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Name: Gareth George

Hometown: Nottingham Road

Gareth 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...

The Lucky Angler

The Lucky Angler

The old adage about the more one practices the luckier you become holds more than water, especially in fishing circles. Yet, of all the sports in which we congregate to participate I can think of none other where lady luck can play such a defining role.

Make no mistake, to get to the final of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, one needs to be proficient, which in this fly fishing event consists of being able to throw a clean line and fish the right fly correctly (or listen to the right advice)…add patience to this formulae and on WildFly waters you will catch Trout. This one has to do whilst socially engaging with your comrades over a bevvie or two, ignoring the self imposed pressure of not landing everything you hook into and above all doing this in four, 5 hour fishing sessions, staying upright in your float tube often in extreme weather conditions…persistence is paramount.

But good fortune still has a say. The dam draw is what most fly fishers pray for, but after three qualifying legs, the water rating system guarantees that two of your team mates will fish a ‘numbers' dam and the other two a potential trophy water. Add to this that every team fishes more than 50% of the waters and the luck of a dam draw just isn’t significant.

That every team can bequeath fish to their team mates in the first two sessions also completely negates the dam draw factor at this TOPS gathering. 

 

However, I still maintain that whatever talisman you believe in, can have an impact on the day. Prior to the start of the TCC, during the dam selection process, myself and Rochester gave ourselves one hour in which to catch fish. This we managed, but on one afternoon floating side by side, using exactly the same line, leader configuration and fly, I couldn’t buy a Trout, while Jerry landed three, 7 pound fish and got smoked on 12lb tippet…I was even unashamedly mimicking his retrieve in speed and length. My angling ability notwithstanding, I think we’ve all had such days. So is this kismet?

The beauty of this session fishing competition, is that a one off purple patch will not earn you the top spot either, and there’s no point in bashing stockies throughout, as the points per centimetre certainly count. It’s not as confusing at it might sound, you simply have to catch fish in each of the four sessions and bigger Trout count for more.  And to even the playing field it’s on a diminishing bases. Four fish in the 1st, three in the 2nd , two in the 3rd and only one fish in the last session count…it’s the ultimate handicap for any aspiring professionals. So again this TOPS event rewards consistency, not flukes.

 
 

And 1541 Trout proves how consistently the waters performed, 426 of these fish being caught and all but one released in the final.The fishing definitely improved as the mild Winter advanced, waters clearing and plummeting temperatures contributing to the increased catch returns.
 
The incentives of a bounty of fishing equipment from Hardy, Greys, Xplorer and Stealth certainly motivating their performance.
 
Guessing the dream team’s (consisting of four guest anglers visiting the waters) score of 9900 points was Travers Hatrill on a solid calculation 9800, getting him and his better half a trip to the decadent Azura retreat on Benguerra Island.
 
In this grand final, the 62cm leg benchmark for largest fish was convincingly beaten twice, with a 64cm from Daniel Green and a 65cm weighed in by Rob Rein, 9lbs exactly, winning him a brand new Quintrex boat and motor for his efforts. Right time and right place in terms of it being fortuitous, but to land such a beast, surrounded by weed, in the final session showed great composure and consumate angling skill…..his Hardy rod adding to the bounty.

 

Every team walked away with a fishing holiday just for making it to the TOPS final but what never ceases to amaze me is how pole position changes each session. The Split Cane Company led after session 1 and by session 3 it was the Finance Team out in front, then with just an hour to go it was Sasfin Securities or WBHO walking away with it. Only to be pipped by ZZ TOPS at the death...Sven Turner, Tim Andrews and Juan Russouw winning for the very first time, with Grevin Price enjoying his third gold medal. Local knowledge some might comment, but the fact is that the top fly fisher in each leg was from Jhb and the winning team in this final was out fished by fIve other teams in the qualifying legs, so regardless of what we think we know, it really is all about the unpredictable Trout.

 

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TCC 2017 - Leg 3

TCC 2017 - Leg 3

The fish are definitely getting bigger, proven by the number of Trout in excess of 55cm landed this weekend! Led in the 1st session by Anton Martyne’s 61cm runner up which was just pipped by Deon Nel’s 62cm winning Rainbow hen, now in line for the Quintrex boat, compliments of Yamaha.Taking nothing away from the angling prowess apparent in the 3rd leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, but the larger fish witnessed on the prowl certainly had a lot to do with the spawning season in full swing.

The ice cold water temperatures have galvanised those cock fish into action, chasing each other in the shallows, the instinct to fight for their right to fertilise overwhelming any rationale…can a fish be rational? Not if you ask some of the fly fishers, presenting all manner of fly meals to cruising Trout that were met with staunch refusals. But, as always for many, the Winter fishing was very satisfying, helped along by the almost picture perfect weather conditions. Fortunately for all, the wind did not pick up unreasonably, however, early morning was not for the feint hearted, as eyes freezing on the rods was a given and only a stiff tot in your coffee was going to ward off the bone chilling conditions. But, those that took on Jack Frost saw the fish come to the party.

And a festive gathering it certainly was, with BAT South Africa running away with the illustrious Betty Ford award…..one of their talented crew did not make it out onto the water the whole weekend….a first in the 16 years that we’ve been hosting the event. The Growler beer on tap kept the lads from getting dehydrated with such thirsty work and as usual the legendary Notties lived up to it’s reputation.

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From Efttex to ICAST

From Efttex to ICAST
You tend to forget how large the world of angling is, as the time we spend on the water is and should be about you and the fish, shared amongst a few like and single minded fanatics. 

 
TV, magazines and digital platforms do remind us of the angling world at large, with new products plastered all over every fish picture, trying to convince us that if we use this latest gadget, the poor fish just don’t stand a chance!
 


Why is it that we are hell bent on making the job easier?


It seems to me that the fun in fishing lies in the time that we spend out there, a fight from any fish in-between being just reward. Ironically and possibly also crazy, but too many fish will surely spoil the experience…not that I’m averse to a blue moon session, but expectations need to be curtailed, if we are to regularly enjoy the day. After all that’s what keeps us coming back. Yet, the desire to outwit fish is only outstripped by a man’s carnal infatuations and it has spawned more outlandish inventions than can or should be patented.


This is what you’ll experience if you attend the extravaganza of fishing that is ICAST.

Overwhelming it most certainly is, here the competition is for the anglers attention, rather than anything with fins and it’s guaranteed to keep you enthralled. Fittingly it is hosted in a city designed to entertain and it certainly is the veritable Disney World for adult anglers. The suffocating humidity of Orlando is relieved by the crisp air-conditioning of the Orange County convention centre, being the sprawling complex that houses the hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of retailers looking for the next best seller. 

The choice is stupefying and anyone who suffers from any kind of indecision, is going to find themselves in an absolute flat spin. It’s not a show for vacillators. There is a range of clothing that literally has it’s own climate control (no bullshit, the latest Columbia gear defies the elements completely) sunglasses that practically spot fish for you…..hail Costa, rods and reels for every occasion and more baits, lures and flies than species left to catch them on. And, the accessories would have your better half laughing in contempt at your assertion that the fashion industry is the one built on trinkets.

A hook is a hook you might assume, but let me tell you Peter Pan would have met a grisly end, had the pirate captain used these options on display, for his appendage. Think of a fishing problem and here you will find multiple dazzling solutions, in fact at this gathering there are mind boggling answers to fishing questions you didn’t even know existed.

Personalities abound, not that you’d recognise too many of them, as many of these renowned anglers are kings of the American fishing realm, real celebrities on this continent, adorned in all the regalia that big tournament fishing is famous for. This trade show can be loosely devided into 3 categories-: The Large Mouth Bass brigade, and I’m referring to the species here, replete in full colour, larger and in some cases louder than life. The too cool fly fishing fraternity, who condescendingly beggar belief that there is any other way to catch a fish, and the hard core salt dogs that personify big game fishing in both well nourished physique and temperament. In reality there’s a whole range of anglers and their specialities, but you would have to dig down to garnish these details and I think it’s important to take the piss out of our own stereotypes.


The organisation in typical yankee fashion is smooth, it’s all laid on, and the southern hospitality sets a benchmark that every nation should learn from…everyone seems genuinely interested in how your day and stay is…and fine is not a good enough answer. Take a bow Florida, as you make the sunshine look positively grumpy. I found myself thanking everyone at any chance meeting and breaking into simple minded broad grins when approaching a shop assistant or waitress. A habit I fear might be met with, at best suspicion and in some regions of our country, merciless predation.

It was a stark contrast to my European excursion the week before to Efftex, the poorer cousin of tackle trade shows understandably, due to market size, yet the analogy speaks to the lack of energy accompanying this event hosted in the beautiful city of Budapest. I had made the mistake of routing via Paris, where regardless of your cheery disposition, you will soon fall prey to the this cultures disdain of anything not French. You're forced to repeat any question three times to anyone in the service industry, as they retort rapid fire in their mother tongue, until in feigned recognition, they finally acknowledge your request and answer in perfect English. Clearly, Napoleon is not forgotten and the humility deserved from being liberated by the West is.

I took a train via Zurich, without opening an account, and through Austria to Budapest, experiencing both the military efficiency and reserved politeness of the Swiss. I don’t think they dislike any other nation as much as they recognise the need to tolerate second rate citizens. Whatever you do, never ask an Austrian stewardess for a cork screw as the number of “Nein’s "might take you back and remind you of a less than glorious figure in this nations’ history.

But Budapest is worth the journey, it’s a great destination to lure the angling industry to and it’ s an event for the bait feeders, lovers of coarse fishing, of which Carp is King. The balance of exhibitors cater to the game fishing addicts, of which the lure segment justifiably dominates the fly. Little fanfare accompanies this show, it’s as practical as fishing can be, not to take anything away from the professional manner in which everything is conducted. I suppose it’s indicative of the comparatively reserved nature of the participants, but then again a Las Vegas hooker could be accused of being conservative next to the average red necked angler. Us 'Rooi
Necks’ are an altogether different breed.
 

Quaint restaurants on cobbled streets, with accomplished live musicians, catering to all tastes, complement good food and exceptional beer, in prices that aren’t hard to swallow. Which I can’t be said for the American cat piss that they pass off…or possibly actually pass… as beer. Transport is free, not that any Hungarian taxi driver will tell you this. In their defence most can’t tell you, as the Queen’s english hasn’t exactly been embraced following the country’s release from Russia’s iron grip. Trams, which are legitimately free, work as well as the underground, on which you can board without the nuisance of turnstiles, that should require a ticket, however the lacklustre conductors do seem content to treat everyone as honest. Be warned, the train doors have a no nonsense approach to commuters and will announce your departure with a resounding crack, to which I’m sure, a few sluggish amputees bear testament.

All things considered, I certainly could’ve stayed longer in Hungary and thought I was going to, when boarding my flight. Call me old fashioned, but when your armrest contains an ashtray, you do start to question the air worthiness of your craft, especially when on an airline that doesn’t have a web site. You then view the ground technicians ambling around the runway in an altogether different light. Do they even have Hungarian instruction manuals for Boeings?

The pace of the two shows are worlds apart and like fishing facets, shouldn’t be compared. Horses for courses or rather tackle for temperaments. Both represent their markets admirably and drive our fishing industry on all fronts.
All of the new products and awards can be found on -:


If I was forced to choose, then ICAST would pip the post, as I seem to have sprung out of the closet in my new found adoration of country music, which just epitomises the atmosphere surrounding this festive occasion. Also, the fly fishing component of ICAST, known as IFTD, is moving back to Colorado in 2019, presenting an irresistible opportunity to tick this iconic Trout country off the bucket list.

Yet I do feel a calling to revisit Efttex next year for so many reasons, not least of which is it’s location…Amsterdam.

 
 
A special mention to the New Product Showcase winners at iCast 2017 in Orlando Florida:
 
Product Category - Saltwater Reel: Shimano Sustain Reels C4000/5000
 
 
Product Category -  Eye-wear: Costa Sunrise Silver Mirror Lens 
 
Product Category - Saltwater Hard Lure: Rapala X-Rap Magnum Hard Lure: 
 
 
 
 
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Breaking TOPS records!

Breaking TOPS records!
In contrast to the 1st leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, we had a rabid bunch of anglers braving the bitter Friday and blustery Saturday weather and it was apparent from the catch records that they were here to catch fish.
 
476 Trout is a remarkable return, with this 2nd leg breaking a few decade old records, notably one being the most fish over half a meter being landed in one leg. Steve Harrison had an absolute purple patch in his first session landing 7 fish, every one over half a meter.
 
 
          
We even had a 30lb grass carp caught by Mark Wilmot, after a gruelling  a two and a half hour fight. Needless to say with an average of 8 fish per angler, there were some happy faces at the Saturday night prize giving bash.
 
       
The fish had definitely turned, in terms of chasing the brighter patterns, indicative of spawning season being in full swing, with a predominance of large cock fish aggressively buzzing the flies. That said on a few of the gin clear mountain fed dams, anglers had to resort to size eighteen nymphs to get a fish’s attention.
 
 
          
James Popper lost the biggest fish of his TCC, right at the net…..a curse all of us have experienced and there were many tales of snap ups and even one angler getting spooled. Water temperatures have certainly brought out that aggressive streak that is the hallmark of action packed Winter fishing.
 
  
           
Largest fish went to Rob Scorgie, with a 56cm beauty and Top Fly Fisher of the leg was Gavin Loveday - proving that winning a 4x4 in a previous year was no luck - his tally of 20 fish, at an average of 39cm, being too much for his competitors.
 
 
The five team qualifying for the grand final were  - 5th Place - Highland Hookers on 23 ranking points,  4th Place - The Split Cane Brand Company on 22 points, 3rd Place - Bophelong Construction on 20 points, then a count out for 1st and 2nd both on 16 ranking points, but the ZZ Tops were pipped by WBHO on a count out on fish points, being accrued length.
 
  
          
Now with 3 weeks rest for the Trout, the 3rd and final qualifying leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge is set up for some entertaining fishing and festivities guaranteed.

 
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Festivities undo the fish

Festivities undo the fish

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.

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The Infallible Trout Fly

The Infallible Trout Fly

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.

          

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Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything

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.

 

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Volcanic Trout

Volcanic Trout

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.

                          

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Tiger Candy

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.

             

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Zambezi Attack

Zambezi Attack

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.

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The Kingdom

The Kingdom

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.

 

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The Blue Tiger

The Blue Tiger

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.

After a quick transfer through Dar es Salaam on FastJet and a comfortable overnight at the festive Slipway hotel, we landed in the renowned Kilombero North Safari's concession.

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.

Now I've had some great guides put me on the spot over the years, but Greg Ghaui managed to surpass them all, anchoring just above the camp and telling me to throw my fly into the deep undercut clay bank. First casts strikes I've had before, but to land your largest fresh water fish on your very first cast deserves almost savante guiding status in my eyes.
 
 
 
 
And that's when my complacency and that of my fellow anglers ( Tommo having landed a puppy of 8lbs, just testing his rig off the jetty) set in.
 
We woke the next morning to overcast skies and drizzle, which had our boat skipper Dennis, shaking his head at our enthusiasm to still get out on the water. He, like all the locals, knew that this was a beast that enjoyed the sun and warm water in which to hunt.
 
Over the next few days we toiled, in fact I would go as far to say that I did more casting then a hapless Hollywood talent agent. We had a few chances, with both Jer and myself dropping a good 10 plus pound tiger, but we practically threw our arms off. Yet despite putting a range of flies in the right spot, the cold water was making these fish just too lethargic to chase anything.
 
Tommo and Brad were getting some surface smashes on lures and landing a few on buck tail jigs, but considering the amount of water they were covering, it couldn't be claimed that is was cooking.
 
So we decided to change tactics and fish some slower water on a recently formed Oxbow lake. It was a promising area teeming with baitfish and flocks of water fowl.
Erupting feeding fish greeted our arrival, and both Brad and Jeremy hauled out their floating lines with poppers. It was action time. In the space of 10 minutes two great fish of between 8 and 9lbs had been landed with a few more buzzing the wake of their flies.
 
 
All in all an entertaining day, with lots of stories around the campfire that evening, having filled our bellies on bounty of delicious food produced by 'Bobetino' the resident chef.
 
We explored the breathtaking Kasinga rapids on foot the next day, being the headwaters of the Mnyera and got a few enquiries with our casts, but our fly crew left the white water to the spinning team and decided to drift the runs below. Again, anchoring, to cover the water properly, we focussed on an area just above the watchful Hippo. And that is when mayhem erupted. Many anglers have noted that this Tanzanian Tiger doesn't fight as aggressively as it's cousin of the African Tigerfish (Vittatus), but Jeremy's shredded hands will attest to what a 20lb Tiger can do. Realising we had left our boga grip with the guys on the bank and only had a badly repaired net half the size of the fish, panic ensued. Eventually on the 2nd attempt we landed the behemoth to the howling celebrations of Rochester.
 
 
And what rounded off the trip was hearing that Tommo had also inducted himself into the hallowed 20lb Tiger club, thanks to Des, the camp manager stepping up to the guiding plate. Every game fish deserves an anglers respect, but this is one that absolutely demands it. The Blue Tiger Fish, (dubbed for it’s blue adipose fin) has been recorded up to 28lbs on rod and reel and if there’s one guaranteed motivator to get your casting arm in action, it’s seeing this prehistoric looking predator willing to savage your lure or fly.
 
Aside from popping, in terms of fly fishing techniques you practice predominantly two -:

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.

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Wild River Browns

Wild River Browns

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.

 
The Snow melt would have certainly helped and with a little luck assisting in some respect to their successful breeding.
 
There are many rivers to choose from in Natal, with the wealth of our Drakensberg Catchment, but the Mooi still remains my firm favourite for good reason. Not only is the entire course of the Mooi from the Kamberg Nature reserve to the new Spring Grove dam largely protected from poaching by private landowners, but it also has very little intensive farming along it's banks, conserving the water quality admirably.
 
I've been fortunate enough to enjoy some incredible fishing over the last decade, from the headwaters at Riverside, compliments of the Mollers to the lower reaches of InverMooi that have been left as a wild fishery in which to stalk your prey.
 
               
 
 
 
At this time of year, the water is still quite thin, so one needs to tread stealthily if you expect to sight cast to your fish and more often than not you will find the more worthy specimens in the head or tail of the chain of pools that characterise the waters flowing through InverMooi.
 
River Browns are undoubtably the smartest of the Trout that we will find in South Africa, having the keenest eyesight accordingly to scientific journals. So here's a few tips if you want to convert a few of your casts.
 
1. Pack away your big ugly patterns in Spring and have faith in that the wily brown will see your size 14 or smaller patterns.
 
2. A floating line is all you will need in this water level and current, as by simply lengthening your leader you can fish the entire water column, if you decide to nymph.
 
3. Make sure you don't fish anything heavier than 4x tippet, preferably fluorocarbon and 12ft is a suitable leader length for your 3wt stick.
 
4. Less casting will equal more fish. If you believe the fish can see your small fly, then your fly line repeatedly hitting the water will definitely announce your presence.
 

 
5. Trout generally are easier to find in a river than a dam, as the obvious 'lies' will be were they have-:
a. Protection for predators - i.e. undercut banks or submerged structure
b. A break from the current - no fish likes to waste energy fighting fast flowing water
c. In well oxygenated waters - this is as important for the invertebrates on which they feed as it is for them.
 
All of the above, equals an opportunity to feed quickly and return to the safety of their lie.
 
6. Then it's a matter of drifting the right fly over your designated spot naturally - water dragging on your fly line is what you want to prevent here. Only after you have presented and drifted your fly over the lie precisely a few times, should you think of changing fly or moving on.
 
7. Above all, don't rush, it's not about how much water you cover as you gradually move upstream, but more about covering the water properly. 
 
Fishing for wild Brown Trout will teach you patience, but there is nothing more rewarding than seeing it all come together and earning your fish.
 
As I am fond of saying there is no substitute for time on the water and you can'y pay a good guide enough. Fortunately for fly fishers visiting the Midlands this season, InverMooi has just opened a range of luxury cottages, giving you access to a wonderful section of the Mooi, as well as some very productive still waters on this majestic farm…….Macnab and Malachite dam as they are known, actually caught the most fish in this years TOPS Corporate Challenge.
 
            
 
Get your booking in early, as this gem is without a doubt the finest new fly fishing venue around. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve your space.
 

 

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35LB Fish Caught in the TOPS Corporate Challenge

35LB Fish Caught in the TOPS Corporate Challenge

After 15 years, you would think that you've seen and heard it all at a fly fishing event.

 
From tales of 10 pound Trout lost at the net to filming trophy fish( that would have won a Yamaha Ski Boat ), being landed in the wrong dam……..the disbelief etched on the anglers face to this day gets me chuckling…..fortunately he is now a good friend of mine, so I can still take the piss. But this year the antics on the field made the headlines. And I'm not talking about the urban fly fisher who put his new 4x4 in the dam, needing to be hauled out by a tractor either.
 
Incredibly a 35lb, yes a 15 Kilogram fish was landed in one of the WildFly waters, the ensuing battle around which, had this talented angler clenching more than his jaw. That he was using only 6lb tippet seems impossible, but this is one young fly fisher who is destined for great things with a fly rod in hand. In fact when Daniel Factor first saw the fin, he had flashes of him behind the console of that R250 000 prize. Of course it wasn't a Trout, but regardless, to land this behemoth of a fresh water fish from his float tube is an experience he will not forget.

       
 
Going into the grand Final of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, a total 0f 1090 Trout had been caught and released, with much expectation from the returning finalists, for the snow melt to revitalise the dams. And although the water temperature inverted a few waters, another 443 fish brought the tally to 1533 Trout from SA's premier fishing event.
 
        
 
It always going to be a closely contested affair, when you bring this many highly motivated fishermen together. I would estimate that collectively, their fly boxes hold more flies than the average tackle shop and there's no doubt that the combined experience of these entrants leaves little room for learning. Not that too many were sharing their knowledge gained. One could hardly blame them, with WildFly Travel arranging R650 000's worth of holidays from their represented properties. Unbelievably every single entrant received a fishing holiday for the whole team, regardless of whether they caught a fish at this final. Now that's what I call a winning formulae!
 
        
 
Being a session based competition, every 5 hour fishing session is a separate competition, with your teams collective points ranking you in each session from 1-15. And it's only your ranking that you take through to the next session. The twist in the tale was three fold-:
Only 10 fish to count ( preventing absolute stocky bashing) 4, 3, 2, 1 in the respective session.
Your team mates could bequeath you fish, should you hit that dreaded blank, in the first two session only(unless you have fished competitively).
And if you were a Pro,( as in fished for SA Proteas) you were given a -10 fish handicap of your biggest fish.
 
This ensured that it remained an Amateur affair and Lady Luck could always play the definitive role.
 
           
 
 
The Top 5 teams at this year's TOPS Corporate Challenge were -:
 
5th Place - The WildFlies on 26 points, giving them a fantastic Tiger fishing trip to Ichingo River Lodge on the Chobe river.
4th place - Stealth Fly Fishing, on 23 points, earning themselves and their better halves a fly fishing trip to the 5 star Zulu Waters.
3rd Place - AfriGuide logistics, also on 23 points and they walked away with a Tiger fishing adventure at the incredible Royal Zambezi Lodge.
2nd Place - Team WBHO, who on 22 points get to enjoy the action packed of fishing off Benguerra Island at the luxurious Azura resorts.
 
   
 
And the Winners of the 2015 TOPS Corporate challenge were Team Zimmers, comprising of Anton Smith, Charles Woods, Wayne Stegen and Andrew Beech - receiving a trip to the renowned Trophy Tiger grounds of Barotse, at the outstanding Matoya Lodge.
 
      
 
Best Fly Fisher of the tournament was Michael Peterson, catching in every session with the highest average size.
 
And although Warwick Albertyne,( the young man who had received an entry into this event as his 18th Birthday present from his dad) had led the field with his 60cm Rainbow in the Legs still walked away with a small boat, it was Deon Nel, who managed to record a beautiful 63cm Brown Trout from Fish Eagle dam in the Final. This earned him a brand new Quintrex boat and motor. The satisfied smile in the Cover photo says it all.
 
The accolades really do need to be bestowed on the Sponsors though, with TOPS at Spar continuing to support fishing as a celebratory sport, and of course the lady who makes it all possible Genna and her incredible team.
 
As I will always prescribe, make sure you support the sponsors who allow us to enjoy our sport, all of whom are well represented on fishtube.
 
If you hope to gain a coveted invite to this festive gathering of fly fishers, make sure you start enquiring early.
 
 
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ICAST 2016

ICAST 2016

Larger than life is what this gathering of anglers truly is.

 
You expect that in the U.S.A. everything is going to be bigger, from the sprawl of the city to the sheer numbers of visitors that descend on this tourism capital of Florida, by the account of my taxi driver, 3.8 Million people per month.
 
Just sit down to order a breakfast and your realise that the States has a huge appetite for life. Side orders of everything and the look of disbelief, from the ever so friendly waitress, when you just want a plain omelette says it all……it's a pot, not a cup of coffee in these latitudes.
 
When did they find the time to invent so many ways to catch fish?! Step into the ICAST gathering and your fishing senses are assaulted. In every direction brands are screaming out at you to pay attention, with displays befitting an amusement park. If Willy Wonka were an angler this would be his playpen, toys for boys and then sum.
 
 
 
So, my plan was to see how us Safa's faired on the fishing front, and to learn how far ahead in the industry this incredible market was. And, I must admit, I didn't know in which way to turn, let alone where to start. So I bumbled along, smiling at whoever greeted and moved quickly through the maze of dazzling stalls, not wanting to be dragged into the "order now" and "that's not all" that lingered in the atmosphere.
 
To be noticed in this exhibition hall, you had to think outlandish. Casting tanks, surrounded by huge digital screens with half -boats display stands were the norm and there was no doubt that every conceivable means of netting a fish was being touted. From bow and arrows( literally) and the big sticks (nearly had a freuden slip there) that take down behemoths to the beautifully hand crafted creations that seem wasted on a fish, it would have any rabid angler drooling.
 
   
 
The glitz is only a facade though, underneath this eye opening veneer is an energy that is just so palpable and infectious. Imagine if you will that you're a hungry chef and you stumble into a 3 star Michelin kitchen in full swing, the aromas and frenetic buzz melding to ignite your gastronomic juices and subsequent cooking zeal. This is the contagious frenzy that is ICAST.
 
                 
 
The attendees are as varied bunch of fisherfolk as you're ever likely to see under one roof, from Hill Billy hand fishers and macho Bass wranglers to the Big Game ocean hunters and free spirited Fly Fishers. Long beards, tattoos and a wild personality being the hallmark that identifies the professional guides who make this annual pilgrimage to pay homage to each other in the only way befitting such a gathering……Parrrty. Social gatherings are the only real way  to get know anyone or anything at a trade show and brands are always rated by their ability to host a good Jol. On this count, the Costa shindig was the front runner, indicative by how slow everyone was the next morning to get their stands in order.
 
It was good to see a few familiar faces, with John Geils from Xplorer, Gareth Adams from Stealth and Dean and Tom from Frontier representing the brands. Vagabond Fly fishing were reviewing all the new products and Gerhard Laubscher from FlyCastaway was launching the new Wade Reels with Stealth, generating a lot of interest in this quality, proudly South African hard core product. Keith Rose Innes and his head Guide Devan were flying another Southern African flag, promoting the jewel that is Alphonse and Jonathan Bolton from Mavungana fame was enjoying the proceedings.
 
But the big shout out, has to go to Jako Lucas, who swept the Drake Film festival awards with his 'Chanos Chanos' short film……a true testament to South African film making on a world's stage.
 
It was an eye opener no doubt, but looking at what we are all doing within our microcosm of South Africa, I have to say that we can not only hold our head's high, but in many respects could teach the angling world a thing or two about digital interface with consumers…….which is saying a whole lot about the innovative nature of the Safa culture.
 
             
In short, Sage took the honours in the best salt and fresh water fly rod, Simms dominated the fly fishing apparel and Rio won the best line and leader categories…….there's just too many awards to go through in the AFTD new product category, so if of interest follow this link -:  http://www.affta.org/2016/07/15/iftd-2016-new-product-showcase-winners-announced/
 
If you decide to make the trip next year, then two points worth remembering……when it comes to attire, Orlando is the land of air-conditioning and thank goodness as the humidity has you perspiring like a schoolboy with crib notes tattooed on his forearm,……..and I do honestly believe that Alcatraz was easier to get out of, then the States is to get into, and the border security rivals any maximum security prison, although the personal are helpful to a fault.
 
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TOPS Corporate Challenge Leg 3

TOPS Corporate Challenge Leg 3

   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.

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It's all about Trout

It's all about Trout

 

 

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.

 
             

 

And fish the entrants certainly did! Commendably, every team made the effort to get onto the water in each session and despite the crystal clear waters making any movement apparent to the suspicious Trout, a good few specimens were obliging.
 
 
             
 


494 Rainbow Trout were landed over the 2nd Leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, with two Brown Trout also being recorded, rounding it off to an average of 8 fish per angler. Patterns that were producing the goods varied, but a double rig combination of a bright attractor followed by a smaller imitative fly seemed a common denominator. The infamous Blob and flash back was evident on many an anglers rig. That said, you had to be prepared to change your tactics as the sessions progressed.
 
           
 
A lightening fast strip early morning on a minnow or varied streamers (predominantly white) certainly did the trick, But when I say quick retrieve, I'm talking double handed GT style…..the bow waves behind the fly will have you gibbering. Then as the sun got up, you had to resort to deep and very slow hand twists, using a small damsel or another suitable nymph pattern, just playing with it on the bottom. A bloodworm would got be remiss in such a situation. Few anglers resorted to the dry, but the perfect water conditions did cry out for one!
 
           
 
The larger average fish are still in hiding, but still, two fish of 60cm earned the joint largest Rainbows of the weekend. George Hattingh was first to record his, out of Oakbrook dam, closely followed by the young Warwick Albertyne, who on debut, for his 18th Birthday, opened his scorecard with a 60cm from Lochwood followed by a 52cm moments later, an achievement that earned him the Biggest Fish prize of the tournament so far.
 
             
 
Best angler was awarded to Frans Brewis, catching in every session at an average of 43cm. Although Gavin Loveday on 32 fish and Sven Tuner on 33 Trout need a special mention for their individual angling prowess.
 
The five qualifying teams in order were -: Earls of Warwick, White Wooly Buggers, The Independent Crew, Zulu Waters and 2nd Leg winners Team WBHO
 
          
 
The #partycomrade awards yet again dominated proceedings with the tongue in cheek nominations like the Barbara Woodhouse trophy keeping all entertained….needless to say the party ensued to the wee hours of Sunday morning.
 
         
 
 Most of the dams are surprisingly full, not having felt the effects of the drought so far and water temperatures are hovering around that 12 degree Celsius mark. Despite the solid returns, some waters have yet to fire, so expect the 3rd leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge to yield some surprising results!

 

 
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Off to a Flying Start....

Off to a Flying Start....

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.

           

 
420 Trout was the final tally, averaging 9 fish per angler, proving that the WildFly waters have no shortage of stocks to test your flies on.
 
       
The patterns that performed really did vary though, depending on the water.   The first two sessions saw a lot of streamers, mainly tied on natural materials, like marabou and zonker strips doing the damage, with Olive as a colour reigning supreme.
 
 

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 1
136 - 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 Team
3rd Place - Team WildFlies
2nd Place - Afriguide Logistics
1st Place -  Stealth Fly fishing

 
     
 
As usual the official placings were overshadowed by the rewards for the antics off the field with #partycomrade awards. Needless to say, the TOPS Corporate Challenge continues it's tradition as South Africa's #1 fishing event.
 
        

 

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Midlands Trout Season

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.

 
We have started to record minus degree Celius mornings here in the Midlands, with the crisp air ushering in the welcome change. It’s time to check the waders for untimely leaks, dust off those sinking lines and ensure that you’re prepared for the still water season.
 
 
Early mornings continue to be more productive at the end of Autumn, with that magical hour of first light baring witness to the surface action that we all crave. Innovative Frog patterns and popping for Trophy Rainbow Trout have seen some great specimens come from waters whose clarity usually demands flies in the 14 to 18 size range. Inducing that fish to charge at something on the top is the epitome of fly fishing and changing the way which one targets fish on fly teaches us all that the next great pattern or technique lies in the dreams and schemes of the generation willing to adapt.
 
 
When the weather has allowed for it, the early evening rise is still evident, with those elusive Brown Trout ignoring any vulgar bugger thrown in their direction, opting to sip a size 16 Elk Hair or Tent Wing Caddis drifting by.
 
We have been more fortunate in terms of rainfall than the rest of our drought stricken country and consequently the majority of the Trout dams are still holding at about 80% of capacity. The weed beds of many dams are now well exposed, creating a little turbidity at the waters edge, but not enough to cut off visibility for the fish still hunting along the fringes for any aquatic invertebrates. At this time of year, one is torn between fishing a very imitative pattern slowly around said structure or resorting to the guerrilla tactics of bright disco flies retrieved at drag racing finesse and speed.
 
It’s important to be prepared for both options, as we are already seeing the cruising fish, patrolling the rocky outcrops and dam walls, gravitating towards anything resembling a spawning bed. Whilst the purists will opt to look for feeding or cruising fish from the edge of the bank, there is no denying that float tubing will see more Trout landed when fishing any dam. The ability to cover more water is the simple mathematical advantage and couple this with being able to present a fly into a weed bed as opposed to over it and from the comfort of your V-Boat you definitely have the upper hand. Intermediate lines are preferable to fast sinking when wanting to fish the water column effectively, as quite frankly your fly spend more time in the water and patience will allow you to fish the full depth of 5 to 10 meters being the extent of most Midlands Trout waters. There is no doubt that the right line will mean less casting and more fishing!
 
 
Patterns that are performing come in many shapes and sizes, but by and large, streamers are what are being more commonly fished, in a Zonker or Minky style. with Olive and Black being the basic go to colours in naturals and vivid orange or red variations giving a spawning trigger to the rip and strip brigade. The Bully Bugger continues to irritate the Trout into striking, regardless of water or rod pressure. As usual the WildFly lads have been designing and fishing a multitude of weird and sometimes wonderful flies, never worried about tradition or convention, with results being driving force behind their adaptations. With the precious little time that we all have to enjoy Winter Trout fishing on dams, knowing how to fish the right pattern is the difference between a long cold day on the water and memories shared time and again around the warm hearth of Notties pub.
 
Here’s to breaking the mould and sharing the wealth of knowledge amongst all catch and release fly fishers.
 
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Restored Faith

Restored Faith

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.

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Brands that Support our roam free project

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