It’s a date

There are plenty of pithy one-liners which highly paid management consultants and motivational speakers like to trot out. Nuggety lines which encapsulate wisdom like “failure to plan is planning to fail.” Here’s Gareth George’s take on piscatorial planning.

New year celebrations are a distant memory and now that the sluggish work malaise is well and truly out of the system, it’s time to start planning the 2022 leisure calendar. Finding time is always the challenge, as fishermen from Franschhoek to Limpopo juggle work pressure with family commitments and the various children’s school terms that appear at odds with each other.

Understandably, fish are a lot simpler. Climate and seasons dictate their movements and revolve around the basic urge to feed. And that’s why slotting these windows into my iCal first, to try and put some semblance of a schedule together, appears reasonable – not that I dare tell my wife where my priorities lie.

Opportunities to get large, feisty tigers by the tail, such as this one caught by Gareth and Jeremy might never happen if the dates aren’t locked in well in advance

I read somewhere that only by making yourself happy can you spread the sentiment and as every fisherman would admit, for them, nothing provides more joy or contentment than being on the water, rod in hand. As you get a little longer in the tooth, this is something the mind dwells on more and more – and so it should, as we all need reasons to celebrate. Watch anyone actively fishing and you’ll see a picture of satisfaction. And when the reel starts to sing with a strike, the animated reaction will bring a smile to the watcher’s face. Sharing in the jubilation once the fish is landed and the patience is rewarded, is equally special. These celebrations are as varied as the people who enjoy this very social sport.

The obligatory rehash of the day’s events, the yarns of the ones lost, the flies spurned by savvy scaled beasts – and glasses hoisted in recognition of a successful catch and release are part and parcel of enjoying this sport

It starts early; when a youngster’s excited shrieks pierce any bank-side braai party. Their unbridled delight at catching a wriggling fish is trumped only by that of the proud parent who knows that a lifetime of similar moments has just begun for their offspring. Then there’s that new species to notch up, with hollering and hugging that demands a celebratory toast. Very often such simple things are what gets the party started.

For me, those special times are only matched by sharing the moment – and eventual memories – with a fishing buddy when they land their personal best. The result of which are as many glasses as possible raised celebrating the years spent chasing this trophy. I can even remember watching a seasoned professional reduced to tears at finally netting their holy grail of fish. Wet cheeks were soon replaced by high fives all round.

Ranger Danie Pienaar appreciated Gareth’s expertise and input on a recent census project

A few fisher folk take time to reflect and understand that this pursuit is a not so serious sport. Admittedly, if you don’t score when all your mates are hammering the fish around you, it’s possible to lose perspective, but blanking in a fishing session is the medicine that every ailing angler needs.

It makes you realise why you go fishing in the first place.

Positively beaming after landing these two beautiful trout, Scott and Rhuan happily returned them to the water to fight another angler another day

As the hosts at the TOPS Corporate challenge never tire of reminding attendees: “This event has absolutely nothing to do with catching fish … It’s about spending time with comrades, imbibing and embellishing, creating memories that last a lifetime.” Which embodies what fishing is really all about.

The evolution of an angler goes as follows: it begins with celebrating a catch – but after so many good times with great friends at the water’s edge, the realisation dawns that if you didn’t have these mates to celebrate with, it would be less pleasant and enjoyable. Downright depressing and empty in fact.

So get diaries and calendars in order; plan the next fishing adventure, because time waits for no-one and everyone needs to have a moment of fulfilment, to celebrate the joy.