Two Days in the Mountains 


How do you photoshop a golfer out of the frame?

I took a colleague up to Underberg for two days to introduce him to fly fishing. I very, very rarely fish with company, am self taught and don’t really know how to instruct someone else. I fish in a sort of a intuitive way, whatever that means, and I get quite stressed out when in company. 

I often wonder whether being self taught at anything is a beneficial or holds you back from succes and fulfillment. I know that it provides for a very slow and gradual learning curve whereas being instructed perhaps gets you up a steeper learning curve faster. I’d like to believe that when you are self taught at anything your mistakes and frustrations finally result in a deeper understanding of what you’re doing. Or, put another way, when you are instructed you are risk of repeating a narrow set of instructions without every really testing them and when a situation arises that falls outside of what you have been taught you are unable to react to it. Certainly I read a lot and try to broaden my knowledge on the subject (some days I hit streams where the trout have clearly not read the same books as I have). But I digress, back to the subject at hand. 

I decided to spend the first day on a lake as it makes it easier to teach the fundamentals of casting and tackle. I chose Drankensberg Gardens not because it’s a fantastic lake but it’s well stocked, very accessible, is free of obstacles, is exceptionally pretty and is close to a pub and restaurant. I have timeshare there and have come to quite like this little piece of water when a few hours of low impact, low stress fishing is needed. There are also some remarkably big fish in the dam if you know where to look. 

On arrival we saw some fish cruising the shallows and very early on I dropped a nice one when it took a very small nymph I had suspended below a dry off a drop off. I was so intent on watching the beauty of the fish as it slowly finned by that I completely missed the take. Cricketers call it ball watching.  Fish fed on emergers consistently through the day but dealing with a novice who was churning the water into a froth is never going to result in a lot of fish. 

The wind picked up very briefly in the middle of the afternoon and with my mate’s casting slightly improving and the cover afforded by a choppy surface I caught a reasonable fish and he dropped a very good fish. 


Flip Flop Fishing & a surprisingly hard fighting fish

With the barman at the golf club bringing cold beers at regular intervals and fantastic  burgers served on the waters edge it was an unusual and not unpleasant afternoon’s outing. Having golfers (what a stupid sport) intermittently shanking golf balls passed your head is a bit off putting but it’s no worse than that dam in Notties that features a rifle range extending from the dam wall to the feeder stream and where large caliber rifle rounds crack 3m above your head while you stalk fish. 

As the sun began to set we headed up into shallow reeded areas. I waded out to a bit more than waste deep and tied on a hare’s ear emerger that I tied up the day before. I couldn’t see the fly as the sun sank below the mountains but when I thought I saw my leader advancing very slightly in the surface film I instinctively tightened up and, as it turned out, set the size 18 hook into a seriously good fish.

What a fight. It tail walked a few times, jumped several times and generally tried its best to convince me I’d hooked a sailfish.  I was fishing my three weight rod with a very long 5X tippet so my chances of landing it were always going to be meager. The thing made the drag on my reel scream that wonderful tortured scream it emits when into a very good fish several times as the fish ran across the lake. At times I was holding the rod up and back to cushion the leader and while the grip was pointing up and behind my head the tip was in the water. This is honestly the first fish in years that made the muscles in my arms hurt (just a little bit, but I’ll take it). 

I got it really close to me and I got a good look at it. It was comfortably 70cm. Trust me, I’m a quantity surveyor. Inevitably, with the leader within the rod’s eyes, the tippet gave and the fish disappeared in a swirl of relief and cursing. I could almost not breath from the adrenaline; I did everything right but a tippet that light will never stand up to having a fish repeatedly roll onto it. 

At that time my partner (remember him?) had dropped another fish and it was time to head out. 

The next morning we headed to Cobham to fish the Pholela. It’s not an easy river and with the air pressure falling fast in the face of an oncoming front, crystal clear conditionals and a gentle flow it was always going to be a bastard. 


Fishing up from the pool on the reserve’s lower boundary


A very good lie just behind that boulder


At 2.5m deep & with a rippled surface you can see the pebbles on the stream bed

At 11:30 having spooked the only fish we saw we headed home. My earstwhile companion had lost interest and his concentration was low. Try as I might I could not get him to focus on his back cast and he was dumping his cast onto the surface; a presentation like a half brick. 

And so we headed for home.  

I’ve just read my messages to find out that another colleague who was fishing the Mzimkhulu on the same day landed 12 fish with a few tipping the scale over 2 pounds. I picked the wrong river. I knew I did, the bigger water would have been far more productive, but I just love a small stream. They don’t get much lovlier than the Pholela. 

Eland above the reed line


2 responses to “Two Days in the Mountains 

  1. The truth of it! I also like the Polela, but have been beaten twice in a row and spooked maybe now I read you blog, the only trout in the stream. I will go back though to try again, but also because I love the stream and somehow the promise of a better day.

    • It’s what keeps us going back. I’ve caught a few there before, but it’s very slim pickings. They seem very keen to take the dry and that always makes me happy. I was up there late last season and the fish were in full spawning mode with dark cock fish harassing hens in the deeper pools. Let me tell you, they were large fish; some around 18-20 inches. I wish I knew where they go in the season because I’ve never caught anything bigger than 10 inches there. It’s one of those rivers though where the beauty of the place brings you back. I did spook a young couple doing the funky monkey on the river bank once – clearly deep into spawning season – but that’s a different story for a different day.

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