From representing, captaining and coaching South African fly fishing teams all over the world, to whispering to spotted grunter on the sandbanks of the Breede river, fighting Geets in the Indian Ocean or snapper in Gabon, we know very few anglers who can match MC Coetzer for all-round skills. Massive streamers, micro-nymphs, delicate dries, salt, fresh, big or small, MC will out-fish us all. In this excerpt from his issue 28 Lifer Q&A, he gives his take on why competitive fly fishing will change you for the better.
“I’ve been involved in competitive fly fishing since 2001 and in that time I’ve avoided the debate between guys who are in favour of or against comp fishing. It’s definitely the safer space to be in and I do not believe that it’s possible to change the views expressed by the small group of very vocal fly fishers on either side of the debate. I can understand that a lot of guys believe that our sport is not one that should be competitive as it goes against tradition or the ethos of the sport. It makes absolute sense and to an extent I agree with this attitude. Comp fishing is however much more than simply seeing who can catch the most fish to get bragging rights. If that is your goal, then you are definitely in the wrong place.
“Comp fishing is however much more than simply seeing who can catch the most fish to get bragging rights. If that is your goal, then you are definitely in the wrong place.”
“Only a very small portion of fly fishers in South Africa take part in competitive fly fishing and I believe that the guys who do not take part are missing out on the best learning experience available. In other parts of the world comp fishermen are seen as the driving force behind the development of new tackle and they’re certainly at the forefront of developing new techniques. The relationship between European freshwater comp fishermen and the development of tackle and techniques is very similar to the relationship between saltwater guides and the development of saltwater tackle and techniques. If you are opposed to the idea of competition in fly fishing, then don’t compete but, do yourself a favour and spend a day with somebody like Daniel Factor or Maddy Rich. You will learn more in a day’s fishing with them, than you will learn in many years of fly fishing on your own or from speaking to somebody in a tackle shop. Their knowledge and enthusiasm will definitely have a positive impact on your fishing. The vast majority of comp fishers take part in the sport not to win a competition, but simply to get better at what they enjoy because of the knowledge that is shared freely between even opposing teams. Non-competitive fly fishers seem to believe that the competition guys only use Czech Nymphing techniques and that this is not “real” fly fishing. To do well at competitive fly fishing you have to learn how to fish all the techniques out there and these include fishing tiny dry flies, swinging wet flies, dry-and-dropper techniques and every other available technique. Technically the fishing is now extremely refined and there is a lot to learn from the competitive guys. If you don’t like one or the other technique, then don’t use it, but go and experience what they have to offer before you knock it.
“Comp fishing has allowed me to fish for trout and grayling on some of the best rivers and still waters in the world. Not only do you get to fish these waters, you do so with the most knowledgeable local fly fishers and, after the actual competition, you get to fish with and discuss the fisheries with the best international competition guys. Besides being exposed to different waters and techniques that I would never have learnt, it’s taught me to pay attention to those aspects that you have control over. Always do proper research (even for a social trip), get your rigging and fly-tying spot on and work hard when you’re fishing. You cannot control the bad weather or the cold water but if you prepare well and work hard, you can make the most of the shitty hand that you’re dealt or you can really knock it out the park on those days when the stars align. I’ve been coaching the junior Protea fly fishing teams since 2008 and through the years I’ve met and fished with some incredibly talented youngsters. Guys like Daniel Factor, Matt Gorlei, Christiaan Pretorius and Nick van Rensburg come to mind but there are many more. It’s been such a privilege to fish with all of them and it’s great to be able to watch them grow older and wiser as they go about their lives.
Modern nymph fishing techniques (as a group of different styles) are commonly referred to as Euro Nymph fishing. When somebody explains the basic ideas to you it seems fairly simple but believe me, it’s not that easy at all and I work at it at whenever I get to fish for trout or yellowfish. For the past number of years I’ve enjoyed fishing a single micro nymph most of all. The challenge is to control the sink rate and remain in contact with small #18 or #20 nymphs at long range. This is an ongoing process that I may never get quite right but I catch enough fish while trying.
For the rest of MC’s Lifer, get stuck into issue 28 of The Mission below. As always, it’s free.