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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Fly fishing in Africa

I came across a South African gem in the school library today, "Mafeking Road",by Herman Charles Bosman. Bosman an Afrikaner, who wrote short stories, in English, about a part of South Africa known as "Groot Marico" and people we call "Back Velders" sort of South Africa's equivalent of the American "Hillibilly", but is was also a dig at Afrikaans racial attitudes and other prejudice's, most times though it's just a good story. This book of short stories was first published in 1947. Here's an excerpt.

(Fly fishing follows)

"We trekked on again, and from where I walked beside my oxen I could see Koos Fichardt and Minnie. They sat at the back of Adriaan Brand's wagon, hatless, with their legs hanging down and the morning breeze blowing through their hair, and it was evident that Minnie was fascinated by the stranger. Also he seemed to be very much interested in her.

You do get like that, when there is suddenly a bright morning after long rains, and a low wind stirs the wet grass, and you feel, for a little while, that you know the same thing that the veld knows, and in your heart are whisperings,

"Most of the time they sat holding hands, Fichardt talking a great deal and Minnie nodding her pretty head at intervals and encouraging him to continue. And they were all lies he told her, I suppose, as only a young man really in love can tell lies". From the short story, "Ox-wagon Trek".

Someone described Bosman's writing as colloquial Afrikaans, written in English. If you like it I might just post a few more excerpts.

In my previous post I said I would say something about Berg streams, but on Wednesday I bought my monthly fix of fly fishing magazines at one of the local supermarkets. We have two magazines dedicated to fly fishing in South Africa, one is published every month and one, once every two months. Flipping through these magazines I was struck by the wealth of fly fishing opportunities there are In Southern Africa and Africa as a whole. Not only the plethora of fly fishing opportunities but the number of species available, both fresh and salt water.

The species mentioned in the two magazines numbered sixteen, this is only a small fraction of the fish that are found in Africa and around its coasts. "The FOSAF guide to fly-fishing destinations in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean", mentions 71 species that can be caught on fly.

Fly fishing for tigerfish in the upper Zambezi river was the first article I flipped through. These predatory fish will give you a good run for your money when hooked. I personally have not caught one of these fish but I've been told it's an experience of a lifetime. Light tackle won't work for these fish, 7 weight rods and up, with reels that can hold a lot of backing and have a reliable drag. Most fly fishers use a steel trace at the end of their leader. Tigerfish have teeth that must be seen to be believed. Nembwe is another species of fish found in the Zambezi, Okavango Delta and other parts of Africa. This is a bream species and can be caught on much lighter tackle than tigerfish. It is reputed to be a good eating fish. The other fish mention in this article was the Zambezi yellow fish. South Africa has nine species of yellow fish, all sought after fly fishing fish. How many other species there are in the rest of Africa I don't know, but it a seems that almost every river has some sort of yellow fish. I will write more about yellow fish in a later post.

The next article that caught my eye was fly fishing for Nile perch. Now we are talking big fish, the sort of size fish you would think could only be found in the sea! This article was about  fly fishing for Nile perch in the Nile river below the Murchison falls in Uganda. Murchison falls lies upstream of Lake Albert. The falls are only 40 meters high but this huge volume of water pours through a gap that is only 6 meters wide, about 20 feet. This must be a truly impressive sight. Here we are tacking Heavy tackle 10 to 12 weight rods, 60lb to 80lb leader, and big flies, big reels with lots of backing and a powerful drag. How big these fish get I don't know, but 100lb and heavier fish are not unknown. This is the kind of fly fishing trip I can only dream of. I don't know how many zeros you'll have to add after the $ sign.

Another famous spot for Nile perch is Lake Nasser, the massive lake behind the High Aswan dam in Egypt. Here fly fishers sight fish to these leviathans in the crystal clear water of the lake. Nile perch, as the name suggests, are native to the Nile river system. These fish have been placed in some of the lakes, at least one that I know of, in the Rift valley, with devastating effect on the indigenous fish.

So far I've only covered four species and not in depth. Next blog I'll write about a few more.

Source: "THE COMPLETE FLY FISHER MAN. Africa's fresh and salt water fly fishing magazine". April, 2011 issue

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Names 2

Quote:"We sleep easy in the soft arms of cliches: hope for the best, prepare for the worst; risk varies inversly with knowledge; it's a waste of time to think about the unthinkable. But Japan shook those soothing assumptions. No amount of planning, no skills or specs or spreadsheets, can stop the force that moves the planet". Nancy Gibbs, Time, March 28, 2011.

As a rule I don't follow the news, I have no TV, don't listen to the radio, but when something like the earthquake in Japan happens I buy Time magazine. But of everything said about the earthquake I think this was the truest!. We can but admire the courage and stoicism of the Japanese and pray for them.

The quote set me thinking, my life hangs by a thread and as I get older that thread becomes more and more frayed. I'm not in as much control as I like to think, all my savings, pension plan, medical aid, are not going to help one bit if God decides to close my account tonight. Just a thought.

About 25km from where I live is Nthabamhlophe, White mountain. White mountain stands separate  and in front of the Berg proper. White mountain is about 2000 meters high, with a flat top. Just behind the mountain is a popular Berg resort the White mountain Inn, every year a very popular music festival is held there, with bands, musicians and singers from all around the country arriving to perform to people who have arrived from all around the country.

Just south of Giants Castle is a ridge of jagged looking peaks, one of these peaks is called Ntunja,   the eye. Just bellow the summit of this peak, wind and weather has bored a great hole. This hole looks just like a big eye staring over the planes below. 

There are many more interesting names in the Berg, to many to mention, so I wont even try. Next blog I'll name and try to describe some of the streams that flow from the Berg.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


Here in the southern hemisphere summer is coming to a slow end. Saw the first cosmos' flowering today in the veldt on the way to throw some flies at fish. As soon as my data cable for the camera comes I will post photos of these lovely flowers. These flowers start flowering at the beginning of autumn, then you know winters on its way. When I look at photos on blogs in the northern hemisphere I realize we don't know what winter is really like.

In the summer I fish for bass and I don't even have to travel far to fish, 15 minutes walk max. This summer my fishing record has been abysmal, only one decent size fish and not many small ones. But there is still a few weeks of bass fishing left so maybe, just maybe.

Soon it will be trout fishing time and hopefully I will have better luck.

Some one once asked me, "How do you feel when a fish takes your hook?"

I said, "My heart kind of does a summersault".

But he wasn't interested in the emotion of it, only the mechanics of it.

Any way my heart still does a summersault when ever a fish takes my fly 6" trout or 6 foot shark the feeling still stays the same.                                          


South Africa used to teem with wild animals, today you only see herds of animals if you go to one of our famous game reserves, and even then not in the numbers that were.  Charles Barter wrote the following in 1852: "game in thousands, aye, and tens of thousands, spread over the plains or marching in almost endless line across it's surface".James Chapman writing about the Berg in 1849: "at certain times of the day the plains for miles around had somewhat the appearance of a living ocean, the tumultuous waves being formed by the various herds crossing and re-crossing each other in every direction".Today no more. Springbok were especially known for their huge numbers in South Africa. One such "Trek" was estimated by Davie and Gibbons in area around Prieska, In the Free State Province, at about one hundred million Springbok! This was as late as 1888.

But remnants of these once mighty herds still remain in the Drakensberg Wilderness area. Some of the animals you could see in the Berg are; Reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, black wildebeest, grey rhebok, eland, grey duiker, red hartebeest, and oribi. Other animals are baboons, vervet monkeys, various kinds of wild cats, eg. caracal ,porcupines, otters, and various kinds of rodents. Insects to numerous to list. The list given here is far from complete but it gives an idea of what can still be seen in the Berg. All of these animals have something special about them (as do all living creatures), but I'm going to concentrate on the eland the biggest animal in the Berg. 

The eland, Taurotragus oryx is between 150cm and 180cm (+- 6 feet) at the shoulder and the males can way up to 800 kg. Eland can be described as handsome animals, they have a buff colouring that turns grey as they get older. Both males and females have fairly long spiral horns.  The male has long, hanging dewlaps. The eland is not an aggressive animal. In the wild the eland is alert and nervous, with excellent eyesight and hearing, he will have seen and heard you long before you hear it. The Zulu name for eland is Impofu.

Over the years several attempts have been made to domesticate this proud animal, fortunately without success. Although the animal is easily tamed and even large bulls are very docile, the gene pool quickly deteriorates in small captive herds.  

Quote: And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: Livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals,each according to its kind," And it was so. ....... And God saw that it was good.
Genesis. 1: 24 - 25.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Drakensberg fauna & flora

The flora of the Berg is a HUGE subject and I know very little about it. This is a subject that one could spend a lifetime studying and still only scratch the surface.

South Africa has perhaps the richest flora of any country in the world. England has about 1500 flower species, South Africa has 16000 flower species. There are about 200 natural plant orders in the world and South Africa has 150 of them, 120 of these are found in the Berg. A survey done in the Cathedral Peak area of the Berg and found no less than 1000 flower species in that area alone! In Pearse's book "Barrier of spears" more than 80 types of wild flowers are mentioned with tongue twisting Latin names, 15 types of trees are mentioned. There are at least five types of protea, one of which is the bottle brush. I have one of these growing in the veldt just outside my yard. Bright red flowers, so loved by the Sun-birds for their nectar. These plants are very hardy and are able to survive the harshest's of climates.

Bird life in the Berg is prolific. Birds mentioned in Pearse's book are, in alphabetical order, the Black Eagle, Cape Robin, Cape Rock Thrush, Chorister Robin, Crowned Eagle, Golden Bishop, Hadedah, Jackal Buzzard, Lammergeyer, Lanner Falcon, Malachite Sun-bird, Martial Eagle, Red-winged Starling, Secretary Bird, Yellow-billed Kite and Yellow Fly-catcher. This list does not cover even a small portion of the birds which occur in the Berg.

The most famous of these birds is the Lammergeyer, also known as the Bearded Vulture and Bone Breaker. This large, ferocious looking bird, with a wingspan of 3 meters, is extremely rare, very few of them remain. The African Lammerger, Gyptaepus barbus meridionalis, occurred over large parts of Africa, from the Atlas Mountains in the North to the Southern tip of Africa. Today most of those that remain are found in very remote places of the Drakensberg.

Lammergeyers had an undeserved bad reputation with farmers who said that they killed live stock and were shot and poisoned where ever they were found. This reputation was unfounded, Lammergeyers are purely carrion eaters and do not hunt, their talons are too weak to kill or carry large animals. As farming became more and more prevalent ,there was less and less carrion for these birds to feed on, especially bones so necessary in their diet. Farmers don't leave dead live-stock lying around. Lammergeyers break the bones by dropping them onto rocks, the marrow is then eaten. Bone splinters provide calcium for strong eggshells  and skeletal development in the chicks. 

Conservation authorities and conservation minded farmers have stepped in and provided vulture restaurants where carcasses of dead animals are left for vultures to feed on. A famous vulture restaurant is situated at Giants Castle nature reserve where visitors can watch vultures feeding from a hide.

Lammergeyers have amazing flying abilities, with gliding speeds of 130km an hour. "Few birds surpass the Lammergeyer in powers of flight, and their great powers as soarers is probably unrivalled. The bird has been observed floating over Mount Everest, the greatest recorded height for any bird". Meinertzhagen quoted in "Barrier of Spears" p195. The bird mentioned here was the European species Gypaetus barbus uareus. 

Next blog I'll say something about the four footed animals, especially the Elland.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Where's the fish?

This blog has got slightly off track. Supposed to be about fly-fishing and fish! Be patient, will get there. My new data cable to download photos from my camera should be here in a week. Will take a trip to a trout stream on Sunday and take some photos. Hopefully even catch a trout!


The first human inhabitants of the Berg were Bushmen, in fact they were the first human inhabitants of Southern Africa. Bushman are said to have arrived, in Southern Africa, between 6000 - 10000 years ago, having migrated down Africa probably from North Africa. Bushmen, or San people were hunter gathers, still are, the few that remain in the Khalahari Desert, Namibia and Botswana, they didn't plant crops or keep cattle, sheep or goats, nature supplied all their needs. Untill about 1800 they were the only human inhabitants of the Berg.

Life in the Berg must have been as close to paradise for the Bushmen, as it is possible for mortals to achieve here on earth. The well watered Berg valleys teemed with game, wild fruit and other edibles were available in abundance. They knew the animals they hunted intimately and they only hunted for food. The wind and weather had eroded perfect caves in the sandstone which provided them with shelter. Their hunting methods were non-disruptive and humane, animals weren't chased away, and there never were any wounded animals walking around suffering a lingering death. Bushmen were excellent trackers and stalkers, they had to get very close to score a hit with their tiny bows and arrows. 

First the coming of the Bantu people with their cattle, farming, and hunting methods, then  much later the white man with even more disruptive farming and hunting methods, put paid to the Bushman's idyllic life in the Berg. The last Bushman in the Berg, disappeared in the mid 19th century.

All that remains of the bushmen in the Berg is their rock art. In one valley alone, the Ndidima River valley, there are 17 of these natural rock shelters, with more than 4000 separate rock paintings. The Sebayeni cave alone has 1146 rock paintings.  The rock art in South Africa probably exceeds that of the rest of the world put together. 

Bushman art was the epitome of simplicity. to quote from "Barrier of Spears"; "Our art is is obsessed with complicated backgrounds and foregrounds. The bushman artist left all this out, concentrating starkly on one single theme, animated action, or calm repose. "No artist," says Walter Battiss, "has said more, saying less."" An interesting feature of their painting is that they never portray a human face.  

With the coming of Bantu pastoralists, and later white farmers, life became very difficult for the Bushmen. Game became scarce, and the Bushmen took to cattle and sheep stealing. Whites and Blacks turned on the Bushmen with a vengeance. In most of South Africa they were hunted to extinction. 

My grandfather told me of how his grandfather, father, uncles, and neighbours, went on a Bushman hunt in the Cradock district of the Eastern Cape. This was in the 1830's. They tracked a small group of Bushman to a cave in the mountains, more of a rock over-hang, than a cave. The Bushmen were sleeping around a small fire. All the men fired their musel- loaders into the over-hang at the same time. When the smoke cleared all the Busmen were gone, but one small baby boy wrapped in skins was left behind. The baby was taken home  as a pet, people at that time did not think of Bushmen as truly human. This Bushman lived to a ripe old age, and died on my grandfathers farm in the Free State Province in the 1930's  

This unfortunately is not a uniquely South African story, but happened where ever a so-called "superior" race met so-called "inferior races.

Quote: "I'm as old as my disappointments in life, and as young as my naughtiest thought". Xameb the Bushman, to Professor P. J. Schoeman.

The Bushmen left no scars on their environment, only the beauty of their art. What will future generations say about us?

Next post I'll write something of the fauna and flora of the Berg. This post is getting too long.

Source's: "Barrier of Spears. Drama of the Drakensberg". 1973. By R. O. Pearse.
              "Southern Africa: land of beauty and splendour". 1978. By T. V. Bulpin.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Had to attend a church AGM last night so I could not keep my promise re the Drakensberg geology, but here it is.

 In Pearse's book "Barrier of Spears I found a diagramatic cross cut of the Drakensberg. Starts of with a layer called the Upper Beaufort beds, which reaches up 1250 meters. This layers is said to be 190 million years old. The next layer is called the Molteno Beds, from 1250 meters to 1500meters. This layer is said to be 180 million years old. Then follow the Red Beds, from 1500 meters to to about 1600 meters and is said to be 170 million years old. Following this up to 1750 meters Cave Sandstone, and 160 million years old. These layers are sedimentary rock.

About 150 million years ago a period of intense volcanic activity took place. This volcanic activity threw up immense amounts of basaltic lavas which reach up to about 3300 meters.In its molten state the basalt was full of gas bubbles. As the basalt cooled it left cavities in the basalt. These cavities filled up with minerals over time which then crystallised. A lump of basalt resembles a piece of fruit cake filled with agates, rose-pink amethysts, calcite, chalcedony, quarts and other crystals.

Basalt is soft and crumbly, but fortunately a  at the time of the the volcanic activity successive intrusive flows of hard dolerite was forced between the layers of basaltic lavas. These layers of dolerite form a supportive skeleton. Without them the Berg might have eroded away long before we got to see it. Forces of nature, rain, wind, frost, etc. sculpted the Berg over millions of years to the dramatic mountain we see today.

The Drakensberg is the source of most of South Africa major rivers rivers, both those flowing east or west. Basalt acts like a giant sponge soaking up the more than 2000mm of rain that fall on the Berg in summer, and snow in winter.  

Mont-uax-sources (source of spring) is the source of three major rivers. The Orange River which flows westward to the Atlantic Ocean, a tributary of the Vaal River which flows throw South Africa's industrial heartland land and eventually joins up with the Orange. Then there is the Tugela river which flows eatwards to the Indian Ocean in a much shorter journey of several hundred kilometers.  The Tugela River starts its journey with a dramatic plunge of 800m, 600m of which is a sheer drop. The mouths of the Tugela and the Orange are separated by more than 1500km.

The Drakensberg stretches southward from the Sentinel in the north to its southern most point Xalanga (place of vultures) a towering mass of cliffs in the north eastern part of the Eastern Cape Province. (this are is home to hundreds of kilometers of wild trout streams). From the Sentinel, northwards the Drakensberg  stretches for another 600km. This part is not so dramatic as the southern part, but there are parts in The Mpumalanga Province which is quite as spectacular. (Mpumalanga, Zulu for place where the sun rises. Mpuma rises, Langa the sun).

Hundreds of streams tumble down the face of the Berg, flowing eastward, cold, clear and clean providing a home for both brow and rainbow trout. Because the gradient is so steep, the parts habitable by trout is short, because they soon reach an altitude where they become to warm. But short or not there is more than enough trout water to keep the most avid fly fisher happy for a life time. These streams are all freestone streams.

Sources: Southern Africa: land of beauty and splendour. (1978) by T. V. Bulpin
             : Barrier of spears. Drama of the Drakensberg. (1973) by R. O. Pearse

Next blog I'll say something about rock art, Bushmen, fauna and flora.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


In my last blog I said I would explain my choice of name for my blog, Drakensview. I do most of my fishing where I can see the Drakensberg, thus Drakensview.The school where I'm the librarian is also called Drakensview. From the windows of my library I have a clear view Of Giants Castle, one of the major peaks in the Berg. Drakensberg means Dragon Mountains, the name given to the mountains by the Voortrekkkers, the Afrikaans pioneers who crossed over from the western side in the 1830's. Some say the name comes from the mountains looking like the spikes on a dragons back, others say the name refers to a legend that said there were dragons living in the mountains. One never says Drakensberg mountains because that would be tautology, locals just talk of the Berg. Berg is the Afrikaans word for mountain and draak the Afrikaans for dragon.

The Zulu name for the mountains is uKhahlamba, Barrier of Spears, very descriptive. From the eastern side the sharp peaks jutting up into the sky look just like a barrier of spears.

From Mont-Aux-Sources in the north to Giants Castle in the south, is wilderness area. Several years ago it was declared a world heritage site. As early as 1903 the the Natal government saw the value of protecting this unique area and proclaimed the Giants Castle Game reserve.

I decided to do some research on the Berg to get my facts straight, so I took a book called, Barrier of Spears. Drama of the Drakensberg. by R. O. Pearse, from the school library. R. O. Pearse was headmaster of Estcourt High school   in the 1960' to 1970's, I'm not quite sure of the exact dates. Pearse knew the Berg like the proverbial back of his hand. He hiked, and climbed almost every inch of it and spent most of his spare time in the Berg.

Quote from Pearse's book. p.iv.

"Is there behind it all, a purpose, a guiding intelligence? I believe that the evidenceof planned order, of inexorable law, of careful thought, of divine imagination is far too overwhelming to permit of any other explanation. I believe that this vast universe, which is our home, "with all its mighty throng", as the New English bible puts it, down to the tiny gnat which buzzes around your candle flame, started as an idea in the mind of God.

And what more majestic or noble language could one find to describe those mighty cosmic events in the dawn of time than the sonorous organ notes of the first chapter of Genesis. "In the beginning ... the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the waters.""

Then he goes into geological detail about the formation of the Drakensberg. But more of that next time.

Monday, 21 March 2011


Today was a public holiday in SA, human rights day. So no work, slept late, got up,(05h30) normal time is 04h30). made coffee and had some breakfast, a nice big juicy mango. Talking of coffee, Estcourt has a huge Nestle coffee factory right in the middle of town, claims to be the biggest coffee factory in the southern hemisphere. In this town you don't have to stop to smell the coffee, you don't have much choice. Lying in the middle of a very productive agricultural area all our factories process agricultural products. Wood processed into hardboard, pigs into bacon, milk into milk powder, maize into maize meal and a couple of animal feed producers.

Took my dogs, my 6 weight fly rod and walked to the bigger of the two dams yesterday afternoon about 16h30. Took some photos of the smaller dam on the way, and saw way to the south west, over the Berg, clouds building up. Continued on to the bigger dam, about 15 minutes walk, and looked back at the clouds, they had covered the whole south western horizon. Decided to try my luck any using a foam beetle cast into reeds and grass in the shallows. Managed to hook one  6 inch bass who performed some acrobatics and threw the hook. By now the sky was black and I decided to head for shelter. You don't want to be caught out in an African thunder storm waving a carbon fibre rod about! Got home just in time the sky opened with a crack and the rain came down.

This has basically been the story the whole summer regarding bass fishing in these two dams. Summer means good bass fishing, but with the weather being so unstable the fishing hasn't been good. We had a dry summer last year and during the winter the dams shrunk to about a third of their normal seize. As the water receded green grass appeared. The herd of cattle on the farm loved to graze this grass fertilizing the bottom of the dam. With the good rains this summer the dams filled up quickly. With the well fertilized dams the water is swarming with all sorts invertibrate life, I think the bass are so well fed that anything I try and tempt them with does not interest them. But I'm not too disheartened there is still about six weeks bass fishing left.

In winter I fish for trout, mostly in still waters, but I still do some bass fishing. Although bass become very lethargic in cold water and their metabolism slows down reducing the need to eat, though they still need some food. Summer months my bass fishing is restricted to early morning or late afternoon, the sun will cook you in the middle of the day. In the winter I fish for bass from about 11 to 2 o'clock. I use intermediate line and almost no retrieve letting the fly sink slowly. Bass pick up the fly and start to swim away and I tighten up. Lots of good fun.

I've been tying flies for a trip to the upper Mooi River in the Kamberg Nature reserve, which lies right in the foothills of the Drakensberg. Dry flies, RAB and DDD's, The RAB is a variant type fly and the DDD is a spun deer hair fly a bit like an Irrisitable, and weighted ZAK nymphs some Ptn's and Grhe's.(code that fly fishers understand) These SA patterns can be seen with full tying instructions and photographs on Tom Sutcliffe's web site, the link for which I put on a previous post.

God willing and weather permitting I'll make the easy 60km trip next week. Hopefully I will have got a new data cable and be able to download some photo's of the scenery in the beautiful Kamberg valley, the river and with luck of some trout. Will try out my new 3 weight TFO rod that I built from a kit ordered from the US.

Next blog I'll explain why I chose Drakensview as my blog name and where the name Drakensberg comes from and what it means.


Found a photo of myself taken on a train in England doing my impersonation of an Englishman.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

SA Flyfishing

Any one interested in great fly fishing scenes can click on this link. Fantastic stuff.


Quote: "Godliness with contentment is great gain". 1Tim.6:6. Most people confuse "standard of living" with "quality of life". There's a big difference. You can kill yourself trying to achieve a high standard of living, while quality of life will ad years to your life! Quality of life, and contentment, lie in the simple things, most of them free.

In spite of the relatively small fly fishing population, by world standards, South Africa has a wealth of fly fishing writers. A famous South African fly fishing book is "The Rapture of the river. The autobiography of a South African Fisherman", by S. A. Hey. I have a special affinity with Sydney Hey, he started working for the S A Dept. of Posts and Telegraphs at 16, I started my working career, at 16, for the same Dept., 66 years later. The book covers about half a century from the end of the 19th Century to the 1950's. Only 1,000 were printed (I think) and no reprints until quite recently. I have a copy of the reprint and have read it more than once. The book was reprinted by Platanna press. (

Another South African writer in this genre is Tom Sutcliffe. A retired medical doctor, this writer is the guru/wiseman of SA flyfishing. Tom Sutcliffe is a writer, artist and photographer of note. Titles in my collection are,"Hunting Trout", "My Way With A Trout", "Shadows on the stream bed" These are not technical how to books but his experiences while fly fishing in SA and other places in the world, very readable all them.

Peter Briggs, who is well known in SA for his articles in SA fly fishing magazines, has published a book titled "Call of the stream. A flyfishers passion for hunting trout in mountain streams". This is a coffee table type of book with beautiful photographs of mountain streams and people fishing them. When I can't go fishing I page through this book and dream of fishing those streams.

FOSAF, Federation of South African Flyfishers, has published, "The FOSAF Guide to Fly-Fishing Destinations In Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean", covers 184 destinations, 71 fish species, maps hot spots, tackle and techniques and reading the water. This is a book full information, where to go, how to get there, including GPS coordinates, places to stay and tariffs, contact details, etc. Any one thinking of a fly fishing trip to SA should get this book (

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Took some photos of my cottage this morning and came inside to download onto my laptop only to find my data cable missing/mislaid/lost.

Wanted to stand in the shade of the siringa tree in my yard to take one of the photo's when I noticed that the tree was full of large golden orb spiders and their webs, so I got as close as possible and photographed one. These spiders have beautiful markings and their webs have a golden glow in the sunlight. Will post the photo on my blog as soon as I get a new data cable.

In my personal profile I have only put down two books, but I have lots of favourite books and authors. One of my majors while doing my library degree was English literature. Here I want to talk about fly fishing and fly tying books.

The jewel in my collection is a 1897 reprint of the 5th edition of Izaak Walton's "The Compleat Angler". The title page reads, The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton. Edited with an Introduction by Richard Le Gallienne Illustrated by Edmund H. New, with the motto Piscatoribus Sacrum.Printed on handmade cloth paper it's my pride and joy! The origional 5th edition, published in 1676, was the last edition personally edited by Walton. I found this copy in a 2nd hand bookshop in Cockermouth, Cumberland, In the North West part of England. The book is still in a perfect condition.

Another favourite of mine is "A Fly Fisher's Life" by Charles Ritz.(1967)(I was young and handsome in 67, just handsome now. Ha Ha) A cultured and civilised man who had a lot useful information and experience on fly fishing. Bought this book at a second hand Bookshop in Howick a Lovely town about 70 km from Estcourt. 

"Hardy's book of fishing" by Patrick Annesley is another of my favourites. Published 1971, reprinted in 1972, in consists of piece from the Hardy Bros. Fishing catalogue, From the mid !800 to the 1950's. A quote from p86 Concerning Wading; 
" Avoid standing upon rocking stones, for obvious reasons; never go into the water deeper than the fith button of your waistcoat; even this does not always agree with tender constitutions in frosty weather. As you are likely not to take a just estimate of the cold in the excitement of the sport, should you be of delicate temperament, and be wading in the month of February, when it may chance to freeze very hard, pull down you stockings, and examine your legs.Should they be black, or even purple, it might perhaps, be as well to get on dry land; but if they are only rubicund, you may continue to enjoy the water, if it so pleases you,"  This was written by William Scrope, Days and nights of Salmon-Fishing, 1843. Those old Victorians were definitely not wimps! Rubberised canvas wading trousers were available from about the 1880's for wimps.

Quote: Many have supposed angling void of delight, never having tried it, yet have afterwards experimented it so full of content, that they have quitted all other recreation. Robert Venables.

Next blog I'll discuss some South African books.

Friday, 18 March 2011

day 3

As I mentioned in my previous blog I live very close to some great fly fishing water. As a member the Natal Fly Fishers Club ( I have access to+- 30 still waters and several stretches of streams and rivers. All these venues are on private land but the owners have allowed the club access. Still waters are stocked by the club with small trout on a yearly basis. These still waters are man made farm dams, some almost large enough to almost qualify as lakes. Most of the still waters are trout waters, some have trout and bass, others just bass. Bass don't need stocking as they breed very well in dams.

Rivers and streams are self stocking and no additional stocking is necessary. Trout breed quite well in high altitude streams in South Africa. Some of the streams have trout, bass and Natal yellow fish also known as scaleys. The higher the stream altitude the more prevalent trout become. Other streams are trout only. Both rainbow and brown trout occur but hardly ever in the same stream.

The best time for trout fishing is autumn and spring, winter fishing for trout is also quite good as our water does not get quite as cold as in Europe or the US. Our club streams are closed from May to September to allow the trout to breed undisturbed. During the summer, our rainy season, fishing in streams can be problematic due the streams coming down in spate. At higher altitudes the water will remain clear but crossing or wading in streams can be very dangerous, even in small streams. Lower down the silt load discolours the water and makes fly fishing impossible.

To fish any of the venues booking is necessary which is possible 24/7. The number of rods at each venue is strictly controlled, some venues only two rods, others four and a few might have more. The chances of you meeting another fly fisher at a venue is quite remote, when you do it's like a bonus. Unless you go with a fishing buddy you find yourself with acres of still water or miles of river all to yourself. I had the opportunity of fishing for trout in England last year and was amazed at the crowds of fly fishers jostling for a space.

My club dues allows me unlimited fishing with no extra cost except the cost of getting there. Membership dues are R480 per annum, this is about US $70. A bargain in any language.

The farm I live on has two dams, one the size of three or four tennis courts, the other several acres. These dams, or ponds, are stocked with large mouth black bass. So virtually every summer evening my dogs and I walk to one or the other of the dams and fly fish. When it comes to fishing certain waters daily "familiarity does not breed contempt", to paraphrase a well known saying. But more about this next time

Thursday, 17 March 2011


I thought I would tell you something about myself and what I do for a living. I know that you can look in my personal profile section, but it's not very comprehensive.

I live in a cottage on a farm 4km outside Estcourt KZN. The cottage is very small, but large enough for myself, my 4 dogs and a cat called Cat. The cottage will win the approval of "Greens" everywhere, built of  uncured mud brick 60 years ago, and thatched. It has withstood the ravages of time very well. In winter it's warm and in summer it's at least 5 degrees centigrade cooler than outside, very energy efficient. The cottage looks like something out a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. I will include some photos of it in the near future. In spite of the fact that I live within 50m of the N3 highway, a four lane highway linking the port city of Durban to the interior of the country (this is the busiest highway in Africa) the highway noise has just become "white noise" to me.

My profession  is school librarian. My job is to teach learners how to use the library, how to do research but most important to instil a love of reading. I love my work and get great enjoyment out of it. The school I teach at is a primary school, grade 1 to grade 7 and I work with all 7 grades. We have about 650 learners in our school, each grade is divided into three classes and I see all of them each week, so I have a busy, but enjoyable day. I sometimes think I have the best job in the world. Nothing beats a teachers holidays, especially if you like to go fishing.

I live a a very minimalist lifestyle, materialism has no appeal to me. My car is a 28 year old VW Jetta with 350,000km on the clock. It still gets me where I want to go, is fuel efficient, reliable, cheap to maintain, and most   important gets me to my fly fishing spots on bad roads without a problem. I own no fancy gadgets, apart from a laptop, Black Berry cell phone (bottom of the range) and no TV. I do have a good Cd player and radio, but I don't listen to radio because it's mostly drivel.

I don't mind spending money on fly fishing and fly tying equipment and material. I own several fly rods, from 2 weight to a 9 weight, and reels, and fly tying material worth a small fortune.

I have the privilege to live close to some great fly fishing water, some of not 5 minutes walk from where I live. But more about that next time.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

new blog

This is a new blog. My intention with this blog is to make known to fly fishermen (and women) the fly fishing potential of the area I live in. Over time I will include photos, names of streams and locations   .
At the moment I'm learning blogging as I go along, hopefully I will eventually create a blog that will interesting, informative and entertaining.

All positive criticism is welcome.