I am according to my family and a few friends, a “certifiable fly angling nut case”. I must say though that thinking about this seriously I do not feel uncomfortable with that for I suspect that there are many others like me.
A while back I together with a few other small stream devotees spent a few days trekking for trout in the deep valleys below the KZN Drakensberg escarpment – something we do as often as family and business commitments allow us to. We hiked for nearly 5 hours into the headwaters of some pristine streams with all but the kitchen sink strapped to our backs. At the 1900m contour we camped and fished these sparkling threads in places where it becomes tightly hemmed in by high mountains. I have an affinity for places as close to the edge of the earth as possible without falling off, where isolation and solitude are a fact, shared only with a few like-minded souls and the creatures of this pristine environment.
These are delightful Lilliput waters seldom visited by flyfishers. Their source is tucked away in the deep folds of the earth below the towering mountain buttresses. Out of these secret places the swift sparkling waters as clear as the mountain air, flow through emerald pools, rocky glides and riffles, over gravel beds and around huge sandstone boulders the size of a double garage.
The bright, spirited little rainbows and browns are masters of disguise, stream-wise survivors running in at best about 12 inches. Then there is the occasional exception for just as you relax, a 16 incher chases the hell out of your fly and you become a potential case for cardiac arrest. I must confess though that there have been times when we have taken eager little trout in quick succession, usually when there are emerging insects as the light fades at the close of the day. Light lines, fine tippets and small wispy flies, careful up-close presentation and short drag free drifts, combined with stealth, concentration and inborn cunning, will take you some way towards success – then that is how it should be.
Fishing these upland streams takes some blood and sweat and those that go there, really want to be there – take it from me you are unlikely to return home without a few cuts and scrapes to show for the effort. It is being in secret places seldom fished before, the challenges presented by the clear mountain water and shy wild trout, that is the draw. It is also the unselfish sharing of this water with like-minded companions and the whole wilderness experience that is the magic.
I know now that I am a “small stream fly angling nut case”. I also know that I’m not alone for I have companions who would, given half a chance, relocate with me into the wilderness permanently especially where there are small mountain streams and just the faintest sniff of wild trout.