The Tops at Spar Corporate Challenge
The problem with this fly fishing festival lies in the benchmark that it seems to continually raise every year.
In the eleven years that it has been hosted in the Natal Midlands, over eleven thousand fish have been caught and released in the WildFly waters. And, when you consider that out of the 240 rods that are supposed to be flogging the surface, a quarter of them spend more time socializing than fishing, then these release records are quite remarkable indeed.
The first leg of the Tops at Spar Corporate Challenge this year, followed a pattern that few fishermen would argue entices both anglers and trout alike. A customary pub lunch at the legendary watering hole of Notties is where it all starts as entrants wait for registration, to start their official jolly boys outing. For some this is the extent of their travels for the long weekend, as the Maze of Notties proves difficult to exit.
The Goodie bags lull some fly fishers into false sense of achievement, as the bounty sets the winning tone of the weekend and opening night generally slips into a party that a few heads remember the next morning.
This year, the late rains had ensured that all the dams were brimming and with Jack Frost running rampant for the preceding two weeks, conditions couldn’t have been more ideal. Typically, finding one’s way to the waters edge proved a little to too challenging for a couple of budding explorers, despite the G.P.S. co-ords and Google map provided and more than one “ Sarel Van Der Merwe” had to be towed from a farmer’s field.
That said, enough flies made it into the water over the four sessions, resulting in an incredible 496 trout tallied, smashing the previous year’s best by some 140 fish. And it wasn’t just the number that impressed, the average size teetered on the 40cm yardstick, with plenty rainbows exceeding 50cm and many flirting with that satisfying 60cm mark.
The format rewarded average size, with only the top 3 fish measured counting, which as a team score gave each ‘four fly’ a ranking that they carried through each session.
Not that catching fish was taken too seriously as the contestant’s shenanigans off the field drew much attention come prize giving……let’s just say that piscatorial pursuits took on a whole new meaning.
The largest fish of the 1st leg went to Michael Keats for his 61cm beauty and Top Angler was bestowed on Travis Hatrill for catching the best average in each session.
As normal, the top five teams qualified for the final being held the 1st week in August, they were-:
5th Place ––Dead donkeys 23 points
4th Place Fingerlings – 22 points
3rd Place – Papa Roach and the Streamers – 21 points
2nd Place – TW Fergusson -16 points
1st Place - Leads 2 Business – 8 points
The 1st leg averaged over 8 fish per angler in every session, a feat that I fear would be hard to eclipse in the forthcoming qualifying legs.
In short, the waters saw more flies than a dead Wildebeest on the Serengeti plains and every one of the 15 allocated dams produced some great results.
The fishing was only overshadowed by standard of everything to do with this event, as one has become to expect from the talents of the event co-ordinator Genna and her team at WildFly.