"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR – ILAN LAX
The old Bob Dylan song comes to mind: "Tangled up in blue". So many disparate threads, tippets and leaders in the recreational fishing space. It's a confusing mix of strident and at times irascible messages and voices. It does somehow feel like the sector is in a tangle of Gordian proportions.
Some of you may be wondering what on earth I'm referring to? The latest version of what is now called the National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy has elicited much debate. Be assured that we are carefully analysing this draft policy. We attended a stakeholders' round table in Pretoria around some of the implications. FOSAF is preparing a submission on this policy and will highlight the positives and negatives it poses. We are also conducting research into netting that can inform our submission.
We note the various recent comments from some stakeholders and commentators on social media about this matter. We are very concerned at the divisions that are emerging and being regrettably promoted in the sector. We do not believe that a confrontational approach will help with finding workable solutions to what are difficult questions around access and control of public freshwater fishery resources. We will continue to engage all stakeholders in a constructive manner so that principled and practical approaches can inform equitable and sustainable solutions for our public freshwater fisheries.
FOSAF is fortunate because we took the trouble some years ago, to do the homework and formulate policy and principles that have stood us in good stead. It is these policies and principles (some of which are presently undergoing review as should happen from time to time) that guide our actions and activities.
I occasionally get emails from people, FOSAF members and others, who suggest that I (and sometimes FOSAF) am making it up as we go along and acting without a proper mandate. What they don't appear to appreciate is that FOSAF has a set of decision making structures. Ideas get discussed at regional structures and then find their way up to the EXCO where representatives from the various regions then arrive and decisions. Members can participate at regional level and through their clubs and raise issues of interest or concern. Thus as national chair I am accountable to these structures and must act in line with our policies and principles. I believe we must thank Dr Bill Bainbridge and Jake Alletson for steering us down this important path to ensure that FOSAF is able to keep its head when things get tangled.
The crisis of pollution and mismanagement affecting our rivers and streams appears to continue unabated. The fine balance required between the needs of society and ensuring our grandchildren and their children's children have access to a planet endowed with sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity seems to be something beyond the capacity and resources managed by current cadre of deployed officials and politicians. It is deeply concerning that the efforts of so many well-meaning organisations and people are being stymied by the self-interest of few well connected people. It is a hopeful sign that the wheels of the justice system appear to be turning and this augers well for real governance accountability becoming the order of the day. KZN has not been spared this kind of scenario - a recent disaster at an oil plant saw a massive toxic spill wreak havoc on the Msunduzi and Umgeni, resulting in a mammoth kill of fish and other species. The cost of the clean-up will be astronomical. Acid mine drainage is also a massive problem in the north of our province and elsewhere.
Once again a big thank you to the tireless efforts of Chris Williams, Peter Arderne and the many other people and organisations working to save the Vaal, its neighbouring catchments and the Mpumalanga trout triangle as well as many other organisations around the country engaged in similar work. See the information available on our website: http://fosaf.co.za/ywgDisplay.php. So on behalf of all of us: Hats off to all of those people, anglers and non-angling types alike, who give of their time and other resources in pursuit of these vital activities.
May I again remind you all about the Club membership offer which is half the individual subscription of R300 per year. This discount is only available to people who are flyfishing club members. Please contact your club, the FOSAF Secretariat or myself if you have any questions. Our Supporter's membership classes also offer you the chance to show even greater support. See http://www.fosaf.org.za/supporter.php.
The river season is about to open! I trust you've used the winter to tidy and refill those fly boxes and maintain your tackle. I wish you wonderful Spring-fishing.
Yours "on the line"
McGupta can, with a sweep and a prod of his right thumb on his smartphone, do something as fantastic as having a warm dinner delivered right to his door. He uses his wristwatch to perform tasks as pointless as recording for future reference the exact spot on the planet where he saw a fish rise. Should he be so inclined he could use either device to do something as hitherto complicated as finding an available (single or otherwise) lady in his immediate neighbourhood. He is a child of the new millennium.
The Supermodel, conversely and I think to his credit, carries in his suitcase one of those rather quaint bedside travel clocks. The first time that McGupta saw it his eyes bugged out and it triggered a disturbingly prolonged head shaking motion, much like a big brown in the depths of a pool when you've hooked it solidly, during which he babbled uncontrollably in a high-pitched voice. In almost no time at all the cottage was plunged into inter-generational warfare. The relative merits of an alarm clock versus a smartphone were fired about in savage salvos amid much gesticulation and exaggerated eye-rolling.
In the baby-boomer corner the Supermodel, a man not entirely ravished by age but already showing some evidence of it, explained that he visits the toilet several times a night and that when he does he simply likes to know what time it is. (The knowledge that at least one of these visits involves stumbling blindly around the room in search of paracetamol and bottles of water to combat his burgeoning red wine hangover is something best kept between us.) From the millennial corner exploded McGupta and in a single bound he grabbed the Supermodel's cell phone and tried to crack his passcode in order to demonstrate how easy it is to set an alarm on it.
As these sorts of arguments are rarely amicably resolved I chose not to get involved in the shenanigans and left the old man and his Ben-10 to sort out their own differences. Believe me, it's not that I'm above an argument about what we so myopically call "progress" or that I shy away from a good scrap, it's just a debate that is pretty meaningless to me. In fact, it probably says a lot about me as a person that on any given day of the working week I need to hit the snooze button at least three times before I get up but have not, even once, in as many years as I can remember needed an alarm to awaken me to go fishing. I set an alarm for safety's sake but I'm normally awake at least an hour before it goes off.
In my early days of living in KZN my waking long before my alarm went off was not an issue at all. I'd bound out of bed (remember, it was two decades ago and I still had working knees), fill my flask and leave. In fourteen years of regularly fishing rivers I fished them alone and never once in that period did I enjoy the company of another angler. They were simple times and I came and went as I pleased, sometimes arriving at the stream before it was light enough to thread the eye of my largest pattern. I would pass the time sipping tepid coffee and watching the water as I waited. The minutes before the break of dawn are the most exquisite of any day and it was not time that I think back on as having wasted.
These days it's altogether different and I spend a lot of time kicking my heels in the wee hours before dawn. The group with whom I now fish are spread across two cities and take some time to do what those who did basic military training would call "tree aan". As a result, I now spend the pre-dawn pacing the house in my socks, checking and rechecking my gear and having a third coffee. I once, and I have reliable witnesses to this, even baked croissants as I waited. By the time my driveway is flooded by approaching headlights my gear is at the gate ready to be loaded and I've smoked a second pipe, hopefully not disproving my mother's maxim that "a little waiting never killed anyone".
We don't often start fishing before the sun has shown itself above mountain ramparts, and please don't tell them this, but it's a small price to pay for the company of a good friend on even an average trout stream.
You see, in my world the term "friends with benefits" means something altogether different from the modern colloquial sense of the expression (all of the time and without exception - let's not start rumours here). It means someone from whom to borrow a squirt of floatant when yours is bobbing steadily in the general direction of Isipingo. It's someone to put their hand on your shoulder when you broke off on a hawg and who doesn't allow you to agonise over it more than is strictly healthy. It's someone to curse you mercilessly when you're off your game or just someone to turn to and say "did you see that!?" when something happens and you need to be reassured that you aren't, despite the weight of the facts before you, losing your mind.
Fishing, as is life, is better when it is shared with friends.
I recently received a text message from Double-Barrel-Darryl, a fly fisher and gentleman of the highest order. It was succinct and said simply, "What's your nearest Postnet? I have a book to send to you." I thanked him and provided my details. A few days later the book arrived and the gift, as well as the gesture behind it, all but overwhelmed me. In the package from DBD was a copy of Tom Sutcliffe's new book, Yet More Sweet Days, that DBD had the author sign and dedicate.
As it happened, the week after I received it I was scheduled to be on a week's leave in Underberg and I took it along. I read it over the course of the first two evenings. Then I read it again.
Now, in case you're wondering, this is a thousand-word preamble to what is, I suppose, a book review. Brevity, you understand, is not my style.
When it comes to books let's face it, there's not a lot to be said about the catching of trout on a fly that hasn't been said a thousand times before. This hasn't stopped us yet and is unlikely to anytime soon - a fact that I'm not uncomfortable with providing that it's written well. The good writers, you understand, will entertain you. Better writers capture your imagination. The best writers, the great writers, write in such as a way that it feels as though they have reached into your consciousness and have captured in their words your own experiences or memories.
Tom Sutcliffe is by that definition a great writer. What is the book about? Well, superficially, that's not hard to explain. It's about fishing, not fishing and the hazy periods spent between fishing and not fishing. It's about highways and gravel roads. Coffee stops and lunch breaks. Exotic travel and home comforts. Trout that will eat your imitation and those that will not. Open spaces and tight valleys. Patterns and tactics. Times of hardship and times of abundance. Toughening up. Things that change and things that are permanent. Things that you wish would change and things that wish would never change.
Okay, so perhaps it is a little hard to explain but that is, ironically, because it's not a complicated book. It's really just a collection of memories. It has some credible tips on where and indeed how to catch fish, and you'll do well to make notes, but mostly it's the author's memories of places, experiences and the people that he's met along the way.
What genuinely amazes me about this book is how much a part of it one feels when reading it. It's a discussion that I've had with several people who have read it and they all agree. It feels as though he's describing your own experiences. I suppose that I could lean back, nod knowingly and tell you that it's "accessible" or "relatable", but that would be trite. It's something more than that, but exactly what it is I find very hard to express. I think that he takes universal experiences and contextualises them in such a way that we more than to relate to them, they become as though we have lived them ourselves - and we probably have, each in our own different ways.
Throughout the book Tom remains authentic and unpretentious. Even when he is essentially giving instruction on something it feels more like gentle guidance than a lecture. He speaks like "one of us" in a sport where everyone, to misquote Gierach, not in your party of anglers is an asshole.
Western music, if you'll allow me the diversion, has evolved a technique called counterpoint. It occurs when two elements of music are reliant on one another harmonically but are rhythmically independent of each other. This is how I read Tom Sutcliffe. In his world trout act as the counterpoint for a lived experience; in harmony with it, but moving to their own rhythm.
I think that this is mostly a book about friendship and connectedness. It was on my second reading that I realised that Tom's friends and the places with and through which they are connected are the centre of his writing. Every other aspect of this fine book revolves around that.
The mountains, streams and indeed the trout simply provide the counterpoint to our relationships with those that we meet during the course of our journey - even when they are chasing each other around the fishing cottage in a ridiculous argument about a bedside clock.
ARCHIVED COPIES OF THE TIPPET
TIPPET - February 2010
TIPPET - May 2010
TIPPET - August 2010
TIPPET - November 2010
TIPPET - February 2011
TIPPET - May 2011
TIPPET - August 2011
TIPPET - November 2011
TIPPET - February 2012
TIPPET - May 2012
TIPPET - July 2012
TIPPET - November 2012
TIPPET - February 2013
TIPPET - May 2013
TIPPET - August 2013
TIPPET - November 2013
TIPPET - February 2014
TIPPET - May 2014
TIPPET - August 2014
TIPPET - November 2014
TIPPET - February 2015
TIPPET - May 2015
TIPPET - August 2015
TIPPET - November 2015
TIPPET - February 2016
TIPPET - May 2016
TIPPET - August 2016
TIPPET - November 2016
TIPPET - May 2017
TIPPET - August 2017
TIPPET - November 2017
TIPPET - February 2018
TIPPET - April 2018
TIPPET - August 2018
TIPPET - November 2018
TIPPET - February 2019
TIPPET - May 2019
TIPPET - August 2019
TIPPET - November 2019
TIPPET - February 2020
TIPPET - May 2020
TIPPET - August 2020
TIPPET - November/December
TIPPET - April 2021