EXTRACTS FROM MY SEPTEMBER 2017 FLY-FISHING NEWSLETTER - A fussy trout; Stream of the month, the Swith in the Eastern Cape Highlands; Pierre Swartz on the Wolf River near Hogsback, Eastern Cape; Jan Korrubel's opening season in KZN, Clem Booth's happy discoveries on the Avon...
A fussy trout ...
Last week I saw a trout lying deep in a smooth glide of clear water. Its slow, weaving movements suggested it might fetch a well-placed dry fly. I dropped a RAB ahead of the fish. It rose to it as gracefully as a ballerina, turned sideways to the fly, drifted under it in a long inspection, then abruptly broke off and slipped back to its holding station.
After resting the trout I tried a second cast, but other than showing a slight quiver of interest, it never moved. So I changed to a smaller pattern, a CDC and Elk Hair Caddis, and again had the same response.
While I was pondering this fish it suddenly rose; a confident, no nonsense rise, although I could see no insects on the surface.
I suspected my tippet may be a little short so I added a length of 8 X and cast again. The trout immediately rose and took the fly; in fact, the same fly it had refused just the cast before.
Perhaps I'd just got lucky, but I like to think I had identified the problem and solved it; clear-water micro-drag, fixed by adding about 40 centimetres of 'drift-loosening' (if you'll excuse the term) monofilament. In this case, Trout Hunter's monofilament. It's liquid limp and knots up well.
In my brief spell on the stream I took three more trout, all on the CDC and Elk, all feisty, and all in good condition, despite the bushfires and droughts that so recently ravaged this pretty ravine.
Click in images to enlarge them
All in good condition
Pierre Swartz writes of the upper Wolf River near Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. With images by Pierre and Devin Isemonger.
The reason I am writing to you is to share some pictures from a recent trip up to the Wolf River in Keiskammahoek. I was invited by ECFFA member and friend Devin Isemonger from East London to join him on a hike upstream to fish the headwaters of the Wolf.
We drove up the mountain through thick pine plantations and stopped near a section of the Amatola hiking trail that led us into the valley and after a very long hike we finally reached the river.
Amatola hiking trail
This section of the river flows through grassland and small pockets of indigenous forest climbing quite steeply creating lots of pocket water which holds the odd rainbow.
There are a lot of waterfalls on this first section and we had to bypass a gorge that was impossible to get through but once we reached to top of the gorge the landscape changed completely.
We had to bypass a gorge
We found ourselves out of the woods and onto a grassland meadow complete with grazing cows and the trout we came all this way to find. We were tired after the long hike and had not landed a fish all day. We were just about to turn around and head home when I saw two small trout lying in a run the size of a bathtub. The fish took the size 20 Adams Midge first cast.
Trout on a small Adams
The river got smaller and smaller the further we hiked up and we managed to land a fair number of the most beautiful wild trout in an amazing little stream. Devin knows the area very and spends a lot of time on the water. It was a real treat to fish with him. Unfortunately we spooked a lot of fish since we were so eager to explore the stream that we acted a bit hastily in our approach.
The headwaters of the Wolf is a beautiful stretch of river with a very healthy population of wild trout and is well worth the long hike to get there.
The headwaters of the Wolf
I include some pictures for your reader's enjoyment.
Images from a South African fly stream ...
This month I have chosen the Swith, a stream that flows straight off the eastern slopes of the southern Drakensberg in a place called the Pitseng Valley around 60 kilometres inland of Maclear. This is one of the most beautiful landscapes in South Africa.
A Pitseng valley landscape.
Ed Herbst and I discovered the Swith serendipitously back in the mid-90s and I have fished it countless times ever since.
Ed Herbst on one of our earlier days on the Swith.
It is a remote and pretty stream and, above all, productive beyond words. It is rarely fished, accessible to anglers staying at Vrederus , a nearby venue well known to many South African trout fishers as a working guest farm and a superb stillwater and small-stream fly-fishing venue.
Angler's cottages at Vrederus.
The farm Höningskloof has the best of the Swith, mile after mile of typically quick-flowing, high-altitude freestone water. You couldn't fish all of it in two weeks.
Luke Rossler hooks a rainbow in the tail of a typical Swith run on his first visit to the stream.
Its rainbow trout are exquisite and in many way unique in their colouration, being richer in colour with tapestries of olives, lilacs and blues and the greenish hints of oxidised copper.
Tapestries of colour.
If you don't mind a short hike through riverside scrub it's worth making visiting a small cave just off the riverbank that is liberally decorated with of San rock art, including one of the most unusual pieces you'll see in a long while.
At the tiny cave of rock art. Notice the art behind my right shoulder. The best of it is on the wall in front of me.
A most unusual piece of art.(I don't ever get much argument about that!)
This is a quintessential dry-fly stream, but when these trout won't come up, small nymphs work well. It's a perfect stretch for anything from 0- to 2-weight fly rods.
The author fishing on the Swith in icy weather, wind and intermittent rain. Still we caught trout. (Billy de Jong photograph.)
...and the riverside landscapes are inspiring. Don't ever forget your camera on this stream. Billy de Jong photograph.
Access to the Swith, and to the San art cave, should be arranged through Juan Marie Naude of Vrederus. (See above.)
Opening of the KwaZulu-Natal fly-fishing season. Report from Jan Korrubel...
The days leading up to 1 September were filled with much excitement and anticipation, and high hopes for a great start after the late rain and snow fall of mid-August. September 1st being a working Friday, I was hoping for have the rivers to myself, but as rumours of a number of other anglers also heading out started to concrete, I thought I had better reach out and make contact so that I wasn’t fishing in anyone’s footsteps...and so it was that I planned to meet up with Grant Visser at 7a.m. at the Giant’s Castle entrance gate to fish the upper Bushman’s.
I had tied up a couple of extra flies doing a dry fly order 10 days before, but was 'relieved of them' by a mate the day before Opening! So I ended tying up a few more the night before - my choice of trout food being a Para-RAB emerger and Parachute Coachman – Who fishes Opening Day of the streams with a nymph after all!
Para-RAB emergers and Parachute Coachman
Finally the day dawned, but while driving up the Kamberg Road I was taken aback with the near gale force winds blowing in the valley. It didn't bode well, but at Giant’s Castle there was not a breath of wind! It started to puff however, as we tackled up in the day visitors parking area and I put aside my first choice of the 1-wt as the Opening Day wand, opting for something a bit more beefier in a 10ft 3-wt.
Grant Visser on the upper Bushman's
A small herd of eland nervously kept their distance in the field below as we made our way down the hillside path to Bannerman’s Bridge and the river. Once at the bridge, we decided to head downstream to cover a few of the seldom fished pools. As we turned to start fishing back upstream, the wind really started – icy downstream blasts –making me regret my choice of the 10ft. Coupled with the rustiness of not having been on the river since last year, my initial casts landed pretty much back at my feet. Then to our pleasant surprise, the wind died away and it was game on!
First fish (above) and second fish (below) both on the Para-RAB
I opened my river account with a healthy 27cm fish that rose to the Para-RAB emerger, followed by a 24cm fish just a few pools later. The fish were looking up, and Grant was also raising fish on a variety of other dries. In the well-known Red Rock Pool, Grant latched onto a submarine, but unfortunately couldn’t get it to stick. The Para-RAB had proved its mettle, so I switched to the Para-Coachman and took a few more smaller fish.
Bushman's brownie on Para-Coachman
The author on the upper Bushman's taken by Grant Visser
The weather was now turning worse. We lunched briefly at the confluence with the Twee Dassie Spruit and pushed through the gorge on the Bushman’s side below Main Caves. My plan was to scout the water all the way up to the foothills of the ‘Berg, but the upper stretches looked quite thin. The wind having picked up we decided to bail and join the group of Warren Bradfield, Leevashin Ramnaryian, Andrew Mather (Gehard Goosen arrived later from Mthubatuba) who were staying at Snowflake Cottage just outside the Reserve. I stayed to fish, but Grant opted to head home. With the weather not playing game, the afternoon session was a blank – but it was a great morning's Opening to the season.
The following day, I fished the upper Mooi River in Kamberg Reserve. Arriving at 7:30, it looked a pearler of a day, and I had the place to myself – could you ask for any better!
The Mooi all to myself.
However, it was not to be and I couldn’t buy a fish! While appearing somewhat more skinny in places, there was still some good pocket water like we'd had to the Bushman’s the day before. There certainly seemed to be plenty food about – the rocks I turned over showed a good population of nymphs.
Enough food on the rocks
I fished my way, or more correctly, cast my way right up to Game Pass, taking the left branch (the main Mooi I believe) up to the waterfall – about 12km round trip - a wonderful day to be out, few fish notwithstanding.
The Mooi, like the Bushman's, looking fresh, crystal clear, slow flowing...
Having received the late rain and snow mid-August, I can report that the rivers are looking fresh and clean – the flush having removed the usual post-winter algal mats and sediment. Both the Bushman’s and the Mooi are gin-clear and still on the cool side.
The upper Mooi
Warren Bradfield's 47 cm brown trout from the Bushman's
It was a great Opening weekend overall, with some excellent fish coming out elsewhere as well. Warren Bradfield latched onto a fish of 47cm on the Snowflake section of the Bushman’s, and Brett Moller reported that their Riverside section of the Mooi was fishing superbly, young Daniel Duane landing a monster 51cm fish.
Daniel Duane's Mooi River monster from the Riverside beat
Here’s to the rains coming and more of the same! I look forward to staying in touch with you all.
Lovely piece, thank you Jan.
Clem Booth writes...
Yesterday was another wonderful Avon day with a bunch of thumping brownies and a smattering of the beautiful lady of the stream, the grayling. I have to pinch myself that this glorious river is but an hour from our home in Ascot! And, one might even drop in on the master cane rodmaker, Edward Barder, en route; he is based in Newbury. Yesterday, one of his wonderful wands accompanied me as is most often the case. The Stradivarius of bamboo rods in my estimation.
The beautiful lady of the stream, the grayling
Among the fish was a salmon parr and what a nice moment that was.
A salmon parr
Salmon breeding far up the Avon is a heartening signal. I stopped to think about this little fish. Born in the Avon, it would hang about for as long as it needed to become seaworthy; it would them head down the river to the estuary, turn left at the sea and swim off to Iceland. There it would grow bigger and stronger and then a couple of years later, it would set off back to the UK, turn right at the Avon estuary and hopefully start its own family. Astonishing really! A voyage of discovery far beyond anything we humans are capable of!
Wonderful news and wonderful sentiments Clem. Thank you. TS.