Southern Africa a Fly-fishing wonder land ...

By; Fred Steynberg
Linecasters Fly Fishing Outfitters

One fact that stands out when comparing Southern Africa to the rest of the world is its amazing diversity. Whether it’s the cultures, environment or fauna and flora that are revered to, does not matter they all come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes. For many years this paradise has been stimulating an interest in adventurous explorers, travelers and off late sportsman that have felt the need to challenge and share in what many still perceive as the ‘wild’. It is staggering how many different salt and fresh water fish species can be targeted on fly in this vast, big sky region, many off witch are consider serious sport fish species by international standards.

Africa has it ‘all’ when it comes to adventurous fly fishing and combined with the natural beauty of the different regions that one will venture into plus the favorable exchange rate makes it a must for the serious fly fisher.

Tiger fish ( Hydrocynus vittatus)are one of legendary species and probably on of the most aggressive and ferocious fresh water species in the world. They have a set of sharp, serrated teeth that easily parts nylon and short steel traces are necessary if one wants to secure a trophy. Ones hooked the fish will take off at a plistering pass often followed by high aerial, head shacking leaps that could dispose of  the fly and the fish escaping. 

Tigers are found in many fresh water systems around Africa but the most accessible areas were they could be targeted in great numbers are in the Majestic Zambezi river system. The Zambezi is one of Africa’s largest rivers a plays host to a number of exotic fish such as Vundu, Nembwe …most of witch fall prey to the tigers at some stage of there lives. Membwe and Vundu are often also caught on fly and are both considered worthy fly fishing quarries. Nembwe is especially considered a good table fish and often kept. Southern African countries that hosts the Zambezi river and were tiger fishing is at its best is Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and is usually accessed by aircraft from South Africa.

A good averages size tiger fish in the Zambezi or its lakes is around the 3 – 5 kg’s mark but trophies can reach 8-9 kgs and ones you hook into one of these big boys you, will be understand why it is necessary to often use 8 or 9 weight outfits. The Zambezi system’s fringe is sparsely populated by humans and often miles and miles of protected nature reserves secures the wild life with in. When venturing into this paradise one is often within the habitat of Lion, elephant, hippo, crocodile, leopard to name a few of the dangerous game and all the smaller species that share Africa’s circle of live. Although it is all wild and potentially dangerous, outfitters and guides are well equipped with the necessary skills to ensure the safety of the clients.

Other African fresh water species that can be considered a sport fish but less toothy is the Yellow fish. Southern Africa has nine different Yellow fish species of witch the Large mouth (Barbus kimberleyensis) and Small mouth (Barbus aenus) are the most spectacular. These two species look quite similar from a distance but differ in size and especially facial features. The Large mouth Yellowfish are less common and specimens of around 15 – 18 kg’s are often caught by conventional anglers. Fly fisherman consider  5 – 10kg  specimens a good price and these predatory beauties are tackle with a strong 6 or 7 weight outfit. It is often possible to sight fish to Large mouth but it is essential to hire the right guide for the job.

Small mouth yellows are much more common but average 1 – 2 kgs, not that this has anything to do with there fighting ability. They are strong contenders on 4-6 weight outfits and often selectively sip small dry flies of the surface. Yellow fish are warm water fish making them targetable through out the warmer month of the year and they often follow up into small crystal clear streams to spawn. Small mouth yellow fish can be caught in large numbers when in clear streams with the correct technique and delegated presentations and often 3-5 kg specimens can give anglers a run for there money.

Both the Large and Small mouth yellowfish are found in South Africa Vaal, Orange and Kraai river systems and thousand of local fly fisherman fish for them each year.

Southern Africa also boasts with some of the finest brown and rainbow trout fishing in Africa and combined with the spectacular scenery it can be compare to the best in the world. Trout was introduce into clear and pristine freestone rivers in Southern Africa around 1908-1914 and have since become a integrated part of some rivers systems breeding freely and fending for themselves.

Of the most prolific trout streams around South Africa are those found in the Eastern Cape and in the Highlands of Natal. The small mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, that flanks both the Eastern Cape and Natal (Provinces of South Africa) and is separated by the majestic Drakensberg mountains range is also a fantastic trout venue. The mountain steams often spring 3000m above sea level and provides clear oxygenated water to trout that have all the natural invertebrates such as Mayfly, Caddis, Stone fly, Midges and Crane fly as well as a multitude of terrestrial insect to feast on. Around the Eastern Cape, Rhodes, Barkley east and Maclear area alone more than a 1000km of river frontage has wild trout stock in and they are often found in and among shoals of Yellow fish.

Rainbow trout of up to 10lbs have been caught in the rivers and streams but this is the exception rather than the norm and 2 – 5lb fish can be considered good fish with the average fish caught been 12 – 16 inches.  Browns are less prevalent but as beautiful as there European ancestors. The hardly ever grow larger than 22 – 23 inches in our rivers but as most would tell you, …this is a good fish.

South Africa has many small 5 – 12 hectare still water dams that often produce massive Rainbow and Brown trout that grow in access of 18lbs. These monsters, normally a trophy would be 8 – 12 lbs, are in awesome condition. Perfect fins, bright colors and selective behaviors are testimony to the wild lives that they live. Pre and post spawning season is the time to sight fish to monster trout on the fringes and shallower sections of the still water with floating lines and small nymphs but in the hotter fish will come up for dries and emerges early in the mornings and late evenings. Midday sessions are also productive but then fished deeper with larger attractor patterns.

Many other fresh water species such as large carp, Large and Small mouth Bass, different indigenous tilapia, catfish, small scale, large scale ect. to name a few are quite common in fresh water systems in Southern Africa. Many of these are great fly fishing quarries but often are ignored because of species mentioned in the article.

Linecasters Outfitters