An elite fly-casting instructor, veteran guide, author, environmental activist and a man who has given a vast amount to South African fly fishing, Tim Rolston is an institution, especially in the Western Cape. If you spend time on the Cape streams or at the Cape Piscatorial Society, keep an ear open for that unique Cornish accent and if you meet him, “Give that man a Bells.”

In the now iconic Bells Whisky “Give that man a Bells” advert, where villagers locked out of their local pub before the big game enlist the help of a fly fisherman to hook the keys, the guy doing the actual fly casting is Tim Rolston.

I am pretty sure the first fish I ever caught was an eel. As kids growing up in the UK, we caught a lot of eels back then because they are easy to catch and we weren’t very good anglers.

Oddly, I have lived in three or four streets named after Queen Victoria.  The woman certainly got her name about. I grew up in Bude in North Cornwall; moved to Exeter to study medical technology and worked in the hospital there. Then I moved to Johannesburg and lived in the Mimosa Hotel in Hillbrow and worked at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. Interestingly, Baragwanath is named after a Cornishman, John Albert Baragwanath. A year later I moved to Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha (one of the Queen Victoria Streets), and worked in the hospital there. When I wasn’t working, I was playing rugby for Crusaders or surfing J-Bay. Sadly, I never found out about the great estuary fishing there until after I’d left and moved to Cape Town, where I have lived since 1987.

tim rolston

“The Limietberg in the Western Cape  offers  exceptionally good fishing for someone like me who really likes dry fly fishing above all other forms of the sport.”

The jobs I have had make up a long and rather diverse list: medical technologist, photocopier sales rep, sales trainer, insurance consultant, office secretary, newspaper columnist, independent publisher, fly fishing guide and handyman.

Right now, my typical day looks like chaos. I am moving, having just sold my house and still running my businesses. So there are boxes and stuff everywhere. Clients pushing for things to be done, appointments with plumbers, electricians, beetle inspectors, gas fitters and more.

Presently, and for the past thirty odd years I suppose, my “home waters” are the rivers of the Limietberg in the Western Cape. They offer exceptionally good fishing for someone like me who really likes dry fly fishing above all other forms of the sport. That said, my real “home” waters, closest to me in the Cape, used to be a filthy ditch running between the municipal dump and a sewage farm just down the road. My friends and I honed our skills at what would now be called “Euronymphing,” catching massive carp averaging about 17lbs. Sadly the fishing there is no longer good nor safe.

In terms of fishing, I would say that the best advice I have ever been given is, “Fish the water as it needs to be fished.” In life terms, perhaps the best advice has been, “Never go back”. Don’t go back to places, relationships, jobs etc. It rarely works out.

“Things are less rushed now. I don’t fuss about numbers, I am more focused on how I catch fish, rather than how many I catch.”

Things I am very proud of include having represented South Africa at several World Fly Fishing Championships and being the only certified FFI (Fly Fishers International) Master Casting Instructor on the African continent. I am also pretty proud of the books I have written. Even the storage bed I have just made for a customer.

The best party trick I have ever seen was back in my home town in Cornwall, during an annual bicycle pub crawl. The idea is that one has to drink a pint in each pub and make your way to the next pub on your bike. There was a total of ten pubs on the route. One of the participants, who had previously been a part of the White Helmets military motorcycle display team, rode the three miles between pubs four and five, sitting on the handlebars facing and peddling backwards. This was all done in a state of at least semi-inebriation, without falling off!

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1 thought on “THE CORNISHMAN”

  1. Tim is the guide against whom I measure all others! Not just a genius on the water, but a great bloke, never short of a yarn, with whom it’s easy to spend hours, days and even weeks.


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