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.