I grew up in the rolling hills of Swaziland where the modest altitude affords temperatures cool enough to sustain the presence of introduced trout. Within the extensive pine plantations that blanket the western edge of the country are twelve isolated and lightly fished stillwaters (or 'dams' as they are locally known). I have wonderful memories of family time spent fishing in the forest. The dams were pretty much left to nature between infrequent stockings of rainbow trout, which became as wild as stocked fish can become. I couldn't have wished for a better place to have cut my fly fishing teeth.
I emigrated to England in 2005 and lived for almost a decade in the second city of Birmingham. The West Midlands of England, so rich in industrial history, wasn't the most idyllic location to find wild trout - but the rivers of Wales were in striking distance. There are few more stunning places in the world to fish for trout than Wales and it was here that I learned the craft of river fishing. The portentous moment, catalyst of all to follow in this diary, occurred on 3 May 2009 when I spent a day with an instructor on the upper reaches of the River Severn in Wales.
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."
I now call the south of England home. While I'm in the neighbourhood, I have 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 potentially the Jutland region of Denmark are the only other places in the world they are found). They have a storied place in the annals of fly fishing literature and I'm looking forward to following in the footsteps of the greats.
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, Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, 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, and whose holidays are dictated by whether there are mountains with trout in them nearby.