Words by Ewan Naude
I’m not a papgooier, spin fisherman, rock and surf angler or fly fisherman, I’m simply a fisherman. The fact that I predominantly fish with fly tackle is a matter of personal preference and not a delusion of grandeur. If you are a person that subscribes to the #itonlycountsonfly philosophy then you can #suckmyballs because a rounded angler undoubtedly makes for a better fly angler and I would hazard a guess that those who spout that drivel are probably not as good at double hauling as they think they are. The lessons I learned chucking Lazy Ikes and plastic worms at bass in farm dams in my whipper snapper days taught me plenty about fish behaviour and I made some key observations during those times.
Similarly, drifting earthworms down the Swart Kei for smallmouth yellows helped me to detect the slightest of takes which stood me in good stead when fishing for these fish with small nymphs. Fishing ‘heathenware’ (a term used by the #itonlycountsonfly gang to describe any method other than fly fishing) from a young age, teaches you way more than you are likely to learn throwing a bunch of feathers into a howling South Easter and most importantly gives a new fisherman a good opportunity to reach their quarry and build up confidence by putting some early points on the board.
Fishing heathenware teaches you hardship. It teaches you to accept that your balls are likely to be wet for eight straight hours while waiting for a kob bite on a Transkei beach. It teaches you that your dad’s tackle bag is the heaviest thing you are every likely to carry in your entire life and that the spike of a sea barbel hurts like a son of a bitch. It teaches you to never turn your back on the sea and that a bed of mussels cuts like a razor. It finally gives you sea legs after you’ve ‘chundered’ more than you thought physically possible and makes the next trip through the pounding swell a little easier.
You learn about formations, tides and winds in a way that exclusively fishing with fly will unlikely ever do. You get to see, feel and smell (for those of you who dip your JAM fly in GULP) different baits and baitfish which will help you when tying flies.
If you have to look at the top ten fly fisherman or guides that South Africa has produced, I would bet that the majority of them have a sordid history of wielding the heathen stick. By top fly fisherman I mean well rounded anglers that are as comfortable fishing the Witels with a 3 wt as casting 8/0 Sempers at fast moving giant trevally in the surf zone.
Fishing is about constantly challenging yourself and I don’t care whether you catch a yellowtail from terra firma on fly or whether you succeed in tricking a belman to eat a soft plastic, as both would be exceptional fishing achievements in my opinion. So for those fly fishing ‘purists’ out there who truly believe that they are part of some elite group and that any other discipline is fishing sacrilege, remember that many fly fishing innovations were inspired from the ‘poorer cousies’. At the end of the day we’re all just trying to trick a fish into eating something.