“When the creative drive disappeared, it was clear I needed a break.” 34-year-old LeRoy Botha is a product of reinvention. After a decade as one of the Garden Route’s most well-known gigging musicians, the oke was tired. Creatively and artistically.

No longer… And it is a beautiful thing.

“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have (many) regrets and I had some fantastic times, but after 10 years on the scene, refusing to bend to industry demands, I got disillusioned with it all and gigs became a repetitive nightmare.”

(Somewhere along the line he also practiced falconry and lived off the grid. But that is a tale reserved for a camp fire and plenty of whisky, so we won’t digress).

What the temporary dozing of his musical flame lead to, was a massive re-ignition in another passion: Fly tying.

Caribou Spider
LeRoy’s modernised version of MacKereth’s Caribou Spider, which substitutes his full hackle construction for a small hackle with an antron yarn post and soft hackle legs

“Over the past season or three I started sharing my flies (and fly-fishing experiences online),” he ventures. “Quite unexpectedly – and rather fortunately – I began receiving requests for flies and advice. Long story short, some old cogs started turning again.”

A fly-life long preoccupation

Those old cogs go way back to early primary school days back in the Boland. “Fly tying was simply part of a natural progression for me,” he says. “When I started, my mentors let me know (in no uncertain terms) that tying flies was part-and-parcel of fly fishing. You couldn’t have one without the other.”

With direction from the likes of MC Coetzer and Mike Dohlhoff he began finding his own way round the vice. And, by the time he reached high school, he could ‘tie a few serviceable patterns.’

Fast forward 20-odd years and who knows how many creations off the vice and LeRoy is firmly established and respected as one of the Southern Cape’s most intrepid fly-fishing explorers. And, quite possibly, one of the best fly tiers of his generation.


The ‘Iron Man’ turd (named for the time trial position of an Ironman athlete on a bike) and an evolution of the Gas Hed has arguably accounted for more topwater mud grunts then any other pattern on the Breede this season.

Of course that is not enough to get one selling the volume of flies needed to pay the bills. Instead of being discouraged however, he’s taken it on as a challenge, working hard on the business side of things. All without compromising on quality and evolution.

“I just want to get better,” he jokes. Better to the point of who or what, one might wonder.

“Just as it is with my taste in music, my views on fly design are pretty eclectic,” he says, explaining that inspiration comes from various angles. “I have my favourites, but I’m not a believer in limits in terms of what can be caught on fly.”

“With regards to freshwater fly design – insect imitations in particular – I believe in simple and buggy patterns. Ed Herbst, Tom Sutcliffe and Leonard Flemming have a ‘way with a fly’ that has influenced my approach more than anyone else. In recent years, Marc Petitjean’s ideas have also been very inspiring.”

When it comes to salt, he’s less specific.

“The list of tiers who’ve influenced my saltwater tying is too long, man!”

“There are many great ideas out there, but it’s hard not to see pioneers Lefty Kreh and Bob Popovics’ influence in most of them. They have laid a foundation upon which many a great tier has built. I also thank MC, Jannie and August for the JAM.”

LeRoy Botha's articulated sandprawn JAM
LeRoy’s articulated sandprawn JAM…“But, once you’ve walked the line, a world of inspired creative freedom can be accessed. At the least, you may end up with a stirring cover of the original work.”

If the JAM was last season’s obsession, he is now spinning and stacking to up his deer hair game. “In that regard you need not look further than the work of Pat Cohen, just to get going. There are more great deer hair tiers, but he’s on a level all his own in my view.”

The making music and tying flies are not, of course, mutually exclusive:

“Song writers are forever searching for the next hook that will anchor their next composition. Few of them ever find these hooks without first learning to properly play the music that inspires them,” he muses. “But, once you’ve walked the line, a world of inspired creative freedom can be accessed. At the least, you may end up with a stirring cover of the original work.”

Read more about his small stream brownie missions, here.

“It’s easy to see the parallels with fly tying,” he adds. “When you hit a creative block in the road, few remedies are better than brushing up on and sharpening skills already mastered by other tiers.”

For LeRoy then, musicianship and fly tying offer infinite opportunities for both creative expression and humbled learning. “For me, they go hand in hand. And both are well done in solitude, or in the company of those who know the feeling.”

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