FOSAF FLYFISHING REPORTS - Trout - Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands

Date of Report: Wednesday, 22nd May 2019
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Name: Andrew Fowler
Phone: 082 574 4262

We are on the cusp of the rivers closing, and everyone’s attention turning to the stillwaters, so let’s take a look at the dams first.

We had a brilliant rainy season, so all the dams are full, which is great news.  It is just starting to get cold (although it feels too warm for this time of the year, and the general feeling that the seasons get later and later, is still on everyone’s lips).

As it gets cold,  the top layer of water in a dam cools, trapping warm water underneath, and when this suddenly upends, we have what people call an inversion, or they say “The dam has inverted”, meaning there has been a sudden overnight upheaval that dirties the water.  I have heard of this occurring on two stillwaters so far. There are no doubt more, or will be more.   Unfortunately, the process seems to scour [often orange coloured] surface algae off the bottom, and the dam can look very mucky and take a while to settle. But settle it does, so if your favourite dam has inverted, all is not lost….it will return to its former glory.

I measured 14 degrees water temp at a Stillwater in the Dargle over the week-end, and I would imagine that it is fairly typical, but the temps are dropping fast, so expect that to be lower by the time you read this.   On that Stillwater, I was shivering by 6pm, and went looking for my jacket.  Apart from that, I quit fishing around 6:30pm  in the pitch dark, and set about making a braai, and having a drink beside the water where we were staying.  The fire took a while to get going.  The moon rose in the east, and at around 8 pm we were bathed in moonlight.  In that moonlight, and in the quiet of the evening, I began to hear great swooshing, sucking, rises. Presently, one of them happened right in front of me, and I could bear it no more. I grabbed my rod  and threw a dragonfly imitation into the shallows where I had heard and seen the rise, just two foot from the edge in the reeds. BANG.

Now night fishing, I am told, is better on a new moon, and a full moon is not supposed to be where it’s at. This whole moon phase thing was arrived at in 1926 by an American man named John Alden Knight.  He happened to be a fly fisherman.  Quite apart from his moon phase theories, he developed a fly called “The Assasin”, which was later renamed the “ Mickey Finn”. Maybe it is coincidental, but my old fishing buddy Kevin Cole, always tested the water with his thumb, and if that thumb stung with cold, he issued a pronouncement that it was now cold enough to fish a Mickey Finn, which he did with remarkable success in that cold trout water.  So, there’s a winter fly tip. If it worked in the eighties, I suspect it will still work about as predictably as Jack Knight’s 1926 solunar tables stuff….

 Some interesting stats just gleaned from the NFFC is that the popularity of its river waters has increased remarkably in the last two years, and in fact the total number of fishing hours spent on its dams dropped from 2017 to 2018.  But with such good dam levels and therefore prospects, and with the river season drawing to a close, I suspect that the guys will head from the rivers to the dams with gusto in coming weeks.   I have sight of the club catch returns, and without having analysed anything, my general impression of returns over the last few weeks, is that there is not much ”stockie bashing” happening anywhere, but that 2 to 4 pound fish in modest numbers is the order of the day.  It will be interesting to see how 2019 ends up in terms of these stats.

The river fishing this last season was simply sublime, and right up to the end too.  I had wonderful days on the Bushmans, the Lotheni , the Mooi, and the Umgeni.   The latter has been a delight, in that the NFFC clearing work from 2013 to 2018 really does seem to be paying dividends. I have not seen the river so well populated with Trout in many years.  Here’s hoping we have a good cold breeding winter, and rains that don’t take too long to get going in spring. I will be holding thumbs so hard for that to happen, that they may just sting.  And if they sting, perhaps I will lash on a Mickey Finn and go fish a Stillwater  (on the new moon of course) .


Upper Umgeni brownie


Lotheni brownie