Posts Tagged ‘Bokspruit’

The Great East Cape

March 31, 2013

Great EastCape Head

The Great East Cape … The Wild Trout Association Festival in Rhodes.

High up in the far North Eastern corner of the Cape Province, on the edge of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho sits the tiny village or Rhodes, nestled in the hills of the Southern Drakensberg range. It’s an isolated spot, serviced by dirt roads and protected by the natural barriers of high and often snow-capped peaks, well off what most people might consider to be the “beaten track”.

The Great EastCape
A little Easter Weekend Graphic frivolity.

If you are one for night life, theatres, entertainments of various kinds or even a reliable supply of electricity then it isn’t going to be your cup of tea. This is somewhere where children still arrive at school on horseback, it is a place of rugged 4 X 4 trucks, poor cellphone reception, and a shop that may or may not have the most basic of foodstuffs depending on the latest interval in a shelf restocking program that involves a lengthy drive to the Aliwal North several hours away. An unpredictable spot where the weather can turn on a sixpence and one might experience baking sun or freezing hail pretty much any month of the year. A proclaimed conservation area surrounded by remote sheep farms and not a lot else. Well not a lot else unless you are a trout fisherman, because if you are, the place boasts more running trout water than you can shake a rod at.


If this picture doesn’t make your mouth water, you aren’t a fly fisherman.

The headwaters of the mighty Orange River, South Africa’s largest river, flow down the slopes all around the village and the Wild Trout Association, a conglomeration of riparian land owners who allow angling on the waters that flow through their farms provides access to literally hundreds of kilometres of trout stream. The Bell, Sterkspruit, Bokspruit, Riflespruit, Klopperhoekspruit and other smaller streams all meander in an extensive network of prime fishing water bringing the rain waters and snowmelt down the valleys to join the Kraai River and ultimately the Orange.

Sharland Urquhart nets a fish on the Bokspruit.

In the summer months yellowfish move up into the highlands to spawn and all year round trout inhabit the clear cool waters, thriving an impressive food chain of various aquatic insects and breeding prolifically in the extensive redds of clean gravel. It is a trout’s and therefore by default an angler’s paradise.


Shadows and Clear Water on the “Bok”.

Each year the WTA (Wild Trout Association) hold their annual Fly Fishing Festival, a laid back and yet in some ways intense get together for those of piscatorial bent, where the talk is of fishing, fishing and more fishing. Although conditions can vary dramatically from frigid downpours to baking droughts the scope of the angling generally means that there is still good water to be had, irrespective of climatic conditions. One can sit in the pub at Walkerbouts, WTA guide in one hand and a glass of the good stuff in the other and select your fishing as one might select a fine wine from an expansive cellar.


Morne Liebenberg plays a fish on a very low flowing Bell River.

If the waters are low, as they were this year, one might venture further down river in search of flow, at times of high water the feeder streams high in the mountains could be the ticket. This year the wandering thunder showers which affect the valleys in a rather aberrant manner, caused some streams to become murky whilst others flowed clear. One river might be near high and dry whilst just down the road and alternative catchment will be flowing smoothly over its green hued bedrock.

In fact some anglers ventured a good way downstream to the Kraai to target some remaining yellowfish which had yet to retreat from their summer haunts in the high-country whilst others chose to wade the gin clear waters of the Bokspruit which held so many fish that nymphing became the norm simply to avoid the constant re-drying of soaked dry flies.

There is something about rural life which is as appealing as it is amusing.

All in all approximately forty anglers converged on the village to participate, there was some late night fly tying around the pub tables, a lot of idle chatter about flies and fly rods and some really great fishing.

Whether you choose to participate in the festival one year, a great introduction to the region’s angling, or simply plan to add a visit to your bucket list Rhodes and its surrounds should be in your fishing diary somewhere. Fishing guides are provided to those in need during the festival and outside of that Fred Steynberg and Tony Kietzman both provide guiding to visiting anglers. To put a South African spin on a popular book title, it really should be one of the “Fifty places to fish before you braai”.. 🙂

Contact information:

Books available from the author of this blog from Smashwords


Ten Lessons from Tiny Trout

March 27, 2013

TinyTrout Head

Ten lessons from tiny trout.

I recently spent ten days in Rhodes, it isn’t exactly the same as “Seven Years in Tibet” but probably closer than you may imagine. The place could be the “Centre of the Universe” but you are hard pressed to find: bread, deodorant or even a pack of smokes on some days. The bottle store is so called because it has a bottle or two in it but don’t expect 15 year old single malts, actually scratch the idea of Scotch entirely. Brandy is available in limited vintage, it isn’t something you would worry too much about diluting with cola and the rivers were for the most part about as dry as the off-license.

That said there was some tremendous fishing, a lot of small fish, OK perhaps too many small fish but it did offer ample opportunity to experiment and when I am not guiding experimentation is something that I love to do on a river.

So, as the British Government are apt to recite on a regular basis, generally after some monumental cock up on in the health system or similar, “Lessons were be learned”, and they will stand me in good stead for the future.


The Festival is about fun and learning.

Lesson #1: Good presentation is Good Presentation.

It mattered not that the fish were tiny and quite probably more naïve than a virgin on wedding night, they still responded a lot more positively to good drag free drifts, lack of line shadow and all the other things that go with that. In brief you can never short cut presentation.

Lesson #2: Tastes vary.

On one day these little fish would respond well to a dry fly and the next to a nymph or a soft hackle, you just didn’t know which. Playing with combination rigs of dry and dropper I found that if they kept on hitting the dry you could forego the subsurface pattern, but if they didn’t you would do very well to leave it on. On top of that if the soft hackle didn’t produce a slightly heavier 2mm tungsten bead nymph would often produce a few more fish or perhaps on occasion the first one from a run. It paid to keep at it and ring the changes even if the water looked too low to throw a subsurface pattern at all.


We were blessed with low but crystal clear water.

Lesson #3: A response to a fly isn’t a hook up.

These small trout would get such a rush of blood to the head if they had a large dry fly land anywhere near them that they would attack it with glee. Trouble is that they would frequently miss the fly and on one notable occasion a fish missed the fly in an act of suicidal youthful exuberance and landed on the bank anyway, I did mention that the water was low didn’t I? Yes that low!!

Lesson #5: Be efficient.

The smaller fish were grabbing the dry on occasion so frequently that one spent nearly the whole day trying to dry it off. I found that by fishing very small but visible flies as indicators I would pick up the odd fish on the top but they would then often take the nymph or soft hackle, getting a better hook up and avoiding that endless shaking of damp morsels in the top ride powder.


Catch and Release is the norm on these waters.

Lesson #6: Strike sideways.

Small fish offer little by way of resistance when you strike, they are too small and weigh too little to give the required opposition to set the hook. By striking low and sideways I managed to greatly increase the hook ups of the tiddlers and at the same time never missed a bigger fish. It would seem that a low strike drags the fish through the water, providing more to pull against and for longer allowing the hook to set properly. I am trying to adapt to that for all my fishing, it seemed remarkably effective.

Lesson #7: Sharp Hooks are happy hooks.

Yes I have said that before, but with small fish and light tackle it was all the more apparent and every fly got a good working over with the hook sharpener. On a couple of occasions the clients (when I had some) inadvertently tied on flies with micro barbs, when they hooked a trout with those, and that wasn’t too often because barbs are an anathema to good hook ups on light gear, it was a dreadful struggle to remove the offending metal. Barbs are nasty little things, bad for hook ups, bad for the trout and bad for you if you stick one in your ear. Barbs are best removed or barbless hooks used for all trout fishing and no doubt a good deal of other situations too.


Guide Tony Kietzman casts on a very low Bell River.

Lesson #8: Casting is important:

You simply cannot fish well and effectively if you can’t cast well. Poor casting results in poor presentation, poor line control, lots of tangles and a whole lot less fish. Every “client” I guided over the course of the WTA festival caught a good deal less fish than they might have simply because their casting wasn’t up to scratch. It’s silly because casting is the one thing that you actually can practise away from the river. Casting is king actually, learn to do it well, ingrain it and forget it. Not only will you catch a LOT more fish but you will enjoy your angling a heap more to boot.

Lesson #9: The 1%’ers count.

By combining sharpening of hooks, long leaders, 8X tippet, matted down rod blanks, careful presentations and sideways strikes as well as doing all I could to dissuade the fish from eating the dry fly where possible I did on one occasion land 160 trout in a day. That is a helluva lot of fish and although naïve and small fish for the most part it just showed that the little things add up more than you may imagine when fishing. Fly fishing hasn’t got a great deal to do with luck, it has to do with playing the percentages, focusing on good technique and thinking the problems through. I haven’t fished much of late so the past week or so was a wonderful opportunity to “get my eye in”. I am better prepared now and feeling more confident than I have in a while. I don’t wish to spend my life beating up baby trout but it proved a worthwhile exercise none the less.


Even the better fish weren’t that large but it was all great fun.

Lesson #10: Friends are as important as the fishing.

My time in Rhodes afforded me the opportunity to meet up with old friends and make some new ones. To the old ones “it was lovely to see you again” to the new ones “thanks for participating and being amenable to learning something”. Fly Fishing is a great sport, it is in my blood but for all the fish it is the people who make it special. Dedicated, perhaps a little obsessive, passionate and suffering mostly from some form of OCD, you are all appreciated. 🙂 Thanks for the memories.


Further information:

The WTA festival is held each year at the same time, centred in Rhodes in the Eastern Cape Highlands. Participation affords access to hundreds of kilometres of fly fishing water, guides are available for those in need of them and the entire weekend is simply an immersion in the passion of fly fishing. For more information contact Dave Walker at Walkerbouts