Tops Corporate Challenge Leg 3

Tops Corporate Challenge Leg 3

What’s the collective Noun for a gathering of anglers?

An Enthusiasm……..A Festivity………An Anecdote…..pick any one, because each would be appropriate to describe the atmosphere at the 3rd Leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge.


Captains of industry and businessmen from all walks of life refresh old friendships.

Watching captains of industry and businessmen from all walks of life refresh old friendships and make new ones is reminiscent of the start of a new year at college.

And for some, the lessons of last year just had to be repeated on the water.
The conditions were sublime, taking that well-worn weather excuse out of the equation and for most of the fly fishers, the Trout obliged, with 123 fish being recorded in the first frosty morning.

And Mark Keating from the ‘Fingerlings’ came charging out the blocks, catching 12 great specimens at an average of 50cm in his very first session, catapulting his team into 1st place.

Mark Keating

Celebrations ensued, which might have played a minor role in a reversal of fortune… just when you think you’ve got this sport waxed, the fish have an annoying habit of treating your subsequent casts with absolute disdain.

Louise Steenekamp set the early benchmark of a beautiful 60cm Rainbow, which was matched by Clive Murphy on day one.

Louise Steenekamp

The big fish had clearly been stirred into action.

The wind was a contributing factor for the slow afternoon, but that didn’t stop the party from getting started. With everyone staying at the legendary Notties, it was a license to let your hair down and revel in the time that you get to spend with great mates.

A glass or two of not so serious was embraced!

The 3rd session is where the anglers get down to business, but to do so, you have to arrive at work, which for a few, was a bridge too far.

But those that braved the sub zero conditions had their just reward.

Pieter Strobus from team Craghoppers enjoyed 5 fish all around the half a meter mark in the tell tale third quarter.

And, as always it was down to the last session to determine who would be qualifying for the Grand Final. A total of 328 fish was the tally, showcasing how productive the WildFly waters were, with tales of snapped lines, straightened hooks and dropped fish echoing around the prize giving.

Boyz at Lunch.

The TOPS ‘glass of not so serious’ awards dominated proceedings with some phenomenal prizes for performances off the field in their tongue and cheek style.

Growler Wildguys.

The five teams that qualified for the illustrious final were, Craghoppers; The Shanebeaters; St Fergusson; NFC and the Growler WildGuys who took top the honors.

ShaneBeaters.

But for each entrant, the resounding sentiment was ‘there are moments in every fisherman’s life that you will never forget, just as long as you’re able to raise a glass and rekindle the memory with good cheer!’.

The Boyz
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.

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!

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…..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.

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.