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 (http://www.fishingowl.co.za/) 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.

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