When Sophie Venter walked into Wimcar Cillier’s office looking very determined and waving a piece of paper in front of his face, he had no idea what was in store for him. The brochure she clutched was hand-written, featuring details of a piece of land in Slaaihoek with a drawing of a fly fisherman by a dam. Sophie explained that she had a 40ha farm with a beautiful waterfall – the Schoonspruit Waterfalls – and the perfect spot to build a dam. She envisioned stocking the intended dam with trout and charging tourists to catch the fish.
The year was 1973 and Wimcar was a young engineer working as a project manager for a legal firm involved in commercial endeavours. He eyed her with a puzzled expression.
“Sophie – people can fish in the sea for free. They can also fish in any dam or river in South Africa for free. Why would they pay you to fish in your dam?”
Despite his objection the young man agreed to have a look at the farm and was pleasantly surprised. On inspection the waterfall proved to be breathtaking and there was indeed an ideal place to build a dam. After a visit to the Lydenburg fisheries to find out more about trout, a 60% stake in the business was bought and the dam construction started. While Wimcar still didn’t buy into the idea of charging tourists to catch trout, he set up smaller dams next to the larger dam to breed trout with the idea of supplying to the local market.
To be continued…