Bless the Black Wattle and a Few other Controversial Ideas

“The only thing you do the same as everyone else is breathe”, a friend of mine once told me. Funny as it may seem, that’s one of the best compliments someone has ever paid me. Growing up, my father told me never to believe what someone told me if it didn’t make sense, regardless of who told it to you. He was basically teaching me to think critically for myself and to arm me mentally for some of the crap that one gets drummed into your head at boarding school. I have always tried to think for myself and form my own opinions. My opinions on wattle trees are maybe a little controversial, but hear me out. What’s the point of having an opinion and not sharing it.

By the way, for foreign readers, a wattle tree that’s indigenous to Australia and has taken to South Africa like a duck to water. It’s taken over large areas of good grazing land where no trees existed before. It is probably South Africa’s most invasive tree.

 I don’t like wattle trees one bit, at least not on my farm. I even have an ongoing wattle eradication program. So why my title of Bless the Black Wattle? Well I try to look at the positive side of things, and look for opportunities, rather than focusing just on the negatives, and wattle trees certainly have some positive attributes. I spend a lot of time fishing rivers that flow through the former homeland/tribal areas. There’s some great fishing to be had in these areas and importantly for me is that not many other fly fishers ever bother with these streams. They are often surrounded by huts and arable lands, but there are some very beautiful and relatively unspoiled areas within the tribal lands. There must be 50 such streams that hold trout in KZN and in the Eastern Cape.  Many of these streams rise in natural forest which is surprisingly pristine. Something I often wondered about is why haven’t the forests been cut down?




Obviously it’s a multi factorial issue, but the main one I can see is that the people in the villages prefer to use wattle as firewood, and thankfully wattle trees are plentiful. All along the rivers I fish you can see the stumps of cut down wattle trees. Most of the natural forests have got wattle trees growing along their fringes and I will often see pickup trucks going and exclusively cutting down and loading up wattle. One of my favourite places that I wrote about in my last article,  “My Secret Paradise…” is one such area. There are literally hundreds of hectares of natural forest in pristine condition, and all bordered by rural Transkei. The people of the villages specifically choose the wattle over any if the indigenous trees for firewood and building their traditional houses. The wattle saplings are easy to cut down, and are long and straight for tying in big bundles to carry on their heads or loading on a trailer. The wood is relatively hard and burns slowly, it’s very plentiful, and it regrows quickly. Part of my parents house is a rondavel, built with mud and wattle, which is the traditional way of building houses in the Transkei. So to dismiss the wattle tree as something that needs to be eradicated might be foolish. I certainly don’t want it taking over my land but to thousands if not millions of people living in the former Transkei and other tribal areas, it’s their main source of firewood and one of their main building materials. For those who like renewable energy, then you just can’t beat it. You cut down a wattle forest and in 5 of 10 years time you have the next generation of saplings ready for harvest. If we were to find a solution to eradicate wattle trees, it could have devastating effects on the last pockets of natural forest left in our former homelands. Imagine now seeing a tractor and trailer loaded with chopped up yellow wood, or stink wood trees being used for firewood and building, now that would be tragic!





Other than my controversial opinions on black wattle Wattle, I have lots more contoversial opinions. What better place to share them than on my very own blog. Im going to list a few things where I think my opinions differ from most of you out there, and maybe I can shed some light on why I believe what I do. Some of you might be offended or think I’m an idiot and decide to not read my blog after this, but I am not writing this for a fan club, it’s for me, my family and my little boy to read one day. You just happen to be able to read it if you want, and see some beautiful photos of places where not many people have been let alone cast a fly.

1. Obviously how and why I fish is different to most people out there. I am more interested in exploring and finding new rivers than I am interested in catching big fish. I would guess that of the 10 or 15 rivers I have written about so far that very few, if any, who have read my blog who have fished more than one or two of the rivers mentioned.

2. I would guess that there are not many serious fisherman who who keep it as simple as I do on the river in terms of gear and fly choice.

3. I am sceptical about the use of expensive materials it our flies. I even question whether CDC or CDL is worthwhile using. That’s a bit like someone saying that the world is flat when we know it’s round. I will have an ongoing discussion and a blog post on my use of CDC. CDC is great looking  stuff and I am trying to prove myself wrong on this one because I like tying with it, but so far on my fishing trips this spring and summer I have found no reason to believe it’s superior in any way. Watch this space, I love learning and if I prove myself wrong, then hey I will catch more fish for it.

Now for a few controversial ideas regarding issues other than fishing.

4. I believe that climate change of the nature that we have experienced is mainly a naturally driven process and that CO2 is not the main driver of the climate. Climate change has taken place before and that we understand very little about what caused the last ice age, what ended it, and what caused the medieval warm period. If we can’t explain exactly how those episodes happened, then I suggest that climate scientists haven’t a clue about what’s going on now either. Another huge question that needs to be answered is why are satellite temperatures indicating no warming for close on 20 years and the land surface data shows significant warming. The lower troposphere is supposed to warm faster than  the surface according to models. What’s rediculous is that me questioning this, I am called a “Denier”, and please don’t mention the 97% etc etc, since when has science been about consensus. Here is a graph I found comparing the satellite and land surface data.


5. I believe that extra CO2, the most important plant fertiliser, is a wonderful addition environment. It is a huge benefit to the growth of all organisms that photosynthesize who are the foundation of life on earth as we know it. The crop yields of today are way higher due to new biotechnology and better farming methods, but don’t forget the benifit of CO2 and warmer temperatures in boosting crop yields. A warmer world with higher CO2 levels will be times of plenty. A significantly colder world will be a disaster for the human race. In human history, the warm periods have been times of plenty and the colder periods have coincided with times of crop failures and famine. Here follows a link to a fascinating time-line of human history and the climate over that period.

6. I believe in the greatness of man and the human race. I believe in human ingenuity and that to solve the problems facing the world today we need more freedom and liberty, not more government regulation which stifles innovation.

7. We live in one of the most peaceful times in the history of mankind. There have always been wars and fighting, and the main beneficiaries of the war on terror today are the government’s who are waging the wars. They will use every excuse to infringe on the freedom of the individual, all in the name of fighting an unknown enemy.


8. I do not believe in a God of any sorts, but I could be swayed to become a Pastafarian as it makes more sense to me than any other religion.


Fairly different yes, and controversial yes, amusing to some. Someone out there might even agree with me on all those accounts, I’m sure my 3 month old son will. Now that I have  torpedoed my popularity, I will get back to writing stories about exploring beautiful remote mountains streams.

Comments and debate are most welcome.


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  1. Hi Rex

    I must say you have pointed out something regarding the Black wattle which not allot of people have thought about before, myself included. I grew up on a farm and the work for water foundation cut all the trees down. Within 2 years it was way worse than it was before. Due to multiple factors.

    Anyway I use to work and live with Tim Fey, think he said he was your cousin, we must definitely organise to go fish sometime. We had some great times chasing yellows in the Hoggsback area.



  2. I had not heard of the Pastafarians, Rex. Thanks for drawing my attention to this marvelous organisation against irrationality. I shall have to remember to wear my colander next time I engage with authoritarian bureaucracy.
    “Oom Soutie”


  3. Rex
    On the black wattle, I have argued before that their protein rich foliage probably sustains a wide range of insects and hence diversity of bird life that would otherwise not be so widespread or abundant. Ditto for shelter given to some animals such as duiker, monkey, mongoose, bushbuck and porcupine. That must surely be another blessing.


  4. Martin my favourite egg collecting place was a corner of the farm, along the river where there were wattle trees and natural trees growing together. Even now if you walk along our neighbours side of the river where the wattle hasn’t been cleared, there are Bushbuck and and lots of birds nesting.
    Thanks for your coments.


  5. Howsit Rex, I think what a lot of people forget (beyond the theories of global warming, spread of ‘invasives’, extinction of species etc etc etc…) is that humans are merely a part of nature and that our influences in the greater world are part of natural processes that are sometimes too complex for us to understand. I love seeing the ‘good’ in everything happening in the universe; a positive mindset changed my life tremendously and I am glad that other people, like you, are finding the good in things that are generally stamped as ‘bad’ by humans with channel vision. There is actually a term for that you know, it’s called misanthropy – Google it.

    In response to your comments about God or a god: most (if not all) religions worship one and the same thing (whether directly or indirectly), it is called energy. People admire energy for it creates continuously, it cannot be created itself or destroyed, only changed from phase, it is ever present (throughout the universe), it is inside me, you and everyone and everything out there all the time, constantly (even in the air – like a matrix) and it has an intriguing form of power and ‘intelligence’ to it that is incomprehensible to humans. That said, we function in energy’s realm (the very reason we function is because of energy) with basic functions on earth: spreading species between continents, possibly speeding up climate change, keeping our own population under control to a certain extent etc. Our interaction with other species manipulates their existence, changes their habitat, spreads them across barriers – like the sea, mountains, temperature barriers like the equator etc. etc. etc., modifying them genetically and the list goes on.

    Interestingly, many who do not believe in ‘a’ god recognise a greater form out there – most non-religious people speak of Mother Nature, for instance – that is energy. In whichever way energy created man (or a plant, or an insect, or birds, and so on) is a mystery; in whichever way it created perfect strands of DNA with gene sequences that encodes functional proteins necessary for cell-life is a mystery; in whichever way it created lipid bilayer membranes and cytosol and brought all these things together (including DNA) at once to form a basic unicellular organism, is a mystery – not to mention higher organisms (multicellular organisms) and the diversity in organisms and genes out there…See, even the scientists describe ‘energy’ in their philosophies about the start of life – the Big Bang theory is a good example.

    What is even a greater mystery is how the basic elements and even the mythical atomic particles, protons and electrons, came about; was that also ‘created’ and how? Where does it ‘start’ and where does it ‘end’…


    • Hi Leonard. I Really appreciate the well thought comments. I share your sentiments about the mystery of life and the origins thereof. I also really believe that there are certain things that are for unknowable and impossible to understand. I don’t know enough about physics to understand theories such as the big bang. I also know that us humans have evolved with minds that help us survive in the here and now, and to me it is one of the reasons that I tend not to dwell too much on how we came about. I will leave that to the scientists to figure out. The scientists are probably wrong about many of their assumptions right now of how we came about, but that’s one of the great attributes of science, the progression of one idea into something almost completely different.

      The fact that many of life’s important questions remain unanswered is a wonderful thing. Imagine we knew everything, that’d be quite boring. No adventure, no discovery, no seeking answers. as you say the “energy” or mother nature that some worship may be the same as the god of others. Or in my case I don’t even bother thinking about it. I look at the world around me in awe and yes I look for the good in everything . The idea of an omniscient, omnipotent god who cares about us and knows our every thought, is a ridiculous one. So although I am utterly clueless as as to how how we came to be, I am happy living my life knowing this is my only chance. I fear nothing and I hate nothing. Life is damn good and there’s nothing more important than sharing it with the people you love and your closest friends.


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