Reflecting on a fishing year can be quite frustrating when you consider the hours you have actually spent fishing versus the time you undertook to give yourself at the beginning of the season.
Excuses there are many, most validated by the need to bring home the bacon and not having the time to indulge yourself. It’s the realisation of another year passing you by that drives home the simple truth that time is one commodity you just can’t buy, so you better bloody spend it wisely.
I get to fish more than most folk, living in the heart of Trout country and also being fortunate enough that my passion for fly fishing is my means of making a living. But pictures and programmes rarely tell the timeline of any journey and 2019 has seen our intrepid bunch of anglers sweat bullets for any result.
An Angolan Tarpon adventure kicked off my year, but with rains not falling in the highland meant an absence of fish in the Kwanza estuary…6 days, no fish! This was immediately followed by a road trip across the boerewors curtain to Gkhui Gkhui and a chance to hone our dry fly skills. On the day of our arrival Van Der Kloof dam above, decided to release water, resulting in us not throwing a fly. Four days and not a rod even assembled.  En route back, an attempt to recover the tour at Sterkies saw an initial run on the sight fishing that this beautiful lake is renowned for, but a kidney stone had other ideas, giving me a few days in the hospital to sulk about the sad state of affairs.

Kwanza River

Fortunately, March kept me at home base and the onset of Autumn restored by spirits with some productive sessions on the Brown Trout rivers and trophy Rainbow lakes that WildFly has nurtured since the turn of the century.

Brown Trout at trophy Rainbow lakes nurtured by WildFly

With a new Four Seasons hotel opening, Desroches in Seychelles was next on the cards and I can honestly tell you that I didn’t sleep the week before, such was the overwhelming excitement…until we got there! The weather has put paid to many a fishing excursion, but to have nothing but rain for the next four days and a sea that no skipper would attempt to fish in, witnessed the dampened spirit go demented.

Bonefish at St. Josephs

Luckily a brief day’s break in the storm got us onto St Joseph’s and I revelled in the acceleration of the bonefish and wallowed in being able to land the holy grail of the IndoPacific Permit. My mojo was back and the wheel really turned in April with an invite to the legendary atolls of Farquhar and Alphonse, with Fly Castaway and the Alphonse Fishing Company respectively.

IndoPacific Permit

St. Josephs

Fishing is measured by many scales, but in the two decades that I have been filming with a fly, never have I experienced such an incredible saltwater fishery. There was scarcely a species that wasn’t ticked off the bucket list, and witnessing the GT’s around the feeding frenzy of birds off Goelette was as humbling as it gets.
It is worth noting that during the 18 days that these 3 unbelievable destinations were available to explore, only 8 were fishable due to the torrid climatic conditions.
A trip to Mozambique, hosting prize winners, was squeezed in May, forcing me to polish my guiding skills and getting a fresh appreciation for the marine life off the coast of Bazaruto island.
June/July was the TOPS Corporate Challenge, which in its 18th anniversary set a festivity benchmark that keeps Notties legendary. As host, I don’t fish, but reliving the fly fishing exploits with every entrant after each day is immensely satisfying, knowing that the Trout have thrived despite being in a drought cycle in South Africa.

TCC Leg 2

Tops Corporate Challenge

And it is always the weather gods who have the last say, the August and September winds and unsettling pressure systems destroyed a lot of chances to tour, but we forced a ‘Kalahari Outventure’ down the mighty Orange and words just cannot do it justice. Majestic scenery, translucent water teeming with large and smallmouth yellows is only surpassed by the lack of digital interference and camaraderie that a rafting adventure embodies.

Kalahari Outventures

The Mighty Orange

Early October got us back to my favourite wilderness area on the planet, the lower Zambezi at Bains River Camp…but the wind was relentless. It might have given us respite from the 40-degree heat, but it was enough to give you ingrown hairs.
A trip to IFTD in Colorado, a stone’s throw from the Rockies coupled with chalk stream territory in the UK followed, but the old foe of Father Time just wouldn’t accommodate any fly time.
By November, if you haven’t had your fly fix, the Koi in your pond starts to look inviting, but again thankfully I’m in the Trout belt and few know that this is the most underrated lake fishing month of the year. So with a bunch of reprobates, I enjoyed the finest weekend of Trout fishing that I can remember, ending my year on a complete high.
I can never say that I don’t get the opportunity to fish, but I can safely say that this year we literally bled for those that we landed. I’ve often wondered how many casts it takes to catch a fish, but compound fractions just aren’t my forte. Fortunately, on our fishing journeys, it’s the “Royal We” that captures the memories and I’m lucky enough to have Brad, Jeremy and Rhuan to enjoy some unforgettable expeditions with.
When it comes to your fishing year, remember it’s only with good mates that you’ll savour any experience and above all, time doesn’t stand still, so don’t let any opportunities go begging.