© Wolf Avni July 22, 2004
TROUT LIKE MULLET
Fly-fishing is like Life; a paradox wrapped in enigma , juggled ‘twixt horns of dilemma( #1 )
Sometime last year, last summer, about the time when my dear, sweet Caroline was coaxing me toward a state of rare comprehension, informing me - none too gently - that unless, after 16 uninterrupted years we take a real holiday from the farm, from the hatchery and from fly-fishing of any kind, that I might properly find myself waking alone some cold and wintry morning, I was ready to agree with just about anything she might demand.
She demanded Kruger Park in July. I was left in a quandary. Without my beloved mountain streams, wilderness and fish, I would indubitably pine and perhaps over time wither away in sad decline, but without her warm form in the bed next to me through the long winter nights, I would simply and with certainty freeze clean to death before June’s full moon. One the one hand, with winter upon us, the trout would be in full spawn and we would be sitting on a hatchery full of brood fish, carrying between them almost a million eggs. but on the other, without my wife I am less than nothing. What was I to do? The threat was immediate, her bags packed, whereas winter and the spawn were still many months away. And so in a moment of weakness, Kruger in July was agreed to.
Time’s wheel ground as it will, and all too soon July was imminent and my quandary returned to haunt that diminishing space between myself and it. I began to hatch a plan. In matters piscine, Rob Karssing is about as good a man as one is likely to find. For almost two decades he ran the trout hatchery at Kamberg - efficiently and with very little fuss or bother - but, more importantly, his entire existence is infused with as deep a passion as I for fish of all types and for fishing of any kind and for just messing about in the proximity of water and wilds. He would be a good custodian in whose hands the farm might safely be left. If only I could entice him into believing that he had just won a free holiday - a reward perhaps for his years of tireless contribution towards educating South African fly-fishers into a belief that stew-pond fishing is as real as it gets, perhaps he might be inveigled into taking my place for a couple of weeks? And so I cast my fly his way, first offering limitless fly- fishing for wild trout. Then I threw in luxury accommodation and the pleasure of the company of our dogs - as wild a pack of dingos as one might find in darkest Africa - and finally, when still he wavered, offering an overly generous wad of bills. Finally he rose to engulf the offer in its entirety, and I was off the hook.
To cut a long story short, as I was trundling around in Kruger, gazing over a lifeless bushveld to a snow clad escarpment off the distance, in whose waters perhaps mysterious fish might fin, Rob and his buddies were out on the lake, revving my fish. The thought of it was more than I could bear and so, every evening, among the sounds of the bushveld night, I borrowed a cell phone and phoned home. At first things went tolerably well, and those first calls at the beginning of the holiday were all I could wish for. They began with a little verbal fencing, me feigning a deep concern with the day-to-day matters of administration, as any good manager might.
But soon we were down to the nuts. “How’s the fishing?” I asked nonchalantly and his response was as reassuring as I had hoped. “I can see the damn things all over”, he told me “they’re swimming around in shoals like mullet... feeding like crazy, but we just can’t catch them. They’re feeding on something coming off the water, looks like a mayfly”
“Tricorythidae,”, I told him, “they’re feeding on those little stout crawlers” , forgetting that he might know what they are, or that, even if not, he had my library close at hand for reference, “Or perhaps Pseudocloen”, I finessed, hoping to confuse the hell out of him.
As I was saying, those first few phone calls went well enough, but after a couple of days, things took a turn for the worse. On a borrowed cell phone I had to hear it! “How’s the fishing Rob?” began to be answered by a very preppy, almost uppity-sounding Rob, with things like “Hey man! We klapped those fish today. Mike got a couple of three pounders and I hammered the smaller stuff... about ten between us....”
And so it went. You will understand my dismay, but Rob, insensate that he is, went on night after night, “Hey Bra”, he told me “just you relax up there and enjoy yourself. Those fish are just shoaling like feeding mullet and I’m OK here. We cracked the pattern and found a fly that works. You were right, They’re full of those little trico nymphs”.
What was I to do? I stopped phoning.
#1. The Unpublished Epigrams of Surly Ghillie