If you check with my parents…. they’d say that I have been fishing from the time I was old enough to hold a rod! My first memory however dates back to when I was 4 years old, at our house in Jeffreys Bay, fishing for little fish in the rock pools on the beach… armed with my ‘rod’, net and bucket!
Who introduced you to fly fishing?
As with most of us, we learn our love for fishing from our fathers and/or grandfathers. And it was on one of these trips with my dad, that I caught my first fish at only 5 years old, granted that it wasn’t caught on fly – it definitely left a remarkable impression on me! Loving all aspects of the sport of fishing, I started exploring the art of fly-fishing about 20 years ago. I started fly-fishing for trout and our local, South African, indigenous fish called Yellow fish. Very soon fly-fishing was the only way I wanted to target fish. My fly-fishing portfolio along with the stamps in my passport now include the notorious outer atolls of the Indian Ocean, namely Cosmoledo, Providence, Astove, Assumption, Farquhar, Alphonse, St Francois and St Brandon's. I have also spent lots of time fishing and guiding Africa, USA, Russia, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Norway and Mongolia.
Can you tell us a little about your home waters and the fish you pursue there?
Well, in South Africa we have some beautiful fisheries. The fishing is amazing and there are some really cool fly-fishing spots. One of our saltwater target species is the Grunter, which is an awesome fish that feeds in shallow water on shrimps and crabs… great for sight fishing. They are pretty tricky, but once you get the hang of it, the rewards are great! Our other saltwater species include some impressive predatory fish, like Garrick, Bluefish and Kabeljou… which are our main saltwater target. Our freshwater fishing has a lot to offer, starting with some great trout fishing in the Cape and the highlands. However, I would say the most popular fish, in SA, would be the Yellowfish. I have fished for them for ages and they are super fun! You can target them on a variety of flies, but my favorite is to catch them on dry flies. There are 9 different species of yelllowfish, but the main targets are the Smallmouth and Largemouth yellowfish. Largemouth Yellowfish are great but you have to put in a ton of time... and might spend a whole season without so much as a touch. Not forgetting some old favorites includes Carp, Barbel, Bass & Tigerfish to name but a few. There are amazing places and fish species to fish for in South Africa, some of my best memories are from my home waters.
What's the height of the season for you? What time of year is your personal favorite?
Well, most of my guiding career has been spent in the Seychelles. So I would say that it would have to be my Seychelles season, that stretches from Oct through to end April the following year. We have a month break in-between over December because that is also Cyclone season out there. It is always so exciting to do pre-season prepping, getting everything ready for what lies ahead, tying new patterns. I think I have been very fortunate to spend so much time out there in the Seychelles. It is hard to beat that, for Saltwater Fly Fishing.
What are your favorite travel destinations? What's on the bucket list?
That is a very difficult, almost impossible, question to answer, as every location I guide at has something different to offer. But let me try narrow it down, I think if you speak to anyone who has been to Seychelles they will agree that it’s one of the best locations in terms of the sheer number of species you could fish for throughout the season. It is also one of the best spots for catch GT’s… I don’t know any other fish that will hit the fly with the pure power that a GT will. Just imagine, you are walking along a flat, in the distance you see a shark, but something is different about this shark, what is that around it? A dozen sickle tails, holy sh*t! Those are all GT’s. Ok lets try and keep our cool and get into position, lets head closer to the shark, what are you crazy? Trust me…. Ok just cast the fly in a 30x30ft radius of the gang of GT’s. Ok, nice, start stripping, strip, strip, strip, faster, strip…. F%$# they are all coming, strip….. Boom…… Hold on, turn the drag all the way….. How can you not just love that?! I mean, even as the fish takes the fly his whole head comes out and looks you straight in the eye, as if to say, this is mine, get your own! I mean who could not love that! Seychelles is really one of my top guiding destinations but do not be mistaken, Mongolia is also one of the best places to fish for monster Taimen… on these huge squirrel flies. And of course is you are looking for something a bit more elegant with hints of grandeur… nothing beats Atlantic Salmon. You can feel the excitement build when you see these 20lbs Chromers swimming past you as you wade through to your desired spot. My Bucket list includes: Congo – for giant Tarpon; Guyana - Arapaima Tanzania – Tigerfish; Amazon – Peacock Bass and all the other crazy fish; Exmouth, Australia - Black Marlin on fly; India – Masheer
What you like most about Thomas and Thomas rods? Which rods do you fish?
The T&T brand and their range of rods have been around for many years, and most of us as fly-fisherman know the quality that is synonymous with the brand. The rods are pure class, T&T have always strived to create a rod that would not only be amazing to fish with, but will improve the sport of fly fishing as a whole. So, if you own any T&T rods, you become part of a culture and it becomes part of you. With my saltwater guiding background, T&T set the benchmark with the Horizon, for other rod companies to try and follow. I have also been testing the new Solar saltwater series at one of the most grueling fishing location, the Seychelles, and it tamed anything I could throw at it. The proof is in the pudding!
What's your current go-to fly?
Considering my guiding locations, I will have to do this by location... Seychelles – Spawning shrimp; Norway/Russia – Sunray Shadow; Mongolia – Cyclops; South Africa/Lesotho – Adams Parachute, for the dry fly season
Other than fly tackle, what piece of gear do you find indispensable?
Good polarized sunglasses.
My favorite thing about guiding is:
Being on the water is a huge part of my life and I love every moment out there. Guiding has always been my first priority. There are really not many other jobs that will give you that amount of job satisfaction as guiding will give you. Being able to make a clients dream come true by catching a fish of a lifetime is off the charts. But believe me, it is super hard work. I worked very hard to become a successful guide. I also love the challenge. No matter where in the world you are, you must be able to see potential spots where the fish would be and thus also try to read and understand the fish - habitat, feeding patterns etc. Another very important thing that I see in good guides is a huge passion for fishing and nature. It is always great to see a new guide who is like a little kid - continuously asking questions and always eager to learn something new. What flies, What spots, How to...? Ultimately, hungry to learn! I don't think that specific qualifications will make you become a great guide; it needs to be in your blood! Remember in the sport of fishing you will never know it all.
From the angler’s point of view, what do you see as the main value of going on a guided trip?
Well first and foremost, guides spend their whole life trying to refine the technique and art of fly fishing. Whether it be a new fly pattern, leader, line, etc. A guides main goal is to make sure that when he is on the water with his client he has the best possible chance of catching his dream fish. So the main value that a client will get, is that he could go to a piece of water with a guide and be able to gain knowledge of the fishery in one day that might have taken the guide decades to learn and refine. So that information is actually priceless.
What can new fisherman expect to get out of a guided trip? My favorite thing to teach a client is ...
Well a new fisherman will gain the knowledge of his guide on a fishery and have the best possible chance of catching a fish on that piece of water. It is always good to have casting lessons before you go on your fishing trip, but a good guide will even give casting tuition out on the water. I love it when a client wants to learn all the important elements of the fishery and the fish and not only want to go out there and smash fish. I love teaching them the importance of placing the fly and how to fish it for all the different species. Remember the first rule you need to be able to place the fly in front of the fish without knowing that you are there. Very basic but very important. A good guide can come back at the end of the day with his clients being happy, even having had a bad day fishing. People skills are the most important. As I said before, these clients are sometimes high profile, so make sure that you get to know them first before you start swearing and talking about the South Park episode that you watched last week. You need to stimulate them with an interesting conversation and always try and make them laugh. When the fishing is going well it is easy to keep your clients happy. The rest is up to you and how much you want it.
What's your ideal lunch when on the water? What do you actually pack?
As long as there is something cold or hot to drink depending on my location. Some kind of meat, preferably Beef Jerky or Biltong as we call it in South Africa, not forgetting dessert… chocolate! I might throw in a fruit… for the health benefits.
What fly fishing blogs/magazines do you read regularly?
The Drake Mag, Fin Chasers, This is Fly, Fly Fisherman magazine, Field Sport (UK), The Fly Fish Journal, Simms Wading Room (Blog), Amberjack (Blog), Fly Dreamers, Fin Chaser magazine
When I'm not fishing you'll find me:
Most likely, working on a fishing movie or taking photo’s of fishing… or on my way to film fishing movies! However, on the odd chance that I am not doing any of the above… I will most likely be tying flies and relaxing at home! But mostly everything I do… involves fishing! Haha!