There is something about exploring water you have known about, but for one or other reason have never managed to get there. When you do there is a sense of excitement, anticipation, promise – like the edgy feeling of flirtation with the pretty brown-eyed girl that has just moved into the neighbourhood – the romance lies in the unknown.
I was up at 4 am after a restless sleep. I picked up Craig in Hillcrest and then Jan in Notties. We headed west towards the now faint, sun-touched outline of the Drakensberg escarpment. By 7.30am done with coffee and breakfast sandwiches, packs shouldered and rods strung, we took the contour path high above the stream that we had fished many times before, a grey ribbon winding its way along the valley floor – there was a chill in the air, the mountain grasses already cloaked in winters shades of brown. Higher in the valley the remaining patches of mist lifted slowly, the suns weak morning rays lit up the tightening valley in the distance – our destination.
From the hikers path we scrambled down a grassy slope among boulders the size of your average double garage – the narrow gorge below us still in shadow, the stream a cold 11 degrees C and low – mysterious, like an illusion leaving behind the civilized water with named pools and well worn paths. The brown trout are scarce, skittish, liquid, transparent and showed no interest in our attempts at fooling them– perhaps it’s the skinny, clear water, maybe it was us looming large and strange over them. This is a high-country small stream with pocket water and lots of it, bedrock, deep slots and shadowy undercuts beneath overhanging brush – appropriately mystical, a perfect trout habit. It suggests wild and untouched, fragile – too far into the backcountry for the lazy or fainthearted – not always the case, but a nice thought.
The season is at its end and the browns will soon if not already be in their sideways shuffle over the redds. We will go back when the rains come, when the stream flows quick and strong again and the trout, hopefully, more receptive to delicate presentations and imitations fashioned in fur and feather with a hidden sting.
Back home, tired, I felt a little old, sore knees, scratched and bruised, my physical edge dulled, but then there it was, an email from the publishers, “We have pleasure in advising you that we have accepted your book proposal and agree to publish, “South African Flies – An Anthology of Milestone Patterns”. Elated but honestly bushed, I slept well on the comforting wings of egotism, telling myself that I have an aptitude for rugged backcountry exploration and the odd piece of writing – a red-letter day Thursday 19 May 2016 shared with my son Craig and that good man, Jan Korrubel.