Vanderkloof under threat

Just when the newly discovered largemouth yellowfish gem was made, Vanderkloof Dam, the existence of our largest freshwater sportfish, fondly called “largies” are now under threat in this dam. Largemouth yellowfish numbers has recently plummeted due to water pollution, overfishing and competition with alien fish species across it’s natural distribution range.

In Vanderkloof Dam, largemouths have found one of it’s last safe heavens. The reason being that fishing pressure is low in this rural area far away from all mayor centers, and fishing is done by conservation minded anglers that support catch and release principles. Good water quality and abundance of structure also helps with largemouth numbers.

According to Francois Fouche, secretariat of the Vanderkloof Angling Club, Rhodes University in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture has started with a study for the approval of “sustainable netting” of the fish in the dam. Mr. Fouche says that one of the main reasons given for the planned netting is the high numbers of smallmouth yellowfish, the cousin of the largemouth yellowfish also found in the dam.

Read more and sign the petition here:
http://www.vanderkloofdam.co.za/petition-to-save-the-largies/

Vanderkloof Dam 2014

The 20th of March 2014 was a special day for seven members of the Windknot Flyfishing and Conservation club. It was the beginning of the long awaited trip to Vanderkloof Dam. It was the first organized trip to this venue for the club. Agostino, Roberto, Jeremy, Erich and I departed from Klerksdorp at around 5:00 and after 500 km we arrived at the small town of  Vanderkloof at around 12:15. We soon found our chalet and after unpacking we had to report to the police. The captain explained that they wanted to know who is on the water in case of an emergency. In the meantime Tom and Andrew also arrived.

We hit the water around 13:30. Erich and I explored the water close to the launch on my Arc Seal, while Jeremy and Rob ventured farther off on Jeremy’s Arc, Agostino was on his jetski and Tom and Andrew were on Tom’s boat. It was not long before Erich caught his first Vanderkloof Smallie and the first fish of the trip. Shortly afterwards I also caught a  Smallie. Erich hoped to catch a Largie as it would be his first and it was not long before he hooked his Largie! He was a happy man! The rest of the afternoon we landed a few more Smallies before we called it a day. Considering that it was our first visit to this venue, we did quite well on the first day as everyone caught some fish.

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That evening we discussed the possibilities of this magnificent dam that is 100 km long and some 15 km wide with numerous islands and bays where one can spend weeks or even months to cover only a small part of this huge body of water.

The next day was disappointing for most of us as the fish were nowhere to be found.  We tried every fly, every good looking spot, various depths and retrieves, but the fish were gone!

On Saturday morning a fairly strong north-westerly wind was blowing and we only had battery powered motors for the two inflatables. We also wanted to explore the shore opposite to the launch area. Fortunately Agostino offered to tow Jeremy on his Arc and Erich and I on my Arc to the opposite shore.

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Erich and I found a small bay where I caught a smallish Largie. We then drifted along the shore for about an hour without luck.  At about 12:15 Jeremy called for help on the radio. He hooked a big fish and wanted us to assist him as he would not be able to net the fish on his own. My first reaction was that we were to far from him and would not be able to make it against the wind in time to assist him. About 10 minutes later Erich called Jeremy to learn that he was still fighting the fish! We immediately lifted anchor and after about 20 minutes we saw Jeremy in the middle of the lake! It took us another five to ten minutes before Erich mounted Jeremy’s Arc with a landing net in hand. For the rest of this story, you will have to wait for Jeremy’s version! To wet your appetite, have a look at the picture below. That evening everyone was talking about the big fish. Calls were made to spread the news and I am sure by 21:00 on Saturday evening even the State President knew about it!

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Although we did not catch many fish, everyone agreed that the trip was worth while and that we need to go there again. The accommodation was good and thanks to Agostino (with some help from Roberto, Jeremy and Erich) the food was excellent! We even had some pasta on Saturday night!!

After some time on the water on Sunday morning we eventually had to go back to reality. For at least some of us Vanderkloof will always be the place to go to if you want to catch big fish.

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After about 40 minutes since the fish was hooked on a 9 weight outfit.

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At the time of our stay Vanderkloof Dam was overflowing.

– Herman Loubser

Jozini Tigers

Jozini Tigers:  28 Dec 2013 – 04 Jan 2014

When I received the invite to fish Jozini from my good friend Tinus I immediately accepted, as all other plans for the period after X-Mas had fallen by the wayside .I am by no means a Tigerfish expert as my experience is limited to two trips to the Zambezi and my very first Tiger was caught illegally from the Jozini dam wall on fly on our return from a salt water trip to Kozi bay way back in 2004.
Tinus fortunately has been on a number of successful and some lesser so trips to this big man made impoundments and he had a very good idea where and how to target these fish.

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We were very concerned about the predictions of heavy rain, strong winds and possibility of dirty water as a result. On arrival and whilst setting up our camp site it was apparent that the visibility was very good in the area immediately adjacent to the Camp which is situated about 16km from the inflow area and 4km from the Gorge. Whilst setting up camp we were treated to a rare spectacle of a herd of 50 Elephant grazing on a small point about 30 meters across from a small inlet. This was apparently a rare event and it made me optimistic that we were possibly in for a treat with regard to the fishing as well! The dam treated us to a truly African experience the whole week with giraffe, gazelle, warthog, prolific bird life, crocodiles, hippo’s (we were very careful of these Beasts as they sometimes seemed to be approaching us rapidly which led to frantic attempts to start the motor and beat a hasty retreat!)

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The rain let up just enough for us to set up camp before we could go out for a quick throw before darkness closed in and we managed to land about 9 fish in the 800g to 1.2kg range in a short time frame which left us even more optimistic! The next day we visited some shallow areas with scattered grass and we caught a few smallish fish on sliders and Gurglers which was very exciting and some on more traditional Clousers Deep Minnow type flies.
The wind picked up with intermittent rain and we headed for the Gorge where I hooked a 4kg aggressive beauty on a Yellow Tiger Bunny and we caught several other on the rocky points especially where there were patches of aquatic vegetation. The strong wind created nice currents around the rocky points and we tried to target as many as we could all around the dam in the following week with less success than Tinus experienced in May but with enough to make it a worthwhile strategy. Although it rained incessantly every night for three days and the Pongola was flowing strongly and chocolate brown the whole dam was still in a fishable state although some areas were cloudy we actually caught more quality fish in these areas than others. We found it very effective to target the aquatic weed patches with lines with various sink rates and Clousers Deep Minnow type fly patterns. These are the “kitchens” of the Tigers in this dam and they would hang around and in these structures in all sizes.
The weather improved over the following few days and we continued to take a lot of smaller fish up to 1.5 kg’ every day with some days throwing in some nice bonuses with 2kg fish and also a 3kg and a 3.6kg fish for Tinus. We were also bitten off, smashed up and left bleeding on a few occasions. There was very little action on the top water flies but we did try these on occasion. On 01 Jan 2014 after a wise decision not to imbibe in too many alcoholic beverages the previous night, but to rather make it an early day on the water without a hangover, paid off, when I landed a beautiful fish just under 4kg’s but with the dimensions of a 5kg fish. I think this female spawned very recently with resultant poor condition. There was nothing wrong with her spirit and zest and she gave a good account of herself and I could not have asked for any better start to the 2014 fishing season!

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By the way I also used my new SAGE METHOD 8wt custom built by Derek Smith to his normal superb standards and I fell in love and also managed to break it with a poorly timed cast with a Clouser on this trip. But what an awesome casting and fishing rod, we had the opportunity to compare it to a number of top of the range competitors and it came out tops in all dimensions in our opinions anyway. I used a fast sinking Airflo Intermediate line with a non stretch core and it was quite effective, there were occasions where we found some feeding fish in very shallow water where a floater would also be effective and also some days the fish were deeper around the aquatic vegetation which were growing in 4-5 meter water and then a fast sinker would save on time in getting the fly down and keeping it in the strike zone longer, so it is wise to have a variety of lines with different sinking rates as well as a floater for this dam. All in all this trip exceeded expectations for this time of year.
Tight Loops!

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– Marius

Fly fishing on the tributaries of Lake Erie

On a trip to the USA earlier this year I decided to visit the Niagara Falls in the State of New York. It was winter going into spring and Lake Erie which is above the falls was still covered over in ice.

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I managed to find a fly fishing guide and we spent two days fishing the tributaries of Lake Erie. After getting a local fishing permit we headed over to some of the smaller creeks flowing into the lake. There is a phenomenon called ‘lake effect snow’ in that area whereby moisture over Lake Erie forms into snow and falls in a localised area around the lake. The larger tributaries then have a tendency to be slightly milky which is not good for the fishing.

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The steelhead, in anticipation of spring, move out of the lake system and into the rivers at this time of the year. In two days I saw about 30 fish, most of them lying behind rocks or sitting in the rapids. I hooked about 15 fish and landed about 10.

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The tributaries have water that is relatively clear and so the favoured technique is to walk along the bank and look for fish in probable spots. Without the services of a guide I doubt I would have found any fish. The guide was also kind enough to lend me wading boots and a snow fishing jacket along with all the required fishing kit.

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It was definitely enjoyable experience fishing in snow and in temperatures as low as -15deg C.

– Yusuf Coovadia

“JE T’AIME” ST BRANDONS – 24 October to 08 Nov 2013

No photographs or expletives can adequately describe this paradise! Only the fortunate few who have been there will have a slight comprehension of what this magical place has to offer.

Excitement had been fever pitch for months preceding the trip and it rose to a  crescendo as our group of 6 very anxious Fly fishers gathered anxiously at Grand Baie Marina in Mauritius, neatly decked out in our St Brandon’s T Shirts designed by my son Stefan.
The 36 hour journey there was rough due to a 25 to 28 knot wind but the wind was fortunately from a favourable direction and we had one of the best Skippers in Mauritius, Ben with 28 years sailing experience gained worldwide. We never felt unsafe but some of the guys did suffer from a few too many celebratory drinks combined with a choppy ocean.

All was quickly forgotten when we reached St Brandons and collected our Pirot (18 foot dinghy) from South Island. We fished hard for 8 solid days, every day a different one presenting its own unique opportunities and challenges. Remember that we have never been there and we needed to first find our feet, then the fish, but it proved much easier than expected, with valuable lessons filed away for future reference. Due to a need to fish rather than travel we kept our efforts to the Southern portion where we barely scratched the surface and which still leaves a huge area to the North for future examination.

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The weather at St Brandon’s was also very constant with a fairly stiff cool breeze day and night which did not trouble us but made fishing to spooky Bones easier and cooled everything down to an acceptable level for the tropics .The occasional squall even had us wearing rain jackets on some days.

Bone fishing here varied from good to jaw dropping ridiculous. In some areas virtually every cast resulted in a big Bone with acres of Bones gathering in huge shoals on the shallowest flats during high tides whilst huge tailing and skittish Bones presented a challenge on the low tides.

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GT’s were few and far between but so huge that there was a very real fear that one of them might actually commit and clean you out with unknown damage to tackle and ego. They were however very lethargic and would only suck on our flies and Poppers and or cruise by totally uninterested in our offerings. One chased down a big hooked Bonefish and devoured it in spectacular fashion leaving Piet with shaking knees. But we will be back and we know where the best concentrations were found.

During my search for GT’s I latched onto a 7 foot Shark that gave me a decent run for my money before finally severing my leader in the shore break. A different more strategic approach may work next time around.

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I have never seen Bluefin Kingfish as huge and as finicky in my entire life, some were definitely proportionate to a decent GT and some were pitch black, mean fighting machines. I managed two big Bluefin’s on Crab patterns in shallow water on the reef and a decent one on a Semper whilst Piet managed two decent fish, one of which was severely mauled by a Shark. Several smaller ones were landed by everyone. The big boys were very careful and observant and will definitely haunt my dreams as I plan for their demise!

Permit were seen at every single area we fished with some areas presenting the best opportunities at feeding fish, 9 permit albeit some very small ones between four Permit virgins in the first four days shows the enormous potential for Permit fishing here. I was unfortunate enough to lose two fish in the 12 pound range in a 15 minute timespan on the last day, another episode to haunt my dreams!

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As part of my bucket list I wanted to catch a Golden and Golden spotted Trevally and these dreams were also realised with room for improvement, Saint Brandon’s has species galore. Big Batfish are also everywhere and we will work on flies and strategy to target them next time.

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Lots of Sharks, Prolific Bird and other sea life, spectacular vistas and good camaraderie made this the best salt water experience of my life to date. St Brandon’s doesn’t offer everything, but it is probably the best at what it offers in terms of Bonefish and Permit and possibly even some other species, no Triggers or Bumpies were seen but there were some eager Parrots who charged a Crab fly and I was bitten off twice and lost two fish due to poor hook ups.

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But that’s what keeps us searching and exploring and going back for more. Thanks to a great group of guys and a great crew.

“Au revoir” St Brandons, hopefully only till next year November.

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Tight loops,

– Marius

Smallmouths on the Rietrivier

Fishing on the Rietrivier can either be exhilarating or infuriating.  The two times I have been there, the water was crystal clear and you could see Yellowfish swimming around and feeding all around the rapids. This can be great – if you manage to catch any of them.

But more often than not its infuriating as you can see the fish refusing whatever you throw at them while you cycle through every pattern in your box.  The first time I was there it was bordering more on the infuriating with me catching just 3 smallish Smallmouths in two days.
At that stage I have only really fished for Smallmouths in the Vaal and stealthy approaches and hiding behind structure was not really high on my priority list. Our visit earlier the year to Luneberg with the club made me appreciate the value of staying out of sight with fish in clear water.  With my second visit to the Rietrivier I wanted to explore and experiment as much as possible and booked a stay of 5 days (actually my wife booked it for us as a birthday present to me).
This strategy paid off and I was rewarded with probably the best small-mouth fishing I have ever experienced.
In several of the locations on the Rietrivier I could stand a few meters from the bank just out of sight of the Yellowfish and see small schools of them cruising and feeding with a really large fish interspersed every so often. The clear water and beautiful surroundings in a national park is really something special.
On my third day I got a spot and method that worked really well and caught 10 good Smallmouths in less than an hour. This was also an opportunity to introduce my wife to Yellowfish fishing on fly and she caught her first yellow on her second cast with a GRHE – some people just have all the luck.

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The yellows in the Rietrivier have a beautiful deeper yellow colour than what I’m used to in the Vaal.

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This is the largest yellow for the trip, 2kg on the dot and quite a handful to get out of the rapids. There were much larger fish cruising there so I can’t wait to go back.

Is there anything nicer than having a Yellowfish bend your fly rod in such a beautiful environment?

 

My wife’s first yellow on fly – quite a decent sized fish.

 

 Getting distracted by Smallmouths in a pristine rapid while I should be targeting Largemouths .

We tried a bit of Largemouth fishing with the ark but I got distracted by another pristine rapid where I saw loads of Smallmouth feeding. In the end we probably only fished for an hour for Largemouths and caught nothing. But the structure and river looks good for them – I’m sure you will find them if you are prepared to put in the time and effort.

My wife with her first barbel on fly

Our final day on the water arrived far to quickly, and the Mudfish started spawning due to the rain – this made the fishing difficult as the yellows and barbel were nearly all focusing on eating the eggs in the shallows. Brilliant for watching fish (I saw barbel with their whole body out of the water in the shallows going after the eggs) but not so good when you want to fish and avoid spawning beds. I managed a last couple of yellows and my wife caught a nice barbel in the rapids on a Hotspot PTN.

– Tiaan Dercksen

Local bly ma lekker!

LARGIE UPDATE – 06 APRIL 2013

After my Orange River experience I was very keen on fishing my old hunting grounds close to home. I had some scores to settle as I missed two big fish with Wentzel on 23 March and lost a big fish as well.

I lay awake on Friday evening daydreaming about how I would approach the specific ledge I had in mind. Of course I pictured a perfect morning and a perfect cast with a fairy tale ending.

When my son Stefan and I launched the boat, it was a perfect misty morning; you could feel the winter was tangibly approaching. These were ideal Largie conditions, the water had lost a little visibility but I was still cautiously optimistic.

We headed for my mystery ledge and I asked him to lower the anchor gently within casting range, I stripped enough line from my reel and launched my first cast at the surface swirl created by the underwater structure. The Crafty Bunny landed with an audible plop at the exact spot I wanted it to.

I maintained direct contact and control and to my amazement ,before I could even make my first strip, the water erupted and a huge fish took off with fins flashing in the early morning sunlight. Dreams do in fact still come true!

I was shaking in my boots but after a good fight I finally landed the beautiful Largie. I could only guess at its weight but it had an enormous girth and was in spotless condition and fast approaching 16 pounds or even more. I did not mind not knowing the exact weight or length as I was only interested in a few pictures and to release this lovely specimen, a veritable dream come true, as soon and as undisturbed as possible. Later that morning I hooked and landed another small Largie, my 50th since 18 January 2013. What a day!

I will be preparing a weighing mat which with which we will be able to weigh these fish and return them unharmed in future.

Tight loops

Marius

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Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE)

SBS for a GRHE
by Herman Loubser

The Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) is a very old pattern and is without doubt one of the best flies ever! As far as I am concerned, it is also one of the best for nymphing the Vaal. During the summer months Smallmouth Yellows will seldom refuse a GRHE provided it is well presented.

Materials:
1. Hook: Kamasan B175 #12.
2. Brass bead 3 mm. I like to use a bead when nymphing the Vaal. A tungsten bead can be used if more weight is desired.
3. Thread: Tan, 140 denier or 6/0. Use thread that splits easily such as Ultra Thread from UTC.
4. Lead wire 0.025” (optional).
5. Rib: Ultra Wire size brassie.
6. Tail: Guard hairs from a hare’s mask.
7. Abdomen and thorax: Dubbing taken from hare’s mask.
8. Wing case: Three to four strands of peacock herl.

 

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1. Slip on the bead. Wrap lead wire to cover the thorax area. Wrap thread over the lead and rest of the hook shank.

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2. Cut a small bunch from a hare’s mask and remove as much of the underfur as possible.

 

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3. Tie in the guard hairs to form the tail.

 

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4. Tie in the ribbing material.

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5. Split the thread and add some dubbing obtained from a hare’s mask to one or both strands. Spin to form a tight rope (see no. 10).

 

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6. Wrap the dubbing rope towards the hook eye to form the abdomen.

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7. Counter wrap the rib and tie off.

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8. Tie in the material for the wing case on top of the hook shank.

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9. Split the thread again and add dubbing. Make sure to include plenty guard hairs.

 

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10. Spin the thread to form a tight rope and then wrap forward to form the thorax.

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11. Fold forward the peacock herl to form the wing case and tie off.

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12. Add head cement to prevent the thread from unravelling.

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13. Admire your work of art and don’t forget to try it out!

Year Planner for 2013

The year planner has been updated for 2013, please have a look and make sure to book all your trips well in advance.
Some of the trips have limited seats open, so be sure to make haste and book ASAP!

If you are still considering joining the club, this should be a very nice incentive to join, as always club members are well catered for at Windknot!

Head on over to the Membership page and fill out the application, the subscription for 2013 is still only R200-00.

UPDATE ON THE VAAL LARGEMOUTH BONANZA:

Two weeks have passed since that glorious weekend on the Vaal, and needless to say we have been trying to recapture those moments by follow up visits.

For anyone who knows the Vaal and Largemouth Yellows, this was a very optimistic endeavour but IW,the “Largemouth Yellow protégé”, who is now solidly hooked on Largies hit the water in the week following the weekend  after doing an early shift (lucky bugger) and managed to test what he had learnt on a new piece of water closer to home.

He was scarcely on the water and I was slaving away in my office when I received the sms, he had just boated a brute Largie estimated in the 7kg range and a huge Smallmouth. Great news but needless to say frustrating if you’re unable to join in the fun! He was not a popular guy for a while and I believe someone even has a pair of cement boots prepared in his exact size !IMG-20130124-00518

We had another outing last weekend but the strong wind and sudden green algae bloom made fishing almost impossible and extremely unpleasant. I managed a juvenile Largemouth and a decent Smallmouth and Mudfish and my partner Tinus landed a Smallmouth and a mudfish. Both Muddies were caught on Buggers and hooked in the bottom part of their noses which indicated that they have somehow also developed a fetish for Woolly Buggers!

IW and his Father in law drew a blank for the day and this I  believe was sweet justice!               

Well ,the level of the river was also dropping and combined with the mentioned poor conditions this does not auger well for Largie fishing,they prefer a steady flow and or rising river and this is one variable that has not been proven wrong yet.

The river flow rates dropped to a steady 15 cumecs for the last few days and we decided to do an early shift and fish the river yesterday at a venue close to home.The river still had that green algae bloom present and there was a strong wind with overcast conditions but we still had a great afternoon on the water ,only one juvenile Largemouth came to hand but we managed to boat 4 big Smallmouths which made the outing more than worthwhile.

Latest update from the vaal is that the flow is well over 50cumecs and the dream of steady flows and hungry largy’s over the weekend are gone.

“he difference between fly fishers and worm dunkers is the quality of their excuses.” -Anonymous

 

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IMG-20130130-00143Tight loops Marius