Flyfishing report: Yellowfish - East Free State

Date of Report: Monday, 17th January 2022
Name: David Weaver
Phone: 083 303 4230

Wet, wet, wet, sounds like what all fish should be all the time, well it’s the way the year has kicked off.  I have lived here in Harrismith for 25 years and I can never remember it being this wet.  I have guided on Sterkies for 22 years and can never recall the dam this full.  What does all this water and all this rain mean for us as fly-fishermen?  Here are some of the ways it’s going to affect you.

  1. It is a mission getting to Qwantani, if you don’t have a 4x4 or a high clearance vehicle and the off-roading skills of Giniel de Villiers (SA rally driver, finished 5th in this year’s DAKAR), Good luck.
  2. If you are planning on going to the same spots you went to last year, forget, it’s a new piece of water with new banks, new spawning beds, new everything.
  3. If you’re with a guide they will be able to show you where they found fish last week, and that’s as good as it gets.
  4. Talking of spawning beds…there are none, so no concentrations of fish in areas, just hit and miss.
  5. I saw recently on the news, how a pleasure cruise boat in South America was wiped out by falling rocks.  Well don’t stand too close, it’s happening on Sterkies as well.  We were drifting one of our favourite banks recently when a large slab of real estate slid into the water.  We had a flurry of activity as all the fish rushed to the scene to capitalize on all the insects falling into the water.
  6. The water along the onshore banks is dirty.  As the water level rises, new banks are exposed, these are then scoured by the breaking waves and the water sullies very quickly.  In fact, the only areas of the dam where you find crystal clear water is along the main and the short walls.
  7. All the streams, and rivers are flowing full tilt so there’s a lot of dirty water coming into the bays.   As you drift the cliffs there are waterfalls and springs everywhere.
  8. One would think that with all the rain that there would be regular ant hatches, well exactly the opposite, I think the colonies have been drowned out.  There is very little terrestrial insect activity. You see the odd dragonfly, but as yet this season, no ant hatches and very few caddis hatches.

So, to give advice on this forum, where the best places to fish would be foolish as I would be sending out misinformation, because the areas I found fish this weekend were different to where we found fish last weekend.  Least to say that I am still looking in all the regular spots as listed on this website and I’m still finding fish, but as good as the fishing is…the catching has been tough.  Getting double figures for the day is tough going but guaranteed that one or two of those fish will be memorable and will make the weekend.

The secret to enjoying your fishing on Sterkies is to strive for that one memorable hook-up, where you sighted a cruising fish 35m away, sipping in the scum line, you held your cast, and then placed it perfectly in its path, 5ft in front of it  The beautiful Yellow creature, all 2kg of powerful fish sighted your fly, changed direction swam up to your fly and you see the lips wrap around your offering and …..on.  a powerful fight and a wet release.  You could pack it in and retire, your weekend is done.

Main camp is open, call Sam for bookings: 083 942 1418.  I see people camping around the dam, but rumour has it that the chalets will be closed for renovations during the months of February and March. Peak season, go figure???  Why they couldn’t renovate for the 19 months that the gates were closed, remains a mystery.

That’s all, I am available for any questions anytime, except for the last week of January and into the first week of February, I’m taking a slow birding cruise to Marion Island, for a Shag.

David Weaver

083 303 4230


Photo courtesy of Alan Hobson