Every fisherman has a story; a sad tale of lost glory, missed victory, of the mystical unicorn-of-the-deep that got away. The fish we didn’t catch. Only my tale is of a fish I did catch.

Winter in the Western Cape may call for most to stay indoors, bundled up with mugs of steaming hot chocolate and fuzzy slippers. But to a fisher person like myself, it calls to gear up and get on the still waters.

Every year Husband and I book one weekend per month for the winter season up in the mountains to spend some time on our favorite fly fishing dams. Last year was no different than any, except that we had a lot less luck than usual with weather. The weekends that we weren’t fishing seemed glorious, and yet every single time we went on a fishing trip, Armageddon descended.

Rain is one thing, but when the Cape of Storm’s very best gale force winds howl and torrential downpours strike, it makes for an unpleasant, fruitless fishing expedition. Having had one too many of these weathered out weekends, we decided to push our luck and book just one more weekend late spring, in hopes that the water not be too warm for the fish’s wellbeing, and the weather just right for the fisherman’s prosperity. We desperately needed to catch fish after such a long wet-wintery drought.

Everything turned out perfect. Weather played along beautifully, and the crystal clear waters were as cold as they were glass-like. Fat, energetic rainbow trout swirled in the shadows, blissful at their game of hunting. But perhaps my long fishless winter left me a bit sluggish in my casting abilities, because try as I might, I still couldn’t catch a single one that day.

Finally, after hours of persistence, changing technique, switching flies, even trying to trawl my line unethically without Husband noticing, I finally caught a fish. And a good one too! She fought me gallantly, making me work for her right to the very last moment when I finally managed to get her into my net. Fortunately, the sheer length of the fight gave Husband enough time to get back to me from his spot across the dam, and he took the most amazing photo of me rocking my 3kg trout in the water, giving her a little breathing time to recuperate before she lurched and shot off with an irate swish of the tail.

It was ideal, the most perfect Kodak moment ever! The evening light was just right. Fish lay effortlessly in my hands as I cupped her belly just beneath the surface, her spots glistening in the twinkly water, her pink stripe gleaming. My surroundings of reflective dusky blue and mountainous background complimented the happiest smile under my dove-grey Akubra hat. Even my nails could be seen in all their French-tipped glamour, peaking out from my sun gloves, giving the whole thing an elegant Audrey Hepburnesque cast. If this was a movie, this was the winning shot. The perfect combination of woman and nature and fish. I couldn’t WAIT to get a hold of that photo to put it on my Facebook page, my fridge, and have it blown up and framed along side the many of Husbands perfect moments on our mantle at home.

Except I never got the photo. Husband, a few minutes later, in a moment of appreciation, decided to try take a one-handed picture of the moon rising into the beautiful sky, and promptly dropped the camera into his lap, through his legs, into the float tube, and out the bottom, down to the depths of the deep, dark water. There lies my photo in its watery grave, never to be seen again. I could have cried – I nearly did cry! I was infinitely more upset about my lost captured moment of success than Husband was about loosing his camera.

Truth be told, I never actually saw the photo, and so have no idea if it was anywhere near the award-winning image I have just described. But there in lies the tragic beauty of my fly fishing tale – the one I will tell for years to come around the dregs of the campfire when the last of the coals are shaking their final glow off for the night. The one I will mournfully regale, how I lost the very best fly fishing photo ever taken.

The one that got away…

Pami-sign