In years gone by, part of marketing the Wild Trout Association included participating in a variety of trade shows in the major centres of South Africa.

The shows included Indaba, Getaway, Astra Travel, the Grahamstown Festival and Hooked on Fishing. The last-mentioned event eventually ground to a halt when it was absorbed by the Supersport show.

More recently, fly-tying guru Gordon van der Spuy took it upon himself to organize the “Fly-tying and Fly-fishing Expo” to be held at the Lourensford wine estate on the 30th July 2016. Not having participated in any shows for several years, I decided that this would be an ideal opportunity to revive marketing the Wild Trout Association at a trade show so, accompanied by Margie Murray and Tony Kietzman, we waved the WTA flag vigorously.

In years gone by, block-mounted images of the fishing opportunities were the order of the day. Technology has rendered such things obsolete and made life that much easier i.e. now we don’t have to schlepp vast amounts of bulky marketing material. Our sincere thanks to Martin van Riet of Epson who has provided us with a state-of-the-art digital projector that even a hillbilly can operate with ease! We are currently collecting appropriate images for the purpose and will soon be able to set up a slide show that will feature the many catchments that encompass the fly-fishing opportunities in the Eastern Cape Highlands.

The Rhodes Tourist and Information Centre established +-two years ago has been blessed with the arrival of Margie Murray who, together with her husband Vaasie (Spud) Murray of Glass Nevin, have finally abandoned the hectic world of producing advertising movies and wrangling animals respectively. 

Margie has been appointed as the manageress of the Info Centre and assumed duties on the 1st May 2016. In line with centralizing tourism-related matters in Rhodes, as of the 1st July 2016, day permits for fishing on WTA waters will be available from the Info Centre in Muller Street during office hours, being from 09h00 to 17h00, six days a week and from 10h00 to 14h00 on Sundays. Accordingly, day permits will no longer be sold at Walkerbouts Inn. Enthusiasts are therefore encouraged to plan ahead. Contact details for the Rhodes Tourist and Info Centre are; telephone: 045 971 9003 and e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Info Centre does not have a credit card facility so please note that day permits will be sold on a cash or EFT basis only.

For those with a statistical bent, I have included a graph based on the data in Table 1 below. In brief, since inception, we have generated in excess of R1.1 million Rand by way of selling 12 676 day permits. This translates into R836 599 having been paid out to riparian members.

Day permits Sold 1991 2015

Total permits Sold 1991 2015

Interesting to note that the run-up to and the year of the first democratic elections shows a significant drop in day permit sales. This can be attributed to the media coverage of violence in the Eastern Cape at the time. Events such as the bomb in the Queenstown Spur and the Kingwilliamstown Golf Club plus a number of farm attacks all commanded headings in newspaper articles entitled “Eastern Cape…” Ironically, there were no incidents in the Barkly East district throughout the period.

What is of greater significance is what a day permit sale actually means in economic terms. This is important to both the local and national economies when one takes tackle and associated fly fishing gadgetry and clothing into account plus vehicle costs and locally, accommodation, meals, liquid refreshments, snacks, lunch-packs, possibly guide fees etc. A 2010 publication of research done in the area indicated an estimated amount of R6 million.

Other than that, reports of many schools of fingerlings augur well for the future and we looked forward to winter snow to maintain the flow in our rivers and streams. The weather gods duly blessed the area with a big dump towards the end of July to the extent that both the Tiffindell Ski Resort and Tenahead Lodge were cut off for a week. Unfortunate for them but great for the streams.

Snow means many things to many people, especially the tourist trade in the Eastern Cape Highlands that certainly feels the pinch in snowless years.  This not only in winter but in summer as well as the fact of the matter is that snow brings moisture and the snowmelt feeds the groundwater and streams. 

The impact of the past three snowless winters combined with the ravages of the El Niño weather phenomenon has resulted in a significant reduction in the trout population. This may well be applauded by Environmental Affairs employees but the bad news for such folk is that Mother Nature bounces back. Schools of fingerlings seen towards the end of the past summer augurs well for the future but which, of course, remains to be seen.

The severe nature of drought starting with the winter of 2013 resulted in a record low as far as the number of fish caught during the Epson Wild Trout Festival of 2016 that amounted to 93 fish. The previous low of 172 in 2011 was as a result of heavy rainfall shortly before the event that left the rivers in spate and very difficult to fish. Catch figures can be seen in Table 2 below.

Catch Records 2001 2016

The winter snowfalls resulted in a good flow in the entire Kraai River catchment. Cold nights and cool days ensured that the melt remained gradual. By all accounts, La Niña is taking over at last. In the absence of the stiff competition for food in of years gone by, the surviving fish will grow out well. Perhaps late spawning will augment the existing stock but which remains to be seen.

Thanks to day permit sales, the annual festival and in particular the generosity of auction item sponsors as well as that of the successful bidders, the kitty grew to the extent that several things could be done this year.

The first of these was participating in the Fly fishing and Fly tying Expo at the Lourensford Wine Estate near Cape Town. This was a milestone event in the history of fly fishing in South Africa and in line with our policy of marketing the region, essential that we had a stand at the Expo. The decision to participate led to a very generous donation by Epson of a digital projector orchestrated by Martin van Riet. This allowed us to screen selections of images of the area.

Part of this process was the purchase of a laptop “confuser” in part to accommodate the images but also to be used for WTA administration, guidebook editing and monitoring the data provided by our weather station. “Meanwhile, back at the Expo”, unfortunately, the ambient light in the morning rendered the images somewhat feint but which improved as the day went by as the sun took its course. A lesson to be learned from this is considering the purchase of a big screen goodie for the 2017 Expo

In order to facilitate establishing the impact of the drought on the fish population, a GoPro camera has been added to the arsenal of techno gadgets. This will also be used to obtain footage of both above and below water images and videos that will be aired on our website. Specific landmarks will be featured that ought to improve visitors experience as well as attracting new visitors to Wild Trout Association member’s waters.

Lastly, as of the 1st September 2016, a WTA sponsored weather station came online. A state-of-the-art, fully automated CR200 Campbell Scientific unit has been installed at a suitable location in my front garden. The installation can be clearly seen from the R396 on entering Rhodes. The unit was salvaged from the failed CSIR medicinal plant growing project and was serviced and upgraded by Campbell Scientific staff in Stellenbosch. Part of the +-R10 000 upgrade and installation included a combined temperature and relative humidity sensor kindly sponsored by Campbell Scientific. The site is tree and obstacle-free making it ideal for the purpose. Data is accumulated and sent to the laptop in my office from where the station data can be monitored. Steps are being taken to make the data available via the WTA website thus putting the information firmly into the public domain. The data consists of temperature, precipitation, wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity and barometric pressure. Our thanks to Johan Visagie of Campbell Scientific, Stellenbosch.

This will be the first time that a weather station has become operative in Rhodes since 2007 when the weather station (sourced by the WTA per kind favour of Prof Colin Lewis, then head of the Geography Department at Rhodes University in the early 90s) that had been installed at the Rhodes Hotel, fell into disuse.

Several years ago in anticipation of the drought, smallmouth yellowfish fry were stocked in my garden duck pond. The snowmelt, early rain and reports of yellowfish being seen and caught prompted me to clean out the pond and 22 yellowfish were returned to the Bell River. We hope to see them and their progeny flourishing!

Most recently, what has now become an annual event, a riparian member’s dinner was held at Walkerbouts Inn as a token gesture of thanks to all of the WTA supporter’s. It was attended by more than 20 folk who, by all accounts, had a great evening.

As to the future, a get together with the Barkly East Angling Society (BEAS) committee members will be held at Walkerbouts on the 27th November 2016. The purpose of the meeting is to complete a process that was started in 1991 when the WTA was established. Intransigence of ex-committee members delayed the process for a quarter of a century, strange but true! The order of the day is to discuss the various aspects of the fishery, especially the marketing of the resource, jurisdiction regarding a few waters and other areas of common interest.

As far as marketing is concerned, I have accordingly offered the BEAS a chapter of their own in which they can list their waters, contact details etc. to be included in the WTA guidebook. This publication is reviewed and published annually in time for the Epson Wild Trout Festival in March of each year. In fact, it has grown from being 1/3 of an A4 flyer into a tome of more than 170 pages!

I have made similar offers to two other water administering entities in the area and hope that they will co-operate. The fundamental issue in this regard is that the days of “elke brommer op sy eie drol” are long gone. Our duty as purveyors of angling is to facilitate maximising visiting angler’s fly fishing experience as much we can by way of providing comprehensive information on as much of the fly fishing waters in the Eastern Cape Highlands as is possible in a single document, i.e. a “one-stop fly fishing shop” in a manner of speaking.

 We also continue to support the FOSAF/Trout SA initiative by way of substantial (by our standards) contributions to the war chest and would be delighted if other fly fishing clubs in the Eastern Cape would equal or better our offerings!

Our thanks to Brian Clark for his unenviably long innings with the East Cape chapter of FOSAF and our very best wishes to the incoming chairman, Martin von Holdt, who will be completing the circle, in a manner of speaking, by continuing a long-time family involvement with FOSAF and fly fishing in the Eastern Cape, the veritable birthplace of FOSAF.

Thank you.

Dave Walker,

Chairman.

3-11-2016