I’m off to Tasmania today but before catching my flight I wanted one more crack at a Cape stream and South African trout. In the meantime my mom and sister had moved down to the Cape and I was glad to be around to help them with the move which is always a stressful time. It means in my present transient state I get to call the Western Cape my symbolic “home”, the place where I will always have a bed, which suits me just fine - not only because it’s readily apparent that the province is clean and well run, or the unique beauty of the place, but also because of the quality of its trout fishing (to explore the next time I happen to be ‘home’). As an aside, the guy who handled our move said for every family his company moves out of the Western Cape, they move eight families down to the Cape. There is a real buzz about Cape Town right now (or is it more accurately a real disillusionment with the state of the other eight provinces?).
So I contacted Darryl Lampert and swapped my screwdriver and handyman duties for a fly rod. Darryl took me to a tiny little stream which we’d prefer remained anonymous. It is an indescribably beautiful little slip of water, with tiny, ethereal rainbow trout clinging to life against the heat and fluctuating mountain conditions. I’d love to share photos, and believe me, some of the images I came away with are gobsmackingly beautiful, but this little stream couldn’t handle the additional pressure of more humans pounding it. So the stream will remain nameless and I’ll share an indistinguishable photo only. I guess I get to horde the rest like Bilbo Baggins and his preciooouusss ring... Besides, I’ve just read Gierach’s “Where the Trout are all as Long as your Leg”, a book devoted to the theme of secret fishing spots. Gierach could make just about anything sound romantic, if he put his mind to it I bet even something as mundane as patching a pinhole leak in your waders. As a hopeless fishing romantic I feel unashamedly good in a conspiratorial ‘nod, nod, wink, wink’ kind of way about being let in to my very own secret fishing spot.
It’s the height of summer here so we made an early start when the air still sat heavy with early morning haze that filtered through tree branches like laser beams and blurred the peaks of the mountains. Before long the strengthening sun melted away the shadows cast by the mountains and singed through the haze and blessedly the wind changed from downstream to blow upstream. We took turns casting into the pocket water and pools but initially had no joy. Then I had a few rises to a black klinkhamer but I could see they were miniscule minnow-sized trout. Nevertheless I changed my fly to a much smaller hook but still couldn’t turn innocent interest into a firm hook-up. Matters took a positive turn when two visibly more substantial fish rose to Darryl’s dry fly in a flat pool. Both were missed (uncharacteristically from the little I have seen of Darryl fishing) but he hooked and netted the next in short time, third time lucky. The rainbow was about 9 inches long and a fish to be celebrated from this stream.
After a long interval of hard fishing, a space of perhaps four or five hours, I brought to hand my first fish, a trout a fraction longer than my thumb. Its home was a pool about the shape and depth of a large Jacuzzi and when I first saw it I boldly predicted I would catch a fish from it - the power of positive thinking you might say but then there are just some pools you recognise as bankers and this one paid off. The little trout came from the tail, and when we released it back into the water we spooked a much larger fish in the same pool which I estimated at 12 inches, a veritable giant. What could have been… I marked the spot for my next visit home, whenever that might be. Not to be outdone, Darryl cast downstream into the pool immediately below and extracted a trout about the length of his thumb.
As time wore on into the early afternoon (I’d promised to have the car back by midday and I was thinking of excuses) I’d resigned myself to only the thumb trout pitching up to my farewell party. But then I hooked and finally landed a trout to offer a fitting send off to Tasmania. It was a fish of about 8 inches, deceived by a #16 Royal Wulff and I could finally bring myself to leave this secret little stream, and with a slight spring in my step at that. Tasmania here I come!