This is a tale of my latest trip to
my favorite warm water river.
This last weekend I went to try my luck at
catching some smallmouth Yellowfish on my
beloved Vaal river.
When we arrived I was horrified to find the
water level way down. This stretch is essentially
a tailwater fishery and as such is dependant on
the amount of water released from the upstream
dam. When I asked the owner of the farm why the
water level was so low, he told us that the powers
that be have decided to hold onto the available
water, due to expected drought conditions this
summer. This does not bode well for the fishery.
(It was right in the middle of the fishes normal
Despondent, we tackled up and waded across the
first channel and over the island that divides
the river at this farm.
Usually it is possible to get into decent numbers
of fish (30+) but it was not to be on this particular
day. We worked hard the whole day for scant
reward but it must be said that just one small
Yellow is worth the effort.
The wading on this river can be hairy to say the
least, so much so that we've christened the general
practice of wading this river, "the Vaal river
shuffle." It really is fun to watch a hot shot
youngster wading here for the first time and
getting a well deserved dunking. This ain't
no place for fancy pants wannabes.
We've actually adopted the practice of getting
soaked first to negate the urge to stay dry.
Sure we get some funny looks but we do get to
the good spots first.
We ended up fishing a 'hotspot nymph' as the
point fly with a reasonably heavy caddis larva
imitation on the dropper. We used yarn indicators
well treated with floatant about twice the waters
depth up the 10ft leader.
The fish, as usual, all put up a great fight.
Well there was one exception. My buddy (it's
not a great idea to wade this river without one)
landed a Yellow of about three inches that I'm
not sure counts. Anyway, we ended the day with
about ten fish each.
What makes these fish special to us is the fact
that they are truly wild, having been present
in this river since its creation. Most fly
fishing here is done in pursuit of exotic
species, so the opportunity to catch a real
wild fish means the world to us. Unfortunately
they are now under pressure due to mans usual
They can be taken using river trout tactics
that have been adapted to really fast water.
It's not uncommon to catch them in water that's
near suicidal to wade. This is possible because
of the freestone nature of this river. Small
rocks don't survive in these rapids and the
big ones that do create nice subsurface holding
water for the fish.
The smallmouth yellowfish feeds on pretty much
anything including vegetation and invertebrates
as well as the occasional minnow, and flies
imitating these are usually successful.
We drove back in silence, after an exhausting
day, each submerged in personal nostalgia of
the day spent chasing South Africa's favorite
Cheers. ~ Adam Crooks, South Africa