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