Lockdown – I’m tired of hearing it and avoid the subject these days. But during the lockdown, my fly tying station was my psychologist.
Years ago my tying desk was in something close to a cellar, the living space was two floors up. My wonderful wife, Belle, wouldn’t have any of this so she bought me the most amazing 1960’s wood veneer bar that would allow me to tie in the living area close to her and if anything, ‘add to the aesthetics’ of the room when closed.
It opens up top and bottom with plenty of storage space and a serving surface that slides out at desk height for my J-Vice to sit perfectly on it. When tying ends you can simply place the vice in the “bar” without disturbing the work in progress, close the doors and it looks like a stylish piece of furniture again.
Under months of lockdown, in no time I’d filled all my boxes with my usual and favoured flies, and with all the time on my hands started to come up with a few concept flies. There was a hell of a lot of inspiration from social media at the time with so many people stuck at home and we’d started Whip it Wednesday on a few video conference platforms like Zoom. Amazingly, it was more productive than the beer-drinking, joint-smoking. banter-filled Wednesday nights in Warwick’s garage.
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Concept flies that haven’t been tested are posted on social media quite regularly. Plenty of Insta-fly fishermen don’t like this or would prefer to see flies that have proven themselves and performed. I suppose it’s a little like keeping your psychological problems to yourself.
The hard lockdown ended and we were allowed to fish again, so naturally, I headed down to my local, The Berg River, to test out my carp concept flies.
Being spring I knew there would be tadpoles around, so I tied on a Flexpole looking forward to seeing the carps’ reaction. I spotted a good-sized carp feeding on the edge of the inlet of the large weir pool. My cast wasn’t great (ed: it never is), out of practice I reckon (wink wink), and the fly landed a good four feet to the side of the fish. I let it sink knowing it would drift away from the fish in the current so as not to spook it. But the carp turned and bee-lined to the dropping Flexpole and sucked it up confidently. I was very surprised since Berg River carp are not normally that obliging. I lifted the rod and set the hook and the solid fish shot downstream towards the walkway bridge taking some backing along with it. A few minutes later, I landed the fish and was super stoked that the fly received such a strong response. A successful out for my lab-grown guinea pig!
I have subsequently caught a few more on the Flexpole sight fishing and even a couple blind fishing for Carp which I never do. I knew there were fish in the vicinity, too deep or unclear to see them, so I drifted the Flexpole into the zone and was really surprised when my line suddenly shot off with a fish on. My confidence in the fly is strong now and I’ll be tying them on regularly. Suck on that Insta-h8tez!
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There are a fair amount of yellowfish patterns around mainly incorporating zonker strips and after speaking to a lot of people, and namely, Matt Gorlei, Craig Eksteen and Ewan Naude, who have fished the Orange extensively, that seemed the way to go. But seeing the stream of Orange River report backs with the unusually super clear water I wanted to tie up something more realistic looking. I also just like to have some alternatives when things get a bit slow. It boosts my confidence changing to a different looking pattern when I am catching fokkol.
Andre Van Wyk, Warwick and I, along with a few people, had been playing around with Pattex 100% (check out the post, Pattex 100%). I love using Mylar for small baitfish patterns, it just screams scales, and combining this with the Pattex I came up with the flies below. A sort of freshwater Surf Candy but the Pattex gives it a soft squidgy head and is smooth for the fly to sink fast.
It doesn’t have a name yet, Rubber Bullet, Squidgy Head? I don’t know, Tudor Caradoc-Davies refers to it as my Mosquito Fish fly which it isn’t, that’s another pattern in a similar style, then suggested the Itchy Bite, anyway.
The bigger smallmouth yellows were smashing streamers, including the Itchy Bite, so I had developed some confidence in it. But to be honest, we caught smallies on a wide variety of flies, there was no real best pattern for me.
Things got worse when Peter Wittaker and I, who were self paddling that day (no guide), decided to fish off a small rocky island and stretch our legs. It was a stunning spot with a deep drop off into the main channel and you could see deep into the water and the Itchy Bite looked fantastic in the current.
The largemouth yellowfish were eluding me and it was starting to get on my tits. Andre and Warwick were being guided by Craig Eksteen that day and came floating down towards me. Of course, I nonchalantly asked how they’d been doing. They jovially replied that they’d landed quite a few largemouth yellowfish. I was stoked for them but couldn’t hide the feeling that I had missed out.
Suddenly I went tight from a solid take followed by a very strong run. I was in and by the way it pulled I thought, ‘this could be the one’. It was fantastic to have your fishing mates directly opposite watching the whole thing and egging you on with whoops, cheers and seriously obvious tips like, ‘Keep it away from the rocks!’
Fish landed, they pulled over and we had a great photo session with Andre’s AxisGO and Fuji X and high fives, it was bliss.
Check out the video of our journey Take Me To The River.