SA’s own fly-fishing mecca

DURING a recent visit to picturesque Rhodes we were fortunate enough to spend the first day of our stay in the company of Tony Kietzman, an ardent fly- fisherman who has an inherent love of small- stream fly-fishing.

And while Tony’s first love might be fly-fishing, his knowledge of the environment, the area and the many streams makes him one of the top guides in the Eastern Cape Highlands.

He is based in Rhodes and has access to more than 200km of streams teeming with wild rainbow trout and yellowfish. But for him it is often not about the fish, but more about the fishing, the flora and fauna, the area’s history, the geology and the hospitality of the area’s residents.

This makes him a fascinating companion for people not overly interested in the art of fly- fishing. When he settles down to share his chosen art, he instantly shows that he is an expert in his field, and passionate about sharing his skills.

Under Tony’s patient guidance, novice PE fly- fisherman Chas Hanslow enjoyed a brief but fruitful opportunity to learn the relaxing but somewhat difficult to master art at one of the numerous trout-filled streams in the area, Tony’s own favourite, the Bokspruit.

Chas admitted that at first he battled to master the technique, but eventually he was casting so well that in the space of just a few hours he had caught – and released – one sizeable and three smaller rainbow trout.

“It’s an incredible experience,” Chas said afterwards. “Your instinct is to use your whole body but there’s no need to do that. It’s a gentle wrist movement rather than the whole-body movement used in bait-fishing. Put simply, it’s a bit like riding a bicycle. It’s tough when you start, but once you’ve mastered the basics it’s really great. I would love to have another go.”

All fly-fishing in Rhodes (and there is no bait- fishing) is done in streams and dams on farms which Tony has access to. Permits are required at R150 a day, the majority of which goes to the farmer, the remainder to the Wild Trout Association (R110 to the land- owner and R40 to the WTA).

According to Tony, who has been fly-fishing since he was at university, the endless opportunities for fishing in both streams and dams make Rhodes the fly-fishing mecca of South Africa.

“There’s optimal breeding in the area and there’s no need to stock. In fact, Loch Ness was last stocked many years ago as trout occur there naturally. In fact, if anything, there are too many fish in the area.”

Despite this, you are not guaranteed a catch. It’s all down to working out where the fish are hiding and getting the fly to land in the right area.

With so many streams to choose from – the Bell runs right through Rhodes – is it possible to have a favourite fishing spot?

For Tony this is easy: the Bokspruit, which is not only a pretty picnic spot for non-fishers but which also offers quite a variety of fishing from fast-flowing to almost still water all in the space of just a few metres.

And while the anglers get caught up in the spirit of acquiring a new skill, keen photographers have endless opportunities to capture the mood on film – but then this pretty much applies to everywhere in and around Rhodes, where there’s something for everyone.

So if your guy talks you into going on a fly-fishing trip at Rhodes, pack a lunch, the camera and even a good book and then sit back and enjoy a nature experience that can’t be bettered.

Tony guides on Wild Trout Association waters in the Eastern Cape Highlands.

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