Flyfishing report: Trout - Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands

Date of Report: Friday, 15th September 2023
Name: Andrew Fowler
Phone: 082 574 4262

KZN Midlands Trout

September, unless we get lucky like we did the last 2 years, can be a dry and dusty month. This year, it is very much that. As one goes lower in altitude the countryside greens up, despite the lack of rain, based on warmth and daylength, but up in the mountains, where our Trout are found, it still looks pretty damned wintery. Add to this the fact that September is the month in which, statistically speaking, we are most likely to get snow, and you would be forgiven for say, “where the hell is spring”.

 But aside from the odd cold front, which might dump snow, it gets pretty damned warm. I was up on the Bushmans the other day, and before the wind got up, it was a rather crushing 28 degrees. The water however was still 13 to 14 degrees, which tells you the nights (and the ground) are still chilly.

The flows are very low at present. The tiny bit of snow we got a week back, didn’t lift the river a millimetre….it all just soaked in. So, the water is very clear, and it is low, which makes fishing a real challenge.

Stillwaters are little different. Very clean water, levels dropping, and some technical fishing, in terms of having to be stealthy on bare banks with little cover.

The flip side of this is the theory, and its one that often seems to be proven, that the fish are hungry after winter.

 With this in mind, both on stillwater and on the rivers, I have found the fish to be partial to something that looks like it offers some calories. Think icing topped doughnuts for Trout, or big juicy Woolly Buggers.  Now I don’t like to admit to fishing these things. My preference is to go small and light and to imitate things. But there are some truths that are…well…they are truths. So, on the uMngeni on the first week-end of the season, I was imitating some beetles I had seen falling on the water and adhering to “fish dry or go home”, until I met up with my buddy on the river bank. He was offering the fish some calories, sunk deep in the pools, and he was having the time of his life, while I hadn’t had a touch. It didn’t take me long to follow his lead!

A week later, on the Bushmans, where there seems to be a heck of a lot of ugly algae around, I reverted to something more my style and put a tiny PTN under “Hog Hopper” dry fly.  It was a really interesting day. I did well, but on reflection, only in spots where the wind, backdrop, light etc, put me in a position less visible to the fish. In between I was just spooking fish everywhere!  But here’s the thing, when I was in a good casting position, I did well, and mostly ….not exclusively, but mostly, on the tiny nymph. So, it would seem a #20 represented sufficient calories for a hungry spring Trout.  And co-incidentally, my opening day on the very upper (and very thin) upper uMngeni, was the same in this regard. Go figure.

 I haven’t heard of any big fish coming out of stillwaters in the last 2 weeks, but that probably just means I haven’t heard. In many ways, I think that is how it should be. There is something to be said for the blokes who just go off quietly, get some fish, enjoy themselves and carry on, without the need to put their prowess on display. On the other hand, wouldn’t we all really love to know how various waters are fishing!  Who can blame us for wanting that. I guess the solution, and the middle ground, is to get out there and find out for yourself, rather than wait for a feed wagon to follow, like a sheep.

 So in summary, the rivers appear to be where its at for now. They are ugly and thin, but they are producing plenty of fish, and some good ones thrown in there. The lower beats have more water, and being stealthy is paying off. I think that’s as much useful intel I can commit to.

And if anyone is offering to perform a rain dance…….

 Tight lines!


Sheardown section of the uMngeni


The Chestnuts section


A good brownie from the Chestnuts section


The Bushmans