|Date of Report: Thursday, 5th October 2017|
|Name: Andrew Fowler
Phone: 082 574 4262
The first month of the 2017/8 river season has been interesting. As is so often the case in September, it was dry. The Kobus Botha maps (to which I provide a link on the right hand ribbon on my website…Truttablog), indicate that in August and September we had 25% to 50% of our long term average rainfall for these months. But that average in those dry months is low anyway, and the occurrence or otherwise, of a minor rain event very quickly tips the scales, so it was not as dire as the coloured map might make you believe. We had also had good rains in May, but nothing in July, the combined effect of which was rivers that were low, but not dire at all. And all of this is hopefully behind us, because as I write, there is the delightful pitter patter of rain on the roof, and it has been going most of the night!
I made the point somewhere…it might just have been on this platform, that the good fish of late last season are still in the river, and that we should expect it to kick off as well as it ended in May. I was right!
Superb fish have come out of the Umgeni, The Mooi and the Bushmans. I am talking of fish up to 50cms!
I have had occasion to fish the Umgeni and the Bushmans, but not yet the Mooi. The pattern on the stretches I saw, was that the long shallow sections were laid bare to high sun overhead, and with no shade and low flow, they were devoid of fish, at least when we fished them, which was during daylight hours. (hint hint). The fish that we did find were limited to the great big pools that offered depth or other cover. And herein lies an important subtlety that was brought home to Graeme Steart and I when we shared a stretch of the Bushmans:
When it is stark and low, and you are fairly high up a river, where just about everything swimming in the pool would be visible, the fish might avoid hanging around in deep pools that lack “hidy holes”. Hidy holes are spots with a permanent deep shadow spot, and overhanging rock or bush, or some other spot into which they can dart when alarmed and be totally hidden. We did not find fish in good deep pools that lacked that feature. And now that the rain is falling, don’t bank that tip for the end of season dry times alone, because even in good flow, that “hidy hole” feature has long proven a tool for locating bigger fish.
Think about it: If you were a big bugger with broad shoulders and a mean swing, would you give up your warm house just because it happens to be a warm summer and you don’t currently need the fireplace? Hell no! You might go on vacation (or go fox hunting), but you will come back, and if some squit has taken your place, you will chase him the hell out of there. Remember that tip!
If the rains that have started to fall keep going, I reckon all but the best fish will be moving out of the “HH” pools into spots that are now OK, and when they are on the prod, and off looking for food, the fresh flows will have them out in those silly exposed places. This is certainly true of the Browns, and all the more so in low light (end of day, and grey days).
The Stillwater levels have been dropping fast on irrigation farms, but on highland dams outside of the dairy areas, the levels held remarkably well. It has brought home to me that the future of our trout fishing will be affected as much by what the DEA is hoping to do to us, as it is by the fact that our farms are turning into factories. This is not a criticism of the farmers. It is merely an observation. On many farms with trout dams, you will notice that they no longer have waste areas, left with scrub and tall grass as cover for the antelope. Those areas are cultivated, and more often than not with irrigated pasture. They have to be: the farmer needs more cows, giving more milk, to cover overheads. So expect some of our dams to take a hammering in most years, and a few of them will fall into the group of which we ask “Is it really worth stocking them”.
Enjoy those in the veld up in the hills. And if you are there, I can tell you that the buzzers (chironimids) are out in force now. I believe that the stick caddis I was advocating recently has also produced well.
I had a great day on a private water in late September during one of those crazy berg winds. I never would have said. The fish were going nuts. In 3 hours I landed 7 I think it was, lost 2, and had 4 fly through the air after a dapped #6 Pappa Roach, and miss. No. I was not drinking. Yes, I was alone, and have no photos. Yes: a Pappa Roach, dapped. My hand on my heart…I promise you.
Post script…a message from a Dargle farmer “50mm and still falling”. Now there’s something to celebrate!
Lee Ramnirayan with an Umgeni river brown
Graeme Steart lifts into a fish. The other fish in this pool shot into the hidy hole: the rock throwing a shadow in the left foreground