Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 2010 Middle Vaal Report

Another year has flown by at a rapid pace. As a kid I wished away the days between fishing trips, now I never do as the days are too precious, but still the years rush by like the Vaal in flood – classic I know.I was lucky enough to spend some time on the hallowed waters of Sterkfontein. Although the fishing was extremely tough I was rewarded with some great photo opportunities.

The dam has been fishing like a temperamental lady, with a certain amount of tender loving attention something was forthcoming. But the great dry fly action of years gone by has disappeared.

Time has not permitted another foray to the Vaal before our annual seaside holiday, so I will have to let her rest until sometime in 2011. I’ll be crossing over the Vaal a few times this holiday – always casting an eye over to spot a fisherman or the ripples of a rise. If you do get to fish the river this December Herman’s report is as comprehensive a guide as you will find anywhere.
The Actual Vaal Report by Herman Botes
My experience on the Vaal so far this season has been an on-off affair. The unusual weather patterns seems to play a bit of havoc with my fishing outings , or I’m just picking bad days to step onto the water.
Very disappointing for me was the lack of surface activity at dusk (the time of day I look forward to all afternoon) - the fish do move into the thin water at dusk though. When you see fish activity in the thin water at dusk a dry-and dropper approach can be a lot of fun and you do not hang up as you would if you persisted with a standard nymph rig. Also try this same set up smack bang in the middle of the afternoon if the fishing is slow and concentrate on the smoother glides & runs just below some broken water.
Nov / Dec is mostly a caddis affair with the fish concentrating on grubbing on the rocks in the fast aerated riffle& pocket water , especially in low light and overcast weather. The rest of the day the fish hang out below overhanging trees / vegetation and deeper glides. It’s purposeful fishing, but if you get them in hard feeding mode , you will get pockets of full blown action along your beat . Imitations of Macrostemum Capense (green rockworm) & mustard caddis are good bets for control flies and Garth Wellman’s Green Machine as a dropper can be deadly. I also noted a very high percentage of ginger caddis (brown head/thorax ) in # 14 on the rocks at most venues. The interesting thing is that their appearance coincides with the disappearance of the forest green caddis(black head & thorax) # 14 Go figure ….

My pet challenge in summer is also to bump into a Trico mayfly migration which bring its own challenge and variation to the game. Trico Mays are big….. #14 for adult with football humped wing cases. The nymphs are STOUT with olive/brown dorsal side and yellow/cream ventral side -do not confuse them with the black Leptophlioebeadae? Mays of the same size.When these mays are ready to hatch the mature nymphs migrate to the slack water on the sides of the runs and shallow slacks behind big boulders from where they hatch. They do this by simply walking over & under the rocks. Needless to say the fish follow. To establish if a migration is happening or has happened - turn over a couple of the loser rocks on the side of the river. If one of the rocks is crawling with trico’s (looks like a cattle farm) , you could be in for some good fishing by concentrating on the thin water on the sides and using a stealthy approach. In good water clarity and light you can even sight fish to individual fish using a dry-and-dropper setup. Anglers mostly use a brown Mayfly imitation to imitate the nymphs and I had on occasion achieved good results with a brown gold bead may with a golden flashback. However this is not always effective , especially if you are simply covering water. Lately I found the yellow/cream/mustard ventral colour of the nymph to be more of an attraction and definite trigger - combine that with a brown thorax and a gold / copper or orange bead for an effective imitation. And of course a scruffy picked out GRHE will also account for fish.

Late Nov/early Dec is also the time of the second spawn for the fish (depending on flows) so be aware and tread carefully. This is a windfall for those married to the hotspot PTN as this little pattern will once again pull in good numbers of fish together with its fellow orange hotspot cronies. There simply is no denying the effectiveness of orange triggers especially around the time of spawn runs. Herman.

If you are going on holiday, travel safely, switch on those head lights and be more visible. Enjoy the fishing at your destination and spend some time with the significant other unless you’ve already fished yourself single. Have a blessed Christmas and I hope your 2011 will be a great fishing year!


Carl and Keith.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

October 2010 Middel Vaal Report

I did get out in September, my first day fishing the Vaal since the river levels got too high in 2009, it wasn't great. I suppose to some extent I was to blame being in a bit of a masochistic dry fly mood. I focused on searching for fish moving on the surface, paddled almost 1km upstream. On some days this works – one will eventually find consistent feeders but on the particular day I blanked. Even in the late afternoon session fish were picky. I tried nymphing the rapids but hooking up with the algae got the better of me.

One bonus for the day was getting close to this juvenile Black Winged Stilt.

The Actual Vaal Report by Herman Botes
The caddis took their good time to do their thing, but boy , when they started the main hatches… it was worth the wait. Strangely this year the daily hatches hit their peaks quite late at dusk. Normally in spring the caddis species are full force anytime after 3 pm in early spring.
Needless to say, dusk is the magic hour, when you would swear you’re in fishing heaven with caddis popping off like popcorn and the yellows rising mad. The low light and drifting buffet results in the fishing pushing right up into the thin water at the pool heads and current breaks(ridges) as well as sitting right back in the tail-outs.
For success only 2 things are required … ultra stealth (don’t move around too much) and a HERMAN-HAMER. This Klinkhamer variant is so effective that if your targeted fish does not eat it , it means you cocked up on your presentation. Sometimes ,out of nowhere a fish would it eat drag-and- all. The pattern is published in Favorite Flies Vol. 4 - named klinkhamer variant. Don’t leave home without it.
On the nymphing front : - the green hydroshycidae larva # 10 are prolific as well as the smaller cream specie #14. The small cream specie is responsible for the current mass hatching. I was lucky last week to capture an actual pupa – at night with my headlamp & seine net. Description ; # 16 / abdomen – bright yellow ! / wing buds – black / thorax & head – ginger brown / antennae & legs – body length and tan. Now I understood why my Plaza Pupa is always a hit.
Carl and Keith.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 2010 Middle Vaal Report

I got an email from my good mate Dave Weaver - there on the banks of the Wilge river. It was a few photo’s and a brief report back on a fishing trip to Tanzania. I managed to track down the author via the email addresses. It was none other than Ed Truter one of the regular FOSAF Favourite Flies contributors and a well respected fisherman. I particularly liked the photos – clearly an artist at work – and this image of a yellow made my heart jump.

Photo: Leonard Fleming (Tourette Fishing)

Ed shares some more info on it:“The fish, as far as we can ascertain is Labeobarbus mariae, the "Rhino fish", said to grow to at least 58lbs in Kenya with mentions of fish up to 100lb! I have been looking into the yellowfish I caught in the Mnyera Rapids above the 'falls'. As I said, there is a description of a "rhino fish" (Barbus mariae) in an old book, The Game Fishes of Africa, that I have, which matches the fish we caught. Most interesting is that the biggest fish on record at the time of writing was 58 1/2 lb from the Athi River in Kenya on rod and line, and a fish of 100 lb caught on a night line in the Tana River in Kenya!”
I’m off to the river on Saturday for some much needed fishing. Herman’s report looks bullish enough for me to cancel a few appointments and meet up with Zoran.

Photo: Leonard Fleming (Tourette Fishing)

The Actual Vaal Report by Herman Botes
The fronts do cause a hit or miss situation but I’m trying to stay on top of the weather to avoid those “dead” days. The fishing is slow and deliberate, to quote Keith “Tough but rewarding”.
The bigger of the 2 BWO species are now hatching between 2- 3 pm and again at dusk. Nymphs can be imitated up to #14.I like to refer to the adults as PMD’s as they are similar in appearance. The fish love this hatch and you can bet a few would move into the pool heads to feed. If you’re in luck and there’s no wind (hardly ever on the Vaal) they will be feeding on top. Otherwise it’s dry & dropper.
At dusk the wind drops and the low light draws a lot of fish to the surface. There are a lot of cruisers in the slack water sipping cripples & casualties from the day’s hatches and spinner falls or feeding on the sub-surface midge. You can push yourself to the max and fish #20 midge emergers on 7X in very bad light .Pick a particular fish and dual it out until it eventually eats(very rewarding / very stressful) or opt for a dry ( spent/cripple adult) with # 18/20 midge 5 cm below it . This setup can turn an evening rise into a fun affair.
Saw the first early bird caddis fluttering at dusk. Still too few around to capture the fish’s attention. Caught my first bat on fly ---- luckily the little oke didn’t get hooked but ended up in the water. Did you know that bats can swim very well?
Carl and Keith.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

August Middle Vaal report

I cannot believe the months are flying by as fast as they are at the moment. I’m turning 40 next month and I think life is picking up speed as we get older. I’m glad to say it’s still cool I’m still enjoying the ride. I still haven’t managed a trip to the Vaal and winter is almost over, it’s certainly shorts & t-shirts weather on the northern side of the Magalies. We spent a weekend in the Pilanesberg, lots of photos again no fishing except for the lady at the top. While out in the bush I could see the signs are there that nature is slowly getting ready for spring.

We got a question on the blog “I just found your blog, awesome stuff, any new stuff happening regarding the vaal system, I am wanting to do a trip there in about a month time, what would you suggest I start tying up?”
I can recommend an old favourite The Adams, one which should always be in your box. Whether fishing for trout or yellows just about anything that would take a fly, I’ve taken a tilapia on it.

Some fishing news from Herman Botes, one of the best out there!
“Fished yesterday afternoon (landed 6 smallies ).Nymphed the whole water column. Picked fish up close to the bottom , mid water and 2 feet below surface.

Sparse mid afternoon hatch of BWO . Wind pumped so no surface activity.
Midges #20 -22 trickling of during afternoon. No hatch activity at dusk.
Big mature caddis larva( on rocks)-macrostemum capense- First hatches should start in 1 month."

Cheers Carl & Keith

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 2010 Middle Vaal Report

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew,

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!

I had it all planned for the 16th, perfect day in mid week to catch the fish & weather off guard. They are forever watching the weekends conspiring to defeat us in our pursuit. A post on the Blog mustered up some fellow fly fishers with the urge to prospect for winter gold. The weekend before the weather was balmy and we riled the English fans staying at the farm lodge, even our winter weather was better than anything the UK summer could offer.

Well by Tuesday the predicted cold front struck, fierce biting cold, ripping through flesh and bone – why do the SA Weather guys get it right when we go fishing but wrong when we can’t?!? And so I was reminded of the lines from the Robert Burns poem written in 1785. I’m sure he missed out on a Salmon fishing trip due to dodgy weather when he wrote this poem.

The flow rate at the Goose Bay Canyon site has been relatively constant for more than a month now, which bodes well for clarity. Keep an eye on the weather report and if you’re not watching the soccer, get down to the Vaal for some dry fly action. I cannot vouch for the reports personally, but rumours of good largemouth catches are doing the rounds.

The upside of the cancelled fishing trip was that we headed out to Pilanesberg for the day, one of my favourite Game Reserves. We were very lucky to witness a Caracal catching a Natal Francolin and I got a few photo’s to prove it.

The sequence is here -

This weekend (26th June 2010) will be our last weekend of hosting visitors at the lodge. The USA vs Ghana match is going to be massive! Hopefully I will then be able to put together another trip for the Vaal.


Carl and Keith

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


I'm busy organising a winter trip to Elgro lodge. No guiding just a bit of help, fishing together and photo's. Send me an email if you are interested (due to spammers just replace the at with @)



Monday, May 24, 2010

May 2010 Middle Vaal Report

Kimberley sunset


I received a question on fishing the Vaal in mid winter and thought I would share some of my views for this month’s report.

“Also, do you have to have waders or a boat?”

  • Boats are great in the sense that they compensate for dodgy casting abilities and the natural movement of feeding fish. When the fish are feeding in a spot, the water level is an inch away from the top of the waders and your cast is dropping 1 meter short it’s not fun. Sometimes fish move around the pool, could be due to sensing the angler or to follow the food. I see this on stillwaters as well as the Vaal and being mobile gives you more options.
  • At the moment the water temperature is bearable, later in winter the temps get down to the low teens and your legs and feet go numb even with neoprene waders. Standing in cold water for prolonged periods can expose you to hyperthermia especially if you take a dip J.

  • Fishing pressure is low in winter but a boat can get you to the secluded spots, sometimes just a short paddle away from other fisherman.
  • There are very few spots along the middle Vaal (especially in the Dome) with clear banks, most of it is tree lined which makes casting difficult. The upper Vaal flows through highveld with clear grass banks, but this area takes longer to clear. A boat will get you away from these obstructions.
  • Fishing exclusively for smallies is an option on foot. They get onto the surface to feed in the hatches so it’s visible and you can spot them from afar.
  • I would not consider targeting largemouth without a boat. You need to move around to locate them and also be very flexible in reaching the spots they hold out in. A typical pool they hold in can be 1km by 500m.

  • Winter fishing for smallmouth is mostly visual. A boat can provide the required elevation in a flat pool to spot fish. Sometimes the smallies hold just below the surface – where they are very visible – but a dimple rise to mayflies can be easily missed on a large pool.
  • I like getting the sun at the right angle to assist in spotting fish, again mobility makes this possible. Canoes are not stable enough to use as a platform, I use them to get to a rock or island from which I do have a vantage point within casting distance.

The river flow seems to settle, still high for the winter reserve flow but if it remains constant, clarity will improve to good fishable conditions. Let’s hope it does so quickly I need a fix of good dry fly fishing!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 2010 Middle Vaal Report

My prediction is for foul weather and flood like conditions to continue for the Vaal. Seems the last few months every time I predicted conditions to change for the better, the reverse happened! We are now yet again seeing reasonable flow levels around Goose Bay Canyon (Schoemansdrift data unavailable). I say reasonable as I’ve heard of people fishing 60 cumecs. To me that is still too high and I’m waiting for the clarity to improve.

The signs of autumn are all round and with it come changes in tactics and approach. The good news is until the spring-summer transition we don’t have to get up as early as we used to. Fish will start to move out of the rapids into the deeper glides and heads of the pools. They will hold here, foraging in the shallower water as day time temperatures increase coinciding with movement of insects. Keep an eye out for activity and target those areas first, with various set-ups. My first choice would be:

· a dry and dropper set-up floated in those glides or flat water
· a team of soft hackle/emerger, nymph and beaded nymph floated across and down stream.
Enjoy this special time on the Vaal and lets hope things clear up before the dead of winter.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dullstroom - Millstream

Fly fishing for trout is not my first choice fly fishing, apart from some great venues in the North Eastern Cape, when time permits my preferential target is yellowfish. But I learned the ropes fishing for trout in the Eastern Transvaal, now Mpumalanga and I have the utmost respect for the pioneers who brought trout to this country and with it laid the ground for a fly fishing culture. I will always cherish an opportunity to pursue them in that area.

Autumn should be one of the better times to fish for trout before they get otherwise occupied. That is if the weather plays along, we had 4 days of constant change – never a good thing. But I take the cards I’m dealt even if it sees me hiding underneath an upturned boat to escape the deluge of rain. The weekend started well with sunny skies on Saturday, but the fish had a premonition of the impending changes in weather and developed selective lock jaw.

I say selective as the odd fish still came out but I couldn’t attribute my success to one specific fly or technique. On previous visits to Millstream, I would find a fly that worked and when ever experimenting with other flies got boring I would switch and BANG into a fish! On this occasion I was like an out of form batsmen whenever I got into the 30’s I would lose my wicket. I tried most of the flies in my box (no Walkers Killer, although they always work) and got the most takes on GRHE, Black Woolly Bugger and Zak nymph.

Sometimes it’s not the fly, but rather the technique. To me the most important aspect is retrieve rate and how one applies variations to achieve success. I would go slower rather than faster, for this reason I use floating or intermediate lines, preventing snags on the bottom. Most of the dams can be effectively covered with these lines. Yes there are times during the dog days of a hot summer that a sinker will dredge them out of the deep. There is obviously a case in terms of quantity of fish caught for the faithful strip a big fat fly as fast as possible – it’s ugly.

Although I’m not a dry fly purist it is an aspect of fly fishing that has a very special place and stand separate from other approaches due to the visual experience. So to say I was miffed when the fish never really got onto the surface is an understatement. Due to the high rainfall I’m missing out one the autumn dry fly action on the Vaal and now this. The clearing skies brought on the prospect hatching termites and there was a brief period when they took to the air (small #16 body). A #14/16 F-fly produced one fish. These termites land with their wings similar to a caddis, I think the f-fly tied with slightly longer wings and a foam body would be a good imitation. Other patterns like foam and deer hair hoppers failed to produced, I think they just work better on warm windy days, when trout expect them to be active and blown onto the water. I would never go there without them, in fact anywhere in South Africa for that matter.

At least the intermittent fishing gave me opportunity to focus on photography, the two hobbies share the same optimal time of day – early light and afternoon light.
On the last afternoon the rest of the family took up the rods which gave me an opportunity to capture them in action. My dad just gave up on the fish when the kids arrived. I was fishing a realistic brown nymph, another throw of the dice which proved unsuccessful. I gave my rod to my wife but swapped the nymph for something with Bling – an olive tri-phonics. Now picture this – the jetties were loaded mostly guys, all was quite, no screaming reels or woops, then the only lady gets a hook-up. And it’s a big one! Biggest fish in our party for the weekend. I promptly removed the rod from her grasp and proceeded to hook 2 more fish for each of the kids, they landed them with a lot of fanfare!

Apart from the great fishing and the good selection of quality water at Millstream the fact that it is such a great family venue makes this an excellent option now that the Vaal is above 300 cumecs again!! Damn I will never make any predictions again – see my previous report.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 2010 Middle Vaal Report

What does this beautiful lady have to do with fishing? Took the photo after sunset, it’s just amazing what can be painted with digital cameras these days.

I have to apologise for the hiatus in reporting but with sub optimal fishing conditions on the Vaal I have just not focussed enough on fishing. I think I may have lost my mojo so I’m off to Dullstroom to get my mojo right. Not my ideal type of fly fishing, rather it is a return to my roots and spend time with my ageing father. I started off fly fishing with my dad in the Machadodorp area about 30 years ago and now it’s the turn of 3 generations to share the pursuit. It also gives my wife the opportunity to practice her casting and out fish me!

Seems the flows are settling on the Vaal, so in the next few weeks we may be in for some typical autumn dry fly action. It is one of my favourite times on the river, before the extreme cold of winter sets in and the fish fattening up on the last of the summer insects.

Catch and Release

Twice in the past week this piece of research was discussed on two different radio stations. The species does not relate to the yellowfish of this report, but I think we can learn a lot from this. In the Vaal the largemouth is one of only 2 apex predators.

Catch and release fishing in the Okavango under the spotlight by Prof Nico Smit

Have you ever wondered why you do not see as many tigerfish in our river systems today as you did in the past and where they have gone?

Have you ever wondered what the possible reasons are for the slow disappearance of tigerfish from our rivers and if we will ever see their numbers restored? Is ‘catch and release’ angling placing undue stress on the tigerfish pollution?

The Centre of Aquatic Research (CAR) of the Department of Zoology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has researched the decline in numbers of the tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus), which to many anglers is the epitome of Africa’s freshwater game fish species.

“As one of the most important predatory fishes in Africa, tigerfish are found in areas throughout the continent. However, in recent years its numbers have declined in many rivers due to water abstraction, pollution, obstructions such as dams and weirs and fishing pressure,” says Prof Nico Smit, head of the UJ’s CAR. “This has been recognised specifically in South Africa. The tigerfish is now included on the protected species list, together with such marine icons such as the great white shark and the coelacanth, which was once thought to be extinct.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

Carl & Keith

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

February 2010 Middle Vaal Report

Vaaldam overflow thanks to Henia for sharing her work.

So what do I tell you about fishing conditions on our favourite section of the river? Not a lot – there is no fishing as the river is in absolute turmoil! Unless you are innovative like these guys.

I’m not making any predictions or forecasts on when you can go out again but we will be extremely lucky to get the river back in fishable condition by April. I’m sure there are some who will not be able to hold out until then, my suggestions would rank:
1. Sterkfontein dam.
2. Vaal tributaries, they clear up quicker and the flow rate is lower. Google Earth can assist you, but access is one of the biggest issues. Keep your own safety in mind.
3. Vaal margins. I’m seeing reports of people fishing in the “new” parts of the river. A very challenging prospect which require you to find the new holding spots and deep holes! Keep in mind that the fish feed differently in these zones as the rocks will be void of any aquatic insects.
4. Start another hobby.

I’m not too keen on 2 & 3 – it is a personal bias don’t discard it. I just prefer clean water or at least a chance to fish to sighted fish close to the surface. The Vaal despite it’s name does offer enough of it to make a worthwhile option.

My other hobby photography is coming in very handy at the moment, it helps me burn the excess cash I’m not spending on fishing equipment and I get to do something over the weekends. Photography forms a great symbiotic relationship with fly fishing – we fish in some of the most scenic places on this planet and what better way to capture it all.

I also enjoy birding when out fishing and now it keeps me busy when the fishing is slow – or non existent. A few years back I decided to progress from just knowing it is a kingfisher to identify it as a half-collard kingfisher. It adds more to the whole purpose of getting out and being in nature.

White-faced duck

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vaal Flood situation update

from Francois van wyk, water quality specialist at Rand Water:

For updated info on the Flood situation, please visit – Marc has added a lot of info and links to the “home page” . We will update regularly and also add some pictures over the next few hours.

Situation currently: Yesterday (28/01) vaal Dam had 8 sluice gates open by 14:00 (outflow 12 cumec)

This morning (29/01) 2 more gates were opened at 10:00 – 2 more will be opened at 12:00 and another 2 at 14:00 – total 14 gates by this afternoon.