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.
And that’s the magic in fly fishing and in fact all angling, all the unknown factors which determine if a fish takes a fancy to your offering. Is it the fly, your presentation and where you cast it, at what depth you fish, the speed of your retrieve, how hard you strike, the pressure you exert and how long you play the Trout…so many variables, it’s hard to imagine we get them all right all the time.
Advice is dispensed more frequently than cold Growler beer at the legendary Notties Hotel, but the only sound pearl should be ‘Keep your fly in the water longer!’ So I’d always keep my fingers crossed in terms of the fishing gods smiling fondly on my day, but more importantly I’d keep the faith that you know what you’re doing.
Regardless of fishing form, I have absolutely no doubt that every dog has it’s day and if you haven’t as yet, then yours is just a few casts away.
The Winners walked away with a fishing trip to the trophy tiger destination of Matoya on the Zambezi, with runners up earning a trip to the renowned Ichingo lodge, with a Orange river fishing adventure from Kalahari Outventures going to the bronze medalists followed by a getaway on the luxurious Shayamanzi houseboats for anglers and wives as well as a weekend at the lavish Zulu Waters lodge going to 5th place.
Fishing trips to Shayamoya, Shengezi Lake, Cathedral Peak, White Elephant Safaris, Foroun Spa, Forty Winks, Lake Lintrose, The Registry Collection and Easy Holidays gave every contestant just reward for their fishing efforts.
And it’s a huge thanks to the new fishing apparel brand in South Africa, Craghoppers for the top quality clothing.
Needless to say the festivities that epitomise the TOPS Corporate Challenge carried on until the wee hours…as I’ve always maintained this event has little to do with fishing!