APOLOGIES – It has been a while and the old photographs have long disappeared and until I unearth them, if I can, here is the story from the archives …….
TODAY we have a wide range of magnificent thoroughbred SUVs, 4x4s, double cabs and-state-of-the-art offroad vehicles to choose from. They come turbo-charged in special paint finishes, with onboard computers and GPS, standard chrome bullbars and leather finishes, as well as knobs, buttons, lights and dials that wouldn’t be out of place in the cockpit of a fighter jet. They also come with a price tag that is sure to dent the bank balances of even the more affluent amongst us. They do have the credentials to perform off-road, but for the most part I would hesitate to do so and run the risk of adding scratches and dents or even losing a chrome side-mirror to the obstacles along our backroads or in the veld.
Some of these vehicles are used for little more than confirming status, for private school lift clubs and parking under the porte-cochere of the family mansion. But before I am lynched, let me say that I own a very nice double-cab (aka the rescue vehicle for Land Rovers!) and it suits my particular lifestyle. I have even had her referred to as a “wimp wagon” by a well-known personality in the flyfishing fraternity. I say “her” because for some inexplicable reason all vehicles seem to be of the female gender.
Those double-cab owners who have visited his beautiful lake will probably know who I’m referring to. However, he has a point. By comparison to bakkies that work hard seven days a week, mine has a short freeway excursion twice a day with the odd weekend outing into the country. She looks the part but seldom gets to show her real muscle.
Then there are the “fishing trucks” — the ones where it doesn’t matter much if the paintwork is scratched, the side-mirror is taped up to hold it in place and the remains of the insects in the radiator grill are almost fossilised. In fact, this adds to her character and, more than likely, is a reminder of a particular outing that tales are made of.
I have a buddy MK, whose fishing truck is affectionately called “Dolly”. No one can tell you how the name came about, but I suspect she may have been a long lost girlfriend from his misspent youth. It’s a 2.4 diesel, single-cab, off-white (although it may have been white originally), and is fitted with a canopy over the bin. Apart from packing space — and boy, do we flyfishers need it — it has been used for sheltering from the rain, sleeping in, laying out the lunch, and more. The tailgate has even been used as a fly-tying bench on occasions. There is no power-steering or airconditioning — if you are hot, open a window; if you are cold, close it; if the windscreen mists up, open the window; if it’s raining, close it. It is not a 4×4, but has diff-lock and goes most places.
Dolly has a radio/tape system, but the tape has long been out of order. Reminders of better days are the dusty Beatles and Cat Stevens tapes in the cubby-hole. There are the usual speedometer, temperature and fuel gauges, and a few basic push-pull-n-twist knobs and levers for lights, air vents and windscreen wipers. If anything stops working, it can usually be fixed by reattaching the wire that came loose while travelling over the corrugations or by replacing a fuse. There are no mag rims or fat takkies, but she does have good clearance.
Since retirement from her regular job, Dolly doesn’t get to go out everyday, but when she does it is always a special occasion. The outing inevitably starts before dawn and almost always finishes long after dark. In most instances these outings are connected with fishing.
Dolly never fails to splutter and belch a cloud of black smoke on start up, but that soon settles as she warms up and the distinctive diesel motor ticks over. Once on the road, except for infrequent overtaking manoeuvres, she moves at a leisurely pace, seldom exceeding 110km per hour, except with the aid of a tailwind and on a downhill..
She has more than a few squeaks and rattles which are distinctly out of place on the freeways, but turn into more harmonious expletives as she negotiates her way along the rough backroads and through the bush. There is never a chance of falling asleep at the wheel because her ride is hard and every bump is felt through the seat of your pants.
It is not the done thing to ask a lady her age, but at a guess she must be all of 15 years old with some 27 000km on the clock, and I’m assured this is the third time around! If only she could talk she would probably reveal the truth about the many fishing stories that have been told and re-told in the confines of her cab.
By now you will be saying “that sounds like any number of old bakkies around”, and you are probably right. However, what separates her from most others is what you find inside. At last inspection there was a good selection of flies stuck into the dusty vinyl dashboard above the speedometer. There are also spools of tippet — some empty others, half-full — tubs of flotant, bits of bright yarn (I presume for strike indicators) and a few old Flyfishing magazines. There’s even a dog-eared copy of Tom Sutcliffe’s book My Way with a Trout in the cubby-hole, together with a whole lot of other stuff.
I always find the wad of hand-drawn maps and directions to fishing spots interesting. Some are to well-known lakes, others to never-before-fished farm ponds and private river beats. It’s a veritable Pandora’s box, and searching its cavernous depths is much as I would imagine an archaeological dig to be.
Most of what you will find is useful in a fishing sense, except for the odd item like the old cricket ball signed by some cricketer of the past whose name is now too faded to decipher. Even MK is not sure how the cricket ball got there or why, just as he denies any knowledge of the 1993 girlie magazine that can be found lying around somewhere in the cab.
Going fishing in Dolly, for some reason, feels special, a feeling of adventure. It has nothing to do with performance or looks, but rather a romantic notion of the places she has visited, the wrong turnings taken and where she may be going next.
A trip like this usually starts with a phone call from MK the day before which, in his inimitable, no-nonsense style goes something like this: “Hi, Dolly and I are going fishing tomorrow, you wanna come?” My reply is mostly in the affirmative, to which MK’s stock response is “Pick you up at five — and don’t forget the coffee”. Trip organised!
It’s as if Dolly is one of the party of three — a kind of personal and affectionate relationship kindled through shared experiences on the many trips into the Midlands and Southern Berg. And, for some inexplicable reason, but maybe it’s just a figment of my imagination, I always seem to catch more and better fish on these outings. I would like to add to the many mysteries of trout fishing by suggesting that perhaps on our arrival at the water’s edge, the vibrations of the diesel motor or the distinctive fumes are some unlikely attractant. However, in reality I lean rather towards something less obscure, like one’s state of mind.
As with confidence, I’m convinced that arriving at your fishing destination in the right frame of mind does help. With MK and Dolly I have this association of pleasant thoughts and recollections of a piscatorial nature that have a positive influence on my frame of mind. In other words, I’m into the programme long before we reach our destination, and that’s good. I’m focused and fish the best I can, so maybe it’s not just a figment of my imagination after all!
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2015. All rights reserved