Posts Tagged ‘Cape Town’

How Small a Trout?

November 12, 2012

How Small a Trout:

The title comes from a quotation courtesy of one of my favourite authors, John Gierach:

“Maybe your stature as a fisherman isn’t determined by how big a trout you can catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed”

It also happens to be the name of one of my favoured fly fishing blogs “How Small a Trout” at

But the point was brought home to me on a remarkable day this past weekend where I was able to actually push both ends of the size envelope within the same day, from a particularly large brown to a tiny and totally wild rainbow within hours and not more than a kilometre or two of one another.

I had received a most gracious invitation from Sharland to join her at Fizantekraal Lodge in the Du Toit’s Kloof mountains. The lodge is top notch, with exquisite views, five star cuisine, and of course in this instance most pleasant and entertaining company. The real attraction though, at least for those of us in possession of “The Fishing Gene” is that it boasts three small trout lakes and a section of pristine trout stream headwater. A tiny, distinctly bushed in and closely wooded top section of the Kraalstroom River.

The lake fishing isn’t really my thing, I would have to admit, the dams are too small and the surroundings just a tad too contrived to really sit well with someone who would far rather be on a river or a large expanse of water, bobbing in a boat perhaps or searching the shallows in the hope of finding feeding fish. However on previous visits I had already established a Modus Operandi which makes the fishing considerably more entertaining than might otherwise be the case and Sharland and I have pretty much perfected the technique.

The thing is with these small clear dams and large fish sight fishing is more than simply possible, it is virtually assured. The impoundments despite their small stature contain some really rather large and not entirely stupid fish. They have been stocked mostly in relatively small sizes and grown on without artificial subsidy of diet, they have equally grown more than a little wary of anglers and eschew pretty much any fly or lure that most people would consider standard fare for the lake angler. Woolly Buggers and such are frequently followed but ultimately ignored and the dams therefore provide a wonderful possibilities for experimentation.


Even with 7X tippet and #18 dries, refusals prove all too common.

It was on a visit a year or two back when , returning from the stream and under strict instructions from my hostess “Not to be late for lunch” that I passed one of the dams carrying my #3wt stream outfit, rigged with 7X tippet and a tiny #18 dry fly. The story is told in full in a previous blog “Big Fish on fine tippets” .

In short having sighted a fish on my way back to the lodge I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a cast, knowing , or at least mostly knowing that you weren’t supposed to throw such tiny flies on such fine tippet at 2 to 3 kilo trout. It isn’t done; but of course I did it and landed a superb fish. In the following hours and on into the next day we repeated the trick over and over. The fish would be very tippet shy and entirely avoid any moving subsurface pattern but would take well presented tiny parachutes.. It was tremendous fun and afforded the chance to push the limits of what was possible.

In fact those experiments worked so well that on this trip I didn’t venture to include anything heavier than a three weight rod in my gear. I caught some great fish in similar size ranges and a number of “tiddlers” which had entered the lower dams from the river over time. In fact I rarely fished a nymph at all for the duration of my stay but in the late morning I was returning to the lodge again, feeling more than a little dehydrated as it had become really rather hot and I thought that I would enjoy a drink before a planned trip to fish the river in the afternoon.

On the way back there was a sense of De ja vu when there appeared in the shallowest section of the dam a very large fish which boiled at something on the surface. I unhooked the dry on its gossamer tippet, trying to stay hidden behind a large grass tuft I flipped the dry out onto the surface not a few feet from the bank and waited. The trout appeared from behind the grass, a massive brownie, spots showing clearly in the sunshine and a simply huge head, with a seriously kyped jaw, broke the surface and engulfed the fly. It was a heart stopping moment, the mouth was so large that I could easily imagine pulling the fly right out of it and hooking nothing but thin air. Really, it seemed impossible to hook up, as though one had tossed the fly into a fire bucket and was hoping to catch up on the sides. I delayed the strike, lifting firmly but not overly quickly and the next moment there was solid resistance and a huge thrashing of foam on the surface as the trout felt the prick of the hook.

To start with it seemed the huge fish had failed to notice that it was actually attached to the line, he would shake his head from time to time but mostly just moseyed along a few feet out, hardly bothering to take more evasive action. I applied all the pressure I dared, pretty well as much pressure as I could with a #2 weight rod anyway and provoked a considerably more violent reaction, letting line whizz off the reel on occasion and trusting that in the end I would tire the fish sufficiently to land him.  After much delicate toing and froing, alternatively taking in and then rapidly giving back line I netted the fish. It is incredible what can be done on fine tippet if one has a sufficiently forgiving (soft actioned) rod and equally soft hands, ready to give line when necessary. Quite possibly the biggest brown trout I have ever caught, the kudos of the moment ameliorated slightly by the artificial surrounds but equally enhanced by the ultrafine gear that was being used. (#2wt Sage ZXL, 18′ leader to 7X Stroft copolymer tippet)

Brown Trout (mouth size inset), the weight and length estimates only

I removed the hook that was set well back in the giant fish’s throat, actually managing to fit my entire fist into his mouth in the process, a simply massive mouth for a freshwater fish, took a few quick pictures and put him back into the water. Unfortunately he got away from me a bit early before I was happy he was well set and proceeded to dive into a weedbed where I could see him laying, ostrich like,  head in the weeds and not looking entirely OK. He was too far out to reach with the net so stripping myself of my vest, glasses and such I dove into the dam after the fish, hoping to get him back in the net or provoke him into swimming away and driving some more oxygen through his gills. He shot off and appeared to recover fully. Soaking wet I returned, probably a little late for lunch.

Brown Trout Fizantekraal

This fish had been stocked years back as a 350gm baby

In the afternoon I headed up the Kraalstroom, the first section is impossibly bushy and Lilliputian, you wouldn’t swing a mouse no matter his proverbial adversary but as I walked the odd pocket opened up. Each time there was a pocket in the rocks there would be a beautiful wild rainbow trout of between six and eight inches sitting right in the tail-out. The difficulty wasn’t so much fooling the fish as getting the fly into the water.

I contrived numerous casts, variations of switch. roll, flick and goodness knows what else in the tight brush. Casts which may not appear in Gary Borger’s “Presentation” and would probably be righteously excluded from a book with such a title, but I hit the water often enough and each time I did I hooked a gorgeously marked baby trout. Flushed cheeks and classical metallic blue finger shaped parr markings.

Gorgeous little fish, naïve as girls at the school dance and pretty in much the same way too. All dressed up with nowhere to go in the tiny stream. On one occasion, and probably as much through luck as judgement I managed to flick a cast under an overhanging tree, get the leader to settle just before tangling an overhanging bush and as the fly drifted into the shade of entangled herbage a slight flash indicated the take and I hooked into a twelve incher. A monster really from this water and a most satisfying challenge to even get near, I was ecstatic with that result, the fish as deserving of praise and joy as the massive brown of the morning. One fish no more than twelve inches long demanding a dreadfully contrived and somewhat fortuitous cast , the other a leviathan, known of but never or rarely previously hooked in a small dam and landed on the finest of tippets.

Kralstroom Rainbow

Beautifully coloured baby bow from the Kraalstroom.

I have to say that I enjoyed catching them both, each represented different challenges, each had their own beauty, each was a fish and each was caught by a fly angler. My fishing gene obviously doesn’t discriminate, this is an equal opportunity adventure and any fish can join in. As to the title quotation, none of those fish during the course of the day had me feeling the slightest bit disappointed, I was feeling blessed to have received a most kind invitation to fish and revelled in the diversity of it all. Special thanks to my host Sharland Urquhart and to Ryan for providing information on the stream. Ryan informed me later that the brown, estimated at 3Kg on capture had been stocked years back at a miniscule 350 grams..   You can find more information on the lodge at

As with all the posts on “The Fishing Gene”, you are welcome and encouraged to leave comments. Thanks to the regular readers “The Fishing Gene” blog recently passed the 30,000 views mark and hopefully will continue to grow in popularity.

Information on the style of tying the parachute patterns used can be downloaded for FREE from Smashwords in the book “Who Packed Your Parachute” on the link

Other books available from the author: Click on the image to find out more:

A little (mis)Adventure.

February 23, 2011

When the going gets tough the tough get going, or at least go fishing.

Now things around here have been a little slow on the fishing front, it’s mid summer with bright blue skies and hot as Hades, the water is low and the fish have been further educated by another half season of catch and release fishing.

The younger fish are just completing their degrees in artificial fly identification and the larger and older ones seem to have specialized for their Masters with theses including “Artificial fly avoidance”, “Drag: tell tales signs if imminent danger” and “Auditory Signals of Angler Approach…an overview”

If the sarcasm appears to indicate a level of frustration, well yes you are quite right it does, because the fishing has been difficult and slow and it’s all getting just a bit much.

Breaking the monotony:

In a gallant effort to break the monotony Mike and myself set off last weekend on a trip in search of some carp. It is an experiment that had been some time in the planning and further delayed by various inconveniences best left unmentioned but mostly to do with earning a living and keeping loved ones happy. Still we finally got a clear day and headed off to the Berg River for a drift down a section never previously visited by us but known to contain at least some carp.

The start went well, we met up at a garage along the way and Mike, as with all good fishing partners is eminently reliable and so was there on time as always. We did the usual ritual of allowing ourselves to be ripped off to the tune of 16 bucks for a cup of what only the marketing department at Wimpy could refer to as a large coffee. Luke warm slightly discoloured milk with about as much caffeine punch as a baby’s bottle. When you get right down to it the servings wouldn’t be considered large by any creature of greater dimension than a hamster and the caffeine content probably wouldn’t be sufficient to wake up the same rodent after consumption of half a wine gum.

No matter we were going fishing so we swallowed the stuff, washed down the odd hot cross bun with the unappetizing contents of our paper cups and set off to the first stop where we were to drop one vehicle. All went well, we checked the portage out of the river to insure that we would be able to exit with the boat later in the day and headed upstream.

Some fifteen odd Kilometers upstream we were kindly afforded the chance to park the second vehicle in a pleasant car park only metres from the water and unloaded and inflated the boat.  Things were looking up, and whilst being taken for a ride on the coffee front we got to park our car for free so I suppose the two balanced out to some degree. Thanks to the people at Riverside for their kindness.

We hit the water and drifted down a section before rigging up the gear, the water was far clearer than we had anticipated which on the one hand was very encouraging, the river looking for all the world like a New Zealand stream or a Western American River and we were filled with hope of success.

What a glorious piece of water, high mountains surrounded us and not a soul in sight as we tripped along in the reasonable current, a water flow that was the result of the outflow of the relatively new Berg River Dam. There had to be fish in here surely? It was just looking so very very good. On spotting the first carp or two we stopped and rigged up, spending various amounts of time in different spots Czech nymphing and swinging wet flies in the hope of hooking one of these monsters, all to no avail.

We have had success catching carp at other venues.

It seemed that perhaps the clear water was to our disadvantage as the fish that we spotted were spooked within moments of us getting close enough to see them.


We did see carp, in fact in reasonable numbers in some parts but the story was always the same, get anywhere near close enough to make a cast and they would be on the run. I suppose that we were beginning to doubt our prospects and despite catching a few small mouth bass we remained carpless.

Methods that had worked before failed us on this trip.



Then we got to a large weir which was clearly labeled with “keep out” signage but for one rapid water shoot with indicators that this was the legal and preferred route of canoeists heading downstream. It looked a bit tight but the alternative was to lug the boat around the obstacle in a tiresome portage. So Mike, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor took the camera and a few other bits and bobs out of the boat and walked around whilst I eyed the prospects of surviving the drop on the sluice.

A little (mis) adventure.


When Mike was in position to film the event I lined up the boat and heading down the river rowing backwards I hit the rushing water of the drop, all went well for the first second or so but then the boat slewed around, there was no room to adjust with the oars and the rubber duck got stuck between the walls. Every effort to release it from the concrete’s grip would simply allow it to be pulled further into the back eddy, swamping the craft which had it not been inflatable would have sunk for sure.

Finally after much battling I managed to use my body as a sea anchor and dragged the boat out, soaking wet and sitting up to the gunnels in water. The inside of the craft awash with floating rod tubes and the like. Still it was a hot day and I warmed and dried fast and was no worse for my adventure, still though no success on the fishing front to speak of.

The boat shipped a bit of water during the escapade.



The river narrowed in places and once or twice we were forced to shoot rapids overgrown with trees. At one point a hidden branch came into sight too late for any structured avoidance tactics and I was forced into the position of simply shouting “Duck” as we whizzed through the foliage. Mike was a tad slower than I and caught the bow straight in the chest, knocking him overboard backwards and hooking up the lines in the trees. Reels screamed as Mike’s head bobbed in and out of view above the choppy surface and by the time the was some semblance of control restored we had metres of fly lines running up and down the river and wrapped about the branches. Now Mike was soaked as well, but I figured it served him right for laughing back there at the weir.. Karma Karma

We persevered, regularly spotting and spooking carp without ever really having a decent chance at one, Mike caught a bass or two and then we figured that it was time to put in some effort to exit the river before dark.

The river obviously meanders more than the road so the estimated distance to be covered was probably closer to twenty kilometers than fifteen. We rowed and rowed as the sun sank gently behind the hills and reached the car after a portage detour caused by picking the wrong channel and a few more close encounters of the tree kind. It was almost dark as we hauled out and reaching the car found that our gear, carefully packed away in a waterproof Ziploc bag was drenched. Mike’s cellphone swam forlornly behind the plastic window, for all the world looking like one of those goldfish you used to win at fairgrounds. I also found that during one of the semi arboreal incidents my flip down reading glasses had been whisked from the peak of my cap and on taking stock we found that we were minus two cellphones, one alarm remote for the house, had two soaked wallets and a damp car key. Oh my God the car key, without that and without comms we were going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without so much as dry clothes..  You can say what you like about Toyota but that key worked like a dream and the submersion didn’t seem to have affected it at all. Who can deny the power of prayer after that?

We eventually packed up the boat, put on dry clothes and returned to pick up Mike’s car still parked in the dark upstream. Delayed by roadworks for another twenty minutes we headed home well after eight.

All of this for two or three small bass, hardly seems worth it but the situation on the trout streams had driven us to such measures and whilst we didn’t have any great success we had a good day, got some exercise and are already planning another adventure. I figure that in fishing sometimes you have to get out there and make the news. If we keep going, and more importantly survive the attempts, at some point surely we will find some decent fishing and when we do I am not going to write about it. I figure we will have deserved the chance to keep any finds secret for a while, but for now we still have to find one.

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Farewell to a season

May 23, 2010

My final day on the streams for a season, a mixed bag and a lot of hard work but some good fishing and a memorable day.

Farewell to a season.

This was to be the last chance for the season, the rivers hereabouts close in a week’s time and various commitments, work, a Nature Conservation course and the possible arrival of another cold front meant that I had one last chance at getting in some river time.

The streams had settled back from their flood conditions just in time to offer some last hope, and I had already missed out on a trip with Peter earlier in the week. We had planned to get out for an afternoon; it is a long drive for a few hours fishing but needs must as the clock was ticking. Plans had been made and I was all ready to go when some inconsiderate decided to take the chance to smash my car window and when I should have been happily driving to a rendezvous with Peter and some fish I was busying myself trying to get a new drivers side front window. Worse still Peter apparently “hammered e’m” and took some twenty five fish so I was doubly annoyed about the glass, more so than the stolen GPS that went with it.

I managed to sneak away for a few hours the following afternoon and ventured out on my own. For some reason the fishing wasn’t as “on” as when Pete was there the day before, I took a few fish but it wasn’t spectacular and I worked hard at it for maybe half a dozen trout before the fading light and the poor visibility of casting into the setting sun put paid to the trip.

Mind you I rarely fish well under such circumstances the mad dash drive up the freeway, the hurried tackling up and the rush in the hope of getting into some fish before the light fails isn’t the best way to set about something which always seems to work a lot better when one is relaxed.

I still had one booking left, here we book the water on a beat system, which works well and means that not only don’t the fish get constantly harassed but that you can arrive late in the day and still have water to yourself. The idea had been that I may have been fishing a competition trial but that fell through so I had the water to myself and one last chance at it.

To be honest though I didn’t awaken filled with enthusiasm, it was a late and rather boozy night the evening before, the local rugby team having made it to the finals of the Super 14 and that was cause for celebration, maybe a little too much celebration for an early start to a fishing day. So when I finally raised my weary head from the pillow, made some coffee and packed the gear the sun was well up.

The weather forecast was good with balmy “berg winds” but that also meant a strong likelihood of an impending cold front, a dropping barometer and blustery breezes into ones face on the river, and so it was when I arrived.

I was fishing one of the lowest beats on the streams we fish, “The Molenaars” section. This is for us big water, not so much the volume but one of the few sections where the river widens, it traditionally holds less fish but some of the best sized ones around and they seem to always be in particularly good condition. The idea being to finish the season with something of a “bang”.

The Molenaars Beat, slightly bigger water and usually the home of some large trout.

I think that some sort of celestial power was trying to keep me from the water, not only had I had to deal with the window incident only days previous but now on the way out through the Huguenot tunnel , a long passage of some four and a half kilometers through the mountain it became obvious that there was a problem with the car’s headlights  and I couldn’t get them to dip properly. More time wasted as I did running repairs at the road side and finally, FINALLY, I was rigged up and ready to go.

The wind was howling downstream and for the first hour I didn’t so much as sniff a fish, see a rise or anything else of note. I became convinced that the barometer was dropping and that it was going to be a struggle, but this was the last day and I had to persevere. I added a nymph to the rig and fished both dry and dropper studiously in all the likely looking spots to no avail. Then eventually there was a boil just as I lifted off a fast pocket and a second presentation produced the first fish of the day. A gorgeous brownie. This is something new; these streams haven’t ever contained brown trout until this season. I am still not sure from whence they came, rumour has it that they were escapees from a trout farm, but they would have had to have lost a lot of fish, reports of brown trout being caught have increased and increased over the past few months. Still there is something wonderfully seductive about the take of a dry fly by a brown trout. They don’t seem so much to rise to the fly as simply appear beneath it and then make a languid roll or simply inhale the pattern with hardly a blip on the surface. I managed to steel myself not to strike to rapidly, a fatal error on browns and he was on and in the net in short order.

A brown trout, a new addtion to these waters.

If they have one lack for all their gorgeous colouration and delicate rise forms they don’t fight like the rainbows do. Generally here they make little tumbles and you know almost instantly that it is a brown, even if you didn’t pick that up from the rise form.

I pressed on the wind shifting 180° in the space of one cast and making presentation difficult, the wind will almost never make it impossible for me to fish, but it does make it difficult and sometimes impossible to fish well and I really wanted to fish well on my final day of the season.

The next fish was one of the smallest rainbows I have taken this year, and all the more remarkable as this is generally big trout water, but it is encouraging to see them, it means that the stream is healthy and there are more fish coming on. These rivers are unstocked catch and release water, completely self sustaining wild, and by now pretty educated fish.

The wind settled down a bit and I saw a rise, a cast to cover that and another brownie, what is it that they seem to be coming up when I can’t find a rainbow?

The next three fish were all browns and despite the lack of rises I never got a take on the nymph, when they wanted to eat they wanted the dry and that was fine by me, I love to see a trout take a dry fly and all the more a brownie. It is slow motion, heart stoppingly beautiful, the defining moment if you are a dyed in the wool dry fly man, the fight doesn’t count for as much as watching that take.

Then I started to take rainbows, one after the other in some cases, the odd brownie mixed in but a couple of the bows were in tremendous nick, up to 18 inches and fat enough to look good coming out of a dam.

The day and with it the season was however drawing to a close, the light was failing and the river turning silver in the setting sun, tricky to read the water and spot good holding lies never mind see the fly. I kept on in the hope of one more final fish for the year, it is a fatal flaw the moment one decides “this will be the last” things either dry up or go wrong. I dropped two fish out of successive pockets due to the dry having tangled in the wind and I was pulling it backwards out of their mouths. One super rainbow in the 18” range tangled itself in the dropper during a prolonged battle and the line snapped trying to land the fish tail first in a strong flow. Then a brilliant drift over a fast current lane into slow water under the trees, with a reach mend and lots of additional mending to get the drift right. A fish came out from the shadows, inhaled the fly and was on, a fitting final fish for the season I was thinking but he came off the hook. The takes dried up and I kept on in the hope of one more, just one more. A small rainbow of about twelve inches was the final fish of the season, not a grand finish I suppose but compared to the way things looking in the morning I hadn’t done badly and was well pleased with the way I had fished.

The browns seemed far more active than the bows for most of the day.

Sometimes perseverance is the only answer and at some point in the day the fish certainly woke up a bit and by then I had got my eye in and was getting good drifts. It was a rewarding day; I probably landed fifteen or so fish maybe a few more. A fitting end and time for me to concentrate on tying some flies, fishing stillwaters and maybe taking things a little easy for a while. The fish are I am sure more pleased to see the end. It means freedom to eat without worry and no harassment from anglers for three months or so. Plus the chance to have sex and I suppose one can’t sneeze at that. September seems a long way off but there are things to be done and the fish deserve a rest. Actually the fishing guides deserve a rest too for that matter.

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris, Cape Town's only dedicated fly fishing guiding service.

Pocket Water

March 15, 2010

Pocket water can be productive even when levels are low.

On the streams  outside of Cape Town where I fish and guide mostly there is one aspect, perhaps even a “trick of the trade” that frequently distinguishes the men from the boys, the winners from the also rans and to be honest those who go home with feelings of smug satisfaction compared to those who don’t.

It isn’t so much that everyone doesn’t know about it, more that they fail to believe it or simply don’t bother to try the type of fishing, casting and presentation required. The name of the game is to focus most of your attention on the pocket water and that brings with it at first a host of problems for the average angler.

I say average not implying any lack of skill, more that the average angler watched Brad Pitt casting in
“A River Runs Through It” got really excited and ever since has been in some way dissatisfied if he can’t watch his line snaking out in yards in front of him. Secondly the average angler has a problem believing that there could be decent fish in amongst those foamy little pockets in the boulders, I mean all the lunkers must be in that deep weir pool on the corner surely?

Pocket water offers both advantages and problems in equal measure:

Firstly even in low water the pockets generally have a little bit of current and at least some riffle to the surface that makes your presentation a tad easier than on the still slow glides.

Secondly fish in pockets have a pretty limited view of the world making them easier to sneak up on and for the most part sit still in the current looking upstream waiting to intercept the next food item to appear. They don’t have a lot of time either so they need to make a relatively hasty decision about the true nature of your presentation. Conversely those fish in the still pools of summer, and there are plenty of them, have the entire millennium to count the tails on your mayfly, to look at the knots on your leader and generally swim about in all directions being for want of a better description “particularly difficult”.

Thirdly because for the most part they are loners if you spook one he will duck under a rock and not race about scaring his brethren and generally mucking up the fishing for yards ahead, a frustrating reality on the glides in low water.

Fish in pockets just seem to be happier with their lives in general, snug amongst the boulders they display a relative calmness lacking in their open water cousins and all that is good if you are an angler.

Not that it is all plain sailing this pocket fishing lark:

The downsides are that pockets have tremendously varied currents and pocket water fish whilst they may well be relaxed are not immune to the effects of drag on your fly. It all happens fast too so you can’t solve the problems by mending the line, most of the time that will be too little too late, even if you could work out which way to mend in the first place.

Secondly the pockets are small and some degree of accuracy in the casting department is essential if you aren’t going to spend your time fishing on the tops of dry boulders. If you have spent your casting practice (you do practice don’t you?), on distance you are going to struggle in the pockets, short accurate casting is what’s called for and it is a heap more tricky than it looks, especially if there is a breeze.

Thirdly to control your drift you will need to get close, closer than you might imagine and that brings with it the issue of at least some measure of stealth. Tapping wading staffs and boulder rolling are unlikely to enamour you to the fish and despite the previous comments they can become more than a little skittish if you don’t approach the pockets carefully.

Also in the faster little nooks and crannies it isn’t as easy to see the fish, sometimes you can,  but if you can’t see a fish you should cover the water anyway,  you neglect to cast at your peril , even should no fish be apparent , many an incautious extra step has seen a trout bolt for cover just as your boot descends.

Finally perhaps the real inner battle for the angler is that pocket water fishing is of necessity bordering on inelegant, in fact on occasion some of the best presentations really are rather ugly which is why you never see the angler in advertisements battling away in amongst the stones. Art directors, like most anglers prefer the “shadow casting” format, even if it results in less fish in the net.

So how to go about it?

Pockets as I would define them can vary from the size of a shoebox, just big enough to hold a decent trout to a few square metres in area, they generally have more than one current lane in them flowing from different angles and the fish could be watching one or more of them for food.

The best pockets offer relative depth, that isn’t to say they are deep but there will be a divot in there somewhere to provide a sense of security and to allow the fish to keep under the current and save energy. Plus very many have a distinct lip which forms a pressure wave at the back of the pocket, the ideal place for a trout to balance on its tail whilst waiting for dinner. The best pocket water anglers always make a cast just above the lip before they head for the obvious water a bit higher up, the fish are often so close to the back that on hooking them they wash over the lip..

Softer Action Rods are better for fishing pocket water.

The best rods for fishing pockets are soft in action because you will be casting a lot of leader and very little fly line. Cane probably is the optimum but then pocket water streams are dangerous places for expensive cane rods and most anglers will have a light #2 or #3 graphite rod, often an older model that has avoided the marketing department’s rush to make every blank a stick. Despite the close proximity and tight spaces on many pocket water streams you don’t want a rod that is too short. Being able to reach is a distinct advantage and for me a rod between 7’9” and 8’9” is about right.

(I am not sure why but I can’t think of rods in terms of metres and I don’t care what the international standard unit of length is, fishing demands its own rules, rods in feet and inches, trout like babies should be measured in pounds and ounces).

The ideal tactic for most pockets is to fish a fly a tad larger than you would on the flat water and one that you can see , fish in pockets tend to be pretty cosmopolitan in their tastes and as said they will make their minds up fast. That isn’t to say a size twelve Royal Wulff is the way to go, but visibility is important you have seconds to pick up the fly or you are likely to miss the take.

It also pays to cast aggressively to gain accuracy but at such close range that could lead to poor presentation so a long leader is also an advantage. Even in tight pockets I rarely use a leader under fourteen feet. The long leader also allows you to “High Stick” that is lift the line off the water the moment the fly lands avoiding drag for the most part by near “dapping” the fly. The leader allows you to do so without dragging the pattern unnaturally on the water and in all but the worst gales you can gain near perfect drifts at close quarters doing this.

I simply adore fishing pocket water, it is all so close, you see the fish, the mouth open, the take all right in front of your feet, there is an intimacy to it lacking on the bigger water which I simply adore. It also happens to be deadly effective and because so many anglers walk past these tiny little apparently shallow pockets the fish are often less disturbed than in the pools..

I was once asked for some advice from a novice about where to fish on our streams and my, perhaps slightly terse response was this: “if it’s damp fish it”, you can get some surprises in pocket water and not all the fish are small and not all the best holes are deep. Given some practice you will get some pleasant surprises if you focus on the pockets, especially when the water is a bit low and the pools and glides are simply too still to offer you much of a chance.

The Ultimate in Catch and Release

February 25, 2010

Two Oceans Aquarium release Mandy and Noodle

The Ultimate in Catch and Release.

You may well think that it is at times pretty tricky to safely let go a 12” trout, fins catch in net mesh, fingers get speared by barbless hooks and you take great care to ensure that your quarry is returned unharmed, well rested and in full possession of their faculties. So have a think about this.

On Wednesday the Two Oceans Aquarium,, transported and released two Ragged Tooth Sharks in Gordon’s Bay. Mandy and Noodle had served their time helping educate the public with respect to the beauty and importance of sharks in our environment.

These two gorgeous girls had been captured in the wild:

Mandy outside of East London in Feb 2009 and Noodle in Struisbaai in April 2008, both were now going home. Released to join their compatriots on what appears to be an annual migration North towards Durban.

I was privileged to be able to participate in their release and quite some operation it was. Moving two aquatic animals weighing in the region of 170Kgs each isn’t for the feint hearted or the disorganized for that matter.

The fish were sedated in their holding tanks to both reduce stress to themselves and provide some measure of safety for the team working with them. They were then hoisted out of the holding tank, weighed, tagged, measured and lowered an entire story to the waiting tank truck for the journey along the N2 to Gordon’s Bay.

At the harbour their level of sedation was checked and first Noodle and then Mandy were lifted by crane onto the support boat into a shallow tank for the final leg of their trip to deep water off Rooi Els.

Divers in the water helped support the sharks for the first few moments until such time as the clean water flushed the last remnants of sedative from their systems and they were able to make their way into the ocean depths.. what a special moment..

Dawn in Cape Town, Ragged Tooth Sharks "Raggies", Mandy and Noodle will be transported from the Two Oceans Aquarium in the shadow of Table Mountain and released back into the ocean.

V & A Waterfront Cape Town

Dawn at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town South Africa. The Two Oceans aquarium has been temporary home to Ragged Tooth Sharks Mandy and Noodle for the past year or so, it is now time for them to go home. Back into the ocean and what will probably be a leisurely trip along the coast, heading north for the winter.

Noodle is helped into the sling to start her journey.

Two Oceans Aquarium

First step, the sedated sharks are removed from their temporary holding tank in preparation for weighing, measuring and tagging.

Both the “Girls” had put on some weight from the fine seafood dining at the waterfront.

The sharks were removed from the tank in a specially designed harness.

Two Oceans Aquarium

The sharks are lifted out of the holding tank in a special sling, measured weighed and tagged before being lowered to the ground floor of the aquarium into the waiting tank truck for transportation to Gordons Bay Harbour.

A very large mobile goldfish pond, with some pretty special goldfish.

Two Oceans Aquarium:

The sedated sharks are lowered into the tank truck and ready for the road trip part of their journey.

At the harbour the process is repeated and the sharks are lowered by crane into a small tank in the waiting boat.

Gordons’ Bay Harbour:

The sharks are lifted by crane truck and lowered into a small tank on the waiting Two Oceans Aquarium boat.

They are but a short boat trip from freedom.

A slightly undignified return to the ocean but freedom is only moments away.

Off shore Gordon’s Bay

After a short boat ride the sharks are lifted manually from the small holding tank and released into the sea. A team of divers is on hand to swim with the sharks to insure that they have worn off the effects of the sedative and are able to balance their buoyancy properly before the fish swim off into the depths.

Goodbye Mandy, a breath of fresh sea water to flush out the sedative and Mandy is on her way.

Off shore Gordon’s Bay.

One last affectionate pat from the divers and Mandy is ready to leave.


Mandy and Noodle were part of an ongoing programme to educate the public about sharks, to allow them to get a new perspective on these magnificent apex predators and to recognise their perfection and beauty. Most people are wholly unaware of the importance or sharks to our environment or for that matter to the wholesale slaughter of these wonderful creatures at the hand of mankind..


Humans Kill Millions of Sharks Every Year.

Humans kill a hundred million sharks a year, many simply having their fins chopped off for the shark fin soup industry, only to be thrown, still alive, back into the water to an agonizing and unnecessary end.

To give those numbers some perspective think about this:

South African will host the FIFA World Cup this year. If we chopped off the arms and legs of all the spectators at all the games during the tournament we still wouldn’t come close to the numbers of sharks similarly damaged. The average stadium will house 70 000 spectators, violently removing the limbs of the spectators we would need to keep going for a thousand games of soccer with full house capacity to reach the target of a hundred million or so. When you think of it in those terms the mans callous disregard for the oceans in general and sharks in particular become all the more horrifying.

Think of these as arms and legs, maybe you will get the picture.

Why should this appear on a fishing blog? Because I like to think that many, although sadly not all, fishermen are at least in part conservationists. Hopefully the efforts of the Two Oceans Aquarium Crew will serve as inspiration to us all to take care of our fish stocks and our aquatic environments, both fresh and saltwater.

Catch and release.

There are detractors to catch and release, there are even countries where it is banned but I would be willing to bet that in many of those countries you can still buy a tin of shark fin soup. We can only look after the planet one person at a time, one animal at a time, one decision at a time,  so take some solace in knowing that there are people out there doing good for this planet and you as an angler can contribute to that process without having to give up on your sport.

Fish Catch and Release, use barbless hooks, carry a soft mesh net when you are fishing to minimize damage to the fish. Take care to revive them properly before letting them go and avoid fishing for cold water species such as trout if the water temperature gets too high. Sport fishing isn’t incompatible with looking after our planet but it does require some commitment and maybe a change of outlook for some.

The World Wildlife Fund estimate that one hundred million sharks are killed annually.
This post contains approximately 5000 letters.

Focus on Education

October 21, 2009
This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

Focus on learning

This week seems to have something of a “back to school” theme, firstly I was invited to provide some casting tuition to learners from Tafelberg High School in Seapoint. These are a keen group of young anglers who have started a fly fishing club, and they invited me to provide them with some assistance on a glorious day on the beach front in Seapoint. We got a few odd looks from the array of dog walkers, pram pushers and designer jogging crowd but in the limited time available the learners seemed to pick up some of the basics and hopefully will be better prepared for their next outing on real water..

Learners from Tafelberg High School get some casting instruction from SAs "Master Caster" Tim Rolston

Learners from Tafelberg High School get some casting instruction from SAs "Master Caster" Tim Rolston

They also received a copy of “learn to flycast in a weekend” for their school library, and I suspect that after the tuition session that book is likely to be booked off the shelves for the foreseeable future, I only hope that they take out the odd copy of “mastering mathematics” as well, I wouldn’t like to be personally responsible for their academic downfall, or for that matter to simply provide a convenient excuse for it either.

Bell’s Fly Fishing Festival Cape Town.

Then this weekend The Cape Piscatorial Society in conjunction with Bell’s Scotch Whisky are hosting the “Bell’s Fly Fishing festival”. Although these events occur all over South Africa, the Cape Based event is unique in that there is no competitive portion.

Various expert anglers, guides and local sages on things piscatorial give up their time to assist and guide relative newcomers to the sport. With on stream practical tuition, guiding and advice. Whilst there are prizes to be had, they are all selected on a lucky draw basis.

The event is fished on the various trout waters of the Limietberg Reserve, managed by Cape Nature Conservation. The waters all operate on a strict no kill, catch and release only , barbless hooks only regimen of controls and are looked after in conjunction with CNC by the Cape Piscatorial Society.

The rivers have come down in levels after late rains that adversely affected the National Championships which were held on the same waters last week and the fishing and weather is set to be awesome. On the national front, the WP A team took the national title, M.C Coetzer finishing in first place. WP B team got the bronze and Gauteng took second place with their top angler Gary Glen-Young taking silver in the individual competition. WP’s Korrie Broos taking bronze .

International Day of Climate Action.


I figure that if you are interested in fishing you are more than likely interested in our climate as well, so you may like to be reminded that Saturday 24th October is “International Day of Climate Action” the goal being to draw attention to the 350 parts per million Carbon Dioxide levels in our atmosphere as a sustainable target based on the most recent scientific findings. If you are interested to learn more or find an action day event near you, or even to organize your own you can find out all you need to know from

Fishing Cape Streams Part #2

July 22, 2009

Gearing up for Cape Streams..


Inkwazi Fly Fishing, Cape Town’s leading Fly Fishing Guiding service.

Ok so if you followed the advice from the previous post on Cape Streams you have now organized the permits and memberships that you will require, more than likely had a think about which rivers you would most like to target and it is time to start putting your gear together..

Before we gaze wistfully into the murky waters of gadgets, oh but how alluring they all are, let’s first get down to some basics because never mind what is hanging from your vest, the only links between you and the fish are  your rod, reel, line and leader.. If these elements aren’t working for you are you are starting at a serious disadvantage.


There has been a lot of debate about rods in general and rods for small Cape Streams in particular, trends change constantly. I have fished for years with a number of different #2 weight rods in the 7’9’ range with complete contentment but at the same time have played of late with some other tackle, particularly a Scott #3 weight and a Deep Red #3 weight from Stealth Fly Rod and Reel that are longer and I have loved fishing with both of them, they offer the advantage of a little more reach and a tad more line control without being burdensome or being too stiff to cast short. What you absolutely don’t need is a rod that is too stiff to cast very short lines. The currents in our streams are nefarious, convoluted little devils and they often get more so as the waters drop, just about the same time that the trout get even more taciturn.

The fish have worked out that drag is a warning sign of ill intent and even small fish quickly learn to ignore any flies behaving inappropriately. Two of the main means of avoiding the early onset of drag, you can never actually avoid it forever, are to use long flexible leaders and to cast as short as is possible. Stiff rods that don’t perform without a good amount of line out are going to hinder your progress and fish catching abilities no end and I would far rather fish with an inexpensive soft rod than a super fast one that cost a king’s ransom.. The ability to cast long leaders with very little line out and with some accuracy is paramount to our fishing. Don’t anyone tell you that distance casting is tricky, accurate short casting with line control is more demanding and the best rod that you can afford for the job is money well spent. Generally speaking you don’t want a rod rated for more that an AFTMA #3 , you can go much lower too but I have found that the #2 and #3 rods cover most of the bases for me. If you are in doubt get some advice, and not only from the guy trying to get you to part with several grand either.

Matt finishing your rod.

I have been accused of heresy, threatened with burning at the stake and all manner of other ill will for saying this but I am going to say it again.. We fish in bright sunshine and blue skies more often than almost any other fly fishing nation on the planet, in the Cape we do it to well educated fish in crystal clear and skinny water. Flash of rods, reels, lines, forceps watches etc are all bad news when stalking trout and the propensity for rod manufactures to produce bright shiny and reflective gear simply demonstrates that most rods are bought from their looks in the shop and not their functionality on stream.

You may not choose to follow my advice, some people claim that warranties are made void by this approach, but if you are going to take your fishing seriously, rub the blank down with light wet and dry paper or polishing paste to matt off that varnish and reduce the flash. The rod flash may only spook one fish in ten or even twenty, but it could be the only catchable fish of the day and it could be the fish of a lifetime, why take the chance? I have guided enough to see fish scatter for no apparent reason, only to realize that something flashed during the client’s cast. For the same reasons I don’t have any shiny stuff on my vest, and I either remove my watch or at least turn it around on my arm on sunny days. Oh and before the accusations fly about me sanding down “cheap rubbish rods”, I have put brand new Winstons Sages and Scotts through the treatment and if those illustrious manufacturers manufactured the darned things without the gloss I wouldn’t have to.


The reel is more than likely the least important piece of your gear in that it doesn’t have to do much, lightness is a major plus and any small reel that is light in weight will do. The more you spend the lighter they are in general, a sort of inverse proportionality of finance versus mass, but light is good and smooth is important if you, as you most likely are, are going to fish with light tippets. But click and pawl reels are fine, you don’t need fancy and heavy disc systems on reels for these streams.. Small, light and smooth is great, if they aren’t too flashy that is a major bonus.


Your reel however needs to be checked out, especially after a hard season, bits of grit, sand and unrecognizable flotsam is more than likely clogging up the insides and a good wash with some soapy water and a toothbrush followed by some re-greasing will bring it back into tip top condition. Oh and a word on the drag, set it just enough so that it won’t overwind, you can control more pressure with your hand if needs be, but fishing fine tippets and setting drags too stiff is a very good way to lose the fish of the season.


On these rivers you will not require anything more than a floating line, at least not for any morally acceptable fishing techniques. Bright coloured lines are probably not a great idea but don’t purchase or dye lines too dark or you will not follow them on the water and drag will become a problem. Light tans and olives are good. You can successfully dye lines quite easily with Hot Dylon, just let the water cool off a little below the boil before you dunk your new R400 line in there, and don’t leave it too long. Dark Olive produces a super tan colour on orange lines and a lovely light green on cream and white lines. I have dyed numerous lines without incident but if you can find a neutral colour out of the box then use that.

Overweighting with higher AFTMA # lines.

There is a tendency to over weight fly lines for these streams and it may well help with the short presentations required, it isn’t however a remedy for buying a super fast rod in the first place and then trying to overweight it into submission. Some manufacturers such as Rio do produce special tapers for stream fishing which push the weight a bit more forward in the lines for short casting. Beware triangle and delta taper lines for stream fishing, they do not work optimally at close range and aren’t designed to do so. Personally I like double taper lines for streams, you are never going to even see the middle and you get two lines for the price of one. Some of my reels only have half a line on them, I don’t remember which ones, you can’t tell when you are fishing.


The backing of Dacron or similar is of virtually no importance at all other than to keep your reel full and reduce line memory. Don’t be tempted to use nylon it isn’t great for the purpose and fill your reels optimally, but don’t over do it. An overly full reel will cause the line to snag if you are winding in in haste, such as when you are playing a large fish. A few millimeters of freeboard on the drum is good and allows you to get away with the odd sloppy bit of winding in an emergency.

Leader attachment:


If you follow the advice throughout this series of posts you are going to be fishing leaders longer than you ever have before. We will get to why later, but the problem with long leaders is that you always have the joint with the fly line coming back into the rod guides, at least every time you move upstream.

I really don’t like nail knots, they jam and with a fish on that means that your 7X tippet is going to snap like cotton. Braided loops have a bad reputation but they are in general better than nail knots for this type of fishing. My personal favourite and the method of choice for my light stream gear is to super glue the butt section of the leader into tip of the fly line. It is easily strong enough when you are fishing light, it is super smooth and will eliminate all manner of hassles with your casting and presentations.

There are some tricks to doing it easily and you can get hold of those by just sending me a note on this link Superglue Leader Link ( leader link and leader formula)

The only disadvantage with this is that should you break the leader right off then you have to resort to some on stream fix, so I generally carry a few braided loops in my pocket just in case, I have never yet had to use one.

Whatever linkage you use, now is the time to change it, knots get tired and worn and you should be treating yourself to a new leader anyhow. Whatever you do, don’t use those nasty little metal loops that you are supposed to push into the end of the line, they are a recipe for disaster, and don’t use braided leaders, they were popular with us all, until we realized just how much spray they send off and that scares fish.


I am one of those anglers who thinks that your leader is the most important part of your gear, a correctly constructed leader will allow you to present with accuracy and delicacy every time, it will protect fine tippets at the end and will not snag, tangle or spook fish. There are some really good leader designs out there, some only obtainable from the inventor on the signing of a blood oath, or the sacrificing of a sibling on the altar of the fishing Gods. However of the hand-made variety the degressive ones popularized by Pascal Cognard three time world fly fishing champion, have a strong following amongst the best anglers in the Cape. Oh and for those who feel that a micrometer is an essential piece of on stream equipment I am tempted to offer the phone number of my therapist.. Personally I don’t use complex, multi-knotted designs, I have too many clients tangling too many lines too often so opt for a more simple approach that works for me.

Again to save space here, you can obtain the details from this link Easy Leader Formula (Leader formula and leader connection info)

Furled leaders can be very good if you have a lot of patience, but for my money a simple and effective leader that is just a tad unbalanced so that it won’t completely turn over is the ticket. Mine vary from a short 14’ to about 18’ depending on conditions. There is no perfect all around formula in my opinion, the size and aerodynamics of the fly, the wind direction and the level of the river all make a difference and you need to be able to change things about during the day so don’t get too hung up on complexity, functionality is what you are after.

Boiling leaders:

Copolymer leaders and nylon leaders change significantly if boiled briefly in water, or at least dropped into boiling water for a minute. They become far more elastic, flexible and soft to the touch, all good in my opinion and I have now taken to giving all my leaders this treatment. When I tell you that last season I took some very very good fish on 8X Stroft tippet perhaps that will show that this little adjustment can be worthwhile. I certainly think that it is worth the effort, particularly later in the season when fine tippets are a must. Because the base of my easy leader formula is a standard tapered leader with quite a thick butt section I think that the boiling process improves them quite significantly you should try it.

So your next tasks in preparing for the new season are to clean out those dirty reels, unspool and check your flylines, change the leader connections and make up some leaders if you need to. Boil a few and try them out and of course look out for the next blog post on your preparations.

Also keep an eye out for our forthcoming “fly fishing school” to be held in Cape Town within the next few months, or contact us now so that we know you are interested on Fly Fishing School and we can be sure you get the message via e mail.

Thanks for reading.

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Fishing Cape Streams Part #1

July 20, 2009

Sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris, Cape Town’s leading Trout Guiding Service.

Getting ready:

Preparing for a new season on the streams and planning your approach for the best season ever.

In the next six or seven weeks I will be putting together a number of posts to help you prepare for the coming trout stream season. Covering all the essential things that you really should be up to now to insure a seamless and fun start to the season as well as offering some advice which should help you make it one of the best seasons to date.

I will be covering topics related to sorting out your gear, tying essential fly patterns, rigging leaders, and top tips on ways to improve your efficacy out there on the streams. Most social anglers don’t get anywhere near to their potential and one of the differences between them and the “experts” is the way that they approach things and the preparations they undertake before the time. You simply aren’t going to make the best of it if you head out with a rummage bag of bits and bobs and hope for the best.

To start the ball rolling here are some things to think about in the coming week:

Permits: Don’t forget that whilst the rivers of the Limietberg Reserve are essentially public water you need permits both to fish and to be in the reserve as well as a freshwater angling license. To be honest the freshwater license is a bit of a stretch because there is very little checking up and our illustrious administrators in government simply want to take your money without doing a whole lot for it. You are however supposed to have one and you can obtain them from most of the angling shops. These freshwater licenses are NOT the ones that you get from the post office so don’t be mistaken; those are sea angling permits and not the same thing.

If you are not already a member, join the CPS (Cape Piscatorial Society)

On a cost effectiveness basis if you belong to the Cape Piscatorial Society you can reduce the costs and improve the ease with which you book water and should you intend to fish more than five times or so in the season. (One would hope that if you are reading this then that is the case) it is significantly cost effective to join up. If you live out of Cape Town you can join for even less dough as a “country member” so it is well worth the investment. Members with Season River Fishing permits can simply book water by phone, without the hassle of making additional bank deposits, sending faxes and all the rest of it and that alone makes it worth obtaining membership and a season permit. The society also boasts a fantastic fishing library for members, have regular meetings and act as coordinators for all bookings of water in the Limietberg. You can contact them on and visit their website at have a chat to Elizabeth or Jean at the offices and they will help you set up whatever needs to be done.

Wild Cards.

You will also need a permit to be in the reserve and again if you are South African you are advised to obtain a “wild card” which covers entry into the reserve as well as a heap of other ones. The wild card can be purchased as “Cape Cluster” which affords you free access to the fishing waters as well as free entry to Boulder’s Beach, Table Mountain National Park, Cape Point reserve (this will cost you R60 a trip without the card so you can easily get your money back), Silvermine reserve and others. If you pay a little bit more you can cover entry into all the SAN parks reserves in the country, which means that trip to the Richtersveld Reserve in search of Yellowfish or any number of other spots becomes highly cost effective.

You can get more information on the wild card system from for those based in the Southern Suburbs I recommend that you chat to Cathy at the National Parks office in Westlake, she is am amazingly efficient and cheerful lady and one of the parks employees who seems to take her job seriously and has proven to be wonderfully helpful to me in the past. Wild Cards are significantly more expensive for non SA residents but could prove to be worthwhile if you intend to fish a lot or visit other reserves whilst here.

The primary trout streams of the Western Cape and the home waters of Cape Town Anglers

The waters that we fish are for the most part public access waters in the Limietberg Reserve and are effectively three rivers although the nomenclature used in angling circles would indicate that there are more.

All the rivers are divided into beats which can be booked for one party of anglers (maximum two) for the day. This brilliant and probably unique system for public access means that you are not bothered by other anglers and the fish are not overly stressed with people casting over them all day. It is a super system and makes the best use of the resource, so remember if you are new at this, booking is essential and you can’t just pitch up and fish when and where you feel like it. Remember: ALL the waters are strictly catch and release, no barbed hooks, no kill fisheries.. these are not places to go and collect your lunch, but they offer superb angling for non indigenous but self sustaining populations of trout which are wary and street smart. Technique is the key to success, not necessarily matching the hatch but fly presentation is what separates the men from the boys on all of these waters and they can be a real challenge. Many of the waters offer superb sight fishing to visible fish much of the season when the water is low and clear enough to target specific fish. With some care you may spend an entire day rarely casting blind at all.

The rivers are:

The Holsloot River: This stream is a “tailwater” fishery, flowing out of the Stettynskloof Dam on the outskirts of Rawsonville. The stream is particularly useful in that it generally maintains better flows in the heat of summer and paradoxically, as a result of the capacitor like effects of the dam, lower flows when the other streams are in flood. It can make for a particularly good venue in early season and again in mid summer. There is private water on this stream managed by Dwarsberg Farm, where you can also book into one of a number of cottages or camp sites and fish the private sections. The stream has a reputation of blowing hot and cold and there are days when the fishing can be excellent or alternatively particularly slow. In addition to permits and bookings you will require an access code from the CPS office to be able to enter the gate and drive up the dirt road to the fishing waters. Don’t venture out without that code or you are going to get stuck. The code varies on a weekly basis so make sure that you obtain it when you are booking water.

The Molenaars Beat:

The Molenaars beat is a private section of water that is currently included in the fishery management of the CPS, it is in reality simply the lower section of the Smallblaar River, boasts fewer but larger trout on average and can provide some really really good fishing, particularly earlier in the season. Being lower down the mountains the waters tend to become very warm in mid summer and the fishing becomes less good. This is a section to be targeted early and late season in particular but it probably offers the best chance of a twenty inch plus fish of all the streams.

The Smallblaar River:

This is where things become a little tricky, the Smallblaar is labeled by the roads department as the Molenaars River and as such can cause some confusion to first timers, the fact that you see a road sign indicating “Molenaars River” doesn’t mean that you are on the Molenaars Stretch so take care and ask for some advice if you are not sure where to go to find your beat. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the Smallblaar River’s beats have a private section in the middle of them so that beats one to five are below the Du Toit’s Kloof Hotel, the hotel section can also be booked but it isn’t a recommended piece over weekends when it can become inundated with swimmers and casual observers. The last beat of this stream, beat six, is well above the hotel, separated from the rest by a private section. Beat six is a tiny tributary of the main river joining up at the intersection with the Elandspad. Parking for Beat six is the same as parking for the Elandspad River. As with the Molenaars, there are some exceptionally good fish on this stream, and the catch and release regulations have seen the growth of both fish densities and size over the past few years. Also as with the Molenaars, although to a lesser degree, the stream suffers from very warm water in mid summer and is best left alone at that time. Not simply because the fishing isn’t as good but because you are likely to over stress the fish and kill them in the warm waters of mid summer.

The Elandspad River:

This stream offers no vehicular access and requires that you walk in to your beat along the footpath, which if you are nervous of heights may prove a little taxing. The lower beats are not far from the road but you can hike and hour or two in and out of the upper sections. The stream probably provides the main spawning areas for most of this entire system, fish density is high and as you progress to the upper beats on average the numbers of fish go up and the overall size of fish comes down. Don’t be mislead though, there are fish up to 19” plus up there and for the active the stream offers some superb angling.

The Witte River:

This is our only Brown Trout stream and is high up on Bain’s Kloof Pass. The fishing of late has suffered in the lower beats which used to be home to some quality fish. The continuous abstraction of nearly the entire flow of the stream in the summer months by agricultural concerns leads to near stagnation lower down and makes it very difficult for sustainable fish populations to survive. Beats above the take off furrow however provide good angling at the price of some severe walking. There is no vehicular access to these beats and you have to leg it in. The height of the stream and its location make for some pretty dramatic scenery and some equally dramatic weather changes, strong winds and rain squalls in early season can make your trip a real gamble. There are less fish in this stream than in most of the rainbow waters and the river if fished mostly by those who particularly like to target browns. The browns behave slightly differently to the rainbows of the other waters and represent a challenge unique to this stream and that particular species. All in all you will either fall in love with this water or learn to hate it depending on your particular view point. Don’t even consider this stream unless you are prepared to leg it up into the mountains and don’t go without suitable clothing, things change up there fast and early season hypothermia can become a real threat.

The season runs from Sept to May inclusive on these streams and some planning will afford good angling throughout those nine months of open season.

So there they are, with some planning you can have great fishing season through, targeting the Holsloot throughout the year, The Witte for brown’s early season in particular, the Molenaars and the Smallblaar for all but the hottest months and the Elandspad again for much of the entire season. Plenty to choose from.

Organise your permits, licenses and membership fees now and in the next post we will discuss some preparations of gear and flies for the coming season.

If you want more information try visiting, or mail us at

Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris offers guided fishing experiences on these waters, including full service guiding and tutorial guiding for those who wish to hone techniques and improve their effectiveness. Most clients find that they will double their catch rates after some on stream tuition so if you are planning on making this your best season ever, consider booking a day with us to refine your skills.

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