Monday, December 10, 2007

December 2007 Middle Vaal Report

Dirk Human with one of his hand reared Smallmouth – he feeds them too much.

Occasionally a non-fisherman would comment on a trip that was less “successful” in terms of numbers of fish caught, saying: “that was a long distance to travel for 3 fish!” How do you explain to such a person that there is so much more to our pursuit than just the actual catching of fish? Yes it is magnificent when you do get a new record number or that big one, but surely there are more ingredients to the Bouillabaisse than just fish.

Preparing for trips must be a ritual that all of us partake in – invariably starting with a visit to your favourite fly shop, buying new gear (new C&F medium box for Sterkies) or tying various new or old successful flies. I always tie flies before a big trip even if my fly boxes are full, it gets me into the right frame of mind. That’s why I end up with so many unused patterns. I’m tying for Sterkfontein at the moment, enjoying the paradigm shift between the Vaal and Sterkies although we are fishing for the same species. Time to get out the #14 and smaller hooks as anything on a #10 looks gigantic.

Water and Weather forecast

This must be one of the wettest summers we’ve had in a couple of seasons. Keith it’s almost like in the UK, rain every day, I’m thinking of getting a brolly. It would be advisable to monitor the dam release as well as the Barrage reservoir release before venturing to the river. Some of the lodges like Elgro can give you accurate reports on the visibility.

For those remaining at home or visiting the Middle Vaal during the holidays the medium term forecast is for warmer and drier conditions. That should give you ample opportunity to explore the river.

Insect Activity

It is mid summer, the predominate hatches will be caddis – small dark brown to tan al the way to the big Vaal caddis. With the lower visibility you may have to concentrate your efforts subsurface where the larva can be imitated with everything form natural latex to the various shades of the green for the Vaal caddis.

Mayfly hatches occur, mostly late afternoon into the night. Once it starts getting dark I find a big attractor dry to be a better option than matching the hatch. The fish are very aggressive and will take anything that lands on the water. Nymphs can still be imitated with GRHE and darker brown/black patterns. If you are into imitative tying have a look at the clinging mayfly naturals, there are some distinct features to build into your patterns.

Black fly should be present on most days, remember to add a good quality insect repellent. This is one instance where going eco-friendly is not going to cut it, treat the inside of your shirt as well as your skin.

Approach and Technique

The different styles of Czech nymphing would be the bread and butter technique when the flows do pick up. With lower summer viz you’ll have the benefit of being less visible to the fish as long as you adopt a careful noiseless wading style. This style of fishing can give you the edge when the flows are up at 25-30 cumecs.
There is obviously still place for regular nymphing and the other techniques discussed in these reports.
Black coloured flies do give better contrast in low visibility and don’t forget to try one of the many bloodworm imitations. Changes in flows wash these residents of the muddy substrate into the main current.


Summer is not traditionally a great time to target these fish but they obviously still feed. You can try fishing a large crab pattern while targeting smallies. You’ll be surprised how many smallies you pick up with the benefit of offering a more substantial meal to suite the appetite of a big largie. My first largie of over 70cm was caught on a crab pattern, in the rapids in February.

Another option is to wait until sunset and then to target the tail outs of large pools with big bulky flies – either surface or sub surface. I’ve seen big largies move into the shallower water, one memorable fish at Wag ‘n Bietjie effortlessly popped a 2X tippet. Best to go 1X or even 0X and have more than memories.

If any of you catch a largemouth please send us a brief email with the following details:
· Fly, size, colour.
· Date, time.
· Area, general, no need to divulge secret spots.
· Tactics, line, depth, retrieve.

This should benefit fellow anglers and could also provide valuable information to the conservation and research people.


My holiday did not produce the fishing opportunities dreamed up in preparation of the trip. Instead we unfortunately witnessed the severe flooding and extensive damage and loss experienced by the people of the Western Cape. I did get 4 small Garrick on a Flipper it’s a good fly that – certainly one I will adopt for Largies.

FOSAF recognised the contribution we make and sent me the latest edition of Favourite Flies (Keith it’s in the library) – great book with interesting contributions from great fly fisherman around the country.
I found a dead Cape Gannet on the beach which was ringed (dead ringer?). A quick Google put me in touch with the avian demography unit at UCT or or
If you do find or see ringed birds and can get the ring number please forward to them, they certainly do respond and appreciate the feedback.


Monday, November 05, 2007

November 2007 Middle Vaal Report

It’s not easy turning out these reports with something new and interesting every month. I occasionally read through the back copies of the reports and they contain a multitude of information on catching the two Vaal river yellowfish species, in all conditions bar the 1300 cumecs we had in April 2006. We have covered all the angles in these reports and I believe there is scope to explore various new alternatives going forward.

Keith sent me a link on Spiders not these;f=4;t=3034;st=1980 rather this I thought the man’s gone all traditional, he’s lived in the UK for 10 months and he is already becoming a crusty Brit. Soon we’ll see photo’s of him in tweeds, tie and deerstalker on a chalk stream or heaven forbid leaving a pub in an English rugby sweater. Not! Keith’s always been the thinker and, innovator. If it wasn’t for that one article of him and Garth in TCFF I would most probably still be pursuing only trout on fly. There is nothing wrong with trout, it’s just that I live in a province with summer temps around the mid 30’s, which is not conducive to happy Salmonidae.

Water and Weather forecast

It seems as though this half of summer will be fairly normal as far as Highveld summers go. We’ve had good rains across the area and the Vaal dam is already at 70%. It would be advisable to monitor the dam release as well as the Barrage reservoir release before venturing to the river.

Afternoon thunder storms are a typical feature of summer, I may sound like a typical father figure but working for a mining company I’ve had exposure to the methodology of safety systems and understanding why people get killed. It would be prudent to take head of the threat the accompanying lighting strikes do pose for us on the river. There is no 2nd chance no life time guarantee - get off the water in time!

Insect Activity

I was privileged to be invited to partake in the Northern Cape Bells and met some very interesting fly fisherman and whiskey (apologies Derek) drinkers. It was great to fish different water to what we call home. The aquatic insect life was different, I saw no sign of the Vaal caddis (Hydropsychidae) and most rocks had 75% mayfly nymphs on them.

The area had a lot of spirogyra (rocksnot etc) so Czech nymphing was frustrating. But I managed to get a few fish by swinging a team of flies in the deeper sections. This diving caddis produced two in quick succession -

The best moment of the trip was Saturday evening catching a smallmouth on dry with the lions roaring their greeting at the encroaching darkness.

I can recommend a visit to Nkolo and the Northern Cape waters, with the right planning around the flows etc you will experience the magic of a different Vaal river. You may even be rewarded with some big smallies and in winter excellent largemouth. Believe me I saw the photo’s in Jacques Marais’s presentation, they make you very-very envious.

Approach and Technique
Yellows eat mulberries floating on the surface, tie up some patterns!

If you’ve been fishing for as long as I have you get to a stage in your fly fishing career when it’s not just about the fish and the quantity you catch. A good friend of mine, Zoran eluded to the stages of fly fishing in his front page . These philosophical prophecies are usually brought on by the wisdom of age or when you blank on the water. I have experienced it, it is a humbling experience and very necessary. If it was all too easy we would not grow as Fly Fishers. I certainly take stock after such an event and revaluate my options – throw money at the problem, new fly, new materials etc.

There certainly is opportunity to try these different techniques on the Vaal. Be it now or when the seasons change, bringing on more challenging conditions for the traditional Vaal techniques. People would say that to consistently catch smallies you have to get down in the zone with big heavy bombs – that’s the only way. Yeah right like catching trout consistently on a Mrs Simpson and sinking line - it works but is it really fun? Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating that these techniques are the purist form of fly fishing and that anything else is akin to coarse fishing.
Don’t go to the river and frustrate yourself to a stage where you’re not enjoying it anymore. The point of our pursuit is still to catch fish and release them unharmed back into their environment. I’m just asking you to get out there and experiment to broaden your horizon.

A good large-scale yellow caught in stillwater - small peacock bugger


There aren’t a lot of new fly patterns developed these days, most are just variations of tried and tested patterns. Sometimes you come across a pattern that just begs: “Take me for a swim in Largie infested water!” The meat-wagon certainly does have most elements I would want in a Largemouth fly - bulk, movement, flash. I’m tying some on SS hooks for the small leeries of Swartvlei and the smallmouth bass.

I received 2 emails for the Largiebase. I believe there are more successful fisherman out there, they either believe in the conspiracy theory (of us trying to steal their secret spot) or don’t have access to email ;-)
If any of you catch a largemouth please send us a brief email with the following details:
· Fly, size, colour.
· Date, time.
· Area, general, no need to divulge secret spots.
· Tactics, line, depth, retrieve.

This should benefit fellow anglers and could also provide valuable information to the conservation and research people.


I’m off to the Knysna area and will give the Gouritz a go when I’m down there. I may be able to teach those “illegal” Smallmouths to eat a dry fly or 2. On the way down there, I’ll be fishing a mystery dam in the Free State – hopefully the water is clear and the fish are head up and feeding.

Carl & Keith

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

October 2007 Middle Vaal Update

October 2007 Middle Vaal Report

I’m doing a presentation at the Northern Cape Bells, on the threats facing our yellowfish. A quick bit of research on the internet revealed a multitude of major threats facing trout and therefore by deduction yellowfish. There are loads of information available on US rivers and lakes – the typical problems we experience are not limited to South Africa.

Water and Weather forecast

Summer has come and gone, we have spring and a normal season again. The rain was very welcome especially for the farmers, but I’m sure a good flush of the river will help the fishing. Although these days we’re not so sure what is flushing into the river.

The flow data available here would assist when planning a trip but watch the rainfall figures for the Barrage catchment area. That is everything south of the mountains you drive through on the N1. Water clarity has dropped due to the rain to about 30-50 cm.

With respect to temperatures during the week in question, it seems likely that somewhat elevated temperatures should continue to persist in the northern interior but maximum temperatures over the remainder of the country more or less normal for this time of the year.
In terms of rainfall, several upper troughs moves across the country during this outlook period an rainfall probability remain good for the central and eastern parts of the country.

Insect Activity

I spent the long weekend fishing the Parys area and managed to get a few photos of the food items on the Vaal menu. Apologies for the quality but macro photography doesn’t work from a bobbing boat. Email me if you want the better quality photo’s.

2 stages of Hydropsychidae

The same pupa removed from the larval shuck

Note the key triggers – black eyes, long antennae and gills

Adult Hydropsychidae – those wings are almost 2/3 of the body.

Brown damsel nymph

There are a lot of the Vaal caddis about. I have watched the adults, they certainly don’t present an easy meal when in flight touching the water occasionally. I believe a reasonable imitation of the emerging pupa above and of course the larva will be your best bet. That said I did get 2 good fish over 5lb on the now famous Hydrolater. There are also hatches of small 16-18 chocolate and black caddis.

The summer mayfly hatches will be interspersed with the caddis, size and colour of the adults should be covered by generic patterns – nymphs are predominately brown to black and adults cream to black.

Approach and Technique

As already mentioned I got two fish on the dry. I’m at that stage of my fishing where 2 fish on a dry makes my day and I’m a content fisherman – and I didn’t get anything else on the upstream nymphing or CZ nymphing. The latter 2 methods will certainly be your bread and butter techniques for the rest of summer. You will only rarely be afforded the opportunity to fish dry or dry & dropper.

Heres some advice for those of you looking for something different to lobbing heavy control flies around. The guys at Midcurrent has this interesting extract from Ed’s book. “This week we offer Ed's advice on freestyle nymphing with small flies that is, nymphing without split shot or indicators. As Ed notes, choosing your casting position, fishing a short, drag-free line, and having a keen eye for potential takes are all essential ingredients.
ED ENGLE'S home water is the South Platte River in Colorado, where he guides and instructs fly fishers on the finer points of fishing tiny flies to overstuffed and finicky rainbows and browns. Not surprisingly, he is a recognized expert on the subject, and in the past three years he's penned two books on the subject of small flies and trout.”
There certainly is a case for fishing small nymphs especially if you have a look at the naturals underneath a rock in the river.


To date we have not received any reports of largemouth caught – I assume you are all bum fly fishers who cannot catch any. If any of you catch a largemouth please send us a brief email with the following details:
· Fly, size, colour.
· Date, time.
· Area, general, no need to divulge secret spots.
· Tactics, line, depth, retrieve.

This should benefit fellow anglers and could also provide valuable information to the conservation and research people.


I walked past this critter. Please be on the look out for snakes when walking outside the river. This night adder (identified by the black V on the head) is poisonous but you are unlikely to die from the bite.

Carl & Keith

Friday, September 14, 2007

Vaal Flows : 14-16 September

There were rumours going around of release flows from the Barrage of 60 cumecs planned for the weekend. Randwater confirmed the plan is to maintain it at 15 cumecs.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

September 2007 Middle Vaal Report

Summer is just around the corner and for many flyfishers the hiatus is over. But it’s also the time of the year when our beloved yellowfish spawn. Please take the time to read through Keith’s excellent advice

We do have an impact but must try to keep it to a minimum. There really is no achievement in catching huge quantities of spawning adults. Send us an email if you do see fish spawning.

And please send us photographs of people targeting spawning fish... we'll post the images on a "name and shame blog"

Water and Weather forecast

I don’t know about the weather in your area but on this side of the Magalies mountains winter has vaporised in the +30C day time temperatures. The normal summer fishing conditions that bring the crowds back to the Vaal is around the corner. The gamble the next few weeks would be to get the inevitable cold front during the week with warm pleasant weather over the weekends.

The water temperature at the Barrage is +/- 14C, this is at 7am, so depending where you are fishing in the Dome you will get water that’s above 16C in the afternoon. This may be sufficient to bring the smallies right up or into the rapids – but more on that later.

The flow data available here will be accurate and sufficient to plan a trip until the summer rains come. Water clarity is still good at around 100cm.

Bad news at this stage for those people living off the land is that the rainfall forecast is below average for September. So that’s just about every one of us as Woolies get their food off the land as well.

Insect Activity

Reports coming in from the weekend indicate that the compound insect hatches have started.

At this stage the caddis are small, #14-16 light brown adults (Elk Hair Caddis, Kaufmann’s stimulator), subsurface these would be represented by tan/cream larvae. Get ready for the appearance of the large Vaal caddis, don’t arrive without the range of patterns to imitate them. The larvae spend all winter fattening up to a size 10 even 8 hook.

The summer mayfly hatches will be interspersed with the caddis, size and colour of the adults will vary, but a friend had great success on an Adams recently. Unless you are a prodigious flytyer who enjoy tying different colour variations of the patterns it will be safe to take the generic patterns readily available in the shops – nymphs are predominately brown to black and adults cream to black.

The hatches will last much later in the afternoon, even after sunset. You’ll have enough time to fish the hatch and drive back for the 22:00 kick off of the World Cup matches – before inevitably falling asleep in a one sided Bokke vs USA mismatch.

The blackfly are out as well, “Peaceful Sleep” helps for the adults, these help for the larvae .

Approach and Technique

We still have a window of opportunity for some good dry fly fishing to sighted fish. The fish have not entered the rapids yet, but should be congregated just below them. This area can be very productive during hatches, as all the cripples and other easy meals end up here. It’s like drive-thru with the cars parked and the burgers floating to the windows.

Fishing a dry as indicator can make your day so much more interesting. I’ve had evenings on the Vaal with fish hitting a Hydrolater, in a blanket hatch of mayfly and small caddis. Phew what more do you want??? The larger flies are certainly easier to follow in the low light.

This time of the year the algae ( becomes a serious problem on the Vaal. It has always been there, but it is particularly bad in places. This is due to the increase in nutrients (untreated sewerage, fertilizer and feedlots on the river banks) coupled with the clarity allowing more sunlight to penetrate. Reports from Bothaville area is that the rapids are unfishable. If your approach is limited to the conventional summer nymphing tactics you are in for a very frustrating day. My suggestion is:
• Investigate different venues and also areas at the same venue. The growth of algae and other vegetation varies in severity along the Middle Vaal.
• As mentioned earlier the fish will be poised to move up into the fast broken water. Target them in the eye or throat of the pools just below the rapid were the water is deeper. A dry & dropper drifted in the channels between the algae and water grass will limit foul ups. Up your tippet to 3X to give you the ability to turn fish away from the thick grass.
• If you have access to a boat prospect until you find fish actively feeding. There are still pods of fish holding in water too deep for any vegetation to grow. You can target these with long casts (to avoid spooking them) and a dry & dropper rig.

MidCurrent has compiled a list of 42 Fly Fishing Strategy Tips have a look through them in preparation for the summer trips.


To date we have not received any reports of largemouth caught – I assume you are all bum fly fishers who cannot catch any. If any of you catch a largemouth please send us a brief email with the following details:
• Fly, size, colour.
• Date, time.
• Area, general, no need to divulge secret spots.
• Tactics, line, depth, retrieve.

This should benefit fellow anglers and could also provide valuable information to the conservation and research people.


The Northern Cape Bells festival will be held at Nkolo Spa from 4 to 7 October. It’s a great venue and the event is always well organised. More info can be found here:
Drie Provinsies Vlieghengel Klub & Northern Cape Yellowfish Working Group

I have received isolated reports and photo’s of injured fish, please be on the look out for yellows with injuries and send us a brief email with details even photo’s. On the other hand a friend fished below Parys on the weekend and he reported fat good conditioned fish that put up a serious fight!

I found this bit of disturbing news on the Reservoir site.

Scientist Warns of Typhoid Time-Bomb
At one point the Franschhoek sewerage works linked to the Berg River were running at 200% capacity but without any chlorine for two months "someone forgot to order it". In June, the Wellington municipality dumped "an enormous heap" from a bucket latrine system onto the banks of the Berg River. Barnes took water samples from the river nearby and found an E. coli count of 216 000. The E.coli bacterium is used as an international standard to measure water pollution. The European Union standard for avoiding contact with water when it is polluted is just 1 000 E.coli to 100ml of water, while South Africa's standard the responsibility of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is 2000. "I notified all the authorities possible. Nothing was done." Referring to a Boland township, Barnes said a sewer there had overflowed for six months. "I couldn't get the municipality to come in and clean it up they said they couldn't find it. But the school was just nearby and every child coming to school went right past it. Also, it was running straight into a water course." Despite this year's extremely good rainfall, Barnes has found E. coli counts in the Berg River that were way over the safety standard.

Our rainy season is about to start and this threat will again rear its ugly head. Please report incidents to us or use the Water Crime link on the FOSAF site.

On a lighter note….

Carl & Keith

Friday, August 03, 2007


Flat clear and calm


August is the windy month, frontal systems will carry remnants of the Southeaster which will test the ability of a 5 weight and your perseverance. In fact wind will be a factor on most days, adapt and use the wind to your advantage – the ripple will give cover against observant yellows in clear water. Staying away from the river because of wind, would be like the All Blacks not touring because Schalk is playing. Day time temperatures are slowly increasing and the peach

blossoms are out in the Magaliesberg.

The water temperature at the Barrage is doing its utmost to breach the 10 degree mark, almost in the range were the Capies would take to the water at Clifton in December. I fished the Parys area 3 weekends ago without waders, if you don’t enter the water or fish after sunset waders aren’t essential.

Flows are constant at what I would assume to be the winter reserve flow: providing for low and very clear water.


Mayflies are the dominant emerging insects. Be on the lookout for drifting nymphs, emerging adults or the returned spent adults. Try to spot the adult naturals and imitate them - colours range from cream to black, combined with a dark brown or hare’s ear nymph you should cover the surface and sub-surface cycle. The mayflies hatch anytime during the day but the best time is between 10am to 3pm.


Drifting a team of nymphs

There is one aspect of fishing for yellows on the Vaal which is extremely frustrating but keeps me coming back for more. Those days when I don’t catch anything, blank, zip, no takes no knocks just nothing. Three weeks ago we fished the Parys area on an absolutely perfect Saturday; apart from the fact that the All Blacks gave us another clap. There was little to no wind, the flow was right and the visibility up to 2 meters. There was a good hatch of #14 Mayfly
coming off, but no regular feeders. The best I could do for the day was photographing this porcupine feeding on an island.

The next day was another absolute beauty. I dropped into a few venues and walked the bank looking for action. The whole pool at Dimalachite was void of any rises or cruising fish. I decided to turn back and head to the previous day’s venue, at least we had seen some movement there.

Fishing deep on an intermediate line, I picked up the first fish 30 minutes into the session on a squirrel Zonker nymph (tungsten bead). The line was left to drift through the deepest part of the pool and then retrieved as the flies approached the base of a rocky outcrop. The fish took on the retrieve.

I moved on; upstream to a bigger pool with a rocky ledge that affords a great vantage point over the tail-out. I spotted a good 7lb fish in the tail-out but not much else in the pool or along the ledge. By the way I stuffed up by throwing the weighted zonker to the fish in the tail out, I should have switched to a smaller weighted nymph.

I worked the rest of the pool all the way to the head, just below the rapid. The swallows were feeding on hatching Mayfly (#14 brown) in the rapid which was a good sign but the fish stayed down. I allowed the current to take me into an eddy and then I spotted pods of 5-10 fish
cruising lazily; 30cm below the surface. I switched to a brown CDC emerger with an unweighted nymph on the dropper, which they refused. I tried everything in the C&F box, stepped down on the tippet, super sized the meal to a large foam beetle – nothing!

In hindsight I should have tried ultra small flies (#18's maybe). The tactic might work but the only way of knowing is to go back to the river and try that. If you find those flies or hooks too small, try tying smaller nymphs on bigger hooks like these demi-nymphs .


I’ve had very little success this winter but Grant got this solid fish in the Parys area.

"Fast retrieve, fished deep, fished close to edge/structure, big flashy fly".

I’ve heard good reports of decent largies taken in the Northern Cape, one of 7kg, unfortunately not on fly.

Keith suggested we get a largemouth catch database going.

This should benefit fellow anglers and could also provide valuable information to the conservation and research people in time when we have built up enough data.

If any of you catch a largemouth please send us a brief email with the following details:

  • Dimensions (fork length, girth) and notes on condition
  • Fly, size, colour
  • Date, time.
  • Area, general, no need to divulge secret spots.
  • Tactics, line, depth, retrieve.
  • Photographs
  • Weather conditions


The Proceedings of the Yellowfish Working Group Conference is available on the FOSAF website. A word of thanks to Peter Arderne who edited the document.

Melissa Brand is from the University of Johannesburg, undertaking a study which is aimed at determining the social and economic value of the yellowfish in the Vaal River as a targeted angling species. If we can prove that this resource has a value then the Government will support the industry by managing the Vaal River. Please visit the website and complete the questionnaire. The students at UJ (see Linda Nel’s telemetry study on the same website) are doing valuable work to raise the status of yellowfish as a flagship species. What is a Flagship species? Think Black rhino, the general public, NGOs and Government can identify with a rhino better than the Lessor Spotted Tree Toad. Once the rhino reserve is proclaimed and funded, the above mentioned LSTT will benefit as well.

Our UK correspondent (at large) has recently been published on one of Fly Tying’s premier websites - This site has an absolute treasure of fly patterns and ideas for the fly tier, many which can be used or adapted for our beloved yellowfish.


Carl (& Keith)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

JULY 2007 Middle Vaal report

A crisp clear morning on the Vaal

Water and Weather forecast

Technically speaking summer is on the way, the daylight units are increasing although the temperatures are certainly not. It is still damn cold even on this side of the Magalies. The key to success is to fish the weekend following a few days of mild temperatures - in the low 20’s. The forces of nature don’t always coincide with our schedule of Saturday and Sunday fishing, so take leave in the week. You want to avoid fishing with an approaching frontal system over the Southern parts of the country.

As we approach August the incidences of windy days increase. Excessive wind is always a problem for the fly fisherman, whether it’s 6 guys in a small cabin or the force of nature making life hell on the water. It makes casting harder, reduces the visibility, stops insects hatching and creates windknots (not my casting). The graph below is for the town of Potchefstroom, but should be a good indication of conditions on the water. The timing would vary but bargain on having wind from 10 am to 3 pm. Prime fishing time.

The flow rates are down to a constant 11 cumecs (23-29 June) a perfect rate for winter fishing. No data available from the Barrage at the moment. Clarity still varies but in general it is great – over 100cm in most areas.

Insect Activity

Mayflies are the dominant emerging insects. Be on the lookout for drifting nymphs, emerging adults or the returned spent adults. Try to spot the adult naturals and imitate them - colours range from cream to black, combined with a dark brown or hare’s ear nymph you should cover the surface and sub-surface cycle. The mayflies hatch anytime during the day but the best time being 10 am to 3 pm (Predominately windy!?).

Approach and Technique

My last trip out was to Elgro lodge, we fished in fairly high flows of +30 cumecs (peak of 70). This made for tough fishing and easy paddling. Clarity wasn’t great and the fish were unsettled by the unseasonal flows. The first fish we found were holding over rocky flats in the large pools, but these weren’t keen to take the fly. It was late afternoon before we spotted the first consistent surface feeders. I took my first fish of the day with the sun and moon setting almost simultaneously. One more fish followed on a CDC emerger before it became to dark to fish.

A Great Egret warming up in the first rays.

Somewhere there must be written – in Chinese – “Man can row all day only to catch fish at end of day, be patient!”

Although the fishing wasn’t great on the numbers side it was a wonderful day out. Just that one fish on the CDC fly made it for me – it’s an addictive experience seeing a smallie sipping in a dry fly. I’ll be happy to be Bill Murray in Groundhog Day waking up every morning, going to the Vaal and watch those lips break the surface sipping in the #14 MF.

I did learn one valuable lesson; don’t try to catch both species of Vaal yellowfish on one day, it’s an exercise in frustration. Or at least during the same session. Try to focus on the largies (this will be tough when there is no takes) and only switch to the small stuff when you spot pods of actively feeding smallies.

The action can be slow when fishing exclusively for Largies, you can get some takes from smallmouth by fishing smaller attractor patterns or a tandem rig with one being a mayfly/dragon nymph.


Reading the State of Yellowfish Report kept me up till 23:00 last night, it is scary stuff. If we (that’s you and me) maintain status quo our kids will have very few if any options to fish for yellows. Get involved and do your bit for saving the environment by reducing you ecological footprint

If the weather is bad this weekend take out Groundhog Day and tie some flies.

Carl & Keith

Friday, June 08, 2007


Old picture, but it says it all on Largie fishing!

Water and Weather forecast

Map courtesy of the SABC

We are now entering mid winter, short days, very low temperatures, regular cold fronts and very dry conditions. Okay so it rained 34mm over the Barrage catchment area during the week - forecasting is not an exact science. I’m looking forward to the 21st of June, winter solstice in our hemisphere and optimistically the start of summer. Days are getting longer, not warmer, so more fishing time!

There are unconfirmed reports that the level of the Barrage will be dropped on 11 June and the flow stopped returning to normal on 22 June. Looking at the irregular flow pattern in the first week of June this seems to be the case. Visit for updates.

Insect Activity

Mayflies are the dominant emerging insects. Be on the lookout for drifting nymphs, emerging adults or the returned spent adults. Try to spot the adult naturals and imitate them - colours range from cream to black, combined with a dark brown or hare’s ear nymph you should cover the surface and sub-surface cycle. The mayflies hatch anytime during the day but the best time being 10am to 3pm.

Please keep in mind the mayfly is not the only food source available and utilised by yellowfish in winter. Damsel larvae, dragon fly larvae, small fish and chironomidae/bloodworm (larvae, pupa, adults). Do a Google on Brian Chan or read the books he has written, he is one of the leading experts on the subject of chironomid fly fishing.

Approach and Technique

Sakkie Bezuidenhout wet wading for Largies

The water clarity is great, I’m getting reports of 1-1.5m visibility in some areas. So this month I’m not going to mention smallmouth yellowfish. They are feeding and eagerly awaiting your flies but we have covered the approach and technique over the last 3 years I cannot say anymore.

Find a venue with boats for hire and a large slow flowing pool. Forget the rapids we are entering the slow tedious world of the master chess player. Your adversary will be sly and calculated in a very familiar environment. Smallmouth are like teenage girls at the backstage exit of a Robbie Williams concert, the fly hitting the water is like RW walking out the door! Largies are not present in the same numbers so you need a different approach.

A 6 or 7 weight rod is perfect but a 5 weight will do. I prefer to use an intermediate line because you can cover the surface and deeper water with it alternatively increase the leader length. Tippet strength should be 3X (8lb) or heavier anything lighter is unfair to the fish. It will be near impossible to throw a #6 fly on 4X anyway.

Watch the weather and if possible pick a warm day – maximum in the low 20’s makes for a comfortable day out. Depending on the venue you don’t need an early start, unless you have to paddle a fair amount to get to the right spot. Optimum time is 10am to 3pm, the angle of the sun will offer the best visibility into the water.

The action can be slow when fishing exclusively for Largies, but you may get some action on the side as the larger smallmouth move into generally the same holding area. Smaller attractor patterns or a tandem rig with one being a mayfly/dragon nymph will give you a shot at both species.

Those large pools will appear flat and void of any structure on the first attempt. I can guarantee you none of the substrate look like a Freestate mielie field, the carp wish it did. Familiarity with a venue will soon reveal all the intricate subsurface structure which is the key to success. Search for the Largies around structure, deeper holes/channels, undercuts or in the tail outs just above the rapids. Use a stealthy approach as these fish are very sensitive and will disappear or get lock jaw if you get this wrong. Boats are a great aid but paddling and the pressure wave created by a rocking boat will alert fish. Try to anchor casting distance above a spot and then drift closer by releasing the anchor rope – make sure the end is attached to the boat!

The tail out is a great place to prospect if you are on foot. Wade in carefully, start searching the drop off even before entering the water. Fish move in and out of the tail out so return to the spot after a rest.

Flies to use vary from imitative patterns to any large attractor pattern like zonkers, MSPs, woolly buggers, clousers and deerhair poppers or divers. I prefer natural colours- black, brown, olive with lots of movement from marabou or rabbit zonker. Make sure you can cast the flies on the rod and line you have. Choose large bulky deer hair flies in the low light conditions. They create a lot of disturbance, which register on the fish’s lateral line.


Please make the effort to complete the questionnaire either on the FOSAF website or emailed to you. Neil is doing research that will benefit us the fly fishing community.

Hi Keith,
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for participating in my questionnaire on the aesthetic carrying capacity of fly-fishing for yellow fish on the Vaal River. Hopefully some one can use the research that I am doing here and integrate it with some more scientific research. The further I go with this line of research, the more important I realise aesthetics is.

I have not yet reached my pre-determined amount of questionnaires. I have re-attached the questionnaire and urge you to forward it to someone you know who fly-fishers along the Vaal River. My thesis is currently in the preliminary report stage and is aimed to be finished by November 2007. After is has been reviewed by a panel of experts, I will forward the results to the Yellow Fish Working Group.

Yours in conservation

Neale Harman

If you’re not fishing this winter but prefer to clean & repair tackle and get brownie points enjoy. Here is a good article on manners to read before the summer crowd descends on the river

Carl and Keith (lucky bugger, it’s summer there and he just returned from fishing in Italy.)

Monday, May 07, 2007


Living in Rustenburg north of the Magalies mountains does mean that winter arrives only in June. Spending the last weekend of April in Parys certainly made me realise winter is already on the Highveld. We fished the Saturday with a frontal system making the day on the river very uncomfortable. An ice-cold “gale force” wind was driving the clouds over at regular intervals. More on the fishing later.

During April I attended the Yellowfish Working Group AGM at Elgro Lodge. The presentations were of a very high quality and very informative. It certainly is heart warming to see and hear the enthusiasm with which people are committed to the conservation of yellowfish in South Africa. A full report will soon be available on the FOSAF site.

Most of us do not have the time to get actively involved in conservation. We can certainly help the cause by becoming more aware of the impact we have on the environment. It’s not just the informal settlements with their rudimentary sewerage systems polluting our rivers. Every time you have a 30-minute shower or flush the toilet you have an effect on the river system, in fact the environmental footprint of us affluent citizens is much bigger.

Take the time to complete the questionnaire posted by the Zoology Department of University of Johannesburg available at or drop me a mail and I will forward a copy. These guys and girls are doing amazing research which will benefit us all please give them your support.


The Vaal is in magnificent condition, visibility is great and improving with the constant flow. You really have to get on to the river this winter it is a rare opportunity to experience the river in such great form. Fishing for winter yellowfish is not much different to trout fishing but it’s a whole lot more exiting.

The long term forecast looks great for fishing, have a closer look at the shorter term forecast especially if you want to avoid fishing just before or during winter frontal systems.


The caddis hatches are all but over until Spring, although the larvae are still present on the rocks which may tempt you into imitating them. You may even be successful if you fish caddis patterns in the deeper glides and channels.

From a fishing angle the most important insect on the Vaal in winter is the mayfly. You can expect to see a few different species of mayfly over the following months:

#15 rust dun with clear wings
#14 cream dun with straw wings
#16-18 straw dun with straw wings
#18 medium dun dun with medium dun wings

These adults were photographed on the walls of our accommodation in Parys.

The emerging nymph is easy to imitate as they are either brown or a dirty olive brown and in roughly corresponding sizes to the adult (sometimes the nymph is a size larger). I do not believe yellowfish are very selective feeders so any close colour representation should work.


Back to the fishing - although sight fishing should be the order of the day the inclement weather made it impossible. I eventually had success when I swung a team of mayfly imitations across current. I was anchored in water 2m+ deep in the belly of the pool where the flow was slowing down. The only activity was a few splashy rises of fish coming out of their deeper holding spots. I was casting up and across, mending to get the flies down and then leaving the line to slowly drag downstream, forming a semi-circle belly and occasional twitch helped to keep good contact. I took 3 good fish in quick succession, al of them hooked themselves as the tension in the line was enough.

We’ve been catching on #10-16GRHEs and #14-16 black flashguns. I believe any combination of light and dark mayfly should produce fish.

This is an excerpt from Keith’s report for June 2006. There’s not much more I can add, this is what is required to be successful.

The fish will be firmly entrenched in their winter habitat now, in the throats and bellies of the deeper pools with occasional forays into the eyes and tail-outs when foraging between 10am and 3pm (give or take an hour or two).

While there is fishing to be had early and late in the day (especially if you are into deep water nymphing) there is no need to get out of bed early, if you’re on the water at 9:30 and off at 3:30 you should be present for the hatches.

When you arrive at the water it is critical that you spend a good few minutes assessing the situation before rigging up, never select a fly before having spent time watching the water. This may sound simple and obvious but it is also critical to setting up for a successful day’s fishing.

Find high vantage points from which you can scan the pool you are going to fish (avoid the rapids at this time of year and focus on the eyes and tail-outs of the pools). If you are to fish a smallish pool of 200m or less in length you may be able to walk its length once or twice and watch for signs of a feeding school of smallmouth yellowfish. Rise forms are ideally what you are looking for, the more consistent, prolific and subtler rises are what you want…this indicates a school of fish have settled into a feeding pattern on a specific stage of a hatch. Watch the rise form in an attempt to figure out if the fish are eating an emerger, dun or spinner. If you see the mouth partially break the surface they are on duns or spinners, if the mouth does not break the surface but rather the top of the head does, then they are on emerging nymphs a centimetre or 2 below the surface.
Fish a long leader of 12 to 16 feet and 4-6lb tippet. For the adults you can use any mayfly pattern dressed in the appropriate size and colours.


The visibility is up to 100cm in the Dome area, which makes prospecting for Largemouth a definite option. It can at times be very slow and tedious work to fish for these large predators. Try to alternate between hunting for smallies and casting large attractors on heavier tackle. Waiting for the hatch to come on can be a good opportunity to pick up the other rod. For that reason I carry two fully rigged rods in the boat - one with a floater and one with intermediate line.

Hedge your bets by fishing a small mayfly nymph on the dropper (50-100cm) behind a large attractor. Some say the attractor should chase the nymph, I cannot believe the fish do math on that one. It’s also better to have the largie fly on the 3X or 2X with the dropper on 4X.

I’ve caught good size Largemouth from 9:45 to very late afternoon.

Learn to tie the best knots, check your knots and tippets and use the best possible terminal tackle.

If I haven’t said this before – you really have to get on the water, fishing the Vaal in such good condition is not something we will be privileged to experience a lot in the future. Forget about the summer venues with rapids and riffles rather rub shoulders with the baities at the spots with the large deep pools. You’ll find the venues empty the next few Saturdays as all the Bulls supporters follow the rugby;-)

Carl & Keith

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

APRIL 2007 Middle Vaal Report

Let me start with the good news. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is conducting an environmental study on the impact of flow rates on fish survival. We all prefer a fishable rate in summer and think nothing of the flows in winter. But flow rates certainly do have an effect on yellowfish – the condition of the fish this year is much better than last autumn when flows were in excess of 500 m3/s. This is a simple example, there certainly are wider ramifications on the food source and breeding habits of yellowfish in particular. We will keep you up to date with reports and progress of the study.

Water and Weather

The long-term forecast is still predicting lower than normal rainfall. With the natural tapering off of the rainy season flow rates should remain at safe and pleasant levels for fishing.

We all must have noticed the change in season, since the cold front two weekends ago. The days are shorter and the minimum maximum temperatures have dropped considerably. The water temperature at the Barrage is still around 20 C, downstream it’s colder - not bone jarring yet, then again you don’t actually have to wet wade to catch fish at the moment.

Insect Activity

The caddis hatches are certainly tapering off, although the egg laying flights after dusk is something to behold. The odd Vaal caddis will still be fluttering around during the day announced by big splashy rises by chasing fish.

Mayflies are the dominant emerging insects from now right throughout winter. Be on the lookout for drifting nymphs, emerging adults or the returned spent adults. Try to spot the adult naturals and imitate them- colours range from cream to black, combined with a dark brown or hare’s ear nymph you should cover the surface and sub-surface cycle. The mayflies hatch anytime during the day; be on the look out there’s lots of fun to be had.

Approach and Technique

The water clarity is great up to 100cm visibility in some areas. It’s not Sterkfontein but then the average size of fish is much bigger. If you want to catch your first Vaal river smallmouth on dry now is the time. Those guys looking for the constant intravenous flow of adrenaline offered by high summer in the rapids better stay home to earn brownie points. The action is slower but the visual aspect and at times the quality of the fish makes this the ultimate chase on the Vaal.

We all do go through various stages of fishing – starting off with “please can I catch just something” to nailing 50+ plus in the rapids or looking for the next biggest mark. Dry fly fishing in the right conditions on the Vaal is the most exiting thing you can do with your waders on. Think about it, it actually is!

I was fortunate enough to enjoy two sleepovers at two different venues in the last three weeks. First trip was to Elgro, the water was flat and clear and we battled to locate fish. I knew the key to success was to find them first. We waded 500m upstream and crossed several islands before spotting a pod holding around a rock. The fish show up as dark grey shapes, only revealing the telltale golden flash when feeding. A dry (Hydrolater) and dropper approach produced this fish.

Late afternoon we explored the glides and pockets just above the rapids. I was casting a large deer hair popper and getting explosive takes from the smallmouth. The Sunday morning I was working the same area with a Hydrolater and Klinkhammer. The fish were actively rising but very spooky. It required long and accurate casts. Do some casting practice during the week it will make your day more enjoyable on the water.

The weekend of 31 March/1 April we fished a venue close to Parys. We paddled upstream in search of the fish. I cannot emphasise this enough, don’t just walk up to the nearest rapid and start plugging away. From around 9:00am to 15:00pm the clarity affords you the opportunity to find the fish even when they’re not rising. My buddy landed the first fish on an Elk Hair Caddis, which I let him do. This was in a glide with deep channels cutting through.

The next stop was the belly of a large pool, I was standing upright on the inflatable when I spotted the dark grey shapes of 2 fish holding just below the surface. The lead fish took the dry without hesitation. The extra elevation does give you a better chance at spotting it also require balance and sobriety. Fishing blind with a team of nymphs produced in the same area, so there were fish holding deeper.

The Sunday morning I “discovered” a tail-out in the smaller channel created by a very big island. The fish were head up on the surface feeding hard on #16 spent mayflies. As an April Fools joke they decided to take the #10 Hydrolater with gusto. I also had a dun coloured dropper of this fly on and a diving CDC caddis on the dropper. I wasn’t wearing waders but the 6 fish over 5lb on dry was a magnificent experience.

Presentation again required long accurate casts, on most casts I had only a few turns of fly line on the reel. That said I took a beauty of a fish cruising 12 feet away from me.

I like to use Keith's Hydrolater because it’s such a big visible fly that floats really well (it's also his blog so I have to say this ;-). Have a look at this style for a variation to tie the Hydrolater – Just substitute the materials of the Foamback Sedge. To view the Hydrolater have a look at the fly patterns here

If I can give you one bit advice to take to the river: “get out of the rut, try something new.” Here is a great article by Philip Monahan “Think Outside the Swing”.


The improved clarity and fairly warm weather is an opportunity to target largemouth yellowfish without donning neoprene’s. Fishing exclusively for Largies is slow and tedious, but the movement of larger smallmouth into generally the same holding area can break the spell. Smaller attractor patterns or a tandem rig with one being a mayfly nymph will give you a shot at both.

These fish do use sight to hunt coupled with the other senses, their large upward facing eyes always scanning the water in front and above for prey. Find them around structure, deeper holes/channels, undercuts or in the tail outs just above the rapids.

The tail out is a great place to prospect after sunset. Choose large bulky flies like zonker muddlers in the low light conditions. They create a lot of disturbance, which registers on the fish’s lateral line. This also translates into a careful approach by the angler.

I prefer to use an intermediate line because you can cover the surface and deeper water with it.


During the weekend of 13-15 April 2007 the annual Yellowfish Working Group will be held at Elgro River Lodge. More details are available at .

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Water and Weather

The heat wave we experienced does make one think twice about the global warming debate. The low rainfall has certainly dealt a major financial blow to the crop farmers, spare a thought for the landowners whose land you are accessing - it’s not just great weather for fishing when it doesn’t rain. Flow rates should remain at safe and pleasant levels for fishing.

On these extremely hot days it will pay dividends to get out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. Relax in the shade, assess the morning’s action or lack there of, retie leaders and replenish the fluid levels in your body. That will see you rested and ready for the late afternoon to dusk session, which should be the most productive. This is also the time of day the bigger fish will be feeding more aggressively.

March is the beginning of autumn; with a drop in morning temperatures and a shortening in daylight hours. The fish will certainly stop spawning by now. They will drop out of the shallowest of water unless large hatches bring them into the shallows.

The water temperature at the Barrage is currently around 23 C. Please fight fish quickly and keep them in the water to minimise stress on the fish. Make sure you revive the fish properly before releasing.

Insect Activity

The predominant caddis larvae on the rocks are the smaller tan ones – almost a “natural” latex colour, but all the usual patterns like mustard, tan, cream (#12-16) should work well. The caddis’s hatching are small size 14-16 with brown or light brown wings and lime or tan abdomens.

Mayflies, the clingers are all over the rocks in the rapids in various shades and sizes. Any decent imitation in dark brown, black and Hare’s ear will produce#12-16. They will become the dominant emerging insect from now on right through winter.

Approach and Technique

Water clarity is certainly better than mid summer therefore a stealthy approach will pay dividends. This makes dry fly fishing more of an option. Two friends landed their 1st Vaal Smallies on the dry in February, one going on to take another 9. It’s a great dimension of Smallmouth fishing which everyone should try when conditions are optimal like now.

Some guys are complaining that regular spots are not fishing well at the moment. I believe that we tend to get stuck in a rut especially in summer. We fish the same riffle and seam every weekend because the fish are always there. When things change you need to stay ahead of the game. Try to tune into the environment when you get to the river things are changing, daylight hours, temperatures and rainfall (flow rates) are all adjusting to the coming season. It is difficult if one spends 8 hours a day in air-conditioned offices to be aware of what is transgressing on and in the river, you need to get into the habitat of analysing the situation on arrival rather than rushing at the water.

With the spawn over the fish will disperse somewhat and take up positions where they can get the best possible access to food. They are now improving their conditioning in anticipation of winter – please note they will continue feeding through winter.
Start prospecting the deeper water just below the rapids, be aware that although the flow is slower the depth will require proper presentation techniques to get the flies in the zone.

Glides; the slow, smooth surfaced areas between rapids are a great spot to prospect for the larger specimens. This water has an even depth around 1m deep. It is ideal dry fly water, wait until you notice fish feeding on the surface (head and tail rise) before switching to the dry. The glides can be fished successfully with a normal NZ rig but with less weight on the flies. Tail-outs; the end of the pool just above the rapid, will be another great spot for big fish especially in the late afternoon or early morning.


The improved clarity is great news for those looking to get hooked into their first largemouth yellowfish. If you’re not yet into winter fishing now is the time to give it a go. Just remember fishing exclusively for Largies is sometimes slow and tedious.

These fish do use sight to hunt coupled with the other senses, their large upward facing eyes always scanning the water in front and above for prey. Find them around structure, deeper holes/channels, undercuts or in the tail outs just above the rapids. Crab imitations like this one in various weights or the regular large attractor flies will work.

The tail out is a great place to prospect after sunset. Choose large bulky flies like zonker muddlers in these low light conditions. They create a lot of disturbance which registers on the fish’s lateral line. For more heart stopping action throw a small popper (10-15mm head) – cast and leave to drift or swing across current. Best to use 2X or stronger tippets in these low light situations!


During the weekend of 13-15 April 2007 the Yellowfish Working Group Annual General Meeting will be held at Elgro River Lodge. More details are available at .

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Nice fish that fell to the "Dry and Dropper" method
Hi all,

I am off to the UK today, for how long I do not know. Carl Nicholson will be assisting with the monthly reports from this month. Carl is one of the most versatile flyfishers I've had the pleasure of spending time with on the Vaal, and he is a pleasant guy on the water too. Thanks for agreeing to make the effort with these reports Carl, the Vaal will be better off for it. Welcome...

The February report:

“Reading a stream" is a term used to describe the act of studying the structure and mood of a stream where fish are more likely to be at a certain time.”
Harry P. Davis © 2003 Guerrilla flyfishing.

Your first reaction will be to say, “the Vaal is not a stream, how do I apply this quote to a big river?”, that can be a daunting prospect at times. Next time you get to the Vaal stop and observe the river, it’s actually a multitude of small streams. Yes there are venues on the Vaal where it’s just one big, flat open river: no islands or big rocks, but if you look closer you will notice individual currents in this mass of water.

How many of you do the above BEFORE going onto the river. I know the usual routine: Pull into parking slot; Start stringing up your rod; miss an eye; pull up the handbrake; tie on flies; leave fly box on the roof; head to the river; once there, cross the 1st and 2nd channel until you get to the hole you fished last week.

Fellow fly fisherman, there certainly is more to the gentle pursuit of fly-fishing than this. We are after all doing this to get away from our hectic lifestyles.

Dave Weaver ( ) always says “get your fishing karma right, the relaxed guys are successful on Sterkies”. Take some time to study the river and the movements therein. You may notice spawning activity to avoid, or a large fish feeding in the margins right there where you normally enter the water.

Water and Weather

The long range forecast for February is of above normal temperatures and normal to above normal rainfall. The flow rates are perfect at the moment enjoy the fishing.

The water temperature at the Barrage is currently at 250C: How does this and higher temperatures affect the fish? They certainly do move into the shady spots, especially on the bright sunshine days. Do they look for cooler water or does the reduced oxygen level force them into the rapids? I believe they would prefer the O2 of the broken water as this coincides with most of the summer food items.

I remember one particularly hot December day in 2004 we were taking a breather on an island. Leaning against a Willow trunk I saw a fish in the shadows, closer inspection showed up 5 or 6 fish. We finished lunch, accessed the water away from the fish and worked our way into casting distance. It took a few drifts and then the action started. Hook-up, put pressure on and get the fish away from the others. The rest of the afternoon we continued to pick up fish in the shadows and undercuts.

Insect Activity

On my last visit to the Vaal I hooked into a crevice, when I removed the hook, a caddis larva in the process of pupating was impaled on the end of the hook. This larva was big enough to bait a size 8 caddis hook, big and fat. The big hydropsychidae ( are still around but in less numbers than Spring. The predominant caddis larvae on the rocks are the tan ones – almost a “natural” latex colour, but all the usual patterns like mustard, tan, cream (#12-16) should work well. Mayflies, the clingers are all over the rocks in the rapids in various shades and sizes. Any decent imitation in dark brown, black and at times Hare’s ear will produce#12-16. They seem to go lighter just prior to hatching.

Those of you more interested in tying realistic patterns based on the naturals can have a look at the magnificent photographs Jason Newswanger has on his website – It’s not always easy remembering detail of insects observed on the river, especially by Wednesday night when replenishing the box for Saturday. Although this is a US site most are good enough to cover the bases on the Vaal.

Approach and Technique

With the fish in the rapids and actively feeding most of the fishing techniques will work. If you are new to the game and not having success make sure you get your flies in the zone and stay there for as long as possible. The zone is where the fish are feeding now, closer to the bottom structure, but they can move higher in the column when there’s a big hatch coming off. The flows in the rapids are less forgiving than the glides, innovative use of split shot or heavier flies and the right mending techniques will get you there. There are numerous articles on mending published on the internet one being this one


In some parts of the Vaal these guys are hanging out in the same spots frequented by the Smallmouth. Being sensitive by nature they are less inclined to be at the 30 anglers per day venues. Find them around structure, deeper holes, undercuts or in the tail outs just above the rapids. Crab imitations or flashy nymphs and the regular large attractor flies teamed with small nymphs gets you a shot at both species. The tail out is a great place to prospect after sunset. Use a nymph and crab or other large attractor. For more heart stopping action throw a small popper (10-15mm head) – cast and leave to drift or swing across current. Best to use 2X tippets in these situations!

Please email me at and Carl and I will help with your query, in due course we'll set Carl up with a "yellowsonfly" email address.

be nice to the fish,
Carl and Keith

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Spawning alert!

On Tuesday I noted significant numbers of smallmouth yellows spawning in the shallow fast water in the middle Vaal. This spawning should continue in the area for the next week at least. Please don't disturb these fish. Don't attempt to catch them, don't walk over their spawning habitat...stay away!!

I have heard disturbing reports of a number of SA's better known "top flyfishermen" knowingly casting at spawning fish at a recent event on the middle Vaal River near the Vredefort dome, you know who you are, cut it out!!

If you notice people casting at spawners please approach them and explain the fish are spawning and that they should not be targeted by anglers, if the angler continues after your polite intervention please photohraph the idiot and send the images to me. I will post the images to this blog and publicly shame the individual: remember the Vaal flyfishing community is a small one... these people's faces will be recognised by friends, work colleagues etc.

We spent some time finding non spawning fish and casting to sited fish with dries and emergers. Bruce got a 4.5kg fish on a dry at midday in 12 inches of water :-)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Once again I am a few days late with this report… apologies. I am writing this report from the South Coast of Natal while on a beach holiday with the family. As has a lot of South Africa, we’ve had a lot of rain here. Because I have been away from the Vaal for a while this month’s report is assembled out of feedback from readers and from my experience of the River over the past 20 years.


With the significant rains experienced over the past few weeks flows have been a little up and down, significantly limiting the number of fishable days in December…we’ll be very lucky if January is any better.

It seems that the heavy rains have not yet overpowered the sewage works resulting in fish kills: Of course fish kills may have occurred but not come to our knowledge, if you see dead fish in any numbers or smell sewage in the water please email me soonest.

I suppose an upside to the rains is it offers the fish some respite from very high water temperatures typical of this part of summer.

The high flows have brought the seasonal dirty water: Fishermen seem to go through a process of adjustment through the summer where in early spring water temperature is the primary catalyst to stir fishermen from the couch; by late spring it is about clarity, fishermen want to know the visibility in the water is pretty good; by mid summer it’s all about flows, if the flow rate is below 40 cumecs any other conditions are manageable. That’s where we are right now. The water is largely dirty and that can be a turn off for many, hey I don’t enjoy fishing in dirty water much at all! Regardless of your tastes it is worth noting that the Vaal is called the “Vaal” because it is a key characteristic of this river to be discoloured: this means that yellowfish are adapted to this water clarity, the largemouth yellows have eyes toward the top of their heads to allow them to lurk on the bottom and scan for prey by looking upward toward the sun, giving them significantly better visibility than if looking down into the depths as fishermen have to.

Bottom line is that the fish are happy in dirty water; I’ve caught both species of yellow in visibility under a single centimetre, and lots of them!


As per December:
Mayfly species: Large cream and tan clinger nymphs in and around the rapids (#14-16) and darker clingers (#16-18) in chocolate and dark coal/black.

Caddis species: Pupae “in drift” 24/7 and hatches occurring mainly from late afternoon and into darkness (especially on the hotter days). Big cream caddis adults (#8-12) and little tan/slate caddis adults (#12-16) are very prolific. The larvae are typically bright green or dirty olive with some exceptions in brown and cream.

Blackfly are very common now, small black and olive larvae (#16-18) can be very effective in the rapids and slower water. Remember not to wear blue if you want to avoid the itchy bite of the blackfly!


Flashy and black patterns work well in dirty water, as do red worms and bright orange nymphs.

These higher flows are a good time to hone your short line and Czech nymphing technique. These techniques both offer better contact with your flies than upstream nymphing, a critical factor in high dirty water.

Remember to protect yourself from the sun with appropriate clothing and make sure none of your clothing is blue or you will become a major target for adult blackfly.

If you don’t want to be in the sun at midday (as I often don’t on hotter days) get onto the water at about 4pm and enjoy the late afternoon and evening caddis hatches. Fishing from 6 until 7:30 should require no more than a single large dry fly on a long leader. Watch for rises in rapids and where the water enters the head of the pool.


My family and I are relocating to the UK around the end of January 2007. We’ve decided it is time for a change of scenery and I have a significant business opportunity I wish to pursue. This decision has NOTHING to do with my severe addiction to grayling!

Moving away from my beloved Vaal River, my “home water” for 20 years this year, has not been an easy decision but I look forward to developing relationships with new rivers in the UK and Europe over the coming years.

I intend to remain involved in these reports and in the conservation of the Vaal River for as long as I bring value. I will guide a few close friends while they take over the role of penning these monthly reports and contributing to the yellowsonfly blog and website. You will meet these guys over the next month as we prepare the February report.

My email address will remain the same and I will be back in SA regularly to work, visit and fish. Thanks for all of your feedback over the years and to FOSAF for its ongoing commitment to yellowfish conservation.

I wish the fishermen, the fish and the River good fortunes for 2007,