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Month: September 2021

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…

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