Tom Sutcliff once wrote “Teaching flyfishing is easy enough; the difficult part is learning it. The essence is the cast, that seamless, rhythmic sweep of fly line that at first glance looks so out of your reach but which in truth is easy enough to master.”
Some of the subject matter that at first seems so intimidating, but is easily absorbed over time, covers topics such as tackle, tactics, casting, entomology and fly-tying.
A good first step is to learn casting either with a borrowed rod or else at venues where rod hire is possible and lessons are often available. Once this is mastered, usually within an hour or two, then a major barrier has been crossed and you’re well on your way to a life time of pleasure and the joys of spotting a fish in the water , the take and the landing followed by the release of the fish, unharmed.
Other questions such as what fly line should be used, what flies work best, where to fish and how as well as what tackle to be used can all also be learnt ; one never stops learning in this game. Most reputable specialist fly fishing shops and venues will be able to steer the novice in the right direction.
Ladies remember fly fishing is not just a man’s game and suits women as they seem to have better hand-eye coordination and more patience than men so please also come along and try this magnificent sport too, after all it is preferable to becoming a fishing widow.
South Africa has an amazing diversity of fauna, flora, landscapes and of course fish . There are many different salt and fresh water fish species can be targeted on fly in this country, however as I am land locked and based in Johannesburg I will focus below on the fresh water fish that are available within a reasonable weekend drive of the big smoke.
Tiger fish are on most fly fisher’s bucket lists as it is probably one of the most aggressive and ferocious fresh water species in the world. They have a set of sharp, serrated teeth that alone inspire awe and when hooked the fish will take off at a blistering pace often accompanied by high aerial head shaking leaps that set the heart pounding and the adrenaline flowing. Within our borders they are found in places such as Jozini lake and the Pongola river as well as along the Mozambique border.
Another fresh water species is the Yellow fish. We have nine different Yellow fish species in South Africa of which the Large mouth and Small mouth are the most targeted. The Large mouth Yellowfish are less common and specimens of around 15 – 18 kg’s are known to have been caught. Small mouth yellows are much more common and average 1 – 3 kg, a worthy fighting opponent and once caught becomes very addictive. They are strong fighters on 4-6 weight outfits and can be taken on small dry flies off the surface or with the easy to learn Chech nymph style. Yellow fish are warm water fish making them easily caught in large numbers throughout the warmer months of the year, however yellow fish can be caught with the correct techniques though the more difficult winter months too. Both the Large and Small mouth yellowfish are found in the Vaal, Orange and Kraai river systems and thousands of local fly fisherman fish for them each year.
Also popular target is the trout, often found surrounded by spectacular scenery that is a real panacea for the stressed out city dwellers. Trout streams around South Africa are found in the Eastern Cape and in the Highlands of Natal as well as Lesotho in the Drakensberg mountainrange . Areas in the Eastern Cape such Rhodes, Barkley East and Maclear have in excess of a 1000km of river frontage with wild trout stock as well as Yellow fish. South Africa has many small still water dams that often produce massive Rainbow and Browns. Trout dams are all over from the fringes of Johannesburg and Pretoria to towns such as Dullstroom, Clarens and Nottingham Road. Most inland fly fishermen will target trout during the winter months as the Highveld summers make for stressful conditions for these lovely fish.
However in the Western Cape the summer months can be very productive and the Cape based fishermen are justifiably proud of the small stream fishing available in their province.
Many other fresh water species such as Carp, Large and Small mouth Bass, Tilapia, Barbel (Catfish), small scale and large scale are also viable fly fishing quarries and once again within easy striking distance for most of us.
Richard Andries Simpkins