Going for


The first leg of the TOPS at SPAR Corporate Challenge lived up to the top billing of previous events, providing many anglers with a few more tales and bragging rights, as Gareth George reports.

Ivo Baratovich set the pace on day one by landing a 61cm trophy

Talk about a winning smile: Friedel Kirstein shows his joy at landing a beauty

Sven Turner of the Berserkers team was top angler at the TOPS at SPAR Corporate Challenge opening leg

Only scientists or physicists really understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but it’s relevant when it comes to the concept of “trophy”. One man’s average catch might well be another angler’s personal best – or trophy fish. However, benchmarks do determine accolades and the quest for a double-digit trout remains the goal for many a fly fisher.

Destinations or water which can consistently deliver specimens that seriously tip the scales are few and far between in South Africa. This is why we tend to measure our fish in length, giving us many yardsticks and great fishing stories in our quest for trophies. Half a meter is where this starts being a trout of stature as it’ll probably weigh over five pounds, and one which, if stocked from a fingerling, will punch well above its weight.

This has been the goal of the TOPS at SPAR Corporate Challenge (TCC) since its inception; to give every angler a story they can dine out on, revolving around the festivities that accompany tales of trout landed and lost. The first leg of this year’s TCC was a stand out for all entrants in this regard, with everyone getting stuck into some quality fish.

The weather didn’t make it easy, but a calm window in the first morning session saw a remarkable 105 fish netted and measured.

Wayne Simmons produced the most noteworthy performance, having never picked up a fly rod or relaxed in a float tube. He caught a 48cm, then a 52cm fish, a 53cm one and topped his morning session off with a 59cm rainbow! It was a blistering start to his weekend and a sure way to get him hooked into the sport!

With a 61cm beauty, Ivo Baratovich also set the pace on the big fish leaderboard.

Predictably the weather changed, with winds whipping the waters, chasing more than one fair weather fly fisher back to the comforts of Notties pub. Those who braved the conditions added another 48 trout to the day’s tally of 153! That many trout is reason enough to celebrate, but it was the remarkable statistic of 58 of these being fish over half a meter in length that was truly remarkable. The WildFly waters more than lived up to expectations!

Conditions continued to spiral, with wind speeds demanding anchors if fishing from any vessel, but it didn’t dampen enthusiasm. Most anglers hunkered down and kept their flies in the water. Surprisingly, despite the pressure drop, another 49 trout were measured and released.

Thank goodness this is a sport in which one can enjoy a beverage whilst participating, motivating anglers to look for that silver lining in the ominous cloud build up. It’s impossible to sugarcoat miserable fishing conditions, but you can elect to not fight them. Notties was exceedingly festive during the afternoon – and resulted in a paltry return of just 29 fish netted and released in the fourth and final fishing session.

A tale in three parts – catching and netting a trophy trout, measuring its length and then an obligatory bragging rights snap for Denzil Ulyate with his 64cm rainbow

The stories of antics off the field were celebrated in the evening awards, much to the delight of teammates and competitors with banter flowing freely. But the stats don’t lie and showed there was some great fishing during the weekend. The total count of trout over 50cm was 78 and a remarkable six trophies over 60cm were caught from five different dams. Denzil Ulyate tipped the scales for the biggest fish with his 64cm rainbow.

Sven Turner took honours as the top fly fisherman, with 10 500 points, manoeuvring his team, the Berserkers into third place, followed by the Spar team and Jacaranda Fly Fishing. Runners up were the talents of the Fish On team and the eventual winners of the first leg of the TOPS at SPAR Corporate Challenge were Fins and Feathers. A point of note was that each of the top two teams, had lady fly fishers, proving that the fairer sex can out-fish any man!

As we build up to the next leg, the trout will no doubt switch into their spawning behaviour, demanding a little colour and smaller point flies. Here’s hoping the cold fronts stay away.

Can anyone say “beginner’s luck”? Novice angler Wayne Simmons landed three beautiful 50-plus trout on a day he’ll remember for the rest of his life!