The Sybase Protea Trials

2008-03-15 00:00

Following the WildFly National Fly Fishing Championships, recently held on the freestone streams of the Western Cape, the top fifteen provincial anglers were invited up to test their skills on the challenging conditions of Lake Le Seuer and what is arguably the finest brown trout river in South Africa... the upper Mooi at Riverside.

Joining the senior squad, having qualified at the WildFly Junior Trials held on the Vaal river were nine potential candidates for the first Junior Protea Fly Fishing team.

Just to get to this stage, the competitors had been up against each other for the last two years, this being the minimum duration that scores are collated over to determine qualification at this level.

Consistency of results over multiple fish off’s gives every registered angler a national ranking and this ensures that only the country’s finest fly fishers earn an invite to the Sybase Protea Trials.

But as this level, even before you step on the playing field, you have to qualify through a battery of tests to prove beyond any doubt that you know your craft intimately.

First is a tackle inspection that is reminiscent of National Service. You need to know everything about every single item in your possession; it gives new meaning to technical and literally takes the fun out of fishing.

This is followed by casting and presentation disciplines for hours on end, for every conceivable scenario, it will leave your joints aching and the fainthearted yearning for some bait to throw.

And then for those who think that buying the best flies is the way to slide home, you’re given the most intricate patterns to tie, these needing to imitate the insect to perfection as the adjudicators glare over your shoulder.

As I said, it really does take the fun out of fly fishing.

But if you want to hold your own in the World Championships this is a prerequisite.

The shaken contestants enjoyed a quiet evening (again I’ve never seen or been to a fly fishing event where more action takes place on the field than in the pub) in preparation for the rigors of lake Le Seuer.

Now, Le Seuer’s has devastated the dreams of many a wannabe, 194 acres is in itself daunting, couple this with the relentless wind that can blow a man across the lake in a matter of minutes and you understand why some anglers trudge down the mountain bleaker than a winters dawn.

The Juniors were allowed to float tube, compliments of Explorer and their magic mini V boats, as handling a drift boat, it was felt, was a little much for the U18’s.

But the Seniors had stricter rules than an Italian convent. Two men per boat, no anchor, only a small drogue….launch, sit down and if you get up once in your session you’re disqualified!

Only barbless flies, no weights of any description and the angler can only cast with the wind…in other words no casting against the wind and trolling with the boat!! Plus a multitude of other equipment rigging regulations.

Two intense 3-hour sessions, with your boat partner measuring your fish and scoring the sought after points.

Not exactly a casual outing looking for a few fresh trout.

The fishing on the Lake lived up to it’s reputation in the first session, with a lot more rowing done than actual fishing…finding the fish in such an expanse of water is never easy…identical to what awaits the Sybase Proteas at the forthcoming World Championships.

Well the dreaded blank reached out and slapped the best of them, with only three senior anglers, registering a fish….an unmolested fly is the great leveler, bound to shatter egos and guaranteed to break the resolve of a weary angler. This is what competitive fly fishing is all about, the ability to stay focused and implement a plan in a positive manner…at this level, fishing is all about attitude and confidence.

And those that persevered pulled though in the second session despite the deteriorating weather and water conditions. Tim Rolston announced his candidacy for selection by bagging 4 rainbows in his second session as did Andre Steenkamp by catching in both sessions. Remember, blanking a fishing session can destroy your chances as you accrue penalty points.

Needless to say there were more than a few excuses and invariable complaints from those that didn’t find the fish, but the Juniors had the last laugh by out fishing the majority of Seniors in the 2nd session…o.k. they had float tubes and we all know that the wind drift troll is a fact of float tubing….but the history books will only show the results. Chase Nicholson and Daniel Factor headed up the leader board in this division after the first day.

After a few soothing words from Arthur Bell and sons, the senior lads (and one lady) retired to prepare for the final day which would determine who received Protea colors.

The Mooi River was one of the first rivers to be stocked with Brown Trout in the 1890’s and despite the best efforts from the supposedly politically correct to extricate the fish, the results showed that the population is thriving in well managed conditions. With the kind permission of custodian Pieter Moller, the competitors battled it out over three 2-hour sessions, swapping allocated beats throughout the day.

In total 163 fish were caught and released in a only six hours of fishing, and let me tell you that as many were dropped as the barbless hooks went down extremely well with the wild browns.

Chalk and cheese in terms of the expressions of anglers returning from a full day on the water yesterday.

Now, it wasn’t just about coming right in a few days fishing, remember the points that were up for grabs at these trials were added to the totals that accrued over a 2 year cycle.

Of course when national honors are up for grabs, you’re always going to have a few disappointed competitors, but as the numbers yet again verified it was the top fly fishers that earned the right to represent their country.

The Sybase Proteas that will be competing in the World Fly Fishing Championships to be held in New Zealand from the 22nd to the 30th March 2008 are:

Mark Yelland – (Also received floating trophy for largest river fish - 42cm)

Robert Van Rensburg

Gary Glen Young

Andre Steenkamp (Recipient of floating trophy for top fly fisher, caught in every session)

Tim Rolston

Presidents Team that qualified to compete in the Commonwealth Games-:

Sudesh Prasad

Tim Babich

Terry Babich

Phillip Meyer

Jaques Marais

Managers – Greg Fendt and Andre Blignaut

Junior Protea Team that will compete in the Junior World Championship -:

Chase Nicholson

Daniel Factor

Christiaan Pretorius

Joshua Smith

Non Fishing Captain – MC Coetzee

Manager – Willem Pretorius

Full results of the WildFly National Trials including the full breakdown of points accrual for qualification is available on www.wildfly.co.za

We wish all the recipients many gentle presentations, lots of drag free drift and landing nets that reek.

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