"ON THE LINE" - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - ILAN LAX
Late November and early December has been storm-ridden in our part of world. Hectic lightning and thunder and huge hail (some as big as tennis balls) have wrought havoc with homes and vehicles. Being caught out in the open during one of these tempests could have seriously tragic consequences. A few years ago, one such storm damaged our roof (then made of Marseilles tiles) so badly it had to be completely replaced. We chose metal sheeting which thankfully survived this latest onslaught. I was most grateful to have paid my home insurance. I remain so aware of the losses so many people worse off than us, suffer at these times.
In my previous Tippet editorial, I spoke about the important bond we as flyfishers have with aquaculture. It is thus with a heavy heart that I must tell you about the passing of a true gentleman who selflessly led the trout value chain and aquaculture. Gerrie van der Merwe was a real mensch - a Yiddish word that implies the rarity and value of that person's qualities; what Ian Cox calls a vir bonus - the Roman concept of "a good man" or in the more contemporary and less sexist context "person" - he managed to build alliances and friendships across the length and breadth of our fair land. Oom Gerrie was respected by everyone he came into contact with. His passing leaves all of us poorer and the best we can do, is try to follow the wise, committed and caring example he set.
FOSAF's court application relating to the then incumbent Minister's failure to provide sufficient information to allow for meaningful representations and objections to the 2018 draft NEMBA AIS regulations and lists has still to be heard in court. Although we secured a court date for October, the legal teams requested that the case be adjourned to new dates. These will be confirmed early in 2021. Your continued support for our efforts is highly appreciated and we will let you know once dates are confirmed.
Since our last Tippet, the new Minister has published new NEMBA AIS Lists and Regulations. Trout are listed as invasive and various restricted activities essential to the value chain, now require permits. Not only were we taken by surprise at this step by the Minister, but the publication of these notices takes place against the backdrop that our other case is soon to be heard in court and if the consultation process is found wanting, the product of that process must surely be tainted. The notices have a serious flaw in that they make no provision for any transitional arrangements whatsoever. In addition, the notices do not give effect to the Phakisa principles agreed in 2014 and which informed the costly and time-consuming mapping process that we and other stakeholders engaged in with the Department.
As a consequence, an urgent court interdict was brought against the Minister. However, after interventions from Aquaculture SA, the case was settled on the basis that FOSAF would withdraw the interdict, but that the Minister would extend the coming into effect of the 2020 notices, so that discussions could take place on how best to give effect to the 2014 agreed Phakisa principles and mapping process.
The Minister has set up a task team to engage in the discussion process. This is proceeding well. Some possible options have been put forward for consideration by the parties and we hope to be able to report progress as soon as possible.
One of the positive outcomes brought about by these precipitous developments has been the support we have received for our position in wanting to get the case heard and the Phakisa agreements implemented. We are grateful to SACRAA for its support of the principles and the fact that it agrees that the 2020 NEMBA AIS lists and regulations should remain suspended, pending the outcome of the case on the key content of what constitutes informed consultation. This is an extremely important development of solidarity for FOSAF's approach and commitment to holding the Department (and government) to good governance principles.
The draft: "National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy has been tabled before NEDLAC for discussion in that forum. The revised draft version submitted to NEDLAC has been made available for public scrutiny. FOSAF has made provisional comment and we have requested additional inputs from our supporters in order to make a further submission. Please contact the regional committees (see the website) if you'd like to contribute to this process.
Turning to internal matters, for some years now we have been trying to find ways to make it easier for you to support FOSAF. With this in mind we have recently discussed and agreed to add a stop order option for contributions and membership. Details will be circulated shortly on how this simple and practical option can be used to facilitate your support of our many causes and activities. Please check the website for details: www.fosaf.org.za.
If you do encounter any hiccoughs in using the new options, please don't hesitate to contact our secretariat Bronwyn Konigkramer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some Club members did not receive prior correspondence because Bronwyn's laptop was stolen and not all details had been backed up. We apologise for this and will endeavour to ensure we do better in the future.
One good consequence of the summer storms is that they provide much needed rain for the drought affected areas. South Africa is a drought prone country. This is something we tend to forget. Some areas have still to receive sufficient rains to break the drought conditions and regenerate their waters. This rain is essential for all the people and other beings living under these difficult conditions, who rely on this for their livelihoods and survival. We hope that the cycle turns soon and that the summer fishing will be something to remember positively.
Yours on the line,
Short stories by Peter Brigg
When Ilan called me recently to ask if I'd write an article for the newsletter, amongst other things, we chatted about recent experiences we'd both had fishing alone and loosing what was potentially a once in a lifetime fish or at least a personal best. I thought of making it and the stories likely to emanate from it, the subject of the article, but opted rather for three short pieces that have in part relevance to our conversation - things that most flyfishers will able to associate with.
Do I fish alone? - Yes, occasionally.
Because every so often I have a sudden urge to get away from the pressing sensory overload of the city - too many cars and people, cramped space, loud noise, daily chores, routines, the rush and bustle - I find fishing alone cathartic, energising, soulfully refreshing There is something I find appealing about the quiet and solitude.
I don't know how often I have done it. I'd be guessing because the passage of time has kind of gotten ahead of me and my perception of it. But, there have been many outings, day trips to home waters and when I was younger and believed I was invincible, I made a few overnight excursions into the headwaters of the Drakensberg streams - not the wisest thing I've ever done. Wandering around in wilderness alone takes good-judgement and clear-headedness rather than machismo. Fortunately I'm here to tell the story. Even day trips alone can be risky, a bad fall, fractured limb, concussion, snake bite and more. Why do I mention these? - because they relate to personal experience, close calls I have had - they do make for storytelling. A little wiser now I now make sure someone knows my plans for the day. If I'm in the Drakensberg reserve areas, I fill out the mountain register. If I don't make it back home when expected, they know where to start looking ..... more or less.
Solitary excursions are also an opportunity to reflect on the profound observations, insights and ideas that we are inclined to make when we have time to think and whether there is any truth to them. On the other hand it could simply be a symptom of spending too much time talking to myself.
When last did I fish alone? - It was my final outing in the past season to a seldom visited tributary of a popular Brown trout stream. It was a blue sky day and other than a stop for a doggy take-away coffee and the need for pothole dodging concentration, it was an uneventful drive up to the Berg.
I was in no hurry, why should I be? It was just me, the sights, sound and the mountains, trout and the stream. Tackled up I made my way up the tributary along a faint trail. It petered out after a hundred meters or so. From there I made my way using the path of least resistance. The stream is tiny, bushed in, the water clear and flowing quickly. For two hours as I worked my way upstream, I spooked as many pools as I changed flies, the trout were skittish, the slightest wrong move and they were gone. I rose a few, but didn't connect, they were all small. By mid-morning it was getting hot so I found a shady spot to have my lunch over-looking a decent pool. There were signs of small smokey dun coloured mayflies hatching, probably baetis. The liquid shadows of the small trout as they fed on the emergers, gave them away, lined up on the edge of the current. There was a decent fish, maybe even 14 inches in the knee deep slot below a large boulder at the head of the pool.
Lunch over I scrambled downstream to below the pool and then slowly worked my way back up into position for a cast. I half crept, settled on my knees and made a low sidearm cast. The Adams with its lightly weighted size 18 PTN dropper landed off the edge of the current seam, not where I wanted it. But, I let it drift, the Adams hesitated, I lifted and felt resistance and he was there. I'm not sure who was the most surprised by the tight line between us. A lovely brown, short of 14 inches, but a monster for this water. A quick photo, the best I could do without help - a flick of the tail and he melted back into the shadows below the main current and was gone, a fleeting moment.
It was an unhurried, fulfilling days' fishing - alone on a small stream as pretty as you will find anywhere. Next time it will be with friends.
The sandstone rim across the stream cuts a dark edge against the silver sky. I crawl out of my sleeping bag to start the coffee water. I pad barefoot to the camp kitchen against the big boulder. Kneeling, I pump the stove, it splutters into life, I grind fresh coffee as the sun transmutes the dark rim to a warm glow. The noise of a zipper from the other tent undoing the stillness of the morning as a dishevelled, bleary-eyed apparition emerges. A reminder of a long night of storytelling and too many whiskeys.
Chores in hand I hobble bare foot down the rough path to the stream. Across the stream, pink light unfurls above the haze of trees, ancient roots curl from the undercut bank and drift on the purling water. I splash my face with the icy water, good morning, morning.
My companions join me, three of us lined up as motionless and attentive as herons along a fish whispering riffle - morning flowing through us - numb feet, an ear full of bird chatter, the breath of trees and the smell of toothpaste. I head back to the camp. Bunched in a pool of filtered sunshine through the forest canopy, my companions hold out their cups, smiling. On this third morning in wilderness, we seemed to have arrived.
A new day, new stories to make.
I have always chosen my companions carefully, sage advice from an old friend long since freed from his mortal coil. I learned that someone's value to an extended trip can be determined by their storytelling skills - lingering on the details, timing, describing and interpreting the setting, a touch of embellishment, waiting as long as possible before saying the obvious - skills that are not frivolous.
Storytelling is part of the culture.
COVERSATIONS IN THE TENT
It was some years ago. It had rained for most of the day. After 4 hours in the confined space of the hiking tent and just when it sounded like it was easing off, it bucketed down again. There are just three positions in a hiking tent, none of them comfortable for long - lying, sitting or kneeling. I'm no yoga guru. We brewed coffee, snacked on energy bars and made the occasional quick excursion to answer a call of nature, returning dripping wet. We had plenty of time to talk, and we did.
The rain showed no sign of letting up - the joys of camping far up the upland trails on little known streams in the backcountry. The conversation turned to our preference for rainbow or brown trout - what, apart from appearance, makes them so different? We agreed, more or less, that rainbows are generally bad tempered, wary and suspicious, they are aggressive, rapacious and refuse to give in to piscatorial conformity. They tend to hang out in places where they are expected to be, favouring deeper holes and quick water, moving around with a certain boldness and flare, striking viciously, violently at its prey.
Whereas browns have a moodier temperament and are more introspective trout, they shun the predictable. They tend to accept a wider range of conditions, are mysterious and often found in unexpected places, favouring low light conditions, at dusk and sombre, misty, rain filled days - times when the light is opaque and uncertain. Browns are skilled predators, persistent hunters, they are patient, brutish and explosive when striking.
When it comes to story telling browns are the stuff of legends.
I told the story of a brown closer to -4 lbs than -3 that I caught one evening in the Maletsunyane River below Semonkong Lodge. "How do you know it was a 4 pounder and not -5 or -6 lbs?" Mark asked, like it was some kind of inquisition. "I don't know, it just felt like 4 lbs or so", I said. "Sounds like a bit of a guess", he replied with a questioning look and raised eyebrows.
The rain stopped, we grabbed our rods for a few casts before the light faded. On his first cast Mark took a 10 inch brown, netted it, turned to me, grinned and said, "little fatty, feels like about 4 lbs to me." We laughed long and hard - there may have been a lesson in there somewhere?
We agreed on one thing, we preferred catching brown trout, preferably on dry flies.
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