My First Fly Fishing Experience
By Adrian Pearce
Cold. All I could focus on was the cold. When they said you’re going to need gloves, I didn’t take them seriously. But with my fingers shaking uncontrollably, their words hit home quite strongly. There I stood, on the bank of Lake Crystabel, rod in hand, trying to remember all the advice my friends, and amazing fisherman, Gareth and Gavin had imparted. So I let out some line, held out my rod so I could see my fly, got my arm in position and away I went…and within 10 seconds I was caught in the brush behind me. This happened a considerable number of times after that.
Cold. All I could focus on was the cold.
It’s half past five in the morning, I’m freezing my…socks off and I’ve just spent half an hour learning how to untangle my Fritz Woolly Bugger and line from all sorts of things, my person included. All I’d caught, up to that point, was glorious weed. I’d had enough and I thought, one more attempt at casting and I’m walking back to the cottage, where I’m having a few, no matter the time, and I’m done with this Fly fishing nonsense!
So…arm in position, once again, fly where I can see you, and off we go. Back, but not to back, pause…and thrust forward, keep the momentum going and then one last thrust forward and release the slack line and slowly lower your rod…and I actually got it sort of decent.
Then the waiting game began. I had an intermediate line so it took quite a while to sink, which really tested my patience. Again, I had no bites so I reeled in my line, with a bit of anger this time. I was lifting my fly out the water when I felt a snag and thought, “Oh boy! More weed.” I didn’t even think to strike. Yet, lo and behold, as I lifted my fly, I saw this beautiful rainbow trout open its mouth, let go of my hook, and swim away.
I stood there shocked, gaping mouth. All words escaped me and then the disappointment kicked in and I could feel the anger build.
I looked to my left at Gareth, then right at Gavin, then looked up and saw this.
A realisation came over me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world. I had my best buds beside me, not a car or machine to be heard, just us, the beautiful view and these beautiful fish. All the irritation and anger was replaced with a peaceful joy. And I knew that Fly fishing had caught me and it would never let me go, because I didn’t want it to.
The drive into Dulstroom was a trepid one for me. I hadn’t been feeling good for a few days and the thought of completely cocking up in front of these professionals made my stomach turn. But as soon as we pulled into the main street at Dullstroom some of my nerves were calmed by the quaint welcoming little town. The main fly fishing shop, (Mavungana), was our first stop, obviously. Another overwhelming experience, as I knew basically nothing about fly fishing. But what a magnificent little shop it is. The service was great and the staff very knowledgeable. An hour later and Gareth and Gavin had had their fix and off we went for some breakfast. We had a quick stop at Harry’s Pancakes for delicious pancakes and coffee, or, in Gareth’s case, a beer. We had one more stop before we headed to Millstream, the most important stop…The Anvil. Craft beer, knowledgeable and happy service, and we were like Kittens in cream. We sat for a couple of hours discussing our aims and plans for this fishing trip, ideas for the video we wanted to shoot, and slowly baked in blissful midmorning sun.
Arriving at Millstream, I had no preconceptions, and when I saw our chalet, I was blown away. The views were breath-taking and we were right by the weirs. It took us 40 minutes to unpack and then my quick casting lesson.
The next few days just flew past, sometimes with a smile but more often a grimace on my face, since I hadn’t caught a single thing. But it honestly didn’t matter because every day I gained such great experience and I learnt many things from Gav and Gareth. I learnt how to tie on a fly, the different types of flies, but not all of them (there are a lot), how to cast. I leant the difference between dry and wet fly, the different reactions fish have when they see a fly, how to untangle and not just pull as hard as you can, and, most importantly, patience. Now, I’m an opening batsman so I generally have patience, but for anyone wanting to start fly fishing, if you aren’t prepared to spend your first days catching nothing but weed and a tan, and find the will to persist, then don’t bother. Above all though, I learnt that Fly fishing is all about the love of fishing, the love of the challenge and anticipation, and the relaxation and peace of waiting in undisturbed nature till you finally get that bite. And when you do…It’s terrifying!
On my third day, Lionel and I went to chance our cast on one of the other weirs. ‘The Magic Weir’ as Lionel called it, as this is where he caught his first. As I had had a bite two days previous in the same spot, I was keen. I had changed the fly to an olive woolly bugger to see if that would work. We stood on quite a large embankment with the wind thankfully blowing from behind. This helped tremendously because it floated my cast in the air for quite a distance. By this time, I felt a bit more confident, but I still hadn’t got it 100%. Again, I went through the casting motions and let it fly and the wind just carried it. I was ecstatic as it was the furthest I’d ever casted. It hadn’t been one minute and whap!! I got a bite! Instantly, something took over me because I struck so quickly and finally I hooked my first fish on the Fly. It was a magnificent 1.5Kg, Rainbow trout and it was a fighter. The chase was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time and after 5 minutes of cat and mouse I finally reeled it in, used the net to lift her out the water and then gently removed the hook from her mouth. Lionel took a picture of me holding the beautiful fish and then I released her back into the Weir. I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day, and would have happily stopped and gone home…but not really. It motivated me a thousand times more to get out there and Fish the Fly.
But unfortunately I caught nothing further. My first time fly fishing is one of the best experiences in my life and I can’t wait for our next trip, hopefully for some Tiger Fish, and even though I heard they are a challenge, I’m up for anything! So till our next trip, Fish the Fly Always.