Mist and drizzle greeted the finalists of the TOPS Corporate Challenge Final this last weekend, which not surprisingly didn’t put even a slight damper on the atmosphere of the opening evening at the legendary Notties. But, with over half a Million Rands worth of holidays up for grabs and every person guaranteed to win one of them, you can understand why.
With every fly fisher kitted out in their new complimentary fishing gear, the onslaught on the poor Trout was relentless. By 6am lines were sailing and flies were being stripped with intent. The resting of the waters for a full month in between qualifying legs played a role in the fish being so obliging, with an impressive 263 being caught and released in the first day alone.
There was no room for stockie bashing, the size of each catch being key and with only a total of 7 fish per angler to count in the first two sessions, the focus was on fooling fish of stature. The bonus of every amateur team able to bequeath fish to their more unfortunate team mates also had a major impact on the leader board as the sun set on Friday. Fortunately for the anglers and guests, Glenmorangie had set up a first class whisky tasting to refresh them, showcasing their range of exquisite Highland Scotch.
Friday nights at Notties have a reputation for subduing a man’s enthusiasm to brave the Midlands Winter morning, but most were up to chasing the proverbial worm, but the teams were soon battling against 35km driving winds, making any float tubing one way traffic.
Despite the challenging winds, lunch time saw another 100 Trout that had made it to the net with an impressive 61cm from Chris Wentzel and a lovely 62cm Rainbow from Simon Giles. Three other Brown Trout made an appearance and just too many fish over 50cm to mention… Despite the abominable weather, the fisherfolk were just not taking no for an answer.
We had four ladies who had made the final in 3 separate teams this year and they were showing a lot of the lads how it was done. In particular Louise Steenekamp who in the last sessions led her team’s charge with four fish and a great winning 4th session 51cm Rainbow to finish it all off.
As one would expect after all the rod pressure only 77 fish were recorded on Saturday Afternoon, but totalling 442 Trout in a final broke previous year’s records and brought the tally to an incredible 1343 fish for the 2018 TOPS Corporate Challenge.
Grant Giles from team TDI, travelling all the way from Zimbabwe took top honours, catching in every session, with 15 Trout at an average of 47cm.
The Biggest fish was a count out, forcing me to adjudicate on actual size and in the end definitively it was Rob Rein, with his 62cm Rainbow cock fish from Dwaleni that topped Simon’s Hen from SpringGrove, making him the first person in the event’s history to catch the biggest fish twice in a row. He walked away with another Quintrex boat, compliments of Yamaha.
Every angler walked away with a fishing holiday for the entire team that evening, with the Trout destinations of Cathedral Peak, InverMooi, Fordoun, Nooitgedacht, Verloonkloof, Rivendell and Sandstone making up this wonderful ensemble of fly fishing trips. This complemented the hoard of prizes that every angler won compliments of Greys, Hodgeman, Xplorer and Craghoppers.
Like any great Open Championship, It all came down to the final session and the below table will give you an indication of how closely contested it was, with 9 teams in contention to win the title-:
|Placing||After 1st Session||After 2nd session||After 3rd session||After Final Session|
|1st||Growler Wildguys||Growler Wildguys||Growler Wildguys||Growler Wildguys|
|2nd||Afriguide Logistics||Guns ‘n Roses||Fly Fishing Consultants||Notties Football Club|
|3rd||Notties Football Club||Fly Fishing Consultants||ST Ferguson||Fly Fishing Consultants|
|4th||Joint Venture||Afriguide Logistics||Joint Venture||Joint Venture|
|5th||Guns ‘n Roses||The Finance Team||Guns ‘n Roses||Guns ‘n Roses|
|6th||ST Ferguson||ST Ferguson||Notties Football Club||The Finance Team|
|7th||TDI||Notties Football Club||Afriguide Logistics||ST Ferguson|
|8th||Fly Fishing Consultants||TDI||The Finance Team||TDI|
|9th||Wildlife Assignemnts||Wildlife Assignemnts||TDI||Afriguide Logistics|
|10th||Sasfin Securities||Joint Venture||The Split Cane Brand Co||The Split Cane Brand Co|
|11th||The Finance Team||The Split Cane Brand Co||Novus Print KZN||Wildlife Assignemnts|
|12th||IDM Build It||Sasfin Securities||Wildlife Assignemnts||Sasfin Securities|
|13th||The Split Cane Brand Co||Novus Print KZN||Sasfin Securities||Novus Print KZN|
|14th||The Fingerlings||IDM Build It||IDM Build It||The Fingerlings|
|15th||Novus Print KZN||The Fingerlings||The Fingerlings||IDM Build It|
But it’s a hearty congratulations to the Growler WildGuys with Andrew Strachan, Edwin Bean, Martin and Louise Steenekamp who pipped their competition to take home the prestigious title as the 2018 TOPS Corporate Challenge winners!
It’s testament to the quality of this event that plans are already being made about next year, marking the 18th anniversary of the TCC.