Posts Tagged ‘Orange River’

Desert Fishing

September 29, 2015

DesertFishingAlternativeHead

It’s an act of faith going fishing in a desert, but then sometimes one simply has to follow one’s heart (or gut for that matter) and take the plunge. I have fished the Orange River flowing along the Namibian/South African Border for more than a few years and there is always the same mix of excitement and trepidation.

Of course if you get it right it is wonderful, even, as with this past trip, spectacular, but then again there are plenty of things that can go wrong. If the water is high wading is limited, fishing less good and water clarity can be reduced to that of cocoa. The wind can howl, sandstorms can wreck the camp and dump grit on everything such that microscopic quartz crystals become a recognized condiment, sprinkled liberally over all that one eats.

It is a long way off, remote with a capital “F”, and no matter how many times one undertakes the drive there is a point, under the desert sky without sign of water , that you feel something of a twit carrying a fly rod at all.

DesertPanorama600
When this is the view out of the window you wonder if bringing the fly rods was such a good idea.

I have however spent enough time out in nature to know that the only certainty is if you don’t go you will miss out. Simply being there is an invitation for something wonderful to happen. This is one of those, fortunately numerous, venues where nature puts on the play and all you have to do to enjoy it is buy a ticket,a place where the motivation is fishing but in the end the rewards come from much more than that.

AlbeNiceYellowAlbe with a superbly conditioned Smallmouth, taken Euro-Nymphing in the rapids.

Whilst out there this time we caught fish, a LOT of fish, something in the region of a hundred or more per man per day. We caught smallmouth and largemouth yellowfish, Kurper, Barbel (Catfish), and Mudfish. But we also saw Giant Kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Herons, Otters, Scorpions, Social Weaver birds and a mindboggling mudfish spawn which left the river black writhing sexually charged bodies.

MudfishHandOrange River mudfish, most were too preoccupied to eat a fly. Odd to look at but they fight like hell.

AlbeLargemouthA baby largemouth Yellow, when he grows up he will be a serious predator.

BarbelMike2The barbel hunted the mudfish , so Mike hunted the barbel, seems fair.

7X Challenge for FBSmallmouth Yellowfish were our primary target

We watched barbell hunting the spawning muddies and in turn we hunted the barbell. We fished dry fly with success, French/Euro-nymph techniques, mono indicators, yarn indicators, Czech style and more and caught fish on all of them. We walked, waded and swam. Fell in , or at least I did (three times), my more sure footed colleagues managed to avoid the unplanned bath.

Barbel5Barbel entered the shallowest of runs in pursuit of the spawning mudfish.

The water levels rose and fell but all in all the clarity was beyond expectation, we sight-fished much of the time, something rare on this water, and we experimented. One of the great advantages of such a place is that there are plenty of fish and no pressure. So one can play with leader setups, indicators, techniques, flies and more.

The “Three Weight Challenge”:

Before departure I was encouraged to take on this limitation, the idea? That you only fish other gear having first caught a yellowfish on an AFTMA #3 rod. For those not in the know, fishing for yellows is frequently a lot like fishing for grayling, but don’t make a mistake. These are “grayling” with an attitude and they can fight like demons, particularly in fast water. Such tackle as described above is generally viewed as seriously under gunned. Still we rose to the challenge and added our own corollary.. only 7X tippet. We didn’t intend to stick to that very long but as time passed and the fish count mounted it was hard to stop. The fine tippet provided exceptionally good sink rates on the nymphs and better bit detection such that in the end we fished much of the first day like this. Somewhere between 50 and 100 fish landed I changed up to 5x, just in case I hooked into something unstoppable. I didn’t however switch to the five weight outfit, not for the entire trip. Fishing with the lighter gear was just too pleasant. Better control and sensitivity, less weight in hand and a pleasure to fish.

I really enjoy these outings, not simply for the fish but for the solitude, the abundance of nature around one and the opportunity to experiment. Guiding for trout in the Cape Streams one always has to consider the client and with that the simplest and most pragmatic means of hooking up. Here without such pressure one is free to play, change tippets, change leader setups, experiment with different mono, coil, yarn and mud type indicators. Sharing those experiments, innovations and theories with like-minded friends in such a spectacular environment, well that simply makes it all even better. So thanks to Mike and Albe for joining me; the days have passed, the fish have all been released and I have finally got the sand out of my fishing gear, but the memories will live on, and isn’t that one of the main reasons we go fishing in the first place?

 

Join us:

Our next planned excursion for yellowfish will be a hosted trip to the Bokong River in Lesotho (at the very top of this same river system) in February, staying at a superb camp run by Tourette Fishing and aiming to get some terrestrial dry fly action on large smallmouths in this crystal clear river.

If you would like to inquire about joining us click here for some further information. Click Here

 

The Fishing Gene Blog has now received 67000 views over its lifetime, thank you to all those who read it and comment on it.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 

Advertisements

Preparation

September 18, 2014

PreparationHead

“Preparation is never wasted” that was a lesson from my youth and unlike a great deal from that era this particular phrase has stood the test of time. I am quite sure that it applies to pretty much everything but in fishing, where there are so many variables to start with, having “all your ducks in a row” becomes highly advantageous.

On the competitive scene being sure that you have all that you need and that you have back-ups of the back-ups can be the difference between success and failure, perhaps not quite so much because of the items at hand but the lack of stress in knowing that you have done all you can to be ready.

Generally for me that means having a check list when guiding, insuring that I have the client’s details, any specific food or health requirements, the correct location from whence to collect them in the morning and all that sort of thing. It isn’t just a question of rods, reels and lines.

PrepMuddie

Albe Nel with a nice mudfish from a previous trip

I should mention that most of these preparations have been born out of the crucible of abject failure at some point. I have in the past forgotten to take the net, forgotten to take the rods (which is even more problematic) and on one occasion forgotten in which hotel my client was residing, the latter a professional faux pas I wouldn’t care to repeat. So now there are lists and lists of lists, things don’t go in the box without being ticked off and they don’t get ticked off until they are in the box. Even then I went fishing last week without the net, although to be fair that was because, being a purely social trip to the stream, I didn’t check the list.. Live and learn.

PrepMikeMike Spinola braves the midges for some more fishing time.

Right now I am in the midst of preparing for an extended camping trip on the Orange River with clients, where we intend to target the smallmouth and perhaps largemouth yellowfish. It is a remote spot, remote in the sense that there isn’t a shopping centre for miles, in fact there is, if you will excuse the expression, “Bugger all for miles and miles”. A mistake out there and you could be doing the “David Carradine, walk through the endless desert thing.” It’s all very well being well prepared in terms of the fishing tackle, but out in the desert, excepting within the narrow expanse of the river, a fly rod and waders probably come under the heading of the two most useless things that you may wish to have with you.

So everything has to be taken along, from wading boots to water and right now my check list includes amongst other things:
58 Apples
32 Bread rolls
16 Potatoes
3 Cabbages
3 Bags of Carrots
34 Cereal Bars
44 Cheese wedges
1 Large Camembert
14 Kebabs
2 Large Jars of coffee
16 Boxes of custard
1 Large box of porridge oats
30 Packets of biscuits
6 Packets of bread mix
and something in the region of 80 other items in various volumes all contained within 8 large boxes and two coolers, and that excludes any of the fishing gear.

Of course, no matter how hard one tries something will be forgotten and you just hope that whatever it is won’t prove to be too critical. If one runs out of batteries for the headlamps then camp would be near intolerable, but if I forget the 5x tippet then we will have to make do with the 4x and it won’t be quite such a train smash.

PrepTimThe Author with a decent yellowfish taken from under the reeds

To add to the complexity we are on the cusp of spring and summer here, but the vagaries of the former season haven’t quite given way to the relative stability of the latter yet and climatic conditions are due to vary from 30°C heat to near freezing temps at different times during our stay. That makes packing all the more fraught, not to mention bulky if one doesn’t have a mind to keep things minimalistic.

Of course the concept behind preparation is twofold: Firstly to allay one’s fears as far as possible and avoid that near inevitable “Packing paranoia” which will see one pulling off the road to check in a box at the back of the truck for some insignificant item you wonder if you packed. The second part of the process is supposedly at least to insure effectiveness whilst out there in the wide blue yonder. With some planning the amount of time spent fiddling about in camp is reduced and the amount of time left for actual fishing hopefully increased, that is at least the theory.

PrepCamp

Flytying “Al Fresco”, remote camps are by necessity basic in nature.

After all of this there is no guarantee that the fish will be cooperative, we have cast our plans, checked the weather and done the trip before at the same time of year, so disappointment shouldn’t rear its ugly head but it isn’t an impossibility, and that I suppose is the rub when it comes to fishing. The barometer could plummet, the flow rates could be high or non-existent and the water could be anything from crystal to chocolate. Those things you can’t foresee which is why one tries to cover all the bases under one’s control, to minimize the risk of failure.

So there are boxes of flies, pre-manufactured leaders, indicators, braided loops. There are spare lines and spare reels, a spare pair of sunglasses, (and at my age spare reading glasses too). There are maps so we don’t get lost, permits so we don’t get arrested, sunblock so we don’t get burned, water so we don’t get dehydrated and at least a small amount of scotch so that we don’t go mad.

PrepDesert

The desert: unforgiving but at the same time spectacularly pretty.

Actually I am already questioning that last statement, we are going to all this trouble, driving for hours on both tarmac and dirt roads, burning goodness knows how much fuel so that we can eat sandy food and live in near darkness with a view to catching some fish which we have no intention of eating and for that matter aren’t really edible anyway. I suppose there is a fine dividing line between passion and insanity when you come to think of it, and we are all no doubt walking a tightrope on that front.

PrepAlbeAnother good fish for Albe, taken nymphing in the rapids

Perhaps the best reflection of such a mission came from an indigenous resident alongside the river on a previous trip. Having watched us all fly-cast from dawn to dusk for days on end, this itinerant, and relatively uneducated goatherd posed the following question: “Hoekom julle slaan de water so?”, translation.. “Why do you beat the water so?” Not a bad question really is it?

 

Note: “The Fishing Gene Blog” has now seen over 50,000 views since its inception, not a lot by some standards but a milestone none the less, a milestone that motivated me to write this when I should be checking the lists and packing the boxes. Thanks to all those readers and followers who keep me at it..

Orange River Adventure

July 17, 2014

Orange River Header

Right now in the depths of winter, rain lashing against the window and snow on the high ground the stream fishing season still feels a long way ahead. Of course it is a good time to tie flies, clean fishing gear and generally have a bit of a tidy up and a sorting out of the kit but it is fishing that I really hanker after.

The lakes offer some solace, the winter weather suits the fish up there in the mountains, they seem to like the chill- and frosty mornings with a bit of a breeze can provide some exceptional sport, but much as I enjoy it, lake fishing isn’t river fishing and that’s the rub.

Dreams of clear streams, dry fly drifts and rising trout trouble my sleep and no amount of flytying or tackle cleaning will rid my soul of the need to be on a river.

There is however a further alternative available, although perhaps not readily so, and that is to head out into the desert and target some winter yellowfish on the Orange River. It has become something of a ritual to include this in our fishing calendar, not only because such a trip offers exceptional fishing but also because the climatic conditions up there provide admittedly chilly evenings and mornings but rather more balmy weather during the day. Thoughts of warm days and plenty of fish when trapped in damp and chilly suburbia make a long drive and rustic camping conditions seem really rather idyllic.

TimYellowCap

 

There was a time we would venture to the Richtersveld, a reasonably organized camping area within a reserve, it offered some great fishing it has to be said but these days we opt for an even more remote spot. At the limits of the South African boundary, right on the Namibian border, where you may go for days without seeing anyone but for the occasional shepherd tending his goats in the arid landscape.

BigBlueSky

This is barren land, given of rough tracks, social weaverbird nests, quiver trees, four wheel drive vehicles and a lot of space, enough space to make you wonder if you haven’t inadvertently switched planets via some unseen cosmic wormhole. On the drive in it is easy to question one’s own sanity in bringing a fly rod along at all, the scenery, spectacular as it is, doesn’t imply any possibility of water, never mind fishing opportunity.

ClassicNamakwa

This is a land of big sky, little but miles of sunbaked sand and rock and glistening quartz crystals with a primal beauty that has to be witnessed personally to be appreciated. Then, just about the time where one wonder’s if you really haven’t lost the plot, and that bringing that fly rod along would, in a court of law, indicate that you were too mentally deranged to be held accountable for your actions, you come across it. Cutting through the barren lands is a green swathe of vegetation, bordering the slightly murky flows of the region’s major river, and in that river await hoards of yellowfish. Better still hoards of naïve yellowfish, uneducated as to the wiles of fly anglers. In short something of an angler’s paradise, right out there in the middle of nowhere.

BigYellow

As the temperatures high up near the river’s source drop lower during the winter months so the fish move downstream to warmer areas and it is a fortunate happenstance that at this very time the flows of the river, generally driven by summer thundershowers in the Witwatersrand, become greatly reduced.

The entire collective, of little rain high on the catchment and cooler temperatures in the head waters contrive to produce, lower down on the river, some of the best yellowfish fishing the county has to offer, right about the time that we are hankering to cast a line on moving water but still generally limited by the flood levels of our native trout streams.

Sean's First Yellow

So we endure a long drive, pack lightly and live roughly in tents amongst the sand dunes of the river bank, and enjoy a few days of that most simple of mantra’s. Eat, Sleep, Fish…

 

EatSleepFish

 

Come and join us on a yellowfish adventure:

This September Inkwazi Fly Fishing in conjunction with Stream X will be hosting two camps in this remote spot. Each trip has space for only eight anglers and includes an overnight stop on the way up to the river to make it easier to get away after work and have an early start on the water the next day.

The camps run (including the drive) from September 19th to 24th and 23rd to 28th

Orange River Snapshots

The trip will include an “orientation” evening in Cape Town to appraise anglers of what to expect, what to bring, suitable tackle tactics and flies for the trip and as such represents an ideal starting point for those who have not experienced yellowfish fishing previously. It is of course also a fantastic trip for those who already have yellowfish angling experience (most of the bookings to date are from people who joined us previously and want to experience it all again). In past years fish numbers have been very good and there is still much water to explore which has been previously untapped. If you would like to enquire about joining us please drop me a line on the following link:

Orange River Yellowfish Camp 2014

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town’s best fly fishing guiding service.

 

Fly Fishing Foreplay.

September 18, 2013

ForeplayHead

To those of us with The Fishing Gene, fishing and in my case fly fishing holds plenty of opportunity for passion, excitement and ultimately one hopes fulfilment, but in a world of instant gratification there is nothing that builds one’s ardour more than a bit of foreplay. Right now I have a hot date on Friday and I am metaphorically tarting myself up in preparation. Exciting times filled with hopeful expectation, a dash of concern, fond memories of past liaisons and graphic mental images of our previous parting embrace.  The object of my desire ? A sultry temptress perhaps; but a river and not a person.

ForeplayImage4Thoughts of the desert fill my mind.

We are heading out shortly to a remote spot on the Orange River, South Africa’s largest waterway and one filled we hope with willing and hungry largemouth and smallmouth yellowfish. It can provide wonderful fishing but equally requires a good deal of planning and preparation. Not only because the location is a remote, rugged, barren and desolate spot, but equally because the methods used and the flies required are considerably different to our everyday trout fishing. I suppose one might consider this a bit of a barrier but equally it offers great opportunity for some “preparing to go fishing” experimentation and with that a gradual growth of excitement as the day of departure looms.

ForeplayImage3Memories of past success drives the process.

It helps of course that I have been there before, memories, as though of a long lost paramour dance in my subconscious mind. I can recall the tempestuous rapids and the evocative curves of the river’s meander. If I close my eyes I can smell the heat of the desert and shiver involuntarily at the thoughts of chill evenings and then of course the fish. That gravel delta that previously offered such great sport, the narrow channel where “yellows” fed all day in a swirling back eddy and with each fly tied, with every leader knotted in preparation my passion and excitement grows.

ForeplayImage2Some impromtu fly tying on a previous trip to the river.

We have by now packed all the food boxes, the camping necessities, the logistical bits and bobs, maps, permits and such but I haven’t quite got to the point of locking away the fly boxes, you never know I might just feel moved to add one more killer pattern or a wayward experimental concoction to the quiver. Analogous I imagine to that last splash of aftershave or a quick adjustment of one’s tie before heading off to the Friday night dance.  Past history tells me that the patterns tied in extremis, moments before departure often prove to be the most effective; it is a necessary rite of passage to overdo this preparation lark and it all helps to build the excitement and focus.

ForeplayImage5You can never be too thin, too rich or have too many flies.

The journey is a long one with an overnight stop, which will no doubt be filled in equal measure by excitement at the prospects and concern that it might not be quite as good as we hope. We shall fret over the weather and bother our minds that perhaps we have forgotten some essential piece of equipment. In particular that fly box that we left out expecting to add to at the last minute and open to misplacement should it fall behind the cushions on the couch.

I am in part driven by horror stories, such as one related to me of an angler, dropped with his guide by helicopter in a remote section of New Zealand, a five day hiking and fishing trip on the cards, only to discover that he had left his reel at the hotel.  So the lists are checked and rechecked, items are ticked off, labelled, packaged and accounted for and all the while the passion builds.

ForeplayImage1Looking at that stubble, just as well it’s a fishing trip and not the Friday Night Dance.

I suppose that the next best thing to actually fishing is preparing to go fishing, which probably explains why most of us have far too many flies, too many bits of equipment and the fly fishing equivalent of the Library of Congress stacked on groaning shelves somewhere in the house. But you can’t overemphasise the value of foreplay, for people like us fishing doesn’t start when you head to the river, fishing starts when you wake up, assuming that you managed to get any sleep in all the excitement.

SignatureCompendium3

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.

BokspruitScene

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.

SharlandBokspruit
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.

ShadowsBokspruit

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.

MorneBell

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.

BoatsButt
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:

http://rhodesvillage.co.za/

http://wildtrout.co.za/

http://www.walkerbouts.co.za/

http://www.linecasters.co.za/

Books available from the author of this blog from Smashwords

SignatureCompendium3

Exploration and Paydirt.

August 9, 2010

Visiting new places on the Orange River:

I think that maybe my mates and I should join “The A Team” cos hell I love it when a plan comes together. We had been talking of exploring parts of the Orange River, previously unknown to us for some time. The debates of when to go, should we go and even should we perhaps settle for something more known to us dragged on until the decision was made. Fishing time is precious and one doesn’t want to waste time and energy in the wrong spot. But then there is also the question of forging your own path and taking some risk and in the end that is exactly what we did.

Hitting paydirt, the results of exploration on the Orange River

Armed with maps, GPS and plenty of fishing gear we headed out into the desert some 600 odd kilometers from home, not sure that we would even find the river. Deserts are not the places most people consider as venues for quality fly fishing and although we knew that the Orange River was there there was little guarantee that any of the trails would put us close enough to reach it.

Desert Landscape, not exactly the place you expect to find fish.

Previous trips to the Richtersveld reserve nearby have been productive, but the landscape there is scared by monuments to man’s unassailable greed, massive mine dumps the result of the search for diamonds and as a consequence it lacks something of the raw splendor of our new destination.

We hit the desert after an all night drive and were greeted with a spectacular dawn, low angled winter light softening the harshness of our surroundings. First stop was a small settlement called Henkries where one can obtain the odd essential item from a shop that is little more than a house’s garage, sparsely stocked with a coke fridge and the odd bar of soap, the nearest thing to a town that we would see for five days.

The trail requires that one loop around the mountains to touch with the river here and there and at the first stop we found both a wonderful campsite at the water’s edge and what appeared to be a decent rapid. The fishing was however disappointing, we got some fish and at least didn’t spend the first night under canvass with blanks on the scoresheet but it wasn’t as good as we had hoped.

Fly Tying Alfresco: Albe and Mike whip up a few nymphs at the waterside camp.

The next morning some exploration brought us to three new rapids further upstream, all virtually unreachable on account of the depth and speed of the currents but determination won the day and we eventually crossed higher up, taking some considerable risks in the strong flow. Of the three stretches of good looking water only one really produced but it produced fish in style. My own definition of hitting a “honey hole” is that you get one of the following three occurrences:

You hook two fish at the same time.

You and your partner both hook fish at the same time.

You hook fish on consecutive casts.

Albe Nel, trying out for the Al-Qaeda fly fishing team, with a baby largemouth Yellowfish. The "Buff" was actually an anti fly swallowing measure.

On this stretch, after several hours of trying other water for only a fish a piece we managed all of the above in short order and proceeded to “hammer em” for several hours. Odd that other good looking water nearby produced very little but this stretch really did hold huge numbers of fish and we were well pleased with the results. A lengthy walk back to camp through the bank-side vegetation and the flies that inhabit it virtually terminated my long standing vegetarian status and the numbers swallowed would no doubt have added up to a decent steak in terms of protein but we were happy, we had found fish and been able to test out some tackle and various rigs to good effect. Mike and Albe returned to the hot spot for the afternoon whilst I decided to play with some alternative methods in the water nearer to the camp. The result was that I took only a single fish for the session whilst they had bent rods for most of the afternoon until they tired and returned for sundowners much later.

The morning saw us once more on the trail, this time another loop around the hills, driving in an environment where one seriously questions the wisdom of being in a solitary vehicle. The chances of walking out alive should there be a mishap not appearing particularly good, miles and miles of sand, broken rock and shattered quartzite which looks for all the world like broken glass. In fact the illusion is of driving over a massive land fill site.

Camping desert style, this is probably the biggest tree for miles.

We reached our new destination by late afternoon and were able to see a glorious rapid not far from the camp. Again the results were disappointing, some fish but not a lot of them and treacherous wading in the lower sections. It was however the first time on the trip that I was totally out of control, a good sized mudfish taking yards and yards of line down the raging currents necessitating a precarious chase over the sunken boulders.

We fished the same rapids the following morning, did a bit better having located a few nice holes but still we were taking fish by the dozens and we wanted more. An almost desperate search higher upstream where the water looked flat and wide however revealed a maze of small channels amongst a smattering of islands and here we found fish. In fact we found fish in abundance, that first evening we landed over thirty fish a man in less than a couple of hours and returned to camp in the near darkness, not wishing to stop.

Mike with a nice fish from one of the channels.

This proved to be the highlight location of the trip and we returned to explore the channels and islands several times. We still never got to fish all of the water available however and there is good reason to return. It is difficult to estimate and we didn’t keep count but at a guess the three of us took somewhere between 700 and 900 fish including the slow days when we were searching for the right water. By the time we were finished we had learned a lot , refined our tackle, methods and perhaps most importantly where to locate numbers of fish. This was some of the best yellowfish fishing I have ever enjoyed anywhere, the only possible lack was that we didn’t land any that were truly massive although I think we all lost at least one real lunker at some point.

Part of the journey, consider having to walk out of here.

The final mornings fishing was an affair of mixed emotion, we continued to catch fish in numbers, in fact a day or so before I had managed to take nine yellowfish on consecutive casts if that gives some indication of the quality of the venue. In the end we had to pack up camp and head back to civilization. It is hard to walk away from that kind of fishing, all the more so when you know that it could be a year before you return but the experiment paid off, we worked hard, covered a lot of ground both in the vehicle and on foot and in the end the plan came together. Absolutely awesome fishing, the only crowds the occasional herd of goats, the only competition from the resident fish eagle and the otters which had left tracks all over the sand bars and which we actually saw on one mornings excursion.

I just had to put in one "rod in the mouth" image, apparently it's expected if you are a serious angler. 🙂

Highlights of the trip?

The incredible desolate scenery.

Myself and Albe taking two largemouth yellowfish at exactly the same time.

Catching nine fish on consecutive casts.

Albe catching a fish with the leader in his hand and not attached to the line.

Sharing such an amazing venue with incredible anglers and good friends.

Collectively taking seventeen fish from a run the size of two bath tubs.

The desert stars at night and the amazing sensation of space.

Spotting Otters in the river.

The list of firsts:

First person to take a fish… Mike

First person to take the grand slam: Largemouth, Smallmouth and Muddy….. Albe

First person to take a Muddy… Me

The bizarre looking mouth of an Orange River Mudfish.

First person to take the royal flush: muddy, smallmouth, largemouth and barbel.. “currently vacant”.

First person to catch a fish with the collar of his shirt (it’s a long story)… Me

First person to knock a sand martin out of the air with his rod… Me (we all did this by the end of the trip)

First Largemouth.. .Mike

Best landed fish of the trip… Albe.

Albe Nel with what was almost certainly the best fish landed during the trip.

So there it was seven days, nine hundred odd fish, some great exploration, and the gamble of either a watery or firey death in the river or the desert if something went wrong. I think by the last day we would have gone in peace, this was the fishing trip of a lifetime, or until we return it will be.  Best wishes from the “A Team”.

Orange Fever

August 4, 2010

By the time you read this I should have one of these in my hands, at least I hope so.

Due to the wonders of modern technology, and for me anything more advanced than a slide rule is pretty wonderous I have to admit, I can post this when I am nowhere near a computer. In fact I am nowhere near anything much, or at least that is the plan.

By now we should be happily camped on the edge of the Orange River on the Namibian border with nothing to do but cast for yellowfish and perhaps tie the odd fly if the situation dictates. Preparations have been hectic, one minute we were chatting about a possible trip and the next thing we were going. It didn’t help that I found that I had the dates incorrect and had a day less than expected to prepare, but then as with all these types of things, eventually one realises that if you have forgotten something you will have to do without it and that is all that can be said.

The only real worry is that Mike, Albe and myself are all avid anglers which means we will no doubt have a plethora of rods, reels, lines and flies. Probably some alcohol and a few items of clothing and if we are really fortunate one of us is going to remember to bring some food.

Years back I did spend three days on the Vaal with little more than three bottles of beer some bread rolls and a packet of chips, but the fishing was good and I lost some weight, it is amazing what one will do to catch a few fish if you have the fishing gene.

Big Water, Big Sky, Big Desert and great fishing.

For those not familiar with yellowfish they are the unsung heros of fly fishermen in Southern Africa. Living in Cape Town we don’t have any really good quality yellowfish water near by and a trip out into the sticks is something of a winter ritual. It helps that the waters of the Orange River (it isn’t called the Orange because of its colour, although often it could be), run clear and low at exactly the same time that the Cape Streams are unfishable.

There are a number of species of yellowfish and related species which are technically not yellows but tend to be referred to under the same umbrella. An interesting evolutionary divergence is that each is pretty much tied to specific riverine systems.

The Smallmouth and Largemouths (our two targets on this trip), live in the Vaal / Orange River system, the Clanwilliam Yellowfish and the Sawfins are found in the Oliphant’s system, closer to home but hard to access. The Natal Scaly is found in the Eastern part of the country in Natal and the Smallscale and Largescales are found in the Limpopo systems and the occasional Witvis in the Breede River Catchment.

The trouble with all of that is that it makes conservation a problem, one can’t simply transplant fish from one watershed to another and whilst some of the species are not under threat the Clanwilliam and Sawfins are.

Still back to the Orange and our trip:

For those not in the know yellowfish were thought to be virtually uncatchable on fly for many years and those that were caught seemed to be some sort of lucky aberration. However advances in techniques of both fishing and fly tying saw the catch rates climb rapidly, particularly with spread of understanding of the Czech nymph style of fishing. Yellowfish are for the most part bottom feeders, focusing on larvae and pupae of aquatic insects hard on the bottom and frequently in very fast water. (The Largemouths as juveniles feed in much the same way but then become piscivorous once they gain size, and they can gain some serious dimensions).

Some of the species available on the Orange River

We will probably practise a variety of techniques, some because they are effective and others perhaps simply because they can be more fun. But the standard is to fish heavily weighted Czech nymph patterns on either a normal Czech nymph rig or even fishing with pure mono and no casting of any real sort.

The trick is to have the patterns running hard on the bottom in white water conditions on occasion and to still be able to detect what can frequently be very subtle takes. For those familiar with grayling fishing this is much the same except that the fish are far bigger, far stronger and the current and size of the rivers more vicious than most. Some Scandinavian rivers probably are of similar dimension and flow but few English rivers would be as large.

If one finds the fish and you are proficient at the methods you can literally “hammer ’em” and frequently after a while we will change to upstream indicator nymphing in the slightly slower and shallower waters, if only for some variety.

After years of competative angling where indicators other than flies are out of bounds it is going to be fun to experiment with variations and I have a few tricks up my sleeve worthy of testing out.

Then of course there is the chance if the water is clear that there could be some dry fly action, down on the lower reaches this isn’t common but it can occur and casting small dries for fish well above the average size of most trout makes for some exciting sport.

Plus we really should spend some time with streamers trying to nail some Largemouths, we have caught a good number on the lower reaches but usually as a byproduct of fishing for the smallmouths. It is amazing how large some of the fish are that will still take a tiny nymph, but to seek out really massive specimens we should focus a bit with some hard-core streamer fishing. This time we might even get around to it.

So if we don’t get lost, starve, drown or meet some equally dreadful fait such as poor fishing, there should be some more photos when we get back. Until then I am thankfully out of touch with the modern world.

Well That’s Torn It.

July 28, 2010

A phone call and thoughts switch from browns to yellows and this isn't snooker.

Well that’s really torn it, there I was churning out dry flies in preparation for the coming season. Caddis Caddis, Caddis….. Parachute Parachute… and really rather getting into the swing of things. I had already got down the some of the micro patterns and given that I start with the larger sizes first that indicates some sort of progress. In fact I probably had well over two hundred brand new caddis patterns in the box and was about to move on to the mayflies when the phone rang.

Now it isn’t as though the call was an unwelcome intrusion, not at all,  it is just that, as I was saying,  I was in the swing of things and rather looking forward to starting the season on the rivers with a well stocked fly box and spoiled for choice no matter how ornery the fish were being.

The call was from my very good mate Mike and the essence of the phone call was to say “we’re on”.  There is a lot that can be conveyed in a few words and those two admittedly foreshortened gems changed the pattern of my thinking and the pattern of my fly tying in one fell swoop. You see we have been talking about heading back to the Orange River in pursuit of Largemouth and Smallmouth Yellows and now after months of debate and false starts it appears that all the potential participants had managed to get ducks in a row, gain leave of absence from work and loved ones and we were going.

A sudden switch from Elk Hair to Tungsten Beads was needed.

For those unfamiliar with Southern African fly fishing, we have a number of unique aspects to our fishing amongst them several species of Yellowfish. If you don’t know what yellowfish are let’s just say that they are like giant carp designed by Enzo Ferrari. The smallmouths can reach well over ten pounds and the Largemouths well over that many kilos. They love large rivers and fast water, they have massive tails and pure muscular bodies and they take flies. In fact they take flies really rather well so long as one has the right techniques.

The Author with a decent Largemouth Yellowfish.

Which conveniently brings me back to the disruption of the fly tying, not only were we going but we were going in less than a week’s time and here I was tying micro caddis patterns when now what I needed were Czech nymphs and lots of them, preferably sporting lead and tungsten accoutrements. Of course I am excited to be going, we are headed for the Orange River at a point where it is the border between South Africa and Namibia. One of the few disadvantages of living in Cape Town is that we are not near good yellowfish fishing, the guys up in the big smoke of Johannesburg have yellows on their doorsteps, but then they don’t have good trout fishing and we have better scenery.

Smallmouth Orange River Yellowfish.

So in something like six days time we are going to be driving for around eight or so hours and ending up in a desert where there are no facilities at all. That means that I have less than a week to wind up work commitments, write at least one newspaper column, pack tent, utensils, cooking gear, rods, reels, lines, boots waders .. etc etc etc and of course those flies. So the size 20 dry fly hooks were put back into their place and I started strapping Czech nymphs with abandon. The fly tying room, only recently tidied out now looks like a bomb hit it again and in less than two days I have managed to add about a hundred and ten yellowfish flies to my box. Whether that is enough I am not sure but pretty soon I am going to have to focus on other stuff, flies are important but I need to buy some food too, Oh and pack some clothes as well I suppose.

What makes it tricky is that although the fish are frequently not that selective, having the correct weights and sizes of flies for various water conditions is critical and a few flies of different styles or colours , in a few sizes in a few different weights pretty soon adds up to a boxful. Not only that but Czech nymphing on the rocky sections of the Orange River which the Yellows just love can see you loose six flies in two casts without too much trouble if things go wrong, so quantity is pretty much an essential.

Anyway I already have more flies than Mike, I have found my neoprene waders, the tent, the sleeping mat, the large fishing net and a couple of different reels that don’t get hauled out that often and progress is being made.

Now I will have to focus on work for a day or two and hopefully by then I will have found a few moments to tie a couple of dozen more patterns and then that will have to do.

Darn I am excited; there is not always a great deal of finesse in fishing for yellows, at least not to the degree required on our catch and release, crystal clear trout streams. But at the same time one can do serious numbers of fish in a day, end up with sore arms, sore legs and soaking wet from the odd swim for that matter. This is exciting fishing and the possibility of hitting a real lunker is always with one, even if the fish are of more moderate dimensions, five pounders are far from unusual and you will hear your reel scream far more often than on most trout waters.. Then on top of that the scenery is truly spectacular, totally remote and wild in the most glorious sense. We are planning on exploring some new waters, or at least new for us and to be honest we aren’t exactly sure where we are going so it is something of an adventure.

Anyway there are flies to tie, prepare for some great images and fish talk on our return.

Whilst I am away there is time for you to update your own trout fly box and sorry but I cocked up the previous link so that you could download this for free. In case you want to get a copy and were unable to please try again by clicking the image below or this link

New Free E book Published.

I am really sorry that the previous link didn’t work, sticky fingers more than anything so if you didn’t get what you wanted to please try again. Thanks.