When I was a young lad I had this dream. This elaborate vision saw me in nature riding a horse with a falcon on my arm. My saddle would be loaded with a 4 weight fly rod on one side, and a double barrelled Purdy shotgun the other. Scouting the area ahead would be two sleek Rhodesian ridgebacks. I would be the terror of every trout and quail in the valley.
I admit now, in hindsight, that it was an ambitious dream for a boy born in the Kalahari Desert. Yet it is strange how certain parts of our childhood dreams always follow us into adulthood. Take fly fishing for example. It is not the easiest way to catch a fish. For that we have earthworms. So why do men and womenfolk pursue this hobby with such passion? I bet you two wooly buggers that most of them do it because at some stage in their youth, they saw someone casting a fly and though “one day that will be me”.
So now, 40 odd years down the line I work on a beautiful reserve with a trout fishery. I ride every once in a while, and at least one of my two ridgebacks thinks it is fun to run in front of a horse. I don’t have a falcon, but in my time I have learnt that falcons belong high in the sky, and not on my arm. I also learnt the importance of balance in nature, and the importance of every single species no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Take the blue swallow for example. Why save it? It has no commercial value, and it is certainly no keystone specie that is crucial to the ecosystem; so then why protect it? We protect it because it is an indicator species. In its presence we can be certain that the rest of the ecosystem is intact. Should we lose the blue swallow however, it would be the first indicator that something is wrong. They are the alarms bells of Mother Nature, the canary down the mineshaft so to speak. It is thought that there may be a less than 30 breeding pairs left in South Africa. We should pay attention.
These indicator species are also a barometer of our environmental consciousness, and to a certain extent our spiritual well being. We don’t just need nature to survive; we also need it for our emotional well being. I dread saying this, but we literally need to stop and smell the flowers every once in a while. Or cast a fly while knowing that an earthworm would get the job done much faster.
So if you feel mildly disconnected and you need a bit of nature, come and visit us at Tillietudlem. Come cast your fly, or sniff some of our flowers. Come visit the blue swallows, or just sit on a rock. Come live your childhood dream.
Manager Tillietudlem Nature Reserve