- 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!