past articles written by Malcolm Meintjes

(Author of Zambezi Tiger, Remarkable Flyfishing Destinations of Southern Africa, Trout Through the Looking-Glass and other titles)

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                                                               SNOW-TIME AFRICAN TROUT  (1996)

A 'secret' to catching trout consistently is the ability to increase awareness of what is going on around one. Have you never noticed grizzled old-timers sniffing the atmosphere and pointing finger to wind - then secretively delving into a little black box to extricate a mystical pattern.  Adapting to the effect of sunlight penetration, temperature, wind and a host of other variables on the behaviour of trout, undoubtedly leads to  success.

Second-guessing the effect of snow is, however, somewhat unusual for us.

Some years back I might have inspanned the ponies and headed for Belfast to enjoy the sight of snowflakes drifting onto my favourite dam. Would the South African trout take a fly in such conditions - a pretty poser? Indeed, I might have been tempted had it not been for the events of  1974.

It was different in September 1974. Then, excitement prevailed at the Club waters for it was the opening of the trout season and trout undisturbed since the previous April plays heavily  upon the imagination. The 'close season' may have been illogical in that it encouraged the improbable breeding of trout in stillwater, but every opening of the season brought with it an air of magic and expectation

 The opening day was distinguished by the fact that my Dad caught 25% of the four trout of his angling career which may, in retrospect, have been a portent of things to come. In the afternoon we headed off to a nearby fishery to say “Hello” and, upon returning, found the gravel road lightly brushed by pale, wispy flakes. 

The next morning snow lay thick and white. Naturally I grabbed my fly rod and made my way to the imaginatively named “Dam No 1”.

 The trout were by no means shy. A trio of  750 grammers took hold as if  midge were hatching with gay abandon on a Summer’s evening and then, to my surprise, a rainbow cock fish of 1.5 kg. joined the fray.

The riddle’s answer of  whether African trout would take a fly at snow-time would save me the task of driving 240 km. twelve years later to find out.

By and large, our trout react sullenly to radical variations in the weather. Extreme and sudden cold is unappreciated and they take time to adapt. On a cold, still morning, you may find the general rules of trout behaviour inverted. Early on, many prefer to lie deep where the water is relatively warmer and a slow moving fly will be more acceptable to a feeder. Mid-morning, when the surface layers have warmed, one can conjure up something more imaginative with a floating line.  

And, if you spy a pair of dark July trout moving quickly along the dam wall or up in the inlet, consider leaving them to their own devices. The close season may not have accomplished breeding, but that does not stop them trying.


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