What happened when The Rhodes University Fly Fishing Club went to fish Thrift Dam.

This excerpt comes from Neil Hiestermann’s issue 25 story, IN BETWEEN CATCHING FISH, one of three focused on the legendary Eastern Cape stillwater, Thrift Dam.

Fish on at Thrift Dam. Photo David Taylor

Fish on at Thrift Dam. Photo David Taylor

“At the top of NO THRO ROAD Pass we were greeted in equal parts by vagrant horses and disconcerting carcasses. Had I not taken geography in grade 9 and learnt of the snow-capped Himalayas, and without Juluka’s “Kilimanjaro”, I’d have been convinced that this place was at the top of the world. Eventually the horseshoe-shaped Loch Thrift came into view and I was no longer concerned about being lost in yesterday and the tiny town that is my home.

To be honest, nothing reminds me of yesterday or a yesterday more than a long drive through old pastures and rocky roads. I think of the first people who decided to call these places home, let alone those who ventured out there for the purposes of reconnaissance. I think of the months and years that went by with no one around to share a beer and a laugh. No beer and no one.

Upon arriving at Loch Thrift it is customary to collect the cottage keys from Elliot, the official guardian.  As a child going on various camping trips, the arrival process was never smooth. My brother and I were always employed (without immediate pay), to help set up camp, blow up the mattresses, unpack and build fires… all after a grueling nine-hour drive. There was no such thing as immediate gratification. And , although I am grateful for the tiresome lessons in patience, upon arriving at Loch Thrift for the first time and even the last time, this virtue was like the dreams you forget immediately after waking up. So real and true… but what actually happened? The Thrift Experience with the Rhodes University Fly Fishing Club (RUFFC) is oh so different and yet, much the same.

“Satan, King Satan, what the hell…!”

Those lessons in patience helped me to start the unpacking process: all the bags of wood to the fireplace, tackle at the work bench, suitcases under the beds, foodstuff in the “kitchen” and bedding ready for sleeping. However, this kind of advice from me was like the road rules in South Africa. Ignored.  The hard legislation melted into courteous suggestions as I (The Righteous) watched in awe as my hedonist brethren ditched their duties to befriend a beer and rig up a crusty five weight. “Dad, oh Dad, what the hell…!” I cried, as I packed my sleeping bag back into its cover and reached for my rod tube. Uncommon common sense. The universe is just and unassuming.

fish thrift Dam

Three beers in, a tippet tied on so lazily and windknots (or what Lefty Kreh more appropriately calls casting knots) left, right and centre, I got my just rewards. Not only was I paralysingly cold, I had no bed, no fish to my name and a groot gemors (a giant mess) to fix in the morning. I decided, as did my peers, to tuck into the sherry and brandy and slip into that awkward dream I would vaguely remember in the morning. Discipline did not suit the depravity of our spirits.  I commented (maybe once) on the quality of the wine I had brought. Maybe.

For no particular reason I’m reminded of an old notebook I was given, “For the stories you will write and the smiles that may follow”. It’s a beautiful notebook, leather-bound, approximately 200 pages, (papyrus), and all completely pristine. One morning, during coffee hour, a friend asked why I hadn’t yet used the notebook, to which I replied without thinking that I did not own a suitable pen. I don’t know whether I was lying or not. Perhaps a fine notebook needs a fine pen or maybe I don’t want to start it.  This, in a complicated nutshell, is my requiem for Thrift Loch. Less about the fishing than the actual adventure and the people who are somehow willing to endure my gibberish and misguided, esoteric musings. Pen and paper, no words.

I initially regarded Loch Thrift as a place of wild behaviour and awesome fish, some imaginary wonderland between reality and sensibility. And I treated it as such on my first few excursions.  Thankfully, and in time, my friend Jim reminded me of my forgotten patience and that, with at least one cup of coffee in the morning, we could spend an entire day, enduring wind and cold, while fishing.”


For the rest of Neil’s story, get stuck in to issue 25 below. As always, it’s free.