Bass on fly tackle? To the purists and sceptics out there – it’s a great way to practise for the saltwater! – Sean
And as the southerly and northerly winds start their perennial argument, hanging out in the shelter of a tucked-away bass pond – is a great place to be. Especially along the KZN South Coast inland beat, where we are right now. And the wind is scathing our beaches and coastline. Right now as I write this, its literally blowing a gale at 30 knots plus. From the south. And tomorrow it’s gonna be the same but from the south-east. Even worse! Then it turns north. Even worser!
Luckily, many farmers from around here allow bass anglers to hunt fish in their dams. And many dont! But if you are on the KZN South Coast some time, and you want to go bassin’, we can take you for sure. Paddock and Umzumbe hold some secrets and even close around Port Shepstone there are some gems. That do not get fished very often at all.
And who also hold some lunker sized bass. Even just recently, as the bass start to enter spawning mode, some good catches have been made including one of over 4kgs caught and released just south of Port Shepstone.
But ok, a few stories that might get you amped up…the first from Coty in the States who penned up this real cool article on what it takes to bassin’ on the fly.
By Jason Heyne. Who I thought was a spearfisherman?!
Egg Sucking Leech?
When I first heard about this fly I was how could you say, hmmm, not impressed as the original use of this fly is to floss salmon (flossing is drifting a gaudy looking fly with a bright orange bead downstream in places like Alaska for Salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The idea is to cover water in the run on a 90 degree swing to downstream of the cast using the current pull to get the leader or tippet to virtually line the salmons mouth there by “flossing” the fish and hooking it as most breeding salmon are not on the feed and most hook-ups are outside the mouth) but through a trip and coincidence I found out how deadly this fly can be if used correctly in our local waters specifically Highveld and Berg impoundments and dams in late winter when the trout are in spawning mode and the Cold fronts pull through with some serious wind and cold temperatures and most fly fishers are cuddled around a warm fire!
It was late winter when I went fly-fishing for trout with a my mate Kenneth Muller for the weekend at a time share development place in Dullstroom Mpumalanga . It was a great get together weekend with kids and family present as well and as usual the promised well stocked dams were not exactly up to scratch for us die hard fly-fishermen. I did have fun in the closet dam (read pond) fooling the stockies into taking foam beetles with mixed results and wanted an egg pattern as a dropper but did not have the pom pom style eggs for tying. So I used a glass bead in the correct colour and simply glued it onto the bend of a circle hook so as not to gut hook the little stockies. It worked so well that indeed if I did not pay constant attention for a take they would be gut hooked!
On the day of departure Ken sidled up to me and said “I am booking the self catering unit at Walkersons down the road would you like to join and head back to Jhb tomorrow afternoon?” . I had heard a lot about Walkersons through Ken but quite frankly the cost of fishing their made the mind boggle! I was running my own IT consultancy and had a cellphone (I know they are the bane of modern day fishing but do help when bunking a day off work!) to answer client calls and book them for the following day so it took all of 5 minutes to accept the offer! When everyone left we headed to Walkersons in the late afternoon with maybe an hour or two of daylight left to book in and maybe quickly wet a line before full dark. Walkersons was a magnificent Estate and Hotel for the well to do people from Gauteng and JHB, helipad fine dining the works (Jacket and tie for dinner like and its own trout hatchery) and Ken soon had us booked in and we quickly unpacked at the unit and headed down to the closest fishing which was a weir damn below the unit with awesome views over the valley below (see picture). When fishing a new water or pressed for time I will forgo my usual dry and dropper (or drifting with strike indicator) and opt for a searching pattern fly the main go to fly being a cone head bunny leech pattern in olive or black (most people would use a woolly bugger) and I tied one on in the dying light and proceeded to cover some water with alternating fast strips and pauses. First two casts produced bulging follows behind the fly! So third cast I stripped faster and bang fish on! A lovely Rainbow hen of about 5lb and a game fight! We lost the light and decided to head back and hit the main dam in front of the Hotel early the next morning.
After dinner and sitting in front of the big stone fireplace to keep warm I decided to tie up a few more strip bunnies for the morning and Ken asked if he could order one or two with his choice of colours etc for the next day his choice being black with purple collar and a purple glass bead instead of the cone. I decided when in Rome follow the trend and tied olive bunnies with red collars and the same glass beads I had used for the egg patterns instead of the brass cone head. Egg sucking leeches! Oh the blasphemy!
The following morning after a quick breakfast and packing the cars (10am rule for the self catering unit) so we would not have to return and pack and interrupt the fishing we headed up to the main dam and waited while Ken checked that it would be okay if we fished after booking out of the unit. A head down chap with rod in hand walked past me outside the reception and upon asking told me he had fished the entire weekend without a nibble and was headed back to JHB skunked. Not great news! By this time the wind was getting some speed up but parts of the dam where still glassed and I opted for nymphing in the weeded areas with my ¾ weight and light tippet carrying my 7 weight as a spare with the bunny leech as backup and Ken headed straight for the main deep bank with his new Xmas tree fly attached.
The lighter tippet was to be my downfall for the 1st hour or so with screams of glee coming from Ken across the dam! I got bitten off twice (yes bitten off, no knot failure or weed bank to blame!) in that 1st hour on the light 3lb and 5lb tippet using nymphs. I saw the one fish and it made my knees wobble at easy 8lb plus! I decided to head around to Ken and see what all the fuss was about and to reconsider my strategy seeing as the wind was now starting to affect casting on the lighter rig and a scaling up of tippet was required!
Upon reaching Ken I had to sheepishly ask what fly, although I already knew the answer! He had already hooked and landed two decent Rainbow cock trout between 6lb and 8lb! He also remarked that one beast had followed his Xmas tree fly into the shallows of easy double figures estimated at 14/15lb. Hahaha pull the other leg Ken! No I swear he said. So I moved down the main bank about 20m away from him and rigged up with a size 10 glass bead bloodworm with 8lb fluorocarbon and a size 12 GRHE point fly with 6lb fluorocarbon with a stick on strike indicator. Wind at my back I proceeded to cast diagonally to the bank to my left and let the fly line drift the flies out deeper with the wind. Halfway through the drift the indicator stopped drifting and I walked backwards and lifted into a steam train! Bang 7lb Rainbow hen trout on! 10 minutes later I had her at the net. My ex Tammi was with us and she had the egg sucking leech on and she followed suit with some decent Rainbow trout cockfish as well. This went on for many hours and plenty fish later we finally decided to call it quits and head for home. Ken landed his PB Rainbow trout at around 12lb during that session. I did not hook a single Rainbow cockfish and only landed the strong Rainbow hens up to 11lb and nothing smaller than 6lb! An amazing session with lessons to be learned. By the time we left the wind was blowing easily at 20knots and gusting to 25- 30knots not ideal trout fishing conditions at all! The cock fish all had that bright pink spawn flank colour and the hens were deep in the body and strong fighters full of roe.
Lessons to be learned
Never toss aside what is deemed to be unsavoury fly-fishing practice in your or another’s part of the fly-fishing world! Always be open to trying new flies and techniques, you might just be surprised!
We all come from different walks of life and different backgrounds but all share the same passion for fly-fishing. What the story demonstrates is the attractor pattern and the solid nymphing technique both worked just as well on the day, and while attractor or stimulator patterns might not be for the purist they can and will catch trout and are excellent for covering water to find the fish!
The Bunny leech Zonker with the egg bead instead of the cone head worked well on the day due to the fact that it is 1st and foremost a streamer pattern and large hungry trout have been known to predate heavily on minnows and frogs which is what the bunny leech imitates (I have caught Carp, Yellowfish, Bass, Bream, Trout brown and rainbow, Sharptooth catfish and even Shad in the sea on this pattern). 2nd adding the collar puts contrast into the fly and simulates the gill area of a minnow and acts as a stimulator or attractor (check Rapala lures 70 percent at least have a red collar and they wack fish!). 3rd Spawning Rainbow trout cockfish become very aggressive towards one another and adding the glass bead represents a trout egg plus the fish like movement of the steamer fly gets them to attack it for food or for spawning reasons. 4th The hens are still there and feeding hard to sustain body weight and the roe they are producing but sit slightly further out in the holding pattern and will feed consistently all day as long as food is being brought to them ie: the wind busting was bringing a steady flow of nymphs and bloodworms to their feeding lanes out deeper and letting the wind dictate the retrieve (dead drift technique) was putting my nymphs at a natural drift and depth. 5th look for sunny late winter days with cold front approaching or passing with late winter busting wind which creates the conveyor belt of food for the trout. 6th the dam wall or deeper section will hold the fish as everyone knows but look for the bank cruisers to indicate spawning activity. 7th just because someone else got skunked does not mean you are going to be and always ask departing anglers how their session went and what was their method or flies that were used…quite often you will hear “woolly buggers only” which do work but need to fished in the correct way to produce (late winter sinking lines and depths of the dam wall!) which personally is not my cup of tea!
As always Tight Loops
Rainbow trout Cock fish in spawning colours image from Tom Sutcliffe – The Spirit of Flyfishing
Well ok Jason I never had any idea you were not more than a spearo and I am so thankful that you are definitely not! And thank you for the article. Cheque is in the email! Reminds me of when I used to receive Mr. Jack Blackmans fly-fishing news column and pics for The Sardine News in the eighties and nineties. Fly-fishing is the game, undisputable. And it comes through very clearly in the writings of fly-fishers. Every word distinctly brimming with spirit. Keep it coming pal! – Xona
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Bonefish, bluebottles and easterlies in summertime Tofo
Surfing Tofinho in the predominant easterly winds of summertime can still be a blast. The sand on the point still sends little wind swells reeling along just fine.
The clean warm water has also enticed shoals of bonefish and blue-tailed mullet. They were swimming right into us as they porpoised down the face of the very waves we were catching. Chasing hapless little anchovy looking fishies all over the place. The boneys use the free power of the wave to ambush with. Spectacular.
Bonefish are a staple in this place. Using handlines and small hooks baited with prawn or squid, local anglers know exactly when and where to get a bag full of footlong boneys. They get really big here. World record size. See featured pic of Jimmy the local angler from Tofinho with a bus. Sometimes they vie for attention with the magnificent milkfish. Chanos chanos. A slab of muscle adorned with a huge tail. Which can be seen as they hunt right on the surface. They seem to enjoy the same feeding conditions as the bonefish. Small creatures right on the surface.
Both species will chase your spoon or dropshot. But they always turn away at the last minute. But they will gorge your tiny white fly.
Best have at least a 9 weight for this battle…
Rounding off…this is officially the details of the largest ever bonefish caught…just down the way in Zululand…
Weight: 19 pounds
Line Class: M-30 / All Tackle
Angler: Brian Batchelor
Location: Zululand, South Africa
Date: May 26, 1962
Fight Time: N/A
Tackle: Atlas line; Penn 49A reel; Sealey Heavy Surf rod