John Black – Fly fishing Cape Town, South Africa
If Rugby Union is indeed the sport for thugs played by gentlemen, then fly fishing in small streams for nervous trout would have to qualify as the recreational activity for mugs, albeit played by the same gentlemen.
And did I mention gentlemen and their love of red wine?
You can get all three – Rugby, Fly Fishing and some very companionable reds in Cape Town, South Africa, during the current Super 15 Rugby season because the Rugby season overlaps with the trout fishing season and by the end of March all the grapes have been harvested.
Now there’s a happy set of coincidences. So it was in the interests of my company’s small but discerning group of social media fans that I undertook this research. Plus of course, my daughter was getting married to a local South African and I had to give her away, along with some of my savings.
The wine industry began in South Africa, when the first vineyards were planted to take advantage of Cape Town’s Mediterranean climate after 1652 to ward off scurvy amongst sailors travelling the spice route.
It was of course my concerns about scurvy on the direct flight back to Sydney that caused me to undertake a rigorous health regime of sampling the local Shiraz and cabernet sauvignon based wines and also a local cross of pinot noir and cinsaut called Pinotage – which is worth a punt.
Speaking of the punt, the rugby Super 15 season is well under way during the period March to the end of May, which overlaps nicely with the local trout season.
The Cape Town Rugby team the Stormers play the Canberra Brumbies at Newlands on May 8 and then the Melbourne Rebels on May 22. These should be great games to watch, with the qualifying end of the season approaching.
So, you can head over to Cape Town at the pointy end of a direct Qantas flight from Sydney to Johannesburg and catch a commuter direct to Cape Town, watch the game at Newlands and then head out to relax with some wine tastings at Paarl and Stellenbosch. After a day or so loafing by the pool I suggest you duck up the mountains to try a spot of fly fishing with local guide Tim Rolston. I think it’s worth a tick on the bucket list.
I stayed at the Grande Roche Hotel at Paarl, a small luxury hotel at the foot of Paarl Rock, set in working vineyards and overlooking beautifully maintained gardens and with spectacular views of the Cape Fold Belt Ranges.
If you do stay there, organise yourself a trip from the airport with the hotel staff, and keep your receipt, as you do not want to be hunting for a cab as a tourist in Cape Town or its airport late at night. Or in the morning, if it comes to that, as there’s a lot of unofficial cabs about the fares tend to be flexible.
When you are in Cape Town, you should take maximum care of your personal security, especially when it comes to travelling alone, or at night or outside ATMs. Muggings and burglaries are a fact of life and razor wire around private homes bears testament to that.
And get used to having cigarette smoke blown in public places – my room had a lovely historic thatched rooves which unfortunately conducted cigar smoke from next door through my room at night. Still, they were good quality cigars and I’ve been known to enjoy a Cohiba Esplendido while overseas, from time to time. Cigarettes on the other hand are a bloody nuisance.
But the food and the service from concierges more than made up for some minor inconvenience. The hotel caters for English and German speakers and the German chef turned out some of the most magnificent meals I have ever enjoyed. I loved it.
The German tourists were an interesting bunch in the culinary stakes, with their breakfast typically starting with oysters natural, splashed with tabasco sauce and accompanied by crisp local champagne and followed by cured hams and sausage. I tried it and it certainly took your mind off any concerns you might have on how you’d be spending the rest of the day.
I had all my meals on the terrace overlooking a working vineyard, where I did my best to navigate my way through media webpages using the local Wi-Fi service. The champagne helped after a while.
But I really stayed there for the fly fishing and first thing after my oysters and champagne, up rocked local guide and raconteur Tim Rolston of Inkwazi Flyfishing to whisk me up to the Du Toitskloof Mountain Range part of the Cape Fold Mountain Belt. We arrived at the Elandspad River after a quick drive through a toll tunnel and the whole trip took about 45 minutes from the door of the hotel.
If you go up through the tunnel, I would recommend you return via the old pass route as the views of Cape Town are really something.
The Elandspad River was more of a stream really and about 300 metres above sea level and located in the
Limietberg Reserve, a nature reserve under the management of Cape Nature. The height above sea level produces a cool microclimate which enables the local introduced Rainbow trout to flourish since they were stocked in 1897.
The streams are divided into beats and all anglers must secure a booking for a beat for the day prior to fishing. No more than two anglers are permitted to fish a beat on any given day.
The Elandspad River now has four beats, each averaging approximately 1.5 Km. The lowest beat starts right next to the road, the highest beat is approximately an hour’s walk along the trail to the commencement of the fishing.
To get there, we walked past a group of bare arsed baboons, who were fortunately totally uninterested in us. I hate monkeys of any description and no good ever comes of feeding the buggers.
At this point I should mention that South Africans tend to be reasonably robust types. It comes with the territory.
Fishing is normally done without waders. No problem. There are a few snakes around that can kill you -like puff adders and cape cobras – but these critters are coloured brown in Oz and are just as effective at killing you, so I had no difficulty there.
The problem came when we had assume the mountain goat stance to get into the river from steep sandstone canyons and – whilst your humble scribe was fit enough from swimming and walking – my mountain goat training was sadly deficient. I have been known to fall off cliffs while fly fishing.
Still, I did it. We got there. The fishing was great.
The trout were canny little buggers, nervous to the point of being neurotic. But cute to catch on my seven foot six inch three weight sage rod.
We used tiny size 16 sedge dries, with even tinier size 20 wets hanging underneath, all tied with Tim’s special penny knot. The stream was not unlike my favourite little Bundara River in the Victorian High Country of East Gippsland – shallow, freestone, small pools, but lots of fun with very light gear – which unfortunately I later managed to leave in Tim’s car after enjoying a few beers after the fishing.
But, being a true gent, Tim sent it back to Oz with my daughter and her new husband when they came home.
I also still have the flies which we used that day, pushed into a grange cork atop one of my three computer screens, so when my bum gets numb after a 18 hours straight of sitting down, churning out statistical profiles of schools, elections and the labour market, I can cast an eye over the flies – and all the other flies in corks blue-tacked to my computer screens. Then I relive old adventures in faraway places which gladdened my heart.
And this was one of them.
So, if you’re a Rugby fan and you’re heading over there to catch a game, I would recommend you give Tim a call and settle into the Grande Roche for a week or so. Break it up with a few winery visits and a day or two of fly fishing. And of course, you can be in Cape Town in an hour and the hotel lay on a shuttle bus to take you there and bring you back.
And while you are there, make sure you drink some medicinal doses of the local Pinotage to ward off scurvy on the long flight home. Worked for me. No sign of scurvy since.
The Grande Roche Hotel can be found at https://granderoche.com/
For full details of the Cape Town Harvest festivals, try https://www.capetownmagazine.com/news/harvest-festivals-in-the-cape-winelands/10_22_18520
The Super 15 season fixtures can be seen at https://www.superxv.com/fixtures/
Relevant contact details for trout fishing and Tim Rolston Inkwazi Flyfishing:
Tel: +27 (0)83 6260467
Cape Piscatorial Society:
Tel: +27 (0)21 4247725
Downloadable history of the CPS: