Discovering an ancient sport
FLY fishing is an ancient sport that, in modern times, sees us conjuring up images of Brad Pitt wading through a river casting his line in Robert Redford’s popular movie,
I had not imagined it to be a sport for women. Rather, a sport for men who wanted to escape from boardrooms to find a few hours of quiet time. It was thus with trepidation and excitement that the invitation to learn fly fishing was accepted – a mere hour’s drive from Pretoria and Johannesburg.
The Magaliesberg Valley Lodge is situated on the banks of the Magalies River, surrounded by a 7 000hectare nature reserve in lush veld.
I took along my sister, an executive and mother, for the weekend to savour some tranquillity and, of course, to learn a new sport.
We had fished before under the guiding hand of our father, spending hours on the banks of the Vaal River and at dams across the country catching bream, catfish, carp and whatever else liked the taste of the bait we had attached to our hooks. Catching fish was easy, or so we thought.
On arrival, we booked into our comfortable suite overlooking a bridge crossing the river and were soon met by Patrick Motsamai of MBH Fly-Fishing, who handed us each a light-weight fishing rod and escorted us down to the river.
He talked excitedly about the wonderful, ancient sport of fly fishing, which, it transpired, was a method of angling used in days gone by to catch trout and salmon, but used today to also catch and release bass, carp, snoek, bream and a variety of other fish species. His love for the sport was infectious. We were hooked, but first we had to learn how to cast and tie a fly to the end of the line.
It is an art. The variety of casts is impressive – forward casts, back casting, double hauling, rolling, side, low, bow and arrow, and false casting. It is all in the presentation – the line must land smoothly on the water. One, two, up, hold, cast. It is all in the wrists, forearm and the rhythm.
It is almost hypnotic, calming. Peacefulness descends over you as you stand on the bank of the river becoming one with your fly rod and fly line which floats on the surface of the water as the artificial fly sinks slowly downward to lure its prey.
But, Patrick’s lesson on the sport made popular by the likes of Hemingway was not over. There are different types of fly lines – floating, sinking and intermediate, casting was a combination of speed and weight, the waves that appear when you are casting are called loops, types of cast vary according to the condition, and each fly has a different name. Interesting names such as hotspot nymph, green caddies, dry fly nymph, dragonfly nymph, green and black willy buggers, green Mrs Simpsons and paupers.
Then there are the knots used to tie the fly line with the sinking or intermediate line, and then the fly. Needle knots, nail knot, blood knot. It is intricate work tying a knot and making a fly, he tells us as he shows off the flies he had made himself.