Do you remember your first time? Perfect? Don’t come talk shit here. It never is, more likely it was something of an awkward encounter with more fumbles than fondles. Short-lived too, most probably. A bit of a blur… In the moment you forget everything your mates told you, what you’d read. Or seen in movies!
Afterward there was no glorious glow. It was more a case you wanting to run out and high five your buddies and toast your conquest. Nothing in life will ever be the same again. Now we’re on the same page.
Minds out the gutter you bunch of clowns, this is a fishing tale.
A waft about my first encounter with the sweet water bruiser Peter Coetzee reverently refers to as “regal, wise … tough as nails.”
Carp. Oh glorious carp.
I’m a late adopter to this fly-carpin’ business. (Not so late that it became an issue, you see, but I did wonder about it. A lot). Many of my mates and others whom I put on a pedestal have been been scoring for years. Okes have got their techniques and tackle dialed. Some have developed their own flies, explored new waters and unearthed secret spots. Their is a pretty fucking impressive carp-catch palmares among my immediate circle.
For me it wasn’t so much a case of waiting by choice, it was opportunity driven. Lack thereof, more like.
I just never figured I would never burn diesel after a glorified koi. An overgrown goldfish. Not like tigerfish, for which I’ve collected passport stamps from most of SA’s neighbouring countries as well as Zambia and Angola.
That, I assure you, has all but changed.
But I digress.
For quite a few years now I no longer ride bike races, but rather write them. And March, quite simply, is madness, with back-to-back big events clogging the calendar. Good for graft, bad for fishing.
This particular event was a tough two-dayer, with 4am call times and long days. Somehow though, we managed to get all the press out a bit earlier than normal on the first day and I found myself with a few free hours in the vicinity of some known carp water.
‘Known’ as in, I knew they were in that river, but had not much idea as to exactly where. Or how to quite go about it. And – aside from those (dubious) pointers from mates, studied literature and endless Internet clips – was pretty clueless.
With me in the bakkie I had a 7- and 9WT (the eternal hope of a magical Breede session on the way up the coast home) as well the smuggler’s ‘what if’ 5WT that lives under the seat. It’s a cheapie 4-piece going on 15 years old, complete with a home-styled champagne-cork fighting butt (MCC, no less).
Under the same seat lives a small box of mixed-bag fresh water flies. Mostly bass bugs, plus some RABs, Adams’ and a handful of nymphs. Oh and woolly buggers. Must have dem buggers.
It’s not like I was dressed in skinny Guess jeans, suede high-top brogue’s and a V-necked t-shirt for the joll, but at least I was rolling with that ‘I don’t really care anyway’ vibe. It’s all about confidence, right?
Anyway [*insert 40-minute exploratory drive mission here], I made it to the river and there were a good few proper papgoeiers on the bank, a bunch of kids splashing in the shallows and even some people paddling kayaks about. I watched for about 10 minutes and saw no movement, figuring there was way too much activity anyway. Conditions were epic though – crystal clear water with a tiny breeze just disturbing the surface. Viz was 100% through my Oakley Prism Shallow Water Polarised’s.
I hadn’t even bothered to dig the tackle from under the seat and figured it was going to stay there. That was until I strolled the bank up-river and, not 200 metres further, happened upon an undisturbed pool with five sizeable mud bones holding court. They would cruise to intercept some morsel and periodically return to the shade and protection of an overhanging bush on the the far bank.
It was as good time a time as any for a Top Gun intermission:
Maverick: This is what I call a target-rich environment.
Goose: You live your life between your legs, Mav.
Maverick: Goose, even you could get laid in a place like this.
Goose: Hell, I’d be happy to just find a girl that would talk dirty to me.
It was a pretty freakin rad sight and right there the fuss all made sense. Talk dirty to me baby!
Now, not to fuck it up. I went with a good old default orange-over-black woolly bugger, only to spent the next 15 minutes being frustratingly refused. Or was it longer. Good deliveries, small enquires (if at all) and then simple nose turned up. Bat. Flat out.
It as all true. They were indeed tougher and more finicky than [insert other ‘classy’ freshwater fish here].
I also got hung up in the bank on the back cast once. Okay twice. And spooked a few. I was beginning to be stoked that there was no-one around to witness. I was about to change flies, when a fairly solid one – probably the biggest I’d seen all day – broke cover and cruised toward me from about two-o-clock.
I steeled myself and swooped out a cast, leading it by about a metre. The sink rate was perfect for its cruising speed, the tiniest of twitches and without hesitation it committed for a straight eat.
She taught me a few lessons before sending me on my way to have a lager with the boys in celebration.
Now all I want is more. Would it be wrong to claim I’m in love?
You want more?
Read about the Paarl Panther, a special carp, in the latest edition of The Mission fly mag. A piece penned by Leonard Flemming, a man who has far more notches on the bed post, so to speak, than this laaitjie.