All the cool kids are digging into their archives, so let’s throw it back… (Is #ThrowbackThursday still a thing? It is Thursday today, right? With the current mindfuck of day-to-day lockdown-sameness it might as well be Tuesday).
Anyway it’s a good time to reminisce… This installment in the tailgate confessions takes us to 2018. Though that may seem like yesterday, a lot water has flushed out of the Breede River mouth since – Fred Davis was unmarried, the doctors Filmalter and Flemming both had one child each, Nepptuna was yet to start playing with bucktail. Corona was just a beer. I digress, as I wander through some faded memory, but here goes:
5AM saw us at Heidelberg Wimpy for cappuccino and bacon & egg sarmies. It was a Saturday and the next stop could so easily have been the Breede, we were heading elsewhere however. LeRoy Botha and I were N2 surfing our way from the Garden Route to Somerset West for the South African Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo.
LeRoy was invited to the Expo as an exhibition tyer and to tie a final fly in the competition for fly tyer of the year. I was tagging along as cheerleader. Beer and some laughs top of my agenda.
I run the N2 fairly regularly, as something of a once-a-month work commute from Garden Route for client meetings. To have a companion for what is usually a solo drive, nerding over all things fly was pretty cool. While it lasted…
At Swellendam he was still chirpy, smallmouth bass the topic as I recall. That, and JAM flies. Today LeRoy sports a range of very successful grunter patterns for a variety of conditions and applications. Most of these have of course evolved from out of the groundwork of the Grand Masters, all of whom he holds in high reverence. Back then though he still experimenting.
Well, his ‘experiments’ at the vise look like most okes’ best ties.
Anyway, for those who need a quick history lesson, the JAM was developed by Jannie Visser, August Lohan and MC Coetzer. It is – as Peter Coetzee (himself a crafter of stupidly good JAMs) explains in ‘Genius of the JAM’ – “a brilliant combination of realistic and impressionistic ideas. The tying in itself is an art, but for me the real genius is behaviour in a static position.”
So LeRoy had gotten to a point where he, himself, was proud enough of his JAM efforts (that says a lot) to show off the results and he had brought some along to show off. Regular and articulated versions.
At Caledon the man was silent. Total. Now, this is a person who makes his coin by playing live music (at least that was back then, before the fly-tying business).
I couldn’t understand the nerves. Surely not for the tying that lay ahead? Some probing got me to understand that there on the passenger seat was something of savant. A muso and fly-tying maestro who expresses himself though those arts. Don’t force him to talk too much or squash him into too stressful a social situation. Years on stage has seen him train that ‘other’ side of his brain well though and he plays through it to a point where no-one would know, least of all his audiences.
The nerves here were starting to tell though….
On arrival the hustle of finding a spot among the tyers already installed on the tables in the hall and carrying in his gear, took up much of his concentration. After (fatefully) being booted off one spot by some high brow dry-fly tier he shuffled to the end of the row of tables where Conrad Botes was holding court. Next to Conrad someone else had already unloaded their setup, but there was a space open.
Conrad being Conrad, was stoked to have someone like LeRoy j0in the table. The two had a connection from smallmouth bass hunting and via some of the older forums some years before.
Between bantering with Conrad, LeRoy meticulously unpacked his gear, taking his time to make sure everything was just so.
Just before heading outside for a cigarette and a coffee he took out a box beaming with three freshly-tied, articulated JAM flies. Exquisitely crafted things. LeRoy deftly placed the open box on his station for passers-by to see. Much like all the other tyers. This was his exhibition piece, if you will.
While outside, triple-clutching his Marlboro, the table’s third tyer returned to his station. He immediately noticed the JAMS and picked up the box for a closer look.
LeRoy returned, semi calmed by his cigarette and caffeine-hit to find the tyer closely examining his JAMs. Grinning through his beard he introduced himself, humbly, but buoyed by the manner in which this guy was admiring the flies.
“I know who you are,” said the guy holding the box. “Beautiful ties.” Or, something more floral but to that effect, holding out his hand in greeting.
“Jannie,” stammered LeRoy.
“Nice to meet you,” said Jannie.
“I really like these,” he added.
LeRoy – suddenly drained of all colour and confidence – plucked the box from out of his hands. Snapping it shut and throwing it deep into his kit container.
He looked up.
“Jannie. Fokken. Visser?”
*with apologies to Simms for the title
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