Friday, 3 January 2020

KNYSNA: Gold, Fishing, Mermaids & White Horse


CAPE ARGUS - 1886 & 1939
Knysna Gold Fields
Mr. Bain’s Report on the Knysna Gold Fields with Maps complete, now ready. Early application for limited number of Copies should be made to Clerk in charge Government Stationery Office, No. 23, Grave Street.
Price: One Shilling
(CAPE ARGUS -1886, May 29)



A fine kabeljou of 76lb was caught on rod and reel 
by Mr. D. Tait fishing from the railway bridge on Saturday.
(CAPE ARGUS - 1939, March 24)

CAPE ARGUS – 1939, March 6
The opening of the Black Bass fishing season at the beginning of the year heralds an entirely new era in the fascinating sport of angling in the Knysna District. Well known as Knysna is for the excellence of its salt water fishing, only a few paid any attention to the fresh water possibilities, so this new pastime comes as a surprise to many whose eyes and attention for the most part were focused on the salt water side of the game.
Black Bass fishing is available, not in some small dam, but in die wide expanse of Knysna’s most beautiful lake, the five-mile long water of Groenvlei, the origin of whose name is at once apparent immediately the lake comes into view from the top of the surrounding sand hills.
STORIES
This land-locked lake brings down the age’s stories of ghosts and mermaids, of bottomless depths and subterranean passages to the sea, whose booming may be heard across the mile-wide strip of sand veld which separates them. From the crest of the overlooking hills, the lake appears peaceful, unruffled and undisturbed. No thoughts of “ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties” could break the harmony of the Scene, but as the ghillie spins his mythical stories a feeling of eeriness comes over one as the reed-grown shore are approached and the “things that go flop in the night” assume bigger proportions than they really warrant. Across the vlei, acres of dark green bush spreading half-way up the hillside catch the eye, and the ghillie informs us that the bush is so dense that no man can walk through it, and even hunting dogs find difficulty in penetrating the thorn-bound fastness of the “duine” bush-buck. A bark! A defiant bark! Echoes across the still waters. What could it be? We refrain from asking, although the hairs on our heads began to tingle.

PREDICTS RAIN
The ghillie predicts rain, for says he, “did you hear that bush-buck ram? They always bark when rain is expected.” Our hairs settle down once more!
We are taken to a delightful shady little spot where the springy turf reaches to the water’s edge. Baskets and rods are laid aside and shoes removed. We are to wade for our bass which are most numerous in a backwater within the wide margin of reeds. The black oozy mud tickles our toes but after passing through the five-yard strip of reeds, we find ourselves on sandy bottom over-grown with Chara waterweeds.
We hear the splash of coot as we approach, but have eyes only for fish. Just beneath the surface and apparently resting on the Chara, we see our first bass, a beauty about 18 inches long and not a bit shy. Will he take a fly or a spinner?
The fly is our choice and with trembling hands and excitement at a high pitch, line is drawn off and out flicks a silver-bodied March Brown. It alights beautifully, just beyond the fish. Will he take it, or will he…. W…A…I…L…
It sounded like the scream of someone drowning. And not very far off either!
Mermaids, pirates, spooks.
“Ha! Ha! – Ha! Ha!” and turning in bewilderment we see our ghillie laughing at our fright. “That was only a coot!” was the reassuring answer to our look of inquiry.
ONLY BIRDS
It took us some time to get accustomed to the extraordinary noises made by these queer birds. The stories we had heard of Groenvlei had got us somewhat on edge, otherwise we should have been much more composed. But that bass had gone, so flicking the fly into likely looking spots we waded further afield.
The isolated reeds troubled us considerably and more than once we got hung up but fortunately, we could walk the few yards to the offending obstacle and release the hook. A bass passed us at close quarters, and a short cast made him turn. The next cast fell just short of him, but like a flash he took it and the fight was on. It is surprising that fish living in such still water could give such an exhibition of unbounded energy. Out of the water he leapt, shaking his head in a desperate attempt to throw the hook. A sharp, short rush, and into the air again went this glistening strip of muscle. Hither and thither, with splashing and darts went this bass until, tiring, he made for the reeds, but surely the strain of the taut line led him back again. Once more in the open water with a willing spirit but weakened flesh he made a desperate bid for freedom, but the ghillie was handy and with a deft scoop the fish was in the landing net. He was in good condition, measured 14 inches and turned the scale at just over two pounds.
NATURAL CAMOUFLAGE
We wondered why these fish should be called “black” bass as we slipped the glistening green fish into our creel. His dark green colour was the exact shade of the Chara, from which it had no doubt adapted its colour as a natural camouflage and protection. There is something intriguing about this form of fishing which is not just the landing of fish. The surroundings, the birds, the reeds, the wildness of it all. The pleasure of casting the fly, the childlike pleasure of wading, and, of course, the company, all combine to make it something unusual to the general conception of fresh water angling. We saw bass, we hooked bass and we played them, and every one of them put up a game and desperate fight.
When a “c-oee” from the shore summoned us to coffee and sandwiches we realized how much the sport had gripped our attention. Time had flown and we were as hungry as the proverbial hunter. Refreshed and rested, we were keen to be off to the other end of the lake where the water was deep and a boat awaited us. Were the bass only among the reeds or were they in the deep water too? Soon we should know.
Arrived at the spot, no time was lost in stowing the rods in the bow. A pick-a-back ride landed us in a comfortable dinghy and through a small opening in the heavily reeded shore we glided to the quiet splash of the oars into the open waters of Groenvlei.
FOR THE MIDDLE
A spoon bait was paid out from one of the rods and for some distance we skirted the reeds, entering here and there secluded little backwaters where we saw and hooked several bass. Satisfied that they were in the reeds at this end of the lake we rowed for the middle. Ahead we could see thousands of wild ducks which kept an even distance from us until, startled by something, we knew not what, they flew up with a great deal of splashing and quacking and made off for another lake some miles away. We were now over the great depths of Groenvlei and so pent up were we with the excitement of the day that had a Loch Ness monster reared his head from the green water we should not have been surprised. Of BASS we saw none!
Our ghillie maintains that during summer while the fry grows to fingerlings the bass keep to the reeds, but later in the year they disappear and he comes to the natural conclusion that they then move off to the deeper waters. He may be right. We know little of their movements as yet.
The best fish taken in Groenvlei weighed four pounds and it is only natural to wonder to what size they will grow.
On December 15, 1934, Mr. Lindsay Barclay, a member of the committee of the Cape Piscatorial Society released 15 Largemouth Black Bass which he brought from the Jonkershoek Hatchery. “Although these bass were only 2½ to 3½ inches long, they had been bred in October/November, 1933, and could be expected to grow out quickly in this virgin water and be ready to breed at the end of 1935.
BAIT
Groenvlei contains numerous “white bait” or freshwater sprats (Gilchristella Spratelloides aestuarius), but although its other fish inhabitants are unknown at present, it is not thought to contain any large species. In 1937 several reports appeared in the Press about black bass being found dead (dropped by a fish eagle, etc.) and in the spring a Mr. Barnard farming near the vlei reported finding young bass.
On December 23, 1937, Mr. Lindsay Barclay went to Mr. Barnard’s farm to investigate this report. Mr. Barnard led him to a backwater where his cattle went to drink, a place shut off from the shallow end of the main lake by a barrier of reeds. This stretch of water is about 75 yards long and 30 yards across, of an even depth of about 30 inches. A dense spongy mass of two kinds of Chara water weeds reached from the firm bottom to within a few inches of the surface of the water, and small clumps of bulrushes and channels and clear spaces in the weed bed completed the picture. As they approached, Mr. Barnard repeated his story of shoals of fry, nests and guarding males; but added that many of the larger fish which first put in an appearance in August, 1937, had by then departed. Mr. Barclay, however, was scarcely prepared for what he actually found.
As he stepped into the water from the footpath a shoal of bass fry whisked away; and so on as he waded slowly about, shoal after shoal – to left and to right – and everywhere he went there were scores of bass nests, some apparently vacated but still sheltering fry. In several instances the male bass were very much in evidence. He was dozens of adult bass, ranging in size from 1lb. to about 2½ lb. They showed practically no reaction to the presence of the intruders – merely moving off a yard or two at their approach. As a study of the habits of the bass it was intensely interesting; and as a reward for the endeavours of the fish-planter most stimulating.” (Extract of the seventh annual report of the Cape Piscatorial Society by Mr. A. Cecil Harrison.)
RELEASED
During the present season full-grown bass have been released in a number if suitable waters in the district, including a large dam at Portland and the slow-running rivers of Knysna, Goukamma, Pisang and Noetzie.
Knysna has for a long time been aware of its fresh-water angling possibilities, and serious attempts wer e made to introduce trout into some of the rivers, but exhaustive experiments showed that the peat-stained waters were too acid for the successful hatching of trout ova, so the acclimatization of trout was abandoned in favour of largemouth black bass, which, up to the present, have done exceptionally well.
It should not be long before Knysna will be in the unique position of being able to offer excellent fresh-water angling amid delightful surroundings in addition to splendid rock, river and lagoon fishing, and the ever attractive if less accessible deep-sea fishing. (F.W. Newdigate)


In South Africa WHITE HORSE whisky of course is the whisky that is equal to a fine liqueur. Screw-cap bottles and flasks are on sale everywhere – even at KNYSNA HEADS.
(CAPE ARGUS - 1939, March 1)

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