Catch and release is what we do. It’s how it should be, you know it and I do, so I’m not gonna preach to the converted. But if you’ve never watched a fish swim away thinking, “Oof, hope he’ll be okay,” you’re not exactly alone. So here’s a little pic dump of fish that made it to the other side. Just here to celebrate the fact that, with patience and care, catch and release flat out works.

Indeed, we could dwell on the fairness of punishing the same crime twice. You know? The pure soul doesn’t even know what it’s doing wrong. But a recapture, I think, is also a bit like meeting an old friend. And while I’m passionate about exploring new places and ideas, I don’t mind the homing instinct that brings me back to the places they live either.

LeRoy Botha Rainbow Trout Feathers and Fluoro
16 may 2017

Take Johan, a strapping mountain creek jack, caught three times in 2017. When I prep for a pic with trout, I lay the fish in a net in cool water while grabbing the camera. It’s usually fail safe, but on our first encounter Johann managed to escape the net before I could get a pic. A few weeks later I was back at his tiny pool, stuck him again and got his mugshot. Twelve days later I returned, thinking he must’ve learnt his lesson and that I’d try for one of the other fish I knew were in there with him. Apparently Johann hadn’t learned anything, and we met for a third and last time.

LeRoy Botha Rainbow Trout Feathers and Fluoro
28 May 2017

Back at Johan’s place in March this year, I found this young wildling, and then we caught up again earlier this month. You could point out that she’s awfully bright in the second photo, but I believe that’s just what happens when a trout is happy to see you.

LeRoy Botha Rainbow Trout Feathers and Fluoro
March 2022


LeRoy Botha Rainbow Trout Feathers and Fluoro
May 2022

Perhaps my best though, was Betty. She was something. I caught her in 2019, and again in 2021 – twice on the same weekend. Stoked as hell both times, but it was interesting to see that in almost exactly two years (I like to fish smallies in November), she’d collected some battle/spawning scars, but grew no bigger at all. Each time, I caught her in exactly the same hiding place, to within less than a meter, in the same large pool. When I caught her again last year, I duffed the pics on the first go. Bit of a habit, you may be able to tell. I thought that was it, but was back at her spot the next morning. I knew there was no chance she’d eat again, but I was sure she wasn’t the only nice bass in the pool.

LeRoy Botha Smallmouth Bass 1 Feathers and Fluoro
Betty, Nov 2019


LeRoy Botha Smallmouth Bass 1 Feathers and Fluoro
Betty in Nov 2021. Got some river miles on her.

And she wasn’t. She was just the biggest and the hangriest. Maybe fourteen hours passed between the two rounds I had with her in 2021. And yes, she needed some love to get her swimming again, every time, but I’m pretty sure she’s still there.

Speaking of smallies. How’s this salty smallmouth reservoir dog, who despite his intensity let both Conrad and Platon put a leash on him within the space of two weeks. You can’t tell me that’s not the spirit right there either, even if we all know of that Breede kob that got itself caught twice in fifteen minutes…

Conrad Botes Smallmouth Bass Feathers and Fluoro

Platon Trakoshis Smallmouth Bass Feathers and Fluoro
These dogs bite twice.

… or this extra ornery geet that smashed the fly, fought for twenty seconds before pulling the hook, and ate again on the recast. Which is why 2005 and TV’s Dre is so stoked to show you his GT’s double-dipping face.

Dre geet GT Feathers and Fluoro

Anyway, I said I wouldn’t preach, but then it doesn’t take a preacher to talk sober for a moment. Obvious: For fly fishing and our environment’s sake, we must minimize our impact on fish recruitment. That’s why we do it. Less obvious than it should be: It’s all fun and games until you realise that you keep catching the same fish because there really aren’t that many besides it. Right? While trout and bass as a whole may not face many such issues in South Africa, they’re clearly not the only ones that keep headbutting the same stone. See the related posts below for some perspective. Best keep doing that catch and release. And keep telling people.

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