South African Fishing Flies

It really is quite extraordinary how well supported, deeply rooted and innovative the South African fly fishing fraternity is. One of the first things I did when I arrived in the country was to make my way down to the local bookshop to see what literature there was available on local South African fly fishing destinations and lore, and I picked up the latest edition of the FOSAF (Federation of Southern African Flyfishers) publication, Favoured Flies and Select Techniques of the Experts, which offers a selection of the preferred fly patterns of a number of recognized South African fly fisherman, most, if not all of which are tied by the contributors to the book.

A Selection of the Best

This book covers a wider spectrum of fly fishing in South Africa than simply the trout destinations, of which there are many, including salt water fly fishing techniques and patterns used throughout the region. It caters for those fisherman interested in such species as tilapia, or bream, never a particularly noted fly species in the past, large scale yellowfish and small mouthed black bass, all of which have in recent years begun to attract a devoted following of fly fishermen, pattern developers and fly tiers.

My favorite as I read through the book was Mariejie Davies’ Zulu pattern, featured to the left of this article, which is a version of an established South African fly pattern, that, apart from being visually striking, is a great fly in trout waters where poor local farming practices have created water conditions where visibility might be poor. Mariejies Mrs. Simpson, a variation on a tried and tested killer pattern developed in the 1930s, and named after the notorious American mistress of British King Edward VIII, is another that caught my eye. It is probably worth mentioning that of the other well known killer pattern flies – Hamils Killer and Walkers Killer – the latter was a South African innovation attributed to Lionel Walker. Another incidental point that I always love to recite (Australian Alan Shepherd is the author of the comment) is the preamble of the naming of the Mrs. Simpson pattern, which runs ‘To a trout, the fly is very attractive; it’s a fly worth having; a fly that would merit a trout giving up its kingdom for…‘ For those that do not know, Mrs. Simpson seduced the British Monarch, forcing him to abdicate and spawning perhaps the greatest scandal of the modern British Empire.

Mariejie Davies’ Mrs. Simpson Fly Pattern

Mariejie Davies’ Mrs. Simpson Fly Pattern

There is also a tendency these days to experiment with non-traditional materials, and certainly South African fly tiers have not been remiss in this regard. Some very eccentric patterns are featured in this book using a combination of new and old patterns and concepts. Consider Western Cape fisherman Philip Meyer’s Hopper X, constructed from closed cell foam, copper wire, dubbing, red buck tail, elk hair and flexi-floss. The result is an unusual looking hopper that looks like it will work in the field very well, and no doubt it does.

Philip Meyer's interesting Hopper X

Philip Meyer’s interesting Hopper X

Dr. Tom Sutcliffe is probably the best known South African fly fisherman, having innovated quite a few original fly patterns, and published a number of books on fly fishing in South Africa. His was the famous DDD, or Duckworth’s Dargle Delight, a soft hackle dry fly which has been the basis of a number of variations over the year. Not least of these is Giodano Zamparini’s DDD Klipspringer Variant, featuring, as the name implies, the curiously textured hair of an indigenous South African mountain antelope, the Klipspringer, or Rock Jumper. Zamparini, a well known angler and fly tier from the northern Drakensberg region, east of Polokwane, or Pietersberg as it was previously known, is featured in the above mentioned book for a number of unusual flies, but I think the Klipspringer DDD is the prettiest and most unusual.

Klipspringer DDD

Giodano Zamparini’s DDD Klipspringer Variant

I think the first prize among all the interesting, innovative and unusual patterns in this book goes to Peter Mills and his Bass Bugger, based on the extremely successful American Wooly Bugger pattern that has become so popular as a multi-purpose fly in North American Waters. Peter’s contribution to Favoured Flies and Select Techniques of the Experts is in the pursuit of Large Scale Yellowfish as a fly-caught species, but he is also a well known fly-master in the field of trout angling.

Bass Bugger

Peter Mill’s Bass Bugger

In general this is a superb publication, the latest in a series covering fly patterns and technical tips from the supremos of the sport in South Africa, which I will be on the lookout for for the remainder of my trip. I have always been, and am again, truly impressed at what South Africa has to over the dedicated fly fisherman looking for a different and unique destination to pursue this most wonderful of angling traditions.