The day finally arrived for many South Africans. 1st September…opening day of the season. It’s an exciting time. The chance to see our beloved rivers again after a seemingly long winter layoff. Some have likened the experience of anticipation to meeting up with an old flame after the school holidays!. I can relate to that. But with age I was a bit more cold-hearted, or should I say, realistic about my expectations. Unashamedly I was more excited to get away from city life and to spent a few days away with the lads then the fishing!. Some of us had to take the day off work…those who have their own business made an easy decision to play hooky.
We got off early in the morning. Warren collected me at 4am and I drove. Seems he only got half an hours sleep. We arrived in Pietermaritzburg to collect Lee. The original plan was to collect Goose at Lee’s but at the last-minute Goose got a court summons to appear as a witness in a murder case. He would come up after he gave his evidence.
We had a good 2 ½ hours drive in total and with high expectations for the weekend, we chatted about the recent snow falls and the impact that it may have made to the streams. It’s a familiar drive by now; the old landmarks from last season greet us like old friends. Midmar dam wall, not overflowing but that’s not unsurprising for this time of year before the real onset of the spring/summer rains. Keen to get on the river as soon as possible we took the freeway, bypassing the Steampunk café with its superb coffee and delicious pastel de nata’s (Portuguese custard cakes).
I try to stop at the Steampunk café whenever I’m in this neighbourhood. It’s an institution in a location you’d be forgiven for driving past. We headed past Nottingham Road to the sleepy town of Mooi River. “Mooi” in Afrikaans is “Nice”. So through the conurbation of Mooi River we passed through as the town starts rubbing the sleep out its eyes and people start emerging and going about their business. Being in a farming area Friday is often when the farmers come in to town to stock up. The town can bustle during the day and we are happy we pass through in the cool of the morning with hardly a vehicle to slow us down…. onward to the “nice river”.
To add a bit more tension I had the five brand new ZMC rods for the lads. None of them had seen the rod in the flesh, or for that matter, pictures of the rods as I finished the last rod tube three hours before the opening of the season. Talk about cutting it fine. The tubes just required a stick on transfer to complete and this I did immediately we arrived at Snowflake cottage.
Zipper Mouth Creek Rods
It’s a strange feeling that first day on the river after a break. I felt a bit like a boxer whom is facing an unknown opponent. I was trying to be cautiously optimistic but there was a nagging feeling in the back of my head. You see the rivers at opening season last year were lean and clear…hardly the stuff which blows my hair back…even if I did have hair to blow back!. I’d not cast a rod for a few months. I knew I’d be rusty. I hashed up too many casts, snagging things on my back cast. Why do bushes suddenly move closer to the stream the minute you want to cast at a fish?. All these thoughts were tumbling around in my head.
Friday was cool and windy. Armed with our little 1 wt’s we did our best to put then to good use. With just Lee, Warren and I fishing we choose the bottom end of the beat. Warren and Lee both picked up a fish each in the deep runs. We returned back to the cottage for a quick bite before heading out to the river for the sunset session.
Of course as I hadn’t got a fish as yet the pressure was on me to hook up. Alas the cold and howling wind got the better of me so I headed back to the cottage to discover I was locked out. I spent over an hour huddled in a corner out the wind waiting for the others. Boy did that whiskey do the trick once I got inside.
Come Friday evening after a long day, the traditional braai was the order of the day, eaten with good South African red wine. In typical male fashion, vegetables and salads are in short supply. Warren’s wife Nat had done the catering….we had enough to stay for 5 days let alone 2 days!. Goose had in the meantime arrived. Shit, it’s great to all be back together again fishing. We turned in around midnight and I fell asleep only to be woken at 3am by the sound of a car alarm going off.
Warren was up as quick as a flash and headed out to see what was going on. Lee jumped out of bed and all I heard was the pounding of their feet as they dashed to the window. Goose’s car alarm had gone off…apparently it goes off completely spontaneously. After that Warren begs me for Panado’s, seems he has a headache. It surely couldn’t be the pink gins/red wine/port he’d consumed earlier that evening!.
Saturday morning was a much better day. The wind had died overnight. Tumbling out of bed to a cup of decent cup of coffee to get the system going, we grab a quick snack for breakfast before heading out to the river. This year I’m going light, I’m tired of carrying a backpack full of stuff I mostly don’t use. As the oldest in the group I suppose I could get the youngest, Lee, to carry the excess stuff, he’s volunteered as much but that wouldn’t be fair. A simple sling bag, one boxes of flies (see my previous article on my small stream box), tippet and something to eat during the day is all I’m carrying. Oh, perhaps my small stream net at 112g too.
Goose and I decided to fish the middle section of the beat. We had a leisurely start. There’s no use getting on the river before the sun hits it from over the mountains. Lee and Warren chose the top section and set off early. As it turns out, no fish were to be had for the first 2 ½ hours. The water was a cold 8 degs C. and in shadow.
The middle section has had a fire through it so there is little if any cover alongside the stream. The water is low and super clean. We spent all morning seeing big fish that we couldn’t get a fly to because by the time we got close enough to cast they were onto us.
Towards the end of the middle section I pick up a rainbow that was an escapee from the hatchery. Now as this is a Brown trout stream we are told to remove any rainbows. This one got dispatched and saved as a peace-offering for my dear wife Tina.
We dropped in for lunch and meet up with Savs and his son Daniel whom had driven up that morning. They fished a bit earlier and caught a couple. After lunch we headed downstream and this time I opted not to fish but to try to get Goose, Savs and Daniel onto fish. There are only a few spots where they were holding. Goose lost two fish…later discovering his tippet was old and kept snapping off.
There was a hatch that evening but we didn’t see any fish rising.
Warren and Lee meet us back at the cottage and Jan Korrubel and Grant Visser popped in for a chat on their way home. Seems the upper section of the beat fished best. They all got fish albeit slight smaller but nevertheless a good sign for the season.
Having learnt out lesson going out early, we rose to a leisurely fried breakfast on Sunday. Goose had hit the road early wanting to be home in good time. We packed and then headed off for a short session before heading home. Warren, Lee and I fished together. A section of river unfortunately infested with Australian wattle on large sections, making access impossible. The sections we could get to, looked good. We didn’t see may fish and eventually after three hours we returned to the car. Warren had seen a big fish in the pool were we had parked but spooked it. “Last-cast” Lee decided to have a go. Anyway we heard this almighty yell. We thought Lee must had a close encounter with a snake. Lee trembles at the mention of snakes. We ran over from the car to see Lee sitting dejected on the bank. Yep…he got broken off!. He had to have a smoke to calm down.
We realised that there were several fish so we rested the pool. Warren rigged up and cast. In textbook fashion, a beauty of a brown came cruised downstream straight at Warren’s fly. It suddenly turned and gobbled the nymph suspended under a dry. All hell broke loose. After a few pics we released it and headed back. After a quick bite we said our goodbyes. Weary but happy we drove home to suburbia.
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