"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - ILAN LAX
So this is what it must feel like to be let out - on parole!
I trust you and your loved ones are all well and safe and surviving the lockdown. Being able to go out and exercise has been a blessing. I for one have found myself walking in the fresh early mornings, finding some different routes through our neighbourhood. Five kilometres is a decent radius within which to work up a good honest sweat. I have been heartened by the positive neighbourly energy I have encountered on these perambulations, greeting people along the way, stopping to chat, albeit at double arm's length.
The lockdown has hit all of us hard in different ways. Those without much of a support base or safety net are really struggling and our hearts go out to them. Any support you can muster will be gratefully appreciated. Those of us privileged to have gardens and access to the internet will have found the lockdown less of a problem than those who have very little escape space of any kind. The other day I spoke with FOSAF's secretary Bronwyn Konigkramer who is in lockdown with two toddlers! It was a somewhat stop-start conversation, so I count my blessings. Nevertheless, as life would have it, I too have my children (and their partners) staying with us for the lockdown. Far from being the stressful, difficult time, some might anticipate, this has been a serendipitous and heart-warming time of connection and sharing that was unexpected and which I hope we will all remember with fondness and warmth in the years to come.
As I write this, I can hear a fish eagle calling high above Pietermaritzburg. I quickly go outside and sure enough there is one circling in the thermal - what grand and regal creatures they are. Isn't it surprising how if we shift our mindset just a little there is always something positive to be found in whatever situation we are thrust into?
I have been struck by the amount of sharing that the COVID 19 situation has brought about. So many people have made ideas and information freely available to the public. From exercise routines, to music, fly tying patterns, recipes, movies, articles, literally anything that might pique your interest. This is a good time of enforced quiet and reflection and an opportunity to do a few of the things one would ordinarily leave for a later time. I recently used the opportunity to tidy a few fly boxes and order the flies. What order suits? I usually separate flies into wet and dry, and then break that down into nymphs, attractors, killer patterns, etc. There are so many options and permutations to use. But whatever you do make sure the order fits your particular logic and reasoning because that way you'll be able to find what you need when you eventually get back onto the water.
I must say that I am puzzled why fishing is not a permitted form of exercise? It is entirely compatible with social distancing and there is very little chance of anglers spreading the virus whilst engaged in a solitary pursuit. Even if one were to encounter someone else whilst fishing or walking, be it a stream or still water, the practicing of appropriate social distancing would obviate any risk of transmitting the virus. The only difficulty or obstacle I can think of, is that most of us live in the towns and would need to travel to where the fishing might be possible. For almost all of us that would not be in our neighbourhoods and the travel restrictions would mean us having to cross municipal boundaries, something that is currently understandably verboten.
As you may be aware, we were forced to postpone the National AGM. I am awaiting some outstanding Regional Reports. Once these have been received, I will summarise these into a National Chairperson's report. This will then be canvassed with the FOSAF EXCO, after which we propose publishing this in the Tippet and the Flyfishing magazine for your information.
My thanks must go to Ed Herbst for agreeing to write his excellent article, peppered with useful and interesting links for you to follow up on. Also, to Peter Arderne and Bronwyn Konigkramer for keeping the wheels oiled and turning.
I hope that you and your families will stay safe and healthy during the remainder of the lockdown.
Our thanks and gratitude must go to all our essential service personnel across the country, many of whom are going above and beyond the call of duty.
Hopefully we may yet get a chance to fish the autumn season.
Yours on the line
A SMALL STREAM APPROACH: 1980 – 2020
By Ed Herbst
When Ilan Lax asked me to write an article for The Tippet it gave me the opportunity to look back at the tackle, tactics and flies which have defined a happy and fulfilling forty-year obsession with small stream trout.
I only started fly fishing in my late thirties when I was transferred to Cape Town and joined the Cape Piscatorial Society.
I bought a second-hand Hardy Jet fly rod and visited Lemkus which sold sports equipment and had a tiny fly fishing section.
Of the flies available I wisely chose a Caribou Spider rather than the garish Mountain Swallow and the various salmon flies such as the Durham Ranger which were on offer.
This was the commercial version which had the parachute hackle wrapped round a post of red chenille. It floated through the roughest currents, was easy to follow and trout relished it.
There were days, however, when it was resolutely ignored and I was told by the CPS experts that, on such occasions, you used a nymph and the take would be signaled by the movement of the line tip. It never moved.
By this time Tom Sutcliffe and Hugh Huntley had acquired the Orvis agency, Mort Hunter had started a Cape Town agency and the arrival of the Orvis fly fishing and tying catalogues was as eagerly awaited as the arrival of spring.
I had also started reading the American magazine Flyfisherman and Dave Whitlock's articles on nymph leaders were a great help. He advocated slipping a piece of red fly line onto the leader to act as a strike indicator.
To make it even more visible, I slipped it onto some yellow Stren mono and I coloured the Stren on either side of fly line with a black permanent marker.
I greased the leader with Mucilin and fished it on the Donkergat pool of the Smalblaar stream.
I'll never forget the moment when the strike indicator slowed down and started sinking.
As if in a dream I registered that perhaps a trout had taken the nymph and, in what seemed like slow motion, I lifted the rod to successfully hook my first trout on a nymph.
I was lucky, early in my fly fishing life, to meet Tony Biggs and Tom Sutcliffe and through them I was introduced to the RAB. If there was an upstream breeze you needed nothing else - you could just roll-cast it all day and with great success.
One of my earliest trips with Tony was to the Holsloot stream near Rawsonville. He had been asked by neighbours to keep a few trout and so I cleaned the first one I caught. It had two minute ants, one in the mouth and one in the gullet, but it took another decade before I understood the importance of what I discovered that day.
In the meantime I had been reading Mike Weaver's book on small stream fly fishing and I was struck by his success with the beetle fished as a nymph. For me, this was the beginning of a very productive era of fishing sunken terrestrials with a strike indicator – beetles and little ants made of malleable copper wire covered with clear nail polish.
In the September 2018 issue of Veld & Flora an article appeared headlined Beetles in the Blooms and in it the author, Racquel de Castro Mia, records 157 beetles comprised of eight species in a single protea flower.
On Cape streams this occurs in spring which also heralds significant hatches of Blackfly and Mountain Midges and the preferred flies to imitate these species at this time are Darryl Lampert's Hi-Vis Midge and Tom Sutcliffe's CDC Midge.
Although I tried CDC flies when the first news about them became available, an incorrect decision saw me miss out on what could have been several productive years using this material.
If I were to choose only one nymph for Cape streams it would be my imitation of one of the staple trout food items, along with Baetis nymphs, for small stream trout all over the world – the Simulid larva.
On Cape streams the beetles have disappeared by late summer and that's when ant patterns start to score.
By autumn, trout stomach contents are dominated by hoppers and alder fly nymphs.
There's a chapter in Gary Borger's book, Presentation, called 'Equipment is the only thing' and that certainly rang true for me.
My time as an active fly angler was bookmarked by boots.
My first fly fishing experience was a miserable failure. I was wearing running shoes and the Smalblaar was still high after our winter rainfall season. Cold and shivering after numerous falls I realised that I would have to get suitable wading boots which I did - felt-soled, American wading boots which I ordered through Roger Baert at The Flyfisherman in Pietermaritzburg.
My penultimate fly fishing outing was to Rhodes for its 2010 Walkerbouts festival.
I was wearing the latest hi-tech wading boots with soles using, the advertisement claimed, the same formula rubber that SEAL Team Six relied on for their combat boots.
What I couldn't understand was why everyone else was wading with ease while I was stumbling. It had nothing to do with the boots and everything to do with a neurological illness which had affected my balance.
Before that, my wading had been greatly facilitated by a carbon fibre wading staff made for me from the bottom half of a surf-casting rod by Steve Boshoff.
In one of the most serendipitous moments of my fly fishing life, I met Steve in 2000 when we were both staying at Dwarsberg Trout Haven on the Holsloot stream and with him I started the search for the ultimate small stream fly rod and the ultimate small stream fly reel.
Steve has just produced his first one-piece split cane fly rod and, with the disruptive influence of the ferrule having been removed, perhaps the ultimate small stream fly rod - for the moment - has been produced.
I'm still waiting, however, for a one ounce, carbon fibre version of my beloved Orvis CFO2 to be produced. I was always looking for the edge which equipment could provide and I was able to fish with a lower profile thanks to neoprene knee-pads based on those worn by abalone divers and made for me by Coral Wetsuits in Cape Town.
I left my employer, the SABC, in 2005 because of pervasive corruption, unaddressed abuse of staff and routine news reporting bias and spent a year living in a cottage on the Dwarsberg farm.
I spent some time guiding on the Holsloot because I needed the money and observed two persistent faults among less-experienced clients - too much false casting and ripping the line off the water for another cast when the fly did not land where they wanted it to.
I advocated an abbreviated roll cast - sliding the line off the water, doing a roll cast and, as the line unfolds above the water, going immediately into a single back cast.
I also outlined Ed's immutable first rule of small stream fly fishing - if your fly hooks a branch on the back cast and then comes loose, it will go straight back to that branch on the next back cast unless you move to a different position or make your next cast from the opposite shoulder.
If you fish a run and then decide to change your fly, don't do it there but rather change your fly at the beginning of the next promising stretch because, while you are doing that, you might spot a fish moving. His second tip was that if your dead drifts had produced no response, finish the run with a stripped fly and I watched his demonstration in astonishment as a trout tore across the stream from the opposite bank to take his nymph moving at a far great speed than it could achieve in real life.
My last fly fishing trip was in 2010 with Korrie Broos who had brought top competitive anglers like Jiri Klima and Pascal Cognard to this country and I remember being amazed at the variety of techniques he used, all of which were new to me.
A decade earlier some FOSAF chapters had resolutely opposed their members becoming involved, but this segment of our favourite pastime has been of enormous value to the Cape Piscatorial Society because of the enthusiasm and drive that young competitive fly anglers contribute to the CPS endeavours. Our experience mirrors the experience of KZN clubs as described by Anton Smith in his article, 'The Younger and the Elder' for the February 2020 issue of The Tippet.
One of our Protea anglers, Garth Nieuwenhuis gave a talk recently and it was a revelation - although I would not have wanted to fish this way a decade ago.
A decade ago, if I had caught a dozen fish on a Smalblaar outing, I would have been delighted. At the beginning of spring, Garth and fellow Protea team members such as Matthew Rich and David Karpul will catch five times as many.
He fishes an eleven foot Vision 3-weight with a shorter rod for dry fly tucked into his waders.
He restricts himself to a leader twice rod length which is what the competition rules permit.
It is made of white Cortland mono coloured with a permanent marker at intervals for greater visibility. Multicoloured tippet material has replaced my adaptation of Dave Whitlock's ideas all those years ago.
Garth fishes two nymphs usually on #16-18 fine wire hooks with 2.5 mm slotted tungsten beads of various colours - I call them 'Quasimodo nymphs' because pretty they are not and the whole idea is for them to sink quickly.
The cast uses the same motion you would use when skipping a flat rock across the water and often if will be water-to-water, using the tension of the water at the end of the drift to load the rod for next cast. Throughout the drift he will constantly make small hook sets with minimum hand movement in case a fish has taken.
The long rod and leader are more useful because they allow you to fish from a distance and not frighten the fish but short rods - the rods made by Stephen Dugmore and Stephen Boshoff - cast tighter loops which is why I call them 'stalking rods'.
I still believe they have role to play in fishing small dry flies on crystal staircase streams such as the upper Bokspruit on Basie and Carien Vosloo's farm Gateshead - the most beautiful stream I have ever fished.
There is a general consensus that the best small stream fly fishers in the world are the Japanese and they use shorter, softer rods, often fiberglass and long limp leaders - as described by Nick Taransky on page 20 in the October/November 2017 issue of Fly Fishing magazine.
The dry fly is not attached to the tippet but pivots on a small loop to give it more movement.
I was never able to tie Lefty Kreh's non-slip mono loop in small sizes so I used a Uni Knot and once I had got the loop to the right size and before tightening it, I would cover it with Loon Knot Sense and move into the shade. I would slide the hook bend through the stripper guide which left both hands free which allowed me to gently tighten the knot. I would then move my body back into the sunlight or use the small Loon UV mini-torch to cure the knot. If you attach a snap swivel to your vest, it gives you that 'third hand' capability for tying knots in mid-stream.
Kelly Galloup, in a recent YouTube video referred to ant patterns as 'inoffensive', which took me back to that experience on the Holsloot 40 years ago with Tony Biggs.
Trout take micro patterns reflexively which is why I am enjoying my collaboration with Alan Hobson on the Mountain Dam Midge, the FOSAF fly of the month for April.
Fly fishing has played an enormously positive role in my life which was twice saved by the medical interventions of Tom Sutcliffe and the only time I feel a sense of melancholy in that regard is when I look at photographs of the small stream fly fishing in the Natal Drakensberg which I never got to fish with my friend Peter Brigg.
With the help of Sunet Terblanche of Virtual 24/7 - who was featured on page 56 in the April/May 2017 issue of Fly Fishing magazine - I have moved some of the chapters from the book Peter and I wrote on indigenous fly patterns onto the CPS website which has become a significant repository of articles on small stream fly fishing.
I joined FOSAF at its inception 35 years ago and was a member of its first committee. In the ensuing years it has certainly realised the hopes we had for it at the time.
Fly anglers throughout the world have formed lobby groups to promote their interests and protect the environments in which they fish.
The USA has two, Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers and Britain has the Wild Trout Society. At a time of global warming and increasing attempts at political control it is imperative, if you value what fly fishing provides, that you join FOSAF.
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