I grew up in the rolling green hills of Swaziland. The African climate is typically harsh, but the altitude afforded by the hills was just enough to sustain the presence of introduced trout. Within the extensive pine plantations that blanketed the area were twelve isolated and lightly fished stillwaters (or 'dams' as they are locally known). The dams were pretty much left to nature in between infrequent stockings of rainbow trout and it was rare to see another angler. The trout became as wild as stocked fish can become. Looking back, I couldn't have wished for a better place to have cut my fly fishing teeth.
From those early beginnings, I have gone on to cast a fly in such wonderful fly fishing destinations as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, England, Wales, the USA and Venezuela. Fly fishing has significantly influenced the fabric of my life.
I regret not fishing more when I was in my twenties, particularly during the time I spent at university and completing my legal training in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (especially because some truly magnificent fishing was on my doorstep in the Natal Midlands and Drakensberg mountains). So many other things seemed more exciting at the time to a young student. Immediately after completing my studies and training I moved to the UK and, after a year in London and Kent, spent almost a decade living in Birmingham, in the West Midlands of England. The West Midlands is neither the most idyllic nor habitable location for wild trout but is within striking distance of the rivers of Wales. There are very few more stunning places to fish for trout than Wales. It was here that I eventually rediscovered fly fishing and 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.
From November 2014 I began a new chapter, over a year travelling abroad 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."
In 2016 I rejoined the 'real world' and 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 is the only other place 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.
If you stumble upon my fly fishing diary, I hope you derive some enjoyment reading it.