The Boston Dargle Fly Fishing Festival 2014

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My wedding anniversary was once again upon me, which also meant that it was time for the annual Boston Dargle Fly Fishing Festival. As Team Baha we’d fished two of the three events, missing out on only one since my wedding was on the same weekend. We’d also won the event in 2013 and were hoping to defend our title in 2014.

I took the Friday off even though we only needed to be in Boston at 6pm as it gave me a chance to bash off one last run (prior to endless night’s of great food, beer and rum), and to pack at my own leisure. So after a relaxed morning I picked Nick up from Racetech and we headed for Boston.

Being a little early we decided to head straight for the farm we were staying at rather than going to the club for registration. This is one of the things which makes this event unique; you stay with the farmers, who are incredibly hospitable and add a sense of homeliness to the event. They open their doors selflessly to the fisherman and definitely deserve a huge thank you for their kindness and efforts.

Our cottage for the Boston Dargle Fly Fishing Festival
Our cottage for the Boston Dargle Fly Fishing Festival

We unpacked into our cottage, had a quick shower, and then headed over to the Boston Club. Our timing was impeccable as our team mates, Bruce and Neill, pulled into the parking lot just seconds behind us.

Since we’d arrived a little early the venue was still relatively empty and registration hadn’t yet begun. There were however a few gents in the bar so we joined them for a couple of beers to get the festival started. After lubing up we joined the queue to register, and to collect our measuring sticks and packs.

This year’s packs were fantastic and included a a sleeveless fleece, a NFFC beanie, a pack of flies specifically for the festival (provided by SciFlies), and a copy of FOSAF’s Guide to Flyfishing in Southern Africa. So a big thumbs up to the Boston organisers for this. Ten out of ten!

We then gathered in front of the large map to work out where our four waters were located. Three of the four dams were new to Nick and I, but the great news was that we’d drawn McKenzie’s for the second morning – the dam which had won the competition for us in 2013.

With the formalities out of the way we enjoyed a home cooked curry before gathering back in the pub to continue our journey on the beer and rum trains. Amazingly the pub felt quieter than usual and wound down earlier than expected for night one. This meant that we headed home just before 11pm (after loading Neill’s car with wood from behind the club) and would be fresh for the first day’s fishing.

Back at our cottage we lit a fire while making toasted cheese sandwiches thanks to our wonderful hostess. We then sat in the amber glow of the fire and chatted about our strategy for the next two days. Neill and Bruce had fished our first water, Star Dam, and gave us a few pointers. We then chatted about flies that had worked in previous years as well as about what McKenzies would hold on day two. We finally headed for bed just after midnight.

Sunrise at our cottage
Sunrise at our cottage

The next morning we were up just after 5am. It was far warmer than previous years (7 degrees according to my car’s thermometer) which we were hoping would have positive effects on the fishing. After a few cups of coffee we finally left the cottage just after 6am and headed through Tillietudlem to our first water.

We were sharing Star Dam with another team, who were already kitting up when we arrived. Since they were parked at the wall we headed to the middle of the dam and kicked out onto the water there. As a result we fished the top end of the dam, targetting the the inlets, while the other team fished the deeper water along the wall. We each had our turf and the game had begun.

The air temp on the water must’ve been below zero as there was ice on the reeds around the water’s edge. I was certainly glad to be kept warm by Columbia’s Omni-heat which allowed me to focus on my fishing.

I got into a fish relatively quickly, and breathed that sigh of relief which comes with getting off the board. Shortly after that I got into a second fish, just meters from where I’d hooked the first. It was looking to be a great day. The fishing then slowed for a while before I picked up a few more trout, including a 48cm cock fish, just before leaving. Neill also got a few fish while Nick and Bruce sadly blanked.

We gathered on the bank and tucked into our lunch packs while chatting to the crowd taking over the water for the afternoon session. And that we headed for our next water, Geldart 2, with Nick bitching about just how many gates he had to open and close on route.

It took us a while to find Geldarts (which included an unnecessary trip up a track marked “no cars”) but when we did finally find it, it was stunning. Geldart’s wasn’t a large dam but was located along an indigenous forest, with a small island, and a quaint cottage overlooking the water. Stories from the pub kept us inspired as we’d heard last year’s largest fish had come from this water.

Warren with a rainbow trout caught in Star Dam
Warren with a rainbow trout caught in Star Dam

The four of us kicked out onto the water with Nick and Neill targeted the wall while Bruce and I headed for the inlet. Despite the beauty of the dam fishing was slow and a few hours later Bruce, Neill and I had landed only a few stockies. Sadly Nick was left scratching his head as he sight fished to a shoal of stockies in the shallows with no luck.

Just before 5pm we called it a day and climbed out of the water. Nick and I rushed for the pub to catch the SA vs Wales game while Bruce and Neill headed for a warm shower back at the cottage.

Thankfully the Boks didn’t disappoint and crushed Wales, as we followed in their footsteps and crushed the rum. After the game we logged our catches and then enjoyed a fantastic dinner of a chicken stew, rice and veggies. The night went downhill from there, enough said. It was legendary!

The next morning was amazingly even warmer than the previous – 14 degrees according to the Fortuner. We opted to get off to an early start as we’d been looking forward to fishing McKenzies for days. Sadly however we got lost on route to the water and therefore didn’t kick out until 7am.

We were shocked to find over 20 anglers on the water where there should have been only 8. I think some were the owners, so that’s excusable, but there were definitely other teams on the water which were not meant to be there. All in all very disappointing and not at all in the spirit of the competition.

None the less Nick and I immediately got into fish, which I’d imagine was a huge relief for him. He was finally on the board. I then opted to head up to the top of the dam while Nick and Neill fished the wall. Bruce had a similar strategy to me and headed for the top of the dam, but on the opposite bank to me.

Cold starts on the water
Cold starts on the water

At the head of the dam I landed several fish before kicking across to join Bruce. Together we targeted the middle of the dam where I managed to hook into several decent trout. Nick joined us a little later and we fished the middle of the large water together.

I was forced to momentarily leave the action for a quick toilet break (involving a run up the mountain and old hankie) before rejoining the boys to land a few more fish.

As lunch approached the wind picked up quite heavily. We braved it until 12 but the fishing did seem to take a dive with the change in conditions. At the end of the session I’d produced 14 fish and was feeling good. Neill had also had a decent session, but strangely Nick and Bruce had struggled for just a handful of fish between them.

From McKenzies we headed for our last water of the festival, Rivendell. It was located through Tillietudlem and was rather exposed to the elements. Our immediate concern was whether it would be fishable in the ever strengthening wind. None the less we headed back through the 20 odd gates (with Nick’s constant complaints) until we arrived at the waters edge.

Rivendell certainly looked the part with a lovely wall, several gravel beds, plenty of food sources, and a deep bank on the far side. We parked at the cottage and immediately realised that float tubes weren’t an option. We therefore fished from the bank (where possible) in the hope of the wind dropping.

Neill and I managed to pick up fish from the shore which felt like a huge bonus. The wind then began to drop and so we braved the conditions and headed out in our float tubes. Initially we all headed for the wall hoping that the gravel beds on route would produce fish, being winter and breeding season.

Nick fishing Star Dam
Nick fishing Star Dam

Sadly I had no luck over the gravel and quickly realised that the wall was too deep for my slow sinking intermediate line. I therefore kicked up to the shallows where I produced two more small stockies. Otherwise fishing was generally slow with just 2 fish coming out between Nick, Neill and Bruce.

Eventually the wind once again picked up and we decided to leave the water. I opted to walk back to the car carrying my float tube rather than kicking my ass off. Back at the car we deflated our tubes for the last time, while enjoying a few cold beers. The fishing was over, and all that remained was the prize giving.

We left the water at around 4:30pm, an hour earlier than competition rules allowed. This was a blessing in disguise as we soon discovered that the gate had been locked and that we were trapped in. To make matters worse there was no cell phone reception. Thankfully the sun had not yet set so we explored the fence line until we discovered a section of fence in need of repair, which we pushed flat, drove over, and then resurrected. From there we were forced to circumnavigate a few marshes and crevices before making our way back onto the main road. Never a dull moment!

From Rivedell we headed back to our cottage where we all had a quick shower before heading back to the club for dinner and prize giving. Amazingly we were almost the first team to arrive which indicated the other teams had fished until the 5:30pm cut off, despite the wind.

We submitted our catches and then enjoyed a few beers while the bar started to fill up. We finally sat down to dinner at 8pm which consisted of roast beef, roast potatoes, and all the trimmings. How those farmers wives made crispy potatoes for 100 people I’ll never know. A big double thumbs up to the ladies.

A rainbow trout taken on an orange bead
A rainbow trout taken on an orange bead

After we’d all scoffed down dinner prize giving began. Amazing Team Baha managed to finish in third, losing out by a mere 15cms. Warren meanwhile came second in the individual event by a similarly small margin. Perhaps stopping fishing early to enjoy a few cold beers was a poor decision?! None the less we had an exceptional time at the festival and wouldn’t change a thing.

The  bar was quiet on the final night with a lot of fisherman having headed home. We therefore didn’t hang around too long and headed back to our cottage to enjoy a roaring fire and a few Old Brown Sherries.

The Boston Dargle Fly Fishing Festival never dissapoints and was once again a roaring success. We’ll definintely be back next year in the hope of another podium finish. A huge thank you and well done to the Pete Smith, the organisers, the farmers, and especially the farmer’s wives for all their hard work and hospitality.

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