Vrederus – a place beyond words
By Gerhard Weldhagen
The melodious ring of an accidentally set alarm clock suddenly plunges the Naude household into unplanned, undiluted chaos, shattering the early morning peace and quiet with the now very familiar tone that we abundantly listened to the previous day. With my thoughts still asleep, I could think of only two things; grandmothers can buy really weird gifts and children, especially small ones, are like the sea – you should never, ever turn your back on them! The pleasant chatter of the children and the inviting smell of hot coffee finally gets this house guest going, with the normal hustle and bustle of busy farm life making the household seem like a gigantic living organism, freshly hatched and rapidly awakening to the new day. The scrumptious farm breakfast is an unhurried affair, preceding a day filled to the brim with wide-open blue skies and fishing opportunities to die for.
After breakfast Marli and I sauntered off to our favourite spot for some exceptionally civilised fly fishing, none of this early rising, braving the cold twaddle needed here! The little vlei below the main 18 hectare dam wall, now well-filled after the summer rains, teems with large rainbow and brown trout escapees, making for some of the best sight fishing we’ve ever had. A small neutral density dragon nymph cast along the edge of a weed bed or towards a clearly discernable fishy bulge in the shallow water, time and again resulted in a tight line with a well-conditioned, irate trout at the other end. Having had enough of the stillwater fishing for the moment, it was off to the Swith stream, the birthplace of the Luzi River, to sample some of its wily trout on the dry fly. The Swith runs in a steep valley, the marble bright water carving out the bottom over millennia, with imposing sandstone walls towering above the gorge, hiding quite a few overhangs decorated with ancient San rock art. This miniscule water has some prime dry-fly areas where a sparsely tied, stiff-hackled fly can flutter, dance and tiptoe over sparkling short runs and small pools. Watching as the fly commences its ballet over the sunlit water, can bring a stillness to the heart with almost untenable anticipation, only to be relieved by the lightning fast take of a wild rainbow trout, making the ultimate deception complete.
Vrederus is more than just quality flyfishing in virgin streams and large stillwaters; it boasts an impressive ornithological potpourri, with in excess of 172 listed bird species in the area. Around the water and on the rest of the farm one can observe some of South Africa’s rare and endangered bird species including the bearded vulture, booted eagle, black harrier, mountain pipit, black stork and the ever-elusive yellow-breasted pipit. For the photographer, Vrederus is a seemingly endless montage of scenery, with quaint pastoral scenes intermingled with ominous thunderstorms and calm, almost docile sunsets. Old farm buildings and implements make very willing subjects for abstract scenes, while the local bird life will keep the wildlife photographer more than just occupied.
On our last evening, dusk finds young Peet Naude and me back in the vlei, up to our knees in cold clear water. A slight surface bulge betrays the presence of a foraging trout in the soft evening glow, making it an easy target to reach with a single flick of the rod. Having hooked the fish, I handed the rod to my young apprentice, having him hang on for dear life. How do you explain to an eight year old that the fish on the other end of the line, trying to pull him into the water, is likely to be bigger than his baby sister? After landing and gently releasing the fish, we walked back to the house in silence, as words strangely felt out place during the making of a special twilight memory. After blissful days of top class fishing, the ever-moving hands of time has sadly caught up with us yet again, and it was time to head for home, bringing an end to a much fulfilling odyssey of sparkling rivers, streams and dams. As we drove off into the swirling early morning mist we realise that we won’t stay away for too long, our weary city souls will hopefully once more soak up the solitude and rest that one can only truly find in this part of the world, a magical place, an uncomplicated place, a place beyond the worldly grasp of words.