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Pilgrim’s Hosts National Fly fishing Championships

Frieda Paton

The weather was perfect, the river was clear, the fish were biting, and Pilgrim’s Rest was a bustle of activity as fishermen from across the country participated in the Senior A Nationals Fly fishing Championships from May 1-4.

The Mpumalanga Fly Fishing Association (MFFA) hosted this year’s annual tournament of the SA National Fly fishing Association. Fishing took place on the banks of the Blyde River from just outside Pilgrim’s Rest and stretching over 40 Km towards Bourke’s Luck.

There were 55 participants who fished during five heats of three hours each in five different sectors. Altogether 2038 fish were caught and released.  If you do the math this converts to just over two fish every minute.

The winner of the individual competition was Brett van Rensburg from Central Gauteng.  He’s an experienced fisherman who also holds Protea colours, having represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Championships last year.

Van Rensburg was also awarded the medal for having caught the most fish – 131 in total. Furthermore, he received a prize of accommodation sponsored by Mount Sheba, A Forever Resort, so the Blyde River is most likely to see him again.

“The competition was fantastic. The venue is very different,” said van Rensburg.  “The rivers you’re fishing are very wild, the fish are wild and the water is stunning. In my opinion, if you want wild fisheries, this ranks very high in what we’ve got in South Africa.”

Matthew Rich (Western Province) took second place and Shaun Dickson (Kwa-Zulu Natal) came in third in the individual competition.  The winning provincial team was Western Province, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal in second place and Central Gauteng coming in third. The medal for the longest fish, at 463mm, went to Andreas Hacker from Limpopo.

During the prize-giving ceremony Lyle Smith, President of MFFA thanked members for the hours they put in to prepare for the tournament. Brush had to be cut to clear paths, sectors and beats marked out, and fish were brought in to stock the rivers. Smith also had a special word of thanks to the Reinders family without whose help through the years the championships wouldn’t have been possible and for whom no problem was ever too big to overcome.

The event also provided employment for locals. Besides those who assisted with clearing, local youth were trained and then employed during the competition as monitors on each of the 55 beats. The monitors ensure that participants abide by the rules of the competition and measure and record every fish that is caught.

Smith encouraged the fishermen to support Pilgrim’s Rest. “You see so much bad rep about Pilgrim’s Rest, but you guys have seen the spirit in the town. Its people like you that bring the ‘gees’ to the town” Smith said. “You’ve got to go back and tell people that Pilgrim’s is open for business. It’s up to us to make it happen.”

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