On Monday, April 23, we stopped in Johannesburg for a while. First, Korrie visited his mother in hospital and we waited for him in a small fast-food place where we had coffee, some mineral water and a couple of sweet cookies. Although about five black attendants were employed there, our simple order took more than a quarter of hour, because nobody really hurries here.
Korrie met his second sister and she invited us to her nearby house. Even this one-storey building was perfectly secured against intrusion. In one of the rooms there was a great collection of African fauna, stuffed here in all their beauty or with trophies hung on the wall. Only an elephant, lion, rhino and hippo were missing. This sister’s second husband was a naturalist but was unfortunately already dead. That seemed strange to me, but I learned that men in South Africa don’t live as long as those in Europe. I felt a sudden surge of homesickness.
Then we drove to the airport and continued by air to Cape Town, 2 hours away to the southwest. This part of Africa is very flat and scarcely inhabited. Distances between settlements are about 80 km, but we didn't actually see any of them. We flew along the Vaal and then by the Orange River, with only wasteland below us sometimes interrupted by an abandoned goldmine. All of a sudden, a mountain range arose at the southern border of the African continent - and then Cape Town.
Korrie' s friend Sanette was waiting for us at the airport. She was a little astonished at the amount of our baggage, but in the end we managed to load it all in her sports car. We then went to her company where we changed to a bigger vehicle and set out for the mountains. We had no idea where they were taking us, but we enjoyed the countryside. At one part, the expressway ran through a tunnel and after along a dry river bed with occasional pools. It was the Smalblaar River where the Czech Nymph Master Class was to be held, and I wasn't sure whether this was another one of Korrie's countless jokes.
We went on however, and after a few kilometres we turned off the main road into another valley. We drove on through vineyards, wasteland, along a little river, to a ranch, where there was a beautiful cabin which turned out to be our shelter. The cabin served as a base for local anglers. The high walls of mountain peaks surrounded us and the Holsloot River cut its way through our midst.
Our guide left us here alone with her friends who had come to greet us at least for a while - Ed Herbst, who had spent more than a year of his life at this cottage, and his friend Giordano Zamparini. Ed is a perfect flyfishing polyglot and at the same time a kind of a doyen of South-African flyfishers. Right at the door he donated us a big pack of journals and specialist books. What a nice idea of his, but we would have had to go home by car, not by plane.
The next morning after breakfast they both came and wanted to see it all: mainly the nymphs, tying materials, our new hooks, rods, etc. By the time we showed everything to them, it was already past ten and then we set off for the Holsloot River where there were supposed to be many trout. In South Africa "many trout" means a completely different thing than in our country. Fish must have been stocked here only once, and all current fish must have been born here.
The stream ran in a basin full of boulders and was about 5 - 10 m wide. The banks were overgrown with thick bushes and in many such places we couldn’t walk down to the water. Long pools alternated with shallow parts with boulders, occasionally containing a very deep pool. It was a typical micronymph and small jig water. The catching must go on a long line against the water here. Each pool contained one or sometimes two larger fish - i.e. wild rainbow trout about 30 cm long, which attract flyfishers from all around. Because the only possible fishing here is "catch and release", the fish were very experienced individuals.
Jiri started fishing among the shallow boulders but had no strikes, so we decided to try the long pools where the water reached our waists. I entered one of these pools and saw a feeding fish, and I tried to tempt it with a small Grey Para Dun, but unsuccessfully. I changed to a Pheasant Tail micronymph (14) with a yellow JC spots on the thorax, tied to a #12 nylon. On the fifteenth metre long cast the trout struck. I only led it for a short time, as it shook off the hook. That was the only take that morning - even though I was fishing in nice places, I wasn't able to get more out of it. At home I found out that I had actually followed Jiri in the same pools where he had caught four pieces, but had no idea about this fact in the jungle there.
In the afternoon, we met for another exchange of experiences and Jiri showed us various tying tricks. In the evening we went to the water once again, and I found myself a nice and well-arranged place with a deeper pool where short-nymphing could be used. I caught two trouts about 30 cm long each and three black basses of about 20 cm each, all on a microjig and a micronymph. Not to mention one more trout that fell off the hook. It got dark unexpectedly fast, but I really enjoyed that fishing more than the morning ordeal. Although this place holds no large fish population, local anglers are grateful for this opportunity, and are willing to spend hours and hours in cars for this uncertain fishing for a couple of wild trout. The locals here catch mostly on dry flies and in those sunny conditions this was only feasible at dusk.
In the evening we were invited by Ed and his friend to another rented cabin for a small feast which the farm owner had prepared. He grows grapes and fruit and is also an excellent cook. Although it was only April, South Africa had already harvested grapes and we drank a 2007 Savignon Blanc. There was no mobile reception in the valley, but our friends told us about a place where it was possible to make a phone call. After about a twenty-minute walk along a dusty path, Jiri could finally send a message to his young wife who must have been really worried that he hadn't contacted her for two days.
The next morning we met a new guide, Stewe, who was supposed to take us to a larger river called the Breede, supposedly full of black bass. It was near the town of Worcester and we arrived there after an hour-long ride. It was pretty difficult to get to the river as the bank was again overgrown with bushes. Finally we managed, but it was like a minor climbing descent in high wading pants. We were already in the valley, and we still had to get to the river, but we handled that too.
Jiri suggested that we start to fish at the very end of a deep and wide pool which continued a good kilometer along the stream. A small brook emptied there and it was also quite deep. Casting was impossible because of the bushes and reeds behind us, so we had to use just roll casts. Jiri was fishing with a big white streamer, and in five minutes he had a take and led a nice fish for a while, but it then fell off the hook. We were standing close to each other, and I had a big black streamer with no. 3 sinking line. I led my bait slowly against the water and suddenly I decided to make a drive to the right and it was there!
Something really heavy hung on the hook and slowly headed towards the river bottom. All of a sudden a great black bass jumped out and displayed all its beauty. It held tightly onto the hook and the strong line, so I led it with my no. 8 G. Loomis rod for a moment and then brought it to the bank and pulled it ashore over the reeds. The photographing then started, because our young guide estimated the fish to be about 5 pounds, which is real trophy size here. When releasing the quarry, however, he slipped on the wet grass and fell with all his weight on my rod, which cracked and was ruined.
Then we moved on to the main river, fishing a short stretch above the pool, the inlet, shallows and reeds along the bank, but nothing happened. In the shallows near the bank, however, we spotted some activity. It turned out to be a 5 kg carp which we weren't interested in. After three hours of fishing we stopped again at the original site where we had started, but without success. So, we returned to our cabin and went on to another place where black bass, though smaller sized, were also expected.
We drove for about twenty minutes up the Holsloot River and stopped under a reservoir dam, where we were to fish in the stilling pool under the overfall. At first sight this place gave no great impression, which turned to be right - Jiri and I only caught three 20-cm black bass each and our guide pulled out just one. We then tried to fish the brook under the dam and got a couple of rainbow trout yearlings.
Our programme changed as heavy rainfall was coming, announcing the rainy season. We had to shorten our stay in this beautiful rocky valley, which looked like Yellowstone National Park, and returned to Cape Town. This time we didn't use the tunnel, and witnessed an almost kitschy sunset. There were many baboons sitting along the way begging for food. They're said to be dangerous and cunning animals, so they got nothing from us.
Our young guide took us to downtown Cape Town which boasts many shiny modern buildings of glass and steel, and we met Korrie there who took us to a local exhibition ground where preparations for a big exhibition of furniture and housing accessories - Korrie's main business - were culminating. His specialization is bamboo furniture, but we weren't really impressed with any of the exhibits we saw. Simply, people there have a different taste than ours at home.
Then we went to a local flyfishing club housed in an original housing estate in a multi-storey building which may have been built at the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately only a few members arrived because the meeting had been called at the very last moment. One rarity here was an extensive library with English flyfishing literature, even though it was clear that during the last few years it hadn't been updated, as a lot of books I have in my collection were missing. A well-supplied bar was also a part of the club - so its members don’t have dry throats during their dicussions.
Late at night we got to Korrie's house at the foot of Table Mountain, and the household reflected that a man's hand arranged and ran it. There was also a flyfishing corner and our host showed us around this kingdom of his with a collection of fishing caps. He had about seventy of them, and I gave him one he hadn't had yet - a blue cap with the embroidered logo of the Czech Fishing Union.
A beautiful young French woman suddenly came out of one of the rooms. She was on an internship with a big wine producing company and found shelter in this house for a few months. Our host brought two bottles of his best red wine and then we dined, so everybody was satisfied.
Korrie had to go to the exhibition again early in the morning, and we almost missed the arrival of the car which was to take us fishing. First the driver couldn't reach us by ringing the doorbell and then we couldn't get through all the security locks. Finally, the French student helped us out.
We went to the airport to pick up an Australian and then drove north to the inland for three hours in the rain through citrus plantations as far as a town called Clanwilliam where there was a local rarity - a predatory yellowfish - and a lot of black bass. Both of our guides were hydrobiologists and they wanted to film the catching of this rare fish.
The locality was also a stilling pool under a dam and about fifty metres of the river which then disappeared into some bog bushes. Even though it looked considerably better than the previous day’s dam, this fishing was also regretful. After three hours of three people fishing, the only quarry was a bluegill over 20 cm long. Of course it was Jiri who caught it on a short Czech nymph. All attempts with streamers were in vain. Actually, I wasn't that surprised as the banks were all lined with fishing paths and there were also fireplaces with simple grills, indicating activity of the locals. In addition, a flock of cormorants was sitting under the dam. Our guides explained it by a sudden drop in air pressure caused by the beginning of the rainy season, but we didn't think much of this explanation.
We had reserved the Friday morning for sightseeing in Cape Town, but the weather turned bad, with rain at times and blowing wind. With Sanette, who looked like Lady Di, we took a drive through a millionaires' neighbourhood near the coast, and visited the harbour over which Table Mountain loomed in the clouds. The sea was stormy and we at least saw the Cape of Good Hope where we had lunch in a fish restaurant and shopped for some souvenirs before heading on to the Czech nymph workshop.
After the rain, waterfalls showered from the mountain walls and the Smalblaar River had changed into a wild stream, with no chance to fish there. We were accommodated in a small hotel right by the water and the evening ran according to schedule. Unfortunately, only eight participants were present because this event was held on a national holiday celebrating Nelson Mandela, and about ten registered people had cancelled their registration at the very last moment and gone with their families on a short holiday. The water level had gone down by the next day, so we went to the river after lunch.
I tore my boot on a thorn and so I could only watch everything from the bank. Jiri excelled again, managing to catch three rainbow trout, and the others also had some success, which was to everyone's satisfaction. I had two pulls - I missed the first one and on the second one a nice trout tore off my end nymph. We fished on Sunday morning also, but the wind was too strong and made the leader almost uncontrollable. There were only a few quarries, but our young guide from the big river had a good strategy, and caught a 50-cm rainbow on a streamer.
Our stay was quickly coming to an end, so we packed our stuff after lunch and set out back for Cape Town and the airport. We said goodbye to Korrie who was also pretty tired from spending part of this weekend at the exhibition and partly at the workshop. Our plane to Johannesburg had a forty-minute delay, so we missed our connection to Madrid and had to wait twenty-four hours for another flight. We stayed in a luxurious hotel, but would have preferred to be on the way home.
The night flight to Madrid was a real ordeal for me, because it was so hot on the plane that I had to undress down to my vest, while a black lady next to me contentedly slept. In Madrid we had a hard time catching the plane to Vienna, because the Madrid airport is confusing and they only speak Spanish. In the end we managed, but at the security check Jiri forfeited a bottle of outstanding South-African wine and I had to get rid of a tube of suncream which I had carried in my fishing bag all around the world for about five years. The end of our journey didn't really pan out, but otherwise it wasn't at all bad in South Africa…