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!