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.