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