The Spirit of Fly Fishing

The threat to trout in South Africa

Here are the latest developments on the controversy surrounding the recent publication of the draft NEM:BA Alien and Invasive Species Lists and Regulations by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (DEA)in which trout in South Africa have unaccountably been provisionally classified as alien and invasive .  I have included the Executive Summary of FOSAF and Trout SA’s joint response to these draft regulations at the end of this newsletter because I believe it is that important to all fly fishers to read. 

This is the latest step in FOSAF's eight year long interaction and negotiation with DEA through the task team of Ilan Lax, Bill Bainbridge, Jake Alletson and more recently Ian Cox. South African fly fishers owe these gentlemen, and others, a lot. They have made huge personal sacrifices of their time and energy and given freely of their expertise to ensure that trout will endure in South Africa.

 Says Ilan Lax, FOSAF Chairman,

Trout are under huge threat and could be declared invasive and thus subject to eradication in many parts of South Africa if DEA gets away with promulgating the AIS list and regulations in their current form. FOSAF and Trout SA (a newly formed commodity group) and many others are opposing this.  You need to urgently add your voice to ours. Please note that the authorities will only accept written submissions and have set a deadline of 8 April 2014 for receipt of comments, objections and representations. Should you wish to make any comments to the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs please feel free to do so to :  If possible forward a copy of your comment to FOSAF at  Alternatively, you could simply email the DEA indicating that you support FOSAF and Trout SA's submission.’

Ilan Lax fishing  his favourite beat of trout stream, The Bushman’s River above Snowflake cottage
Tom Hayter’s GEM SKUES – The Man Of The Nymph

This is a book I simply could not put down. It is the story of Skues’ life, but it is also the story of the early evolution of nymph fishing as it played out against the almost biblical belief in the purism of the dry fly as taught by its high priest of the time, FM Halford. The eventual war between these two men, and thereafter between the serried ranks of their various supporters and detractors, was so acrimonious that it’s hard to believe such confrontations were possible in the traditionally gentle arena of fly fishing.

The book is complete in almost every detail of Skues’ life; from his challenging childhood, to his mastery of nymphing on his beloved Abbots Barton water on the Upper Itchen, to his last fishing years in the infamous Nadder Vale Hotel in Wiltshire (which I have seen), to his death a few days short of his 90th birthday.

An Upper Itchen carrier, a stream that was the cradle of modern nymph fishing (Tom Sutcliffe photo) 
It concerns a time when the use of nymphs in chalk streams was controversial and questioned by the majority of chalk streams anglers. But I had no idea of the scale of that controversy, or the depth of the bitterness that prevailed around something that today is as accepted and as useful as sliced bread. Simply put, Halford believed that the up-stream nymph was futile and unsporting, while Skues believed that the value of nymph was clear for all to see and far from being unsporting, its execution required immense skill.

Hayter also touches on Skues’ many friends and associates, including, interestingly, his correspondence with two Americans, James Leisenring and Theodore Gordon. Skues was not a greatly gregarious person, but he was a prolific letter writer and the author provides many valuable insights using quotes from some of these letters.
Skues was arguably the most important contributor to the angling literature of his time. Any book about this man is always going to be interesting and given Skues intriguing life, Hayter’s book simply does not fail to impress. I recommend it highly.
GEM SKUES – The Man Of The Nymph, 366 pages, many photographs and 11 appendices. Hale Books. ISBN 978-0-7198. Copies will be available from Craig Thom at Netbooks at

A young Joan Wulff in the making?

Do we have a young Joan Wulff in our midst?
I was recently invited to lunch by Tony Kietzman, the fly fishing guide from Rhodes, who was in Cape Town on a brief visit.
Present at the lunch was Gary Shun King, a graduate from the famous Ichthyology Department in Rhodes University in Grahamstown and a keen fly fisher.

He showed me a picture of his charming five year old daughter, Keira and her first yellowtail which she hooked and subdued on a spinning rod off Cape Point recently.
I have no doubt that when she is big enough to use a fly rod she will very much follow in her father’s angling footsteps.

The wonderful story of Bristol Bay, one of the world’s premier fisheries

Bristol Bay is one of the World’s most famous sport fishing areas and one of Alaska’s premier fishing destinations, supporting its largest salmon runs.

A pair of sockeye salmon (Photo by Jeff Pierce)

All five species of Pacific Salmon return to the waters of Bristol Bay to spawn. Recently a major mining venture threatened its existence. But the North American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published a final report that concluded that large scale mining in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed would immediately cause the loss of 90 miles of salmon spawning waters and would be potentially devastating to the bay’s irreplaceable salmon and trout populations.

Images above from the Bristol Bay area by Wyatt Abernethy
This story was covered in the most recent issue of Angling International ( ) who sited enormous support from the tackle industry, including Orvis and Patagonia and the AFFTA, as well as other angling bodies in an operation described as ‘uniting the complete spectrum of the angling community’.
A Ken Morrish photo of an angler in one of the rivers in this pristine area
Breeding sockeye salmon by Brian O’Keefe photo
But the job is not quite done. It still needs the Obama Administration’s seal of approval, a likely event given the present American government’s high priority on conservation. Said Scott Hed, Director of Sportsman’s Alliance Alaska and with whom I recently corresponded, ‘This final report is the one important thing we have been waiting for and we have got serious momentum right now.
To give you an idea of the importance of Bristol Bay as a breeding ground have a close look at the pie chart above courtesy of Angling International.

Let’s all hold thumbs that the report will be respected and implemented!

Jacky Steytler Lamer, a fly fishing guide from Ugie in the North Eastern Cape sent through this report about her team’s participation in the recent SA National Women’s Fly Fishing Championship  held in Underberg

For the second successive year a team of four anglers from the Eastern Cape participated in the national championships, organised by South African Fly Fishing Association which controls and administers competitive fly fishing in this country.
This year’s competition was hosted by the Kwa-Zulu Natal Fly Fishing Association. Our team was Antoinette Naude, Ansie Janeke, Jeanette Harvey and me. 
Heavy rain prior to and during the event made for extremely strong water flow. On Saturday afternoon the competitors were driven off the water by lightning, rain, wind and even hail. Despite this unexpected injection of adrenaline and sense of awe at the power of nature, the competition had to go on. Fish were caught in all the sectors with the largest being 49 cm from Lake Goshen and numerous small fish (15cm-21cm) were enticed from the Upper and Lower Umzimkulwana stream.

 Group C ladies on Lake Isabella during an electric storm- L to R - Jonina Fourie- Central Gauteng, Steph Touzel- KZN, Jacky Lamer- Eastern Cape, Angie Bailey- Central Gauteng, Thendiwe Mncube- KZN Development and Rentia Heyns-  North Gauteng
At the end of the competition our East Cape Fly Fishing Association team had garnered enough points to finish third and we were very happy with our performance. Central Gauteng was fourth, KZN was second and North Gauteng took gold. Their very experienced Marlize Heyns - who was a member of the Protea Women’s team which participated in the Commonwealth fly Fishing Championship in Tasmania last year, - was the overall winner.

I would like to encourage more women to take part in this friendly but fascinating facet of fly fishing. It enables one to learn, share, laugh, meet, travel, breathe, get away, get together, have a drink, eat a good meal and sharpen fly fishing skills so that your angling develops an additional and enjoyable edge .

(Thanks for this report Jacky. I strongly support your call to lady fly fishers and congratulations to all and especially to Marlize Heyns.TS)

The capture of a man-eater

My good buddy right back from school days, Dallas Reed, sent this interesting piece about an exploit of his brother Mick who lives in the Okavango …
I thought these photos of Mick and his two sons and a couple of friends involved in the capture of a large croc in the Thamalakhane River in Maun might interest you.  They set a trap for it near the two homes of his sons - Grant and Brent - located on the banks of the river.
Both sons have young children and the family are most concerned as a couple of local residents have been eaten by these reptiles during the past year. The most recent occurrence, which wasn't fatal, involved a friend's son aged about 10. 
They eventually caught the croc!
(Talk about an intrepid exploit!) 

Wild Trout Association’s 2014 Festival

From all that I have heard the festival was a success with the rivers in lovely condition but the trout sometimes hard to find. Peter Brigg kindly sent me some images from the event and there are a few more under Jan Korrubel’s  KZN report below.

Images by Peter Brigg

Jan Korrubel’s KZN report
Well, after a 9-day ‘RodTrip’, fishing the rivers in Underberg and then Rhodes, I must say that I am sad to be back in the real world (luckily my wife doesn’t read this newsletter!). 
First stop was in Underberg, for two days with good friends Inge and Miles Divett, fishing on the Ngagwane. The water was still a tad high, but we managed to find a couple good fish. 

Miles and I then drove down to Rhodes when we scouted/fished for two days leading up to the Wild Trout Festival, where we both guided.  Such a special place, but if I have to pick one day that stood out for me, it was my first day guiding on Upper Gateshead.  We walked from Gateshead Cottage (the ‘Honeymoon Huisie’) up to The Saddle and over to the other side and fished upstream for a while, before following the river all the way back down.  Feisty 12”+ rainbows (one of 16” from a member of my party) in skinny, crystal water all on dry fly – what more can one possibly ask for? 

On my return I found some 40mm in my gauge – this was apparently from a single storm on the Monday (18/03) of my week away. I am sitting on just over 150mm for the month so far, some 90mm more than last month.
The rain has no doubt had an impact on the rivers and stillwaters.  No reports from the rivers have come in as yet.  I had a client booked for a local stillwater yesterday and the dam was dark and peaty.  A lovely afternoon, ripe for a full-scale evening rise, but not a sign of a fish to be seen.  Anglers on another local water reported fish launching themselves clear of the water, but nothing taking their offerings.
The weather forecast for thunderstorm activity today has just come to fruition, and it is raining as I type this.  It is scheduled to pass over later, and the forecast is for partly cloudy conditions for the week, with a possibility of rain on Tuesday and then again next weekend.

Images of the week from Richard Van Ryneveld
Richard is a respected outdoor writer and photographer who told me he recently rediscovered the joys of fly fishing on a visit to the Drakensberg Injasuti Wilderness Area!

Summary of comments on the proposed Alien and Invasive Species List and Regulations published by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs for public comment pursuant to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act No. 10 of 2004, Submitted on behalf of Trout SA and the Federation of Southern African Fly Fishers (FOSAF)
FOSAF has over the last 8 years engaged in good faith with the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (the DEA) by offering comment and alternative formulations on the numerous iterations of the draft alien and invasive species lists and regulations under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act No. 10 of 2004 or the NEM:BA. This has been done by its representatives attending meetings, workshops and by making numerous written submissions.
Trout SA has more recently joined with FOSAF in making these representations. FOSAF and Trout SA are together referred to as the parties.
The parties believe that:
1.1 The proposed implementation of the NEM:BA is flawed and does not properly align with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act No 108 of 1996 or the Constitution, the National Environmental Management Act No 78 of 1998 or the NEMA or the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity or the CBD.
1.2 This partly explains why it has taken so long to implement the NEM:BA and why so many iterations of the lists and regulations have been produced without success.
While this present version of the lists and regulations represents a pragmatic attempt to find practical implementation modalities in respect of trout, the lists and regulations contain fundamental errors of principle that continue to bedevil the implementation of the NEM:BA. For example:
1.3 There is a failure to appreciate that South African environmental law is anthropocentric (people centred) in its orientation and implementation.
1.4 There is a misunderstanding regarding what the definition “invasive species” entails and how it should be applied, resulting in useful species such as trout being listed as invasive without any justification for this.
1.5 There is a misunderstanding regarding what the definition “control” entails and how it should be applied.
1.6 There is a lack of policy to guide the appropriate implementation of the NEM:BA in relation to the above aspects generally and aquatic freshwater environments in particular.
1.7 There has been a lack of proper consultation. For example, the body of evidence relied upon by the Minister in arriving at the decision to list certain species has not been made public despite requests for this to be done.
1.8 The lists and regulations are unclear and ambiguous and so complex, as to make them incomprehensible, impractical and unworkable.
1.9 The lists and regulations require the Minister to exercise powers that the NEM:BA does not give the Minister and that only Parliament may exercise.
1.10 The lists and regulations require the application of resources and capacity that the DEA does not have. 

The submission concludes by noting that the parties:
1.11 previous submissions have been largely ignored by the Minister and the Department. This is evident from the form and content of the lists and regulations as published. Many of the matters raised in these submissions have been raised repeatedly over many years of interactions and negotiations with officials of the DEA, to no avail.
1.12 reserve their rights to comment further on any additional matters arising, in the event that further and better information or clarification of matters raised is provided by the Minister and/or the Department and its officials.
1.13 remain committed to proper consultation in good faith with the Minister and/or the DEA and its officials.
1.14 remain willing to assist the Minister and/or the DEA and its officials in any appropriate manner to facilitate and expedite the implementation of the NEM:BA.

Please Note:
The complete submission may be viewed or downloaded from the FOSAF web site at:

Tom Sutcliffe 
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