I wake to a particularly beautiful morning in anticipation of a day of fly fishing. But I have been deceived by blue skies and sunshine before. Generally, in these parts it can mean anything from frigid temperatures to ‘did you see that camel’ type of weather. So I didn’t choose to go fishing before earth had peeled back the darkness like a blanket, letting the light in. I chose to get up in the early light instead. Shame on me! What kind of a fly fisherwoman am I you ask? A smart one. The fish don’t leave the water when the light appears. At least that’s my theory (I can so see the reams of fisherman scowling at me now…but that is a different conversation for a different day).
So the day before heading out into the Midlands and even deeper still into the Dargle valley, I popped down to a friend that is well acquainted with the fishing industry as well as known by the fly fishing community. Known for both his fishing exploits and most especially fly tying ability, Jan Korrubel, at The Fish Eagle (Facebook page – click here) in Victoria Road, Pietermaritzburg.
I came to this decision to ensure I get some advice on what has been happening with our piscatorial friends in the Dargle valley and what their eating habits were leaning towards (knowledge is power 🙂 ). Jan is also the owner of Anglerfish Fly Fishing Services (Facebook page – click here) and has the kind of indepth knowledge of fishy habits and cuisine that will keep you fascinated. He also happens to have a handful of flies that are guaranteed to catch me a trout on this trip which I am eager hands on.
Jan and I spend some time catching up on social stories and then get into a conversation about the particular still water I am fishing which falls under the Natal Fly Fishing Club’s list of waters (check out their waters at their website – click here). During this rather serious sounding topic, further people join in the conversation looking for advice on waters for an upcoming competition, to which Jan can ably assist, residing and fishing the Midlands for a number of years as well as being involved in a number of competitions from an event perspective.
The drive out on the Midlands the next day is as beautiful as ever. Although Autumn has taken hold on the Midlands, spreading its oxidised colours, there are still green crops producing beautiful patchwork vistas. Stopping at my coffee muse cafe, Steampunk Coffee, I grab some of the brew to fuel my creative tank and hook a left to head into the gorgeously peaceful Dargle valley. Autumn trees line the road keeping you entranced, while signs indicate stop offs that most people on the Midlands Meander don’t know about (do yourself a favour and take a drive….). I finish the tar road and head onto dirt wending around corners and looking down at waters and farms that resonate with my spirit. I grew up on a farm and there is always something special about being out in farming areas for me.
After scooting some reluctant sheep from a tuft of grass I park and prep my gear while breathing in the fresh air and sounds of ducks and birds (only interrupted pleasantly by the tinkle of bells which I assume are attached to the sheep).
I head off to the side of the dam wall after prepping my gear and examine the gravel shallows for any spawning trout because it’s that time of year (birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it…). I spot three trout skirting the weed line and occasionally venturing onto the gravel. As things would have it, I think a male was trying to corral some lady friends together and they were giving him a bit of a run for his money, darting this way and that. I try not to get overwhelmed and mess up my cast, but end up catching grass and mumbling to myself for another 5 minutes while I untangle my mess. Big sigh! Try again. And…..wait. The egg pattern I use generates some interest, but sadly the little nymph doesn’t warrant too much attention apparently. After a few close inspections and more than a few of mumbled “come on” s and 45 minutes I decide that my leaky waders and a float tube sound like a better prospect.
The water is crystal clear against the tan earth in the dam as I push out in my tube with a smile stretched from ear to ear. This has to be one of my favourite things to do. It unfurls the frayed ends of my nerves and breathes peace into me (while occasionally causing me to colour the air with vivid emotional outbursts). I spend my time alternating retrieves and fishing deep with a double rig. Usually along the lines of a dragon followed by a nymph (shocker, I am telling people what flies I used? Sacre bleu, sacrilege. News flash, no one fishes the same… so chances are… you may have to fish a different combination to be successful).
I try the corners around the reeds and weeds, I try the weedbanks, the depths and casting to the shallows and all of a sudden…..nothing happens. I am however getting the lay of the dam and am quite satisfied to do that for the first trip out in a long time. A breeze picks up and ripples the water and I realise that it is pretty much almost lunch time. I decide to head to shore to thaw the feet and have a spot of picnic food. As luck would have it, my flies weave skillfully through a weedbed and get a few interested knocks. The second time I am expecting it and tighten up the line by lifting the rod marginally. On Dad! I immediately gain the focus of an eagle and land the trout quickly. It turns out that it is a stockie, but I am just happy I had the chance to see what great condition it is in and to have it approve my feathery offering. I release it happily and decide to head in so I can thaw my now long numbed feet.
Coffee, samoosas and sausage rolls later… as well as a survey of the lovely grass from a horizontal level and it is time to brave the wind a bit and get back on the water for another session. My decision is almost instantly greeted by a volley of Fish Eagles calls which makes me realise just how fortunate we are to live in this part of the world.
With the weather moving in I spent an hour or so exploring the near shore and one trip along the bank again. I may not have enticed any further trout but I had an absolutely blissful day. It is really a great way to unwind. Whether you are on the water fly fishing (preferable) or alongside the water reading a book.
But be sure to head over to Jan Korrubel at The Fish Eagle to provide you with some great tips and superbly tied flies to get you all lined up and ensure you are off to a great start for your fishing trip.
And do yourself a favour, head onto the Midlands and out into the Dargle valley. Even if just for a drive. Its beauty is truly breathtaking.