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A rainbow or brown? Or something else?
21 May 2013

Dave Edgar posed this question to me in an email last week:

I went fishing in the Hex River valley this weekend and caught a rainbow trout with what seemed to be three reddish dots down its side. Is it a different strain? Do you have any pictures of similar trout?

I replied that if he was on the Hex River then I was pretty sure it was a brown trout.

He responded saying it was definitely not a brown, possibly a rainbow with different markings than usual. He also recalled me mentioning a different strain of rainbows in a previous Newsletter and wondered if this was one of them. I did once mention the Mc Cloud River Redband rainbow, was originally from the Mc Cloud River in Colorado, USA, but is sadly now almost absent from the very river that gave it its name.

The upper Lourens River where we catch unique looking trout

At the time we thought some rainbows we were catching in the upper Lourens River might be a strain of Redbands, and this may yet well be the case. The image below of the small trout taken in the upper Lourens is remarkably consistent with that image of the Redband in Behnke’s marvellous book, About Trout.

But then what Dave saw was not a red band on the fish, but red spots. Robert Behnke’s book illustrates no rainbow trout with red spots on its side. Can anyone help?

Winelands Fly Fishing
10 May 2013


Philip Meyer runs a pretty fly shop on the edge of spreading vineyards and mountain backdrops Somerset West and Stellenbosch in the Western Cape Province. To my mind it could just qualify as the prettiest fly shop on earth, or at the very least, the fly shop in the loveliest setting. He has a wide range of stock, provides guiding and tuition as well as fly fishing tours for yellowfish, tigers and trout.

This year Philip may well be part of the Protea (South African) fly fishing team going off to fish the world championships in Norway.

Contact him on (021) 855 2646 OR [email protected]  

Sage Circa
30 Apr 2013


Last week I fished the Lourens River, a slender stream running through Somerset West. I was with my friend Robin Douglas and pretty keen to test the Sage Circa 7’ 9” 2-weight his son, Ian, had made for him. I did that and by happy chance, managed to catch a couple of decent trout as well.

How would I describe the action of the Sage Circa? I guess it’s on the slow side, but not too slow, and there is a sweet feel in the middle of the rod with no tendency to fall away on powered casts. To me it is very reminiscent of the SPL, a model Sage brought out years back. It’s somehow just a little more ‘certain’ in action than the SPL. Some describe it as a lot like bamboo, but without the weight you feel in the lift with bamboo, that’s probably stretching the similarity. 

This rod is light, has a forgivingly smooth action and to my view, is exactly what you want for hunting trout in smaller streams and rivers. These rods are available from 2 to 5-weight and up to 8’9” in length. As I said this particular rod was made from a blank by Robin’s son Ian who lives in Orange County USA. The finishes on the rod were as good as you would expect if it was factory built.

The mind of a trout
22 Apr 2013


Further to the debate in the last two Newsletters sparked by Bob Wyatt’s latest book, What Trout Want, in which he questions ‘educatedness’ in trout, Steve Dugmore, a local master bamboo rod maker and professional architect, adds this splash of fuel to the fire...

I had an extraordinary experience a while back which I thought I should share with you. It is almost unbelievable and, without the witness that I fortunately had, I would be opening myself up to the proverbial 'Fisherman's tall story" in relaying it to you. So with witness at hand here goes:

My wife, Karin, and I took off work and spent the day on the Elandspad. I had booked beat 4 and we walked up to the cave enjoying the cool crisp morning air and the knowledge that we would more than likely have the place to ourselves. 

I started fishing at the cave pool. There were a lot of 9 inch fish in the riffles at the base of the pool and some 10-11 inch ones lying low in deeper water. I decided to use this as a sight-fishing opportunity to test out some fly patterns I have been experimenting with. Having caught a couple of smaller fish and experienced numerous rejections, a larger fish of about 16 inches materialised in the middle of the pool. I immediately focused my full attention on it. It appeared to be beyond temptation until I abandoned my experiments and tied on a RAB. Almost immediately the fish rose up to the fly, hovered below it for a second and then nonchalantly sucked the fly in. I very gently but firmly set the hook. With a single flap the fish bolted for the depths and I was left with a slack flyless leader. I pulled in the line to inspect what had given. The tippet had snapped off at the knot. I put on some fresh tippet and another RAB and carried on fishing.

About 5 minutes later a fish jumped out of the water twice. It was obviously the same fish trying to get rid of the fly in its mouth. It then swam around just below the surface 'mouthing' the fly. I tried to tempt it to take another fly knowing the chances were less than zero - although stranger things have been known to occur. It was therefore ironic that at precisely this point  things really did become strange. 

The fish began to swim towards me just below the surface in what could best be described as a sidling motion. It appeared to be looking at me with one eye and keeping the other eye on the safety of the deeper water. The fish came within two feet of the rock I was standing on. I very slowly crouched down and the fish then came right up to the rock. It put its mouth slightly out of the water literally two inches from my boot. It seemed obvious to me that the fish wanted me to remove the fly! I very gently slid my hand under the fish. It let me do so until I applied a little pressure at which point it bolted back for the pool and disappeared into the depths. Thinking that was that, and not a little amazed and disappointed - particularly that I didn't have a net at hand - I carried on fishing.

Sure enough about half an hour later the fish jumps out of the water again and starts swimming towards me. This time it passed in front of me and stopped about 3 feet away to the side in thigh deep water. I lowered myself inch by inch into the water and approached the fish with my hands palm up under the water. The fish sidled up to my hands and I was able to slide them underneath it. With my heart pumping, I very, very slowly cupped the fish in my hands. It again felt the pressure and moved away a foot or two only to return again. This time I increased the pressure on the fish very steadily until I had it firmly around the tail and belly. At this point the fish gave a very powerful flap and in my determination not to let it go I very ungracefully lost my balance and both fish and I ended up completely underwater together. Still clutching the fish I surfaced, removed the RAB and let the fish go. It swam around me for a minute or two and then made its way off downstream leaving me dripping wet and somewhat bemused.

Steve Dugmore

Okay, now how strange a story is this? I was at Steve Dugmore’s house only last week and over a pot of stove coffee, Karin vouched for the whole thing. She watched it all, as she said, with her own two eyes! The only reason Steve could think a fish would behave this way is that it had been caught and released so many times it associated humans with removing artificial flies from its mouth - an interesting development in the catch-and-release ethic if it is so! I hope Bob Wyatt reads this! By the way I persuaded my wife to join me on this section of the Elandspad a year ago when we were encircled by a threatening bunch of hostile baboons. She’s not been inclined to join me on the river ever since.

What Trout Want
9 Apr 2013

What Trout Want - The Educated Trout and other Myths
by Bob Wyatt

I enjoyed this book as much, if not more, than Bob Wyatt's previous work, Trout Hunting - The Pursuit of Happiness.

In What Trout Want, Wyatt demolishes two long held beliefs in fly fishing that had their origins way back in the Halfordian era and were perpetuated by the likes of Schwiebert, Marinaro, Swisher and Richards and a heap more famous anglers besides. The author convincingly disproves the concept of selectivity as we anglers know and understand it and does a remarkable hatchet job on the so-called 'educated' trout.

Our beliefs - well more like 'articles of faith' really - convinced us that trout are mostly selective eaters and get more educated and more street smart the longer or harder we fish over them. 

These fat chunks of fly fishing doctrine go straight out the window in this book. Rather Wyatt concentrates on the value of presentation over imitation and underscores the doctrines of simplicity, impressionism, and yes, some untidiness, when it comes to fly pattern design and construction.

And Wyatt has the pedigree to float his contentious conclusions. He is widely fished, including the USA, of course, but interesting to me, he now lives in New Zealand and fishes for the traditionally testy trout of that country's South Island. He is hugely respected as an angler and reading Trout Hunting will tell you just why. I found his book well researched, well argued, extremely well written and thoroughly compelling.

This is a book you do not want to miss out on reading, believe me!

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

222 pages with many colour illustrations. Headwater Books (Stackpole).
Available from Craig Thom 021 551 4248 or NetBooks

Strange Trout
4 Apr 2013

I chanced to spot this 10 inch trout from a bridge over the Bokspruit the other day. The current was flowing towards me and the fish was sitting on a shallow sandbar facing downstream, in other words looking straight at me! Don't worry trying to spot it. From this picture that's all but impossible, save to say he is in shallow water on the extreme right of the run. 

At times he would move a meter or more right or left to intercept drifting nymphs. I was mildly amazed at how far he would travel to fetch food and how fast he was doing it. Then it struck me that he couldn't be doing this facing downstream! 

Only when a bright yellow willow leaf drifted over his head did I realise he was sitting in a back eddy where the current reversed direction completely. In the picture below I mark the current direction in blue and the trout in orange.

It was a great spot. The eddy was bringing him a regular supply of food at a slower rate than the main current would have, making his life a lot easier, anglers approaching from downstream would give him plenty of warning and he was close enough to deep water to make a bolt for cover if he needed to.

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

Are we missing a trigger in nymph design?
14 Mar 2013

Fine, filamentous gills are present on the abdominal segments of the vast majority of mayfly nymphs. They play a role in respiration and the exchange of salts. 

When you study a live mayfly nymph up close (as I did lifting rocks on a stream the other day) you will notice the gills are in continual motion, rapidly vibrating all the time. So they must surely represent a remarkable ‘trigger’. 

Despite this, few nymph patterns give the abdominal gills more than just a passing nod and none I have come across has convincingly captured the slender prominence or the movement of these gills. So here’s a challenge for serious fly tiers!

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

Steve Boshoff On Chest Boxes
7 Mar 2013


Says Steve

“I have long believed that the chest box (as opposed to “pack”) provides the best solution for small stream fly and stream-accessory storage. A rich history of chest box making exists, primarily focused on the Richardson chest box in aluminium. 

“Here, finally, is a wooden version (significantly lighter than a similar sized aluminium box). It is not routed from a block of wood, but veneered, one layer at a time in beech and walnut.

“It provides space for RABs (most commercial box compartments are too small to provide sufficient leg-room for these flies), reading glasses, some nymphs and float yarn, and, under the lid, tippet material.”

It strikes me so often that in Steve Boshoff this country has a world class master at work. My hope is that he is recognized as such in his time.

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

Pascal Cognard Lectures Western Cape Fly Fishers (2)
6 Mar 2013

Here are a few ideas on equipment from Pascal:

We don’t use long enough leaders on clear rivers and streams. Four metres plus is where we need to be, all the leader sections pre-boiled except for the tippet.

Never join fluorocarbon and nylon. The fluoro will cut into your nylon.

Take the greatest care to create an ultra-smooth leader to fly line connection. Pascal uses a glued needle knot that is beautifully tapered, layered with wraps of 8/0 red fly tying thread and coated as smooth and neat as the wraps on a fine bamboo fly rod. The result is the knot slips through the rod’s eyes smoothly and soundlessly.

The strongest tippet to leader knot in Pascal’s experience is the Surgeon’s Knot, where the tippet section passing through the loop is simply doubled. All the knots he uses to join the main, heavier segments of his leader are Blood Knots strengthened with super glue.

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

Pascal Cognard Lectures Western Cape Fly Fishers (1)
6 Mar 2013

Representing the French fly fishing team, Pascal Cognard is a three times individual world fly fishing champion. He was partnered this weekend by Said Yahiaoui, a member of the French team from 1991 to 1993 and its current manager, in a three-day seminar that included on-stream demonstrations on the Smalblaar River. Local fly fisher, Korrie Broos, arranged their visit to various centres in South Africa.

Here are a few things you might find interesting:

We don’t wade carefully enough. To watch Pascal wade is to watch a heron stalk. I thought I was fussy about bow waves in streams and lakes and silent wading. I wade with cavalier recklessness compared to Pascal!  Wade like you are on eggs; like you are robbing a bank at night and desperately trying not to set the sound alarm off!

Take your time. Again something I do, and something many people have commented on in my fly fishing, but Pascal added new meaning to the dictum, ‘Take time to watch the water.’ He spent 30 minutes searching a run that I would have fished in ten minutes max. He took two trout from it, the first of which he spooked and announced he would wait for its return! It did come back 10 minutes later. He dropped a # 20 PTN into the run and landed the fish. He then spent another 10 minutes staying dead still, searching the run, found the second fish and took it first cast. This was sight nymphing at its best and it was simply lovely to watch.

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

Roncallo's new CDC Book
26 Feb 2013

I have had a note from Agostino Roncallo with wonderful news for fly tiers. Following his much celebrated and sumptuously illustrated first book, Magie in CDC, Agostino is now working on his second book that will include the tying of 70 different CDC fly patterns in each of four separate PDFs. The first is now downloadable free of charge on

Agostino is rightfully regarded as one of the world’s grand masters of CDC and I have been honoured to have had him post patterns on my website, many of them, such as his Mirage dry fly, now ranking among my favourite patterns for our local freestone streams. I will keep you informed as to when the second PDF will be downloadable. 

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

‘3rdhand’ Hackle Pliers
26 Feb 2013

Says Jay Smit - owner of JVice:

It all started with a customer wanting a third hand. (This is mostly to hold the tip of a feather when stroking the fibres back to prepare a soft hackle. This method is not used much these days but Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer describe it on page 353 of ‘The Fly Tier's Benchside Reference’ although they tie in the tip then prepare the feather.) 

One sleepless night I came up with the idea to use the midge jaw design (on the vices) for what I now call the ‘3rdHand’. I had the parts cut. And while playing around with it decided it would make a great hackle plier. 

 A bit of experimental laser cutting and I was right. I have only tied about 20 flies using it and no micro patterns yet but what really appeals to me is that it holds the material very well and because it is heavier than conventional hackle pliers,  the wraps are kept nice and tight when the hackle plier is left to hang on its own. The grip is achieved with a bit of shrink sleeve on the one jaw and hollow grinding on the other. The shrink sleeve is easily replaced if it should wear out and is obtainable from most electrical suppliers. This is soft and prevents the hackle plier’s jaws cutting the feather. The shrink sleeve can obviously also be put on both jaws.

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

Fishing the Sterkfontein
20 Feb 2013

From Damon Mathfield - Fishing Sterkfontein Dam for Yellowfish

My friends and I found the DDD in both natural and black very successful on the yellows fishing Sterkfontein Dam. The untidy DDDs tied with klipspringer worked best. Apart from being an effective beetle imitator, it worked very well mid-morning when the big caddis were hatching in the shallows. It is definitely a fly I will never be without on this water.

Here is one of Damon's images from the trip. He hasn't been long at his underwater work and we have been in correspondence on it. I think his images are outstanding.

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

Reel Memories
12 Feb 2013

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe


I received an email from a man in the UK called Hugh Bird saying he enjoyed my website and had visited it particularly to pick up tips on angling photography and how to spot trout. As it turns out he is a professional sporting photographer, a great outdoors man and has a remarkably beautiful website of his own! It’s called Reel Memories and you can see it at

Evolution of the modern nymph
7 Feb 2013

MC Coetzer, one of South Africa’s most respected fly fishers, has taken part in international competitions for many years. In this article he traces the changes he has noticed in the development of successful nymph patterns used at international competitions over the years. What intrigued me about their apparent evolution, especially of the European nymph patterns, is how gradually they all appeared to look the same, almost, you could say, became a ‘generic’ nymph, give or take the difference between the caddis and the mayfly nymph. That’s far from the truth though, as MC explains.

 - Tom Sutcliffe

Fishing in Lesotho
26 Jan 2013

Received from Ian Cox:

Says Ian,

I have just got back from a hugely successful weekend fishing in Lesotho. Four of us caught about 20-plus fish for each of the two days we fished. (I went up with the Baha boys,  The great thing was that we were either casting at rising fish or into little nooks and crannies where the fish were holding up. 

The fish were on average about 20cm and were taking trico imitations on dry and PTN orange hot spots, Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear’s and Zaks on wet. There were a couple of lunkers about. Warren Prior lost a 1 kg fish when the hook broke. I think we would have pulled more big fish if we had brought some red eyed damsels or stone fly imitations. 

 - Tom Sutcliffe


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