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,