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.

1 comment:

  1. Great report Carl! It must've been wonderfult to step back into the Vaal after such a long absence. Those macros shots are great too.