Thats right, fly fishing wants to kill you. I know this because it tried to kill one of my companions on our trip to the Orange River.
But, if you just apply some sensible rules, you will be safe. Story follows later.
Early morning Sun south of Springbok. It's hard to beat a road trip
NEVER fish alone. Not being in sight of a partner counts as being alone.
Make sure someone knows where you are going and who to contact if you don't come back.
Do you know the appropriate numbers to call, and are they programmed into your cell phone.
Does your fishing buddy have the numbers of your next of kin or are they ICE'd on your phone (ICE numbers are useless if they are password protected).
2. Think and be prepared
What possible emergency scenarios could arise, and how will you deal with them.
Emergencies could be medical or weather related
Have you done a basic first aid course?
4. Appropriate gear
Wear a lifejacket in stillwaters, and the correct weather and footwear for your day or trip.
Where there is no cell phone reception, special arrangements need to be made.
Never fish with anyone heavier than you. Catch 22 :-)
One of my companions was not doing so well on the fishing front so I offered to fish with him the next morning.
We had been fishing for less than an hour when he said he didnt feel well, and headed for the bank.
He lay down and I checked his vitals. Everything seemed OK, but he could not explain what was going on. As he had a past history of a stroke, it was my major concern.
Shortly thereafter he went into a grand mal siezure, so all I could do was make sure he was comortable.
When it was over he fell into a deep sleep, so I felt it was safe to go and get help. Luckily one of our party had a late breakfast and was still in the camp nearby.
He brought a vehicle closer and we dragged our heavy brother to the car and got him in the front seat.
We were 2 hours from the nearest tar road or cell phone reception, and the drive felt much longer as I was in constant fear of a recurring seizure.
It was not possible to go faster than 60 as the tyres were below a bar for the sand driving.
After regaining conciousness, my passenger kept trying to climb out of the car while it was moving, and he gave me carrots for not wanting to let him out.
About an hour later he was fully awake and had regained all mental faculties (the ones he had originally).
As we got close to the N7 I made some calls and his PA arranged for an ambulance to leave Springbok and meet us on the road.
The ambulance was met and they took over. While they were busy I pumped the flattest wheel, and the backup vehicle arrived.
It was decided at the camp to follow me in another vehicle in case something happened to the first one.
They had been delayed as they were stuck in the sand.
Just as we arrived at Springbok Hospital the 'flat' tyre gave its last gasp of breath. It had to be replaced.
The patient came out of the situation fine in the end, but we did learn some valuable lessons for future trips to the Orange river.
The two most important were that; firstly, you need some form of communication that is not cell tower reliant.
Secondly, two vehicles are essential.
The what ifs?
After the event the 'what if?' scenarios were played out around the campfire.
If he had been in the river alone and had the seizure he would have drowned. Even if someone was close, crossing a current takes time.
If we had a sat phone, who would we have called?
How would you, man alone, carry a person for a few kilometers over rough terrain?
Options and lessons
1. Take a sat phone or EPIRB device. I had a nice satellite gadget with a big red button that calls in the calvary, no matter where you are.
It could also be used to communicate with the control centre or send emails via your smart phone. It unfortunately died last year.
See http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/camping-and-hiking/best-personal-locator-beacon for some ideas.
2. If you have a phone, know what numbers to call to arrange a Medivac. If you are dealing with a heart attack, time is critical and giving constant CPR is very tiring.
3. Make sure that medical aid and ICE contacts of all parties are available.
4. Hand held radios are useful but fishing alone is not an option.
We are out in nature, and there are risks. Snakes, broken bones, cliffs, deep water and medical risks. It is not nearly as risky as the city, but in the city help is close at hand.
The water on the lower orange was running cold and clear. There was quite a bit of slime around but it was not much of a problem.
Water level was about 40 cumecs, which is nice comfortable level for fishing in the area.
In the mornings the rapids were devoid of fish, but they seemed to come on the feed in the afternoon when the water warmed up.
Water temperature did not seem to bother the bigger fish, largies were active all day, and nice fat smallies were taking the streamers fished for largemouth.
Although I tied more than a box full of flies for the rapids, I used only 4 flies, which are all back in my box.
In fact the only fly I lost was squirmy worm to a catfish, which I had no realistic chance of landing.
An orange river grand slam was again within my reach (smallie, largie, mudfish), but the muddies were not playing fair. On the last trip I was short of largemouth, this time it was mudfish.
With the water so clear, you could watch them sucking on the rocks a rod length away, but they would not take a fly. A fly placed in their path on a rock would be pushed aside.
Thus I came to the conclusion that mudfish are only caught by foul hooking them (all feathered flies are fowl hookers).
There seems to be two camps on this issue, with many agreeing and others saying they catch muddies on the mouth regularly.
However, no-one has actually seen a mudfish take a fly. If you have please let me know the details.
Largemouth yellows were caught regularly, but the big ones must have been somewhere else.
Please excuse the poor qulity of the fish pictures, but I was, ahem, fishing alone.
A lovely soft sandy campsite, next to the river. The tents all featured 'installations' to hang and dry clothes
Camping is so much better with luxuries such as ice, cold beer, good coffee,
and freshly baked bread.
We tried a good cooler box with dry ice for the first time,
and it performed very well.
After 5 days some frozen beers were discovered.
The mask was brought along in case we got sand storms
like we experienced on our last trip.
There were no sandstorms, but the mask was a huge help in easing my hayfever.
As mentioned, I tied a lot of flies for the trip, but my most hopeful fly was this shrimp imitation for use as a control fly.
I first saw these shrimps in the water as a 13yr old fishing for yellows with pap in Potchefstroom.
This version is a tungsten offset bead on a Hanak H310 hook, with thread for the body.
The body is covered with Solarez UV goo, and then the legs are layed across the body,
glued on with the UV glue and then the back ends trimmed.
And for some odd reason I didn't try it, but then again I probably spend an hour fishing with nymphs in total.