Name: Gareth GeorgeHometown: Nottingham RoadGareth has probably spent more time in watering holes, listening to fishing stories, than any rational angler could cope with.As such, he is included not as a Guide in terms of the someone who can give you any indispensable tuition or direction, but to provide us with some fishing tales from the events that WildFly hosts and of course from the locations that the the WildFly team happen to be filming.The real account from a social fisherman's perspective...
Never were so many fish caught by so few.Being a TOPS event the festivities are a given and as I always maintain at the opening night, ‘This event has very little to do with fishing’. It’s one of the main reasons that all the great prizes are awarded for antics off the field.But if one is to make a ‘fishing weekend’ excuse to the better half, then it’s important that you at least return having put your fly in the water………a few merry anglers were guilty of precisely that in the 1st leg. Wind was touted as an excuse, as was severe tennis elbow and agoraphobia, but I think it had more to do with the Growler beer on tap and the comforts of the legendary Notties.
Those that made it to the water certainly impressed the scorers though. The average size was what stood out, being 38cm, with every dam recording fish in excess of 45cm, and plenty of 50cm plus specimens. The 285 fish caught was topped with beauty of 58cm from a brand new water in the WildFly stable.
The flies that delivered the results were a hot topic of debate, the common denominator being the colour olive and minnow patterns in particular. That said flies thrown at the problem were varied and everything from buggers and boobies to nymphs and even dries saw some action. If anglers are to be believed a further 56 Trout were lost at the net and naturally these were fish of unbelievable proportions that will grow exponentially in the pub.The talents of the Afriguide Logistics team stole top spot from Sasfin Securities, with The Fingerlings, Spanish Fly and IDM Build It all making it through to the final.
The next leg sees quite a serious bunch of fly fishers test their mettle on the WildFly waters, with the weather no doubt having a say in proceedings.
Floating around a lake, stuffed into a tube is to many a gentleman fly fisher like replacing a chess set with checkers pieces. It’s still a game but lacks the same finesse and skill or so many traditionalists would have you believe.
But is it legalized trawling?
Gently finning with your line in the water is how you get from bank to bank and anyone who claims they have not caught a Trout in this fashion would have me raising an eyebrow about any of their fishing tales.Yet, to aimlessly kick around a dam will generally frustrate you and your fellow anglers and yield not much more than severe hamstring cramps.
A V-Boat definitely makes the job a whole lot easier, not too mention more comfortable, but the fact that you can access so much of the dam means that it does require a definite strategy.
When to throw a line? "Whenever I get a chance!" is a knee jerk response and only too true ,as we very often don’t have the luxury of choosing our leisure windows. But urban schedules notwithstanding, few would argue that our limited fishing time should be calculated to provide maximum enjoyment. Whether this satisfaction is merely spending time at the waters edge, unwinding or having your fly abused by obscenely large fish, when to spend your precious fishing time should be the first consideration.
And if it’s river Trout that you’re chasing then April is the prime month to set a play date.
Brown Trout are as a fussy fish as you’re likely to find in South African rivers. Their legendary eyesight and stealthy ability to remain undetected in gin clear water make them a formidable opponent, so picking the right time to target this finicky fish will determine whether you whittle hours away, changing flies, perfecting your presentation and drag free drift or wrestling with hungry fish.
At this time of year, the catchment rains have hopefully abated, allowing the KZN rivers to clean, water temperatures are dropping appreciably and this combined with the good flow rate has the Trout moving upstream, still feeding until the overwhelming urge to procreate has them settling into suitable spawning areas.
However, this fish is wary enough not to make an appearance as the sun peaks, so choosing the right time of day is paramount. The golden hour just post dawn and pre dusk is ideal when looking for surface action, but a cloudy day can reward you throughout, if you’re happy to resort to nymphing or stripping a very imitative streamer.
Talk about the equator and Trout fishing doesn’t seem to belong in the same sentence.
Yet, despite being less than a degree from the center of the Earth’s circumference, the glacial catchment of this extinct volcano delivers a constant flow of cool water in which both Brown and Rainbows thrive.
Mount Kenya is a towering alter that is worshipped by the tribes that surround it and we recently paid our respects on the South Western slopes, where remarkably you can encounter elephant, buffalo and leopard that call this Montane forest their home.
The Ragati lodge sits plum in the middle of this unique wilderness, the water a stone’s throw from the log cabin. The challenge was to notch up a Ragati Red, being a Rainbow Trout that has a distinct lateral line coloration reminiscent of a fish in bright spawning colors all year round.
This is certainly not an opinion that every fly fisher will share, as flies are as personal to the waters in which you fish, as they are to the angler who ties them. All my friends and anyone whose strapped on one of my creations will attest to the fact that I am to fly tying what crochet is to contraception. But my well worn retort is that pretty flies are for pretty fishermen! The Hydrocynus family have the literal translation of Water Dog, in large it would I believe, be due to their ferocity and I would like to think because, that a nip from one of these beasts is worse than your average dog bit. I am a believer in function over form when it comes to Tigers and here's my five favourite patterns that I never go on a fly fishing trip without. Most of these flies can be tied on anything between a size 2 to a 4/0 depending on which size and species of tiger you're looking to attract. They are unbelievable predators, deserving of the apex status in the water food chain. Their tactics are to mug any unsuspecting passer by, so they know the structure of the river bed intimately, hence quite frankly a lot will depend on how quickly you can get your fly into their strike zone. So weight is critical, especially when you have the drift of a boat to content with. 1. That's why Dumbell eyes and lead wrapped bodies form a huge part the patterns that I've had success with. Bob's Clouser's originally tied for Bass is a must in any tiger box, and if I was pressed to choose a single colour combination, then Jeremy Rochester's precise Fire Tiger Clouser would be it 2. The lateral line of a Tiger is acutely in tune with their middle ear that can pick up the slightest vibration in the water, incase their keen eyesight is clouded by murky water. So I also like to carry a fly that pushes a lot of water, forcing them to react, therefore Brush Flies, tied in either a Red and Black or Black and Purple would be my next, go to fly.
3. Whistlers are such a versatile fly, but I do swap the bead chain eyes for some weighted eyes and although you can mix and match your colours if given only one, it would be a straight black. I also prefer the pulsating movement of a zonker strip collar. It’s slash and grab specialist, so the interlocking razor sharp teeth, ensures that every bite can be fatal, hence natural materials are not favoured by anglers due to their lifespan. Yet, as with many a fresh water angler, Marabou and Buck Tail are still very prevalent in my fly box.
It’s hard to fathom a river system as vast as the great Zambezi. Traversing six countries, it’s epic 2500km journey ends by giving the Indian Ocean it’s largest injection of fresh water from any river in Africa. There are several hundred species of fish throughout the Zambezi system and it’s tributaries, some endemic, most indigenous, but they all pay homage to the Striped Water Dog.
Only the Nile crocodile or flat dog ranks higher in the underwater food chain.
It is a fish built for the kill,with a smile advertising it’s intentions. Their huge tail fin and prominent pectorals tell you that they are designed for powerful, lightening quick lunges with camouflage that ensures it’s prey doesn’t see it coming until it’s too late!
It’s slash and grab, so the interlocking razor sharp teeth, equipped with an anticoagulant ensures that every attack can be fatal. And if that wasn’t enough, their bottom jaw is hinged horizontally, allowing them to double the gape of each bite. Oh, and did I mention that their lateral line is acutely in tune with a middle ear that can pick up the slightest vibration in the water, just incase their keen eyesight is clouded by murky water.
The lengths that a man is willing to go to, is the measure of one’s character I’ve been led and grown to believe. Our reasons for embarking on these journeys might evolve the more we travel, but in our world they stem from an insatiable appetite to outwit.
That a cold-blooded opponent, some distance down the evolutionary scale can keep us awake at night, remains a mystery. But fixated we are and driven we have become. This expedition was to the highest Kingdom in the world, a land forged by volcanic upheaval, where testament in the barriers it has created surround you.
One of the earliest documented account of fishing with nothing but feathers refers to ‘ a fish with a speckled hue…..’ and over the centuries anyone who has challenged it’s elusive disposition knows that you will encounter few fish as clever as this character.
Despite man’s appetites, the Kilombero valley in Tanzania remains one of the last great frontiers to explore. The Kilombero is the largest tributary of the Rufuji river, which from it's source in the Livingston Mountains to the Indian Ocean is more than 600 km long. When flooded, at it’s peak in April / May, the Kilombero valley forms a massive freshwater wetland, providing a prolific breeding ground for the 38 species of fish that thrive in this system, but there can be no argument about which of these fish rule with impunity.
We were fortunate to be fishing on one of the Kilombero's renowned tributary’s, the Mnyera, where base camp for this hands on fishing operation is situated.The battle hardened duo of Cartwright and Tommo were on 'Inside Angling' duty, whilst myself and Jeremy were taking the 'WildFly' fight to the Tanzanian Tiger.
Visiting well prior to their breeding season, which takes place in November / December, the plan was to entice a few aggressive females who we hoped might be feeding voraciously before embarking on their annual spawn.
a. The river is littered with structure, the annual floods depositing cover all around the banks, creating the ideal habitat for this killer to ambush. When casting at this structure, the emphasis on Accuracy and you only have a few seconds with each drift to get your fly into the strike zone, so assessing flow rate / depth and retrieval pace is critical…….thank goodness for great guides.
At long last the river season is officially now open in the Natal Midlands, although we are still waiting and hoping for some early rains to flush the system and get those big Brown Trout moving.
After 15 years, you would think that you've seen and heard it all at a fly fishing event.
Larger than life is what this gathering of anglers truly is.
Never has so few been caught by so many. To say that the fishing was slow on the last leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, would be like calling Leicester City's premier league win predictable…….which the Trout clearly were not. Sixty anglers toiled and when in the very first session the talents of Jeremy Rochester and Mark Yelland did not produce the goods, the writing was on the wall. The weather was ideal, the waters cold and clear, and the atmosphere was one of eager anticipation……..until lunch time where at the legendary Notties hotel, it became apparent that a common denominator united the fly fishers…….the dreaded blank scorecard. I will always turn to the angler as the first reason why we don't catch, but the calibre of many of the fly fishers had been proven in seasons past Then rod pressure is my go to excuse, but with all the waters having been rested for the last two weeks, I couldn't accept that a Trout's memory is anything in that realm. Granted, a wild contingent of party comrade's only made it onto the water well after the sun had risen, but even accounting for the late risers, the general consensus was that the fish had lock jaw. Fly boxes were thrown at the problem as well as many beverages in commiseration, yet the stubborn fish remained steadfast in their refusal of all the weird and wonderful patterns pulled through the water. The lads tried stripping it at Hussien Bolt speed, dredging it at snail pace, hanging the fly and every other manner of enticing a reaction, but to very little avail. Never has so few been caught by so many. To say that the fishing was slow on the last leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, would be like calling Leicester City's premier league win predictable…….which the Trout clearly were not. Sixty anglers toiled and when in the very first session the talents of Jeremy Rochester and Mark Yelland did not produce the goods, the writing was on the wall. The weather was ideal, the waters cold and clear, and the atmosphere was one of eager anticipation……..until lunch time where at the legendary Notties hotel, it became apparent that a common denominator united the fly fishers…….the dreaded blank scorecard. I will always turn to the angler as the first reason why we don't catch, but the calibre of many of the fly fishers had been proven in seasons past Then rod pressure is my go to excuse, but with all the waters having been rested for the last two weeks, I couldn't accept that a Trout's memory is anything in that realm. Granted, a wild contingent of party comrade's only made it onto the water well after the sun had risen, but even accounting for the late risers, the general consensus was that the fish had lock jaw. Fly boxes were thrown at the problem as well as many beverages in commiseration, yet the stubborn fish remained steadfast in their refusal of all the weird and wonderful patterns pulled through the water. The lads tried stripping it at Hussien Bolt speed, dredging it at snail pace, hanging the fly and every other manner of enticing a reaction, but to very little avail. Yet that didn't stop the party. In fact it pretty much brought all the teams together, with both experienced anglers and rank novices relating to this odd state of affairs. A paltry 173 fish made it to the net to be measured in stark contrast to the 420 in Leg 1 and 497 in the second Leg, bringing the total of Trout caught and released to 1090 so far in the 15th anniversary of the TOPS Corporate Challenge. Charles Woods, got the biggest of the bunch, with a 56cm Rainbow hen and his team mate Anton Smith, who equaled his hefty fish won Top Fly Fisher. Paarl Media Cape, The Wild Guys, PM Ideas, Team Hardy and the 3rd Leg champions, The Zimmers will be returning in a little over 3 weeks time to contest for the coveted final. Here's to some co-operative fish in the final of the TOPS Corporate Challenge. Yet that didn't stop the party. In fact it pretty much brought all the teams together, with both experienced anglers and rank novices relating to this odd state of affairs. A paltry 173 fish made it to the net to be measured in stark contrast to the 420 in Leg 1 and 497 in the second Leg, bringing the total of Trout caught and released to 1090 so far in the 15th anniversary of the TOPS Corporate Challenge. Charles Woods, got the biggest of the bunch, with a 56cm Rainbow hen and his team mate Anton Smith, who equaled his hefty fish won Top Fly Fisher. Paarl Media Cape, The Wild Guys, PM Ideas, Team Hardy and the 3rd Leg champions, The Zimmers will be returning in a little over 3 weeks time to contest for the coveted final. Here's to some co-operative fish in the final of the TOPS Corporate Challenge.
The weather really played ball this last weekend, which always bodes well on the fishing front. Although if you had to ask a fussy angler, he would say that it was a little too calm for the Trout. The water was, for many hours like glass, wanting for an ever so gentle breeze, but I'd fish in those conditions every day of the week through a crisp Winter.
Only once in a Blue Moon does a weekend's angling outstrip expectations. And this is made all the more difficult when it's the benchmark of a TOPS Corporate Challenge. To state categorically that it was the Party of the year would be like calling the All Black rugby team reasonably good......it was Epic! The four man teams always arrive in fine spirits on the Thursday evening, but this atmosphere seemed to compound every day until the hilarious prize giving on Saturday night. Incredibly the legendary festivities at Notties did not detract from the fishing. Well, that is to say, those fly fishers who made it to the water, certainly got the desired result.
Then in the colder waters, the trigger of white and orange attracted the fish already displaying spawning behaviour. In most cases, a little nymph trailing the larger fly proved irresistible to the Rainbows chasing the attractor patterns. But it was the cold front that moved up from the Cape that changed the playing field. Bitterly cold and blustering winds kept many contenders around the warm hearth of Notties; those that braved the conditions, incredibly still recorded fish, albeit by resorting to very slow, deep fishing tactics. The statistics were 149 - Session 1136 - Session 2 70 - Session 3 65 - Session 4 The Biggest Fish was 55cm, caught by Brad Stephens on Oakbrook Dam. Top Angler was Dean Lailvaux from the Afriguide Logistics team, who averaged 40cm in his tally of 17 Trout, catching in every single session.
The 5 teams that qualified for the grand final in July were -: 5th Place- Sasfin Securities 4th Place - The Finance Team3rd Place - Team WildFlies2nd Place - Afriguide Logistics1st Place - Stealth Fly fishing
The first frosts of the season is something worth celebrating from a Winter fishing perspective. It is a time in which the Trout embrace the colder water temperatures and feed a little more aggressively before they switch into spawning mode.
Over the past ten years I've been fortunate enough to visit many venues along the coast of Mozambique, all of which have looked promising from a fishing perspective. Yet the sad truth is that the burgeoning population of the country and their dependence on the bounty of theocean has had a dramatic effect on these fisheries. No self respecting recreational angler could begrudge a man putting supper on the table, but this coupled with reports of illegal commercial fishing had made me quite despondent about this extensive coastline. So despite the incredible mangroves over which we choppered in, painting a wonderful contrast to the azure waters and coral islands of the Qurimbas, I was not overly optimistic. That was until I witnessed the abundance of marine life surfacing all around Quilalea Island. Crustaceans of every shape and size, shoals of baitfish with schools of juvenile gamefish chasing, all seemed to be thriving in close proximity to the island. Surfacing turtles and playful dolphins completed this picture of man and environment co-existing happily under one roof.Azura have established an exclusive retreat on Quilalea and gone to great lengths to ensure that their ecological impact is kept to a bare minimum from a tourism perspective, whilst actively protecting this marine sanctuary from any unscrupulous commercial operators. It is a real success story for conservation and a significant contributor to employment and growth of the local economy. Over the 4 days that I was fortunate enough to spend within this reserve, I experienced so many fishing firsts, that I had to remind myself I was not discovering a new destination. To see a Giant Trevally nonchalantly cruising the reef, less than 50 meters from our villa, was simply mind boggling. The fact that Abdul, our skipper, pointed this out with undisguised enthusiasm and without a hint of surprise was testament to what this jewel had to offer.
Arriving on a new Moon phase gave us breath-taking vistas of the tidal fluctuation, exposing flats that practically join Quilalea to the uninhabited neighbouring island of Sencar, itself a sight to behold with its gorgeous mangroves which also can be explored by kayak as one of the many excursions on offer. The flats have prolific populations of colourful triggerfish and a myriad of other species that come alive with the ebb and flow of the tides. Within the depressions and channels that lend a deep blue to accentuate the pale shallow water, is a kaleidoscope of coral supporting a rainbow of schools of tropical fish in a frenzy of activity as they go about their daily routine. All of this can be seen from the deck of a cruising boat as you try and decide where to start fishing. Whilst waiting for the boat to be prepared, we threw a gentle 9wt rig from the protected bay and had immediate strikes from the junior Kingfish; yellow spot, big eye and bluefin all showing interest and then I had a shocking reality check. My next hit, was a freight train that just kept on going! Tightening my drag to the maximum did nothing to stop my line and backing simply disappearing off my reel, and the reef to which the suspected GT ran, did the rest. Left holding an empty spool and wondering what I had done wrong is a gut wrenching feeling, but spilt milk I was not about to dwell on. From that moment on, I fished with nothing but a 12wt rod! It felt like taking a machine gun to a knife fight for most of the reef species that I subsequently hooked, which were by catches in any case, as it was GT's that now occupied every waking thought and I was not going to be left wanting when or if the opportunity presented itself. Ripping and stripping takes fine judgement when you have the intense currents created from the extreme ebb and flow of springs tides. 500 grain lines are a minimum prerequisite, but nonetheless, to get your fly down to the fish takes a lot of practice and over the next two days this was our learning curve. Trying to fish in 5-10 meters of water and timing the drift to meet the dramatic drop off to 25 meters plus, that is a mere 100 meters from the shoreline, was the exercise.I cannot even count the number of Kingfish that chased my flies to the back of the boat, and on a number of memorable occasions the Trevallies encountered were significant specimens indeed. Watching them peel off at the gunwale of the boat as I stripped the last of my line in caused ongoing exclamations and more than a little personal frustration. Speed of retrieve was doubled, depth varied, but even with a full line in the water and the heaviest deep water clouser that I had with me, I just couldn't get the bigger fish to committ. I really should have resorted to a spinning rod and stick bait without hooks to tease the Kingfish up, but my pride got the better of me. On the day of the actual new Moon I elected to explore the flats, which it must be said needed a few days to do properly. In the couple of hours that we had, the sights were quite incredible. Trigger fish of four different varieties darted all around, I counted no less than 18 Picasso Triggers in one area and every piece of coral in the channel between Quilalea and Sencar Island housed a plethora of species. We interrupted a school of around 60 Parrot fish patrolling the flats and attempted to stalk their sickle tails feeding in the distance, but the tide was already pushing and giving them cover, so we didn't even get close. I hoped to encounter bonefish on the sand flats, but can only confirm schools of mullet, although I did in no way traverse this vast area and every indication was that this is ideal habitat for them. My fixation was the Giant Trevally, so back to our craft, 'Pisces' and on to the productive channel of the area known as the Canyon we ventured. Every fishing spot where we encountered good sightings of gamefish was only a few hundred meters at most from the lodge, which is almost unheard of in Mozambique, And practically everywhere we stopped we saw something that got our blood pumping. Whether it be the Mackeral that were launching themselves 5 meters into the air while attacking the baitfish, birds pummelling the surface, or shadows of beasts that lurk below, Qulilalea is bristling with fishing opportunities.My fishing fate ended as is started, with two ten kilo GT's screaming right up to my fervent strip, only to splitright at the stern of our boat……I was distraught! To enjoy a fishing trip by sight alone is a rarity, as knowing what could have been, usually keeps me awake at night. But the fact is that Quilalea is an incredible fishery, as Brad Cartwright demonstrated by popping for GT's with considerable success. Fortunately, what will always soothe the pain of not hooking into a beast is the luxury of Azura’s facilities, the world class service and cuisine that is deserving of Michelin stars. That said, less than a week after my return, my dreams are still of that GT lying in wait for my return.
That we are in a severe drought there can be no debate. The dam levels of what has become known as SA’s premier small mouth yellow fishery are at levels not seen in decades.
Couple this with a howling North Easterly that swung to a South West and fishing this massive body of water was not for the feint hearted.
But the die hard anglers that crack the nod to the Yamaha Yellow fish Invitational would wade through worse, if they had the opportunity to sight cast to these formidable surface feeders.
Mentally bruised and battered teams assembled in a disorderly fashion following the opening festivities, but there was no lack of enthusiasm as the Sea Cats fragmented, each angler having his own theory on where to find the fish.
The dam is daunting from a size perspective and to chuck and pull in any arbitrary spot will leave you with nothing but acute sun stroke. Like most fish the inhabitants of Sterkfontein enjoy structure, so it is to the rocky outcrops that one ordinarily travels. The normal hot spots weren’t even warm, as the 8 meter vertical drop in water level presented new structure.
My earliest memories and first experience of Africa was the Kruger National Park. Back in the seventies on the lap of my father in a good old Kombi, inching along the dirt roads, eyes peeled, willing a Lion or Leopard to jump out.
So when Danie Pienaar, head of scientific services for SAN Parks, invited us to join his team on an exploratory study of the Sabie River, my bags couldn't have been packed faster.
We were to be educated on the challenges that face the management of one of the major rivers that carves a path through the Southern section of the park and to explore some of the serious threats that face its inhabitants. Loss of Crocodiles had recently been recorded due to inflammation of their fatty tissue as a result of water contamination and with fish species being a key indicator, we were asked to assist in catching and analysing specimens.
Our aim was to catch and record the variety of fish species to showcase the unique biodiversity of this invaluable resource and to assess the condition of the fish, observing Aquatic Biologist Robin Pietersen and learning from Dr Danny Govender the possible causes behind this worrisome development.
What a weekend… 4 seasons in 48 hours… It certainly separated the rabid fly fishers from the fair weathered fisherman.
And a lot of Partycipation at the TOPS Corporate Challenge as one has come to expect from this fly fishing festival.
These gatherings are never short of a fishing story about losing big fish, but the sympathy card was definitely drawn by Richard Scott of Team Afriguide Logistics who, having caught a beast that would have seen him walking away with a R250 000 Explorer Ski Boat from Yamaha, couldn’t keep it in his net and this monster of a Brown Trout somersaulted away from him, as reported by his fellow contestants.