Deur Christiaan Pretorius
And now for the English version…
YOUR HERITAGE – IT IS AWESOME THAT RSA HAS SUCH A GOOD NAME IN THE INDUSTRY
By Christiaan Pretorius
Editors’ Note: Christiaan deserves everything that is coming to him – guiding international destinations, managing far-flung lodges in tropical destinations and the support from the industry. He is, simply put, one of those rare individuals who are truly as authentic and genuine as they let themselves on to be. Sure he has the fishing skills of a ninja sensei and is renowned as an exceptional guide but more importantly, he has been a role model and of great assistance to youngsters who want to follow in his footsteps. Salute meneer! We requested this article specifically for that reason – to inspire the youth!
Yes he is South African. Yes he is actually Afrikaans (language). Yes he looks better in photographs than we do. And yes, the only thing we have to rub in his face is the fact that we can still enjoy a ‘braai’ (barbeque we guess??) with chops and a local Black Label beer.
I am so proud to be a South African! When you look at the fly fishing industry at the moment, South Africans have gained one hell of a reputation over the last couple of years and it comes down to one thing – we work our asses off and appreciate the perks of hard work. Growing up in South Africa the opportunities to go fishing was few and far between but we had to make it work and therefore most of my weekends as a youngster was spent either on the Vaal river or somewhere in Dullstroom casting some longer lines to Stillwater trout. Paging through paper magazines the bucket list started forming and I had to figure out how to get to all these special places.
All that was required was that ‘never give up attitude’ that South Africans are so well known for.
In my case the hard work started in the form of spending as much time on the water as time allowed. Tying as many flies as possible and to keep evolving, coming up with new patterns techniques etc. Yes it doesn’t sound like the worst way to spend your time but it did take a lot of sacrifice, seeing friends and family less and less, missing most of the parties etc. I was a full-blown addict at a very young age and I always say that becoming a guide was the only thing I ever wanted to do, it’s not a backup plan, it’s not my second option, it was the ONLY plan. It was so bad that I even started home schooling when I was 16 as I felt that school was interfering with my fishing time. After school I did go and study for three years but in all honesty that was just to set my parents at ease before heading into the wilderness.
I also think South Africa has always had world-class guides but they weren’t given the exposure they deserved back in the day. Now being able to film, photograph and document all these beautiful destinations we guide on has changed everything. Sharing our experiences over social media and online has opened up endless opportunities and I am truly grateful for the opportunities we have now in the industry.
Fly fishing has shown me some of the most remote places on the planet, introduced me to lifelong friends and showed me so many different cultures. Lets just say it’s been one hell of a ride.
Achievements – Past, Present and Beyond
I think the best thing I could have ever done was to start competitive fly fishing at a very young age (14 years old). A big shout out to my old man firstly for introducing me to the amazing sport of Fly fishing but also for him making that leap to start competing with me. I was fortunate enough to start representing my country at age 16 and attended my first World Fly Fishing championships in Portugal when I was 18 years old. I was very happy with a top 10 placing in my first international event. I have since represented my country at 7 World Championships all over including Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Norway, America (Vail, Colorado). I was super excited to be the youngest competitor (18) at the senior World Champs in Poland in 2010. Once again if it wasn’t for fly fishing I would have probably never travelled to some of these countries. The competitive scene was by far the steepest learning curve I have ever experienced.
After School I started full time guiding right away and found myself on the Zambezi River (Mozambique) for my first six-month season – Tigerfish was the target specie. My next big break came when my great friend Tim Babich said they are looking for some guides in the Seychelles, more specifically St Brandons atoll. It wasn’t long before I joined FlyCastaway which is one of the leading outfitters when it comes to the Indian Ocean. I was over the moon as a 21 year old to join such a strong company. It wasn’t rocket science and I could feel the vibes from some of the older guides straight away and had to prove myself to them. I worked extra hard every day to make sure I showed my guests a great time with or without fish. I did three full seasons on St Brandons, the last one acting as the Head Guide. Another big break came in 2014 when a well known American company, The Fly Shop based in Redding California, approached me about possibly guiding for them in Kamchatka, Russia, and obviously I replied without hesitation…YES!
This was a great gig as there is only a hand full of foreign guides on the entire Kamchatka peninsula. I have since completed three full seasons as head guide on the mighty Zhupanova River in Kamchatka. As a South African I couldn’t be more fortunate and appreciative to have seen this place…This is as good as trout fishing gets.
When I started looking into different options after St Brandons I got the offer I was dreaming about since I first heard about the Seychelles. Keith Rose-Innes approached me to go guide Astove atoll in the Seychelles. For those of you that don’t know the name, this is probably one of the best if not the best GT fishery on the planet. And you should add it to that bucket list RIGHT NOW. I was super stoked to be joining the very strong Alphonse Fishing Company family.
These guys rock and have done wonders to conserve what they have. Not often that you hear of a fishery that gets better and better every season! This is one of them…
Another great opportunity that presented itself in 2015 was to go and act as camp photographer for one of the best Atlantic fisheries in the Kola Peninsula. 2016 I was asked to go back, but this time my girlfriend Lindi was to join me, as they needed someone to run the show at Kharlovka camp. Lindi also joined me for the next Astove season, this was probably one of my biggest achievements, to have my girlfriend experience these places with me.
After doing two amazing full seasons on Astove I once again felt the need to change. Lindi and I received an offer from well know fly fisherman and partner of Abaco Lodge Oliver White to go and manage his lodge in the Bahamas. This was always going to be the next step for me.
I am also very proud to be an ambassador for The Fly Shop together with Brian O’Keefe. I will host a couple of trips to some of the coolest destinations on the planet including Mexico, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil etc. I am very excited for the future with The Fly shop.
Destinations I Have Fished (…aka to make us all cry!!! – Vagabond Fly)
When I started guiding I made it my goal to move and see as many places as I can when I finished school. Obviously I didn’t expect for things to fall in place so quickly but I am super stoked that it did. Over the past 6 years I have been travelling pretty much non stop and currently have three passports on my name to make it possible to apply for various different Visas at the same time. Is it completely legal? Probably not, but that is what I had to do to make it work.
The first big destination was the Indian Ocean; I have now fished and guided, St Brandons, Alphonse Island and Astove. The second big one for me was Kamchatka in the Russian Far East guiding for freakishly large Rainbow trout.
Other destinations that I have fished include, Guatemala (Sailfish/ Marlin), Nicaragua (Tarpon/Jack/Snook), Austria (Grayling/ Trout), Kola Peninsula (Atlantic Salmon), Bahamas (Bonefish/Tarpon/Permit), Poland, Slovenia, Norway, Czech Republic, Portugal, America and all over the continent of Africa
Saying Thanks to The Brands That Support
Today, sitting on a couch in the Bahamas, I think back at the years and all the cool experiences that have shaped me into who I am today. I am also super proud to be an Ambassador for Sage, which in my opinion has always been one of the leading rod brands in the fly fishing industry. I am also on the Simms guides program; Patagonia pro staff and brands such as Nautilus and Howler Brothers have really supported me big time in the last couple of months. Cortland has also been very helpful in making sure I have the right fly-lines for the job – we are also working on some new custom fly-lines for Billfish on fly.
A sponsorship isn’t just about getting free stuff all the time but also working with a trusted brand and giving them the right feedback they need to always keep growing. Getting free stuff is pretty cool though…
My biggest supporters of all are the guys at The Fly Shop, which made me a part of their team as a pro staff member. This is by far one of the biggest highlights in my fly fishing career. With Fanning Island, Galapagos, Kamchatka and Mexico on the calendar I am super excited what the future holds.
Words of Wisdom for my boys back in South Africa
As a young kid I was super lucky to have someone, in the form of my dad, introduce me to the great outdoors through hunting and fishing. For me there was no hesitation to decide what I wanted to do with my life. It’s a difficult time in South Africa in the sense that not even the best qualification can secure you a stable job anymore and it forces us to look into different directions to make a stable living. It’s a stressful time without a doubt as a teenager taking on life.
My advice will be to not be scared to really follow your passion and make sure whatever you do you enjoy it and not just for the sake of earning big money.
The fly fishing industry is at an all time high and there are so many opportunities out there the main thing is to just get started and get that foot in the door. The networking that goes along with this journey is just one of the small things that makes this, for me, the best career on the planet.