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.)