Our journeys through life are as diverse and interesting as our introduction to the wonderful pursuit of trout. My very fist memory of trout didn’t in fact involve fishing at all.
Growing up in South Africa and spending a lot of time outdoors, hunting and fishing in warmer lowland regions, meant I never really had the opportunity to experience the mystical world of trout. It wasn’t until a lunch stop in Dullstroom, a small town lying beyond Long Tom Pass, that I discovered the fascinating world of fly fishing for trout!
It was a long, extremely windy drive up a mist covered mountain, the air seemingly getting colder with each turn higher up the mountain pass. Reaching the top a historical marker informed us that we were at peak of the second highest mountain pass in South Africa! The air was incredibly cold and the mist added a sense of authenticity to the experience. Each breath felt like new life was spilling into your lungs and in some ways it was, there is just no denying that there is something extraordinary about cold mountain air!
After our quick stop we wound our way down into Dullstroom for lunch. Once in town we found a small restaurant and it was from there that I sotted the cottage! It was a constant distraction while eating and when we finally finished I made my way over as quickly as possible! It was a beautiful fly fishing store and in my mind it looked exactly as it should.
Rods stood like a battalion of soldiers and reels displayed like the dials of a vintage sports car. It was simply incredible! It was then that I noticed the stands upon stands of wooden compartments each holding the small interpretation aimed at fooling a trout! At the time it amazed me that it was possible to catch a fish on something so minuscule and in some ways I didn’t completely believe it was possible until many years later when I caught my first rainbow!
I was just tall enough to be able to see over the edge of the compartments and I was confronted by what seemed to be thousands of uniquely tied flies, each with their own shape, size and colour.
I began inspecting each one trying to imagine what it could represent and how it was possible to build such a detailed interpretation on such an incredibly tiny hook! I’m sure the storeowner took great pleasurein seeing a child so excited by something so simple and continued to let me look around. I felt like I could easily spend hours wondering around and inspecting every last item this magical place had to offer.
It was definitely the kind of place where after many visits you would still find something new you missed previously.
Then the inevitable happened, it was time to return home! My father came into the store and saw how fascinated I was by it all. An avid fisherman also, he had never fly fished. He wandered over to the owner and asked what some of the popular flies where. He came back a few minutes later producing a small matchbox with a single Red Tag and a small packet of size 12 Kamasan Dry Fly hooks and said “now you can practice tying your own”. I left the store staring at the small Red Tag and studied it all the way home and so began a new journey. From something so small and simple my passion for fly fishing slowly developed into an all consuming fascination with trout, the mountain streams they inhabit and the insects they consume!