TOM SUTCLIFFE – THE DOYEN

TOM SUTCLIFFE – THE DOYEN

If fly fishing in South Africa is synonymous with one name, it’s Tom Sutcliffe. An author, artist, doctor, family man and revered trout stalker; from the stillwaters and rivers of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and everywhere else in between, Sutcliffe’s has been a life very well fished. Tom is The Mission Issue 04 (Jul/Aug 2017) Lifer.

Photos care of Tom Sutcliffe.

The first fish I remember catching was a brown trout that, if cooked, you could have eaten between two slices of buttered bread. I had caught other small fish by then, aged nine, off jetties and in gullies on rare visits to the coast, but this was the first fish I remember.

My home waters hover somewhere between the streams in the Western Cape and those around Barkly East, Rhodes and Maclear. I’m not sure what the right answer is anymore. It’s one of the things I am majorly confused about.

A Vrederus rainbow caught on a DDD

At first I was a GP for 10 years, then I moved into health administration, a move that ended up in my running the health services for the Western Cape Province for eight years, proving beyond doubt that I had sinned in a previous life. The last few years I have worked in fields allied to psychiatry.

I have called five places home

Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town. And Rhodes by default, where I have an honorary resident’s permit. I say “Rhodes by default” because about five years ago my wife and I put in a full asking-price offer on a house in the village without electricity and on four plots with a rambling garden full of birds. We liked the thought of living a life surrounded by solitude, mountains, fishing and birds, but especially we liked being independent of Eskom. Then some last-minute horse trading on the seller’s part crept in and sadly the deal fell off the table.

What I get out of fly fishing has not changed in any way I can really discern. I love it as much. A sharper question would have been, “What does fly fishing get out of me?” The answer would be, “Far less.” I’m a lot older now and some days it really feels like it.

If I could change one thing in fly fishing, it would be the hovering horde of sanctimonious, tree-hugging, anti-trout lobbyists. I’d like them all to admit they are also alien, to be true to their scriptures and return henceforth to the colder northern climes their assorted distant ancestors originally came from. 

Looking back on my life, if there was one thing I would do differently, I would be less consumed with guilt about spending time on myself and what I like. Read into that, if you like, to have done more fishing.

The last fish I caught was a rainbow trout all of 10 inches long – if you stretched the tape a bit.

Read the full interview with Tom in The Mission Issue 4 below. Cheers, Tom.

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