SOLD OUT - This is my latest book and it takes up where Hunting Trout left off. After writing Hunting Trout and seeing it published, a whole heap of omissions came to mind – like fly fishing photography for example – plus I discovered there was a lot more I wanted to say about fly tying and fishing techniques than I had said in the 400 plus pages of Hunting Trout!
I accept commissions for watercolour paintings and pen and ink sketches. I have included examples of my work here, but all of these have been sold and are in private collections.
Prices of all artworks on application.
To enquire about my artwork or to commission a piece simply email me with your requirements at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 082 8041352
For more images of my trip to Rhodes follow the link at the bottom of this page...
End of the Western Cape season , the Kraalstroom and a Chinese Ferrari
Graeme Field on the Kraalstroom
The end of season here in the Western Cape didn’t so much tail off, as it usually does, as go out with a bang. I’d had a few days hunting fussy fish in thin water, sometimes blown apart by wind, sometimes blessed with gentle breezes and blue skies laced with puffy clouds and then all of a sudden the rains came, in two heavy cold fronts, lifting the rivers, dropping temperatures and all but putting and end to the hatches and the fishing. Even our last resort down here in times like this, the Holsloot, a tail-water fishery, was unreliable and miserly with its trout. There was a perfect day on some private water, the Kraalstroom, a tributary of the Elandspad, that we fished only a day or two before the first rains fell. I was with Ryan Weaver who manages the farm Fizantakraal and Graeme Field who runs a company called Liquid Horisons. The stream was bare bones and the trout spooked just lifting the rod to cast. In some bigger pockets we took a few trout on deep nymphs, but the Kraalstroom is such a magical place – ferns, ancient trees, gnarled roots, moss-covered stones – that it wouldn’t have mattered even if we hadn’t caught a thing.
Moss, rocks, roots, mystery...
There was also a day when I fished one of our regular streams with rod maker, Steve Boshoff, and a friend from London, Frederick Mostert. We caught more than a few trout on a day that Frederick described as one of the best he could remember and he got all his fish on a big dry fly, which sounds sort of counter-intuitive in a low stream but I will expand on that later. How I got to know Frederick, though, and what he does for a living is a whole story on its own, but let me just say that he has a Ferrari, a limited edition of only five ever made, and he owns the sixth – made in China! So, of course, you can sort of guess his profession. He’s a patent rights, intellectual property and brand protection lawyer working for one of the biggest companies in the business of high end, luxury products, Richemont. He spends plenty of his time in China closing down factories making Cartier watches, Mont Blanc pens, Purdey shot guns, yes, even Ferraris. Steve and I agreed that he was the most interesting man we ever spent a day fishing with.
The Coq de Leon saddle hackle RAB and Bear Lodge Angler
As for the big dry fly, well Frederick was new to the dry fly on fast streams and if there’s one essential ingredient to doing that well, it’s that you have to be able to see the fly. The big RABs I tie stand out like quivering haystacks so that’s what I gave him. I call them High Water RABs, and I tie them with ultra-wide, dark speckled-bronze Coq de Leon (CdL) saddle hackles. I tie them for rough riffle water when the rivers are up where they are hard to beat. Frederick couldn’t miss seeing the RABs and they worked. In an hour or two he landed half a dozen nice fish.
The CdL saddle I got from Ed Herbst who in turn brought it in through Bill and Kathi Morrison of Bear Lodge Angler in Wyoming. Both Ed and I have been doing business with them for years and I rate Bill as one of the most effective locators of fly tying materials I have ever come across. You’ll find his business at www.bearlodgeangler.com. Their prices are very reasonable, the range is outstanding and delivery is sharp.
Rhodes, Branksome and Gateshead
A beautiful run. The upper Bokspruit on Gateshead
Rhodes this year was close to heaven. The rivers were perfect and clear, although Tony Kietzman who guides in the area, told me that the level in the Bokspruit had dropped maybe six inches from the previous week and the bigger fish had been replaced with slightly smaller ones in greater abundance. How that works I don’t know, but I don’t argue with the wisdom of the locals. I was planning to fish alone, which I did for a few days, but chance encounters with a couple of anglers who happened to be up there at the time, meant that I got in four or five trips with company.
The fishing was not as typically good as it gets in this part of the world, but then there wasn’t a day when we were anywhere near skunked. I’d have said that in the colder water a nymph on an indicator would work better than a dry fly, and I probably would have used little else, but two of the lads I fished with were dry fly fanatics. They caught plenty of fish, but I suspect if you were after the bigger fish, say 15 inches and over, a slow, deep nymph was the way to go. To hook the better fish up here you need to concentrate on the deeper slots and fish them really well – meaning to take your time on getting more than a few drifts into likely places and then making sure that the fly was coming through deep enough. That’s how you catch the big fish here. You hunt them. The honey holes are those deep, darker green looking spots under root-bound banks. If you dead drift through the shallower runs and riffles you will always get plenty of fish, but they are likely to be smaller. Then, of course, if the fishing is slow a Leisenring Lift helps. All this does is add movement to induce a take. The LL amounts to a slow, even lift of the rod tip to bring upward movement into the fly.
The landscapes were spectacular this autumn, particularly on Branksome, Basie and Carien Vosloo’s farm just upstream of Birkhall. I had a lovely day here fishing with Ritchie Morris and Mark Ransome. In places the river was alight with the incandescent yellow reflections of poplars, but the willows were still hanging onto their greenness. The veld too had turned a deep russet red and in the clear air the distant mountains were pretty shades of pastel blue and purple.
Gateshead and Tony Kietzman
The Bell on Glass Niven
Tony Kietzman on Glass Niven
I ended up fishing the usual waters – the Sterkspruit, the Bell and the Bokspruit – all of them lovely, but I came to the conclusion that if there is a dry fly stream designed by God for himself and his Saints, it is the Bokspruit at Gateshead. I was with Tony and four guys from Cape Town, Paul Mukheiber, Dave Lefeuvre, Jeremy Duthie and Guy Sampson. Again we met up by chance and sort of guided them a few times on this trip (not that they needed much instruction). We told them that our usual guiding fee of R600 an hour and R600 per Coq de Leon-hackled RAB, was a steal! They reciprocated with some of the better river lunches I have known. My friend Agostino Gaglio from Klerksdorp does a good riverside Mediterranean spread – salamis, Parma ham, rockets, sun dried tomatoes, cheeses, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crusty rolls and so on – but these guys were the pasta kings. At times I had two dinky gas stoves burning on the tailgate of my truck, one with a pot of water on it for the pasta, the other with a pan for the sauce. The pasta was served hot, even sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. And their coffee was real, not the sort of instant stuff I normally drink on streams.
Poplars in autumn colours, the Sterkspruit on Branksome
Mark Ransome on the Branksome section of the Sterkspruit
Rainbow from the Sterkspruit on Lindesfarne
Maclear, Richard Viedge, Vrederus and the Diepspruit.
On the drive up to Rhodes Lionel Reid, called my cell phone waxing lyrical about the fishing they had in the streams around Maclear along with Richard Viedge, a guide in the area. Lionel was in his car at the time on his way to fish the Diepspruit on a farm called Ross Trevor. The Diepspruit is in the New England district twenty odd kilometres west of Barkly East. This is a relatively unsung stream and it shouldn’t be. I remember Ed Herbst and I once fished a section after walking a fair way downstream where we found something of a gorge. We got a few pretty trout and over the years we have had some good fishing in the Diepspruit on the farm Millard. Lionel called me the next morning. Sadly, they were leaving to head home to Johannesburg otherwise I would have driven across to fish the Diepspruit with him, but he said the fishing had been sensational – very strong trout, excellent condition and relatively big fish.
It sounds as if the streams on the Maclear/Ugie side of the southern Drakensberg are really doing well. I must say I long to get back to this area – onto streams like the Wildebeest, the Mooi and the Upper Pott. I had hoped to get there this trip, but a flu-like bug put an end to that. Ed Herbst and Tony Kietzman recently fished a high section of the Wildebeest and said it was as good as heaven. As it happens I have just put the phone down after chatting to Richard Viedge. He said the rivers have never looked better in this patch on the Planet and last week a friend of his took a 16 inch rainbow from the Upper Pott, a tiny, beautiful stream on a dry fly! I told Richard I’d be seeing him come September!
Landscapes from heaven. The Bokspruit valley
Photos by Christoff Badenhorst
Situated in the beautiful Magoebaskloof area and started in 1911, the Haernertsburg Trout Association is one of the oldest fly fishing clubs in South Africa. Among its many waters is the pretty Broederstroom, a brown and rainbow trout stream captured here by Christoff Badenhorst.
THE STERKFONTEIN YELLOWFISH EXPERIENCE
Text Tom Sutcliffe Pictures by Damon Mathfield
People are now rating this great impoundment as one of the country’s premier fly fishing destinations and deservedly so. Here’s what Jan Korrubel had to say of a recent trip there…
‘I was privileged to spend 2 days of the week before up at Sterkfontein Dam fishing for smallmouth yellows. I now know why they call Sterkfontein an "Experience" and the smallmouth yellows there "Mini-V8's". With that expanse of water and the fishing opportunities there, I can also see why folks can dedicate their lives to the place. The take of those smallmouth yellows is something else - "Freshwater Bonefish" is probably an overused description, but I can think of nothing better...!’
Jan puts it well. And remember the clarity of the water provides plenty of sight fishing opportunities. But I think there’s much more to the fishing here than just the fish. I have seen some of the most spectacular cloud scenery build up over this water – followed often enough by spectacular displays of lightening and thunder and driving rain. It’s a very visceral, earthy experience in a fishing landscape that anyway must rate among the most dramatic in the world.
Here Damon Mathfield shares some of his images of this magnificent venue. It’s a wonderful tapestry showing the place in all its moods.
CRAIG THOM'S IMAGES OF THE JDT'S
The JDT's is one of the finest Cape streams, no easy hike, no easy fishing, but a visit is fly fishing's equivalent of a catharsis. Here are some images Craig Thom sent of his most recent visit.
Bamboo rod maker at rest - Steve Boshoff takes a well earned breather
As they say, there are clear streams - and the there's the JDT's!
Wendy Thom climbing out of the JDT's - vertigo?
Thanks Craig, great little photo essay!
JAN MALAN WRITES ABOUT A GLIMPSE HE GOT OF THE UPPER SAALBOOM RIVER, BARKLY EAST DISTRICT
A lovely piece of investigative fly fishing – or fly fishing R & D
Jan wrote recently
‘I've been meaning to send you these shots for a long time, but only now getting round to it. They are not great photography, but it’s more the stream that fascinated me. On the way to Rhodes early in the year (around March/April), we drove over the Erasmus Pass which drops you close to Barkly East. (I think Jan means Greyling’s Pass here, because I phoned two knowledgeable Rhodes locals today, Basie Vosloo and Dave Walker, and neither had heard of the Erasmus Pass. Should you care to look at it on Google Earth, the road is the R396 from Dordrecht to Barkly. See http://samountainpasses.co.za/EasternCape/EasternCapePasses/GreylingsPass/Map/tabid/1124/Default.aspx )
It’s a beautiful drive and on the Dordrecht side as you approach the pass there are some spectacular mountain views. There was also a tiny stream on that side, running close to the deeper folds of the mountains and it looked almost fishable, but since we were driving in rain it would be difficult to judge whether it is perennial.
Unfortunately don't have any usable shots of that one. On the other side though, we crossed the upper Saalboom River and it looked very good in these upper reaches. One hears little of the Saalboom, although I know it gets fished a bit lower down for some really big trout in the slower, deeper holes. This upper water, however, reminded me a lot of Ben Lawers on the Bell River and it looked like near perfect small water. I was wondering if you know anything about it.’
Clearly this is a stream with great potential. I did fish the Saalboom many years back with Jake Alletson, also as I recall on one of the upper sections where we got a few brown trout. So did my friend Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, who wrote to me mid last year as follows…
‘The next day we decided to fish the Saalboom on Vaalkop. This day proved to be successful. Jan got 16 and 17 inch rainbows on drop-offs in large pools. A very large version (#10) of Darryl Lampert’s CDC nymph did the trick. That evening a massive rainstorm came down onto the Barkly area with the Sterkspruit and Saalboom staying murky for the duration of our trip.’
IF YOU HAVE SOME EXPERIENCE OF THIS STREAM I WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO HEAR FROM YOU SO THAT WE CAN BUILD ON THIS POSTING. ANY INAGES, OF COURSE, WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED.
READERS IMAGES PART 15 – NEIL HAYES HILL ON THE OKAVANGO AND ON HIS ART
An abbreviated biography From Neil Hayes-Hill
My paternal grandfather, Harry Hayes-Hill, fished the upper Zambezi annually at Nantunga channel, Caprivi, and took me along during my teenage years in the 60's, where I unwittingly learnt about delicate marine environments; the matter that Nembwe yellow bream and other serranochromis had pharyngeal gill teeth proving their predatorship, whereas the Njini Three-spot breams ( ex tilapia, now oreochromis ) had smooth gills; that most bream species above the six 100 000 yr old gorges of Victoria Falls are predatory and are completely different to the diatomite grazing bream species below the falls where you have to fish with earth worms (39 species of fish below the falls and 89 species above). This I found fascinating.
The camp would be set up at Nantunga amongst some huge trees about a four hour’s boat drive up the Zambezi from Chobe via the Kasai channel, with old wooden speedboats with 50 hp Mercurys.
Being artistic, I immediately started painting field studies of the numerous Zambezi fish species, rather like the caveman who painted prey onto rock faces, hoping to elicit a spiritual advantage for his next hunt. And the better the sketch, the better the spiritual advantage would be! Furthermore, taxidermying the fish species may work even better, so I also took that up.
Jeff Richmond taught me how to fly fish at his family’s berg farm Blydskap in the Kerkenberg, near Olivier's Hoek, in the early 70's, and I have rarely used "whirr-whirr-clunk-clunk" mechanical gear since, and decided to remain, as described by some, a "self disadvantaged-line entanglement-fisherman". Fly fishing is undoubtedly an environmental recreational challenge that is hugely satisfying to the human psychic, solves the atavistic caveman instincts and is an invaluable contributor to our fast deteriorating natural world.
I have met and fished with some serious, world class flyfishers: the late Keith Miller, Greg Wright and Piet Snyman, who for some years held numerous tippet class IGFA Tigerfish records; and lately a fellow called Andrew Parsons who is the master guide on the oceanic fly-fishing mother ship Pangaea see http://www.rnryachts.com/Pangaea.html
In terms of my architectural profession, I have been fortunate to become involved for some years now in upmarket African Safari lodge and hotel design, all over Africa from Victoria Falls Zambia ( Royal Livingstone) to Namibia, to the Gabon, the Middle East, Brazil, and presently have an "Africanization " brief for a Safari Hotel being developed in West Midlands UK. I have won some design and environmental awards. Other projects have been voted the best boutique hotels in the world - see http://www.tintswalo.com/ATLANTIC/atlantic_home.html
VALENTINE ATKINSON IN FLY FISHING PHOTOGRAPHY
Val has kindly contributed a heap of pictures to the site. I have made a random selection with the aim of giving you some insights into what has made this man arguably the most eminent fly fishing photographer of all time. It’s a medley of pictures ranging from scenes in New Zealand, to Alaska, the Bahamas, Seychelles, Terre del Fuego and high mountain streams in the Sierra Neva after the rare golden trout. Note his eye for the human touch, sometimes for the absurd, and his wonderful sense of colour and composition.
Atkinson was voted into the California Fly Fishing Hall of Fame by the Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) in March 2003.
ABOUT VALENTINE ATKINSON
‘I caught my first trout on a fly rod at the age of seven. That hatchery fish from the Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia sparked a flame that still keeps me warm.
Twenty years ago I started taking a camera on fishing trips after realizing that there was a lot more to angling than catching fish. Over the years I have learned to combine these two passions into my life's work. My four books fulfil a dream of enabling me to share these passions with you. I've now travelled to 29 countries on assignments and I must confess that in recent years the challenge of making a really great image has started to transcend my desire to catch fish. However, fly fishing and photography go very well together. The secret is knowing when to put down the rod and pick up the camera.
These days I travel farther afield but it's the same quest for beauty and solitude that motivate me. It is my sincere desire that my images share with you the passion for these wild and romantic places. If they do, then hopefully you will share the desire to cherish, respect and protect what wilderness remains in the world and actively resist the greed which flourishes and threatens, that your children and grandchildren will also see these places one day and find them as lovely as they appear here.
Here's to Truth, Adventure and Passion’
Terra del Fuego
BOOKS BROWN TROUT VALENTINE ATKINSON
The Greatest Fly Fishing Around the World: Trout, Salmon, and Saltwater Fishing on the World's Most Beautiful Waters
Trout and Salmon: The Greatest Fly Fishing for Trout and Salmon Worldwide
Friends on the Water: Fly Fishing in Good Company
Distant Waters: The Greatest Fly-fishing Worldwide
Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die
FLY FISHING THE BUSHMAN’S AND LOTHENI RIVERS IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE DRAKENSBERG KZN
Photo essay from Darryl Lampert
I was delighted to get these images and hear of this two day trip from Darryl and Jan Korrubel because for too long these streams were trapped in a drought and too low to fish. I know them both. They run in splendid landscapes and their brown trout are a joy. Jan tells me they caught all but one fish on dry fly. If you enjoy ultra-fine small stream fly fishing for trout neither of these streams is a bad place to find yourself.
(See also http://www.tomsutcliffe.co.za/component/content/article/40-readers-images/219-a-day-on-the-bushmans-and-lotheni for more images on this sortie)