I like to think that life is a cycle and the wheel turns, it’s what gives me hope that my personal best will not remain just that.
I’ve spent more hours on a bar stool than I care to remember, listening to stories of big fish landed and larger ones lost. The yarns and tales turn into fables as time ticks by and so they should, as anecdotes are by design there to entertain.
This Trout season will see a few of those narratives evolve, and one in particular needs recording, so the history books reflect the facts as they would be hard to embellish, father time’s Alzheimers notwithstanding.
Enter our protagonist, a humble and talented mechanic whose stature belies his peaceful demeanour. He’s by nature an outdoorsman, but relatively new to the art of fly fishing, so his expectations on any angling session are basic, just simply catch some fish. Like his chosen trade he approaches the task methodically, wanting to understand how Trout work and cleverly he does not overcomplicate matters with intricate rigs.
“Find the fish and put the right pattern in their path!”, it’s a mantra that is as practical as it is successful to all who have faith.
Now John keeps company with a bunch of fanatical anglers, who dispense more advice than they would ever accept and are partial to a drop or two of the good brew.
It is at one of these infamous gatherings that talk turns to the Trout festivals in WildFly country and the inaugural ‘Notties Invitational’, where the stage is set.
This competition is a single day on the Mooi River, and for his sins he has the fly fishing zealot Sven Turner as his partner, who has him at the waters edge at an ungodly hour, casting in the pitch black to sounds of feeding Brown’s. His aim is true and the contact startling. You expect to harass a few wee Trout on this river, but after a heart stopping bout trying to keep it out the sticks, he landed a 57cm wild specimen, which is tantamount to a trophy fish, and thus he deservedly claimed the title.
Now a lot of people think kicking around in a lazy boy on a dam is all about potluck, but the format of the TCC rules out any flukes! And John knows if you want to consistently catch fish, find the weed and fish the spaces in between, less movement translating into more fish. A strategy he proved by drilling the fish in session one. Now you might lay claim to such good fortune at the dam’s feet, but he proved in the next 3 sessions, fishing completely different waters, that his technique played the pivotal role. 27 Trout over the weekend, comfortably filling each session quota earned him the accolade as the top fly fisher of the whole tournament.
He had peaked at precisely the right time, or so one would think.
I had the pleasure of awarding him both trophies and more enjoyably joining him and a few other reprobates at this year’s Swartberg Trout festival. Being the old bullets of this squad, myself and Grevin Price, sensibly joined the lads the morning after the FNB, arriving at the dam to the shock of all three of our team mates fighting fish. Never have you seen tubes pumped and rods rigged so fast!
The fish weren’t feeding, they were feasting and everyone had the opportunity to make the proverbial hay.
And although everyone was catching, on everything from Taddies, Damsels and Minnows to small nymphs and even dry flies we weren’t quite measuring up to the size Trout that John was doing battle with. We all lost big fish, except the man who was riding his purple patch like it was Sea Biscuit!
You know you’re in the zone when your buddies start referencing your beloved mum, whilst hurling abuse at your good fortune.
‘It’s a Slab’ got upgraded to ‘another Bus’, which comments we started to ignore, such was the man’s action, but when this was replaced by a strange silence, broken by a screaming reel and ‘@#$$ it’s a Tank!’ we all snapped to attention.
After a bruising bout, it was the fish we all pray for….a double digit, 70 cm Rainbow hen and one that John Larter confidently brought to the net, which at 10.5 lbs was his personal best and the biggest fish of the event.
He had pulled off the trifecta, a feat I dare say will probably not be repeated by anyone else. So, in my not so humble opinion, he is the undisputed 2020 individual Trout champion
The lesson I took from witnessing his remarkable achievement was that any day you spend on the water could be your day, so don’t stop casting.