© Wolf Avni SEPT 30, 2004

YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE NEXT WEEK!

The long weekend just past might go down as one of the lousiest in the history of fishing... well, almost.  For Kietz, it doubtless  was.  I’m sure the unfortunate  weather had much to do with it.  Sandwiched between two fronts, alternatively sliced by north winds and vicious sou’westers,  Friday was blown clear to hell.  The Kietz,  caught out by a moment of inattention,  had to be rescued when he and Tinkerbelle took a  boat out into the teeth of a  gale.  Predictably, they were driven onto the rocky rip-rap on the dam wall. In conditions like that, both boat and crew can get themselves seriously mashed. Luckily, we saw their difficulty and  Jack and I sprinted  down to the lake edge  to help fend them off the rocks.  We got there just in time. In the confusion of the moment, with the small boat bucking and twisting as we wrestled it, though we got the anglers safely disembarked  and managed to lift the boat over the threatening rocks, their kit got hammered -  and the Kietz snapped a favourite rod. That can put a significant kink in the equanimity of the most laid-back of fishermen and there are more  auspicious ways to  start a three-day fishing idyl.

  Saturday saw the situation deteriorate.  The mercury plummeted.  A combination of wind, drizzle and marrow-chilling  cold made conditions  out on the lake thoroughly disagreeable, almost dangerous.  Consequently,  I found myself stuck with a herd  of seriously disgruntled fishermen - some, more so than others  - and there was nothing I could do to re-gruntle them.  Sunday was  little  better.  A few fish got caught,  but then, just when  it seemed as if things might clear in time for the crew to salvage some small wedge  of their sojourn,  another  front came blustering through,  sapping  whatever modest will to fish  was left among them  and by Monday,  everyone, especially  Kietz,  had pretty much thrown in the towel.

 

Poor old Kietz!  He  got thoroughly  skunked  though he tried manfully to not let it show too obviously. “I don’t really  care about the fish,” he said to no one in particular, fabricating  bravely  from behind a tight little smile. “ Just being here being the main thing”,  he offered unconvincingly, “the birds, the scenery, the vibe,  you know...”.

 Trout can do that to you and it just wasn’t meant to be his weekend. Even Leila did better than he. She’s only seven years old and doesn’t exactly or  especially  like fly-fishing. Still, tagging along behind Pablo,  her dad, she snagged herself a brace of smallish, but exceedingly  fat lake trout.  The thing is,  Kietz - who takes his fishing more obsessively  than should be  legal -  together with as jovial a bunch of fisher folk as one could hope to share a long weekend with, had  booked out all the Lodges, their trip planned almost a year in advance. By the time they arrived, their  expectations had been building for months and they made no secret of the fact that they were here to fervently   kick some  trout-butt.  Despite unspeakable weather, they stuck bravely to it,  and in the course of the weekend,  though the fishing was appallingly  difficult,   every single member of the party who laid a hand upon a trout rod - excepting only the Kietz -  caught something, even the kids.  That had to hurt.

 Getting squinched is not something that happens very often to the Kietz, certainly not on rivers, where, these days,  he carries a minor reputation  of being  not-too-shabby  a fisherman.  Of course, those who are  old enough will remember a time when he prided himself equally,  if not more, on being pretty clued-up on still water - and though he did no better on the dam this weekend past, it didn’t seem to  hurt him quite as much.  Of late his condescension  for the coarseness of still water fishing has become palpable.  Ever since he’s been hanging out with Dr Tom,  One-weight Eddie and Fearsome Freddy Steynberg, the Kietz communicates a subtle disdain for anything other than fishing the eye of the stream, the thinnest of running waters for the smallest of fish on the lightest of lines and flimsiest of rods.    And so it came to be, that Kietz, fishing the smallest of flies on the lightest of rods in the  thin waters of the merry Uzimkulwana, didn’t even get to see a fish.  He needed to believe that the reason was simply that there were no fish there to be seen, but even that was denied him , as, earlier, Pablo had covered that self- same water, spooking more than one fish on his way upstream. Bummer!   As if that were not enough, stung by the Kietz’s inference that there were no fish in the river, the day after they left I took a rare walk upstream with my 3 weight Orvis Otter and a handful of no.18 olive nymphs. In the first couple of hundred metres above the lake, with the warmth of the morning sun pouring down  like honey,  I raised about a dozen feisty little rainbows, nothing  bigger than might be expected, , but still,  the riffles were rotten with them.

It just wasn’t Kietz’s weekend.  He is as fine a  fisherman as one is likely to meet, but somehow, what  with the breaking of his favourite  rod, the ignominious rescue, the crappy weather and  being out-fished by a seven year old girl who doesn’t even like fishing,  I don’t think the poor sod  could  have caught a fish that weekend, not even  if it  were thrown  at him from five paces in an uptown supermarket. 

 According to my compadre,  Salmo Nella,  the problem lies  with reputation itself.  He says it sneaks up slowly on any who do not beware their own PR, who do not maintain a healthy disbelief in any part of themselves which might stumble into print or  off the tongues of envious angling  associates.   He says that success brings its own burdens and that , actually,  there’s more than one problem in trying to live up to a reputation, but the big thing is the paranoia.  It is so easy to feel the weight  of expectation. It is as if, imagined or otherwise, every caught eye  casts an unspoken accusation. “So, nu already, hotshot! Where’s the fish?”  It just sucks one in, distracting the most focussed of anglers from the task at hand.  The problem, he says,   is that trout were never respectful of reputation.  “The thing”, said Salmo Nella, “ is that  if the Kietz is right, and the rod is only a pretext, does the flimsiness of the rod then impact upon the flimsiness of the pretext?”

ends