FISHERMEN ARE KNOWN TO ENJOY THE SOLITUDE OF CALM WATERS, MAJESTIC MOUNTAINS AND ONLY THE BUZZ OF A BEE TO DISTURB THE SWISH OF A LINE AS A FLY IS CAST. THEREFORE GARETH GEORGE HAS A QUEEN MOMENT “I WANT TO BREAK FREE”.
My misbehaving children were sent to their rooms when they transgressed – much like my parents did to me when I was young. And anyone in uniform could be confined to barracks if their behaviour was considered inappropriate – so it’s no wonder that we all had an adverse reaction to lockdown. It’s increasingly hard not to view the restrictions of lockdown that South Africans have been subjected to as anything other than a punishment, no matter how valid and rational the reasons for it being instituted were. Nobody likes being punished – whatever the alleged offence may or may not have been.
As a nation which lives, by and large, outdoors, not being able to enjoy the safe wide open space seemed ludicrous and within the first month we fishing folk felt the walls closing in. The large contingent of anglers in South Africa were gobsmacked that you couldn’t stand alone on a river, dam or shoreline getting some fresh air and needed exercise. My personal feeling was that this was cruel and unusual, but acknowledged it was for the greater good.
The rationale behind congregating en masse and celebrating the catch of the day or raising a communal toast to another fisherman’s trophy is sound, and if nothing else it forced all of us to re-examine the relationship we have with our favourite tipples.
Fisher folk are by nature positive people. When one considers the odds stacked against any angler every time they cast a line into the big blue, it’s impossible not to have faith and belief. Experience has taught us to be prepared for the very real possibility of returning home empty-handed, so we’re no strangers to disappointment. Ironically the alcohol sale restriction is, or was,
enough to drive a man to drink! Ironic no?
The one glimmer of light is that thankfully we are now allowed to enjoy some recreational angling, and can cross provincial boundaries too. Hopefully it’s a precursor to allowing all responsible South Africans to travel within family groups and to experience the beauty of our beloved country. So long as it’s legal, here are a few suggestions of iconic fishing destinations to visit within our borders.
- The great Orange River – it’s a spectacular contrast of serene arid landscape and the largest river system in South Africa. From below Augrabies Falls, this desert wilderness can be explored by canoe and riverside camp. The fishing is simply off the charts and it’s an adventure that the whole family will enjoy.
- The majestic Drakensberg – the craggy mountain range covers a multitude of breath-taking locations and many rivers, all teeming with trout. From the foothills in the village of Nottingham Road to the escarpment of the southern Berg and through to the Eastern Cape, it’s an incredible road trip that every fly fisher should take. Rhodes and Maclear are spoken of in reverential wonder for good reason.
- Cape Vidal – within the world renowned iSimangaliso Wetland Park, this protected marine reserve not only offers some of the best salt water angling in the country, but the area’s unique habitat of alluvial plains and coastal forest is home to four of the Big Five and incredible wildlife overall. It’s the perfect combination of a beach and bush holiday.
- The Wild Coast – the unspoiled coastline of the Eastern Cape is what draws rock and surf anglers to the many seaside villages renowned for footprint free beaches and lazy lagoons. It has some spectacular hiking trails, with many famous landmarks and in the right season you are almost guaranteed to witness the migratory whales.
- Your local watering hole – alas this certainly doesn’t refer to the pub down the road, but the multitude of dams and fishing holes that are within an hour or two’s drive, all of which haven’t seen a rod in the last four months! The local tourism industry is what you should support, making sure that these establishments dedicated to local anglers are there for many years to come.
Remember when travelling, double check the latest legislation for any further restrictions that might shackle you. Like basic hygiene, social distancing is common sense, so there’s no tongue in cheek when I urge everyone to be wise and take all the necessary precautions to put the brakes on this terrible pandemic.
As a fisherman it’s natural to want to find someone to blame and heap opprobrium upon. After all, we have a litany of excuses about why we didn’t catch fish since it’s never our fault, but this Corona catastrophe has gone beyond pointing fingers. I would humbly appeal to our incumbent leaders to take a leaf out of our victorious Springboks playbook. For all South Africans, the rugby players in green and gold gave real meaning to Queen’s anthemic “We are the Champions”. Rock legends and sporting legends.
It’s been an interesting few months and has everyone thinking about democracy and the right to choose. No doubt there were many who could identify , as I did, with Freddy Mercury’s famous song about wanting to Break Free.