Friday, March 30, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
|No subdued colours |
yet the fish take the fly?
|Sunset in Dullstroom|
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
|Sedgefield late afternoon fly fishing|
|A magnificent Red Hartebeest bull, Rooipoort|
|Petroglyphs, Rooipoort. Glad they're not in the Vaal anymore.|
The reports I get to see from the middle Vaal are positive. Beginning December the water was still clear, with the moderate rainfall it should remain like that. If you time your trip with decent flows you will fish one of the best pieces of fly fishing water in the world.
|New Year Milkyway|
Carl & Keith
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Friday, October 07, 2011
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.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Time has not permitted another foray to the Vaal before our annual seaside holiday, so I will have to let her rest until sometime in 2011. I’ll be crossing over the Vaal a few times this holiday – always casting an eye over to spot a fisherman or the ripples of a rise. If you do get to fish the river this December Herman’s report is as comprehensive a guide as you will find anywhere.
The Actual Vaal Report by Herman Botes
My experience on the Vaal so far this season has been an on-off affair. The unusual weather patterns seems to play a bit of havoc with my fishing outings , or I’m just picking bad days to step onto the water.
Very disappointing for me was the lack of surface activity at dusk (the time of day I look forward to all afternoon) - the fish do move into the thin water at dusk though. When you see fish activity in the thin water at dusk a dry-and dropper approach can be a lot of fun and you do not hang up as you would if you persisted with a standard nymph rig. Also try this same set up smack bang in the middle of the afternoon if the fishing is slow and concentrate on the smoother glides & runs just below some broken water.
Nov / Dec is mostly a caddis affair with the fish concentrating on grubbing on the rocks in the fast aerated riffle& pocket water , especially in low light and overcast weather. The rest of the day the fish hang out below overhanging trees / vegetation and deeper glides. It’s purposeful fishing, but if you get them in hard feeding mode , you will get pockets of full blown action along your beat . Imitations of Macrostemum Capense (green rockworm) & mustard caddis are good bets for control flies and Garth Wellman’s Green Machine as a dropper can be deadly. I also noted a very high percentage of ginger caddis (brown head/thorax ) in # 14 on the rocks at most venues. The interesting thing is that their appearance coincides with the disappearance of the forest green caddis(black head & thorax) # 14 Go figure ….
My pet challenge in summer is also to bump into a Trico mayfly migration which bring its own challenge and variation to the game. Trico Mays are big….. #14 for adult with football humped wing cases. The nymphs are STOUT with olive/brown dorsal side and yellow/cream ventral side -do not confuse them with the black Leptophlioebeadae? Mays of the same size.When these mays are ready to hatch the mature nymphs migrate to the slack water on the sides of the runs and shallow slacks behind big boulders from where they hatch. They do this by simply walking over & under the rocks. Needless to say the fish follow. To establish if a migration is happening or has happened - turn over a couple of the loser rocks on the side of the river. If one of the rocks is crawling with trico’s (looks like a cattle farm) , you could be in for some good fishing by concentrating on the thin water on the sides and using a stealthy approach. In good water clarity and light you can even sight fish to individual fish using a dry-and-dropper setup. Anglers mostly use a brown Mayfly imitation to imitate the nymphs and I had on occasion achieved good results with a brown gold bead may with a golden flashback. However this is not always effective , especially if you are simply covering water. Lately I found the yellow/cream/mustard ventral colour of the nymph to be more of an attraction and definite trigger - combine that with a brown thorax and a gold / copper or orange bead for an effective imitation. And of course a scruffy picked out GRHE will also account for fish.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I have to apologise for the hiatus in reporting but with sub optimal fishing conditions on the Vaal I have just not focussed enough on fishing. I think I may have lost my mojo so I’m off to Dullstroom to get my mojo right. Not my ideal type of fly fishing, rather it is a return to my roots and spend time with my ageing father. I started off fly fishing with my dad in the Machadodorp area about 30 years ago and now it’s the turn of 3 generations to share the pursuit. It also gives my wife the opportunity to practice her casting and out fish me!
Seems the flows are settling on the Vaal, so in the next few weeks we may be in for some typical autumn dry fly action. It is one of my favourite times on the river, before the extreme cold of winter sets in and the fish fattening up on the last of the summer insects.
Catch and Release
Twice in the past week this piece of research was discussed on two different radio stations. The species does not relate to the yellowfish of this report, but I think we can learn a lot from this. In the Vaal the largemouth is one of only 2 apex predators.
Catch and release fishing in the Okavango under the spotlight by Prof Nico Smit
Have you ever wondered why you do not see as many tigerfish in our river systems today as you did in the past and where they have gone?
Have you ever wondered what the possible reasons are for the slow disappearance of tigerfish from our rivers and if we will ever see their numbers restored? Is ‘catch and release’ angling placing undue stress on the tigerfish pollution?
The Centre of Aquatic Research (CAR) of the Department of Zoology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has researched the decline in numbers of the tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus), which to many anglers is the epitome of Africa’s freshwater game fish species.
“As one of the most important predatory fishes in Africa, tigerfish are found in areas throughout the continent. However, in recent years its numbers have declined in many rivers due to water abstraction, pollution, obstructions such as dams and weirs and fishing pressure,” says Prof Nico Smit, head of the UJ’s CAR. “This has been recognised specifically in South Africa. The tigerfish is now included on the protected species list, together with such marine icons such as the great white shark and the coelacanth, which was once thought to be extinct.”
You can read the rest of the article here.
Carl & Keith
Monday, November 02, 2009
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Some you can some you can’t. I discovered this on my previous fishing trip, to Sterkfontein dam. Not the middle Vaal I know but fishing for smallmouth none the less. On the Friday we arrived we had to fish on foot – with very strong winds we were forced to fish the accessible sheltered areas. The first spot produced my first largemouth in this dam on a small Zak nymph. It gave me a lovely fight and certainly got our tails up.
A fruitless 30 minutes followed and I moved to higher ground, which revealed very little in terms of fish, we moved on. Another shore access spot was completely blown out, with no fish showing!?!
One last trick up our sleeves; we had a choice of rocky shoreline and open bay with sandy/muddy bottom. The bay was wind swept but a small ridge gave enough protection to make a cast. My mates headed to the rocky shoreline, as this was completely protected, and the in the Manual of Sterkies chapter 4 states this is one of the spots.
The Zak did duty again, the high sun afforded enough visibility in the choppy conditions for me to spot 2 fish following but refusing the fly. I immediately switched to a hopper as the water was shallow about 1-1.5m. A short cast into the wind was all I required, the hopper drifted for 2metres before a big mouth engulfed the fly. WOW! She left the shallow flats like a Tokyo bullet train, trying with all her guile to rid her of the 5X tippet holding her back. I landed and released her taking a few minutes to savour the moment – and decide on continuing fishing or go call my friends – I’m such a good person.
The area they were fishing, a top spot in high summer, was void of fish.
They joined me in the bay and Jaco promptly got his first smallie in Sterkies.
The following 2 hours I experienced some of the most amazing fly fishing for smallies I’ve had in my life. The fish were big and fat, they engulfed the hopper (no missed takes) and they all ran like a bat towards deeper water.
Kobus did not have permission from the wife to go, he wasn’t there.
The one lesson I got ingrained again was to find the fish – the usual spots or some completely new place. At Sterkfontein the clear water makes this easy – if the weather co-operate. The Vaal in summer can become so predictable that our cerebral development in the fly fishing lobe takes a serious knock.
This is further aggravated by fishing the same venue! There are various methods to identify the holding places of the fish on the Vaal.
· Find a bit of high ground and use it to spot the fish flashing as they feed. Even in discoloured water the tell tale flashes are visible.
· Pause to survey the river at water level, you may just notice a tail doing the “overhere” wave. This accounted for my first largemouth, a fish of 4.5kg.
· In the pools and glides, keep an eye open for dark torpedo shapes just sub-surface or the dorsal-tail fins of feeding yellows.
· If you see nothing give the fly in water technique a go, but take a break every so often to check for activity.
Only the clever survive, the stupid catch nothing.
The longer term weather predictions are for this year to be an El Nino year, which translates into low rainfall, especially early season. To date this holds true and has afforded us fairly constant flows over October. The only spike due to a canoe race held over the last weekend.
Good luck tread lightly and avoid the spawning fish!
Carl & Keith