Yellow fever is not to be trifled with.
It starts off with mild itching, that at some stage you have to scratch, which needless to say only makes it worse. Pretty soon your heart is racing and before you know it you’re sweating bullets.
You really should have stayed in bed…..such can be the frustrating and very infectious pursuit of yellows on dry.
A nymph is still a noble aspect of fly fishing, but anyone who spent a reasonable amount of time on the water will agree that our sport isn’t about catching fish and that’s not just a well-worn excuse for getting skunked on the water. This sometimes infuriating obsession really is all about how you catch a fish. The scenic splendour of the locations in which we fish notwithstanding, I am firmly from the school of ‘I’m out to catch fish’, not just wallow aimlessly in the water looking incompetent.
But the highlands of the uKhahlamba demands a dry fly only.
Yellowfish are beyond doubt freshwater royalty in Southern Africa and rule on a comparative scale of speed, stamina and strength when compared to Trout, albeit only in the warmer latitudes. Yet it’s a wonder that they grow to such proportions being so bloody fussy. Now a Brown Trout, if fixated on a hatch, is damn difficult to fool, but otherwise will readily succumb to guerrilla tactics of a big streamer and even a wild Rainbow can’t resist a fast flash of a wet fly, yet a small mouth yellow fish at altitude will simply give you the middle fin. This is best exemplified at the ever so accessible Sterkfontein dam.
Yes, it’s popularity has given them a Ph.D. in humanity, but evolution dictates we should be slaughtering them, not as to put too literal a point to it.
Yet on every trip, we are taught a lesson. Some of these tutorials could be compared to those school days you wistfully remember paying close attention to Miss Fairbottom as she prattled on about Proverbs, ever so enjoyable, but other days you are left dumbfounded at their indifference to your advances. They discriminate without mercy!
Most fishing excursions are spent trying to find fish, but here you will find far too many. It might take you a while to figure out the wind direction and subsequent feeding lines, but find them in annoying quantities you will.
High riding fish are the target and again there is no shortage of these cruising the surface, and this is the game, seeing it before it happens!
In many other fly fishing instances, the first time you realize you’re on is when the line goes tight, but when you get to witness the body language of a fish change as it decides to eat, well it reminds me of the imagined satisfaction Miss Fairbottom would have got, had she decided to eat.
There is nothing that equals watching your pattern being snacked off the surface, in fact just watching your fly being rejected at the last moment is guaranteed to have you gagging for more.
This last trip to Qwantani was another eye-opener, despite the weather, we had our windows and just watching the fish freely feeding was enough to keep me coming back for years to come. The yellows definitely got the better of us, if I was to measure the refusals to takes, but a few stuck and gave us due stick.
So I guess the answer to why we fly fish lies in manner in which we do it.
When you skive the next few days off work to play, make sure you remember the symptoms of yellow fever.