I knew absolutely nothing about flyfishing in South Africa and I never really had the ambition to go there and see for myself. From historical records I knew that several South-Africans had participated in World Championships a few times in the category of individuals, but I only first saw their whole team in my eleventh championship in Sweden in 2001. I didn't consider them a serious rival and that's why I was really surprised when Marc Yelland became the vice-champion right after our Vladimir Sedivy.
A year later the South-African team took part in the World Championship in France and then Jiri Klima surprised me by saying that the South-Africans had invited him to make a presentation on the Czech nymph. I personally tried to talk him out of it for safety reasons and obviously I was happy when the event didn't take place. I was almost convinced it would remain like this once for good but occassionally I got a signal from Jiri that there were still some discussions going on. One can get such offers a couple of times a year but they are always nothing but a "pub talk" without a bit of seriousness in them.
The more I was surprised this March when Jiri called and offered me to fly to Africa with him. He knew my opinion of such an event well, but he asked for help since his Czech partner had withdrawn from the trip for family reasons and Jiri needed someone else really quickly. I didn't really feel like going somewhere to Africa for some seventeen days, however I didn't fully turn his offer down, which he understood as my consent, so he got the tickets and I finally couln't back off. The whole project was funded by the South-Africans mainly from revenues from the three two-day flyfishing workshops and also from sponsors' contributions.
Our trip to the south began at the Vienna airport on Thursday, April 13. We flew via Madrid to Johannesburg where our African friend Korrie Broos, the captain of their country's team in the 2001 and 2002 championships, picked us up after lunch the next day. We loaded our bags in a Hyunday which also was one of our sponsors, and ran to Nottingham Road settlement near Durban. That same evening we had a presentation of participants and, after dinner, the first lecture on the history of the Czech nymph and mainly the history of World Championships in flyfishing. Jiri Klima was the main attraction of these flyfishing lessons here, I only assisted with interpreting and history.
The first Master Class was attended by 14 participants who watched our DVD from junior championship in 2005 and got theoretical lessons on short-nymphing and the Czech nymph. Jiri excelled as a first-rate tier and informed about all his new innovations including the micronymph. We encountered a great interest in our new English book on the Czech nymph. Unfortunately we couldn't satisfy everyone due to the airline's baggage restrictions which only allowed for some books to be taken, but we had brought enough CD copies to give out to those who didn't get the hardcopy.
A practical demonstration on the Mooi river on Sunday brought a highest demand. Even though we had never seen the river before, Jirka got an applaud in the open air when, at the end of his twenty-minute exhibition and after a few smaller trouts, he got one trout of 42 cm. The South-Africans spoke much about the "incredible number of fish" there, but our understanding of "incredible number of fish" was a little different. After the exhibition people just ran into the water and tried to catch something and from time to time they really managed.
Naturally I had been waiting for this moment too, so I set out down the river to find a quiet spot. I found one after ten minutes of walk. From the right bank it was covered by thick trees protecting the water from the strong autumn sun. In the treetops some nests of weaver-birds hung, moving in the wind like little lanterns.
Taking into account the charachter of the stream I chose Sage rod (size 2), a thinner nylon with a small beige Czech nymph at the end, and a microjig on the dropper. From a little pool of 6 by 8 metres I pulled out twelve trout abut 20 cm each, while a local angler farther along the current just washed his nymphs. He gave up after a while and when he left I stepped on more into a deeper neck between my pool and a larger area of calm water. I was adjusting the line in the reel and just lightly casted my nymphs down the current. Suddenly a big trout streaked from the opposite bank and tore off my microjig with the end nymph before I could do anything.
This happened after half an hour of catching, so I was full of expectations for another similar situation, but it didn't come again. There were no more such places, just a series of deep still water areas suitable for dry nymph in evening fishing. I caught four more trouts and that was all because I had to go back. I quite liked the time at the water though, and I soothed myself by saying it would be better next time.
After finishing this first Czech Nymphing Master Class we got back in the car and went to Durban which was still pretty far. Korrie wanted to show us the city, which we politely refused as we went on for another four hours until our car stopped in total dark at some gate leading into a big hunting park. After a native Zulu man let us in we kept on through the forrest for some 10 kilometres and finally stopped in a hunting resort on the Pongola river. They put us up in traditional wooden buildings with reed roofs. We were all excited about another day in the wilderness.
The morning revealed that we were found on the bank of a large water reservoir with a six-meter crocodille slowly traversing it. A lot of other animals and even one rhino were feeding on the other bank. After breakfast we set out and tried to catch something from the pier. There was a lot of tiny fishes and some smaller tilapia, so we got a take from time to time. Jiri was the first to catch something, it was a tiger fish with huge and sharp teeth, but unfortunately only a small one.
I was catching on a purchased black streamer with a metal cord and this little black miracle of mine wouldn't sink and floated even when I used a sinking line. Jiri was using his own pike streamers and occassionally he would catch something while Korrie more or less lingered. Suddenly a really big tilapia swam up to me but it only bit a little in my streamer and swam away. The little tigers were cutting in the streamer but they weren't able to handle it. But when I used our cordless silver handmade products, they bit them off right away. After about two hours of catching, the heat was so bad that I gave it up and put up with one little tiger.
After 2 p.m. the two other anglers also returned and then we waited for a trip to the wilderness, which was quite pleasant in the end. We saw a number of different kinds of antelopes, wild pigs, zebras and gnus, various birds and trees and bushes. The natives use one of the bushes to energize their virility. We also glimpsed some giraffes, so the only animal we didn't see was the elephant. Jiri photographed it all, so we could go through it again over dinner. Korrie generously supplied us with excellent Sauvignon Blanc from the South-African production.
We dedicated the next day to catching the tiger fish from boat. In the morning we set out on a motorboat on a lake and was better prepared than the day before. I used silver streamers right from the beginning and before anyone in the boat could wink I had pulled out three little tigers about a kilo each. Jiri had a couple of takes, but the fish bit off his special metal-coated kevlar pike line each time. We got farther in the lake and I used the black streamer again, cutting it in half and tying it on a super-sinking Di-8 line, which was necessary to make this big streamer sink. On the second cast, however, something bit it off with the cord right next to the boat. Jirka had to put up his miraculous cord twice and then he pulled out a two-kilo tiger fish.
We returned to our base for lunch and then set out on the water again. The native boatman hadn't tied the anchor properly and it splashed into the water at the first stop, so we had to tether the boat to waterplants and sunk trees. The afternoon passed fast with occassional catches and in the end we moved into a lee near the other bank. Jiri got two nice tigers here and I also pulled out a decent fish. A hippo was promenading on the shore, yawning lazily, sweeping his excrements around with its short tail. Then it jumped into the water heading towards us. We had to be really quick to unthether the boat and move away. But the hippo was surprisingly persistent in following us, so we better vanished. They say it's a pretty dangerous animal.
We got to places where the natives quite successfully caught on dead fish baits. This was a good spot as each of us pulled out quite a catch. Then I had a sharp take and after strike a big tiger fish jumped about two meters high above the water, ripping the streamer out of its jagged gullet. It was the biggest fish that showed to us and also an experience for a long time. Pity I couldn't bring it on my 8mm lake G-Loomis up to the boat. None of the fish after, no matter how much they struggled, exceeded that short moment. It was almost dark at six and we unwillingly headed back. The evening brought another great experience - a singing performance of the native Zulu people and our stay on the Pongola was slowly coming to its end.