StreamX Fly Fishing Blog
How we handle rejection says a lot about ourselves.
There are not many among us who can sustain high levels of rejection for long, as eventually we will crack. While this applies to relationships, I am actually talking about fishing.Having a thick skin is good for a fly fisherman, chiefly because it helps us handle rejection, and also comes in handy as something to bounce hooks off. Being rejected by fish after fish, after changing fly after fly and after hundreds of presentations can be demoralising. Fishing a stream or river you can sometimes justify it - too much drag - can't get the fly in the right spot, downwind gale, and so forth.
In a well stocked still water you know your fly has swum past a fish or two without even the slightest nibble. Or worse, they have been sucking it in and spitting it out without you even knowing. You experience rejection, but at least you are spared the visual experience of seeing it.
Now bring your imagination with me, and join me at Sterkfontein dam. Yours truly has spent a morning sitting above the water watching countless yellowfish reject his fly (or presentation). At first cruising fish were actually being alarmed by my presentation. Then as it improved the fish started to give it a wide berth, and then after much improvement it got to the point where they ignored it completely.
It was progress, but not good enough.
With some perseverance and a goof helping of patience I finally got some fish to actually move towards my fly.
OK, they had a sniff and a look then headed for the horizon at warp speed, which isnâ€™t easy for a fish, especially when there is an opposite bank. It was far away, but I swear I saw a fish or two making their way up the hill.
Eventually a fish come up and nosed my fly, decided it wasn't anything edible, and slowly moved on, no alarm. Joy swelled in my chest, or maybe I got that wrong. THEN, the guide called us and said we were moving to a different spot.
Finding ourselves at a spot they call North Pier, I really thought I was in the sea. The wind was howling in from the water, and waves were bashing against the cliff. Fish were moving around the point I was standing on flashing as the moved sideways to feed at my feet. Other fish were doing splashy rises out in the 'surf'.
Not a bite. Rejection sinks in as a fish rises confidently at your fly and eats something next to it. Rejection sinks in even deeper when you realise that you are being outsmarted by a fish with a brain the size of a pea. Thus day one ended with a rejective blank.Day two had me in a different group (I think the previous group complained about my tourettes like language) with PJ Jacobs as the guide. He took us somewhere out of the wind and parked us on a steep hillside where we could see the fish cruising past. It was the perfect spot to watch fish reject your fly. After all the rejections in the dam were used up, a fish came up and took my fly, only to spit it out before I could react. The fish were nervous, I was frustrated, but I did learn that if you duffed your cast and the fly landed behind the fish with a plop, they would turn around and investigate.
Having two anglers on either side of me was probably putting the fish on high alert before they got to me, so it was time to move. Far!
After finding a good spot which was relatively windless, I ate my lunch on the hill above so I could see how the fish were moving. There was a nice point between two small streams where the fish were being forced to go shallow and close to the bank.
Flattening a spot in some tall grass, I put on my gillie suit, made a parting in the grass for my rod and was almost invisible to the fish who would pass less than a rod length away.
The bonus was a large rock, which I could use for hiding my cast. The fish would swim past me on the left, go behind the rock and I would cast ahead of the rock, a perfect system. So perfect that I managed to lose five fish in a row, the last one being at least a meter long.
From rejection to acceptance, bliss filled my soul, but hang on....I still hadn't landed a fish!
For those of you who haven't fished at Sterkfontein before, you are in for a surprise. When the fish feel the hook they accelerate at the pace of a rocket sled, so if you don't do it right (like try and strip strike or lift your rod) it's "good bye fly it was nice tying you".
After those five, I finally hooked and landed the first one, a nice long sleek Sterkfontein smallmouth yellowfish. They don't surrender easily.
The next day went much better, I kept myself invisible, made sure my tippet sank , followed all the rules and I was rewarded with good fish. If you haven't been to Sterkfontein, put it on your bucket list. Going with the TCCF team or to one of the Tourettes challenges is recommended, as a boat is essential (a big one), and a guide indispensable.
Thanks to Tempest Car Hire who got me to Sterkfontein in a brand new Nissan.
Fishing on ones own every now and then should be important to every angler, especially the contemplative type. Fishing with a companion has its merits, but is only when fishing solo that the 'Zen' moments occur. Fishing alone allows you to focus on what you are doing without interruption, and is hard to beat. When a solo trip coincides with one of those days when the weather is good, the breeze is upstream, the fish are willing, they love your fly and you can do nothing wrong, it is even better.
While I may not understand the true deep meaning of Zen, I believe it is that moment on the river when you are confident about your set-up and fly, you stop concentrating, stop thinking, and just be in the moment, rhythmically casting into all the right places without a conscious thought. When a fish takes your fly while you are in that 'auto-pilot' mode, there is no thought process that says 'lift your rod', or 'do this', it just happens seamlessly and effortlessly.
You snap out the reverie only when the fish is tight on the line. Suddenly the world comes back into focus, your senses are heightened, the sound of the river rushes from the background, back into your ears. The light sparkles brighter off the water, and the splashes of the fish launch bright stars into the air. You sense the coolness of the water as you slide your hand down the leader to release the fly. The fish looks prettier and better proportioned than any you have ever seen, and you watch in quiet reverence as it swims back into the current.
You realise the good moment wasn't when when you hooked the fish or even when you released the fish with a spoken or inward 'thank you'. You were 'in the moment' or experiencing 'Zen' while you were fishing confidently, but more so at the moment you stopped trying to catch fish and just fished.
This is the moment when your mind is clear and you are at peace with yourself and engrossed by your surroundings, when the background sounds of the river and the birds kind of fade way into the distance; your focus is on your fly but also everywhere else at the same time. You are not moving your casting hand or arm, it is just happening; the fly is landing where your mind would say it should be if it was working. At that point you almost become a spectator to yourself from within yourself. At that moment, you are in a meditative and enlightened state and part of the environment that surrounds you.
Isnâ€™t that why you go fishing?
Aside from getting into the Zen moment and the Nirvana it encompasses, the fishing overall was pretty good. When you pull around a dozen fish out of the first pool, things can only get better.
The thought that came to mind is that what I was experiencing was 'ZenKara' which could actually be translated from Japanese into the English phrase, 'out of Zen'. Perhaps I will make it my personal mantra while fishing Tenkara style. Certainly it was an exceptional day on the river in more ways than one, and I was pleased that I shared it with myself.
Fishing in Cape Streams is synonymous with falling in. The old actors adage "break a leg" has been replaced by my fathers comment "hope you fall in the water", which more often that not happens. Mostly, falling in the water is a spectacular but undignified event, and because falls can be so creative, I have decided to try and categorise them. In all cases, the effect of falling in is two fold. One, the fish don't like it and bolt, and secondly a wet fisherman is not necessarily an efficient one
The overbalancing pirouette.
This classic maneuver is usually caused by too much forward speed. You step onto the rock you want to stand on, but your momentum carries you forward. However the deep pool in front of you means you cant keep going and so you try and turn around to go back, you cant so keep spinning. You execute the perfect pirouette but end up in the pool in front face first after going full circle. You realise there was a suitable rock just under the water, because your knee just found it.
The triple forward stumble.
You have just made a wide jump, and again have excess momentum. This time there is a rock in front of you, and you head for it. It required a bit more movement so you keep going to the next one. Out of the corner of your eye you see fish darting away. You get to the next one, which is just a little to far to one side, and ...... sploosh! Your pants start leaking blood in the shin area
The stuck foot slow motion fall
This is the most common one. You have spotted a fish and keep your eye on it while stepping forward, but the spot was a little deeper than you expected, but not to worry. You bring you next foot forward, but it wedges between two rocks, so you slowly fall to the side, watching the water coming up to face. You unwedge yourself and frantically dash downstream to collect your spilled gear
The wobbly rock face plant.
A familiar scenario, the big flat rock you just stood on is actually pointy underneath and you are in serious trouble. You aren't really falling yet, but your arms are windmilling like crazy, trying to get you to fly but it is not working. Eventually after what seems like an age, gravity wins and you you start going forward, slowly at first, but gathering sufficient momentum so that the water gives your face a good smack. It takes a while to get up and you wish you had a snorkel. The advantage of this fall is that your cuss words are muffled.
Fast water, foot wash dunker.
You have a narrow channel of water to cross, that is just too wide for one jump. All the water in the stream goes through here into a pool below and there is one high rock in the current. A quick dash across is required and you know you need to step a little upstream of that rock to hit it, as the water is fast.
The current is hopelessly underestimated and your foot is washed completely past it, and you follow your foot into the deep pool. In this case, no one is spared the cuss words that erupt when your head clears the water and you start stroking downstream to get your rod and hat.
The back step and upside down turtle.
Sometimes you want to move a little back, usually to execute a fantastic cast under a low hanging branch that will impress your partner. You step back and lose your balance, which is usually followed by another step back, and possible another. At times you could end up at the start of the beat before you lose you balance, which you inevitably will. You fall on your back, and invariably can't get up, you are on your back with your arms and legs waving about in the air, your rod floating downstream. The more your struggle to get up the more you look like an upside down turtle, especially if you have a big rucksack on.
The only impressing you do now, is the sound of your partners laughter, impressing itself on your brain.
Edging close to the bank around a deep pool, while trying to keep your family jewels dry you rely a bit too much on some handy vegetation. Either you are too heavy or the branch too weak, but the result is the same. A crisp 'crack' and your jewels and the rest of you are under water, rod in one hand and a branch in the other.
This one is special to streams or rivers with big smooth rocks. You are standing on a sloping rock just like the others you have stood on all day, and for some bizarre reason gravity grabs your feet and shoots them forward down the rock. It is so fast you land smack on your coccyx so hard you hear three cracks, the first is your coccyx breaking, and the second the pain exploding into your brain. Because you just reacted and tried to get your hands down to slow your descent the rod in your right hand took some of of the impact, and the breaking butt section was the third crack. This is an extremely painful maneuver and is not recommended for the novice faller. It is also extremely painful to watch.
Drown and across.
This is reserved for bigger streams or rivers and is a good reason to tie your hat on with a chin strap. You are usually waist high or deeper, and after making a cast towards the other bank you do a little misstep, only to find that the current is strong and that it is deeper than you are.
Proceeding to float downstream with your hat as the only indicator, your line snags on something, causing you to swing like a wet across the current to the other side.
This is best performed in front of a crowd.
The bank-slide nut cracker
Eddie Gerber described how he decided to bum slide down a gentle bank into the river. Halfway down his one leg went through a loop created by a tree root. This caused a sudden stop, with most of the stopping power being transferred from his family jewels. It would have gone a bit smoother if he were able to plunge the hurting bits in the cool water, but unfortunately he was trapped. He couldn't go up or down, as there was nothing convenient to pull himself up with and gravity kept in the grip of the root. Eventually some squirming and tricky maneuvers allowed him to free himself, but the lesson has been learned. Check for obstacles before sliding down an embankment.
Drew Kennedy's favourite fall is the splits. You are stepping from one slippery rock to the other and have slightly over-reach your forward foot. The result is that it keeps sliding forward, and at the same time you rear foot starts sliding backwards. You know you are in trouble when the seam of your pants start to groan, just before they rip.
Don't be deceived by rocks that appear flat. Sometimes they have just enough slope to get you sliding very slowly into the water. Eddie Gerber realised that lifting a foot to try and walk uphill results in an ungainly moonwalk that just gets you deeper. In vain you start to use your hands as oars, and as you get deeper its starts to look like a geniune doggy-paddle. There is no way out of this dilemma, so just go with the flow and start swimming.
Look at my new non-slip boots prat-fall.
Everyone knows that showing off while fishing is a sure way to invite trouble. Daryll Lampert says that the easiest way to fall is to show your fishing buddy how much grip your new boots have. You are sure to push the envelope just enough to reach critical mass whereby you become gravity's bitch.
This fall can also happen during a 'look-at-me-I-have-a-fish' moment.
Loose Rock & Roll.
This a slighhtly different take on the moonwalk, and usually happens when trying the exit the river up a gravelly bank. Every step forward sends you foot shooting back like you are trying to walk on marbles. Your steps keep getting faster until your body starts moving forward without your legs and you end up sliding down the slope in the push-up position. This is great for spectators, except those directly behind you.
All of the above maneuvers have been tested by me personally, except for the drown and across which was invented and field tested by Korrie Broos.
Mitigating measures are to use a wading staff and/or wading boots with good grip.
Introducing SAâ€™s first Fly Fishing Film Competition!
The brief is simple: Create a fly fishing film no longer than 5 minutes; a fly fishing short film if you will.
Subject matter can be anything as long as it pertains to fly fishing.
Here is the chance to show that brilliant footage you have been hiding from the world
For more information follow this link SA Fly Fishing Film Competition Flyer
Win a slot at the F3TSA film tour in 2017 and the opportunity to go on location with the Wildfly crew and actually work on a WILDFLY Episode.
The idea behind this initiative is to promote local film making in fly fishing and to give local filmmakers a platform.
Plenty of prizes
SA Fly Tyer of the Year
Are you skilled at spinning feathers, fur and synthetics into flies?
Do your creations not only look but also act like the insects, fish and amphibians your fly fishing targets love to eat?
Do you have what it takes to be crowned â€œSouth Africaâ€™s fly tyer of the year?â€
The SA Fly Tyer of the Year competition aims to promote and develop fly tying in South Africa.
For more information follow this link SA Fly Tyer of the Year Competition Flyer
There is a beginner and an advanced category, as well as plenty of prizes.
A serendipidous meeting with a farmer in the shop led to me dragging my family to the upper Oliphants river in the heat of December.
He has accommodation on the upper Oliphants in various forms, campsites, forest camps and farmhouses.
Best of all, he has two nice dams stocked with clanwilliam yellowfish, as well as pristine stream containing 9 indigenous fish species.
The question of where someone could target these fish is often asked in the shop, and my answer is usually vague,
as reliable spots are either hard to get access to or even harder to get to.
Now we have a potential fishery only 2.5 hours from Cape Town on reasonable roads.
We chose to stay at Tree Top Cottages (see www.cedarescape.co.za) which has wooden cottages on stilts connected by walkways,
and is situated in a mature black poplar forest. Thus even in the heat of midsummer, the cottages are cool, and if you feel a little hot
you can jump into the river. And if it is cold, the hot baths are just down the road.
(Note that you need to book a day in advance for day visits to the springs)
Gerrit (the farmer) gave me a tour of the dams and river and we had a chance to briefly fish them.
How fishing access will work still has to be decided, but I will let you know via this newsletter as soon as there is news.
My first clanwilliam yellow.
The stream is a tributary of the Olifants, and is clear of alien fish.
A wier has been put up by Cape Nature to prevent them moving upstream, as the Olifants is full of smallmouth bass (as well as some monster clanwilliam yellows).
For those of you visiting the Infanta side (not infantacide) of the River the new shop on the left just before the Mudlark turnoff now has a liquor licence.
That means ice cold beer from a sixty year old fridge that is nestled amongst the eclectic collection of junk that makes up the bent head.
Well worth a visit, and has a screen for those who cannot miss important sports events. The proprietor, Mark, is the son of Hilary of Mudlark.
Fishing for grunter on the Breede can be fickle, as has been proven on my last two visits. Firstly the grunter were 'coming up short' on the fly and then according to the locals, the water was too clean. Nonetheless, I will be back in a week or so to give it another go.
The sun had just hit the water, and I was standing knee deep in the water, which usually means 'more than ankle deep' in the mud, that I finally spotted a plume of mud, indicating a feeding grunter.
It was well past my casting range, so i ventured into deeper water to get closer. Yes, even beyond that level where the cold water seeps up into your jocks and causes a sharp involuntary intake of breath, making the dawn air seem so much colder.
Venturing to about waist deep (knee deep in the mud) I was about to cast when...
...right under my nose I saw a plume of mud.
While I was contemplating how in the name of the fish god I was going to cast to fish half a rod length away, when I noticed something strange.
This mud plume was moving against the current!
It kept moving, and kept moving, and a brief estimation in the primitive part of my brain said that this mud plume was longer than my height, and most likely had its origins in the Zambezi.
The primitive part of my brain also said run, while my adrenal glands pumped a bit of juice to assist it. But the rational part of my brain stopped it, because if it had its way, there would be a lot of shouting and splashing, and given that my feet were in the mud, would likely result in my being completely submerged during flight mode.
Thus the tale of the guy rushing and splashing and screaming and falling and swearing, while throwing babies behind him did not happen.
Instead, a calm, dignified and very brave (if I may say so) retreat was effected.
A month ago I was sorting out a tangle at the tip of my rod, and when II clipped the last bit off, my rod butt and reel went 'gloomp!' into Lakenvlei dam.
After some dithering I dropped the anchor to mark what I thought was the spot and because the water was so clear and I could see the bottom, tried to find it. Not realising the water was so deep I was looking for something the size of a reel, when I should have been looking for something the size of a bottle cap.
Once I saw how small the anchor looked I realised my mistake.
The next day I tried again but was hampered by low light and a choppy surface.
Being of Scottish descent, there was no way I was going to let this go and buy a new rod and reel, so tied a coke bottle to a rock to make a temporary bouy.
Three weeks later I was back with my scuba gear, and it wasn't long before I found it. Also in the same area was a broken oar, but no treasure. It was still in good condition, but oddly the tip of the line and leader were missing. Crab?
By now most people are aware that somehow bass got into the dam. Whether it was an intentional or accidental stocking is unknown.
Having retrieved my goodies, I took a drift up to the main inlet and managed to lose quite a few trout on the way.
Bending a rock-bent hook straight again does not work.
Anchoring up at the inlet I proceeded to catch bass after bass after bass. No Trout.
Eventually, after 34 bass I caught a trout. What a relief, but the ratio did not look good.
The bass (smallmouth and largemouth) seemed to have congregated in the warm shallow weedbeds, and were primed to spawn, despite being so small.
My son Isaac joined me towards the end and made out total bass bag 42.
We left the bass overnight on the shore next to the hut for the otters, which had eaten at least 30 by the next morning.
If you do go out there, please spend some time removing bass at the inlet. We will never get rid of them completely, but can keep the numbers down, as they are competing with trout for the same food.
If anyone knows where we can buy some big browns, please let me know.
If you want to sight fish for yellowfish, you either have to get lucky in KZN or the Eastern Cape, or you could plan to fish at low tide in the Karoo.
Every winter, the tunnel that feeds water from the Gariep dam into the the Fish River is closed for maintenance.
This means that the water slows down rapidly, clears up, and the fish concentrate in pools.
The 800 km from Cape Town seems far, but the journey is not long if you stop for breakfast, coffee, coffee, lunch, and tea.
Our intrepid group settled in for the evening at the Angler and Antelope, we went through the options available to us over the next three days.
While there are some excellent trout still waters in the area, we opted to give those a miss and concentrate on the unique fishing that the area offers .
Waiting for the man, and for the sun to warm us up a little.
- Picture yourself having a game of tennis. Your opponent without your knowledge switches the ball to one a third bigger.
- When that ball comes your way it will appear closer than it is and you will swing too early. If the ball were to be switched for a smaller one you would swing too early, and again, swipe air. Miss!
- If we apply this analogy to fly fishing we come up with a possible scenario for missed takes.
- If a fish is feeding during a heavy hatch you are faced with the challenge of making your fly stand out among the others to get the attention of the fish. Usually a bigger fly would be used, and rarely, a cluster fly that looks like a whole plate of food.
- If we apply the tennis scenario above, the use of a bigger fly may cause the fish to completely miss the fly, as it will open its mouth too early, and too you it would look like a last second rejection. If a fly is smaller than those around it, the converse may happen, and the fish could have its nose out the water before it opened its mouth.
- Using a trout rising to a dry fly as an example, it will spot the fly, rise to it, and at the critical moment when it opens it mouth to suck the fly in, it looses sight of it. At this point a misjudgement of size is critical.
- This theory does not just apply to dry flies during a hatch, but can be at any time or scenario where the fish misjudges the size of the fly.
- Ever wondered why booby flies get sucked in so deep?
- So have I, but I will think of something one day.
#flyfishing #lessons #SouthAfrica #fly
The area looks rather post-apocalypic as the fire left very little behind.
It is eerily silent, without the calls of birds or insects, or the rustle of leaves.
There are few animal tracks other than porcupines, and probably the only hare to survive was munched by a leopard.
Along the river bed some vegetation survived and the thorny asparagus bushes and ferns are starting to show.
Other than the odd bit of green, the only other colour is the red of the paintbrush bulbs and lillies.
The rocks that are sheltered from the small spatter of rain since the fire have quite a bit of ash piled on them