Epson Wild Trout Fly Fishing Festival – 19th to 21st March 2015
By all accounts, the annual festival was greatly enjoyed by all of the participants, most of whom have been participating for many years as well as a smattering of new faces adding lustre to the event.
Fickle weather conditions limited the fishing mainly to the Bok- and Sterkspruits where 315 and 78 trout were taken respectively. The Kraai River clocked in with a handsome 44 fish, 5 of which were Smallmouth yellowfish, all over the 350mm mark. Of the catch returns received, a total of 450 fish were caught averaging 8 per angler but the actual tally would have been substantially higher, had every participant completed their returns. Either way, a fairly poor show when festival records dating back to 2001 show an average of 938 fish caught per festival but a clear reflection on weather conditions over the past two winters where very little snow resulted in minimal spawning. In addition, severe summer floods may have also flushed the system leaving, we hope, superior survivors!
The three days of fishing were bracketed by four evenings of great meals, fishy-talk and associated consumption of beverages ranging from alcohol free beer to hard-core shooters for the over-enthusiastic. All of this culminated in the annual auction of a variety of sponsored items ranging from hand-knitted blankets produced during the Rhodes Stoepsitfees per kind favour of Saprotex International who provided the knitting wool. The 4 blankets raised R2000 that will be used to buy even more that will be given to needy residents from the neighbouring township of Zakhele. Other sponsored items included fishing tackle, Buffs, accommodation vouchers and even an Epson photographic printer. The most unusual item was a fly-box full of flies together with a certificate of authenticity – the result of a quirky auction item sold at the 2014 festival, Dave Walker’s beard! Collusion between Mile Divett, the beard-buyer and Jan Korrubel, the fly-tyer, paved the way for a combined total contribution of R3000 to the WTA coffers topped up to R3250 by a donation from Urban Flyfishers where Korrubel had sourced the hooks.
At the final dinner, the chairman, Dave Walker thanked all of those present for their support, the guides directed by Tony Kietzman and the sponsors, in particular Epson for the branded fleece jerseys, guidebook printing and an Epson Photographic printer. Walker also thanked the many other sponsors who kindly provided auction items, Mukheibir Sentra who donated goods for the goodie bags and most important of all, the riparian owners in the district without whose waters, there would not be a Wild Trout Association or an annual festival. The joint effort to provide a shop window on our area should not be under-estimated as a fruitful means of marketing Rhodes and the Eastern Cape Highlands. The proof or the pudding is the large number of fly fishers, first introduced to the area by the festivals, who return at other times of the year to enjoy the fishing, the company of the fine residents of the district and the magnificent scenery.
The annual Rhodes-based Epson Wild Trout Festival is a festival in the true sense of the word - “a gathering of like-minded people in celebration of fly fishing”. It has also taken on a quirky life of its own that was epitomised by the auction of sponsored items on the last evening of the event.
Apart from the usual fly fishing related things, Jopie Adam donated his beard to the cause. Bidding was brisk and finally Miles Divett blew any opposition out of the park with his winning bid of R1500.
Jopie embarked upon making good his promise and proceeded to hack his hirsute chin, much to the amusement and encouragement of all present. On completion of the task, Divett ended up with two hands full of “facial fluff”.
It turned out that Divett had conspired with Jan Korrubell to use the proceeds to tie flies. Walker’s Killers immediately come to mind but being from the home of the geographically challenged, the “Southern Drakensberg”, they will no doubt come up with more bizarre flies than will be found in anyone else’s fly boxes.
Johann Olivier first suggested a ride to the Gariep dam area. After our last stay at Walkerbouts in Rhodes we were agreed that it was well worth staying over for a night there en route to Gariep. Tim Stroebel, who had just joined me on the Sabie trip, was also keen and I dropped a line to another mate, Grant Siebert, who wasted no time in putting his hand up. Then there were four.
The more I looked at Johann’s plans the more I recognized traces of the telltale “Olivier Optimism” in the distances we had to cover each day, especially on dirt tracks. I was mindful that the oldest beau sabreur in our number (who shall remain nameless) just celebrated his 60th and we were looking to have fun, not break endurance records.
It took me a few e-mails before I put forward an alternative to Johann, which involved booking into Walkerbouts for three nights and riding as many of the gravel passes in the area as time allowed. Passes with evocative names like Naude’s Nek, Lundin’s Nek, Bastervoetpad Pass and The Wartrail. To his credit, the ever optimistic Olivier concurred and the itinerary was trimmed and settled electronically between the four of us without much further ado.
We were due to leave on Thursday and it rained heavily all over the country in the days preceding. Those who read about our last trip to Rhodes will recall that when it rained the Eluzie Drift road (Lower Pitseng road on some maps) became completely snotty and impassable on two wheels, with the result that after a Wagnerian evening of crashing lightning and falling pferds we spent an unscheduled night hiding out from the elements on Donnie Naude’s farm. In the event we only made it to Rhodes the next day.
At Rhodes we ask..."Don't leave only footprints", and once again the Rhodes runners, their families and friends proved extremely generous.
This year there were a number of projects to assist the local community.
DM Kisch Inc
The team from DM Kisch once again did a remarkable job at the Rhodes Public School in Zakhele. Even though they were down in manpower they made up for it with commitment and enthusiasm.
Please find attached the movements of our Bearded Vultures: Jeremia, Springbok, Pharaoh, Lefuma, Inkosi Yeentaka, spen, Lehlwa, Wandervogel, Mac, Kloutjie, Camo, Mollie; and our Cape Vulture for the past week (3-9 March 2013).