I have often come across youngsters from the nearby rural settlements fishing as best they can with pretty rudimentary tackle. On occasions I have stood and watched for awhile – with the deftness of an Olympic hammer thrower, they twirled and flung their hook with no concern for stealth or delicate presentation, upstream, downstream, across-stream, midstream, strip-drift-strip. Each cast with its sinker of rolled wire, landed like a smart bomb over its target. They used hand-lines of heavy nylon wound onto a stick and with hooks better suited to tiger fishing in the Zambezi, than small trout in tiny streams. Their bait, any unsuspecting insect or wormy creature that crossed their path. Their success was about as likely as winning the lottery, except for one occasion when a youngster proudly showed me his catch, a brown trout of about 2 1/2 pounds.
Whenever they asked to see our flies they were wide-eyed and clearly not convinced. The thinness of the tippets were met with the exclamation, “eish!”, meaning more or less in this case, ‘what the hell’. The limit of their fishing was never beyond the boundary between the tribal land and the protected Wilderness Reserve.
Then, a couple of years ago, I came across a man from the rural community fishing nearly three hours upstream from the nearest settlement. My initial reaction was annoyance and resentment. Here was a ‘poacher’ in a proclaimed World Heritage Site, fishing waters that I had paid my dues for just to be able to follow my passion for hunting wild trout.
Eventually something inside of me said, ‘go and talk to him’. With our respective language barriers we struck up an awkward conversation that necessitated a lot of hand gesticulation. It worked and I eventually established that he was fishing for a meal for his family – out of the tattered canvas shoulder bag he produced a single small 10 inch rainbow with the comment in isiZulu, “things are hard”. Understanding his situation, plucked at my heart-strings.
We shared a long run, me with my Sage 1wt and a #16 CdC and Elk and he with a hand line and three flying ants threaded onto a #6 or bigger hook. He caught naught, I got 5 – I gave them to him together with the leftovers of my lunch – it felt like the right thing to do. He received the fish, energy bar, cheese and biscuits, in traditional fashion with cupped hands and a simple meaningful comment, ‘siyabonga’ , thank you. His wide farewell smile said it all as he left on his long walk home – he bid me, ‘sala kahle’, stay well. I responded ‘hamba kahle’, go well. It left me with a good feeling and there were still at least, another 10 trout in the run.
Note to myself …….. Don’t be too quick to judge without taking the time to find out the other persons circumstances, be understanding, tolerant and accepting – kindness doesn’t hurt. So it is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.
The fact is, none of us truly wins, until we all win.