|Date of Report: Friday, 14th May 2021|
|Name: Andrew Fowler
Phone: 082 574 4262
The Stillwater news of late has been disappointing in general. This really is a generalisation, because some waters, on some days, have really produced the goods, but in general, either small fish, or low numbers have been the norm. We don’t really know why. One aspect was big rains coupled with sudden temperature drops, so that we had dams flooded with detritus, and experiencing inversion at the same time. So, we had this mysterious dirty water, and in some cases rafts of dead weed floating about. Just in the last week, two Kamberg dams are reported to still be muddied, despite recent stable weather, and that is most likely inversion related. Generally, a great rainfall season (which we have had!), means great fishing. Maybe it is too early to judge. Maybe the late autumn and winter will be fabulous. As fishermen, we are eternal optimists, so I will hang our hat on the “maybe” for now.
If you wanted good fishing in the last few weeks, it was in the rivers. The flows have been strong for this time of year (Augers well for spawning!) but water temps have been up to about 13/14 degrees C in the warm part of the day, so the insects are still active . This was evident on the uMngeni last week-end, where a number of fish were rising right through the afternoon. When the water temp goes below about 11 or 12, which is surely a week or so away, then you can expect insect hatches to reduce on all but the warmest days. Catches on the rivers have been good too, with a decent number of fish over 50cm (19 inches) in length coming from just about every river along the berg. The Bushmans has received extremely high rod traffic in the last few weeks due to the competition held there, but the private and club beats on the Mooi don’t have the worn paths of the Bushmans and neither do the uMngeni and other rivers, so for those who prefer to be off the beaten paths that would be where I would point you.
I was interested in a particularly stark contrast in the last week. I spent some time on the uMngeni at Brigadoon, and in particular on a stretch known as “The Glides”. This is a stretch bounded by reeds, and with a rocky bottom. In low water, there is hardly anywhere for a fish to hide. In high water, it is a bit risky getting in there, because places to get in and out are limited. When it is perfect, as it was last week (and probably still is), then the water ripples and glides in a semi broken surface, and the fish move in there. This is when it is heaven. Last week it was heaven, and as mentioned above, there were plenty of rising fish. They weren’t big fish, but they were rising. I covered them with the utmost stealth, 7X tippet and dry flies down to #20. And I spooked most of them. They were that fickle and fussy and spooky. I landed 4 in the end, but I came away feeling inadequate, as one does. That evening I watched one of the Jenssen’s videos, of them fishing a very clear creek in low water. They were fishing “size 8 woolly buggers” and large dries, which the camera showed plunking down with a splash on the surface. They were fishing 4 X tippet. And they seemed to be catching more fish than they were spooking.
That had me thinking a great deal. Why the difference?
I think the difference can be accounted for to a large degree in that they were spotting their fish, and casting at “The edge of the dinner plate” to the side and slightly behind the fish in many instances. On the uMngeni I could see the rises, but I couldn’t see the exact location of the fish, so I was tossing a fly in the general direction, and probably putting my tippet (albeit 7X) right over their heads.
Herein lies the argument for fish spotting.
Fish spotting (AKA ‘hunting trout’) is slow, even tedious, and takes up a large portion of your fishing day.
I also think that the pursuit is one that will bring the thinking angler immense joy, not to mention the occasional deeply satisfying catch. With our clear autumn rivers, I suggest you and I both give it a try before the season is over. I am going tomorrow. How about you?