This is the 2nd post in a series of articles that will focus in part on ethics of fishing and modern progression in fly fishing (in a South African context)
Progression – ‘The process of developing gradually towards a more advanced state’ (Oxford Dictionaries)
Saltwater fly fishing used to be the most intimidating discipline to me. The main reason being because of where I live – the Western Cape. Most of the saltwater fishes that live and pass through our coastal waters aren’t easy fly targets and along with our vast, rugged shores and unpredictable weather many hours and even days of casting could be spent with no results. That was until I met Jimmy Eagleton.
I’d heard of him and had seen many photos of Jimmy holding big sea fish (mostly sharks), but when I finally met him and got to know him, it was his ability to ‘read’ the ocean that impressed me most. The man has many hidden talents, his biggest talent is tenacity. If he puts his mind to something that he’s interested in or doesn’t understand well, he won’t give up until he’s worked it out.
Besides being a skilled fisherman that understands fish and their roundabouts, Jimmy has a knack for scratching in the right places for fishy information. Just like a mafia gang leader, he also has ‘many contacts’ that fuels his fire to accomplish the unthinkable.
Someone similar is Conrad Botes. Both these men enjoy a proper challenge and if given the opportunity they can apply their minds to unravel fishing riddles in a way that would’ve impressed Albert Einstein.
A relevant example is Jimmy’s DMA (Drop-shot My Ass) fly, since it connects with Conrad’s successes. While Jimmy enjoys searching for saltwater fishing tips on the internet (and so happened to ‘click on’ Dan Blanton’s Flashtail Whistler), it is the way he interprets his internet findings that is astounding and leads to ground-breaking progression in our country.
While most may argue that we are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants (see: http://midcurrent.com/flies/hooks-the-jig-is-up/) and that the break-through originated from Bob Clouser and Dan Blanton’s designs and early modifications of the Clouser Deep Minnow and the Flashtail Whistler to copy bucktail jigs and the conventional jigging method of fishing, Jimmy adopted these concepts and applied them in a fairly unique way.
Jimmy spends most of his time fishing the rugged shore of the South African West Coast. It is an unforgiving shoreline riddled with sharp rocks, big swells and cold water. When Jimmy goes ‘fishing’ he goes the extra mile and often swims through gullies that are passageways to temperamental cow sharks at midnight. Then he targets bottom dwelling predatory fishes like sharks, silver kob and Cape salmon (geelbek). It is in this scenario that he applied the jig-style Flashtail Whistler to slowly cover the rocky drop-offs and edges of structure (by literally bouncing the fly along the bottom) where these fish feed. He opened a new chapter on kob and Cape salmon fishing for saltwater fly fishing dwarfs in our country by developing methods that are more advanced and suitable to the rocky hunting grounds of these fishes. Now this is progression.
Inspired by Jimmy’s ‘creation’, Conrad took the DMA a step further and loaded the fly with a heavy sculpin head to get down in deep, fast flowing water. The concept allowed him to target dusky kob on fly in ‘new’ areas where big fish hunted along the rocky ledges in south-western Cape estuaries. Shortly after Conrad started experimenting with this technique of ‘jig’-fishing on a fly rod, he nailed his biggest kob on fly (a stunning fish of 108 cm). It was a fish that he dreamt of catching for many years, but the simple change in recipe gave him the edge.
Similarly, I took their advice and ‘played’ with the method along rocky drop-offs at the end of this season and so too caught my best dusky kob on fly. It happened in a short period (in less than a year) since they started building the puzzle that numerous Cape salmon (caught by Jimmy) and big kob were caught on fly from shore. The successes happened way too quickly to be luck and I believe that Cape salmon and big kob in the Western Cape are in for a surprise in the future…
I enjoy fishing the original ‘DMA’ prototype that Jimmy first tied for silver kob and Cape salmon, which basically represents Blanton’s Flashtail Whistler tied on a jig hook; however, the more modern brush-style DMA’s also work well and both should probably be included in the saltwater fly box. Conrad’s sculpin-head version deflects off rocks better than those tied with dumbbell eyes and they should also be thrown into the mix and especially when fish are targeted in deep water.