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Thread: Hook, Line & Thinker

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  1. #1

    Default Hook, Line & Thinker

    The Natal Witness indulges me with a fortnighly column and that is its name.
    This column gives me more room to rant than I could have hoped for and they let me use language in print that would make this site's language filters shrivel up & die. This week's contribution, and any subsequent postings that follow below, do so courtesy of THE NATAL WITNESS.

    And if the language or the ideas expessed in some of these pieces should crash the site... what can I say? To protect your innocence nothing but the facts have been changed.
    DATELINE; NATAL WITNESS 8/9/2007
    THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS
    ©Wolf Avni 3/9/2007

    Well let’s see now... in the five-odd years that this column has been running we have covered some considerable ground.

    We have pondered trout habitat, trout biology, and the minutiae of the behavioural ecology of teleost fishes. We have looked at the weather and at its cycles; at climate, its changing profiles and to the way that such changes leave their record in the geology of the surrounding landscape.

    We have sifted through the realms of entomology and performed surgical autopsies on the intestinal remains of freshwater fishes of every type.

    We have peeled down through the layers of time and in so doing have touched - no matter how peremptorily - on all manner of arcane subjects; plate tectonics, Darwinian theory, the Antarctic hole in the ozone, the mid-Pacific-surface-temperature-oscillation-anomaly (more familiarly known as the El Nino/La Nina phenomena), the history of angling, the parallel development of social mores and the angling-individual’s relative alienation from them.

    We have pondered whether fishermen get laid as often as, say, amateur astro-physicists or the adherents to any other ridiculous and obscure sporting/recreational codes.

    We have enquired into the wiring of ancestral/instinctual hunter/gatherering, exploring the stone-age culture that spawned us all, along the way delving into the seven million year old hominid archeological record. We have plumbed the deepest recesses of the angling psyche, sifted thoroughly through it and other really, really scary places.

    We have considered the wisdom of our angling forebears, unpacking the lessons and noting the ignorance recorded in well nigh 2000 years of angling archive. We have discussed the literary merit, or lack thereof in the habit of fisher-gurus to share their deepest superficialities, all recorded in everlasting print.

    We have proposed that fly-fishing is nothing but a metaphor for sex, and further, with creels-full of stiff carcasses proven the premise beyond any reasonable doubt.

    We have peeked at your fly-fishing jacket and into your fly box ( which, according to Neels Blom is “akin to going through a man’s sock draw, or underwear” and apparently, not considered especially polite). We have cast an analytical eye over the Yuppification of fly-fishing and its once-unsung waters. We have shared moments of perfection in glorious isolation in the Drakensberg foothills and partook of each others company around societal tables where we guzzled sponsored liquor till nauseated, at conventions, at contests and at other unspeakable angling convocations.

    We have debated the relative merits of ultra-light tackle right through to the billfish-back-breakers favoured by the testosterone-sauteed offshore brigades.

    We have sung the raptures of wafting gracile aught-weight fly rods with matched, floating lines in the gin clear waters of mountain uplands and extolled great never-ending odes to the heroic souls who risk life and limb far out at sea, beyond sight of all land.

    What do we have to show for it all? Well, for one thing it has brought us all to place where we can claim without any fear of contradiction that the time spent reading angling guff of any kind in no way prepares the individual for fishing (of any kind). It underlines that time is fleeting and that any time is time that might more profitably have been spent hiking the course of almost any untrammelled river on the face of the earth that you care to name, or casting a languid fly into the backlit mystery of any spring sunrise or winter sunset.

    We have aged, yes, but has it been graceful?
    Last edited by Surly Ghillie; 18-09-07 at 07:12 AM.

  2. #2
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    Yes, and when time passed, our names would have been but writ in water. Lovely and thought provoking words, Wolf.
    If everybody is thinking alike, nobody's thinking - George Patton

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Hi Wolf, will this now become a regular post of your writings in the Natal Witness?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    I alway's enjoy Wolf's column in the Witness, it would be great if he'd post the article's here for the rest of you buitelander's to have a read too !

  5. #5

    Default The Neanderthal


    DATELINE; NATAL WITNESS 16/6/2007

    ©Wolf Avni 9/6/2007

    Urgh was a good sort, honest in face and handsome of feature, thick-browed, bow-legged and barrel chested; the kind of fella that any girl would be happy to manoeuver into hitting her over the head so as to get dragged off into his cave. He would sire sturdy offspring. He was an able provider, a cunning hunter and a skilled fisherman. In a world of hunter-gathering he had his shit together. Still, there was something a bit different about Urgh and within the clan he was regarded as something of an oddity. It wasn’t anything that you could actually put a finger on, yet his comportment distanced him in, kept him faintly aloof from the social fabric of the clan.
    At fire-dances, clan feasts, births, and events that brought the tribe together in affirmative union, Urgh seemed always to orbit around only on the periphery. He was quieter than the others and often seemed lost in reverie, much given to leaving before the real festivities were properly in swing. And if one tried to engage him, something in his gaze was always too piercing, his words, too often painfully direct. In his company you could feel uncomfortably naked in your best bearskin, and clan members whispered softly among themselves when he passed by beyond range of hearing.

    There was more; mostly the tribe foraged and hunted together in small groups, preferring the companionship and reassuring presence of other clan members when venturing out beyond the sanctuary of the cave and its environs. Urgh preferred to hunt alone and he excelled at it, more often than not returning to the lair bowed beneath the weight of choice forage. His fish were always the best. Some thought him arrogant, others, rude, yet their glances followed him furtively. Did they hope to steal some of his magic?

    We of course, with the vantage of distance, easily see his defect. He possessed a most un neanderthal imagination and it made the clan wary, treating with him respectfully, but preferably at arms-length. Interestingly, it was this precise attribute that raised his hunting and gathering skills above those of his contemporaries ~ and so, perhaps, in the end jealousy too played its part.

    Things are what they are and as days melted into each other and became lifetimes, Urgh and the clan got on with their lives. With his youth long disappeared beyond a distant horizon, Urgh found himself one day stalking through a secluded glade alongside the shaded bank of the river. It was a favourite hunting ground and he was intimate with every part of its anatomy. Unseen against the canopy, above a deep glide of dark water he stood dissolved in green shadow. Unaware of his presence, the fish in the water below moved confidently among their lies, now feeding, now turning to see off a territorial trespass, fending off the impudence of rivals, now holding in the shadows cast by the steep banks. As he had many times before, Urgh followed the movement of resident fish through the pool’s recesses, selecting among them one for dinner.

    At this point I should explain that the clan counted many fishermen amongst its members, but none fished like Urgh. Mostly favouring stone tipped spears, or fishtraps, they chose strategies suited to group hunting. They would organise themselves into boisterous parties that drove the fish ahead of a line of beaters into the reach of waiting spears and clubs. It worked well in certain circumstances and everybody except the fish had a lot of fun. The problem with the strategy was that it is only effective when large numbers of fish are moving through shallow, riffled waters, as for instance during spawning runs. For the rest, the tribe went fishless, often hungry.

    Urgh, in his long hours of contemplation at the riverside had engaged these issues in his fertile imagination and he fished differently, using techniques and subtleties evolved over a lifetime of inquisitive watching and experiment. First he cut a tensile switch from among the saplings growing around him. He braided a cord from the sinews of hunted beasts, ocelot for elastic, tapir for strength. He sculpted a hook from the claw of a sabre-tooth and his tippet was plucked from the mane of a plains horse. From amongst the overhang of leaves he harvested a handful of beetle larvae, grass hoppers and other invertebrates, all the creatures that continuously rained down on the feeding fish below. Threading a fat grub onto his hook, he rolled a cast over the water, allowing the insect to plop softly beneath a frond that kissed the water close up against the bank. A fish waiting below rose up and breathed the hook in.

    Of course it should all have ended right there. All the ingredients were in place for happily ever after. But who among us has ever truly known when to let well enough alone? The point is that Urgh had attained as much mastery over his environment as is possible for a being, and by all accounts that should be that. However fate throws its own dice and as they roll ,their magnetism sends us tumbling, headlong, swept behind or before. As so it was that while Urgh was minding his own business, fishing at his favourite pool in the heart of his comfort zone, an imperceptible zephyr from a distant throw of dice wafted through his glade of contentment. Standing over the pool, his eye caught a slight flicker in a dark corner. He eyes strained to peel back the shadows, till in the labyrinth heart of sombre waters, he registered that the flick of light was off a fin. Slowly, in the glooming he made out a fish, one unlike any he had ever seen before. This was not a familiar, not of this river. It was was bigger, brighter and more beautiful than any he had ever seen before. It behaved unlike anything he knew of. Having seen it, he could see nothing else.

    It grew in him till filling his waking and his sleeping. He had eyes for nothing else. The pool and its familiar fish were lost to him, as if they had never been. Every day he dragged himself to the riverside to be in the presence of that fish. If he could only catch it, it would sustain not only him, but might feed the whole clan for an entire winter. Nothing he tried did work. Its undoing surpassed his skill and he began to grow hungry in the midst of plenty. Though his stomach rumbled, gnawing at him as he fished, every cast he threw was thrown seeing only the un-catchable fish. But the fish was not of the river. Its manner of feeding, of swimming, the way it lay up against the bank, its caution, these were things of which he knew nothing, and so he set about their learning.

    Unfortunately for Urgh, events overtook him. One thing led to another and eventually, weakened by his obsession, by hunger amidst plenty, he succumbed before properly cracking the code that kept the fish from capture. But on his death bed, while he still could, he shared the secrets of his arcane fishing with one of the clan who had treated him less unkindly than others, and so, slowly, over generations his wisdom passed on into the clan and into its myths, so that in time his story became theirs.


    The only remarkable thing in all this is simply that nothing has really changed at all in the past thirty odd thousand years and we haven’t come nearly as far as we like to pretend.

    F*CKING NEANDERTHALS!

  6. #6

    Default Wanderer Out Of The Wilderness

    WANDERER OUT OF THE WILDERNESS
    ©Wolf Avni 18/9/2007

    There I was minding my own business at the huge old mahogany desk in the corner. Much of its expanse is taken up by a thoroughly modern clutter of computer geek-stuff; a sprawl of plasma screens, printers, processors, terabyte-drives and enough ancillary DTP-hardware to stock a modest electronics component shop. Atop the cabinets a pair of speakers repose, pouring a wall of music around the space where I work. The sounds are an eclectic mix of classical, acid rock and folk-jazziness, the mind-sets, words and chords resonant of distant times and far-off places.

    So there I was... listening to this mellowed-out mix in the coolth of Computer Corner to one side of the huge windows commanding a view north-east over the lake and up the valley, when the dogs began to give voice. They have a repertoire of distinct and discrete barks, the tone and timbre of each expressing a precise assessment of exigence, and you could tell from the pitch that a body not of the pack was approaching the homestead. Unusually, their attention was focussed towards the lake, more particularly, towards the pines growing along its western aspect rather than towards the buckled track connecting us to the outside world. Their bawling was specific; alert and more-than-interested, yet without any undertone of the strident urgency employed when they assess a threat as dire. Still, they would not let up until I responded by joining them to sniff over whatever might be approaching. So, kicking up from the chair I headed for the sundeck. The dogs, their tails stiff and bristling were waiting only for that and they squirted off down the lawn towards the trees as I stepped outside. Before I had made it as far as the stairs even, they were disappearing into the pines at the water’s edge, but before they vanished I saw that their tails had softened into broad, friendly wags and reading it, I let them go.

    They reappeared almost instantly from beneath the canopy, cavorting and bounding around the human figure that now accompanied them. As the pack made its way boisterously back up the lawn the sorry-ass form in their midst became defined. It was Zachariah, recognisable from his general comportment, attire and easy familiarity with the dogs. In the mountains he affects a scruffiness that rivals my own and coming up toward the house he looked like what the world needs more of; another refugee from the frontline of the denim revolution.

    Zachariah, though you might never think it were he to wander out of the wilderness onto your front lawn, is a master at one of the toffeenose schools that litter the Midlands, and every year he chaperones a party of pubescent youths out on their annual scholastic bush hike through the mountains. When they overnight up at the Umzimkulwana hut, he visits from time to time.

    Every year as spring begins to tinge the hills with green, old Zachariah winds his way down the valley and pops in for a bit of a natter. The conversation is easy. It skips over the landscape and beyond the horizon as we talk of many things... of trout and of fly-fishing and of the rains that have not come. It takes a couple of brisk showers to get the river fishing properly and so we fret that again it is a dry September. We speak of the tiny, sweet-fleshed fish that survive the winters in these thin waters on the upper Umzimkulwana, and of how the bigger, thick flanked fish flee downstream in search of the broad shadows in the deeper pools down there. We talk of the far, far past and of the forces that shape this landscape, of the San who once peopled it, their shelters and their rock-art. But more, we listen to old Dylan guitar riffs and ponder the meaning, or lack of it in things. Usually when guests arrive I turn the music down, or off, but with Zach it is different and I can crank the volume without any fear of giving offence or invoking discomfort. His arrival is always a surprise, a small unlooked-for pleasure. I offer him a drink to quench his thirst after the long hike along the river from Umzimkulwana Hut and his plea is for a glass of cold water straight off the mountain. I think that’s why I like him. Our tastes and our views seem to mesh in more than just a common appreciation for song lyrics, guitar riffs and the flavour of this pure mountain water. Our mythologies share a common alphabet. We talk about many things, subjects that find their way into the modest texts I write and I am refreshed by this small token that not everybody finds them incomprehensible. He always arrives late of an afternoon, stays for an hour or two and then leaves as the sun begins its slide into the hills, leaving himself a brisk walk to make it back up to the hut in the mountains before darkness fully swallows all into a moonless night.

    This year saw his third or fourth visit and it seems almost to have become a small ritual. Anyway, his annual calls are short, a pleasant interlude, and as I watched his figure recede back up the valley I was reminded of his first visit, coincidentally occasioned by this very column. Apparently he had read one of these columns and had felt constrained to enquire the employment of a particular phrase with its author. Now any guy who will walk ten kilometres to find out why I would choose to use ‘emend’ rather than ‘amend’ in a sentence, gets my attention. I resolved as I watched him vanish around a rocky spur, that next time I saw him we would take a couple of 3 weight rods and go fish the river together.


  7. #7

    Default Spring Fever

    DATELINE; NATAL WITNESS 25/8/2007
    ©Wolf Avni 25/8/2007

    From the perspective of any fly-fisherman who lives up in the Drakensberg, what the world needs about now is a good solid drenching. Of course, the world doesn’t always get what it needs and when it does it’s almost always in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I mean, the guys down in the Western Cape would consider themselves fortunate if the clouds rolled off for a while and let some sun in. Down there they are praying for a let up to the fronts surging in from the deep Atlantic so that their rivers might clear and settle down a bit before spring gets here. On Flytalk (an internet website dedicated to obsessive fly anglers) I see that those members who have undertaken pre-season inspections of their favourite river beats high in the fold-mountains, report waters roiled and muddied, visibility down to nothing and water levels that imperil any who may hazzard their way up those rocky courses.

    From all accounts, almost half of Europe and most of Asia - from China right through to Bangladesh - are under a couple of metres of raging flood-waters, as are large chunks of the Eastern seaboard of both the Americas, north and south. The Carribean too, has just been engulfed by a category five hurricane, which went on to pound both Cuba and Mexico ~ leaving devastation and deluge in its wake.

    But up here where our rivers have their source, we have been leeched drier than the hobs of Hell by five months of unmitigated dessication. A little bit of that overflow that they who are receiving, don’t want, would be greatly appreciated around here. There was of course that brief little interlude at the end of June, which buried us and all that lives in the shadow of the lip of the high Berg, under a half a metre of the most wonderful, divine powder snow. But that is long gone now, even though the high Berg still carries slashes of that snowfall, now turned to ice in its deeper gullies, protected from the sun. From the perspective of the freestone rivers draining its flanks, winter’s thrall has been a long and parched haul. With the start of the river fishing season a bare week away, the rivers are looking decidedly threadbare and any trout that have survived the vicissitude of spawning and everything else that comes with winter’s cyccle, could probable do without the attentions of hordes of fly-fisherman filled with spring-fever.

    The dams and still waters, on the other hand are starting to fish very nicely, with water temperatures creeping above the magical 10⃝C level, at which point their metabolisms begin to emerge from their winter shut-down. Last week we had a couple of punters fishing our waters and they accounted for better than 50 fish between three rods, over three days.

    In town this morning, where I stopped on the way back from a fish delivery, I fell into conversation with a village worthy, wife to a local beef baron. She told me that it has been a lousy season for beefs. I told her they should try farming trout! We commiserated with each other concerning our various and several burdens.

    We who eke our lives out in the shadow of the footprints of clearly dyspeptic deities, must muddle on. We can only work with what we have and by all accounts, however dismal our view of things, they could get a great deal worse before they get better. If we look to the geology of our surroundings for clues as to the range of climatic extremes that pass over the landscape, we see in the layers of rock that measure its history, cycles of drought and of wet so far outside the range of anything we might have experienced. It is a timely reminder that our scales of measurement are nothing if not subjective.... and very very parochial.

    Asking of any farming type, what was their best year, usually engenders the response “ next year... next year will be a good year.” Anglers too are well known for their boundless, if groundless optimism. So if asked for any prediction as to what the season ahead might hold, my reply is preordained; “next year... next year will be the best season”.

  8. #8

    Default Full Circle

    DATELINE; NATAL WITNESS 6/10/2007
    ©Wolf Avni 2/10/2007

    “I don’t know what fly fishing teaches us but I think it is something we aught to know”. - John Gierach

    Life is a funny old place, wonderful if you don’t weaken but otherwise a bit of a beetch.
    This much we all know; it is the human habit to get so caught up in details of our individuality that we easily lose sight of the bigger picture. Everything is rooted in change, as much at its core as in expression of its nature. The forces that drive change are irresistible, eventually blowing away all that splices matter to itself or to anything else - and nothing clears cobwebs from the mind as thoroughly as do its whistling winds. Whether our view be macrocosmic or microscopic, change is the most fundamental element of our entire life reality, though awareness of it does not necessarily inform the individual’s experience of their own existence . We get lost in that warp between time and our scale for its measurement.

    Thrust upon me by circumstances of transience this train of reflection comes as a timely reminder against complacency in my own life. More, it reminds me how much of my sanity I owe to a lifetime of fly fishing, or if not to the fact of fishing itself, then certainly to the lessons spun in its wake. In as far as I have learned them at all, it has taught me patience... and humility. It has encouraged a vigorous sense of humour and keeps alive my optimism in the face of adversity. Without a good leavening of either it is unlikely that I would have stayed the course throughout all the travails that accompany any angling apprenticeship. It provides me with valuable experiential counterpoints to what many refer to as my naturally robust cynicism.

    For me it began in a slum-bound childhood that is now quite distant. I guess, like most anybody, my early fishing was nothing more than indulgence, a frivolous, self-absorbed and unoriginal attempt at escape from ennui, the common boredom that drains all colour from rainbows. But over time, for me it has by degrees transmuted into something altogether different. In its pursuit I have undertaken many expeditions of discovery, some life-changing, others pointless. Along the way it has transported me into worlds that I might otherwise have known nothing about. Fly-fishing has indirectly and directly done more to open my eyes to the infinite wonders of the planet we inhabit than anything else I can think of, and certainly nothing that is anywhere near as much fun. Its models provide a clear mirror image of the cyclic nature of the universe, the pulses and rhythms of the one reflecting in the other.

    Amongst all that change, this much is constant; my angling pursuits bring me into an athletic interaction with a range of environments unsullied by human intervention. Much of the experience - though I was often unaware of it in the moment - serves to inform a value system with clear scales of comparison between the economies of Nature and the profligate, mindless excesses of societal consumption. The degree of utter destruction we leave in the human footprint (what we euphemistically refer to as ‘development’) only becomes visible as we put some distance between ourselves and our societal roles. Fishing, it turns out, is as streamlined a vehicle to cover that distance as any other.

    In countless small ways fly-fishing accentuates a point we need keep uppermost in the mind, that where we may not always have the control we would like over the cards we are dealt, we do get to choose how we will play them. Angling, it turns out, is as naked an expression of who we really are as we are likely to find. And the fish, any fish, all the fish are almost entirely coincidental. It just takes a while to realise it. If this was a pilgrimage it has come full circle. It sucked me in, a child in search of itself, and spits me out a fully qualified cyclicocologist.



    PS. one of my favourite life-mantras is TS ELLIOT'S "We shall not cease from exploration... and returning to our point of departure, we see the place as if for the first time"
    Last edited by Surly Ghillie; 06-10-07 at 08:09 AM. Reason: because i can

  9. #9

    Default Rejuvenations

    ©Wolf Avni 12/10/2007
    “Looking for a woman that needs a worried man is like looking for a needle that is lost in the sand” ~ BOB DYLAN

    The rains have come, a little late perhaps, but not so much so that lush carpets of grasses and wildflowers do not already cover the countryside in a symphony of happy colour. September’s expectation that summer rains were nigh was never requited, and our optimism sank daily beneath barren skies, but October, glorious October has filled each day’s sky with bulbous clouds and now the dry parched hills have vanished beneath a new season’s refulgent growth. The river is chortling down its course so briskly that it is easy to forget that mere weeks ago it trickled barely, a testament to months of dessication.

    Out on the lake anglers are having a fine old time. Heinrich, a visitor from darkest Cape Town bagged more than seventy fish in 4 days of fishing. , His best trout was over eight pounds and as I watched him return her alive and healthy into the lake, I decided that I quite liked old Heinrich. Admittedly, he worked hard for his fish, spending long hours out on his float tube, so much so that Caroline, my S.W.A.M.B.O. (She who always must be obeyed), was overhead tersely contending “that dude sure has an understanding partner...”.

    And then there was Rob Taylor. In just over two days of fly fishing he hooked more than forty fish, the best, a six pounder. As trout fishing goes, Lord alone knows, that’s not too shabby, especially coming as it does hard on the heels of some of the most indifferent fishing in living memory. Reports from around the district all contain a similar theme; the fishing is ‘on’.

    For me personally the rain carries even deeper portent. Back in the depth of winter I was foolish enough to predict a wet-ish summer, notwithstanding that only fools and strangers pretend to be able to foretell the weather. Around here the only thing more unpredictable, more capricious than climate, is Swambo in an hormonal stew... *** bless her. And the coming of the rains has saved the remnants of my tattered reputation.

    I digress. The point is that all this rain and the favourable water temperatures are producing marvellous fishing. Given the leads-and-lags that always exist between an event and its registering upon the societal radar, it is not surprising that all this champagne fishing comes with the added benefit of an unusual privacy. October, coming as it does once spring has fully sprung but before the torpor of summer can put the fish down again, is usually a time when the trout fishing is more heavily utilised than in any other part of the year. This year there has been a distinct dearth of fishing traffic on the many high-profile waters throughout the district and I cannot remember an October where the regional fishery has been so underutilised. It seems as if many regular trout fishermen are still stuck in the misery of the mental image built out of the difficulties of the preceding year. And let’s face it, last year sucked!

    Those few brave expeditionary souls who have ventured forth have for the most part been amply rewarded. Looking through the comment column in our fishery record, I cannot help but notice that though the lines of entry are fewer than is usual for this time of year ~ a function of the reduced traffic ~ those that are there without exception are positive and upbeat. The general tone is that of replete satisfaction, unusual amongst the angling sub-species. Of course every silver lining must have its cloud and with all this rain about there are times when the fishing conditions can most kindly be characterised as arduous, as poor Mick, booking in for a couple of days fishing on the back of my high recommendation, discovered. From the moment he stepped out of his vehicle until he left some 36 hours later, the clouds closed in. He fished for two days solid through an interminable drizzle, till Swambo could no longer contain herself. “Is that man a maniac?” she asked, incredulous, as Mick floated away in a driving downpour that all but obscured the lake from view. “No,” I told her, “just an ordinary fisherman going about his business.”

    It’s not as if Mick were merely another gung-ho machismo urban fisherman attempting to shoehorn a lifetime of fishing action into an allotted time slot. As attested by his head of silver hair and a frame wracked by a lifetime of old war wounds, Mick is old enough to take his pleasures in more leisurely fashion as many of his contemporaries no doubt remind him at every turn, but such is his passion for the outdoors and for fly-fishing that he is not the type to let the mere fact of inclement weather dissuade him from his intention. He came to fish and fish he did - just an ordinary fisherman going about his business..

  10. #10

    Default Toys

    DATELINE; NATAL WITNESS 3/11/2007
    ©Wolf Avni 2/11/2007

    “The only difference between men and boys is in the price of the toys”. - ANON.
    Whoever so said that fresh-water fly-fishing is an elitist indulgence, and an expensive one at that, doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about. I have just returned from three days spent exhibiting at a fishing expo held at Kyalami in the shadow of the Big Smoke and what I saw there would shrivel the hairs on the roof of your mouth.

    By no stretch of the imagination was it a fly-fishing show. In fact our particular discipline was probably the least represented of all the angling genres. Aside from my own Giant’s Cup stand there were just two other fly-fishing dedicated displays in the entire hall, but everything else across the broad angling spectrum was there in spades, from carp crazies to the deep-sea demented.

    The exhibition hall at Kyalami is vast and it was filled from one end to the other with exhibits of everything from camping equipment to bass-buster rigs sporting price tags that would be more appropriate attached to upmarket suburban family homes. Outside the hall the parking lot was crammed to jammed with every conceivable type of craft and fishing platform that one might imagine from bathtubs to the baronial.

    The array of fishing tackle and accoutrements on display, converted to cash could underwrite a small African country’s annual development budget. Among the myriad displays there were glitzy bass boats powered by 300hp motors ( capable of top speeds exceeding the speed limit on our freeways). Throw in the fancy 4 wheel custom trailers without which the boats are less than useless and a vehicle with enough torque to tow them and you would get very little change from a million rand. By the time you have tossed in a full compliment of function specific rods with matching reels as well as all the various lures, plugs, crank-baits, spinners, plastic worms and other absolutely essential ancillaries that no self-respecting bass fisherman would be seen without, and you are staring straight in the face of profligacy of an order of magnitude beyond the wildest fantasy of any mere fly-fishing mortal. By comparison, the most materialistic fly fisher on the planet would seem monastic.

    I have always thought that the whole point of fishing is to get away from cement, from cities and from the societal insanity that breeds in the suburbs but apparently not everyone thinks similarly. On offer were luxury homes on angling/golfing estates boasting upward of a 1000 individually owned units. There were shares in exclusive little syndicates too, that boasted a bare couple of hundred members, or about the total population of the village of Underberg. There were excursions and packages to suit every pocket from the parsimonious to the prodigious, among them a good share of which were bundles marketing exotic locations and remote Indian ocean islands priced to chew through any decent sized inheritance in a matter of weeks.

    I looked around the hall during build-up, even before the expo had thrown its doors open to the public and found myself longing to be back in my quiet little valley in the mountains.

    It was however not to be. I was committed for the duration and so, catapulting myself entirely into the razmataz disco spirit of the thing I engaged a drop-dead gorgeous young hottie to man my stand, to adorn my humble display sort of like bait, to waft pheromones out into the aisles and over the shoals of vacant-eyed consumers who thronged through the doorway. It worked a bomb. When I sat at the vise tying flies to attract attention, the mob shuffled past my modest little stand as if it were not even there, but the moment Sunanda, with all the eloquence of her natural beauty sat herself in the tying chair pretending to wind flies, the crowds gathered as if the tying of flies were the only thing they had come to see. The punters crowded rows deep around the fly-tying display, craning their necks and putting backs out in their attempts to engage her attention. Being new to it, many of her flies looked more like earings, ethnic art, or perhaps Xmas decorations rather than anything that might entice a fish, but geez, them flies caught more in three days than anything that I have ever strapped to a hook in a long and fish-filled lifetime.


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