It’s late May, winter creeps slowly over the landscape, verdant greens change to shades of yellows, oranges and browns, there is crispness in the early morning air, but it’s still shirt-sleeve weather. There are shadows on the eastern side of the stream where the current looks slow and oily, on the western side touched by sunlight, the water is so transparent that it seems almost unreal. The high Berg under a cloudless sky, peaking over the hills around us, has a patchy cloak of snow.
Slipping my daypack off, I was exhilarated, sensing the anticipation. We rigged up, the conversation with Shaun is mostly about our expectations. He’s ahead of me with a nymph and orange yarn strike indicator – I suggest he have a shot at the run just upstream while I frustratingly continue to struggle threading the 6x tippet through the eye of a #18 Klinkie until I realise its blocked with varnish. In the periphery of my consciousness I see Shaun is already off the bat into the first brownie of the day – the smile on his face says it all. It had been quite a few years that we last fished together – I couldn’t have wished for a better companion on the day.
Photo Shaun Futter. A fin perfect brownie in one of Shaun’s superbly hand crafted stream nets.
The first hour was tough going. Wading the stream was numbingly icy with snow-melt accelerating visits to the bank to thaw out. Shaun brought a couple to the net while despite my best efforts, I failed with the Klinkie – it refused to attract attention. It was clear the trout weren’t looking up, rather in the mood for love, or perhaps that should be preoccupation with spawning. And, before there are any obscene exclamations, I do occasionally fish nymphs. I changed to a bushy CDC and Elk as the indicator with, a small lightly weighted nymph below – the Rooinek, a simple yet effective pattern. These small mountain streams are where accurate casts to shadowy lairs, concentration, quick reflexes and perfect timing are as necessary as dry flies, small nymphs and keen observation.
An hour and a half in we struck a purple patch, the browns for some inexplicable reasons started eating – we took a mess of healthy, fat little fish. In my case all on the Rooinek and a single fish probably the village idiot, on the Caddis. But, it was short lived, the fish without warning shut their mouths as quickly as they had come on – enigmatically disappearing as they have the habit of doing. Fishing was over for the day. Shadows began to lengthen and the light softened on the hills around us, the stream in shadow again, dark and empty looking.
Over the course of the sunny day we tried almost everything – traditional dead drifted nymphs on yarn and dry fly indicators, not-quite-dead-yet-nymphs drifted without indicators, dry flies dead-drifted and skittered. I wonder if I sometimes spend too much time on the plethora of how-to theories that like politicians promises are made to be broken instead of merely drifting towards the logical conclusion that fishing is nothing but the pursuit of the exclusive. And, provided it is done with respect, whether it really matters how you go about it. Small streams are a great leveler and a good place to lose any inflated ideas you may have about yourself as a flyfisher.
It was Theodore Gordon, American fly fishing pioneer that said, “The great charm of fly fishing is that we are always learning.”