The Reekie Lynn Trilogy:   Part One ~ Do NOT Read This, By Order

We all have that one stream that we somehow don’t ever get to fish.


I’m not talking about a river in some far-flung destination either. I’m talking about that right on your doorstep piece of water that you could easily dip your shins into on any other Sunday. 


You know the one. It the one that we talk about over beer or coffee in pubs and tackle shops. We unashamedly and mercilessly probe those who have fished it for information on its finer points until we start to form an almost photographic mental picture of it. We shake our heads determinedly and commit ourselves to getting there “before the season is out” or “definitely next season” – we just never seem to get to actually casting a fly up it. 

My such water is a stretch of the Mooi called Reekie Lynn. 


Now it may come as a surprise but unlike some other “I’m definitely getting up there next season” rivers I’ve actually been there and stood on its banks many times. Circumstances have simply dictated that I’ve just never been able to actually fish it. 


One or more of the eyebrows on one or more of the faces on one or more of the members of the Natal Fly Fishing Club (under whose control it falls) will have immediately knotted, unknotted, raised and knotted again on reading and understanding the implications of my recent statement.  


“Hold the bus”, they’ll ask, “what, exactly, do you mean by “many times“?”. [How, exactly, do I punctuate that?]


Yes, yes, I’ve been a member of the club for only a few months and have booked it only three times over that period. “Three isn’t ‘many‘”, they’ll be thinking, and I would be the last person to argue with their logic. 


They’re a fine bunch of lads, those fellows from the club, and as friends I’ve come to value them highly. The trouble is that as a direct result of narrow social conditioning their pondering the definition of ‘many‘, insofar as it relates to my visitation of ‘their‘ waters is far too myopic. 


What they should be thinking is that it’s about time to put a substantially better lock on that gate. 


Steady on now lads, steady on. Remember that other bit of social conditioning imploring you to “forgive those who who trespass against us”.  


In fairness to them, they did make the mistake of erecting a sign on the gate. I just love the signs that people hang on fences. They are rich with hidden meaning and subliminal messaging. 

In the interest of further adult education let me decode some of these messages for you. 

  • Private waters – no fishing : There’s some primo fishing to be had if you jump the fence. 
  • Club members only : There’s some primo fishing to be had if you jump the fence. 
  • No fishing without valid permit : There’s some primo fishing to be had if you jump the fence. 
  • BY ORDER : Jump the fence. I fucking dare you. 

That very barely subliminal dare contained in the phrase ‘by order’ is my all-time favorite. Ever met an angler who wasn’t up for a dare? Me neither. How have you ever seen “you’ll never drink that” play out?

Signs are a complete waste of time. In fact, they’re worse than a waste of time. You couldn’t do better if you actually advertised the beat by having illuminated directional signage for five kilometers leading up to it. 

It’s all basic psychology and is evidenced in all of human nature. If you advertised tackle by saying “this rod is way too good for someone like you” at least three of your competitors would go out of business in a week. You think I’m talking nonsense? Ok. Make a sign that reads “wet paint”. Stand back and watch. 

Many years ago myself and a friend were bobbing behind the breakers at Second Beach, Port Saint Johns in between sets. Henry turns to me and says “we should have a throw later – this time last year in these exact conditions I caught a beast of black-tip right here in this spot.” 


 Anyhow, a few minutes later we were back on the beach and an entirely topless and exquisitely endowed Dutch tourist came over to ask if we could break a twenty so that she could by a trinket from a friendly vendor. (By trinket I mean Lusiki Poison – have you never been to Port Saint Johns?)

So I’m reclining in the sand with my towel over my lap and she’s leaning over Henry in a kind of pendulous way and he’s scratching around in his wallet for coins while looking directly at her titties – in exactly the same way as I look at the river beyond your sign.

If the penny hasn’t dropped in all matters signage related by now I’m sorry but I can’t make it any clearer. 

I don’t encourage law breaking; let me be unequivocal on that. I just don’t necessarily discourage it. I think that you need to filter these millions of ‘rules’ that supposedly exist (none of them actually do) through your own personal belief system and do what comes naturally to you. When you gate off my birthright I’m going to jump your gate. 

You could shoot me for breaking the rules if you wanted to. But I know you aren’t going to shoot me. You see, that’s against the rules. (That slightly dull and disorientated feeling that you’re currently experiencing is nothing to be concerned about. It’s called cognitive dissonance and is hardly ever fatal).

When I get all emotional about it I rely on the words of Jim Morrison who probably summed it up best for me when he sang:

What have they done to the earth, 

What have they done to our fair sister?

Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her

Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn

Tied her with fences and dragged her down

I admit, I have no idea how the hell you’d stick a knife into the side of the dawn but (setting the obviously personally uncomfortable reference to plunder aside) the whole “tied her with fences” is a serious matter in my personal philosophy. I don’t necessarily go about untying fences or disregarding signs, but I see them for what they are.

In the interest of moving this thing along let’s just settle on a common understanding that I may have been to this stretch of the river outside of the times recorded on my booking history. All property is theft. What you don’t know can’t hurt you. Let bygones be bygones. Let go or be dragged. Philosophy is a complex thing. Ignorance looks at a distance to be zen. Be zen. 

I didn’t intentionally come here today to talk about jurisprudence, philosophy, human behavior, marketing, swinging European breasts, locksmithing, murder or sign writing. I came to tell you about how I came to be a legal holder of a day ticket to fish Reekie Lynn and how it played out. 

As I was saying before I drifted off (oh look, a squirrel), I’ve been there many times before. 
Twice I sort of had to turn around sort of quickly because there were sort of other people on the water. Five times it more slick and brown than the strip of road just before the bridge at Riverside after the local herd of shit factories masquerading as dairy cattle have dropped their singular brand of fetid waste onto the already somewhat dodgy surface. (Why the hell these things can’t crap in a pasture I can never understand. “Hold it in Ethel, hold it in, we’re almost on the road.“). Twice I’ve been there when the water was so low that the stream bed looked like the excavation of some Neolithic civilization – the long buried rocks of its foundations bared once more to the skies.  

I’m trying to say that whenever I’ve been there the water was too high or too low. 

I’ve got time to kill. 

Bear with me. 

to be continued…

The Longest Winter

Your iPod shuffles on to some Springsteen. You don’t mind this at all as it’s settled on a favourite classic. 

“You waste your summers praying in vain for a saviour to rise from these streets.”

It doesn’t exactly fit what you’ve been thinking about, but its close enough to have made a connection.

The winter was a long one. Every winter is long as you wait for the river season to reopen. It sounds trite and forced when you see it on the page, but it’s true and you force down the urge to delete the line. You think to yourself that as you’ve grown a little older (you want to think that you’ve matured, but you know that it’s a lie) you’d have learned some patience. Sadly this isn’t true and the wait for the season is still as unbearably long as it always was. You want to use the kid on Christmas Eve metaphor, but that would be forcing it.

This winter was the longest one in your memory. You wonder why that would be and settle precariously onto the conclusion that it is because the previous summer was such a great one. Last season you spent a lot of time on the water. You felt more at ease than you ever have and while your fish count didn’t necessarily rise – you’ve never counted them or maintained a diary so this is a guess – it just felt right. 

Your last outing of the season was in its last week and while the conditions were not perfect you raised a few fish and enjoyed yourself more than you have in many years. Coincidentally you fished it with a local guide. This was the first time in your life that you fished a river seriously in the company of a like-minded adult. That the guide moved on to becoming a friend has left you feeling that perhaps there is something to be said for the company of other people. But you don’t want to overthink it and accept the feeling superficially. 

When you cleaned your lines and serviced your reels at the end of the season it was with a feeling of deep contentment. Contentment. It’s not a feeling that you experience very often and you are not quite sure how to come to terms with it. You remind yourself again that that there is no requirement to come to terms with it and you choose to look at it without prejudice; as though you’re staring at it through a window of ambivalence. 

During the late season and throughout winter you are dragged into participation on social media forums. To your surprise you enjoy this. You become quite active on them. It’s probably not a great thing, but it’s not a bad thing either so you just do what is natural to you. 

You write a bit – or rather you publish what you’ve already written – and it’s mostly met with approval. It results in some people thinking that you know more than you really do so you try not to take yourself seriously and you hope that it catches on.

Bending a few landing nets from exotic timber also catches a modest amount of attention. Your mother and wife are proud of you and you have to admit that you’re a little proud of yourself too. For a fleeting moment you imagine that you could make a living from all of this but you’re a very conservative thinker and laugh off the idea almost as soon as it crystallises in your mind.

You meet some well-known anglers and socialise and correspond with them. You find this quite daunting and very fulfilling. Two in particular are very supportive and you’re not too sure sometimes whether to thank them or chastise them for egging you from out of your cocoon. The jury is out on this so you let it go and stare at it through that window that you’re starting to gaze out of a lot lately. 

 You’ve fished a few stillwaters with one of these friends and enjoyed it. At various times you’ve discussed fishing a stream with the other but you’re not sure that your anxiety will allow you to – streams are special places to you and to let yourself down on one in the company of people that you like and respect would be something that you’re not too certain that you could recover from.

All of this gets you through the winter. You’re alternatively writing, crafting or raising hell on social media. When you’re not doing these things you’re talking about them. Winter snowfalls are above recent averages and you’re gearing up for what may be a stellar river season.
As the last weeks of winter draw to a close any reasonable snowfall stops.

 You get nervous as the spring rains don’t come as they should. Spring rainfall has been erratic over recent years and you start a daily countdown on social media in the two weeks leading to the opening of the season in spring. You joke about prayer and rain dances and cloud seeding but it’s clear that this season will again start late.

After a small smattering of early spring rain you venture onto a stream. The first time is with a new friend. It’s a desperately cold and blustery day and you see one fish rise all day and raise none. On the drive home you cross the bridge adjacent to what you refer to as ‘poachers pool’ and two good fish are rising where they always are. You are caught red-handed by the land owner while casting to them, but it turns out to be a good meeting. He doesn’t shoot or assault you and you’re pretty incredulous at how you seem to get away with that so often. He even invites you back – but you’re not sure whether it will be as much fun without the added pressure of avoiding long range rifle shots.

The second outing finds you more or less guiding a more or less stranger. When he starts paying attention to what you’re telling him you put him onto his first wild brown. You don’t fish much that day but you take a couple of fish with one of them being bigger than average. The water levels are really low but are fishable (you’re borderline but don’t think that you’re hurting the fish). You post online some hopefully sage sounding wisdom that October will be the month. Maybe late October; but you have faith.

October comes and goes and you haven’t cast a line. The same applies to November and the words of this article occur to you on the first of December – it is now summer and ground temperatures are rising steadily. You see a few pictures posted of fish recently caught and thoughts of mortality rates in warm, thin water come to mind. You want to grab a rod and scout around but you know that you may not be able to stand what you might see. You stay at home and bend even more nets and read and write and sketch like a madman. It’s a lot like jogging on the spot. A lot of furious effort that gets you no further from where you started out.

They come and go, these cycles, you assure yourself. But this time you’re not too sure. You’ve been close enough to the land to understand that our hands are changing it irrevocably – you see it and feel it deeply. Like stalling a car on a railroad crossing you’re waiting for the season where it all goes to hell and stays that way. 

 You don’t leave the tap running while you brush your teeth and can’t remember when last you backwashed the pool. You tell yourself that soon we will have thunderstorms to provide flow and oxygen but you also shudder at the thought of the damage that they are going to cause as they run down dusty hillsides. Images of brown streams and cancerous erosion flood your mind.

You find yourself starting to wish that it was still winter.