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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bracken Waters & Grantchester

Went trout fishing on Thursday and Friday. Thursday, June 16th is youth day in South Africa and a public holiday. Friday was a school holiday, thus I had a nice long weekend. A friend and ex teaching colleague came to visit from Durban and she wanted to learn how to fly fish. She arrived at about 14:30 Wednesday afternoon and after a quick cup of coffee we went onto the lawn and I started to teach her the basics of casting. What a pleasure to teach someone who is mentally and physically coordinated. It wasn't long before she had the hang of it. Women don't try to force their cast and just have natural rhythm and timing. After about an hour of practice we decided it was time for another cup of coffee and I gave her a simple book on casting so she could get the theory part. Maybe it should have been the other way round but then it would have been to dark to do any casting.

Thursday morning, after a hearty breakfast we took a slow drive to a dam/pond (In SA we also call the water behind the dam wall the dam) called Bracken Waters, a beautiful large stretch of water (about a kilometre wide and two kilometres long) to fish for rainbow trout. This dam has large mouth black bass and trout. I have fished this dam many times in summer for bass and the bass fishing is magnificent, with lots of large hungry bass. The club policy is that you have to remove all bass you catch to reduce their numbers, I find this hard to do, so I cheat a bit.  Anyway this is such a large piece of very fertile water, with lots of structure and weed beds, that there must be thousands of bass. The few you might remove in a days fishing is not going to make much impact on their numbers. Further more, bass are active in summer and trout in winter. In summer trout will seek out the deeper cooler areas and bass will be looking for warmer waters. Trout fingerling's are only stocked in the cooler months so I don't think bass have much of an impact on their numbers. 

This was the first time that I had fished this piece of water in winter for trout. When we got there the wind was blowing quite a gale, but otherwise a beautiful day, with blue sky and temperature about 15 degrees Celsius. I thought that my learner fly fisher woman would be put off by the wind, but she took it in her stride and started casting. Fortunately the wind was from behind and over our left shoulders which helped. Margaret turned out to be a great fishing buddy, no talking just concentrating on the task at hand, casting and retrieving, very slowly. She wanted no further assistance and I could get on with my fishing.

Well to cut a long story short the wind just about blew us off the dam wall and into the water. After about three hours we cut our losses and packed up with out even seeing a fish.

Next morning, which was Friday we went to a different stretch of water, Grantchester on Defence farm. This farm has a long history going back to about the 1840's, when it was established as an outpost to try and stop Bushmen stock theft. Bushmen living in the foothills of the Drakensberg used to pass through this area to raid farms lying lower down. Who settled on this farm originally I don't know, but he must have been a brave man.

Grantchester is a lovely piece of water, situated in a long narrow, steep sided valley, with deep water right on the side, except at the top end where the gradient is not so steep. Again this is a big piece of water about a kilometre + long and more than 500 metres wide at it's widest (at a guess) The wind was again blowing, but not as bad as the day before. I sent Margaret to the northern shore so that she could cast with the wind, and I stayed on the southern shore to fish into the wind.

For quite a while it was as if I could not get into my casting rhythm. After about a half hour of frustration I noticed that I had not threaded my line correctly through the third and second last guides, but that the line actually went over the top of the rod after the third last guide then though the second last guide the over the top again before going through the tip top! How I did that I still don't know, anyway I then corrected the problem and my casting improved, but still not one hundred percent. Then I noticed that I had not put the line through the stripping guide but through the gap between one of the supports and the guide. So off came the fly, pulled the line out and re threaded it once again. 

Now my casting was normal and I managed to get a reasonable distance against the wind. Then the moment all fly fishers wait for, a solid strike and fish on. Once the fish felt the hook it headed down into the depths, taking line. When it stopped I retrieved line, the fish headed for the surface and jumped doing cartwheels before landing with a splash, still on. I shouted to Margaret on the opposite shore, "This ones headed for the frying pan." After a couple of minutes I managed to bring it in quite close and could see it about a metre down. It was a big one at least 2 1/2 pounds or more. The fish made one more run for deep water, then the unthinkable happened. The tippet parted from the leader at the knot. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, my first trout of the season and I lost it. My vocabulary at that moment would have made a sailor blush, and I'm not a man who swears.    

Well I tied on a new tippet and another wiggle tail. By now the wind had changed direction and was blowing from the east down the length of the water, and blowing a gale.  I crossed over on the dam wall to the northern shore. Here the gradient is very steep and the bank drops away right into deep water.  When I got there Margaret was very excited, saying that she had seen lots of fish and they even followed her fly right to the side before suddenly turning away. She also had a wiggle tail on.

I cast and let the fly sink the whole length of the 3 metre leader plus another 1/2 metre tippet, then I slowly lifted my rod making the fly rise to the surface, just before I lifted the fly off the water a trout shot up from the depths a grabbed it. Before I could react it spat it out and was gone. This happened several times and I had several seemingly solid takes only to have the fish shake out the hook. By now the wind was sending waves crashing against the bank and conditions were becoming very unpleasant and casting almost impossible. So we called it a day. 

Well I'm a wiggle tail fly fan and I'm busy tying a whole bunch of them in black, brown and olive.  

And Margaret has been hooked by fly fishing and wants to come again in July.

I took quite a few photos of both stretches of water and surrounding area, but for some reason I can't download them from my camera onto the computer. Which is strange because 2 days ago I downloaded several photos. As soon as I've sorted out this problem I'll post them.


Jo said...

Hi Phil, what a lovely way to pass the long weekend. Glad Margaret has been bitten by the fly-fishing bug! I can imagine how cold that wind was. Brrr. Have a good weekend. Love Jo xxx

Phillip said...

Had to edit this post twice after I had posted it as the part where I lost the fish kept disappearing!

The Ninety Percenter said...

You take great pictures, so I'm looking forward to the photos once you upload them,

Kay L. Davies said...

I'm so glad you were teaching someone well-coordinated, Phillip. My father and his friends tried to teach me how to cast and I could never get it right. But I love to read about fishing, especially trout-fishing!
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Desiree said...

What a delightful story and so good to know you and Margaret had such a good weekend...even better, that you'll have a new companion to join you on occasions! Margaret sounds such a lovely fun person!

Your writing is so infectious...I always end up feeling as though I've been part of the story since you make it all so very real in the retelling.