Saturday, September 30, 2006


Spring has sprung and the spawning’s begun!


The fish started spawning on many parts of the middle Vaal around 20 September, in many places they have already finished their first spawn of the season, expect the second spawn around mid summer in December and the third spawn normally at last summer rains in late Jan early Feb. typically the first spawn occurs in early October so this year they’ve spawned a little early relative to the calendar we humans follow. Also the various species normally don’t spawn simultaneously in the spring spawn. The normal sequence is carp, smallmouth yellows, mudfish and barbel last: this spring the yellows jumped the queue and went first. Also I have noted yellows and muddies spawning simultaneously in separate rapids this past week: this is not natural, fish tend to avoid spawning at the same time as other species to avoid potential cross-breeding. I’m not sure why the confusion has occurred this year and hope it is not a sign of the river and its inhabitants swinging even further out of balance.

Please avoid the spawning fish. I write about this every year and I still see guys sneaking into a spawning bed for a few easy fish… you know who you are. I think I’ll buy a high powered paint ball gun with a permanent bright pink ink. I’ll stalk around the better know spawning grounds and fire upon you idiots…

Please respect the fish and treat them carefully, here’s a brief guide to how to effectively catch and release, these principles apply even more strongly at spawning time!


Weather and flow rates are pretty much as good as it gets for this time of year: flows are averaging between 15 and 22 m^3/s and the water temperatures are already averaging around 19-20 degrees (dawn minimum).

Looks pretty rosy doesn’t it?

I’ve received a lot of email requesting my views on the Vaal river water quality situation especially in response to the article in the October issue of The Complete Flyfisherman (TCFF) magazine. Those of you that have been visiting my website for a while will know that I am quite involved in understanding and remedying the water quality issues surrounding the Middle and Upper Vaal River and its tributaries. By reading through previous monthly reports on you’ll see regular mention of water quality issues.

The TCFF article is fundamentally correct in its analysis of the water quality situation on the Midddle Vaal River by stating that the recent fish kills earlier this year were the result of large amounts of partly decomposed matter being lifted off of the river bed and into the water column by high flows. However, organic matter moving off of the substrate and into the water column and thereby trapping the available dissolved oxygen is only half of the story, raw sewage entering the river system is also a massive factor, read the press release I posted at the time of the fish kills here

I am concerned that the sewage treatment plants that contributed to the disaster in January are still operating at above capacity (>100%) and the first major rains will force huge volumes of raw sewage into the Middle Vaal once again.

Driving over the Klip River on the N1 traveling to the Vaal is becoming extremely unpleasant as the amount of untreated and partially treated sewage entering the river at this point is so large that I smell the sewage through closed windows… I believe we are a few weeks from a major disaster.


It’s really all happening at the moment: almost every time I’ve been on the water in the past few weeks I’ve experienced strong hatches of a variety of caddis (Hydropsychidae) ranging from the big cream adults to the small dirty grey/tan chaps. The spring mayfly hatches are in full force with the overlapping activity of the winter Baetis species (swimmer crawlers), that have emerged a little later this year than normal, and the spring and summer Heptagenidae (clingers). Also the blackfly are emerging in large volumes (and biting in larger volumes). Remember to avoid blackfly bites (the nasty itch that last for days) avoid wearing anything blue, natural tones such as olive, tan and brown tend to keep the blackfly off of your back.


With the weather as hot as it is the caddis are emerging into the evening quite often now so don’t leave the water at dark, hang around the river bank in casting range of a tongue of current entering a pool: as the dusk descends drift large adult caddis patterns across the surface and be ready to give line when the big ones bite. Mayfly emergers are also very effective at dusk, try to get the fly within a foot of the fish’s nose as it rises… I know this sounds difficult; you just need to practice a little… a good reason to go fishing more!

I’ve had a lot of fun swinging soft hackles (flymphs) with my 10’ 4 wt Greys Streamflex this spring, what a magical way to fish: this technique is extremely effective now with all the insect activity in the water column at the moment. If you are new to this technique may I suggest you visit for a little background info? There is a huge amount of info on the internet about soft hackles and techniques to tie and fish them and it is an absolutely brilliant way to catch yellows and muddies. You’ll never tie on an indicator again!

I have had a lot of email from guys new to the world of throwing fake flies at creatures with tiny brains: To assist you in getting started I have posted a piece on my website that I wrote for the FOSAF/Nedbank guide to fly-fishing venues of Southern Africa: this was the chapter on the Middle Vaal. I would strongly recommend buying the guide if you are in search of new waters and species, you can find the piece here

I think that’s all I had to say this month (I lost my notes in migrating between laptops). Please feel welcome to email me if you require assistance, information or just want to talk about fishing, or you could post a comment on my blog site and throw the conversation a little wider so all of us can join in.

Enjoy the next few weeks, they could be the best of the summer,







1 comment:

  1. Hi Keith...great update, but pardon my ignorance (and perhaps many others' too), could you maybe explain how to recognise an area where yellows are spawning (activity, water depth, etc)?

    Maybe it's a case of education in a number of instances that anglers don't know what a spawning area looks like.