|Date of Report: Friday, 4th May 2018|
|Name: Andrew Fowler
Phone: 082 574 4262
It has been a good season. It really gives me pleasure to say that. Many of my reports in recent years have been filled with the sort of unbridled optimism shared only by farmers and fisherman, but on this occasion we can genuinely look back and say that it has been great.
We got tremendous late summer rains, and anyone driving down to KZN would have seen evidence of that at the Wagondrift dam near Estcourt, and perhaps more tellingly, at Midmar dam down at Howick. I say more tellingly because the dam on the Bushmans has little draw on it, is on a bigger river, and is silted up, so it overflows if someone up at Giants sheds a tear or two. Midmar is on the Umgeni…a smaller stream, and is drawn upon heavily for KZN’s biggest cities, and we haven’t seen it overflow in….I don’t actually know how long!
The Umgeni, as you might have guessed, has had a real soaking. As a result it has flowed off colour for long stretches of time. I can tell you though, that in the last 3 weeks or so, it has been magnificent. Clean, full, and scoured by the spate flows. As my mate Anton will tell you, the blackjacks have been magnificent too. Head high I tell you, and you emerge from there looking like a bear, with just the whites of your eyes showing. And maybe a grin. These blackjacks are hard work, and they grow taller in the slightly warmer valley of the Umgeni, than on the Mooi or Bushmans or elsewhere. They also keep the riff-raff at home. More Trout for the rest of us I say, and this is important when they are rising freely to dry flies, as they have been doing. In 2 recent days we only caught small ones, I confess, but Sean Rogers sent me a video clip last week of a real stonker of a fish, paired-up and working the gravel. This all ties in of course. The wattle we cleared in recent years, being a legume, enriches the soil, which makes for big weeds when the shade is removed. The cleared river has increased the insect population & diversity, and the fish are inhabiting these reaches now, and spawning well. Us prickly bears are delighted!
On other rivers: The competition guys were on the Mooi and the Bushmans recently and they were raving. I spoke to my pal Garth from Cape Town, and he enthused that we have two world class streams in these two. How could I argue? …Facebook pictures of a 19 inch (48cm) fish here and a 21 inch (52 cm) there. A catch return from 3 guys this week who got 20 + fish each on a single day. Wow!
But it is all over. Andrews Savs tells me that the upper reaches are colder than he has ever felt them at this time of year. The fish are spawning, and as I write this there is thunder and I hear that there is snow in Lesotho. You should have been here last week. The season is all but done.
Which brings me to stillwaters. Roxanne Stegen …..wow! Who saw that beast on Facebook? 24 inches (61 cms ). What a slab of a fish! I won’t go so far as to tell you that fish like that have been the norm, but I can say, with a straight face, that 3 to 5 pound fish have been coming out in good numbers, and Anton Smith and his waters team at the NFFC are rightly puffing out their chests a bit. I saw a similarly good fish came from a private dam near Boston last week-end, and my friend Keith says that while they were stocking their dam out on the Lotheni road with 7 inch fish a few weeks back, there were some enormous bulges. Something about fish with broad shoulders pushing water. That’s all he would tell me…..I am still trying to work out what on earth that could mean….
Wayne Stegen tells me a Pancora “crab” and a woolly bugger variant, fished in tandem, have been doing the trick, but I wouldn’t listen to him. His wife catches the fish. He just gets broken off. ( I will soon know if Wayne reads these reports!)
Winter’s bite is suddenly in the air. Water temps in streams have been 11 to 15 degrees and dropping. Dams 13 to 16 degrees, but falling too. The dams are overflowing. The rivers are flowing strongly. The autumn colours are out. If you get out quickly, you could sneak in a river trip. If you need a few more days to pack, you could do a Stillwater. Whatever….its all good.
But really….if I were you, I would stay home and watch TV.
Ray Ward on the Mooi at Riverside