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.
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.
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.
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 ;-).
Carl & Keith