Big Trout surface – TOPS Corporate challenge leg 2

Big Trout surface – TOPS Corporate challenge leg 2

The dilemma that every fly fisher faces at a TOPS Corporate Challenge will never change. The object of the weekend is to rekindle long-standing friendships that are all too often marginalized through digital communications. But, one is also expected to make an effort at the waters edge and contribute to your team’s scorecard, if for no other reasons than to justify your future invite.

TCC Leg 2

It’s a balancing act that is generally toppled at Notties on opening night, with the animated conversation reliving the exploits of the last TCC gathering.

TCC leg 2

Knowing that the waters hadn’t really sparked in the 1st wave a few weeks back, after the opening celebrations of it’s 18th anniversary, the talk soon circled back to the feeding habits and holes of the Trout in WildFly waters.

The dam draw is held in some reverence as all of these lakes have memories and reputations that grow with every fresh glass. I’ve yet to enjoy a trip down memory lane in which a big fish on a particular water didn’t get the better of some angler!

TCC leg 2

And unfortunately, all eyes turn to the one bestowed with the responsibility of stocking these waters, as if an intimate knowledge of these fish is a prerequisite to giving them a home.

But, having managed most of the dams for the last couple of decades, I have learned a few valuable lessons about Trout, not least of which is expecting them to repeat what happened yesterday let alone last year. It is with this in mind that I pass on the chatter about their current behavior.

This is decent intel, considering that 264 Trout were recorded this last weekend, with more fish over 50cm measured than in any other leg in the event’s history.

Where to be fishing is the first question in a dam interrogation.

Trout invariably favor shallow water in the early am or late pm, feeling quite secure in low light from any potential predators, so the spillway of a dam is a sound starting point, as are the banks with a gentle slope.  These fish are surprisingly close to the bank, so don’t start slapping the water and stay out of your float tube, sight your Trout and lead moving fish with your cast.

This is something that Craig Cowell knows only to well, teaching the big Trout a proper lesson, recording the two largest fish of 59cm and 61cm.

Craig Cowell

As did Andrew Stuart, who caught 16 fish at an average of 49cm.

Not to mention Ian Cribbins

who in a single session

landed 6 fish all over 50cm!

Despite Winter, and the spawning behavior that can make the fishing a little frustrating, one also has to remember that they still must feed, so the other common GPS in the fly fisher’s Google map is weed-beds. It offers them cover and weed is the suburbs of a lot of insects/fish food. So don’t spend your time ripping and stripping the deep water in Winter… work the weed!

Wayne Stegen and Andrew Beech from the ‘Zimmers’ know this only to well, both landing a 56cm fish in the last session to earn their team a 5th place finish,

with the Non-descripts Taking 4th.

The top 3 teams were all on a count-out, such was the quality of fish with Gavin Cowell’s 4 fish all over 50cm in the final session rocketing his team, the ‘Nymphomaniacs’ into 3rd.

Gavin Cowell

‘WBHO’ were close runners up, but Bophelong Construction were crowned champions of the 2nd Leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge.

The ‘Glass of Not so Serious Awards’ continued to give every team just reward for their antics off the field and the festivities had the last say, which is probably the most sage advice you could give to anyone when it comes to fishing!

TOPS Corporate Challenge Leg 1

TOPS Corporate Challenge Leg 1

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. 

TCC Leg 1

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.

John Mcnamara, winner of the Best photo uploaded to Fishbook App

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… 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.

Clint Nicholson – Andy Standton Award

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.

Steinweg flyers – 5th place

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.

Winners of TCC 2019 leg one, Fly Fishing Consultants

But if one had to judge by the yardstick of celebrations on Saturday night, then there wasn’t a loser in sight.

Record Breaking Results

Record Breaking Results

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.

Tiger fishing Trips to Matoya, Ichingo, Royal Zambezi, Redcliffs and Shayamoya coupled with yellow fish expeditions led by Kalahari Outventures as well as Trout adventures to Semonkong and Highland Lodge had all our anglers champing at the bit to get onto the water.

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.

Browns and Rainbows Abound

Browns and Rainbows Abound

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.

20 000 Trout

20 000 Trout

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