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Blue Ribbon Umgeni

#BRU Restoring the Umgeni as a trout stream

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stream restoration

Follow up at Big Rock

In early December we were back at the river near “Big Rock”, and that little footbridge over the Furth Stream.  The bridge was fitted with a piece that stabilises the cable handrails, sandwiches the poles together, and provides a point to secure the fittings with a chain so that we don’t lose them in a flood one day.

We also visited the area that was cleared of brambles with brushcutters by Breandan Mc Kibbin and team at our “big rock day”, and started the process of spraying the regrowth, now that we can get in there and pick them off stem by stem. What a pleasure to be able to walk around now that the high bramble is gone…..thank you Breandan!

IMG_20191206_115423IMG_20191206_143649IMG_20191206_143746

Our chemicals were supplied by the DEA , and labour, transport and spray equipment by the Natal Fly Fishers Club.

The fruits of our labours

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. Umgeni River-63

Grass

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).

Furth Oct 25 2017-4

Stoneycroft-27

 

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 chairman@nffc.co.za

Stoneycroft

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.

Stoneycroft-22

 

Stoneycroft-44

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.

Stoneycroft-15

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.

Progress on the Furth Stream

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.

Furth below waterfall before start of WWF work

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.

Furth below waterfall as at 29 Oct 2017

 

Mike retrieves the drone after the flight:

Drone-6

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.

 

 

An invitation

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.

All are welcome:  No charge

Umgeni-20

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:

 

Invitation

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.

Umgeni-16

Head back to Il Postino afterwards for a pizza lunch and craft beer.

Il Postino is along the Dargle Road, just 4.8kms from Piggy Wiggly on the midlands meander.  Accurate directions : click this blue link HERE

Questions?  Phone Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or email chairman@nffc.co.za

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.

Quick details:

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)

Cost:  Nil

 

#BRU2

#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.

bru-7-of-16

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…….

#BRU2.

Watch this space.

Why stiles?

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:

stlies-1-of-4

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.  

Blue what?

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:

Continue reading “Blue what?”

It is done

Well….largely done….

Before:

before-a

After:

after-a


Before:

before-b

after-b

With thanks to :

  • Don’s Tree Fellers
  • Russell Watson
  • DUCT
  • Alfred Zuma & team
  • Roy Ward
  • Anton Smith
  • Howard Long
  • Murray Hibbs
  • Irritech

Polishing it off

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:

last bit

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!

The NFFC is not new to this.

Did you know, that the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) was busy working on the Umgeni as far back as 1974!

Inspiration from the USA

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.

Josh Glovinsky Driftless article
Photo from “A Tight Loop”, from the article by Josh Glovinsky

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.

Anton & Alison

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.

Anton & Alison

What a fantastic commitment!

NFFC work parties:

Video:

 

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