Posts Tagged ‘Fly Reels’

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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