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Blue Ribbon Umgeni

#BRU Restoring the Umgeni as a trout stream

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Umgeni River

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Looking back over the posts on this blog, I see I often said things like “Last push” and “finishing it off” . In reality, we kept finding more to do. The upside of that was that we had the money to do it.

Sure there were competing needs, and deciding where to spend the money was a head scratcher…we always wanted best bang for our buck, but there was some cash.

Now, as at the end of winter 2020, the cash from the Roy Ward Fund of the Natal Fly Fishers Club is spent! We spent the last R39,000 removing logs and logjams from 1.5 kms of the upper river on the farm Sheardown. The task was completed admirably by our contractor, and the river is looking magnificent.

The Blue Ribbon Umgeni initiative enters the maintenance phase.

Going forward, the contribution of the fly fishers will be determined by fundraising to the Roy Ward Fund. The likelihood is that the extent of that will, at best, enable routine annual maintenance….cutting saplings and spraying bramble on the main river channel. This is commendable and important work and will require ongoing dedication and determination to uphold the practice.

In the interim, Andrew Fowler has taken this river restoration thing a step further, with the launch of Upland River Conservation. That entity looks to catchment-wide land practices, tributary remediation, and other aspects way beyond the ambit of a fishing club.

So, if you are interested, follow that link above, and support “Upland Rivers”. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook and watch the next chapter in this story.

For now, this Blue Ribbon Umgeni blog will remain online as a record of what we achieved between 2013 and 2020. Its been a wild ride, and much has been achieved. To everyone who supported this in every way:

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

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

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.

Follow up no 1

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.

 

Dargle Local Living

Dargle Local living covered our walk along the Umgeni that happened on the morning of our fundraising dinner on May 7th 2017.  Nikki Brighton covers the walk and the background HERE

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

 

13

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.

stiles-on-the-umgeni-4

#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.

NFFC work parties:

Video:

 

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