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.
We’ve been hunting one animal or another with limited success since we could walk on two legs and chasing down anything that swims as soon as we conquered our fear of water. All that has really changed is us swapping the satisfying meal for the satisfaction of a good picture and letting it roam free. So I always find it very amusing when any angler tries to compete with another, as it can only be the fish that represents the challenge, not the fellow who joins you in celebrating our noble pursuit.
In the first qualifying leg, the benchmark of 320 Trout was set, with fish gorging themselves on the smorgasbord of flies being served. However, as the Winter temperatures plummeted, so did their appetite. It has been one of the coldest Winters I can remember, which coupled with the overflowing dams made the next two legs a task for the determined. 319 further hard earned fish were recorded, but what had many an entrant beaming was the average size of the specimens, with every dam in the WildFly stable yielding a fish in excess of 55cm.The final of the TCC can cause some to take it too seriously, but a Dalmore whisky tasting and the introduction of a new rule soon changed all that! The norm is for 10 Trout per fly fisher to count, 4 in the 1st session, 3 in the second, 2 in the third session and only a single one in that final afternoon.
It was decided to invert this, to 1,2,3,4 and with only one Trout to count in the opening session, the party got into full swing!A target of 62.5cm (every inch counts) was set by Stuart McLoud from the Highland Hookers by the time everyone returned for their lunchtime Heineken recharge and at the end of day one, another 132 Rainbows had been notched up.
Day two witnessed a fresh onslaught, with the fish a little fly shy and some doughy anglers a little battle weary.It took the bagpiper and a hearty lunch to kickstart a very social crowd into action for the final session, knowing the Trout were going to be very skittish after 15 hours of water flogging.As everyone exited the dams, the Boks annihilation of the All Blacks started the early celebrations, making for a memorable prize giving!
Kobus Potgieter took top honours for the biggest Trout of 63cm, fittingly caught on his birthday! And Karl Engelbrecht earned himself the top fly fisher accolade with 12 Trout landed at an average of 44cm.Every team won a holiday away, just for making it to the final, compliments of WildFly Travel and their affiliated fishing destinations, but despite the phenomenal prizes on offer, you could see it was the bragging rights that held sway. Out of a total of 875 fish caught during the event, 47 of these great catches measured in the 60cm / 8 pound range, marking new milestones for many happy anglers.
Trout fishing is a great leveller and one incredible statistic revealed was the three winning teams of the respective legs all blanked in one session of this grand final, proving conclusively that it is always the Trout we compete against and invariably they tend to have the last say! But there can only be one champion and narrowly pipping the Artav team in 2nd and the Zimmers in 3rd was the newly crowned Cathedral Peak Hookers.
The celebrations continued until the wee hours, with all paying tribute to each others performance on the field but toasting the time you spent with fellow fly fishers and making unforgettable memories. Celebrate your Catch and Celebrate the Moment with TOPS at Spar.