Southern African Childhood
I grew up in the green hills of Swaziland where the modest altitude afforded a climate cool enough to sustain the presence of trout. I really couldn't have wished for a better place to cut my fly fishing teeth. I had the run of twelve isolated and lightly fished stillwaters within an extensive pine plantation on the western edge of the country. The dams were pretty much left to nature between infrequent stockings of rainbow trout, which became as wild as stocked fish can become. It was a carefree and innocent time and I have wonderful memories of family time spent fishing and picnicking in the forest.
England and Wales
I emigrated to England at the age of 25 and lived for almost a decade in the second city of Birmingham. Rich in industrial heritage but not in countryside featuring cold, clear flowing rivers, the West Midlands was far from an idyllic location to find wild trout. Fortunately, the rivers of Wales were in striking distance and it was there that I learned the craft of river fly fishing. For an all too brief time thereafter I spent glorious summer days in the Welsh hills, exploring the rocky, treelined tributaries of the Severn, Usk and Wye rivers. There are very few more stunning places in the world to fish for trout.
Travels with a fly rod
In November 2014 I began a new chapter when I travelled abroad for over a year as the archetypal trout bum. By design almost all of the countries I visited had trout in some shape or form - among them more unusual characters like the cherry salmon in Japan, lenok in Korea and many species of cutthroat trout across several state lines in the American west. I didn't over plan the trip - something Gierach once wrote became my travelling philosophy in a way: "At the moment I didn't know where I'd go or when I'd get there: a feeling that makes me happier than almost anything else." Of all the highlights along the way perhaps the greatest was catching a brown trout an ounce over 10 lbs from the South Island of New Zealand.
I now call the south of England home. While I'm in the neighbourhood, I've made something of a loose goal of catching a trout from as many of the chalkstreams as possible. Chalkstreams are almost entirely unique to the south and east of England (Normandy in France and the Jutland region of Denmark are the only other places in the world they are found). A fascinating geology creates watercourses of the most unimaginable beauty. Chalk filtered waters bubble from springs and flow over bright gravels and sumptuous weeds where trout rise freely and grow fat. The chalkstreams have a storied place in the annals of fly fishing literature and I'm looking forward to following in the footsteps of the greats.
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it"
I look back and realise how significantly fly fishing has influenced the fabric of my life. From those early beginnings in the southern tip of Africa, I have gone on to cast a fly in such wonderful fly fishing destinations as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, Belgium, USA and Venezuela. I am grateful to have a family who, without complaint or further thought, are habituated to stopping at roadsides to allow me to peer into the water beneath bridges, to hang trout artwork on the walls of our home, and whose holidays are dictated by whether there are mountains with trout in them nearby.