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