The Tops! Corporate Challenge (TCC) 2018…

Article by Louise Steenekamp

Where to start…. this event is all but sacred to some of us. A social competition held annually on the pristine Wildfly waters of the KZN Midlands. Hosted by Gareth and Genna George, without either of whom it would never be the same!

It’s an opportunity to socialize with fishing buddies, enjoy the beautiful scenery offered by Mother Nature, check out the reality-show-type scenes in Notties Pub, and generally have a great time on and off the water.

2018 was going to be one of those years where life got in the way, and hubby (Martin Steenekamp) and I wouldn’t get to fish the TCC. Enter Wildfly, The Growler Brewing Company, WildGuys, and Boom Skaha!! – we had a team!!

By some stroke of good fortune, we landed up in a Growler WildGuys team, along with Edwin Bean (Ed) and Andrew Strachan. So off we went to fish the third qualifying leg of the 2018 TCC….

The first day of fishing started with the usual scene…. sub-zero temperatures, a few mm’s of ice all over the car, a frantic rush… Amidst all the chaos was that surreal sense of belonging, content in the knowledge that we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world!!

Approaching the first dam, the proverbial butterflies seem to pick up the party wherever those competing for the Betty Ford award the night before had left off! As you get closer to your first dam, nerves turn to anticipation, before transforming into sheer excitement!!

As any angler knows, there is a mammoth difference between no fish and one fish! Once that first fish is safely landed, the game is on!! Fishing was tough though – by far the hardest many of us have ever had to work for our points….

Fast forward to prizegiving night, and low and behold – we placed 5th! Good enough for inclusion in the Finals, where the top teams from all 3 qualifiers battle it out over another awesome weekend!

Being acutely aware of my own lack of time invested on the water over the past few years, I immediately commenced on a research binge any PhD prof would be proud of! I consumed (and re-consumed) every book, article, blog, video and comment I could get my eyes on. The amount of literature I covered on everything from trout behaviour, to entomology, to lake ecology and everything in-between even remotely related to trout, could probably fill up the Library of Congress….

Our team turned out to be well balanced, with some catching more fish, and others gravitating towards fewer but bigger quarries. Notwithstanding the ones that got away… the fishing gods were on our side this time, which landed us a decent score.

Our team had gone into Finals ranked #3, based on number of point scoring fish caught in the qualifier, so we started the weekend on a good vibe. As with any session fishing though, it was hard – actually impossible – to tell which team would end up where. Anything could happen at any time, and the final score usually boils down to the last session. You only need one fish to make the last session’s quota, so in this case size is everything!!

By prizegiving night, the whole team had a feeling that we might end up with a decent placement though, although at the time it was impossible to tell whether it was intuition, or just plain wishful thinking…

So except for Ed, whose nerves showed from the start of the count-up from 15 – we were all quite chilled. Then it got closer… 5th, 4th and 3rd had already been called, still with no mention of the Growler WildGuys. Next was a pause that seemed to hover like the Matrix time freeze… followed eventually by the announcement that the defending champions, team NFC, were 2nd!!

Now it was real….we knew it had to be true, but couldn’t believe it!! Alas – it was time to suspend our disbelief, we had actually won the TCC 2018 Finals!!

Thank you Wildfly, The Growler Brewing Company, WildGuys, and every atom that conspired to make this a reality!!

@TCC, see you next year!!

Louise Steenekamp

Pike on Fly in a snowy Amsterdam

On route to a buisness trip in Spain we decided to do a quick detour via Amsterdam to target the aggresive Northern Pike on fly. a Quick google search yielded tons of dutch results, but the first english wesite was that of certified fishing guide Mike Dijkstra. We booked a day with him via e-mail and arranged our travel and accomodation accordingly.

The Northern Pike (Esox lucius) gets its name from its resemblance to the pole-weapon known as the pike. Its binomial name translates to ‘Pitiless water-wolf’ as “esox” means ‘pitiless’ and “lucius” means ‘water-wolf’. Various other unofficial trivial names are: American pike, common pike, great northern pike, Great Lakes pike, grass pike, snot rocket, slough shark, snake, slimer, slough snake and northern gator – due a head similar in shape to that of an alligator.

The northern pike is a relatively aggressive species, especially with regards to feeding. For example, when food sources are sparse, cannibalism develops. This cannibalism occurs when the ratio of predator to prey is two to one.

Pike are capable of “fast start” movements, which are sudden high-energy bursts of unsteady swimming. Many other fish exhibit this movement as well but most fish use this mechanism to avoid life-threatening situations. For the pike, however, it is a tool used to capture prey from their sedentary positions.

pike-eat-pike

Mike picked us up from our hotel at 8:30 and suggested we go to a natural lake where we could fish of boats. The weather was not on our side with overcast skies and breezy winds. We arrived at our location about 30 minutes later where Mike offered us a warm cup of coffee and some oilskins… He then gave us each a fly that looked like a marlin lure… These flies are about 40 cm in lenght and it was then when I realized why he told us to bring our 9 weight outfits…

We fished in a mixture of snow and sleet and lost all feeling in our hands, on top of that casting a 40cm fly even on a 9 weight was not an easy task… Later during the day the weather subsided and I decided to change to a local tigerfish fly which we took with… This proved much easier to cast and I could get some proper distance between myself and the fly…

It was when the sun eventually produced itself and the clouds dissapeared, that a little pike decided to come out and play… He grabbed my tiger fly with such verocity that I almost lost the rod…

after a minute or two I had him next to the boat, I asked Mike to remove the fly after seeing his teeth, we took a quick photo and allowed him to roam free again… I beleive we would have had a lot more success in better weather conditions but at least I have another species on my cv and a tick on the bucket list.