I left early to meet Andrew Fowler who was spending a week at the Reekie Lynn cottage in the Kamberg. He had invited me to join him on a stretch of a nearby river some have named “Zipper Mouth Creek”. I understand why because here the stream is small and won’t take a lot of fishing pressure. I’m reminded of the words of Tom Sutcliffe when he said, “I share these places with you in the certain knowledge that if, by chance you happen to go there, you will treat them as sacred, as venues that will need all our efforts, all our finest ethics to keep them unspoiled.”
It was a misty drive up from Westville, the air was crisp with frost in places and the remnants of the last winter snowfall here and there on the high Berg. Andrew was waiting and after a welcome cup of coffee we took a short drive up the valley and parked the truck at the old hatchery – the nature reserve is a place that holds many happy memories for me – family holidays and introducing my children to the sport that has played such an important part in my life.
It was just under an hour uphill hike along an old jeep track to the fabled oak tree that those that go there, know so well.
It is a lovely small freestone stream – unusual sandstone boulders, pale in colour and somewhat similar to those that litter the Western Cape streams, unlike to the greys of the granite rocks found in Berg streams to the north. Tucked away in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains it has an infectious charm about it as do the wild brown trout that live there. Water levels were still lower than ideal, but cold and gin clear with pools, riffles, pockets, plunges and promising looking deeper slots. Andrew took the first pool, I leap-frogged and crept up to the next knee deep run and watched for signs of fish, nothing. I stepped into the tail and felt the steady surge of the current against my legs, it felt alive. It’s the focus that a stream brings as you unravel the current and find holding water. The chill spreads into my boots, I pause momentarily, then at the head a flash just below the surface. A short cast and I drop the size 16 Para RAB on the edge of the bubble line, the current carries it back towards me, another flash of colour, a short strike and I miss it. Three casts later I finally get a solid take, a dash for freedom and a couple of aerial displays and the brownie lies vividly alive and cold in my hand – wild, buttery brown and spotted. I take a moment to marvel at its beauty and return him to the stream, he holds briefly and then with a flick of his tail he’s gone into the fluid envelope, a dappled world – I feel that joy of the first fish.
This was the pattern for the next 6 or so hours on the stream, some trout turned short others we pricked to sulk for another day and then there were the handful Andrew and I each brought to hand and released again – they were small, but that is what we expected. As pretty as you will find anywhere and never shy of a testing our fine tippets. We covered probably between 2 and 3 km until we reached a split – here it is gets even smaller, narrow enough to step across in places. We took the north fork for another 700 odd meters until the valley narrowed, the gradient increased considerably and the stream, a jumble of huge boulders became hemmed in on both sides – here the trout’s range is bounded by falls and long ribbons of falling water.
It was a good day, the company and the fishing. We ended with, certainly in my case, an increment of energy for the walk back. At the cottage Andrew and I shared a glass of Cameron Brig to celebrate the days fishing and to share a few piscatorial thoughts. I took a slow drive home enjoying the soft late afternoon light and lengthening shadows across the picturesque pastoral landscape of the KZN Midlands – home by 7.45 pm – with tired aching muscles I collapsed into bed leaving the unpacking for the next morning.
Thank you for sharing Andrew – we must do it again.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2016. All rights reserved