The Berg River in Paarl is a special place for me and many of us at Feathers and Fluoro. I have fished the river’s headwaters for trout and, a bit lower down, for smallmouth bass. That was before the province built the Berg River Dam flooding what was some of my favourite river fishing close to Cape Town.
Many years later I found myself moving to Paarl with the middle reaches of the Berg River flowing just a few hundred meters from my house. Some of the Feathers crew and I “discovered” the incredible carp fly fishing it had to offer (there are also some great smallmouth bass in and among the bus carp). These carp are difficult, picky fish and the challenge of catching them makes fishing there all the more desirable (despite the odd turd and pollution). Getting an eat is a treat. Even when we think we have figured them out with patterns like squirmies or Lalu Bugs that they consistently eat, these fish can give you the cold shoulder and we have to go back to the drawing board again (the latest pattern I have been having success with is the Flexpole).
Being this close to the river means it’s a big part of my life. I walk my dog along its banks every day and both my sons caught their first fish there. The Berg is very dear to me even with the constant problems it faces.
One of these problems was the drought which struck the Western Cape of South Africa in 2018. One of the worst droughts in recent history, we had severe water rationing and the province was talking about Day Zero, the day when our taps would literally run dry because all our dams were empty. The world’s media was laying bets that Cape Town would be the first major global city to run out of water…it was that dire.
During that time, the Berg was in a particularly bad state with almost no flow at all and many of the pools turned stagnant. If there were trout in the river they all would have died, but fortunately carp are made of much hardier stuff. One morning we (freelance writer Sean Christie, The Mission editor Tudor Caradoc-Davies, photographer/filmmaker Ryan Janssens and myself) went to check on our beloved Berg River and its resident carp.
When the River Runs Dry is a short video of that little mission, shot by Ryan and edited by me.
Postscript: After good rains in 2020, the Berg has bounced back and is in good condition again. We continue to monitor it, keeping tabs on industrial polluters, in order for it to remain a brilliant urban fishery.