On The Fly: Try to think like a fish
An iridescent hook whizzed past my right cheek as it sailed a few metres over a small dam.
Chased by startled gasps and a rapidly unfurling line once it hit the water, this fly's sole purpose is to seduce one of the fish lurking below into taking a nibble.
However, a first big toe dipped into the enigmatic waters of fly fishing would teach me that a fish requires more than a colourful hook lobbed into the water.
As my instructor put it, "Think about fly fishing as war", and the stakes are your life or a full stomach.
Unlike regular fishing, fly fishing uses an artificial lure - instead of bait - that closely resembles the type of insect a particular species of fish feeds on. In addition to using different equipment, fly fishing is "the thinking man's" fishing. It requires more tactical nous and skill in the dark arts of espionage than spin fishing.
At least that is according to Wayne Sinclair, an angler and instructor who saves wannabe fly fishermen from the city the three- to five-hour drive to Dullstroom or the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands by giving lessons about 30km outside Johannesburg at Kloofzicht Lodge in Muldersdrift.
The lodge features six dams all stocked with a variety of prey including bass, trout, carp, yellow fish and tilapia. While they generally operate on a catch and release policy, you can keep what you catch for a fee.
"The thing about being a good fly fisherman is that you have to think like a fish. It can be tough to get down to that level, but that's why you've got to have imagination," Sinclair said as I lashed a few metres of hook-tipped rod and line above our heads.
Although not one of the fishermen at our dam was kitted out in the high, brown wading boots and wide-brimmed sun hat usually associated with the sport, I was the only one in French designer sneakers and clothing that would have been sorely missed had I been dragged into the water by a rainbow trout.
Under Sinclair's patient tutelage I was soon able to master casting without endangering those around me.
"The sport is beginning to change," he said. "Before, it was seen as this very snooty thing, partly because of its history. It has become more accessible, it's cheaper and you don't need to drive all the way out to Dullstroom."
Although it was also enjoyed in Japan, North America, and Australia, the history he refers to relates primarily to its British past. From as early as the late 1400s, angling with a fly was a luxury that only the elite could afford. At R480 for an introductory lesson, Sinclair can help you channel your inner royal.
He said the lessons used to cost R1500 but the price has come down steeply, thanks to growing interest.
"Over the past couple of years we're getting a lot more young guys, women and families here than ever before."
The so-called therapeutic value of lobbing a brightly decorated piece of beadwork equipped with a hidden hook at fish is questionable.
With each cast, I found myself resembling a less hirsute Captain Ahab, battling a growing obsession to ensnare my own mini-Moby Dick. I failed in my quest to land a fabled trout, but the experience awoke a strong case of "fish fever" within me. So the next time those fish see me, it will be with a harpoon in my hand.
- For more information call Kloofzicht Lodge on 011-317-0600 or Sundowner Adventures on 083-041-40391