You have to admit, sometimes the road just gets the better of you. You want to climb in the car and find out what is over the horizon, around the next bend, or what the mountain looks like from the bottom and then the top. Well, that is (almost) what happened. I headed off on a road trip with some fly fishing buddies to the Maclear Womens Fly Fishing Festival.
Now if you have ever wondered if there are women that fly fish, the answer to your question is the Maclear Womens Fly Festival. The festival has been running for 17 years and is an absolute institution. If you speak to a fly fisherwoman, she will probably tell you this is where she first wet her fly line. The benefit of being ‘out in the wilds’ is the waters you fish receive very little rod pressure and you are in some of the most beautiful untouched scenery you could ever hope to see.
After a long drive for most of the folks (because Maclear is worth it), the starting point is the country club for catching up and opening the Festival for the weekend. The amount of noise emanating from the room could be misconstrued for a market, with all the particpants catching up from all sides of the country – Limpopo to the Western Cape. You have to know that there is a lot of catching up after a year. The locals are the most seriously hospitable people I have ever met. They remember your name (even if you have missed a few years)! There is no chance you are going to get away with sitting quietly in the corner here. With liquid bravery in tiny glasses (Dawn you know are so hard to say no to) your tongue tends to loosen fast. Add the excitement of dam and river draws as well as hustling to find your guide for the next day and you are soon into the swing of things; talking a language with acronyms and words that most folks wouldn’t recognise. All accompanied by much grinning and anticipation of the fun to come.
Post breakfast on day one the team pop down to Stone Junction for some coffee and croissants (a girl has to be well fed and coffee’d to fish well – that’s my theory and I am sticking to it). Jackie kindly opens the coffee shop early for us and while we browse the creative craft work and last minute fly fishing goodies she spreads hospitality and chatting with cappuccinos and croissants (I would like to admit it was a super way to start the day). Off the convoy heads to the Vorsters farm. Gary and Wendy have the most beautiful farm I have seen in a long time The drive was spectacular and if it wasn’t for the fact that I so badly wanted to start fishing it would have taken me a long time to get there for all the photos I would have been snapping.
The Women proudly taking part in this festival all meet up and draw which dams they will be fishing. It is sometimes difficult for anything to be heard above all the chatter. That is how you know everyone is excited. Once photos are taken (but of course), I head off with my team to go and plunder the dam. My choice of seating today is a float tube. It certainly is a relaxing way to fish. Sitting on a floating lazy boy admiring the clouds, mountains, birds and ….. whoop whoop I have a fish on the line. Some of the women choose to fish from the side, but either way we all get in on the catching fever soon enough.
I think the thing that had me most thrilled (equalled only by catching fish myself) was watching how the guides interact with the ladies that haven’t fished before. They are full of useful advice, jokes and mostly patience. They genuinely want their team to have a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Seeing someone experience their first catch brings back memories and delivers almost as much satisfaction as your own first catch. Encouraged by the ladies and guides hollering and cheering, you can see a little fire of enthusiasm getting fanned into flame. Then shortly after the fish is safely released, the eager beaver is craving her next catch. Suddenly a fly fishing passion is born and growing in the new fisherwomen as you watch.
After dinner and much fish talk the ladies start heading home to prep for the next day…. well most of them at least 🙂
I awake on day two to much excitement. Today is river fishing! It is a special kind of thrill for me. I love still waters and KwaZulu-Natal has some of the best. But river fishing is just different. We leave Maclear and travel deep into the mountains onto farms that are sometimes private and sometimes Mondi owned. Either way, you traverse valleys and glades and wind through forests and over rivers and streams. I feel a little like Frodo heading off on an adventure. It seems much like a fantasy land and demands that you forget everything else and just be immersed in spectacular beauty. So who am I to argue?
All the ladies are spoilt for choice with local guides, but it is my theory I have the knack of always getting the best guide on the day. This year is no different. Both days my guides treated me and the other ladies on our team to tremendous hospitality and local knowledge and fishing techniques. Without them I would not have had half the fun I did. Today the trout we are after will be on the smaller size, but no less beautiful or challenging. We had a new member join our band – the lovely pointer, Tess, tagging along. Watching her reaction to our ‘hunting’ was delightful. Our team of ladies is just as entertaining with a mixture of newbies to experienced fisherwomen and quieter to boisterous personalities keeping us all in hysterics as anecdotes are relayed at the lunch time break.
Although a gamut of weather was experienced on day two, it was a super experience and I learnt much (which I hope I will remember and use again soon) as well as got to hear some great stories and maybe even plot a trip to be had in the future.
Post rugby (the Boks may not have won but did us proud) we head off to prizegiving and a wonderful dinner. Fines and prizes abound as much as the laughter and chatting does. Ladies start exchanging contact details and the ever growing fly fishing fraternity grows. What a fantastic bunch of ladies.. old friends and now new. A part of history infuses with a piece of the future in a most wonderful atmosphere here the the Festival.
None of this would be possible without the generous sponsors or the phenomenal hospitality of the locals, both in contributions of time and allowing fishing on their land. In this fast paced world, one could almost believe that this kind of camaraderie does not exist anymore. What would one do to protect something as valuable as this? #justsaying Taking time out to simply connect with people is so important, even more so (in my opinion) if it is done with a fishing line in the water. If you are thinking of carving out some time for yourself ladies; as well as taking part in a festival that is known as an institution, making friends and just generally having a great time…. this is the place to be. Check out the facebook page and give it a ‘like’ to be updated on next years get together.
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You wont regret it.