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.