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 (http://www.fishingowl.co.za/fosafs/fosaregyeastfree.html ) 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.
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 (http://www.troutnut.com/hatch/1717/Caddisfly-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 – http://www.troutnut.com/. 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 http://www.midcurrent.com/articles/techniques/monahan_mending.aspx
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 Keith@yellowsonfly.com 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