During the cleanup:
During the cleanup:
Before and after:
Stoneycroft before (November 2017)
and after (April 2018)
We are thrilled with the progress!
She is quite good at avoiding the camera, but she has been a supporter and a hard worker from the start……on the river sowing grass seed, putting up stiles, walking up the Furth valley and along the river to check on progress of contractors. Petro Fowler shares the vision: she is a #BRU enthusiast and supporter of the highest order!
2014…a “Before picture” on Brigadoon
The very last stile: Big Rock just below the Furth stream junction with the Umgen
In the rain!
Christmas 2017: seed planting and Stiles on Furth Farm
Seeding of the Furth stream banks
On a recent visit to the banks of the Umgeni, it was decided that an autumn bramble and wattle spraying would be difficult in view of the rank growth of summer. The Umgeni was blessed with good summer rains, and has flushed and scoured beautifully, leaving gravel runs free of silt, and the river running clear and full.
Contractor Jabulani Mthalane’s advice was sought, and the plan is to wait until the bramble is in flower in November 2018, when both bramble and germinated wattles will be sprayed.
Jabulani surveys the banks at Stoneycroft, which were cleared of mature wattle trees in November 2017.
Visits to the Umgeni in late April and early May revealed that the teff and eragrostis planted at the end of 2017 has germinated well and has covered several spots previously left bare by wattle felling and fire.
The river valley is however thick with blackjacks, as is commonly the case at this time of year, as well as a fair amount of bramble, and wattle seedlings have germinated where we previously cleared. All this is normal, and to be expected however, and the landscape is looking great.
Fishermen enjoying the river are once again reporting brown trout being caught all along the length of river, in places where trout were previously few and far between. Good sized brown trout have also been spotted spawning in the shallows (and even captured on video).
On Friday 29th December 2017 a team of men planted grass seed on the banks of the recently cleared Furth Stream.
The area grassed is represented by the orange lines in the image below:
Thank you to the Natal Fly Fishers Club who supplied the seed in the interests of silt free water below, and to Jabulani Khuswayo and his superb team.
This is what we are working towards: Well grassed banks, clear of wattles, as per the pool in the foreground of this picture. This is how the river looked before acacia mearnsii invaded. This pool was cleared and the banks re-grassed in 2016.
Petro Fowler sowing a mix of eragrostic curvula and eragrostis teff on ground left bare after clearing and burning. Two academic papers supplied by WWF have somewhat contradictory reports on germination success of e curvula. Both seem to say e teff will germinate. Previous trials on the bank of the Umgeni itself showed disappointing germination. 7 Kg of mixed seed was sowed on Saturday 18th November on a section of the Furth stream valley, and was raked in deeper than the previous trail. We will wait and see how it goes.
With summer rains upon us, it is clear that we urgently need to sow grass seed on areas left bare by the clearing activities of all parties. The after effects of storms are clearly evident out in the open veld below bare patches, and in the streambeds and in little tributaries and gulches……topsoil is shifting! This is true of the Furth Stream area, as well as Stoneycroft, and we would do well to check smaller patches on Furth farm too.
The WWF have helped with literature on which species to use. The NFFC has bought some grass seed. The contractor on the Furth stream has done his best to lay branches across the slope (in line with the contour).
Now we need helpers with metal rakes and a spare morning. How about it?
Volunteers can contact Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org
From the 7th to the 10th November, NFFC appointed contractor “Dons Tree Felling” worked together with hired labour and volunteers to clear another stretch of the Umgeni. Two TLB’s, and a tractor were used to pull old and fresh logs from the river. All streamside wattles were felled and removed, and the vast majority of logs were removed.
The stream banks still need to be cleared of brambles, but it would be true to say that the riverine landscape over just short of a kilometer has been restored to that of open grassland, and is looking great. This brings the project to 8.5Kms of river cleared.
Thanks to The NFFC for funding the work from the Roy Ward Fund (in excess of R40,000), to Russell Watson and Irritech for machines, to Howard Long for chains, Dave Prentice and Dries Ellis from the NFFC and to Don Stirling of Dons Tree fellers. And a big thank you to the 20 or so men who performed this back breaking work.
On the 29th October, two committee members of the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) , were on the Furth stream to do the month end inspection of the WWF appointed contractor’s work.
This significant tributary of the Umgeni (as well as the Poort Stream and upper Wakefield Stream) are being cleared of wattle trees by the WWF, who saw to initial clearing a while back, and are now partnering with the NFFC to achieve 2 years follow up work (2017/2018). Trout Unlimited in the States have long held the view that “look after the tributaries, and you look after the river”. This project plays to that tune, and is seen by the NFFC as important to its fishery on the Umgeni River.
We had use of a drone, thanks to Mike Smith from Renen, and were able to take these awesome shots to show you all what Jabulani Mthalane has achieved since August.
Note: the two patches of trees at centre top have been cleared too, but were outside the flight path on the day. Note also that the mandate is to clear the left bank entirely, but only 30m from the stream on the right bank.
Mike retrieves the drone after the flight:
Mike’s generosity in doing the drone work, allows us to show the WWF project managers in Cape Town, where their money is being spent. And thanks to Mike’s computer literacy and enthusiasm, we even have a 3D model. The areas still requiring follow up in coming months were photographed and mapped as well, which will give us excellent reference material to track the work.
Thank you Mike.
On 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th November, we will have Dons Tree Fellers, Russell Watson’s & Irritech’s TLBs, and volunteers working to further clear the upper Umgeni. We are clearing 3 very steep sections on Furth Farm, that require specialist tree feller skills. Once done there we will be moving upstream to the “Stoneycrofty” property to clear big log jambs in the river, fell and poison trees, and start with bramble spraying on another approx 0.9km of river.
These areas are marked in RED on the map excerpt below:
We are in need of more manual (non specialised) labour to pull branches, tie and untie chains, and spray bramble.
Anyone able to come along and bring a few workers: The Natal Fly Fishers Club will re-imburse you for your labourer’s daily wage.
For detail or to volunteer, please call Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or mail email@example.com
The following resource has been put together for those interested in fly fishing on the upper Umgeni. It is a free PDF document, that you can download and print. It is packed with information, history, stories, maps and the like. It is also regularly updated as new information comes to light.
Enjoy: Trout on the doorstep
Having felled a great many wattles, the ground is now open to the sunlight along stretches of the Umgeni that were previously shaded. The sunlight (as well as fire), prompt the germination of seeds.
Unfortunately this continues for a proven 50 years after the trees are gone! Yes FIFTY!
So regular follow ups to remove saplings is essential.
The Natal Fly Fishers Club, has employed DUCT to facilitate and manage a team of river workers , who are part of a Government “expanded Public Works Programme”. The NFFC accepted DUCT’s quote for the management, and the team has been working all of this week (Sept 11 to 15, 2017) and will work into next week to get the work done.
They are felling and poisoning all saplings and ring barking any trees that we may have missed in #BRU1. They are doing this in a 60 metre wide band down the valley (30m either side of the stream), over a length of 7.5Kms.
The Worlwide Fund for Nature, with donations from Nedbank and others, has taken responsibility for clearing two tributaries of the Upper Umgeni, namely the Poort Stream, and the Furth Stream. After the initial clearing in earlier years, WWF commenced with follow up work in mid 2017.
Following relocation of the WWF project manager to Cape Town, the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) has stepped in and volunteered to project manage the work on a day to day basis. Contractor Jabulani is doing a great job, and as at date of this, over a kilometre of the Furth stream is again flowing in sunshine, between banks that should cover with grass in the spring.
Follow up work will continue throughout 2018. Thereafter the baton is handed to the farm owner to keep up the good work, in terms of the WWF stewardship program.
Gordon Van Der Spuy is an animated and excitable actor from Cape Town. He is also a fly-fisherman and fly tyer , and a passionate one at that. In 2016 Gordon started an annual, national fly fishing and fly tying expo. At the 2017 event (the second one), Gordon auctioned off a number of donated items to raise funds.
R21,500 of the proceeds of that auction were then donated to the Natal Fly Fisher’s Club, for the #BRU2 project.
Thank you Gordon. We salute you. The funds will be used sparingly and carefully to achieve great things!
On the morning of Saturday 6th May 2017, a guided, 7 km morning walk will be held along the banks of the upper Umgeni River.
This is a casual stroll, suitable for kids, partners, fishermen and conservationists alike. It aims to showcase and celebrate what has been achieved to date, and highlight future plans for stream restoration, but above all it is intended as a pleasant morning hike in beautiful countryside.
The walk is to be guided by Andrew Fowler who says:
All you need to bring is a hat, reasonable walking shoes, and a water bottle. A camera and binoculars may prove useful.
You can leave your car at Il Postino, and jump in with someone else, or drive up in convoy to Brigadoon farm (+-16 kms from Il Postino). There we can leave cars parked at the dairy, and will be dropped off in a 4 X 4 at the lower boundary, to walk upriver, to be collected again at the end of the walk and brought back on the back of the 4 X 4 to our cars.
Each participant will receive a booklet about the upper Umgeni, with details about its history, fishing, birdlife etc. Along the walk, milestones, wattle clearing projects, good fishing spots and the like will be pointed out.
Head back to Il Postino afterwards for a pizza lunch and craft beer.
Questions? Phone Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For planning purposes, please drop Andrew an sms/Whatsapp or e-mail to advise if you plan to join in, but even if you have not, you are still welcome on the day.
Where: Il Postino Pizzeria, Impendle Road, lower Dargle, and on to Brigadoon, 16kms further up the road
When: gather at 8:00 am, leave for Brigadoon at 8:30 am on Saturday 6th May 2017
Bring: Walking shoes, hat, water bottle, Binos, camera
Suitable for: Fishermen, birders, hikers, families, kids (say over 6yrs of age)
Lucky 13. That is the number of stiles now erected over about 7.5kms of the Umgeni, to allow fishermen to hike and fish all that water without having to climb through a barbed wire fence. What a pleasure! The last of the stiles were erected in the rain on Saturday 4th March by Anton Smith, Roy Ward, Nunu O’Connor and Andrew Fowler.
#BRU officially ended at the end of 2016.
That is because it was originally decided that people would have a stomach for all the hard work for a limited period of time, before it became ‘stale’, and they started to lose interest, at least to some degree.
It has been a fantastic experience, and we have transformed a piece of Trout stream. 98 of the 100 limited edition copies of the book “Stippled Beauties” are sold, and the last two will no doubt go soon. Either way the full proceeds together with all other donations have been spent. (About R120,000!) There are a few wattles left here and there on steep sections, and from time to time a log jam may need some work, and some bramble will need to be sprayed.
Re-growth of wattles WILL be a big issue, and we will have to team up with the farmer for a day or two a year to go work on saplings before they get too big to manage by hand.
So we are done, right?
Well……we are speaking to some landowners upstream of where we have worked about access to their water, and they might be inclined to help us if we help them. And WWF have come good on their promise to do 2 years follow up on the tributary known as “The Furth”, and if we were to work alongside them, we could clear that to create a great small stream fishery. And then two different fly fishing bodies have come forward with offers of SUBSTANTIAL fundraising to do more…….
Watch this space.
We believe that part of keeping the upper Umgeni a pristine environment, is to make it a treasured place to many people. That way people will visit, and pull out the odd wattle for example. For it to be treasured, people should visit it often. And to visit it often, they need to enjoy being there.
Fly-fishermen enjoy their day more if the don’t have to deal with alien invasive bramble, and if they don’t have difficult fences to clamber through.
So bramble gets sprayed, and we put up these fence stiles for those hiking the river banks:
Lucky Mthalane and Zithulele Zuma putting up a fence stile. They were part of the team that cleared logs from the pool in the background earlier in the year.
It is always encouraging to see what others are doing to improve and restore rivers elsewhere, and to scout for potential advisors for the future.
Here is what the Wild Trout Trust are up to in the UK on the river Dever:
Here’s what is troubling fly-fishermen on the Smalblaar in the Western Cape, together with a very level headed response from the Cape Piscatorial Society:
And a good summary of what is being achieved by TUDARE in Crawford County, in the Driftless area of Wisconsin:
It is good to see flyfishers actively restoring environments!
This time around we have no hired contractors, and we are completely dependent on YOU, the volunteer!
Here is your chance to join the last volunteer day on the Umgeni for 2016 and be part of the #BRU initiative.
At 8:00 am on Saturday 19th November volunteers will gather at Il Postino restaurant in the Dargle, to travel up to the upper Umgeni in convoy and do battle with bramble.
Various parties have donated or lent items such as knapsack sprayers and chemicals. The plan is to start at the upper boundary, and for a team to line up either side of the river, and to work downstream, spraying bramble plants alongside the river. You will have a “support vehicle” mixing and re-supplying knapsacks with Garlon spray.
Any additional volunteers will cut and paint wattle saplings that have re-grown, or assist with the erection of fencing stiles.
You will need to bring:
There is no need to RSVP, and you can decide to join at the last minute.
If you DO plan to attend it would be useful for planning purposes to know you are coming, so please do drop an e-mail to : email@example.com with your cellphone number and first name, and we will add you to the whatsapp group.
If it rains, we will delay to the following day (Sunday 20th), and if that days is also hampered by weather we plan to re-group on Saturday 26th November…same time, same place. Postponement or other important info will be advised on the Natal Fly Fisher’s Club (NFFC) Facebook page and on the above whatsapp group.
We hope to see you there!
A number of people have asked what the term “Blue Ribbon” is all about. Some have even misquoted it as “Blue River”….even in print.
The term “Blue Ribbon Fishery” is one used extensively by government and other organisations in the United States, and was coined as early as the 1970’s. By the early 1990’s publications were regularly referring to the term, and there are now many books bearing the term in their titles or subtitles.
Wikipedia defines Blue Ribbon water as follows:
With thanks to :
This is the last piece of river on Furth/Rathmines farm that needs heavy pulling power to rid the river bank of heavy wattle infestation:
At top right of the picture you can see the brush piles from work undertaken in 2015.Above that the purple arrow denotes where there is a crossing. We can get tractors across there (this is the ONLY access), and get to the northern river banks, and work where the yellow lines run. We think we can also fell the trees on the very steep southern banks denoted in red, and drag them across onto the northern side.
By way of scale: the red lines are 155 metres and 180 metres in length respectively. The yellow lines total about 650 metres. We estimate that this will take 3 days work, with a TLB and tractor, 8 chainsaws, and about 15 labourers. The TLB and tractors have been offered with fuel and drivers by the landowner. Much of the labour will be supplied by the owners of the north bank (Ross Poultry Breeders), and helpers have been offered by DUCT. The cost of the chainsaw gang for 3 days is R24,000.. We are checking with the donors…we might JUST have enough to do it.
After this the remaining trees will be within the capability of the odd volunteer day here and there, and can be incorporated into the yearly ongoing maintenance hereon out.
One nagging small patch just off the picture (top left) where we cant get a tractor either side of the river……but we can do this one tree at a time.
So there we go…this is all that is left to break the back of it!
Several fly-fishing articles have appeared in recent months and years in the online media about flyfishing for Trout in the Driftless area of the USA, such as this one in a publication called “a Tight Loop”. [Lost in Wisconsin, Pg 112]
If you have a look at these and other pictures, you will see that the landcape looks remarkably like that of the Umgeni and other KZN meadow streams, like the middle Mooi River.
Spurred by these similarities, our attention has been drawn to that area’s own stream restoration and conservation efforts, spearheaded by Trout Unlimited in the USA. In fact TU has a conglomeration of chapters and projects described more fully as TU DARE (Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort)
Read HERE about what they are doing. We hope this will inspire the reader to see the vision for the Umgeni, and some of the background, bigger picture and holistic outlook for #BRU.
On the last 2 days of August, the Umgeni valley on Furth farm was again disturbed by a roar of chainsaws and tractors.
Together with Don’s Tree Felling, DUCT, Ross Poultry Breeders, Russell Watson, and NFFC members, numerous trees were felled and dragged away, and some massive log-jams were cleared. We were working downstream from where we ended up in April, and succeeded in closing the last kilometer or so, to where we had previously been working upstream.
We again worked on both sides of the stream, this time felling numerous trees on the north bank, that extended well up the hillsides.
In other words, with the exception of 2 very steep sections of about 150 metres each, the southern banks of the Umgeni on this 6.5Km stretch are now free of wattles!
The Umgeni is now a delight to walk and to fish. #BRU Stalwart Roy Ward, together with Andrew Fowler, and visiting Trevor Sithole enjoyed a morning out on the river on opening day, the 1st September:
But the fat lady has not yet sung: We have bramble spraying to do, and those 2 steep sections to tackle. There is also more to do on the northern banks. Then the dead bramble and piles of brush will need to be burnt, but these are the last steps, and there is a sense of conquest!
What do we hope to achieve before the end of 2016?
And finally: To hold a celebratory family day on the river near year’s end, to walk the river, fish it, perform Mini SASS tests, and enjoy what all the contributors to this wonderful initiative have achieved over the three years.
We are delighted that the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC), voted unanimously at their June committee meeting, to donate another R10,000 to the #BRU initiative.
The funds will be used to hire in contractors to clear the last continuous kilometer or so of the south bank of the Umgeni on Furth farm, and if time and resources permit, to start to tackle the two steep spots, which until now have been bypassed.
The above picture shows the last stretch of Umgeni still to be tackled on the south (right hand) bank.
On Friday the 27th May 2016 schoolboys from Michaelhouse and St Johns College (JHB) joined forces and spent the morning doing follow up work on a stretch of the upper Umgeni River.
The area tackled (just above the Dargle falls) had previously been cleared , both by “working for water” several years ago, and by landowners William Griffin and Chris Howie. As will become the case with all the areas cleared to date, this was follow-up work, eradicating re-growth of wattle and bug weed. This work, although arguably less glamorous that the felling of big trees, is going to become critical if we want to prevent the area reverting back to its overgrown condition.
The boys, with guidance from their respective teachers, Riegardt Kotze and Andrew Caldwell, as well as Roy Ward and Andrew Fowler, did a superb job, cutting and poisoning stems. Amongst other things the boys learned that these rivers get cold in winter; how to hold onto a panga tight when cutting; and not to walk through bramble barefoot!
Thanks to the boys, their schools, and the committed teachers. Thanks also to the Natal Fly Fishers Club for providing pangas, saws and gloves and to TWK Howick for discounted pricing on these items. We are thankful to Doug Burdon of DUCT who arranged chemicals to stop re-growth. And to Will Griffin and Craig Howie, who had staff working on the river on the same day.
and a little downstream….
Before (note areas ringed in blue)
and after (note same areas ringed in red):
In the last week of April a team of contractors from Don’s tree fellers, The Branch Manager, DUCT, and employees of Russel Watson did battle with wattles. This time around, work started at the top boundary of Furth farm. The plan had been to try to work down to where we had got to in our upward work in March, some 1.4kms from the top boundary. We didn’t get there. This however, does not signal a failure: We found a good river drift that allowed us to work both sides of the river with tractors. As a result we cleaned both sides completely, which is something we have not done before. It meant we only did about 650m of river, but the results are fantastic.
We had a TLB plus two 4X4 tractors and a team of workers from Russel, who, together with Don and Duncan’s guys hauled every last wattle tree and old log out of the river and up the hill out of the floodplain. Added to that we had extra chains courtesy of farmer Howard Long, so we were able to shuttle chains and keep the tractors moving, or alternatively haul logs from way up on firm ground.
How do you thank a man, who asks not to be named, and donates R10,000 to your cause?
He said we can just mention that he is a long standing member of the Natal Fly Fishers Club, who cares. He has already paid over the money, and we are busy getting quotes from contractors to spend it.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
Anton and Alison Smith have undertaken to match the contribution from the sale of the book “Stippled Beauties” on a ‘Rand for Rand’ basis. In other words, for every Rand raised from the proceeds of the limited 1st edition book, they will contribute a further Rand !
All the money will go directly into the hiring of tree felling contractors to clear the upper Umgeni 0n Furth farm.
What a fantastic commitment!
These pictures show the work done by WWF in the hidden valley of the Furth stream. A lot of stems killed, lots of follow up work still to be done! It won’t look pretty for a while , but one should not underestimate how much work it took to get to this point.
The work done by the NFFC has been on the farms Brigadoon and Furth.
Brigadoon was largely tackled in 2014. The more difficult “Furth” is being cleared in 2015/6. The goal for 2016 is to tackle the approx 1.9 kms marked in blue below.
Steep/difficult areas on the south bank marked with circles are being skipped for now, and work is concentrated on the south bank, and only easier trees not requiring tractors, are picked out on the north bank.
The work on the upper Umgeni is being undertaken on farms that may or may not be signed up with the WWF stewardship program, and where the farmer may or may not be a member of the Dargle conservancy. The spirit of the #BRU tag, is to recognise and promote all the good work done regardless of membership or allegiance.
The Dargle conservancy is working on the Dargle Stream (a tributary of the Umgeni). Please support them. To donate R20, just sms “DONATE DARGLE” to the number 40580.
Go on…its just twenty bucks! Do it now!
In 2015, the work that had already started on the Umgeni, needed an identity. The #BRU concept was floated, in which all parties working to a common goal have an opportunity to be identified under a common banner, and in which the collective work gains momentum due to the weight of all who are pulling in the same direction. Reda about that introduction here.
#BRU stands for “Blue Ribbon Umgeni”
Among those active in clearing the Umgeni river are a small group of flyfishermen who enjoy the pursuit of trout in the waters of this river. These are amongst the most passionate conservationists tackling projects on the upper Umgeni.
These are the reasons why we plan to finish this project on a high note, finish “strong” in 2016
2015 work party recce:
On the 11th November 2013 the Natal Fly Fishers Club held a social event in Pietermartizburg. At that event, a lovely young lady was “working the room selling raffle tickets”. A box of flies and a few other goodies were raffled. They raised about R1,700 that night to put towards clearing Alien plants on the Umgeni.
I suppose that was the start of the #BRU initiative. The NFFC side of the project is planned to culminate in 2016. It will have been a 3 year project. We believe it needs an end date. A finish line. 2016 is the last year, as it is for WWF. This has us “galvanised” to finish strongly. To finish well.
Do you want to be part of this in 2016? Are you wondering what part you could play?
Drop a “one liner” to Andrew on truttablog “at” gmail “dot” com .