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.