Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Roll on December and 2009, it has been a hectic year and although some may say there’s not a lot to be happy and relaxed about with the tough economic reality facing us everyday, I’m still glad to be alive and well enough to fish. I like getting away on holiday before the mad rush and the total chaos arrives at the coast. There is something special about the Garden Route, it looks like Europe but the weather is South African – I like it the quiet way before it becomes a mini Joburg. This report is not much about the Vaal again, I did cross the Vaal twice and it’s always with much sadness if I cannot stop to throw a line. More so when the water is clear and looking very fishy.
I was on my way to visit an untested venue with sketchy information on the fishing. Planning and preparing to fish a new spot is always filled with fun and excitement. Dreams are filled with the possibility of a great find of gold bars rolling on the surface yet to be introduced to an artificial fly. In many respects I wasn’t disappointed.
This was the first time I fished in the Karoo, the magnificent beauty and quiet solitude in that part of the country is addictive. We were staying on a game farm bordering the Vanderkloof dam near the town of Philippolis. (http://www.vanderkloofdam.co.za/)
Water and Weather
As this was a stopover on the way to Sedgefield, the weather wasn’t going to make the trip happen or not. I was just hoping for something decent. First day was overcast with some serious thunderstorm activity sending the barometer all over the place. The fish were absent, but for a few carp for which I tried without enthusiasm or success. This being the Karoo I did not complain the farmers need rain more than I need another yellow.
But if you go fishing you want to catch fish, in my case at least one. I suppose I have reached a level of contentment in my fishing where sometimes one fish is proof enough. Then again when they’re on the bite and on the surface especially; one cannot offend by saying no thank you!
Fishing for yellowfish in stillwater is a summer sport in South Africa. The winter frontier is pretty much Star Trek territory – where no man (person) has been before, there is of course mystery dam X with good winter fishing. You want the fish up and close to the surface which allows for the visual pursuit of your quarry. It then becomes more like hunting than fishing - I drop my voice, walk softly and try to stay out of sight as if I’m after that elusive eland bul. Yellowfish come to the surface and shallows in warmer constant temperatures – it’s where the food is and of course where the girls hang out.
The VanderKloof dam shares the same yellowfish species with Sterkfontein dam, but does not have the same clarity. If you are expecting to see fish down to 3m or more than a decent cast away you will be disappointed. The shoreline is completely different, strewn with big boulders and guarded by Wag-‘n-Bietjie (Buffalo thorn) and Acacia Karoo. There are beautiful gravel beds for spawning, but I saw none of it – I cannot imagine all the fish migrate to the river to procreate. Yes that’s something else to keep in mind the dam is fed by the Gariep river, laden with silt, so pick your fishing spots away from the main river inlet. There’s also multiple streams feeding the dam from rain swept plains, good fishing spots, but can be discoloured overnight.

Insect Activity
A new venue 400km from my much loved Vaal or favourite Sterkfontein, what to expect? With Sterkfontein well fished/covered by Dave Weaver, it’s a matter of one phone call to ascertain what was the go to fly last week (which is completely refused this week). I had zero intelligence and military guys will tell you it’s not the best way to start, but I had nothing to lose only to gain in experience and meeting people.
What to tie? It’s after all in a very arid part of our country so how much will be blown out from the surrounding bush? Well the mayfly nymphs are there, tiny fellows, in black and brown (nothing new) they will always be there in clean water. Size 16 or 18 in your favourite nymph pattern would do it. I didn’t see the caddis hatching, but in summer they hatch early morning and late afternoon. Being the 1st day of my holiday I didn’t have the energy to get up before dawn, besides it took another 30 minutes in a 4x4 to drive to the water’s edge.
These are still yellowfish I was after and they certainly love grasshoppers and foam beetles, just like some of the bank side vegetation – tie up enough patterns! I saw and heard the cicadas, if you’re willing to tie them, certainly a worthwhile pattern to have – works well in certain parts of New Zealand.
I did not fish with nymphs or any other subsurface patterns, except for tying on a dropper. There was enough fish on the surface to hold my interest, and when that is the situation I cannot switch. It would be like refusing a glass of 1947 Ch√Ęteau Petrus for a demijohn of Tassenberg.
The yellows were not cruising in the quantities we are used to on Sterkfontein, these were individual fish or 3-4 in a pod. It may be that the visibility prevented the full display of what was beneath the surface. One needs to fish this venue more to become an expert even just for a day.
Approach and Technique
When visiting a new spot, even targeting a familiar species a professional guide is worth the money charged. My guide had local knowledge (which was good) but zero fishing knowledge. He certainly got me to the fish on the second day. The sun was up and the skies clear, as far as you can see and in the Karoo that is far.
I was fishing an inlet where the previous day’s rain washed in a bit of discolouration. The cliffs locked us in for the day, creating a buffer or a channel for the wind and it was hot very hot.
Even with low visibility I took my chances on a proven Sterkfontein technique, I rigged up my S3 with double taper floating line and 15 foot 5X leader. And waited or walked the bank looking for a cruiser. The remoteness of this spot and the towering cliffs closed out all sound – it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop a fish rise, a good sign at least they are feeding!
That’s when I saw the fish tight against the bank cruising straight towards me. Suddenly yellowfever took over, I didn’t wait for it to turn or go past to get an unseen cast in from behind. The fish disappeared and I casually threw the line and hopper out away from the bank. The fly was out there for a few minutes Wham! The fish was on and I was frantically trying to get line onto the reel. The fish gave a good account of itself with strong runs close to and out of the surface. I was ecstatic to have it to hand a solid beauty of gold scales.
The rest of the day the modus operandi remained the same. Get some vantage, stay low and spot a cruiser. The fly can be left drifting on the surface or next to a scum line and invariably a fish would go for it even before you spot one. The easiest was to target the fish cruising close to or parallel with the bank, getting a very long cast out straight in front is difficult unless you are adept at something fancy like a steeple cast.
Fish were holding around the few bits of vegetation, cruising along the banks about 10-30cm away and feeding in the open water (5 to 20m). In the open water you can only realistically target those fish porpoising or head & tail rise(you’ll see the head dorsal and tail when they feed) as they follow a route and you can present in front of them; a big splashy rise indicate fish but is not worthwhile covering. A lot of those fish are deep and follow caddis emergers, grabbing them just before they depart. If you do observe them constantly splashing around a weed patch, try dropping a single nymph or tandem rig of nymph and diving caddis over the weeds. Leave it to sink, BUT stay in constant contact with the flies, retrieve very slowly.
There were plenty of barbel/catfish about, and some very big ones too. A large attractor fly presented 1m in front or smack on top should get you a response and a tired arm. I did not want to test the abilities of my 5 weight, best to use an 8 or 9 weight for these bruisers.
Last Cast for 2008
Another year is gone in a flash. The news turned very bad towards the end, not so much for the fishing but certainly for the business and livelihood of so many people living off our beloved sport. I believe it’s a natural correction and we need it, I hope it will be painless for you. My only fear is that with less money around, less will be spent on and doing environmentally sound business. There is again a lot in the press about the pollution on the Vaal, same story as rainy season 2007, lack of experience or funds cannot be blamed.
The energy crisis is out of our immediate thoughts, what with petrol cheaper we can even fish more often, don’t let the pending water crisis ever be out of your mind. Do your bit to conserve and protect our water resources. I challenge you to do one environmentally positive thing everyday – even making the right choice when shopping.
Enjoy your break and festive season! I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas and have a totally fishing filled 2009! Be responsible when driving.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the state of South Africa's water resources- the CSIR report

most South Africans will be aware of the presentation authored by Dr Andrew Turton in November. Subsequently we understand Dr Turton has resigned from the CSIR.
I have spent years working to communicate with government regards the state of the water resources (especially in the Vaal) in South Africa... with very mixed results... well done to Dr Turton for standing up and being counted.

if you've not read the document let me know and I'll email it to you... it's worth a read and I can't seem to post documents to the blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 2008 Middle Vaal Report

Just when you think you have seen it all on the internet … in terms of fishing and related stuff of course, you somehow happen upon another website bursting with photos and information useful to the fly angler. This is a local site and if you’re into dragons and local damsels (no rugby cheerleaders) it should be your first reference http://www.warwicktarboton.co.za/index.html. My experience is that as one progress along the fly fishing evolution scale you start to appreciate more and more on an outing. It’s not just about the fishing and suddenly you start questioning what all these wonderful things you see are. On a recent trip to the upper Vaal I was fortunate enough to flush an owl. But what was it a Spotted Eagle owl or Cape Eagle owl? Returning along a different path I flushed the whole brood of 4 chicks and mom. The one owl turning in flight to display the bright yellow eyes of the Spotted Eagle owl.
Do you fancy adding another dimension to your fly tying? How is this for a departure from the mundane two dimensional stuff we usually see http://www.flytyingclips.com/index.html.

Water and Weather forecast
While mentioning websites, the Weather SA guys have gone interactive with great new functionality on their new site. It will require proper broadband but there are cool features like Google Earth with various weather overlays. I really like the one with a graphic of the previous 24 hour lightning strikes displayed – certainly a handy bit of info when you’re planning to wave a 9’conductor around the next day.
“The rain is here good and proper, the flows are already up and the visibility is shot until autumn. Sad, but a dimension of the Vaal that makes it true to its name. Keep an eye on the flow data I find the DWAF site reliable at the moment, with the Randwater information very erratic. You decide for your own safety, but I don’t like fishing over 30 cubic metres per second.
Insect Activity
Flows and visibility means that it would be pretty much heavy caddis larvae (rockworms) and hotspots for most people. Minor flooding should scour out some atomic or San Juan worms. Over simplification maybe but if you can get these flies into the ZONE you will catch fish.

Approach and Technique
I don’t profess to catch a fish on every cast but I really believe we have covered all the bases in previous reports. I recently picked up some great advice from two members of the Sexyloops community. One from New Zealand another from Obama country.
The thread centres on fighting big fish in moving water. You can follow the whole bit here:http://www.sexyloops.co.uk/cgi-bin/theboard_07/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=4;t=9615;&#top
Neil (NZ)
“Bob you could add to that, when fishing in flowing water the use of the current.
Getting the fishes head moving across the flow and closing its gill cover (with the water pressure) tires them quicker than anything I know. It may sound terrible that your trying to suffocate the fish, but hey we fight them into exhaustion letting them sit in the current with their mouths open is just like reviving them and can only prolong the fight
On rivers with a wide bed that can contain a flood, with beach areas, fish can be subdued quickly by holding a steady rod position then walking down stream slightly and away from the water. Pulling the fish back and into shallow water.”

And from the States
Matt Klara
“Some engineering to think of regarding reel start-up inertia and rod angle and tippet protection. Someone posted recently that start-up inertia has more to do with line friction in the guides than on the reel. Static friction is much higher than dynamic friction. And the friction on the guides increases the deeper you candycane the rod. So, a strong tippet, very low rod angle (less than 45 degrees), and a silky smooth reel is a good combo.”
A lot to think about when that big one does eventually take. You should be playing the two scenarios in your head when the fishing is slow. Stay sharp!

I think the time is over to exclusively fish for them. Unless you head West and follow the river until the flow drop and the clarity improves. Carl Nel has posted some great photo’s of superb clarity below Kimberley. The other option is to go Stillwater like Sterkfontein. Alternatively target them when fishing the deeper channels in the rapids, by using bigger flies and crab imitations.
FOSAF with the help of Keith and I will be publishing an information pamphlet for Vaal venues, tackle shops and other important distribution points. Fishing Owl, Trevor Babich contributed and sponsored the first print. Please take one, give to your mates and take to heart what is written - the future is in all our hands.
The fourth edition of the FOSAF favourite flies are out and ready to fill the Christmas stocking. This is really a top quality local product worth the support.
The year is rapidly running out, I’m not sure there will be another update on the Vaal. The next one might contain more holiday ramblings of the yellows near Calitzdorp or the possibilities of a new venue near Philippolis

Carl & Keith

Friday, October 17, 2008

October 2008 Middle Vaal Report

Don’t be misled by the heading of this report there’s not a lot about the Vaal in here. What I can tell you is that the Vaal is in great shape. Reports of big fish and great dry fly action are pouring in. Riaan Fourie took time out to get away from the financial markets and found some stability in the Vaal Hackle area. Large fish were cruising clear pools (up to 2 meter viz) and were eagerly taking flies. Another group of friends fished the Orkney area where they got stuck into a lot of +3kg fish with some PB and improvement on that on consecutive weekends.
Some people are complaining about the clarity which is plain dumb – like complaining when a super model brings her twin sister on a date! Maybe it’s just me but it’s the best kind of fishing the Vaal can offer, walking and stalking large fish almost New Zealand style – it’s just the lack of William Ellis silverware that reminds one you are in Africa, or is it the Netstar chopper overhead.
Enough of that and more on our fishing and rafting trip to the Richtersveld. It was actually a lot more than that and words even photo’s cannot capture the feeling and happenings of such an amazing excursion. It’s truly God’s own country – staggeringly beautiful and so quiet! No quad bikes or alarms ;-).
Traveling 1300 km to a new destination through a part of the country I’ve never visited was to be part of the fun – there’s not a lot happening on sections of the N14. We had a good steak in Vryburg the Texas of SA but the best rump was at Bi Lo restaurant in Upington. The Camping next to the river in Kakamas gave me an early shot at Northern Cape yellows but it was a fat 4kg carp that ended my hiatus of the previous two months. Damn foreigner but still flyfishing at least. If only the other fish of 7kg plus took the fly.

Water and Weather forecast
Looks like we are in for more hot and dry weather up here which should be good for fishing and the first spawning – reports of which are coming in. Please avoid these fish they are very easy to catch if you are willing to toss ethics aside. If someone does confront you on the river, take the reprimand on the chin, it’s done in the spirit of conservation.
Long range forecasts and long range trips go hand in hand. Daily checks are done with the websites but you know it’s only an impending disaster that will cancel the trip.
“Die Mas” Kakamas

Cold fronts were still buffeting the Cape and we woke to a crisp clear morning below zero in Kakamas – we don’t camp….often….. at all. It took a while to thaw out, which only really happened after the first cappuccino at the Springbok Lodge in Springbok. After that I gallantly gave up my down sleeping bag to my wife – if you want to be warm go goose down. (If you want a trip to succeed keep the wife comfortable.)
Crossing the border was easy enough. Our border posts certainly beat theirs hands down but they had better roads in that part of southern Namibia.
Once on the river we lost contact with websites and weather reports the only reminder of frontal systems was a chilly head wind making progress downstream a mental battle. The 13 km paddle at Elgro is a walk in the park!

Insect Activity
Being part of the same water system meant that on the insect front there wasn’t too much that can change from Parys to Pofadder. And it was the case where mayfly and caddis presented in pretty much the same shape and size as on the Vaal if not a little smaller. With all its faults on the pollution side the Vaal certainly does have much larger biomass per rock than the Richtersveld. Great for big fat yellowfish – then again I would rather drink Gariep water straight from the river. What was lacking was the really large Hydro caddis, but crabs and baitfish were more prevalent as large protein items on the menu. I covered all the bases with a good selection of flies.

Worm, crabs and nymphs

Approach and Technique
The Vaal caddis is hatching and the whole life cycle of the insect is on the menu. If you appreciate some of the finer nuances of fly fishing on the Vaal consider fishing the stages. This pupa Caddis pupa on a top fly with a larva fished in the glides or just below the rapids –swing the flies and use the Leisenring lift. Then switch to a Hydrolater towards evening, with the pupa on a dropper.
In the Richtersveld the approach was to complete a day’s paddling, find a camping spot, pitch a tent (get’s easier), fetch water, boil it, make a fire, cook food and sleep. Wake up repeat the previous in reverse order until the afternoon…………. I would be lying if I said that. This was never intended to be a fishing only trip. If that is your intention then get a 4x4 and camp in the Richtersveld nature reserve. Or travel along the Gariep on the Namibian side in a 4x2. Norotshama Lodge at Aussenkehr is a great base to explore from.
We had one really tough day of paddling 23km with the aforementioned head wind. But after that had two day’s rest (fishing) while a group went hiking into the mountains of the Richtersveld. That’s when my wife developed the visible symptoms of Chickenpox and I lost my photographer. Fishing was good but somewhat disappointing on size. There were plenty of small fish (cast-a-fish stuff) in the rapids but getting the bigger fish one had to explore the pools. I did a lot of walking and spotting without success. Even with good clarity I did not spot fish in the same lies I’m used to on the Vaal. Surface activity was limited to splashy rises; I did not see fish porpoise/head & tail rise, which is the trigger to switch to dry fly.
The two bait fisherman in our group got some excellent smallmouth specimens in the deeper pools. One fish exceeded 4kg with a few of 3.5kg.
I really battled to get my largie in the Gariep. There is plenty of water perfectly suited to hosting them, lots of bait fish (tilapia) and crabs, and very little fishing pressure. I got my first one on the last day at the Fish river confluence. Even the guys with Rapalas got nothing. I blame the weather.

Been there …….got the picture

Carl & Keith

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September Update

Report and some evidence just in. Clarity is absolutely great at the moment! With fairly constant flows the conditions should remain for another week-end. PTN hotspots and cream caddis produced for them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 2008 Middle Vaal Report

When not fishing you meet interesting people photographing interesting subject - Bengt von Veh Magaliesberg

I have NOT spent any time on the river in the last two months hence the hiatus in reporting and my somewhat crappy mood. It’s an absolute disgrace! Such is life and as we evolve from single men to married with kids our disposable time diminishes. Choices we make, I’m glad I made mine.
Another choice I made is to join my uncle and friends on an upcoming 5 day raft through the Richtersveld. Part of the group is going on a two day hike, which leaves us two solid days of fishing. So I’ll get some sanity back.
For those of you with less interference in your fishing diaries get to the water. I’ve received some great reports in the last fortnight. Herman Botes has time to fish in the week and he had a magnificent day on Tuesday. All fish caught on the dry, some over 3kg, a final count of 30 plus and I must agree with the man that the Vaal is one of the best tail water fisheries in the world.
Water and Weather forecast
We’ve had steady flows in the last month – I watch the rates daily thinking that I may end up fishing the next weekend. I’ve been wrong on that. Clarity is good but with changes in temperature, wind and possible rain we may get some algae bloom, just like a pool going green round about now.
Weather is great and we’ve said goodbye to winter with some soaring 30C+ days in September.
Windguru at http://www.windfinder.com/forecast/vaal_dam gives good indication of wind and weather conditions in the Vaaldam area, good enough for Parys and a fair indicator for the Potch area. Looking at this you can expect wind North and North East.
With the high pressure south of the Cape it’s keeping the frontal systems away – clear skies for the next few days – looks like a fishing weekend.

Insect Activity
Reports coming in from the first weekend in September indicated that the hatches are thick- with some mayflies but already dominated by the caddis species. The odd Vaal caddis showed themselves over the weekend. You will do well imitating the large larvae – sometimes up to #8 hook. Check the rocks in the rapids to appreciate their size and prevalence in Spring.

Pupa for colour – note eyes and antennae

Approach and Technique
The Vaal is as we all know the dumping ground for a lot of nutrients, more than the system require and can handle. This combined with some other factors creates one of the scourges of the Vaal massive spirogyra growth– fortunately limited to this period. These long strings of algae clog up the prime fishing areas especially the rapids. I have experienced it so thick it makes wading impossible.
What to do when your favourite venue suffers? You can wait for summer rains to wash it away, but that is not an option when the urge to fish is there.
I have two options:
Get away from the stuff, the fish are still cruising the pools and are not exclusively feeding in the rapids. Target them with normal open water tactics. Mayfly nymphs on a slow retrieve or the surface flies.
Try a dry and dropper approach to targeted fish, fishing the clear lanes in-between the veg. Not an easy task but at times the choice between fish and driving home early.
A mate of mine had a great day in the Dome fishing a holding pool just above and below the rapids. He got plenty of fish and some whoppers amongst them! He lost plenty, almost all of them because of rusted hooks – from a waterproof box. He lost all his flies and had a very frustrating and disappointing day. Avoid this by taking these precautions.
· Invest in a good waterproof box.
· Leave all flies outside the box or the box open to dry. Often forgotten when racing back from a long day and you still have to take the significant other out at 19:30 and it’s 18:45 with Gasmere 50 km’s to go.
· Check flies before the trip using needle nose pliers to check them. Rusted flies break off at the tail where the dubbing ends.

Bertu and Tinus teamed up to produce this one and the next

While the rain remains absent the clarity should be good. Dedicate some time to pursuing these great game fish now before the summer rains reduce visibility. Fishing has been good to excellent from Parys to Prieska actually I’m only reporting up to Nkolo Spa/Christiana.

Average size fish for these chaps

The guys in the Western Cape are relaunching the Yellowfish Working Group. You can contact them here if you are interested :
Northern Cape Bells is happening in October and there may be some slots available.
I’ve received some worrying news from the headwaters of the Vaal. Dave Weaver reported a possible new trout farming venture at Sterkfontein dam. I’m all for people earning a living but I see absolutely no reason why another person must enrich themselves buy stuffing-up (is the nice word) another pristine environment. We’ve had a lot of that in South Africa and are reading about the effects weekly – Wonderfonteinspruit, Sterkfontein caves, Loskop dam, Northern Cape diamond mining etc. etc.

FOSAF reports Yellowfish September 2008

Horrors of horrors, I see in the chronicle this week a small notice that there is a planned trout farming operation earmarked for Sterkies. I have registered myself as an interested and affected (I+A) party. At this stage I have no further information regards this proposal but I will keep you informed as and when I get more info. I sent the notice out to a number of people on my e-mailing list so hopefully the word has got around. Should you wish to be listed as an I+A party please e-mail, Mr E Hinrichsen at
aquaeco@telkomsa.net. You can also go and view their activities at www.aquaeco.co.za.

Joy when a mate scores in Seychelles! Well done Theo

Carl & Keith

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August report delayed- Carl disgusted with himself ;-)

We've not posted the August report yet because Carl claims to be so under the whip in his day job he's not had time to blog... he disgusts me and apparently himself. Hopefully we'll hear from him before the end of the month.

Have you been on the Vaal recently? please post a comment and let us know what you've been up to.

I am off to Scotland next for a few days fishing the Tweed and its tributaries for browns and grayling... and maybe some sea trout! watch my blog "flies and stuff" for more.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

July 2008 Middle Vaal Report

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to enjoy a day’s great fishing on the drift at Elgro Lodge. They run a professional operation, safe & clean facilities, boats in perfect condition and the trip gives access to some of the best sections of the Middle Vaal. We were rewarded with world-class fishing – I nailed the smallies on dry and my mate got stuck into the largies and bigger smallmouth.
A group from the Flytalk.co.za forum got together for a trip on the 28th and they more or less blanked. I won’t mention anything about their abilities with a fly rod ;-). Jokes aside it certainly highlights the true nature of the river in winter. If you blank you may give up on it, if you get into the fish you are forever converted to the supreme fishing experience of the Vaal river.

Water and Weather forecast
Flows are still basically a gamble, I mention a number and the next day it is up by 10. Monitor the flows on the two sites. Rand Water and DWAF or contact a reliable landowner. It seems Goose Bay and Schoemansdrift are producing data, but neither of them tie up or reconcile back to the Barrage. That said the flow is certainly fishable and the latest report on visibility is from 100-150cm in the Dome.
Winter solstice is behind us so the days are getting longer but alas not warmer. The next two months will be the coldest but the fish will still eat!! Our recent trip coincided with the antitheses of the Perfect Storm – the perfect fishing weekend. On the Saturday the high pressure system remained over the centre of the country, it was balmy 20C and we had no wind.

Insect Activity
Looking back at the archives of Middle Vaal reports for winter it’s fairly obvious that mayflies are the main food source you need to imitate now. Mayflies hatch in the rapids or in the open water of the large pools – but fish will feed for several metres below these spots. Be vigilant and you’ll notice the little sail boats on the water or in the air (too late for the fish, for now). The water flowing past you will be a soup of nymphs, shucks, spent, hatching and trapped adults, giving a clear indication of what must be imitated. I would err on the small size when tying or buying flies.
Caddis imitations in smaller sizes are also important the adults and pupae more than the larvae. I haven’t fished midges/buzzers/chronomids but these insects are abundant in the Vaal during winter and do form a large part of the diet of smallmouth. They hatch in very slow moving water, where the larva lives in the muddy substrate.
I tend to have cover for every insect on the Vaal and Sterkfontein dam in my flybox. Before every trip I add to it and after the trip new patterns and shared ideas find slots.
Approach and Technique
As mentioned earlier we picked a good weekend for the last trip – I guess the more you go out the luckier you get.
I started the morning searching for largemouth but when I noticed the first signs of surface feeding smallmouth I switched. I always take two rods on the boat both loaded and ready. The dry fly rod had an indicator dry with a small mayfly emerger on the dropper. I battle to keep track of size 18 dries at 30 yards. This “indicator” was a Vaal caddis tied with a thick stack of white CDC.
I prefer to use my own boat, it allows for 2 rods and going solo allows one to stand on the pontoons of the boat. There’s only one captain and you can go where you want to – plus you get all the exercise of rowing.

Once you clear a rapid and the major rocks it’s fairly safe to stand up on the pontoons, which gives you the required elevation for spotting fish (don’t forget the hat & Polaroids).
Keep an eye IN the water, a bump against a rock can send you into the 10C water! Follow the main flow and scan the eddies or quieter water for rising fish or the dark shapes holding or moving just below the surface. Yellowfish on the Vaal do not present as the golden beauties you see in Sterkies or held up for photo’s.
When entering a new pool it is a good idea just to pull over and spent a few minutes resting while scouting the surface. It is amazing how a barren stretch of water comes alive. If you are familiar with hunting or game viewing you’ll know how rewarding it can be just to sit on a kopje and scan the bush.
Bertu landed and released this beauty first thing in the morning around 9 am. This after three boats passed thru the pool. Flies that worked for him were all dark coloured which made sense considering the low visibility – black provides a better contrast.
Barend also used a dark coloured fly to contribute this beauty to the Largiebase
– plus he threw some cash at the problem and made use of the guiding services of Ian Couryer. The money spent on a good guide is an investment in your future fishing pleasure. Even if you hit a bad day in terms of weather etc. you will learn so much that will stay you in good stead for the future.
Unless you can get onto the river with a very knowledgeable buddy who is willing to forgo some fishing time and show you the ropes (NOT!) a guide is the only option. Of course there are some dodgy guides out there, but in general if you go with a word of mouth recommendation you are safe.

Keith is launching a new Blog sharing his experiences in the UK http://fliesandstuff.blogspot.com/. I’m sure it will be filled with his passion for fly fishing and great new fly patterns to inspire us.
Cheers got to go fishing!

Carl & Keith

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flies and Stuff- keith blogs his UK flyfishing

finally, after 16 months of living in South England I have started blogging some of the amazing fishing I have had. Come over and have a read and if you have mates in the UK (or are considering visiting or moving to the UK) let them know too, I'd be happy to offer help based on what I've learnt so far

Sunday, June 08, 2008

June 2008 Middle Vaal Report

Winter has well and truly arrived, although living on the northern side of the Magalies I only notice it when I visit the Vaal. I spent a day out on the river the last weekend of May and the water was only just bearable in neoprene waders. That said if you manage to stay out of it you can easily still fish with only longs. We are so blessed with temperate days of clear blue skies.

Water and Weather forecast
Planning a trip should centre on the major frontal systems. If it’s big it will sweep the country and you’ll be better off tying flies or cleaning the garage. I thought this would be a very cold winter but on the odd hunting trip the campfire was a pleasant experience.
Flows have been erratic up to 25 cumecs in the last two weeks (up to 30 from the 8th), which is above the winter flow regime. Hopefully we can get some low constant flows, which should contribute to increased visibility.

Insect Activity

In winter the main focus will be on mayflies. Some of the readers have sent me questions in the past on what are meant by all the terms used when describing the various stages of the mayflies. For those who still have questions have a look at this great article on Hatches magazine - http://hatchesmagazine.com/page/january2006/86
I do not think we need to be able to define between male and female to be successful on the Vaal. Heck I cannot find any plausible reason why a fish would pick a male over female. I may be wrong;-)
There are some new updates at http://www.danica.com/flytier. Note how many tiers use CDC, especially when tying grayling flies. Don’t overlook this aspect as there are similarities in the way these fish feed.

Approach and Technique
The last trip was always going to be tough. I did not have a boat only my float tube, which hasn’t been used for 5 years and which I have never used on the Vaal. In short it wasn’t the perfect tool for the job. I prefer to use the two-man inflatable used by the rafting fraternity. From a fishing point of view they are perfect. The inflated pontoons offer a stable platform allowing the angler to fish and spot from a standing position.
The visibility is still not optimal but if you know where to look you will find the smallmouth. I fished a likely looking pool but there were no takers. I then decided to walk the bank for approximately 1km up and down stream. I was looking for the tell tale sign of consistent risers and I found them at the head and eye of the pool.

The channel was split by a small island joining up at the head of a long pool- see photo above . The fish were holding (blue circles) out of the main current (green line) occasionally sipping insects off the surface.
The key to success in winter is searching the pools for feeding fish. Some pools are really big and you tend to get “lost” and cannot decide where to fish. You can start by fishing the likely areas blind, constantly watching the water for signs of activity. Here I would target the head or throat of the pool as long as it’s deep enough. Tail-outs are always good, especially if you have a deep drop-off. Calm or protected bays with minimal flow can warm up and I have seen pods of fish holding fairly close to the surface in such places.

If you do strike it lucky and find a feeding pod I trust your casting will be up to it because you won’t get within 10 metres without spooking them.

Focus your attention in the tail-outs close to quieter water with protected bays, hyacinth beds and rocky outcrops. Juvenile fish hang around these rocks and occasionally venture out to far. Fish the imitation all the way back to the rod, lifting the leader and then fly clear of the water. Don’t commence casting with 3-meters of fly line out the tip, it is easier to load the rod but you will miss takes. Stand back from the edge at least until you have covered the drop-off with a few casts.

My personal preference is to use natural colours.

Work pressure kept me away from the Bells Largemouth festival. These two flies were tied specifically for the festival. I like the push of water generated by the woolheads – which should register on the lateral line even in lower visibility. The foam popper can be fished top water or below the surface – it is obvious why a surface running fly would be appealing!

Thanks for the contributions for the Largiebase. Unfortunately we do not have enough information to publish – only about ten submissions – crap fisherman I tell you ;-).

Good luck

Carl & Keith

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

May 2008 Middle Vaal Report

It’s time to confess: “Hi my name is Carl and I fished for stocked trout at a lodge in Mpumalanga.” Everyone: “Hi Carl!” Ok it’s not really a sin and heck it’s not always that easy, I blanked on the Monday morning. We certainly do have some great rivers and stillwaters and the most beautiful scenery in that province. It is also where I started my love for fly fishing on a syndicate farm on the Slaaihoek road. There are just a few aspects of it that I don’t enjoy that much now that I have seen the light.
Before you send me hate mail I do not include fishing for wild trout under the vices of the dark side of fly fisher folk. Keith is actually fishing for them, using his great imitations of these:
http://www.hatches.tv/play.php?vid=258 That is when spring does arrive in the Northern Hemisphere. The weather has been all over the place in the States, a friend in Seattle was complaining about the snow in April. So don’t complain about our early winter, at least we have clear skies on most winter days.

I enjoy following various international fly fishing forums and visiting the websites. It fuels new ideas in fly tying and reminds me of old trout techniques to try out on yellows. What does strike me is their dependence on the arrival of spring, apart from the obvious opening of the season, at times it’s downright impossible to fish due to the weather.

Water and Weather forecast

Free rising wild trout on light tackle

On the topic of weather we have now (hopefully) seen the end of the rainy (I was writing this before 1 May!) season. Planning a trip is not so much dependant on the rain as on frontal systems bringing cold and drastic changes in pressure which is not conducive to good fishing. Have you ever used this synoptic chart which is available here http://www.weathersa.co.za/ship/ship.gif?

I’m not a meteorologist but the line with the shark teeth ;-) = Cold Front. The jury is still out over the effects of High pressure vs Low pressure on fishing. A quick Google will give you the two sides of the story. I certainly don’t like fishing a day before a major frontal system hits, thereafter it is back to normal.
Flows should have settled into the winter reserve regime, they have been fairly constant for the last 2 weeks. Temperatures are dropping steadily hovering around 15C – time for the waders unless you managed to stay dry all day. On that keep some warm dry clothing stashed if you do get dunked, something windproof and some polar fleece.
Visibility is improving and in the region of 100cm which should increase if all the variables remain constant. But being variables they don’t so like predicting weather I’ll stick to ball park predictions and reserve the right to cock-up occasionally. But the nice thing is you do get days when smallies are 30cm below the surface and very visible from afar-so rather perfect your casting and presentation skills than worry about clarity.

Insect Activity
The mayflies are starting to dominate in terms of hatches- baetis species should be the dominate fly. But you don’t need to worry about the Latin or counting the tails to catch fish. Be prepared with the right size and colour fly. On a recent trip I was catching them on an ant imitation because it resembled the size and colour of the spent naturals. The smaller caddis species will be present in sizes from 12 down to 20. Keep in mind the wing versus body ratio of the caddis when choosing your flies.
As mentioned earlier there is so much we can learn from other fly fishing people. John Gordon developed and tie some amazing small patterns to fool the very elusive fish of the San Juan river in New Mexico.
http://www.danica.com/flytier. Some of those patterns will work for selective smallies. Don’t be fooled into thinking a yellow won’t see those small flies, soon the water will be clear and if you present the fly to a pod of them good fun will be had. Now to find a hook that will keep a fat winter smallmouth.

Approach and Technique
Following on with the April theme we will stick to slow fishing. My last outing to Elgro Lodge the fishing in the rapids was very slow. I decided to take the boat downstream to locate the fish as the estate agents say: “Location, location!” I found pods of them feeding on a smorgasbord of nymphs, emergers and spent adult mayflies. The fish weren’t big but they were eager to take a well presented fly and that ladies and gentleman is the most enjoyable part of our sport!

The flies used were all tied with CDC.

1 F-fly

2 Loopwing CDC emerger
3 CDC spent wing
4 Vaal caddis
5 CDC ant

Pick up a current edition of a local FF magazine and you will see an article on fishing for Largemouth – the best time to fish is now. You cannot get better advice from this section than what Ian Couryer is writing. He has a wealth of experience pursuing these fish as an angler and guide.

A mate reported seeing a lot of largemouth feeding activity in the pools while out fishing over the long weekend. The smallmouth where feeding on the surface in the bigger deeper pools. Other smaller fish could be warming themselves in the warmer top layers during the day. This explains the visible feeding on the surface.

A good option is to fish baitfish imitations on or near the surface. Especially in the tail-outs close to quieter water with protected bays, hyacinth beds and rocky outcrops. Juvenile fish hang around these rocks and occasionally venture out to far. Fish the imitation all the way back to the rod, lifting the leader and then fly clear of the water. Don’t commence casting with 3meters of fly line out the tip, it is easier to load the rod but you will miss takes. Stand back from the edge at least until you have covered the drop-off with a few casts.


Carl & Keith
mailto:carl.yellowfeverat@gmail.com remove the (at) to mail
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