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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As early as the cold dawn and breakfast would allow us, we set off on the tigerfish rich waters afore us. On our maximum fun tinny named Tuni. Captained by local guide and skipper – Julius. Staffed by Joy. Powered by Mercury. Navigator Cameron Yates conferred with Julius as to a route, to lead to Julius’ childhood village – named Jao. There, our crew were going to interview the elders about traditional land management methods of old. But along the way, Julius would stop at one or two of his favourite fishing spots for us to have a throw. And into the bright and brisk morning, the outboard accelerated away from our lodge, deep in the Okavango Delta. It is hard to be anything but quiet as you try to process all the wonder and thrilling beauty you experience charging down those papyrus and lily lined waterways. Which are permanently inhabited by crocodiles. Hippopotamus. And…
We had a total of 80kms mapped out for the day. We would only get back to camp late. So fishing time was limited. I was hoping for a few quiet throws whilst the Professor and crew were taking notes in the village. I had rented two rods earlier. From a vibrant chap named Nine. One was a beautiful outfit that I would have been proud to bring out anywhere. The other was ok, squeaky, and very short. Broken a few eyes down. But Nine also gave me some new line! So hurriedly I tied up some leaders, well double lines had to do, and savaged one of my Mydo couta traces for two short lengths of wire since I have heard all about those teeth. Then I chose a little Mydo SS Shad 650 spoon for the nice outfit. And a Mydo Luck Shot #1 with 5/0 hook, and an orange Gummy paddletail, for the handicapped outfit. They both looked good though, with their new line and double line, and two very handsome looking lures. I already knew which rod was going to operate. After an hour of literally flying down these serpentine waterways, the main channel appeared. A few more clicks and the channel split, one way was to Maun, the other to the village Jao, our destination. Julius stopped the boat, and quietly pointed at the fishing rods. I surrendered the good outfit and grabbed the underdog. Cameron had the SS Spoon, and I had the Luck Shot. I went to the bow of the good tinny named Tuni. There was a bunch of papyrus that Julius had used to keep us in one place as the water flowed past at a good few knots. So, I perched on one gunwale, found some space behind me, and flicked as best I could. The lure landed about 8 metres into the middle of the current, so I figured let it sink and go away with the drift, and then close the bail. It all looked good and soon I got a strong bite!
“I got a bite!”, I errupted…
…everyone looked, the tiny rod buckled again and this time I had a first cast fish. Julius mentioned bream casually, and everyone else cheered in absolute disbelief. Thinking bream, I was having so much when the fish started coming closer, and then ducked under the papyrus carpet. Luckily it turned and came out.
It was my first cast tigerfish. And it was not nearly in the same class as my last and only tiger, caught in Jozini on sardine. This fish had some size! The tiny rod also had no power whatsoever but finally he jumped himself dizzy and the current let him go to us.
As I pulled him on top of the papyrus carpet, he snapped and bit a papyrus stem. His teeth went right in and held vas. But he was a metre and a half away and smack bang in crocodile country. Luckily Captain Gallop was quick with a knife and cut the papyrus stem at the boat and pulled in my first cast tigerfish.
If you want some calm, fun times fishing with your family and friends, then come with us to the Okavango. We fished a maximum collective time of an hour, over the next few days exploring and documenting. We caught 6 tigerfish. All on the SS Spoons and that first fish on the Luck Shot. We only used the 650 Shad spoon and the Moby – the tiny one. It was so much fun! No bream this time though. They will have to wait for us a bit. We are back in September. We have lined up boats, and we have Captain Julius’ number. Camping options close by and lodges up and down. Executive camping outfit is good to go. Land cruisers are loaded, and always ready for any adventure.
Contact Sean on WhatsApp +27 79 326 9671, or better still email as we work in 2G areas mainly. I am on email@example.com.
Check out our Trips and Travel section in the menu at top, or follow this link…
Yellowfish Open day by Stealth and The Fishing Pro Shop 1 Oct
All aspirant (and experienced) fly fisher folk are welcome to the Yellowfish Open day by Stealth and The Fishing Pro Shop 1 Oct. At The Fishing Pro Shop, easily found in East Pretoria.
Methods, techniques and equipment will be discussed at extreme length and in extreme detail. Yellowfish are voracious eaters and stubborn fighters, especially in the flowing waters of the Vaal River, where it snakes through shallower rock and sand beds and through rapids and fissures. Great fun!
Learn more about these worthy adversaries at The Fishing Pro Shop on Sat 1 October.
Spend R500 or more and you could be on your way the very next day, to fish with the pro’s from Stealth and The Fishing Pro Shop, on The Vaal River somewhere hot.
Read more about the event by following the link below…
Small stream trout fishing in Lydenburg (Mpumulanga, South Africa) is an exciting winter prospect. River caught trout are known to be far more voracious and cunning than their bigger dam raised counterparts. River trout are free range hunters that patrol the shallow flowing waters using their camouflage and stealth – to ambush prey.
Waking up early, very early – coffee and rusks to get you on the go. The sun – nowhere, but first light helps you make your way carefully, down to the river. Rushing waters and waking birds guiding you all the way.
Sneaking up to the river bank, ever aware, you imagine you can see the trout you are after, swimming in the clear current, just downstream. Stripping out some line, you carefully approach, your camo gear helping you stay hidden. Quiet steps. And you cast. A small, gentle, but accurate cast – you only need a few metres most times. Your 2 or 3 weight fly rod, with floating line, and a short five foot or so fluorocarbon leader, is a cinch to operate. Your neat little Red-eye Damsel fly – deployed for the ambush. Mimicking a Dragon Fly Nymph.
Encouraging your offer to drift towards your prey, you start to twitch it as you retrieve your line against the flow of the lightening stream. As the fly reaches the small pool you thought you saw the fish in…
Bang! An explosion in the water right in front of you and your rod tip is violently jerked downstream and you set the hook! The sun is rising, the birds are cheering, and the fish are biting.
Dreams are coming true!
This is the time of the year, for this type of trout fishing action.
Trout fishing in Lydenburg…at Highland Run Fly-fishing Estate
In the Mpumalanga Drakensberg, 17 kilometres out of Lydenburg, is Highland Run Fly-fishing Estate. Tucked away tightly up into the Drakensberg mountains. With the trout filled Spekboom River flowing right through it. 5.1 Kilometres of pristine, crystal clear trout stream.
The nature-centric development of three lodges, on a grand piece of mountain range, available via shared ownership, is great opportunity, to realise stories like the above. It includes shared ownership of the land around the houses – so you are also contributing to the conservation of the area, by investing. And then reap the rewards of ownership in a unique and worthwhile project like Highland Run, by Dream Resorts, in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
Spending some time in The Big Smoke, working The Mydo distribution run…and being land locked presents a host of problems.
But there are always bass.
And so, a chunk of the Von Biljon family and I set out on Sunday, to Footloose Trout Farm. Which is not a trout farm. It was. Remnants remain from the bygone days when hatcheries and race tanks spawned gaggles of trout and anglers.
Now, the handful of well-kept dams are stocked with bass in the summer…and replaced by trout in the winter.
An all round cool spot with lovely grass and trees, jungle gyms, a kiosk and licensed restaurant..kids and families everywhere.
Water moves down from the top dams trickling through sluits down through the bottom ones. And they are each nicely populated with fish.
The bass dams at the top are the most picturesque and popular. The ponds are just the right size and are well maintained. Benches and shady gazebos dot the fishing spots – it is all very cozy and good fun.
Even when it all goes bad.
Andrew von Biljon had brought the A- team. His sons Dustin and Tristan. Johnny von Biljon brought his girlfriend Ansie. And I was the sole outsider.
In preparation, I spooled my Okuma Ceymar 30 with 5kg braid, and attached it all to a Sensational Adventure stick – the lightest model. Very nice feeling rig. Leaders and all.
I was fishing Mydo Buck Shot #1. Pearl white. A deadly offering that looked so good on my rig.
My first cast bought a cackle on as I overshot the end of the dam and squared the bull rushes. Vas!
But this happens to me a lot and usually a few solid strikes drawn from slack line shocks the ultra sharp hook through the grass, and free.
Snap, went my new braid. Guffaw, went the Von Biljons.
Being so supremely confident meant that was my only leader, never mind my Buck Shot. And there was no way I could fight my way over those particular bull rushes. Steep bank. Perfect bass spot.
I quickly tied on a #1 Mydo Luck Shot rigged with a 4 inch plastic. A few casts and I was feeling great. In with a shot as the Von Biljon team occupied an entire quadrant with floats and worms. Their previous visit had produced so many fish that the kids were super amped. So were the adults.
Then I hit the bullrushes again. Exactly same result. Phwaaaar! Went the Von Biljons.
Extremely embarrassed I was disclaiming with the ultra light braid (is there such a thing?). But I could bite through it so I took off all the used braid and started again all fresh. As I was threading the last eye, I saw the problem. The tip had been smashed, probably against the roof of the tackle shop I got it from. Half of the super hard tip eye insert, was a blade. And I only had to touch my new braid on it lightly to cut it clean through.
So, once again and for the umpteenth time, I had to bypass my tip eye. I went off in search of fishing solitaire.
When I got to the farthest dam, in stealth mode ace out, there was nobody around. Skirting the bank, polaroids on, I could very clearly make out some huge fish, in the next bay between the bullrushes. Very slowly I stalked in and soon clearly made out the shoal of carp. Maybe 10 of them. They were burrowing under the bank, rolling about, tailing…but not quite spawning, barely a metre from my face. They were big enough. 3 to 5kg’s. I flicked my lure out behind them, dragged it slowly across a dik carp’s nose, and woosh, they were all gone.
I threw the Buck Shot a few times but had to accept, especially with the featureless bottom contour, that this was a carp dam.
But set up this video shot of the shoal when they had reassembled, a few minutes after I spooked them.
So back on up to the “bass” dam zone, where soon the recent rain, floods really, took the blame for the no-bite. But being extra determined I finally ended up at the place I started. After a couple of casts I got some pressure back?! A tiny strike and I was elated to see both sets of lost braid tangled in my luck shot. What a luck. And this was still new braid, only broken because of the smashed tip eye. So together, I jerked hard a few times and bingo! Both my lures and all the braid retrieved!
Dustin and Tristan, chose to fish for barbel in a lower dam. Gillie Andrew was hard at work keeping it all under control, when team Von Biljon went two sticks away!
I had cashed out, stoked to have my two lures back, and arrived on the scene for some pics, as this went down. The only fish of the entire day, from everyone there.
Well done Dustin and Tristan!
Lessons from the day:
1. Rod eyes, tips especially, are clearly a weak link. Braid and it’s odd characteristics exacerbate it all. Check every time.
2. Weather plays an enormous role in fish activity. It was a complete different story last visit to Footloose. They were jumping on every bait – exact same dam(n)s.
3. Never give up! Fish your life away!
Fishing lessons from the kids at Footloose Trout Farm
Peter Marriott of Casa Msika outside of Chimoio in Manica Province, Central Mozambique, has eagerly joined thesardine.co.za and starts off with these noteable Lake Chimipanda lunker bass caught yesterday.
The season for these huge bass, many over 5kgs, has kicked off at Casa Msika, and more fish will be featuring on thesardine.co.za, from this amazing stretch of bassin’ water. This is a really big, healthy bass fishing dam.
The in thing at Casa Msika is being able to fish for a spot in the Casa Msika 5kg bass club, of which there are dozens of members already.
Check out this previous post for more Casa Msika large mouth bass and information.
Brandon Parsons is a pro fishing guide in the Gauteng area, and contributor to thesardine.co.za…
“So we all have to start somewhere and where else as next to Koppies Dam carp fishing I had the opportunity to take 4 young boys out fishing and their willingness to learn and passion for the game leaves me with no doubt at all that these are future stars in our sport. Here we have a picture of Asher with one of his first fish…”
Just before the huge low pressure that blasted through this past week, the barometric pressure was sky-high…and the bass were on the feed. This is typical bass behavior in early season,when the high pressure / low pressure systems battle it out for supremacy, every few days. This happens through the whole of August and then mellows into September and October, our best bassin’ months.
Bass are starting to nest and become territorial and aggressive now. If you consistently work a good drop-off or underwater feature, an angry bass will take offence soon enough.
Here is Mike Stubbs again, with his first bass of the 2014 bass season in KZN…