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It’s the one calendar entry that keeps any fly addict awake at night with excitement, a fly fishing epic that will potentially go down as the greatest adventure of your life! It starts with months of planning, hours on Google Maps, and researching the internet, and culminates in a weekend of festivities, with a bit of fishing thrown in the mix and a lifetime of memories to take home.
The difference between a good fishing trip and a legendary adventure teeters on the “wolfpack” you choose to run with. We all have our selected group of fishing mates but the ones who make a fishing expedition truly epic are cast in a certain mold.
Without him, there probably won’t be a trip, he’s the guy who spends more time on Google Earth than Rassie Erasmus does on Twitter. He starts tracking weather patterns 2 months ahead, and on the day of departure will hand out a travel kit that includes, a full trip itinerary with a time schedule, hand-drawn detailed maps of the water that will be fished, a blank catch logbook, and number 2 pencil.
A vital part of the team “The Researcher” makes sure no unexpected, unpleasant surprises pop up.
The chances of him catching the biggest fish of the trip…? very good, he knows which flies work where and which areas will be most productive. If he spends this much time planning a single trip you can bet his fishing skills have been refined and tailored with the same amount of effort.
The name says it all… No situation arises that he can’t handle with a piece of technology. Gadget Boy has the latest and greatest tackle and apparel, his boots and waders look like they were designed by NASA and even though the lodge you are staying at is fully equipped, he brings along a complete pop-up dining set and compact kitchen just to make sure. On the water, he looks like a walking talking Icast tackle trade show, and whatever you do don’t ask him about the fishing apps he has on his phone.
If you do forget something at home or even break a rod on the trip, “Gadget Boy” has got your back.
Don’t worry about him catching the biggest fish of the trip, he’s usually preoccupied with his toys.
This dude was made for the outdoors. He is in his element when he is outside in the wild, he doesn’t own a pair of waders and wet wades in 9 degrees Celsius, he gets by with a few of his favorite flies pinned to a faded John Dear trucker cap and a Swiss army knife hooked on to his belt. He loves to give “Gadget Boy” a hard time.
When things go wrong in the wilderness, this is the guy you want by your side. Your group’s very own Bear Grylls.
Probably has the best chance of hooking the big one, I mean this is his backyard.
The life of the party… He will lose his sense of humor if there is no space in the car for at least five cases of beer, avoid a very unpleasant situation by dedicating packing space for beer. He refuses to drive and usually rides shotgun because traditionally he cracks the first cold one as you leave the driveway and follows up with “Let the games begin boys” or something to that effect.
“Beer Can” will serve as entertainment for the week, armed with tons of outrageous stories and inappropriate jokes, there is never a dull moment with him around.
He irritates the rest of the crew with the amount and quality of fish he tends to catch… With beer in one hand and a busted old fly rod in the other don’t be surprised if he catches the big one.
Often you forget what his face looks like because it is constantly hidden behind a camera lens and or iPhone. He’s got a thousand gigs worth of sunsets, emerging insects, and close-up shots of fly fishing rods clasped by some hand model and he can list every photography filter known to man but struggles to recall the name of the fly he just tied on.
The bonus is, your trip will be well documented with this fellow on tour and he has a knack for making 10 inches look like 20.
It’s hard to operate a camera and fly rod at the same time so I wouldn’t bet on the “Instagrammer” to nail the big one.
The final of any gathering can often be a tense affair, the urge to win giving rise to a little friction. Which, when fuelled with huge rewards can create some fierce competition.
That is until you throw fish and the good cheer of fellow fly addicts into the equation. Read More “The Last Cast – TCC Final”
That this event has less to do with fishing and more about celebrating with friends was resoundingly apparent this last weekend. By lunchtime Thursday, the festivities started and you could be forgiven for thinking that the anglers were toasting their catches, such was the infectious atmosphere.
It never fails to amaze me how the prospect of a weekend of fishing gets the party started. Enthusiasm is at an all-time high and the great fishing stories of old are recounted, careful not to let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.
The first session was understandably a slow start, but credit to the fly fishers who braved the frosty banks and managed to keep their fly in the water. The weather seemed to be very unsure of itself, which was a convenient excuse for the anglers whose head wasn’t exactly in the game.
But a 61cm Rainbow made an early appearance, caught by Ami Visser, along with a good few eclipsing that half-meter yardstick and many stories of Trout getting the better of the intrepid fly fishers. So, spirits soared once again over a pub lunch, and it was once more into the breach.
For the first time in the illustrious 22 histories of the TCC, an all-ladies team had entered and their performance on the day one made all the lads pay attention, as they emerged as serious contenders for the title. Considering the 2022 champions were in attendance this was no mean feat! Another very pleasing aspect of this year’s TOPS Corporate Challenge was how many new anglers were being introduced to the sport of fly fishing and there’s nothing like seeing someone catching their first Trout on fly. It’s a real cause for celebration and a story they’ll be retelling for many years to come.
That the conditions weren’t the greatest by anyone’s admission, was reflected in the first day’s bag of only 91 Trout. As usual, the Friday night saw some weary anglers get back on the horse or rather carousel, but most recharged their batteries for the last day with some ominous gusting winds predicted.
Remarkably the catch records improved in session 3, I real anomaly when they should decrease based on rod pressure, with 56 fish making it to the net. But the 4th and final session witnessed the winds peaking at up to 40km/h, driving most back to the comfort of Notties in the build-up to the Boks taking on the Pumas and the catch records reflected as such!
In the 1st leg of the TCC a solid 230 fish were caught and released, and in the 2nd leg a very impressive 285, but in this 3rd gathering, only 174 fish succumbed to the angler’s advances, not that you could tell from the jovial attitude of everyone at the final prize giving.
11 out of the 15 Wildfly waters have now produced a Trout over 60cm which is a true testament to their fishery management and with a total of 689 fish recorded in the qualifying legs, there was no shortage of action as Justin Birnie could attest to, earning the accolade as the top fly fisher.
The grand final being held in 3 weeks will no doubt add significantly to the tally and the 5 team qualifying were -: Team Waterscapes; Highland Hookers and Fish O’Holics, with Notties Fly Fishing being pipped by the new all-ladies team, Stranger Dangers, who won the 3rd leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge. The stage is set for a showdown on the 18th / 19th August 2023, with 15 teams contesting for the coveted title.
There are many factors that make a for great fly fishing event and surprisingly most of them do not revolve around the fishing. But if the Trout fail to make an appearance the atmosphere after a long day on the water can get a little frosty.
Fortunately with the balmy weather playing it’s role, at the 2nd leg of the TOPS Corporate Challenge, the Trout came out to play, giving all the festive ingredients of this remarkable gathering a recipe that you just can’t replicate anywhere else. The legendary Notties had every angler come steaming out the blocks and it was clear from the opening night that these bunch of lads were embracing the celebratory moments before they even got on the water.
A lot of this was due to the incredible gift packs from TOPS and Heineken as you arrived!
For a lot of entrants, this was their first TCC experience and one that they will remember for many years to come. For a few, it was their very first fly fishing trip and when you land your first Trout on fly, the memory is cemented by the celebrations that are sure to follow. A shout out to Alan Browning, NJ Smit and Clyde Mahoney for doing just that! Alan actually hooked 4 beauties within the first half hour, creating a fly fishing expectation that will be hard to beat!!
A total of 285 Trout were caught, measured and released, with another 78 hooked and lost (for those that were brave enough to admit it). But it was again the average size fish in WildFly waters that had tongues wagging. Five different dams out of the exclusive 15 waters fished, produced a specimen in excess of 60cm and 74 Trout measured more than half a meter in length.
In this wonderful event format, it is all about each session, ensuring that everyone was in with a chance to make the final (which would guarantee their team a fly fishing holiday somewhere in Africa). And with the bequeathing role, it levelled the playing field, making way for any casual fly fisher to qualify. Sean Joubert caught 13 Trout is his 1st session, single handedly carrying this team mates into contention in this regard.
It’s all about getting on the board in each of the four fly fishing sessions and only the final Saturday afternoon decides who goes through, keeping a teams’ enthusiasm and intrigue at an all time high.
The hilarious antics off the field are too many to detail and what goes on tour should always stay there, but needless to say at their expense the WildFly choice awards had everyone in stitches come prize giving.
The largest Trout was a Rainbow Hen of 65cm caught by James Hills and the top fly fisher was awarded to Mark Venter who managed to land 11 fish at an average of 51cm…..a formidable tally of good sized Trout!
The Fly Fishing Consultants, Reel Wanderers,Bottom Feeders and Rhino Energy cruised into the grand final with the Fly By Nights nailing the gold medal with two 1st placings out of the four sessions!
As always the prizes from Hardy, Frontier Fly Fishing, Greys, Outdoor Warehouse, Airflo, Horizon, Scientific Anglers, Xplorer & WildFly made for big smiles, especially when most had nothing to do with their fishing performance.
Here’s to the time we spend with good mates reliving great times always outweighing the fish that might oblige.
If you had preordered the weather, it couldn’t have been better.
A bite in the air,
cold enough waters to entice some feisty Trout and the beautiful backdrop of the Giant in the picturesque Kamberg Valley, all without the interference of any wind….what more can a fly fisher ask for?!
A few Trout perhaps? Well seven Hundred and Four of them made it to the net in this year’s TOPS Kamberg Trout Festival, with many more lost and some really big fish poking their heads out the water.
Being the largest fly fishing festival in any one gathering held in Africa,
everyone always arrives expecting to get a little action on the dams. But, the real reason the majority of guys beg a pink ticket for this weekend,
is the time they get to spend on the bank-side with great mates, reliving the good times.
The format of every team fishing together guarantees these social festivities and many teams spend more time off the water than in it, content to embrace their time in the country.
But it takes just a single big fish to motivate some casting and word of a 60cm Trout in the 1st session had us all rummaging in our fly boxes for that killer pattern.
What fly was working was certainly a point of animated debate over lunch. In the highlands of the Kamberg,
the water temperatures measured a frigid eleven degrees, galvanising that spawning urge in the Trout, dictating that colour of fly was a key factor. Yet, in the heart of the valley it was a difference of up to four degrees warmer, with the fish still chasing some Minnows and feasting on a range of natural imitations.
The variety of dams and distance between meant that you got to
experience the full spectrum of water and enjoy some spectacular scenic surrounds, such is the bounty of Trout waters in the Kamberg.
By Friday evening a few more trophy Trout made it to the weigh-in with a monster of 68cm being landed by Michael Kollmorgen.
Despite many flies being thrown at the cause on Saturday and lots of fish eclipsing the half-meter yardstick netted, no-one was able to surpass that impressive benchmark. Louise Steenekamp walked away with the top lady fly fisher with nearly seven and a half meters of fish measured and the best male angler was Jasper Ward with over 8 meters of Trout recorded.
But the talk of the festival was the Tendela development team, who took 3 of the top 7 positions in total Trout caught and managed between them to register nearly 22 meters of fish.
A huge congratulation to Richard Khumalo, Tembi Ngxongo, Mvelo and Nkosinati for their outstanding performance.
A true credit to the local community that they represent.
The wonderful aspect of this fundraiser is that the whole Kamberg
community comes together and their hospitality is second to none. There are too many people involved in Steve Edkins team,
who organise everything, to give everyone the real kudos they deserve, but a huge shout out must go to the Kamberg ladies, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep all the anglers very well fed with their hearty country fair.
The generous support of TOPS at Spar, WildFly Outfitters, Hardy, Greys, Airflo and Xplorer had all the prize winners ginning from ear to ear and it is only through the Kamberg Farmers Association, with Garth Ratsey in the chair that this event is possible, giving all the entrants access to the Kamberg waters.
Hat’s off to the Kamberg community for hosting us fly fishing fanatics.
Trophy is such a relative term, as your average catch might be another angler’s personal best, hence size must also be in the eye of the beholder. But benchmarks do determine accolades and the quest for a double digit Trout remains the goal for many a fly fisher.
There are few destinations in South Africa where this is realistic in terms of waters that can consistently produce specimens of such size. This is why we tend to measure our fish in length, giving us many yardsticks and great fishing stories in our quest for trophies. Half a meter is where this starts being a Trout of stature. It will probably weigh over 5 pounds and if stocked from a fingerling will punch well above its’ weight.
This has been the goal of the TOPS Corporate Challenge since inception; to give every angler a story they can dine out on, revolving around the festivities that accompany tales of Trout landed and lost. The first leg of this year’s TCC was stand out performance by all the entrants in this regard, with everyone getting stuck into some quality fish, making fresh memories and tall tales.
The weather didn’t make it easy, but a calm window in the first morning session saw a remarkable 105 fish make it to the measuring net.
Wayne Simmons was the stand out performance, having never picked up a fly rod or relaxed in a float tube. He then proceeded to catch a 48cm followed by 52cm, then a 53cm fish, topping his morning session off with a 59cm Rainbow, a blistering start to his weekend and a sure way to get him hooked into the sport!
Ivo Baratovich also set the pace on the big fish leaderboard with a 61cm beauty!
Predictably the weather changed, with winds whipping the waters, chasing many a fair weather fly fisher back to the comforts of Notties pub. Those that braved the conditions added another 48 Trout to the day’s tally! One hundred and fifty three Trout is reason enough to celebrate, but it was the remarkable statistic of 58 of these being fish over half a meter in length that impressed
The WildFly waters were living up to expectation!
The conditions continued to spiral, with winds speeds demanding anchors if you hoped to fish from any vessel, but it certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm with the majority of anglers hunkering down and keeping their flies in the water. Surprisingly despite the pressure drop, another 49 Trout were measured and released.
Thank goodness this is a sport in which one can enjoy a bevvie whilst participating, giving reason for the anglers to look for that silver lining in the ominous cloud build up. You can’t sugarcoat miserable fishing conditions, but you can elect to not fight them. Notties got very festive that afternoon, which was evident from the fourth and final session returns, a paltry 29 fish poking their heads above water.
The stories of antics off the field were immortalised in the evening prize giving, much to the delight of team mates jibing each other, but there were some statistics of great fishing that deserved laurels. The total count of Trout measuring over 50cm, increased to 78 and a remarkable 6 trophies over 60cm were caught from 5 different dams. Denzil Ulyate tipped the scales for biggest fish with his 64cm Rainbow.
Sven Turner took honours as the top fly fisherman, with 10500 points, maneuvering his team, the Beserkers into third place, followed by the Spar team and Jacaranda Fly Fishing. Runners up were the talents of the Fish On team and the eventual winners of the 1st Leg of the Tops Corporate Challenge were Fins and Feathers. A point of note was that each of the top two teams, had lady fly fishers, proving that the fairer sex can out-fish any man!
As we build up to the next leg in a month’s time, the Trout will no doubt switch into their spawning behaviour, demanding a little colour and smaller point flies. Here’s hoping the cold fronts stay aw
It’s time to sort out your fly box and check that your Trout gear hasn’t gone walkabout.
As Summer finally gives way to Autumn it heralds the start of the still water season and the WildFly team have been scouting the Drakensberg dams and testing out a few flies seeing what elicits the right reaction.
Fortunately, at this time of year, the waters host a wide range of food from the Summer bounty, with Minnows, Platanna and large invertebrates still very active, making our fly selection very simple. Big is better and with the general drop in water temperatures to around 18 degrees, the Trout are feeding aggressively.
Clarity varies from dam to dam, but 1.5m is common and with the prolific rains we’ve had this year, almost every still water is brimming.
Whilst bank fishing can always yield good Trout, we’ve elected to explore eight dams from the comfort of our V-Boat, allowing us to access areas that you can’t from the edge.
The inlets have been resoundingly the most productive, with any large weed beds also delivering more than their fair share of fish.
April – by the numbers:
# of Anglers – 18 Fly Fishers
Total Catches: 64 Rainbow Trout
Average trout size: 48cm
Fish over 50cm : 37
We’ve been fishing larger sticks and heavy rigs, with a 6/7 wt rod allowing a lot of backbone to subdue the Trout quickly. Naturally a minimum of 10lb leader / tippet to pressure the fish, ensures you don’t tire and possibly kill the Trout and guarantees you can keep it from ploughing you into the weed or structure.
Tactics have varied, depending on the pattern and patience of the fly fisher.
In the case of minnow patterns, whilst we’ve had a few fish on the drop, most have been on an intermittent quick retrieve, once we’ve got the fly into the zone, to do which, a sinking line is a must!
At this time of year blustery winds can interfere with your casting (again hence the bigger sticks to throw bigger flies easily) and why, in the absence of an anchor, you need a sinking line to get your fly down quickly…..always bearing in mind that the wind / drift on a float tube will pull your fly up.
When fishing a more imitative Dragon or Platanna the opposite applies. Get to your target area, i.e. the inlet and put yourself in the weed bed, so you can’t drift. Using the same setup, get your fly into the channel and let it sit! If you don’t get picked up on the drop or on this almost static placement, then use a slow retrieve, with a substantial pause in-between.
The flies that have been doing the damage:
There’s no tomorrow, get your Trout season planned today!
To follow the weekly water report – Latest Water Report
For 21 years the TOPS Corporate Challenge has spread the ethos and throughout the illustrious event, you will hear then words echo ’this festival has nothing to do with fishing!” The vast majority of fly fishers embrace this spirit (amongst a skinful of others), taking the weekend to rekindle old friendships and embellish on angling anecdotes. But with a Million Rands worth of prizes floating around at the grand final of the TCC, in a few corners of the legendary Notties pub, cunning plans are hatched to take the title.
The stage is now set for the 21st TOPS Corporate Challenge final, hoping that the Trout don’t see us coming!