I have unequivocally been a trout guy the entire duration of my fishing career. Small trout on light tackle, big trout in little streams, and the biggest trout in various Eastern Cape stillwaters. It was and still is my thing. Although I’ve been on holiday to the coast in almost every year of my life, I’ve never had the chance to really put in a concerted effort into the saltwater fly fishing scene or getting leervis on fly.
Now living in Cape Town’s peninsula means that I drive past our local estuary a lot. My first introduction to Zandvlei was meeting Richie Wale, a local guide who wrote about this estuary and the problems it faces in his Open Secrets story from issue 35. We sat down to film his instructional how-to video on the Stella, a top-water fly of his own invention. He showed me pictures of the nine leervis he had caught that morning. Mouth-watering.
Loser’s war cry
Since then, I’ve been back and forth to the vlei countless times over the past seven months. Many trips involved fishing with fellow Vlei Rats, my uniquely happy-to-join girlfriend and/or various guests. Each of these sessions was unsuccessful, and they all ended in a loser’s war cry of sorts. Walking back to the car stringing out a drawn-out psalm of, “how nice it is to be outside” and “to just practise my casting.” All bullshit of course.
Being among the first few people awake before sunrise has become addictive. The feeling of having a grip on reality. Dressed in the clothes laid out the night before, a yawn is forced through my unbrushed teeth, as I tick over the Tuner’s starter motor. I’ve learned to gap it to vlei in minutes.
This morning felt different. A little bit warmer, and slightly balmy. Buzzing on coffee gripped from the local, we paced along to a spot where I had previously witnessed how the leeries seemingly herd baitfish into a funnel. An on-the-go pre-rigging meant I was ready as my feet hit the water, no time to waste.
I’m a firm believer that the fish can feel your tension. Whether it’s voodoo, or sensed through your actions and habits via vibrations in the water, they can feel it. After eight months I’ve learned to bomb my inherited Stealth Extreme 9-weight, although embarrassed by the odd back cast water-slashing. This morning felt good. The flamingos did their jig, the early train glided below the base of the mountains and my number-one supporter was spectating.
Hip deep, relaxed and fishing a full 180 degrees around me, I was exploring as much water as possible. Each forehand cast to the north was followed by a twisted back-hand southward cast, flinging Dre’s Flathead Mullet around. I was probably humming La Marseillaise and chewing my cheek, but my subconscious reaction to a split second take still had me by surprise.
Leervis on fly: Cherry popped
I realised why I was fishing a 9-weight. “Woohoohooooo!” My holler echoed throughout the vlei. I had to let the reeds, birds and fellow vlei rats know how fucking stoked I was. Keeping that fish on the line meant everything to me, and the force of a true game fish was evident in the bend of my Stealth. Andrew (who I met that morning) rushed into the water to help tail the fish (I had no idea what to do), and assisted in a photoshoot with my first leerie. The absent vlei rats were frothing at the subsequent WhatsApp messages. My first saltwater species on fly. Cherry popped.