At The Mission, we know Trevor Sithole well from our issue 2 interview with him and this video, but someone who really knows him well having fished with him for years, is Matt Gorlei of FlyBru. Over the course of a single day last year, Matt filmed Trevor and entered the film in the South African Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo competition, winning top honours in the process. That film is now available to watch online. In between guiding stints on the Orange River in South Africa’s Northern Cape and the Rio Grande in Argentina, we caught up with Matt to find out a little background behind the film.
What was the process for filming Bamba Ubuyisele?
I gave Trevor a call asked if he had a day off work. He did so I drove through from Durban the next day at about 4am and met Trevor by 6.30am. We had a coffee and breakfast while chatting about what we were going to do. I only had a vague idea of what I was going to try and achieve.
Things sort of fell into place in Thendela, I just started shooting while we made our way around the village. We then went to Trevor’s house where he tied a fly or two, and got ready for some fishing. By 11am we had most of the stock shots and it was time to fish. While I filmed, Trevor fished. The weather couldn’t have been better and he caught some fish. I only had two batteries so had to make a charging run while on the water. Young Thembi helped by running the charger and battery into someone’s little rural house while we filmed on the other battery. Trevor went through a stage where he lost a couple good fish in a row, we were having good fun with that, luckily he got a few good fish for the film. We did everything in one day with hardly a plan, I just filmed and he was just being himself on his own home waters. I felt like everything I filmed was natural and true, I didn’t even stage one shot. When I got home to Durban, I edited the film throughout the night and sent it in the next day to be judged for the film competition. I was stuck with the name of the film so called Trevor. His first idea was Bamba Ubuyisele. It worked and I liked the message Trevor was giving. He’s such a legend, I think we will both remember that day clearly, everything just seemed to work out for us.
What does Bamba Ubuyisele mean?
Bamba Ubuyisele means Catch and Release in IsiZulu.
How long have you known Trevor?
It was probably about six years ago that we first met.
Are you from the same area originally?
Both from KwaZulu-Natal, but I was on the coast and Trevor was in the foothills of the Drankensberg.
When did you first fish together?
It was in the early stages of the Thendela Fly Fishing Project, Trevor came to a fly fishing clinic I was helping my parents with, we were teaching some of the local people in Thendela about trout fishing in the Mooi River that was flowing through their tribal lands.
How quickly did Trevor take to fly fishing?
He was instantly taken by it. I think from the moment he picked up the rod for the first time he knew this was something he wanted to pursue. He had a natural understanding of fishing and casting became second nature after a short while. A few of the people we were teaching were quick learners, they started teaching the others by the end of a clinic.
How well do you know his home waters?
I fished in the Natal Midlands from a young age and often fished the Mooi river very close to the tribal lands. I think I fished it two or three times before the Thendela Project started. Since then I have fished his waters a few times and know the river quite well. Trevor obviously leads the way when we fish together.
Biggest fish from that section of the Mooi?
That section of the Mooi got me one of my biggest river brown trout in KwaZulu-Natal. It was about 50cms and was taken on a booby dragon fly that I was given by Oom Jan, an old fishing legend in KwaZulu-Natal fly fishing who helped with casting instructions during the early stages of the Thendela Project. I think he was at that stage the only South African that was a credited IFFF Casting Instructor.
What has your experience of the Thendela Fly Fishing Project been?
I was involved pretty much from the beginning, my mom started the project after seeing the potential of the river and the willingness of the local people to learn how to fish. So, while I was in high school I was always at the clinics and helping guys with fishing and fly tying. I have stayed involved as much as I can. The community is now running the project with my mom who sort of advises and helps where it’s needed. She always wanted it to be a community-run project. There are people who were involved from the start along with Trevor who are running the project now. I think the project has made an impact to the fishing in the river. The community were amazing when doing a river clean up, they even put rocks into the river in places where they had been removed for building. People seem to now be more mindful of the river and fishing. Richard Khumalo, who is the head of the project, is very respected within the community.
How has a guy like Trevor had an impact on his community?
I think people like Trevor. He seems to have some respect and I think that people are interested in what he is doing. He is very passionate about keeping the place clean and making sure the trout are safe, so he makes sure people aren’t littering or taking fish, or too much fish. The people in this community eat fish, they always have, so some get caught and kept, but that’s the circle of life in the rural areas, I think they understand how to live off the land and Trevor teaches them that it needs to be looked after to be sustainable. During the Thendela Project the river has a beat system. Trevor guides visitors to the area and he is extremely proud of what he does.
Is he an outlier or are other people from Thendela showing interest in fly fishing?
There are a good number of people showing interest, some who like Trevor have been interested from the start as well as fresh newbies. Thembi, who is a great friend of Trevor loves the sport, he fishes for the KZN youth team and is growing into a great fisherman.
Trevor recently won the SA B Nationals. Having fished with him, do you think it’s a matter of time until he goes for A nationals and pushes for higher honours on the world stage?
All Trevor wants to do is become a better fisherman. He is clearly learning fast. He won the B Nationals the first time he has ever fished for Yellows on the Vaal. By winning B Nationals he will get an invite into the A Nationals to fish in an invitational team. The A Nationals will be in the Kamberg next, and there may even be a section on his home waters, that would be awesome for him. I am sure he will keep pushing himself.