void of his empty trophy creel.
I mention Matthew, not because his attitudes are too different to those prevalent among other, home- grown anglers, but precisely because they are not. It underlines the degree to which the fishing experience in a consumptive driven reality, by definition becomes more artificial with every neatly packaged experience that is crafted and marketed . On a global level, the natural world is vanishing before our eyes - so much so, that the average attitude of the average angler seems barely to make allowance for it any more.
One would imagine that conceptually fishing requires of one a fundamental optimism. The nature of the beast commands a leap of faith at least equal to the sum of all the other resources that we might invest in it. And, as with the zen of all things.... it is not so much the bow, or the arrow, or the bead drawn in the minds' eye... but the harmony between them, which determines outcome. I am reminded that my living is made up from the things I do, but my Life? That comes more from how I go about things, rather than the thing in and of itself. What price integrity in a world where core value is measured materially.... and the seminal question, always, "what's in it for me?" ? Why should Fishing be any different?
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