© 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?”