Tobi was our little dog who sadly left us recently after a good life of around 15 years. He was a cross between a toy Pomeranian and a baby polar bear. My wife, Belle, adopted him at a young age or more like he adopted her. The old lady who lived next door to Belle’s office past away and her children took everything but the dog, so Tobi started hanging around under Belle’s desk and ended going home with her.
With the ability to convert many an anti-dog person into a dog lover and was a favourite for many who visited us, he often ended up on peoples laps getting loads of attention. He picked up a few nicknames along the way, like snowball, baby polar bear and Tobi Wan Kenobi. In his older years, he learned Jedi skills by never leaving his mat except to eat and poop and had the ability to land on peoples lap without walking.
An adventurer in his early years, he joined us on many road and fishing trips, climbing mountains and trees and often took the wheel.
Tobi involved himself wholeheartedly on all adventures and took to water like a duck, here he is on the Breede at Infanta even after warnings of sharks that could swallow him whole.
But in his later years, he did become a little lazy. While we were away on holiday abroad where he couldn’t join us, our house sitter e-mailed me asking if Tobi liked to be walked once or twice a day because he was often reluctant. My answer was ‘Erm, once a month”.
Tobi didn’t show his age with his white fur hiding any grey hairs and he still came on fishing trips but preferred to just hang out on the rocks.
Tobi had a soft spot for big black dogs and whenever we met one he would follow it around sniffing their butt conveniently above nose height making him look graceful in this smelly act. So we got him a big black friend, named Perrito, Tobi of course, was the boss.
He had a keen interest in fly tying and if it wasn’t for having paws I’m sure he would have been really good at it.
He contributed in other ways as he had the most incredibly soft fur, and his tail was long with a natural taper. He wagged his tail at me often as if saying, look at this. I had to give it a try on a fly and the result was amazing. Tobi’s tail took on a translucent look when wet, and being so soft, it moved very enticingly in the water like no other material I knew.
Over some flash, I reversed tied in the tail fur with the use of a cone head which helped the fur flare out and gives it a bit more profile. As a material, it wasn’t abundant, but free and sustainable, and I worked out how to trim enough for a few flies so that Belle wouldn’t notice.
It became a favourite bass fly and delivered on days when things were slow and small leeries (leerfish) also couldn’t leave it alone, a fast stripped Tobi tail minnow often produced. But it was on the Upper Zambezi river fishing for tigerfish where it really stood out for me. I tied up a couple with the idea to use it in the fast rapids where the more slim minnow type baitfish would be hanging out. Well, that was the theory.
On one of the days on the trip, there’s an option to float down the Mambova Rapids with a guide paddling you while you took shots into the channels for tigerfish. It’s exciting, dynamic fishing and you have to be quick and landing fish was pretty challenging. My guide, Robert, knew what he was doing but was a very quiet guy. His style was to take you to a spot and then just point in the direction you needed to fish in. He never gave advice or commented on anything you were doing unless asked a question which he answered knowledgeably with a broad smile.
On the rapids, he pulled over into an eddy next to a good looking channel. I made a few casts with a dark clouser minnow, the usual favourite with no results, so I changed to the Tobi tail minnow testing out my silvery-white minnows theory in the rapids. I cast into the channel and on the first swing, my line stopped dead, jolting hard the way tiger fish hit a fly. With one jump, revealing its size and to tease me, it threw the fly, damn! So I cast again to the same spot and as the fly swung over what must have been a holding spot, I got smashed again, after a few jumps this one was on. But it shot across the channel using the current and into some standing reeds on the other side and snapped me off. I was shaking with excitement and struggled to tie on another Tobi.
Like deja vu, the same thing happened for the third time. This time, somehow the fly line looped around the tip of my forefinger and with the fish screaming downstream the tension was tight and I just couldn’t get my finger free. It was nuts. Two, three jumps and with no give the leader snapped. The silent Robert turned to me and said “That was a big one”, I was bleak and out of Tobi tail minnows. But it has since become a favourite when fishing around rapids.
I have dyed his tail and used it in other patterns. The movement is hard to beat.
But what seemed to be a renewable source of fly tying material is now sadly gone and missed just like our little friend.
Or maybe not. Hello Luna.
No animals were hurt in the inspiration of this post.