It would be an understatement to say the festivities outweighed the fishing this last weekend, with the legendary Notties living up to it’s reputation as the pub with a exit that is impossible to find. The entrants certainly had more than one glass of not so serious at the start of this years TOPS Corporate Challenge, celebrating the 18th anniversary of SA’s premier fishing event.
Whether the anglers were here to fish is a point of some debate as the focus of day one seemed to be about catching up with good mates as opposed to catching any fish.
For those that braved the early morning chill and ventured out onto the waters, the results were surprising.
Tales of snapped lines, straightened hooks and dropped fish echoed around the hotel after each session, as anglers got to grips with local conditions, yet the consensus was that confusion reigned amongst the Trout. The Winter had only just arrived and as such the desire to feed was slowly being replaced by the urge to fornicate, from the fish’s perspective.
The first day yielded less than a hundred fish, but the average size of Trout impressed, as Mark Cohen bore testament to, landing his personal best of 60cm on his very first catch.
And a few fly fishers had really figured out how to turn the fish on, with Kobus Potgeiter, Scott Macintyre, Lyndall Blaikie and Neil Westerhoff all managing to fill their quota and bequeath a few fish to their team mates in the process.
We have a fishing Bible of excuses as to why the fish can elude us and for a few entrants, Revelations was the chapter they ended up on. It’s never easy handing in a blank scorecard at the end of a day and in true festive fashion, the TCC embraced this, introducing the DOGS and BLOBS category. Teams had to recognise their top angler with the TOPS dog accolade and also poke fun at their team mate that had been outwitted by the Trout, having to wear the BLOB jacket…..it soon became the focal point of lunch time festivities.
The Brown Trout as ever remained elusive, with Andre Coetzee recording the only specimen out of the 184 Rainbows caught and released over the weekend.
Fly patterns were as varied as the opinions that were dispensed nearly as freely as the Bains scotch, with everything from damsels, dragons and flash back nymphs to the killer WildFly minnow imitations.
Although the Yamaha ski boat and 4×4 was only going to be up for grabs in the final, there was a hoard of prizes dished out and as usual, the bounty was for the antics off the field. From the Eishkom accolade for the team that failed to hit the lights out of it to the Tiger Woods award for nearly the greatest comeback of the decade, everyone walked away with something for their efforts.
Paying tribute to the late Andy Standton, a memorial floating trophy was dedicated and awarded to Clint Nicholson in it’s inaugural year for his gentlemanly conduct in the face of some abusive Trout.
But in every contest there has to be winners and although the catch records told the story of the fussy Trout winning the battle of wills, the 5 teams that qualified for the TOPS Corporate Trophy Final were -:
In 5th Place, the ‘Steinweg Flyers’, followed by the all ladies team ‘Women in Waders’, then Novus Print Cape took 3rd, with their KZN compatriots placing as runners up, who steamed into the final thanks to the performance of Neil Westerhoff who caught a total of 18 fish himself at an incredible average of 47cm, making him the best fly fisher for the weekend.
And the Winners of the 1st Leg of the TCC were the Fly Fishing Consultants, who landed a total of 40 fish over the entire event.
But if one had to judge by the yardstick of celebrations on Saturday night, then there wasn’t a loser in sight.
|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|
The elusive Brown Trout finally graced us with their presence in the 3rd Leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge. Why is as much a mystery to me as it is to the anglers who were fortunate enough to have them come to the party. That wiley Browns love a cold miserable day is common knowledge, with low light, overcast conditions making them comfortable enough to move throughout the water column. Yet with a blue sky and on a bright, balmy Winters day five of them took a fancy to the fly and were gratefully recorded.
In amongst 354 Trout that’s hardly a onslaught you might assume, but when you consider that they were the first to appear out of the 881 Trout caught and released to date then one has to wonder why? Congratulations to Roxanne Stegen who landed the first one, showing the lads how it’s done and earning herself a new rod for her efforts.
This was dubbed as the serious leg, as on paper there were many teams who have made the final before, but surprisingly opening night saw the entrants embracing the legendary Notties pub as it earned it’s nick name ‘the maze’, being notoriously difficult to get out of.
4,3,2,1 was again the wonderful leveller, being the only number of fish to count in the respective four sessions, preventing anyone from bashing the stockies and walking away with the spoils. It was all about the size of fish to count and a good deal of fish over that magic 50cm mark made it to the net. The permissible bequeathing of fish in session one and two had a few entrants breathing a sigh of relief and a special mention has to go to Martin Steenekamp who came charging out the blocks, recording 16 fish in his opening innings.
The additional handicap of not allowing any past winners to bequeath evened the playing field and the system of resting dams between each leg and only fishing the smaller waters in 2 sessions definitely paid dividends.
The WildFly Choice Awards dominated proceedings, with all the great prizes being rewarded for antics off the field and a special mention has to go to the duo of Doron Friedman and Anton De Bruin who, despite having GPS co-ordinates and detailed maps to their location, missed their dam by 7kms and ended up fishing a Bass dam for their entire 1st sessions….no yellow jersey for their Tour de Midlands.
The largest fish accolade of 58cm was shared by Simon Giles and Brendan Smith, both landing 7lb beauties and the best fisherman went to Simon Giles, landing 13 fish at an average of 42cm.
Flies were a closely guarded secret, but it became evident that the smaller nymphs in the crystal clear waters fooled more fish than most.
The stage is set for a grand final on the 23rd August and the teams qualifying were, Guns and Roses / Growler Wildguys is joint 5th, Last minute long liners in 4th, Sasfin Securities in 3rd, Afriguide Logistics in 2nd and just pipping them due to the last session, Team NFC taking the honours.
Needless to say the Glenmorangie flowed as everyone celebrated the culmination of the qualifying legs of the TCC.
The decrease in water temperatures certainly increased the activity on the fishing front in the 2nd leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, with more fish over 50cm being caught and released than in previous years. But yet again, the celebrations started on the Thursday opening ceremony and continued until the culmination of prize giving on Saturday.
The weather couldn¹t have been more picture perfect, with blue skies only momentarily obscured by clouds that didn¹t produce any rain, with the pressure pretty stable. So the weather card in all anglers bible of excuses couldn¹t be played. All but a few of the fly fishers were up before the crack of dawn on day one, taking on the early morning temperatures of – 6 degrees, grateful for their Craghoppers gear, with the first session yielding an impressive 131 Trout and an early benchmark of 58cm being set by Johan Botha, who averaged over 50cm and filled his first session quota. The Split Cane Co. announce there arrival by recording an impressive 33 fish in their opening salvo, with Simon Giles leading their charge, also landing a beauty of 57cm.
The variety of flies being used would have filled a larger fly box than most of us carry, with big, bright attractor patterns delivering the results.
After the hearty lunchtime at Notties, the Growler beer garden emptied faster than a stadium of German supporters at this years world cup, as the anglers launched an all out assault on the WildFly waters. The wind picked up slightly, but by all accounts, the fish were moving everywhere, much to the frustration of many fly fishers, who practically threw the fly box at the problem, but to no avail. Too many casts and not enough finesse to tempt the educated Trout, saw the tally nearly halved to only 78 fish in the afternoon outing. Mike Adams from WBHO continued his purple patch as did Phil Weller from the visiting team TDI from Zimbabwe.
Friday evening was surprisingly festive, as the social antics of the lads on tour inevitably gained momentum.
On the final day, fly patterns and fishing techniques were seriously addressed. Sight fishing to patrolling fish from the bank really started to play a definitive role, with longer leaders and smaller nymphs trailing an streamer. Floating lines with just a tandem rig of nymphs became the order of the day by lunchtime, with a firm favourite of a ‘White Death’ being the common denominator.
In the last two sessions, 41 and 52 fish were notched up respectively, with the remarkable leveler of the session format shaping who would qualify.
Scott Macintyre took the honour of biggest fish with a 58cm and a 59cm in the 3rd session, with Grant Robson earning the accolade of top fly fisher with 11 fish at an average of 44cm.
The WildFly choice awards cemented the festivities with every team walking away with a bucket load of prizes for their performance in the the legendary Notties pub, which exemplifies why this has become the TOPS tournament of choice in the world of fly fishing.
The five teams that made it through to the TOPS Corporate Challenge final were Bophelong Construction, WBHO, The Finance Team, TDI and ultimately the winners of the 2nd leg, Road Span Royals