Red letter day – Grunter heaven

Chris Bladen Sculpture Spotted Grunter Breede River

Red letter day – Grunter heaven

I’ve had a fair bit of luck when it comes to fly fishing, but the spotted grunter (Pomadasys commersonnii), a local saltwater species we target on fly in our estuaries, is another story! They’re known as our ‘permit’ because they can be so difficult and unpredictable. You sometimes hear about a lucky guy who caught five or even more grunters in a day, but I haven’t caught five in my whole life – and I’ve spent countless hours targeting them.

A couple of weeks ago my family and I went to the Breede River for a long weekend.

During the first three days I was greeted with the normal grunter behaviour. I walked for miles looking for feeding/tailing fish and carefully cast a fly at the few I saw – nothing new, no results.

Rena suggested that I stay on for a couple of days to get some sculpting done in peace and quiet. On the morning she and the girls went back to Cape Town, I immediately went looking for fish! I drove my truck to the river, then had to decide whether to go upriver or down. I picked down, as most of my previous exploration was upstream. When I got to the mudflat it was the usual scene, with the odd telltale movement of fish. I started casting flies, but with little success. Now and again one would come and have a closer look at the presentation, but then spook off at pace. I finally had a bit of luck – a spotty ate my fly and I was in heaven! I carefully released him and continued fishing, with nothing else to show.

The next day I went to the same spot, but earlier into the tide. With my second cast, a grunter smashed my fly so hard that it broke my leader. I tied on a new tippet and fly, and within a couple of casts I was into lovely specimen. Now I was really in heaven – two grunters in as many days! The next two and a half hours were out of this world – I managed to catch a total of seven spotted grunters! I suppose it had a lot to do with being in the right spot at the right time and tide, with the colour of the water and salinity being perfect, and who know how many other factors could play a role – but I thank my luck that all these conditions were perfect.

Long live the spotted grunter!

St Brandon – my personal trip of a lifetime!

St Brandon – my personal trip of a lifetime!

I couldn’t believe my luck when my mate Andrew dangled this carrot in front of me: an opening on a trip out to St Brandon – and my darling wife suggested I should go!

St Brandon, also known as the Cargados Carajos Shoals, is an Indian Ocean archipelago about 430 kilometres northeast of Mauritius consisting of a number of sandbanks, shoals and islets. I’m almost sure it’s the best bonefishing destination on our beautiful planet.

After enduring the 26-hour crossing from Mauritius by boat, we settled into our lodge and tackled up for the week’s fly fishing ahead of us. Joining us were five Americans and a Brit, a great bunch of guys all with the same mission – to fish hard and to have fun!

The first morning had us up bright an early, but the wind had picked up overnight and was blowing at near gale force. I doubted that we’d be doing any fishing, but to my surprise the guides didn’t seem to think much of it, so we played along and soon headed out to the flats clad in raincoats. When we reached our destination we hopped out of the boat and started wading out. It wasn’t long before I spotted something that resembled a tail some distance away. I pointed it out to our guide, and he confirmed that it was a bonefish – and a pretty good-looking one too. I made the cast, and as I started stripping the fly the fish ate it – judging by the reaction, I realized this was a very good fish indeed. Fifteen minutes later we netted a beautiful bonefish that tipped the scale at 11lb! Later that same day, I was rewarded with a lovely permit too. What a start to an epic trip!

Believe me, I could write another five pages about the trip, but let me rather just give you a summary.

St Brandon has some very good GT fishing as well. In general, the St B’s GTs are big and smart. We spent quite a lot of time hunting them, hooking some and losing them, but on day four I managed my personal best day with a 104cm GT, a bonefish and a permit. Me and my guide, Milan Germishuizen were super ecstatic as we had achieved an Indian Ocean Grand Slam!

I caught three permit in total, many bonefish, some bluefin trevally and the GT. Without a doubt, this was my best flats fishing trip, and will be etched into my memory forever.

Many thanks to Flycastaway for hosting an epic trip with great guides and an awesome vibe throughout our visit.

Chris Bladen St Brandons Permit
Chris Bladen St Brandons Giant Trevally
Chris Bladen St Brandons Giant Trevally
Chris Bladen Bonefish Giant Trevally

Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament

Chris Bladen Golden Fly Tournament

Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament

I really enjoyed creating a new sculpture of a tarpon that will be used for the annual Golden Fly Tarpon Invitational Tournament in Florida, USA. The tournament has been using my sculptures as first prize for angler and guide-to-angler for a number of years and I feel honoured to be the supplier once again. Well done to the winners and thank you for your ongoing support.
I also created a small tarpon pendant for the Ladies’ Tarpon Tournament that was used in their silent auction in aid of a charity organisation.

Tarpon Study
Edition: 20
Size: 21 x 27 x 62cm

Experience the World of Fly Fishing (EWF)

Chris Bladen Fly Fishing

Experience the World of Fly Fishing (EWF)

In April I attended and exhibited some of my sculptures at EWF, Europe’s premier fly-fishing expo, which is held in the village Fürstenfeldbruck, 32km outside Munich.

Munich was a wonderful experience – such a well-organised, beautiful city, and I especially loved seeing all the public sculptures in and around the city centre. The show organisers, Robert and Michaela Stroh and their entire family, made me feel like family too and helped me set up my stand and unpack my bronzes. The venue, an ancient cloister, was the perfect setting, with a little stream
flowing through the beautiful manicured gardens.

It was great to meet fly fishers from across Europe and make new acquaintances. The feedback on my work was much more than I could have hoped for and I sold out my jewellery range before the show was even halfway through.

I’ve committed to joining the team next year for an exhibition. This time, I’ll take the family along and hopefully get to do a bit more exploring of Germany, Austria and Slovenia – and perhaps even cast a fly in some of those famous rivers!

Above are some of the trout sculptures I exhibited.

Trout Study – Stainless Steel
Edition: 15
Size: 42 x 14.5 x 24cm

Brown Trout Study
Edition: 20
Size: 30 x 12 x 21cm

Eco-Logic Awards 2019

Chris Bladen Brown Trout

Eco-Logic Awards 2019

I was one of 15 artists invited to create artworks inspired by their love and concern for the natural world. The exhibition aimed to speak to current environmental issues and raise funds for the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

The exhibition was featured at the prestigious Eco-Logic Awards held at Sun International’s Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town on World Environment Day. Afterwards the exhibition was showcased at The Studio Art Gallery in Simon’s Town.

I chose the brown trout as subject as it is a classic freshwater fish that has been iconic amongst the salmonid family for hundreds of years. It is a fish that needs clean, cold, well-oxygenated water and has a low tolerance to polluted water systems. Global warming, heavy metals, plastics and antibiotics are increasingly posing a threat to our wild fish population. I hope to inspire an appreciation of the beauty of our marine and bird life, and the desire to respect and conserve them.

Riverdance – Brown Trout
Edition: 15
Size: 55 x 28 x 79cm

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