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Year: 2021 (page 1 of 3)

Count Out

I’ve never considered fly fishing to be a competitive sport, amongst anglers that is. It’s the fish you have to battle with after all, so another fly fisher can only really be considered company on the water.

Hence, the TOPS Corporate Challenge has never been about fishing, despite some 24 000 Trout having been caught and released over the last 20 years. This benchmark fly fishing festival is all about the time you spend with mates, imbibing and embellishing on past angling adventures you’ve had together and possibly trying to convince anyone within earshot that you can throw a line.

And despite ‘Ronas’ efforts to keep us all locked up at home and Uncle Cyril’s adjusted levels causing mayhem with our best laid plans, this illustrious gathering was yet again successfully hosted at the legendary Notties hotel. Of course the pub was a shadow of it’s former self with sensible social distancing but that didn’t stop every entrant from celebrating in the great outdoors!

The WildFly waters lived up to their reputation, producing some spectacular Rainbows and even a few rare Browns made an appearance. The conditions however couldn’t have been more challenging!

Howling winds, driving rain and sleet that turned into a genuine snowstorm!….thankfully we all had our Jonsson fleeces!!

No rational person would chose to take out a fly rod, but that’s one symptom resulting from this pandemic, you lose all sense of perspective and logic is quickly cast aside. Every single person braved the merciless weather and returned grinning like a schoolboy who had finally been allowed out to play, albeit with a slightly bluish tinge to their complexion.

Fortunately a Glenbrynth single malt kept the polar bears at bay and the Trout played ball, with 699 fish making into the record books in the qualifying legs

Thankfully the final brought out a little sun and with spring brightening up the landscape, the 48 fly fishers made a lot of hay.

112 fish in the first session was followed by 75 in the second, with a 64cm Rainbow hen from Oakbrook dam landed by Paul Lishman, equalling the 64cm Brown caught in leg one. Remarkably 79 Trout were landed in the 3rd session and as one has come to expect only 48 in that last shell shocked session with Gavin Loveday recording another 64cm from SpringGrove dam.

The yardstick of a good sized Trout I believe is 50cm and if you are lucky enough to broach the 55cm mark, you move into that 7lb category, which for most casual anglers is a memorable catch indeed. But if you’re lucky enough to land a wee beast that eclipses the 60cm mark, you’re in trophy territory.

This was the first count out, forcing us to look at their respective largest fish in the legs, Paul’s 59cm from Oribi dam, pipped Gav’s 56cm, bestowing on him the trophy for the largest fish of the 2020 TCC.

The 314 Trout caught in the final took the tally to 1013 fish for the event. But yet again it was the average size of fish recorded this year that caught everyone’s attention with every dam measuring a Trout in excess of 55cm and more fish caught over 50cm than any other year!

The session scoring system kept the adjudicators busy and everyone guessing with two count outs, for 4th and 3rd place as well as for silver and gold, with just a single fish tipping the scales.

Every fly fisher won a holiday to enjoy some more fishing compliments of WildFlytravel.com, and Easy Escapes, but there were some anxious anglers waiting to see if they’s made it to the trophy tiger grounds of Matoya lodge, the majestic Bains River Camp in the lower Zambezi or the luxurious White Pearl resort in Mozambique as well as the incredible Orange river drift with Kalahari Outventures.

Hendrik Fourie took top honours with his 17 Trout caught and released, engraving his name into the WildFly honours board at Notties.

And this performance was good enough to catapult his team ST Fergusson, past the 3rd place of ‘Nympmaniacs’ and the 2nd place podium held by team ‘ZZ Tops’ to be crowned the 2021 TOPS Corporate Challenge champions.

With trips to Semonkong in Lesotho, Shayamoya on Jozini, Giants Cup in the berg or Fordoun and InverMooi in the mIdlands, every team was rewarded for their efforts on the water.

This coupled with the incredible prizes from Hardy, Greys, Airflo, Frontier Fly Fishing, Outdoor Warehouse and Xplorer ensured that regardless of the who caught what, just for harassing the Trout you walked away with an armful of goodies.

So when all was said and done their were a lot of winners in the war waged against the Trout in WildFly country!

Inaugural NCTA Augrabies Falls Fly Invitational

In August this year, twenty-two excited anglers made their way by road and air (on Airlink) from all corners of South Africa to the quaint town of Augrabies in the Northern Cape.

The recently revamped Augrabies Falls Lodge was to be the setting of the 4-day inaugural NCTA Augrabies Falls Fly Invitational.

NCTA Event
Augrabies Falls Lodge

The largest river in South Africa, the Orange, winds its way past the town where it plunges 56 meters down the spectacular waterfall situated within the SANParks reserve.

Augrabies Falls

An unseasonal cold front arrived as predicted, but this didn’t dampen spirits in any way, in fact, other spirits were adequately imbibed, for medicinal purposes of course, and to keep warm in the chilly weather.

Four stunningly beautiful beats (sections of the river) had been identified by Craig Eksteen, owner of Kalahari Outventures, the premier fishing and rafting operators in this region, and co-organizers of the event. Each team of 2 anglers would get to fish all the beats over the 3 days of competition.

Deep slow-moving water, a spectacular unfished gorge within the Park, along with freestone riffles and rapids were all in play, with both SANParks and local farmers generously allowing us access through their private properties for the event.

Orange River Beats

With air and water temperatures plummeting, these hardy fly-fishers were tested to the extreme. Large Mouth Yellowfish are the apex predator in these waters and the scoring system allocated the highest points for landing and releasing one of these prized specimens. Their cousins, the Small Mouth Yellow, Catfish, Carp and Tilapia amongst others, all counting for points on a sliding scale.

Each evening around the fire pits at the Lodge, seemingly endless tales of success and failure were told and retold in the time-honoured tradition of fishermen everywhere.

On day 3, the final day of the comp, it was still anyone’s event to win, but with the weather starting to settle, the cream was coming to the top. Overall, 115 fish were safely caught and released, with the young but experienced team of Eddie Rall and Des Fourie finally taking top honours by some margin, earning them an all-expenses paid guided fishing trip and 2 return Airlink flights anywhere in SA. Eddie also won the best angler award, along with a complete Large Mouth rig kindly sponsored by Xplorer Fly Fishing.

Eddie Rall & Des Fourie – Overall Winners

Amidst much hilarity, booby prizes were presented for those who had not fared quite as well as others, along with some really great travel and tackle prizes for the runners-up.

Wine flowed thereafter, complimenting a fantastic meal served al-fresco on the veranda of the venerable old Lodge, followed by an evening to remember, as new and old friendships alike were cemented in the festive pub.

As the contestants set off for home on the final morning, a group of excited young school children from 3 of the local schools in the area were hosted at the river by SANParks and Kalahari Outventures. Squeals of delight as, in teams of four, they learned to paddle on the water, cast fly lines and understand the link between entomology and flies. Conservation of this wonderful but threatened waterway is of prime importance and the local kids who live in the area need to be part of any solutions going forward.

Local School kids included in the event

All in all, the inaugural NCTA event was great success, with most competitors promising to be back for the 2022 edition, and our thanks must go out to Northern Cape Tourism and the many other wonderful sponsors without whom it would simply not have happened.

Next year’s event (24 to 29 August) will be expanded to include 32 anglers (16 teams of 2) so if you’re a keen fly-angler with a sense of adventure, and a sense of humour, we look forward to seeing you there…

Lazy Boyz

To tube or not to tube is a shouldn’t be a dilemma.

Although targeting Trout from the bank and stalking a fish is the way to go on arrival at any dam (as long as you get their at the proverbial crack of), to not jump in your float tube when fishing any decent sized dam is just limiting your options.

The design of any established still water means that accessibility is limited from the bank, very often the dam wall and one side of the still water being your only vantage point from which to cast. And even if you have 360 degree access and can throw a line like the late Lefty Kreh, you’re still only prospecting the fringes around the bank.

So when that sun starts to raise it’s bright head and you’ve exhausted the sight casting opportunities should you jump into their domain and enjoy your floating Lazy Boy.

And to catch any fish, you have to find them first.

No matter how great your cast, how perfect your presentation….even if you’ve got that sure thing fly pattern……if you’re fishing in the wrong area, then you might as well be on dry land, so you should always take a moment to survey the water and plan your attack…..and I revolve my approach around the structure.

Any structure affords fish cover or protection and this refuge is often also a habitat for aquatic life on which they feed. So look for rocky outcrops, overhanging trees or any variation in the dam floor. Not all structure is visible, so if you can, get a height vantage point, aside from helping you to spot moving fish in clean water, you’ll get to see what lies below.

A lot of anglers moan about weed, but a dam without weed can’t support an adequate population of insects or Trout food. Weed is a fly fisher’s friend, (in more ways than one). Find the weed beds and you will find the fish under, alongside or within striking distance thereof. You need to find the spaces in between, so if you’re in float tube, anchor yourself in the middle of the weed and cast into the channels or holes.

You want to put your fly on the edge,  so the advantage of a tube, is that you can cast into the weed bed…..you can also cast onto the bed and bring it over the edge, or you can cast along the wall of the weed, fishing the length of the channel .

Don’t overthink it, just work the spaces in-between.

Every dam has an inlet, this might be just catchment run off or fed by a natural spring, either way Trout naturally gravitate towards running water, which brings with it fresh nutrients and above all else oxygenates the water, so this is always a good bet on looking for moving fish.

It’s easy to find, but often not easy to access, it will inevitably be shallow, hence approach slowly, because in thin water you’ll only get a cast or two….so make it count.

Conversely is the outlet or spillway.  If there is a running outflow then this moving water will be an attraction to fish, but even the inert spillway of the dam represents a structural change in which you’ll find moving fish. Here the fish will have a drop off, just off the shallow spillway in which to lurk, so a cast just into this change in depth can sometimes be very rewarding.

Both the inlet and outlet of a dam are the shallow areas and in low light, both at dusk and dawn, you will often find fish brave enough to be milling in these areas

Use the technology at your fingertips, all of this can be done with a simple Google map search, well before you arrive at your venue, so you’re not wasting time on guesswork….you go in with a plan….doing the groundwork for your next fishing adventure is half the fun anyway, so enjoy this preparation.

What depth the fish are at depends largely on time of day and water temperature.  Figuring this out, if not evident by rising / feeding fish, then simply work the water column. I usually start at the top and work my way down, but when you figure out where the Trout are in the water column you’ll know what line and fly weight to use.

In low light they’re near the surface and in bright sunny conditions you’ll find them a lot deeper

When you’re in the right zone, accuracy and presentation trumps distance, you’ll be surprised how many fish are within 10 meters of the edge of where you’re positioned. Now I love casting, but no angler has caught a fish with his fly in the air, so don’t spend more time trying to make longer casts….the basic maths tells you that the more your fly is in the water the more fish you will catch.

Focus on putting the fly in the right spot as gently as possible….to much casting simply scares fish in the vicinity.

Retrievals depends on fly and line selection and there’s no definitive right or wrong way, my fast and your slow can be worlds apart and how short or long you strip is very subjective, let alone the pause in-between.

Remember to hang your fly. By simply lifting your rod slowly with about 8 meters of line still in the water (most fly lines have a hang marker), changes the angle of the fly through the water column, which often induces the strike, if a fish is following……and you’d be amazed how many fish follow without you knowing!

What fly works has fuelled more debates on bar stools than I care to remember and there’s a library of books to prove it. Colour and how the fly swims are my main criteria when it comes to streamer selection. Obviously only when you enjoy some success with a particular pattern do you gain the required confidence, which is key to stop you changing flies too frequently.

My simple rule of thumb is try keep your fly in the water longer, again logic dictating that you can’t catch a fish with your fly out of it.

So, Let the fish find your fly…..this is a pearl that only after chasing too many trout have I begun to truly appreciate.

Eden Bleu

The Seychelles has become the go to place for fishermen who want to experience wild, untouched fishing in a pristine environment. The island nation consists of a hundred and fifteen islands, scattered over a large area of the Indian ocean. The capital city, Victoria, is on the main island of Mahe’, as is the country’s international airport.

Just off Mahe’ is a fifty-six-hectare man-made island and marina with accommodation in the form of penthouses, townhouses and apartments. Also on Eden island is the magnificent four-star Eden Bleu hotel. The hotel rooms either have garden views or views over the island’s beautiful marina.

The Eden Bleu hotel is the perfect jumping off point for trips to the Seychelles outer islands, when one needs to overnight on Mahe’ prior to or after a visit to one of the remote destinations. Day fishing trips can be undertaken from Eden Bleu, where one can be taken out to the drop off of Mahe’s plateau. This involves a boat ride of around thirty-five miles each way.

Fishing some of the outer coral atolls is spectacular and is generally reserved for fly fishing. Most of this is done on the flats around the islands and species such as bonefish, permit, triggerfish, milkfish, GTs and many others can be caught. Most of the fishing is sight fishing and is some of the most exciting fishing experiences that one could possibly experience are to be had. 

The fishing around the drop off is excellent. This normally takes the form of trolling, jigging or popping with strong gamefishing tackle. Big gamefish such as marlin and sailfish, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, dorado, wahoo and giant trevally are commonly caught in this remote and isolated area.

The drop off, as the name implies, is a massive underwater wall, coming up from the depths of the ocean, to around 30m from the surface. There is excellent fish holding structure along the drop off and plenty of current upwelling to bring nutrients up from the depths, which results in plenty of filter feeding baitfish being present in the area.

Charters out of Mahe’ offer either a day trip, or one can undertake to spend a night on board a bigger vessel out on the dropoff. Apart from the excellent fishing, the area also has world class scuba diving and snorkeling, which can be arranged with charter operators.

Eden Bleu hotel is luxurious and comfortable, with free WiFi, flat screen TV’s, spacious rooms and spectacular views. Meals can be taken in the hotel’s Marlin Bleu restaurant, which offers meals all day. Meals are typically prepared from fresh produce sourced on and around the island. Bountiful seafood is one of the hallmarks of this establishment and the delicate flavours of Seychelles cuisine can be explored here.

Eden Bleu is very conveniently located, only a five minute drive from the international airport and 5 kilometres from the capital, Victoria. It has conference facilities and can be used as a wedding venue for those wishing to tie the knot in paradise.

Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island

Luxury in Paradise

Every once in a while we do a fishing trip where we stay somewhere so ridiculously luxurious, that I feel guilty walking into my room all salty and sweaty after a day’s fishing. The upside, of course, is that I get a super comfortable night’s rest and wake up refreshed and strong.

One of these destinations is the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island. In keeping with the Four Seasons standards, the hotel is a luxurious five star resort. It is situated on the beautiful Desroches private island, with 14 kilometres of exclusive, white coral sand beaches and surrounded by the stunning blue Indian Ocean.

Transport around the island is on bicycles and golf carts, which one can use to access remote and isolated beaches, the giant tortoise sanctuary and numerous other points of interest. Rooms are privately appointed, and fitted out with king sized beds, huge bathrooms, private balconies and a mini bar.

Exploring the fishing around the island on foot, or by bicycle is a real Robinson Crusoe experience, with walks down stunning white beaches. Fish that can be caught in the shallow, clear water, include a variety of trevally species, bonefish, threadfin and a whole lot of tropical reef associated species.

Offshore fishing on the sport fishing boats is exceptional, as the atoll is surrounded by deep water. Species such as sailfish, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, wahoo, giant trevally and dorado are common in the waters around the island. Boats are fully equipped with trolling equipment and also have some spinning gear on board.

A day trip to the nearby St Joseph’s atoll is a must for fly fishermen. Walking the flats on St Joe’s is a marine wilderness experience. Between casting the fly at species such as bonefish, triggerfish and permit, one can enjoy sights of turtles, rays and sharks literally swimming around your feet.

Snorkelling and scuba diving on the reefs around Desroches is world class. The only visitor to these reefs are guests of the hotel, so coral is pristine and untouched and the fish are undisturbed. With warm water one can spend hours exploring the reefs and swimming with all manner of beautiful sea creatures.

A climb up the lighthouse for an elevated view of the island and its surrounds is well worth while. In fact I would recommend taking a few beverages up there to enjoy a sunset in breathtaking surroundings.

Meals at the resort are a gastronomic experience unparalleled in my experience. With a huge variety offering anything from cheeseburgers and Pizza, to the most decadent and delicious seafood treats one can imagine or something as exotic as veal and truffles.

A trip to Desroches is definitely one that you would want to do with your significant other. The resort and its facilities are too luxurious and romantic to be wasted on a single fisherman. I know that if I go there again I will definitely be taking my wife with me.

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