©Wolf Avni 18/6/2005
“Take what you can gather from coincidence” #1
Is it not strange how keys that might unlock the doors of perception are frequently lost beyond retrieve among these tangled roots of coincidence? And is it not true that the outcome of any sequence of events - no matter how seemingly capricious - as in the fall of say, cards - is in fact predetermined by precise mathematical models of probability, which themselves are more a clear mental chronology of what has gone before - rather than any real science of prophesy, or prescience? The more cards that have been played from any deck - and assuming a clear memory of it - the greater the degree of accuracy to any prediction of the sequence in which the reducing remainder might fall.
That is how it is with fishing.
Some years back, Phillip de M. played nurse-maid to a largish party of anglers from France. The group was made up of an eclectic mix of modern professionals and their suitably qualified consorts. Though all in the party were nominally acquainted one with the other, before undertaking their great African fishing safari, one could hardly call them friends and they had little in common aside from the fact that they all lived in France and all had issues with the receiver of French revenue. They had been thrown together by nothing more incidental than a peculiarity of French taxation, in which, it seems there exists a device that allowed them, by forming a “sportfishing club”, to undertake this adventure at the expense of the French tax man. Among themselves they could count orthodontists, lawyers, architects, a lone accountant and a couple of prosperous entrepreneurs. Only one of the party - a retailer of up-market fly-fishing tackle - could by any stretch of any imagination be regarded as an experienced angler. For the rest, they were all more caught up in the romance of the idea of being international jet-setting fly-fishers, rather than being intrinsic embodiments of any angling reality. They were of the type that could be entirely satisfied with any canned experience that delivered its proverbial pound of fish.
Months before their arrival, Phillip de M. had made contact to engage our participation in the trout leg of what was to be a fishing interlude of marathon proportions. He had planned an ambitious programme, meticulous in its detail, filled with to-ing and fro-ing designed to soak up all the excess liquidity that the custom of this fishing club would bring with it. It was to be a typical yuppie-type fishing excursion, including as it did, lightning forays into almost every possible sphere of the sub-equatorial African fishing experience. The month-long itinerary was comprehensively optimistic, an aggressively hopeful attempt to bag every high-profile angling fish on the subcontinent, and included, in order of scheduled sequence, a stint of fishing for tigers in the Okavango delta, to be followed by a week of deep-sea game-fishing off Richards Bay. They would then shift their investigations to the legendary trophy largemouth yellows of the Orange river thirst-lands and finally, as an epilogue, they would wrap the whole African deal up with a week-long Drakensberg traverse, in search of trout. It was here that my role would take to the stage.
Guilbert stepped from the car in a black funk. Behind him, the girls piled out, fussing, gushing almost, clearly conciliatory. They gibbered away unintelligibly in rapid-fire French, and though I had no clue what was being said, its general import was unmistakable. Guilbert was not enjoying his fishing safari. No matter how much the girls might fuss over him, his lip was set to saturnine and come-what-may, nothing would coax him from his disagreeable petulance. His mood infused the entire group with a glumness that boded ill for we who would be their hosts for an entire week.
Phillip de M., looking about as henpecked as a fishing guide can, took us discretely aside and quickly brought us up to speed. The tale he whispered in our ears was a sad litany. Apparently, thus far, the entire expedition had been a catalogue of unadulterated woe. The Okavango leg had been disastrous, not only from the fishing perspective, but the realities of the bush had been more than the distinctly urban, Eurocentric sensibilities of the clients had contracted for. Then, the Richards bay leg had proven calamitous too. The party had sat for a week in that crummy town waiting for a gale to blow itself out, so that they might venture offshore. It never happened. Finally, with time running out and their very expensive charter sitting day after day at mooring, the guys had decided that their machismo needed expression. A vote was taken and notwithstanding the dismay of the more cautious among them, and under the helmsmanship of a most reluctant skipper, they left harbour and headed into a more than lumpy sea . The mortifications of a small, pitching deck in a roiled ocean may best be described as an acquired taste - not one which many landlubbers ever truly build a thrall for, and the participants in this great French angling expedition were no exception. Only one of them, Klaus the German, had the least drop of briny boatmanship in his blood, and to a man the rest had retched any vestige of fishing desire over the side of the boat within the first fifteen minutes of leaving port. Phillip, their guide, and Klaus the fisherman, reluctant to give up once they were at sea, trolled through the mountainous though lifeless waters till dark, while everyone else just died below decks, or at least wished that they might. For all their pains the boat had not a single strike. By the time they remade the sanctuary of harbour, the noble Guilbert had been literally suicidal, and from what I saw of the man some few weeks later, they should have let him jump from that heaving deck.