Something’s in the Water

Steve Erwin, the artist himself

Steve Erwin, the artist himself

Word and Photo by Gero Lilleike

If you have read The Steve Erwin Interview – The Wave Hunter, then you know that Steve is a talented artist, whether he’s sketching in a notepad, spray-painting on a canvass or making funky T-shirts, his art stands out as being bold and unique. I had the pleasure of witnessing Steve (Stencilworx) in action recently and here’s what he was up to.

What might that be?

What might that be?

When I first saw the canvass, I was confused as to where Steve was going with this piece but he assured me that the stencil was going to ‘pull the whole thing together’. Steve did his work while I watched the canvass come to life and the end result was impressive. “I am going to call it Something’s In The Water” he tells me. “Because it’s the first of many to come,” he adds.

There's Something in the Water by Steve Erwin

There’s Something in the Water by Steve Erwin

Inspiration for the work came from his brother, Gavin Erwin, an excellent all-round fisherman and fishing artist who resides in Johannesburg and also quite possibly from Steve’s recent fly fishing trip to Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway. Steve’s work demonstrates the artistic value of using stencils within the art creation process and in this particular case, adding a whole new level of depth and clarity to this piece while also revealing endless creative possibilities. That creativity often spills off the canvass and onto the chair which is not surprising because art runs deep in the Erwin family. Welcome to the new home of Fish Art…

Steve's Art Throne

Steve’s Art Throne

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On the fly at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Words by: Gero Lilleike

Photographs by: Gero Lilleike and Steve Erwin

I look at Steve and he smiles, his face is brimming with excitement, I know that look, we’re on the fly. The dirt road leading to Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway is narrow and high with the Holsloot River sparkling in the bright morning sun below. We smile some more, for this very river bears our joy, the elusive Rainbow Trout that lured us here.

A little over an hour and a half passed since leaving Cape Town and after a brief supply visit in the small wining town of Rawsonville, we found ourselves here, in what would make every fly fisherman drool with envy, the Stettynskloof Valley, the perfect setting to test your fly fishing mettle.

Leatherfoot on the fly in the Holsloot River

Leatherfoot on the fly in the Holsloot River

Not only is Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway a superb and well recommended dry-fly fishing venue in South Africa, it’s also an equally superb wedding venue, a place where knots are tied, with the river, mountains and sky bearing witness to the deed. Steve and I however had Improved Clinch knots to tie, and after a friendly welcome we descended on Campsite 6, our trout haven on the banks of the Holsloot River.

We soon discovered that we weren’t alone. On the opposite bank, a male baboon was rustling in the bush and vanished upon sighting us. His bark of disapproval at disturbing his morning tea party followed shortly after. Peace then returned to the Stettynskloof Valley with only the gentle sound of water trickling over rocks to be heard.

Steve strikes the first catch of the day

Steve strikes the first catch of the day

We agreed to fish first and set up camp later considering that the trout would in all likelihood be off the bite in the heat of the day. I came armed with numerous fly patterns suitable for various conditions but opted to start with the Rough And Buoyant (RAB) fly, which is also funnily known as the Red Arsed Bastard. The RAB fly was specifically developed by Tony Biggs, a well-known South African angler, for use in the clear streams that are common in the region and is a must-have fly to carry in your fly-box if you plan on fly fishing in the Western Cape.

Steve's first catch of the day

Steve’s first catch of the day

Unsurprisingly, after only five minutes on the water, with my first cast barely out, I heard Steve shout with enthusiasm as his first trout rose to the occasion and gobbled his fly. Steve’s take set the precedent and he went on to catch three more trout during the day. The hunt was on and we decided to explore and fish the pools further downstream. The trout were breaking water and I neatly presented my RAB on the surface. Two seconds later my first rainbow of the day came to greet me, perfect timing indeed.

The earthy and vibrantly colored Holsloot River was clear and refreshingly cold, offering pleasant respite from the mid-afternoon heat and with the river beside us we had lunch and relaxed under the cool shade of the trees with a semi-cold beer in-hand, discussing our assault tactics for the upcoming ‘evening rise’. The evening shift soon came and we were on the water once more, but this time we weren’t so lucky. The trout weren’t on the bite and activity was scarce, making the situation increasingly difficult to read and somewhat frustrating.

By sunset, we hadn’t caught anything, even after trying various tactics such as changing flies and adapting and refining our casts, our attempts were futile, the trout had the upper hand, for now. A warm fire and well-deserved meal was our reward for the day and with the full Moon overhead and bellies full, we retired to the comfort of our tent for some sleep.

Life is good on the banks of the Holsloot River

Life is good on the banks of the Holsloot River

The trout in the region were introduced in the 1890’s and are wild with no stocking taking place here. The specimens are small, averaging between 10 and 16 inches and light tackle is therefore preferable which will give you the impression of a much larger fish at the end of your line, but only when you manage to hook one. The Holsloot River is somewhat unique in that it’s born from a dam at the head of the valley and the water temperature is a couple of degrees cooler than other streams in the area, making it more fishing-friendly in the hot summer months when other streams are too warm.

Fly fishing paradise

Fly fishing paradise

The sound of the river guided me out of my slumber and I was soon sipping on hot cup coffee and eagerly watching the river for any sign of activity, all was calm, the trout were nowhere to be seen but Steve’s snoring could be heard for miles. It wasn’t long before the sun kissed the mountain peaks and I decided to get my line in the water. After my third cast, I felt a light tug and a nibble, I had landed my second and last trout of the day.

Steve on the morning shift

Steve on the morning shift

We fished for the rest of the morning with no success and pulled all sorts of tricks out the bag, but nothing worked. The trout had enough of us and weren’t going to be gulled again. Our time at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway had come to an end but at least we would return to Cape Town pleased and satisfied that we experienced the Holsloot River and managed to land some of the Rainbow Trout that call it home.

Happy about that one

Happy about that one

The scenery at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway is nothing short of phenomenal, with mountains, farmlands and the river creating appealing scenery for anyone and everyone who appreciates nature. The moment you arrive, Dwarsberg grabs you and absorbs you, it truly is a special place that is well worth a visit if you are exploring the Cape Winelands and surrounds. Do yourself a favor and get there, you may very well find that you never want to leave.

For more information about Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway and it’s accommodation options visit http://www.trouthaven.co.za or email info@trouthaven.co.za.

The scenery speaks for itself

The scenery speaks for itself