Trout in a time of drought

2010-11-06 00:00

ASIDE from the brief testosterone-soaked years of that distant and misspent youth, I’ve never gone big on competitive angling. With dog-eat-dog defining so much of the civic space that holds our lives in orbit it seems such a pity to consign the elemental values of angling as grist for that same mill. Nothing like making it all about “survival of the fittest” to spark the ravening killer hard-wired deep in each of us, although in some more than in others.

And so it comes as something of a surprise for me to find myself agreeing when Linda Gorlei (a leading light in the affairs of competitive angling in KwaZulu-Natal) asks for me to report on the junior and senior national fly-fishing trials, events held separately with a fortnight between them in the waters of our southern Drakensberg. The fact that she dares approach me at all on the subject says much for her courage (or perhaps naivete) and the fact that she so quickly has me belly up, purring, speaks volumes of her powers of persuasion. Before I know it I agree to stuff I can’t even understand. Boy, am I lucky she isn’t trying to sell me life cover, or perhaps encyclopaedias and second-hand cars, or whatever.

But enough about me and Linda. It begins in the last days of September when 39 eager anglers, the cream of the country’s U18 fly-fishers accompanied by busloads of proud parents, organisers and other motley camp followers descend on Underberg to find its rivers, and indeed the dams, in parlous state.

What little water there was at the end of a dry and dismal winter soon got sucked out by the many thirsty pivots that straddle the countryside.

The fact that Underberg was chosen as the venue for national trials for both the junior and the senior Protea fly-fishing teams says everything about the quality of its angling resource base.

The fact that the trials are able to be held at all, despite the current climate circumstances, which (in case you haven’t noticed) teeters on the edge of calamity, says much about the determination and competence of the KZNFFA office bearers who have managed in so short a time to build so many bridges in the local fly-fishing community.

Well, to cut a long story short, the organisers need to switch some of their angling sessions from planned river sectors to still waters. Goschen becomes one of the five sectors for each of the five sessions that were fished, in the course of which, as otherwise might never have happened, the infamy of the surly glare got cast over the fishing habits and styles of some 39 aspirant if sometimes impressionable anglers. I had to promise the organisers never once to utter the four-letter F-word and refrain for the few days it endures from saying both “fish” and/or “fins”.

With one down and with one to go, I wish them well as I kneel to pray for rain.

The prayer somehow gets answered, only too late to make much difference to the senior circus, which pulls into town around October 10.

The seniors fish a few practice sessions on random waters and the championship proper kicks off on October 13 with the dams and rivers further depleted by the ordinary procession of a drought-blighted spring.

And then the rains come, but before the rains comes a wind. A gale such as is seldom experienced as latitude and altitude blew the hapless anglers from one end of Thursday clear through to the other, and what little fishing was done went by the wayside when all Thursday’s sessions were cancelled.

As with life generally, there were winners and losers and surprises along the way. Euphoria and elation walked as they are wont, hand in hand with disappointment and even moments of despair. I have all the results to hand — the individual and the team placings, but they reveal little beyond the fact that life is never fair, that the playing field is never perfectly even and that no part of the game comes with any natural entitlement to anything.

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