By Garth Johnstone
“I used to watch flyfishermen in the Tendela River from my yard when I was a kid. I was always curious about what they were doing and wanted to go and see, but I was too shy.”
So said young flyfisherman and guide, Trevor Sithole about his time growing up in Tendela village just below the Kamberg Nature Reserve.
“I had this tingling feeling, wishing to know what they were doing, but never had the guts to approach them.
“Where I lived, if you weren’t going to make it through schooling and education, then soccer was the only other avenue for kids. I played soccer for a while and that didn’t go so well, for a while I tried volleyball. I wished I had known about flyfishing then, I would have started from a really young age.”
Trevor said it was when a couple who fished in the area, Richard and Linda Gorlei, approached community member Richard Khumalo – who is now a councillor in Mpofana – that flyfishing got a jumpstart in Tendela.
“They told him it was easier and more efficient to fish with flies, rather than earthworms and hoppers, and advised him on how to get started.”
Richard was encouraged to get a group of youngsters together to start a flyfishing project in the area and that was Trevor’s entry point.
“I had always been very curious, watching people fish. I wanted to start and this was the spark.”
Richard developed the Tendela Flyfishing Team, which today sends members to events such as the Kamberg Trout Festival and Underberg/Himeville Trout Festival.
For Trevor, the bug had truly bit. He joined the Tendela team and worked on his skills. He worked in the Wildfly Outfitters shop in Nottingham Road for about a year, before he got a big break.
A friend who was working in the filming industry told him of an opportunity to work as a flyfishing guide in Bolivia. The friend, Peter Taljaard, recommended him for the job, and after his application and extensive screening, he was hired for a six-month season earlier this year by Angling Frontiers.
This was a daunting but exciting opportunity for Trevor – his first time overseas and first major job as a guide.
His job was to guide mainly foreigners as they fished the pristine waters in this mountainous, jungle clad country.
“It was intense. My first time away from home, and first time overseas. I’d never even been further than Durban. But it was brilliant. It was premium fishing, very remote and far from civilisation.”
Trevor said it wasn’t unusual to land 20-pounders, targeting Golden Dorado, but also landing surubis (a type of catfish) and yaturanas.
“The locals don’t eat the dorado, they rather go for the catfish,” he said, explaining that the rivers he fished in were full of quality fish.
While there were language barriers – the Bolivians didn’t speak English and Trevor’s grasp of Spanish was basic at best and he understood zero Chumani (the local language) – he said the Bolivians were really cool people, friendly and supportive.
As most of the accommodation and other expenses were paid for, the six-month stint was a good earner and a rich learning experience for the 24-year-old.
For now Trevor is doing a spot of job hunting, planning the next exciting project and also expects to do another season in Bolivia next year. He is studying photography and media studies part-time through Unisa.
He recently completed his STCW2010 marine safety course and his Skipper’s Class C qualifications.
When not fishing professionally, Trevor loves hanging out with friends and sharing stories (about the one that got away?) and fishing in the rivers of the Berg and Midlands. He said his favourite local spot is Reekie Lynn on the Mooi River, because it “gives you everything”.
“There are big pools, slow moving water, pocket water, even when you think there’s nothing there, think again. It’s a challenge,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Trevor’s long-term goal is to keep working hard and one day return to Tendela to provide inspiration and work opportunities for youngsters in the area.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities. I want to show them one day that flyfishing is a viable option to get work and develop a career. Perhaps there is a chance to develop a guiding agency where we provide talent to the industry.”