Monday, December 07, 2009

December 2009 Middle Vaal Report

I do not have a lot to report other than the fish are eating and we are at the mercy of summer rains for good water conditions. Flows have been manageable with a few spikes and the resultant drop in water clarity. In the absence of major frontal systems, like the one we had 2 weeks ago, you will experience Highveld thunderstorms on most afternoons. Not much you can do about that but hunker down and make sure you do not become lightning fodder. Most of these are over within 30 minutes affording you excellent fishing for the rest of the afternoon.
As the daytime and water temperatures increase go look for the fish in the shade. Overhanging trees and undercut banks should be worked thoroughly – do not take no for an answer. At times you have to go in tight against the bank and do a few drifts in the good spots. You will be amazed how a fish will only take after the 4th or 5th drift.

Me? I’m of to Sterkfontein dam to satisfy my insatiable lust for dry fly fishing. If you are on the roads this festive season travel safely.

Blessed Christmas to you and your family. Happy New Year.
Carl & Keith

Monday, November 02, 2009

November Middle Vaal Report

Road trips I love them (at least till we get to the water)

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Some you can some you can’t. I discovered this on my previous fishing trip, to Sterkfontein dam. Not the middle Vaal I know but fishing for smallmouth none the less. On the Friday we arrived we had to fish on foot – with very strong winds we were forced to fish the accessible sheltered areas. The first spot produced my first largemouth in this dam on a small Zak nymph. It gave me a lovely fight and certainly got our tails up.

A fruitless 30 minutes followed and I moved to higher ground, which revealed very little in terms of fish, we moved on. Another shore access spot was completely blown out, with no fish showing!?!

One last trick up our sleeves; we had a choice of rocky shoreline and open bay with sandy/muddy bottom. The bay was wind swept but a small ridge gave enough protection to make a cast. My mates headed to the rocky shoreline, as this was completely protected, and the in the Manual of Sterkies chapter 4 states this is one of the spots.

The Zak did duty again, the high sun afforded enough visibility in the choppy conditions for me to spot 2 fish following but refusing the fly. I immediately switched to a hopper as the water was shallow about 1-1.5m. A short cast into the wind was all I required, the hopper drifted for 2metres before a big mouth engulfed the fly. WOW! She left the shallow flats like a Tokyo bullet train, trying with all her guile to rid her of the 5X tippet holding her back. I landed and released her taking a few minutes to savour the moment – and decide on continuing fishing or go call my friends – I’m such a good person.

The area they were fishing, a top spot in high summer, was void of fish.

They joined me in the bay and Jaco promptly got his first smallie in Sterkies.

The following 2 hours I experienced some of the most amazing fly fishing for smallies I’ve had in my life. The fish were big and fat, they engulfed the hopper (no missed takes) and they all ran like a bat towards deeper water.

Kobus did not have permission from the wife to go, he wasn’t there.

The one lesson I got ingrained again was to find the fish – the usual spots or some completely new place. At Sterkfontein the clear water makes this easy – if the weather co-operate. The Vaal in summer can become so predictable that our cerebral development in the fly fishing lobe takes a serious knock.

This is further aggravated by fishing the same venue! There are various methods to identify the holding places of the fish on the Vaal.

· Find a bit of high ground and use it to spot the fish flashing as they feed. Even in discoloured water the tell tale flashes are visible.
· Pause to survey the river at water level, you may just notice a tail doing the “overhere” wave. This accounted for my first largemouth, a fish of 4.5kg.
· In the pools and glides, keep an eye open for dark torpedo shapes just sub-surface or the dorsal-tail fins of feeding yellows.
· If you see nothing give the fly in water technique a go, but take a break every so often to check for activity.

Only the clever survive, the stupid catch nothing.

The longer term weather predictions are for this year to be an El Nino year, which translates into low rainfall, especially early season. To date this holds true and has afforded us fairly constant flows over October. The only spike due to a canoe race held over the last weekend.
Good luck tread lightly and avoid the spawning fish!

Carl & Keith

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October 2009 Middle Vaal Report

Every now and again a really good story comes in via e-mail this one I think is worthwhile posting:

Steve and his buddies were hanging out and planning an upcoming fishing trip. Unfortunately, he had to tell them that he couldn't go this time because his wife wouldn't let him. After a lot of teasing and name calling, Steve headed home frustrated.
The following week when Steve's buddies arrived at the lake to set up camp, they were shocked to see Steve. He was already sitting at the campground with a cold beer, swag rolled out, fishing rod in hand, and a camp fire glowing. "How did you talk your missus into letting you go Steve?"
"I didn't have to," Steve replied. Yesterday, when I left work, I went home and slumped down in my chair with a beer to drown my sorrows because I couldn't go fishing. Then the ol' lady snuck up behind me and covered my eyes and said, 'Surprise'."
"When I peeled her hands back, she was standing there in a beautiful see through negligee and she said, ' Carry me into the bedroom, tie me to the bed and you can do whatever you want'.....
So, here I am!"

Anyway I had one of those moments the last weekend in September. Not the see through nightie moment, no I got to go fishing as the family were holidaying in Balito. Man I missed the Vaal – not fishing for the last 5 months - driving there through thick mist really got me searching the memory banks for info on what to do when I get there. But it is like riding bike once you’re on everything just comes back to you.
I read my old reports – I do – there is some good advice stored in there. But every year or season is different, nature just has some things that does not run linear. I still vividly remember 24 September in 2001 fishing a farm called Carryblaire for the first time. I met Chris the owner’s son at a wine tasting and cracked an invite to a then private venue. It was a red letter day we seriously klapped the yellows, in those days I still counted and tallied something like 50 and they were big fat wintered fish. [Nowadays I would call it a day before I get so many in a small area.] The big green rock worms were on every rock you turned over . I have never had a day like that again on all subsequent 24 Septembers.

We arrived at the venue with no other fisherman in sight. Okay a good start and the weather looked promising clear skies with a moderate breeze. The obligatory fish were rising in the pool while we strung up our rods and got the boats ready. Off we went heading upstream stopping at the tail-out of the first big pool. There is a nice high ridge affording a eagle’s eye view of the pool below – which revealed very little apart from some splashy rises. A splashy rise does indicate fish but if you are one-up with a CDC emerger it’s a futile exercise. So I suggested the rapids to my novice fishing buddy while I held just below him in the eye of the pool.

I kept an eye on him and it seems as though his casting was good enough but he had too much distance on his casts. Clearly he’s done some saltwater fishing. My position did not deliver any results so I decided to move through the rapids to a glide. As I got closer I noticed rises along the current line. Perfect head and tail rises clearly indicating surface feeding yellows – bingo! I got a good cast in, the fly landing right in the feeding lane, but it drifted past untouched. Second cast was a better presentation and I added a big upstream mend. A good fish appeared, took a natural and then sip-swallow-ziiiinggg I had my first fish on since 27 April. Damn it felt great.

Unfortunately the moderate wind picked up after that one fish, the hatch petered out and the fish disappeared from the surface. The rest of the day was spent unsuccessfully searching for rising fish and fishing the rapids. I got one brute from a deeper hole in the rapid that gave a good account of her self.

My fishing companion was still fishless at this stage, having tried for the rising fish and then reverting to the rapids again. I noticed that with his long casts he was not in control of his flies and proceeded to show him to fish closer to him. The visibility was around 80cm so there was no reason to fish 15-20m ahead. I had no strike indicator and had to really work the line to stay in touch with the flies. On the second cast a male fish obliged to show that what I suggested makes sense! Heck I love it when they make it look simple. I then lost something unknown, maybe a muddy or a catfish. The fly that produced all these fish was a tan coloured caddis larva.

In the area I fished I could clearly see the muddies spawning along the margins in the shallowest of water. The big pools had massive carp getting amorous. I have also read reports of yellows spawning. PLEASE DO NOT FISH OR WADE AMONGST THESE SPAWNING FISH. Yellows don’t all spawn at the exact same moment, if you hold back and fish the deeper channels and glides away from the riffles you will get feeding fish.

Good luck tread lightly.
Carl & Keith

Monday, September 07, 2009

September 2009 Middle Vaal Report

Christoff Badenhorst with one solid beauty
Looking back on August and looking forward to spring the conditions for fishing is not perfect but the fish don’t mind – they have to continue eating. The Vaal did not clear up this winter as expected – there are multiple causes and we have experienced this in the past. Very frustrating considering this is the only time the Vaal offers the opportunity to sight fish. But don’t despair, the season is changing and soon we will be in full summer mode.
The first part of the season will bring its own challenges, most notably the curse of the Vaal (spirogyra). The long strands of algae that chokes up the rapids and prevents the nymph fisherman from effectively fishing the shallow areas. It is a growing (excuse the pun) problem exacerbated by the pollution. I have touched on some solutions of how to fish in this water, in previous reports. Best is to approach this with a dry dropper set-up and forget about nymphing until the river gets a good flush to clear the algae.

Although the temperatures are rising don’t neglect the deeper waters below the rapids. At times the bigger fish congregate here (especially during a hatch) and this will give you a shot with dries. Even in low visibility the fish can be sighted if they are holding close to the surface.

On the largemouth front the low visibility did not prevent the guys from having a bumper season. The reports are all from the Middle Vaal and there are plenty of double figure fish in them. It just illustrates that if you spend enough time in the right water with the right techniques you will catch fish – even if conditions are not ideal. If you did put in some face time on the water and remain unsuccessful consider going out with one of the expert guides or sign up for one of the clinics. It can be a bit crowded but you will have the opportunity to mix with some of the notable experts.

Barend Esterhuizen put to work the knowledge gained from fishing with a guide.

Good luck with the spring season.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 2009 Middle Vaal Report

My working life is hectic at the moment not sure if it is a good thing what with this Global meltdown but it does keep me out of the Vaal. Which is a great pity because the fishing is awesome – based on reports I’m getting from friends. There are still some tough days when the weather does its winter thing and goes nasty but this last weekend (18 July) was windless and perfect.

Riaan reported in during the Bulls WP match clearly a contented man – he was fishing in the Vaal Hackle area. The pods of fish were just lying close to the surface looked almost like they were sunning themselves. But of course not, they were eagerly awaiting their next meal. The hatch started and looked like blackfly or very small buzzers interspersed with some mayfly. A number 16 Adams seemed a respectable imitation and produced a 7.5lb beauty amongst several other good fat winter fish.

On the largemouth front the fishing is also good. Gary Botha newly married and with a baby on the way also does not get on the river often enough, yeah wait till the kid is there! But he scraped up some credits for a day’s largemouth fishing. One fish of 6kg and another of 4kg certainly a makes for a satisfactory day.

Make the time to get onto the river for the smallmouth or largemouth action.

Cheers until next month.
Carl & Keith

June 2009 Middle Vaal Report

I’m going to keep this month’s report short, by excluding the weather section, as it seems we will never get it right again – we got 70mm of rain in June! I spent a few days in Namibia in the Kalahari where the Vaal and everything work related was very far from my mind. It is an absolutely amazing country with wonderful people.
The news from the Vaal is that the fishing is in top nick. The hatches, mostly mayflies, occur daily and bring the fish to the surface in a feeding frenzy. The feeding frenzy was yesterday, courtesy of a call I got from Riaan who fished the Vaal Hackle area. He was ecstatic and justly so the Vaal in good form in the winter is one of the best fishing destinations (Sterkfontein being “closed” in winter mode) available to fly fisherman in this area. The yellows in the Vaal are on average bigger than Sterkies;-) If you get the weather right you will be cruising the river in temperatures around 20C. And of course as a rule we don’t have any cloud cover so the days are sunny and pleasant. Compared to fishing destinations in the Northern hemisphere and some further south from us this is good summer weather. Dress warm in layers and make sure you have a dry box to store all the clothes until you need it when the sun dips.

If you don’t see fish or surface activity, take it slowly and move around the whole pool or pools searching for them. It is critical to find the feeding pods, blind fishing should be your last resort. If you have to start off blind with a nymph don’t stop scanning the water and moving position, the hatch will happen and the fish will come to the surface somewhere in the pool. Unless the weather turns foul with huge frontal systems, but I’m not making any predictions on weather.

Cheers until next month, enjoy the dry fly fishing.

Carl & Keith

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May Middle Vaal Report

“By 2035 SA will need 65-billion cubic kilometres of water and our current national stock stands at 33-billion. Our problem is that we are managing our water resources so badly, and are putting pressure on available fresh water,”. Dr Anthony Turton
Alarmist some might say but after the Energy crisis of early 2008 I would prefer to err on the side of panic. It is a fact that we, those in Gauteng in close proximity to the Middle Vaal have been blessed with average to above average rainfall in the last 3 seasons. A fact lost on us City slickers used to bottled water and water on tap. We complain about the rising cost and dropping quality of our potable water, but until recently it wasn’t frowned upon for Rand Water to provide strategic water supplies to a mining company. Water was that cheap.
It may also be that we are protected from a severe water shortage experienced by the rest of our arid country because we have large upstream strategic reserves. Unfortunately it will be difficult to avoid the massive influx of refugees fleeing a desolate country side.
We really need to switch on and approach this challenge as a national threat. Do your bit to conserve water – bath with a friend, join an action campaign, make sure the company you work for don’t pollute and get your parents to switch on it’s your future.
Approach and technique

The plethora of April public holidays gave me enough free minutes and I eventually got onto the river. The mornings are crisp with a thick layer of mist drifting off the relatively warm river water. Winter in all her glory is here. There is no need to be on the water at first light, it is certainly a lot more pleasurable to reset the alarm and crawl deeper under the duvet. Unless if you’re into photography, that is the time to get out and experience the light fantastic.
The hatches will only start around 10 am, with sufficient numbers to get the fish onto the surface and feeding. My first day out started at 2 pm and the fish were already locked into a thick hatch of Mayfly. The clarity was around 50 cm but the yellows were able to pick size 16 naturals off with a few obliging to take a well presented dry. When I feel confident I switch flies after every fish, experimenting with different patterns. The naturals (nymphal shucks) were dun to almost black in the water. The flies producing were the f-fly, loopwing emerger, dark klinkhammers and even a CDC ant in size 16-18. The fish refused bigger patterns I used as an indicator.

The next morning the action was slow but it was great to be on the river for the first time with my son. He thoroughly enjoyed it and I was astonished that he persisted and did not head back to his PSP at the lodge. He even paddled me around the pool while I stood up spotting fish.

Again as mentioned in previous reports, first thing is to find the fish. Move around until you see the activity or spot the dark shapes just below the surface. You cannot fish blind in those large pools of the Vaal. On that morning I found the fish in a large pool, just where the water was smoothing out from the turmoil of the rapids. The hatches were sporadic so I reverted to the double burger with extra fries approach. A big hopper cast about 1 metre upstream of the fish was enough to entice my first fish of the morning. Once the hatch started they ignored the large fly again. I switched to small #16 offerings and had some great fun with decent size fish up to 5 pounds.
Insect Activity
The flies are small and sometimes it takes a lot of guts to stick such a small fly out there especially if you are used to lobbing #10 caddis boms in summer.
Believe me it does work. If you tie your own flies and battle to get the mayflies picture perfect don’t despair! I watched and collected a lot of the naturals and they were a sorry bunch.The cripples and emergers are scraggly bits none of the pure lines of the duns floating on the surface. The fish didn’t mind in fact they were the easy pickings.
This little fellow joined me, but mom was close by and she was a monster

Cheers until next month, enjoy the dry fly fishing.

Carl & Keith

Friday, April 24, 2009

April 2009 Middle Vaal Report

Just got back from a family holiday in the south of Mozambique. First time there and although I saw but a small part of the country what an eye opener. Shocking how war can put a country back and how difficult it is to make a comeback without natural resources. Tourism is great but it’s a fickle business based on seasons and school holidays. The rest of the year there are mouths to feed and it seems the sea as a natural resource is taking the brunt of the demand. Shore fishing was limited especially on fly. It may be seasonal it may be due to my inexperience, but snorkelling the pools did not reveal much more for the fly to entice.
I wish I could make a stop at Horst Filter on the way back. Although the rivers are not optimal it certainly beats sitting in the Easter traffic. Anyway, fishing the Luneburg area during winter is still on my to-do list.
Water and Weather
Joy when I got back and noted that the Vaal is getting back to fishable levels. I know for a fact there will be plenty of people out on the river before winter sets in. Autumn is a very productive time on the river, the fish are still to be found in the faster shallower water for those enjoying wading. There is also the opportunity to fish from a boat in the pools-as the clarity improves you’ll get great dry fly action.
Insect Activity
The archive of reports covers this subject well. If you do fish dry flies it will be mostly mayfly imitations.
A report just in from Gary la Grange is that the fish are certainly on the bite and there a big ones eager to take the fly. The smallies were hesitant to take a dry but obliged to take unweighted sub-surface patterns. Herman Botes reports that the yellows were very eager to take a dry on election day, pale morning duns (Adams) and Blue Winged Olives were hatching.
This is the start of the optimal fishing season for largemouth. Visibility will improve with the absence of rain and flash floods. The very big barbel move into winter mode (bottom of the river) and the largies take up their position as the prime predator in the river. When it comes to flies for the largies you have two choices:
1. Pick an all round fly e.g. MSP or Woolly Bugger in black. Tie it on and stick to it for a full day working all likely spots at all depths.
2. Pick 100 different great attractor patterns for fresh-& saltwater predators. Tie one on and stick to it for a full day working all likely spots at all depths.
You need dedication and perseverance to succeed with largies. It’s not the fish a minute stuff you get with the smallies in a hatch. You can spend a full 10km drift improving your casting and watching smallmouth feeding on #16 MF on the surface. Or you can hook into a 5kg largie at 10am and the day (year) is made.

This is not about fishing. I'm getting more into my photography. Upgraded to DSLR and a new Canon lense.

Carl & Keith

Thursday, March 05, 2009

February Middle Vaal Report

One of my 2009 resolutions is to fish more often at least once a month. January had a trip to kick off the month which was a good start. February 28 I’ll be on the water, seems things are heading in the wrong direction with the gap widening. The increased flows are partly to blame, workflows and water flows. I remember when the urge to fish and get out there into the water got one down to the river at 40 even 60 cumecs with visibility below 20cm. Dangerous but fishable, never really memorable. The days I remember were those when the water looked alive (certainly not muddy and vaal) or the fish were on top and feeding.
Whenever we travel and pass a body of water I will always look at it. A dull suspension of silt doesn’t warrant a second glance. But that lively emerald or blue water immediately switches the mind into evaluating the fly fishing potential. Reminds me of travelling into the North Eastern Cape for the first time, you just want to stop and fish every river you cross. I cannot imagine flying to Auckland New Zealand and then driving to the South Island, with no stopping on the way!!!
If you are lucky enough to have sufficient time to fish the great and the less than perfect days, go for it and enjoy. At some stage in your life you may not be able to.
As I’m writing this we are about to leave for a trip to Sterkfontein dam. I’m taking two friends for their first trip to the real Eldorado of yellowfish, the purest of gold to be found. It is magnificent to experience the youthful enthusiasm it brings to men. Kobus has been tying and tying the last few weeks. I think there is enough flies to feed one to every fish in the dam. Passion and zeal I love it.

Water and Weather / Insect Activity
The change of the season is upon us, I can sense it in the early morning air. The sun is lazy in getting up and has lost some of its intensity. If you turn over rocks or watch the hatching insects closely you’ll note the mayflies becoming the dominate food source.
When the rain tapers of the river will settle down, late showers will rejuvenate flows but won’t turn the river on its head. The clarity will return and yellowfish will be visible and feeding close to the surface. They will start moving out of the rapids, the real shallow sections; into glides and deeper channels just of above the big pools. Don’t forget the tail-outs they get there in numbers towards late afternoon and seem to abandon fear in the gathering dusk.
As always I cannot predict when the flows will settle but we are still thankful for the rains.

Sterkfontein dam trip report
As with all fly fishing adventures we left with the best intentions, a sack full of enthusiasm and some trepidation on the accuracy of the weather forecasters. They got it close to spot on - damn! We had a tough weekend with changing weather patterns, keeping us in raingear and waders or giving us serious sunburn. That is Sterkies for you, always changing never predictable.
The fishing was tough but rewarding. At times “the only thing you heard was the opening and closing of fly boxes” to quote Dave Weaver. The doom and gloom of the weather was lifted on Saturday when nature brought on a smorgasbord of ants and termites. I was prepared for flying ants (size 16 and 18 – see slideshow) as they do occur in numbers and the yellows lock onto the immobile insects on the surface. First up was a natural size 14 ant. The fish got into a feeding frenzy and a big fish turned to take a hopper and head straight down into the depths, popping the tippet after a short battle. Next on was a #16 ant and the fish nailed it. The wind changed direction and the hatch petered out.
We moved to another spot affectionately named Beetle bush and obliged with some large beetle patterns – current theory is that 6 legs are better than 4. The odd fish rolled on the beetle and some got hold of them. Then suddenly the air was filled with small termites. They look exactly the same as the large ones we see on the Highveld but these were size 16. Which was not really covered as I came prepared for the larger insect. These insects land on the water with their wings in different formations, allowing the flytier to tie them with wings facing back. Tying them with spent wings at 90 degrees is going to wreak your tippet into a twisted mess.
I had a fair replica albeit with slightly larger foam body – klipspringer hair wings completed a general profile – by no means an exact replica. Then followed a magic session of 3 fish landed all around 5 lbs and many more dropped or just not connecting on the take. Still exiting stuff just watching the explosive takes.
IF you do venture onto Sterkfontein in the late half of the season, make sure your box is well stocked with ant and termite patterns. I‘ll be adding some of my own efforts to the slide show. You can view photo’s of the ants on Jason’s site
or here to see the difference between ants and termites. There are a couple of great triggers to incorporate into your flies.

Now is the time to prepare for winter!! Tie up the flies and get some special leaders tied with a Bimini knot to join sections. The knot does offer some shock absorption for the fierce take and first run of a largemouth.

Carl & Keith

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Flies for Yellowfish

I have added a few flies to the slideshow on the blog- these are flies that work for me. None of the flies are new inventions, just my way of tying some favourites. Let me know if it works for you! If you require a step-by-step I will add some later, time permitting. If you want more details on materials send me an email or leave a comment.

Ps. Most of the flies are tied for Sterkfontein dam as this is now the prime season, Autumn and winter is around the corner. That is when the Vaal can (weather and water behaving) turn into one of the best dry fly rivers in South Africa. If it was in a pristine wilderness area without pollution, this would be one of the best in the world!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I've been fishing for almost 30 years (EEEK!) and one thing that still fascinates me and which I still try to improve is KNOTS.

I've been using the Eugene Bend knot for a few years and I'm very happy with the strength. But when I fish 5X at Sterkies I find it puts curls in the tippet, even on fluorocarbon. So I'm always on the lookout for new and better knots.

Midcurrent published this article today. Have a read, it is thought provoking.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Middle Vaal Report

Pristine drinkable and fishable

According to The Blacksmith Institute the World’s Ten Worst pollutants are:
1. Artisanal Gold Mining
2. Contaminated Surface Water
3. Indoor Air Pollution
4. Industrial Mining Activities
5. Groundwater Contamination
6. Metals Smelting and Processing
7. Radioactive Waste and Uranium Mining
8. Untreated Sewage
9. Urban Air Quality
10. Used Lead Acid Battery Recycling
Six of which pose a direct threat to the Vaal and number 8 stands out as the current media reporting focuses again on the troubles of municipalities on the south of the Witwatersrand watershed. Don’t be misled this is not the only problem and may not be the one that tips the scale. Some of the others are remnants of a previous generation who took what they could and left. Reading more on sewage takes you back in history through the serious problems Londoners suffered including a few cholera epidemics – back in 1860’s! It seems history repeats itself, it is so sad that we cannot or do not want to learn from it.
Sewerage is front of mind in summer, it’s the peak of the fishing season and reading about spills leaves one with trepidation every time you plan a trip to the Vaal, in winter we forget it exist. What can one do about it? We cannot get involved in cleaning up, no seriously you don’t want to get involved it is specialised business. It’s not like the Cubs outing picking up paper and plastic around the local park. But as with most things in life we can actually do our bit.
• Report sightings of spillages. FOSAF produced a brochure, which is posted to our Blog with contact details for reporting pollution. Reporting to the press helps in creating awareness but does not solve the problem.
• Join an action group like SAVE.
• Don’t dump non-biodegradable waste down the sewer system. Report companies who do.
• Reduce you consumption of water and production of waste water.

• Take appropriate measures when you answer the call of nature! During our rafting trip through the Richtersveld, I was shocked by the visible signs of human excreta and toilet paper at the popular camping sites. The visitors are mostly affluent people who can afford a 4x4 and fuel to get there- boggles the mind. But I suppose the “Not In My BackYard” principle apply.
o Dig a deep hole 60cm plus.
o Burn the toilet paper.
o Cover up the hole.
Enough of this and back to the fishing.

Water and Weather
December was incredibly hot north of the Magalies, no complaints the rain is here and we are glad for the life giving blessing. It does interfere with the fishing though but you just have to learn to live with it and plan around it. Option one is to fish on Wednesdays, the flows seem to remain constant until then. By Thursday the thunderstorms move in and the heavens dump cubic tons of water onto the paved and tarred wetlands, sending most of it down to the Vaal. Weekend is stuffed!
But there are opportunities when flows remain at fishable levels and the reports I’m seeing are very good. Keep an eye on the weather reports and check the flows! Best to keep all equipment ready and packed for a quick getaway at short notice (make sure you have blanket amnesty with the significant other)!
Weather wise you’ll have regular afternoon thunderstorms to contend with, sometimes worth sitting out as the period afterwards can bring on some of the best fishing of the day.

Insect Activity
It is mostly still caddis patterns bringing home the bacon, with hotspot and flashback nymphs the other favourites. I’m a big advocate for alternative methods, which may not produce the large numbers of fish, but add a new dimension to your fishing. OK you get tough days when the only dimension you want to add is a curved arch into a rod with screeming reel - clearly not conducive to testing new flies or fancy techniques. But one of the followers of the blog Barend sent in this photo of a fish caught in January on a dry. What more do you want????

Klinkhammer from Europe to Africa what a great fly.

Approach and Technique
There is nothing new I can add, I have described every technique I know in the previous reports. I have to confess that I haven’t been to the Vaal in weeks!!! If only I fished more often maybe then I can finally piece together the puzzle of catching 50 5kg smallmouth in a day.
I mentioned earlier about being packed and ready to go fish. Get into the habit of sorting through all the stuff after every trip. Clean the tackle bag, remember to trash the salami sandwich you did not eat, dispose of tippet and recycle all the rubbish you took in. Why leave it there to create a headache for the resort owner! Clean and dry wading boots somewhere out of the sun. Put all the things together and check and check again. On a recent Sterkfontein trip I left my favourite rod and brought an empty rod tube. Fix broken equipment – which reminds me I have to attach a heel on one of my wading boots.
Fish are being caught in good size and quantities, downstream from Orkney area towards Christiana.
The FOSAF sustainable yellowfish pamphlets should be out there at shops and regular venues. If you don’t see it there get into contact with FOSAF or me to request some.

Remember to revive fish before releasing

I have added a slideshow of my popular flies. Most of the current ones are for Sterkfontein dam, but some like the F-fly does work on the Vaal. I will add more when time permit. You can also link to Keith’s site for more advanced stuff, but he is becoming very Eurocentric and I’m not sure his flies will stand up to African conditions ;-)
Our family started recycling most of our household waste. We are going through a learning curve, and there is extra effort involved but at least we are doing something for the planet which our kids will inherit. Are you doing it?

Carl & Keith

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Keith and I made a contribution for the new FOSAF pamphlet on ethical fly fishing. These will be distributed to venues on the Vaal and major tackles shops. There were other people involved, especially Trevor Babich ( sponsored the printing of 10,000 copies. This is an online version, so has a much smaller carbon footprint. Which is one of my 2009 and beyond resolutions.


  1. Do not enter the river immediately upstream of other anglers; this is extremely rude. Most flyfishers will be wading slowly upstream and therefore climbing into the river immediately upstream is very bad manners. If you have to enter upstream of people do so at least 60 metres ahead and first request permission either by hand signal or your voice if shouting is not required.
  2. Give fellow anglers space. Allow at least 2 line lengths (60 metres) between you and a fellow angler. If there are few anglers at the venue stay even further away. This will allow everyone the opportunity to target fish that have not been spooked or affected by fellow anglers. Do not crowd anglers who appear to be in a “hot spot” catching lots of fish. Most anglers will respond kindly to polite requests to understand what tactics they are employing so successfully. Ask what they are doing, do not wade over and start casting into the area the angler is fishing. Best to do this when the angler takes a break or makes eye contact.
  3. Boats: If you do access the river with a boat please note that shore based anglers take preference over you. They cannot cover the same amount of water and are
    limited in their movement by deep, unwadeable water. Please float past them giving
    them a wide berth.
  4. All anglers are equal: Respect and learn from fellow anglers, regardless of their chosen techniques and tackle. If they are behaving poorly towards fish, the environment or fellow anglers politely point this out to them. Do not assume an arrogant attitude because you are a flyfisher. Flyfishers probably impact the river ecosystem morethan other anglers, especially during spawning periods.

Catch and release of yellows has become an accepted practice amongst the flyfishing fraternity. This has ensured that despite heavy fishing pressure sufficient adult fish of breeding age are released to maintain a healthy population.
However, a few basic rules apply to Catch & Release.

  1. Use only barbless or de-barbed hooks.
  2. Do not play fish to exhaustion. Use side strain to get the fish out of the flowing water to bring it in as quickly as possible. This also lessens the chance of losing it.
  3. Try and unhook the fish without removing it from the water. If you use a net do not remove it to weigh and measure it. Rather use a net with a scale on the handle and place a tape or measurements on your rod to record the length.
  4. ever hold it with dry hands.
  5. Hold it firmly but gently and do not squeeze it.
  6. If the fish is exhausted hold it upright in well-oxygenated water pointing upstream until it has recovered. If necessary push it forwards but not backwards and forwards.
  7. If you use a net make sure the netting is a soft, knotless and not abrasive, synthetic material, which removes the protective slime.
  8. All fish stress during capture and this is particularly marked in polluted, warm water with low levels of dissolved oxygen. Limit the number of fish you catch especially when they are prone to stress.

Pollution is a major problem in South Africa and the Vaal itself has been particularly badly affected. In fact pollution is by far the most important threat to what is still a world-class fly fishing resource. Unfortunately, with each year that passes this threat increases with the main culprits being malfunctioning and overflowing sewage plants. These are mainly in the Gauteng area but many other municipal water treatment plants in the catchment area contribute
to this scourge. Other major pollution threats come from the heavy metals and acid mine drainage from the mining industry while many other industries and farming operations must take a share of the blame.
If you have evidence of this please contact the following Department of Water Affairs offices:
• Above the Barrage: Gauteng office at 012-3921306 & 392-1300
• Barrage to Bloemhof Dam: Bloemfontein office at 051-4059000
• Downstream of Bloemhof Dam: Kimberley office at 053-8308800
You should also contact your local conservation office or conservancy if you see fish with cuts, abrasions or sores.

Lastly, kindly develop a sense of responsibility towards the river. If there is the litter which is
washed into the river or which irresponsible anglers and picnickers leave on the riverbank, pick it up on the way back to your car.