Monday, November 28, 2011

December 2011 Middle Vaal Report

That is it, it is a month before Christmas and the irritating jingles are playing in the shops so another year is gone. The fishing season since the end of winter is one of the best we’ve experienced in a few years. The fish were eager to take the fly and the water clarity was great. I hope you made the effort to get onto the water.

Panning for gold
I’m so thankful the summer rains has started - in moderation I believe it is good for the fishing. It is a lovely relief from the heat wave and the farmers in the middle Vaal must’ve sighed a sigh of relief. We are still getting reports of trophy kudu bulls dying on the farm in Alldays, the last decent rain was in Febuary this year and therefore I never complain when it rains. The weather forecasters are predicting a wet summer with La Nina conditions, so fishing trips will require good planning, a bit of luck and some weekday sneaking out! Also just remember grass will grow faster if you mow it frequently skipping a Saturday is good for the root system to develop.

The Doctor's medicine
I’m off to the coast in a few weeks, hopefully the Garden Route will heat up and the leeries or skipjack will show themselves. Last year I didn’t even bother to pick up a rod. But knowing the fickle nature of the weather and sea I hedged my bets. I booked a sleepover on the return trip on the Rooipoort Nature Reserve bordering the Vaal near Kimberley.
We wish you and your family a blessed Christmas and a happy new year. Enjoy your break, drive safely, don’t drink and drive, watch out for the lightning and just relax :-)! Seriously just enjoy the fishing!


Carl and Keith

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

November 2011 Middle Vaal Report

Sunrise on the way to the Vaal
The red-chested cuckoo calling was a sign that the summer rains were on the way. This is the call for all fly fisherman to get to the Vaal and enjoy some of the best fishing we've had in. Kobus and I headed the call, took a Friday off to fish the Vaal far from the maddening crowds, only to run into a Bells festival in full swing at Elgro River Lodge. I was glad for a river and not a dam, we would’ve been stumped, next venue was perfect not another fisherman in sight. Since my previous trip on 1 October clarity improved to a meter, perfect for a bit of sight fishing and I think the limit when it comes to close in fishing. I could cast to feeding fish and watch them react to the fly coming into sight.

The fish get excited and one can clearly see the eager head movement of the take, while there is no sign of movement on the indicator. A timely lift of the rod connects to a very surprised fish shooting off to deeper water. This particular section has one of the prettiest runs on the Vaal and when clear reminds me of famous rivers in Montana.

The channel cuts between 2 islands, long strands of water grass gently undulating in the reduced flow, occasionally opening up to reveal the gold of a yellow. I wish the Vaal could always look like this. This is the 3rd week of October and it certainly feels like summer is here. I’m hearing all the summer migrant birds in the garden – paradise flycatcher, cuckoo and purple-backed starling. We are experiencing a heat wave in Gauteng at the moment, not great for fishing and fisherman. From our previous trip we had one younger member with some serious sunburn, my advice always cover up as much as possible, long-sleeved and legged trousers are the best option. I try to avoid adding sun cream while fishing – some foreign oily substances get onto your flies – opting instead to cover up early in the morning. Baseball caps although they look cool is another thing to avoid, rather get a wide brimmed hat with a dark under brim fabric, makes spotting fish a lot easier. A Buff is a handy sun protection garment, although fairly expensive. I was standing in the queue at Woolies and noticed a similar piece of material at R30, unfortunately in feminine colours. I have a feeling of being ripped off when I paid 5 times that. Next time you see a guy with a mauve buff it might be me☺.

During these hot spells the fish are also at risk. Oxygen levels drop in the warmer water impacting their recovery time after a fight. Make sure you spend more than enough time to revive the fish in the flowing water. If you struggle in finding fish in the regular spots, realise that they do not like the direct harsh sunlight. Find shaded areas under the willows or against the bank undercuts shaded by vegetation. Try fishing in the cooler times of the day, spend the hottest times resting up for the afternoon session. I’m noticing the small black ants are becoming very active, moving nests and collecting food. Although I do not have this down to a science, my experience from previous years is that this indicates the big rain is about 10-14 days away. Get yourself onto the river!

Cheers Carl
There is still plenty of beauty on the Vaal

Friday, October 07, 2011

October 2011 Middle Vaal Report

After an almost 12 month absence it was absolute bliss getting into the Vaal on Saturday. The weather wasn’t particularly great with a strong upstream wind and with a grumbling cloud cover overhead. The wind was “predicted” to die down towards the afternoon prompting me to swing the boat’s nose upstream. Flows were very low and with the wind in my back I travelled like a Frans Steyn penalty kick, effortlessly with the wind.

The floods have certainly “cleaned” up the river. The substrate is cleared of debris and mud, a few spots even had nice pebble beds. Visibility is not great, I would say 50cm but it is good enough to spot the odd flash of feeding fish when the sun is right. After such a long absence from the river I find it very difficult to fish blind. The mojo of just knowing where a fish lies in any given stretch of water is gone. That is when I spend a few minutes at every rapid or run to scan for fish activity - a head breaking the surface, a tail wagging up in the air or the telltale flash of gold. This also helps to identify any spawning activity, in most cases spawning will be a very visible splashing and trashing.

It took a while before I found the fish. Paddling through the glides normally spook fish and it’s easy to spot the bow wave of a departing fish, but I saw nothing. So the fish were somewhere else, very difficult to see anything in the deeper pools, due to the strong wind there was no surface activity. My gut feel was that they were in the faster rapids, aerated water, with lots of food. I kept on going until I reached the first big rapid above Elgro lodge. Even with the flows around 15 cumecs my unpractised hand could not get the fly into the zone. In the slower water I got strikes on the NZ-rig so I knew the fish were there and active. I removed the strike indicator and with a good mend and control a feisty male grabbed the fly in a pocket. It does help to know the fish are there but when you’re not getting takes the most likely problem is your flies are not in the feeding zone.

The fly that worked for me was this caddis, tungsten bead, but you can use lead in the body.

I recently bought a macro lens and was trying to have a closer look at the naturals in the Vaal’s larder. The photos are not great, I battled without a tripod☺. But the pupa shows nicely what the key triggers would be to include in an imitation-black wing buds, long legs and antennae bright green abdomen.

A great top fly to swing down and across when the big Vaal caddis are emerging. There were plenty mayfly nymphs and these smaller caddis larvae on the rocks.

Earlier in the season a friend reported a buddy and he fished together – he blanked. He made one comment that got me thinking, every time his friend switched to another fly he would get a few fish. My theory is that the fish were feeding higher up in the water column and a new fly sunk slower due to air bubbles trapped in the dry body, this put the fly in the zone for longer. Until it got completely water logged, and sunk out of sight too quickly.

On a sadder note we’ve received reports of some venues along the Vaal allowing jig fisherman to target spawning fish and also killing fish. Unfortunately this is a battle not easily won. Most venues along the Vaal have certainly been approached by us, Yellowfish Working Group and various other conservation bodies. How do we go about solving this? Education does work, there are still people who do not realise the threat faced by yellows in the Vaal some will listen and change their ways. Unfortunately the moral fibre of SA society is shot, on a daily basis I rage against people in Rustenburg driving over stop streets with impunity, but nothing changes. So there will always be people who will ignore your plea to change their ways. Try having a good chat with the venue owner if that fails I would suggest vote with your feet. Just keep in mind money keeps the person in business, their income is not solely from fly fisherman especially in winter!

This is the reason I support Elgro Lodge because they walk the talk when it comes to yellowfish conservation.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Wylye Monster

I know this blog is about yellows but if you feel like seeing what I am getting up to on the chalkstreams of Southern England have a read about the 28" brown I got last week
what a day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

September 2011 Middle Vaal Report

After a seemingly endless winter, spring has finally arrived and that is all I’m saying for now. There will be a few cold fronts, mostly coinciding with our planned weekend fishing trips until the regular summer rainfall sets in and ….! No I’ll be positive, but if I go by the two preceding years you better be booking time off with the wife, boss or lovers the window may be small to enjoy good fishing. I’ve had one of the most memorable days of fishing on the 24th of September in 2001, 2 weeks before my son was born.
While writing this report I got this question via email “The problem is I have not fished the Vaal nearly enough, I was hoping you could give me some pointers on fly selection and were to find early season fish.” I can admit to not fishing the Vaal often enough, especially this winter. Conditions have just been very tough and travelling 300km when the odds are against you is for the young and foolhardy.

Although the smallies never stop feeding in winter, they do go into a feeding festival in anticipation of the first spawning run. The larval stages of the big Vaal caddis are almost at their biggest, think size 8-10 hook, these will be one of the prime targets of the yellows. Prospect the waters you are about to fish in search of these, especially in the deeper channels the fish will not be in the very shallow riffles yet. Expect to fish water up to your waist in depth and remember to make the required technical adjustments to your approach. Your flies will have to get down to the feeding zone. Correct casting – slack, parachute, upstream mend, tuck cast anything to get slack in the line. And good mending technique to keep your flies at the right depth for as long as possible.
To hedge your bets add a good mayfly imitation to the point, black or GRHE. My preferred method would be a NZ style rig, but you can use whatever you are comfortable with. If the algae becomes too much of a hassle I would switch to dry & dropper approach. Vary the depth of the dropper and work the clearings in between the vegetation. Accurate casting will be the game breaker.

Watch the weather reports for frontal systems, my view is never fish the 1-2 days before the system hits. But you could prove me wrong.

July 2011 Middle Vaal Report

The few fishing reports I’m seeing on fishing along the middle Vaal, or should I say lack thereof does not make for great reading. Blanking is the common thread and an absolute lack of any surface activity is another. I visited friends at their house next to the Vaal near Bothaville. It is a great spot for largies, big deep pool, a tributary and some large rocky outcrops. Unfortunately I lost inspiration due to the very low visibility. It seems from the Barrage downstream the visibility is around 40cm, good for summer but nothing compared to winters past.

Well with all the doom and gloom I still believe the fish are there and we can catch them. The Vaal experienced severe flooding during the first few months of 2011. I think it will require a “normal” rainfall season to settle things in the river. Some good news is the sun has reached its apex in the northern hemisphere the subtle changes of the season is happening and it may just bring on something on the river. When you do venture out it is vitally important to first find the fish before wasting time flogging a dead beat. I’ve found on multiple trips down the Vaal even in winter the fish do move around the pools. Fishing last Saturday’s productive throat of the pool produced nothing, until I float downstream. Finding a flat rocky section with very little flow in the bend of the river, it seems the water might be a tad warmer here. Standing on the Arc I could just make out the subsurface shapes of fish, moving and feeding. A few minutes later the first yellow was in the net.
When the fish are not on the surface experiment with a team of nymphs fished progressively deeper. Or use longer droppers with your dries, if you battle to cast the set-up just reduce the leader.

I’m off to try the Palala river this weekend, hope I can find a fish or two willing to take a well presented fly.

June 2011 Middle Vaal Report

I had a look at the 2010 report for June, looking for inspiration. That was the time of the World Cup and we had a massive cold front hitting around mid month. Pretty much the same happened last week but we had a few millimetres of rain. Enough to upset the flows! Added to this there was a mishap at the Barrage, opening of the gates letting out 200 cumecs.

Winter is the time of dry fly and visible fishing on the Vaal. The above sequence of events has put paid to it for a few more weeks. I’m not saying you will not catch on a well presented rig – best a dry and dropper – but when one ventures out in this cold it has to be worth it. The same applies to the largemouth, visibility just make your chances of success so much better.

My suggestion would be to hold out for a few more weeks until you see the DWAF chart flat lining at about 20 cumecs. Tie up some flies, clean the tackle and score some points around the house.

Lucky hunter.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Middle Vaal Report

The Vaal is back to safe wadeable and easy fishable flow rates. I’m glad the fish and fisherman got some respite from the severe floods before winter sets in.
Autumn is a great time on the Vaal, the fish will be feeding well to bulk up for winter. Please note they do not hibernate but continue feeding throughout the
cold months – finding them and presenting the right fly is the key to success. With the constant flows clarity should improve during the next few weeks.

The fish will continue feeding in the rapids depending on the water temperatures and time of day. Be prepared to move around if you don’t find them there or see consistent feeding in other areas. You should also make allowance for the time of day. We are all eager to get to the water as early as possible, but I think you’ll have a more enjoyable day if you give your wife breakfast in bed and then head out. The extra brownie points will give you more time on the water in the late afternoon and early evening. This is a special time, the fish get more relaxed as the sun dips below the horizon with the threat of predators diminishing.

They become aggressive feeders moving into the shallow rapids, glides and tail-outs eager to take a well presented dry or hedge your bets with a dropper added.
My suggestion would be to limit casting and rather wait for the right moment, the fish will move closer to you, offering an easier opportunity.

Good luck and enjoy
Carl & Keith