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Sterkspruit – Belmore

Beat/Farm: Belmore

River: Lower Sterkspruit and Lower Bell River

Where to purchase ticket: BIGMAC or Linecasters (045 9749298)

Access:  Although a high clearance vehicle is preferable, a sedan vehicle can be driven to the gate of the beat via the R396.

Scroll down for more information.

Target species:

  • Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).
  • Smallmouth yellow fish (Labeobarbus aeneus).

Best season:

  • Smallmouth yellowfish from October to March.
  • Rainbow trout from September to mid May.

Suggested tackle:

  • Rods: 3 – 4W rods, reels and floating lines.
  • Leaders: 7 – 9’, 3 – 4X tapered leaders.
  • Tippet: 4 – 5X.
  • Dry flies: hoppers, flying ants, elk-wing caddis, sawfly wasp and larva, green beetle etc.
  • Nymphs: Beadhead GHRE, PTN and Zak, dragonfly nymphs, caddis larva etc.

Suggested fishing method:  Up-stream dead drift.

The hand-twist retrieve

Fred explains how to hand-twist retrieve a dragon -or damselfly nymph.

Setting up a basic leader for stillwaters

Fred sets up a leader for fishing a still water.  For the novice’s information: 3X tippet is thinner than 2X tippet and has a lighter breaking strain.

Intermediate line for stillwaters

Fred quickly discusses an intermediate line for still waters and what he prefers in terms of the line as well as the rod.

A tip for threading the line through the line guides

A Fred illustrates a fail-safe method for threading the line through a rod’s line guides.

Burrowing Dragonfly Nymphs

Fred discusses burrowing dragonfly nymphs on a section of the Kraai river near Barkly East.

Bead Head GRHE Flashback Nymph

Bead Head GRHE Flashback Nymph

Imitates:  This is a generic mayfly nymph or stonefly nymph imitation.

Thread:  #70-140 or 8/0 to 6/0 black

Hook:  Nymph Hook # 16 – 12

Bead:  2 – 3 mm Brass bead

Weight:  0.15 mm Lead wire

Tail:  4 – 6 Natural pheasant tail fibres

Ribbing:   Thin to medium copper wire

Body and thorax:  Hare’s ear dubbing or grey squirrel dubbing

Wingcase:  Pearl flashabou

 Fishing method:  Fish on a dead drift in rivers or still waters.  It can also be stripped slowly.

 

Elk Wing Caddis Variant

 Elk Wing Caddis Variant

Imitates:  Adult Caddis

Thread:  Light brown or tan 8/0 or 7/0

Hook:  Standard thin wire dry fly hook # 16 – 14

Body:  CDC dubbing tan or cream

Under wing:  Stripped CDC fibres tan, cream or white

Wing:  Elk hair or similar

Fishing method:  Fish on a dead drift as a single dry fly or in tandem with an unweighted nymph below.

 

Spiders for Survival

By Fred Steynberg

Trout, whether alien in our waters or not, have over the past hundred years become an integrated part of our fresh water systems and millions of rand is poured into our country each year because their attraction to fly fishers. Fly fishing for trout is the cradle of fly fishing and it is surrounded by mysticism and history. It is said that fly fishing is one of the most written about sports or past-times ever and it surely has become the most popular ‘el fresco’ style recreation for a wide range of age groups. Trout is also on the top of the serious fly fishers list of fish to target on fly and rightly so. The reason for this is that one can never fully predict in what way a wild trout will react from one minute to the next, leaving us constantly challenged by them. We will interminably keep improving our skills and equipment to close the gap between us and these amazing creatures.

Trout have many different food sources at their disposal but these are often small and they need to consume a large amount to be able to grow and survive. In our waters they also do not have the luxury of mega hatches such as those found at specific times in other trout inhabited countries, where they gorge themselves on the abundance. Trout in our country have to become opportunistic and feed on a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic food sources. Spiders, although rare are one of them and as distasteful as it might sound to us as humans, trout only see them as a vulnerable, soft and available morsel. Spiders are not as plentiful as say for example mayflies, midges or caddisflies, but when they are swept away by currents after landing up in the water, will be taken as food.  The stomach contents of trout have revealed signs of sporadic spider catches.

Spider patterns work especially well, if tied and fished correctly to sighted trout in clear mountain streams. These patterns should be fished up steam on floating lines with long, thin leader and tippet configurations. Spiders that fall into the water from streamside vegetation do not swim out of a current, but will usually wait until pushed onto some vegetation before climbing out of the water. Aquatic spiders run across the water in quick, fast concessions. I have found that the best technique to imitate spiders in general is to gently place the imitation a meter or two ahead of the feeding trout. The trout should recognize the imitation as a food source and gently sip it off the surface. I have often been amazed how gently spider patterns are eaten and the reason for this can only be that the trout understand that the spider is in a vulnerable position.

Some species of spiders that live and feed on the surface of the water are quick, extremely buoyant and agile and not as vulnerable as others. Even if incidentally bushed beneath the surface by turbulent water, large rain drops… they always trap an air bubble onto there body that pop’s them back up to the surface. Some even use an underwater swimming action to maneuver themselves into favorable positions.

Spider patterns that float beneath the surface should also produce fish, but the visual aspect of fish a floating spider excites me. This way of presenting a pattern to visual fish will also immediately show whether the fish reacts to the offering or not. If the sighted fish does not move to a well presented spider imitation then the pattern may not have the correct…or the fish is rather tuned into some other food source that is of abundant.

Sighted fish in clear water will however more often be alarmed by bad presentations or long casts that ultimately line the fish.

To build a buoyant spider pattern that will be recognize as a spider by trout I use a soft foam spider body that can be cut from closed sell foam or bought in pre cut shape.

The foam body is tied on a # 16 or 14 thin wire caddis/sedge hook. To ad to the visibility of the fly a white or brightly colored post is tied in. The post can be of any buoyant, high vise material but egg yarn, poly yarn or packaging foam will probably work best. The thorax of the spider is lightly dubbed black or brown CDC dubbing to add to the floatability of the fly and often the CDC traps air bubbles making it look like the real thing. A black or dark dun cock hackle, ‘under hackle’, is firstly tied in around the post. This hackle should be sparse, 2 wraps, and the fibers just longer than the gape of the hook.

The legs are mottled brown partridge hackle sparsely wrapped around the base of post and it is necessary to have the tips of the hackle pointing down. The legs can be short but I prefer legs that stick out 15 – 20mm from the post. It is a good idea to pre-tread the hackle/legs of the spider pattern with Hydro-stop after the fly is tied as this should keep the fibers from soaking in water for a longer period of time.

Much has been written about the diets of trout, the way that they feed on specific food sources and when they feed on them. Wild trout can be extremely selective and often, during May or Caddis fly hatches, refuse any imitation but the one that fully represents the specific food source in shape, color, size and movement. This can frustrate angler’s immensely but never fails to bring back the angler that wants to present the right fly at the correct time. For many it is about catching the fish and the method is of lesser importance but for others, maybe purists, fly fishing is an art that thrives on patience, persistence and dedication.

This foam body spider pattern is a generic pattern that works amazingly well if presented correctly. For all intentional purposes specific spiders and there scientific names have not been mentioned as the generic pattern would rather simulate a range of different spider species. I find it useful to always have a couple of spider patterns in my fly box for a specific occasion when I do find a large fish looking around for something to eat in clear Mountain streams.

Tackling the Salt on fly – Part 1: Rods and reels

By Fred Steynberg

Fly fishing in the salt can be a lot less complicated than, for example, fishing for trout in wild mountain streams, but certain elements in tackle choice and set-up can be tricky and costly in the long run if advice is not followed.

Fortunately fly fishing in the salt is a lot more common nowadays and salt starters can require helpful advice from friends, guides and even fly shops. The salt water expanse is however a large and varied one with many different fish species to target in different types of waters. This makes tackle choice difficult, especially if cash flow is a problem and purchasing a range of rods, reels and lines to cater for every situation, is not an option.

Of primary importance, before purchasing a fly rod and reel, is to establish where one will spend most of the time fishing and what species are available and targetable in this area. It is then important to establish whether the fish that will be targeted are pelagic or local and how they feed and what they feed on.

If estuaries and saline river systems are the option or preferred choice around the Southern African coast then a lighter salt water rig will often suffice. Some of the general fish species in these systems are fish such as Cob, River Snapper, Skip Jack, Small Garrick, Small Kingfish, Sand Gurnards, River Bream and Mullet, to name a few. These fish are often smaller and premature specimens and lighter rods make the tussle so much more sporty and enjoyable. Cob are of the few species, except for the occasional Giant Ignoblis, that are found in our estuaries and at times exceed weights of 50lbs. Cob of this size that venture into estuaries and river systems can, with patience, be caught on an 8 or 9 weight rod as they are not particularly strong fighting fish. G.T. if encountered are indeed a different story but the chances of ever hooking a specimen large enough, in South African estuarine systems, that will over power an 8-9 weight fly rodder, is very slim.

It is also important to understand that predatory fish in our estuaries and saline river systems feed mainly on small fish, prawns, shrimps, antipods and crabs and imitations often need to be smaller and with less or no weight than flies in the deeper ocean. The line weight that needs to carry these flies need not be so heavy, meaning the rod size can be lighter.

The choice fly rod length should not be a problem as most 7-9 weight outfits are manufactured around 9ft lengths and this is a desired casting length of a salt water rod that is designed for casting rather than fighting fish. If the rod is shorter than 8.6ft it may be difficult to keep the heavier line off the water when casting and distance will be sacrificed. If however the rod length exceeds 9ft, it can become a cumbersome, clumsy process to fight and land fish, especially when fly fishing off boats or skiffs. In my opinion fighting grips will be non essential add-ons and should rather be avoided as it may affect the weight or casting ability of these lighter salt water rods.

Consider factors such as the length of the cast that will have to be made and problematic winds around the chosen area. Medium fast to faster action rods can, because of the tip action, create a narrow line loop that spear-heads into the wind or can carry the line further (if the casting style is correct and the rod is allowed to load correctly). Slower action rods often have difficulty casting into the wind as a large line loop battles to cut into the wind if blown back.

Multi-piece, travel rods are always a better option as they make packing less complicated. With the rod building technology of today, anglers will not be able to distinguish between the casting ability of a 2 and 4 piece rod. If your venue of choice is a couple of minutes drive or walk away and your rod is always in a ready, set-up state, then there is really no reason to purchase a multi-piece rod and a 2 piece rod will do fine.

Line guides should be as large as possible to allow the line to shoot without much friction through them. These line guides should be made of a non-corrosive steel will not rust.

If the option to purchase a rod with a guarantee of some sort is available and affordable, then it will be a good idea to choose it. Salt water rigs can take a good hammering from time to time in harsh salt water conditions, casting large flies and fighting stronger quarries.  Larger flies can bruise the rod if they connect the rod in full flight and incorrect fish landing techniques will snap the thinnest and most vulnerable part of the rod without much effort.

Good choice of rod for targeting smaller estuary fish such as Mullet, Blacktail, River Bream, small Skip Jack, juvenile Garrick and Kingfish to name a few, is a 5-7 weight medium/fast – fast action 9ft rod. When targeting fish such as larger Skip Jack, Garrick, Grunter, Kingfish (between 2 and 7 kg’s), Cob, Grunter and River Snapper an 8 – 9 weight medium/fast – fast action 9ft rod will suffice. The 8 weight is possibly the most versatile rod for estuaries and a good choice.

When fishing off rocks and sand bars for smaller fish, into the salt, it is not advisable to use a rod no lighter than an 8 -9 weight as hooked fish often run for cover and anglers need to muscle fish away from structures. Slightly heavier rods will also allow for casting distance, essential for casting over those irritating little shallow water breakers. 8 – 9 Weight are also less taxing on the muscles as long hours of casting can become hard and painful work.

Shallow salt water species such as Shad , Garrick, Rock Cod, Wave Garrick, Blacktail, Bream, Smaller Kingfish ( such as Brassies, Greenspot, Big Eye, Yellowspot, Black-fin and small G.T.’s) are some of the fish that can be tamed with 8 -9 weight rods.

When targeting larger fish from the shore, such as mature G.T.s (Giant Egnoblis), King and Queen Mackerel, Queenfish, larger Garrick, Brassie Kingfish, Big Eye Kingfish, Bluefin Kingfish and some shark species, for example, then it is advisable to use a rod no lighter than a 9 -10 weight outfit. If you feel that a 9 – 10 weight might be too little ‘gun’ for the fish that you are hoping to hook then an 11 or even a 12 weight (still considered casting tools) will be a better option provided that you are strong and fit enough to handle it.

Fly fishing from shore, as mentioned, often requires long casts and many anglers force the rod to extract maximum result and in the process hurt themselves instead of achieving casting distance. A medium to fast action rod is advisable for distant casting and for potentially windy situations, but remember that a faster action rod usually has a stronger ‘back bone’ (lower section) and although it  loads quicker it becomes taxing on the wrist and joints after a couple of casts. If you feel that you will not be able to handle heavy faster action rods then rather sacrifice distance and look for a rod that has a softer ‘back bone’ or medium action. Always try and avoid slow and floppy rods.

Off shore fly fishing around our coastline is often confined so shoals of pelagic fish such as King and Queen Mackerel, Kawa-Kawa, Bonito,’Geelbek’, Snoek, Queenfish, Dorado, Shad, Yellowfin Tuna, Yellowtail and smaller shoaling Kingfish species of sort. Local fish on our reefs, with the exception of maybe the odd Kingfish, Job fish, Rock cod and Snapper (found in the warmer waters of Natal), that will regularly accept a fly are scarce as many prefer the warmer waters further up the East and West coast of Africa away from the cold Augulas current. A 10 or 11 weight will handle most average sized fish in all the species except for fish such as Yellowfin Tuna when the reach weights exceed 10 kg’s. These speedsters are seriously fast and feisty, fueled by warm blood and an aerodynamic design that will test both angler and tackle alike.

12, 13 and 14 Weight fly rods are about as low as you should go if fish such as large Yellowfin Tuna, Yellowtail, Shark and other serious fighters that may frequent our coastline. It is advisable to purchase a rod that is not necessarily designed to cast but rather to fight fish; distance casting is of lesser importance. Fighting butt and grips are essential components of fighting rods and will increase rod handling after hook-up. Distance casting, under normal circumstances, especially when chumming (most often a necessary practice) for these species is not of primary importance and a shorter rod of around 8ft will increase the fighting and pulling ability on the confined area of a boat. The lifting capability of a strong but shorter fly rod will come in very handy especially if hooked fish sound deep and keep below the boat.

Other fish species that can be targeted on fly off our coastline, but with necessary teasing techniques are Sailfish and Marlin (smaller ones below 250lbs.)  Sailfish can be landed on lighter 9 and 10- weights but 11 and 12 weights are recommended as not to over fight the fish. For Marlin of just about any size a heavy rod of 14 weight plus is recommended and in both instances the rods should be the shorter fighting sticks as casting to teased fish happens at short distances.

It is almost impossible to mention all the fish species and situations that a fly rodder could encounter off shore but this summary should provide an inspiring salt water candidate a guide line to purchasing a tool that will cover the needs.