“Hot and wet, thees ees the best time for the black bass” – said in a strong Greek Cypriot accent. As I looked outside at a hot and rainy day full of excitement for the fly fishing we had planned for farm dam largemouth bass, these words from my uncle Arkis echoed in my head from when I was a boy.
My uncle lived in Zvishavane, Zimbabwe, where my family visited quite often and fishing trips with all the uncles was a highlight. The dams around Zvishavane all had really good black bass (largemouth bass) fishing with Lilly pads and sunken trees all over the place, compared to where we came from in the highveld at the time. I always listened with excitement with ears flapping when my uncle started talking about bass.
Having been very focused on Smallmouth Bass here in the Western Cape, pursuing largemouth bass had fallen to the wayside even though we do catch the occasional one in smallmouth waters, it’s never really the focus. Not that I haven’t been keen, it’s just getting access to really good largemouth bass waters here isn’t that easy.
Andre Van Wyk and I quite often reminisce about our largemouth bass fishing from our youth with spinning gear. Andre coming from KwaZulu Natal where he fished for bass in all the farm dams that his veterinarian father had access to. He’s one of the few fishermen I know who can name most of the retro bass lures I have displayed on my living room wall.
We’ve talked about and investigated doing largemouth bass trips to Zimbabwe and KZN and visiting old haunts, but something always gets in the way. So when PJ Vadas invited us to a private farm dam in the Cape Winelands that never gets fished but is rumoured to have largemouth bass in it, we leapt at the opportunity. A date that worked for us all was set.
I was quite excited to pull out my largemouth fly box which had been neglected but still had a good selection of flies in it. The big question was, what would the fishing be like? PJ said the dam looked really good surrounded by bullrushes which meant floating devices would be necessary.
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We planned an early start and my uncle’s words were echoing in my head “hot and wet, hot and wet” as I drove through the rain with the aircon on. Really unusual for the Cape in midsummer, but I was over the moon. Actually, there wasn’t much of a moon which was also really good.
With the excitement being so high we all arrived dead on time if not early and PJ showed us the route to the dam. On arrival, we were not disappointed as it was one of those typical wine farm dams, mostly open in the middle but with a solid perimeter of tall bullrushes and some patches of Lilly pads thrown in with clear water. I often see them on wine farm visits all over the Winelands and dream of fishing one in a float tube and casting poppers to the bullrush edges.
PJ and I were on float tubes and Andre on his BOTE sup. We launched and headed to our chosen section just to give each other space and start prospecting. I’m not sure who was in first but on about the second cast there was big whoooop as a popper was smashed. This happened to all of us virtually simultaneously and the action just didn’t stop.
Our poppers and sliders where getting smashed every other cast as they landed on the edges and we even started picking up fish way off the bulrush line. They weren’t all massive fish but the takes were explosive, they fought hard and jumped all over the place. Every now and then we would get into a bigger, solid fish which just kept the rush up their, pun intended. A couple of photos were taken in the beginning but the action was so crazy that none of us wanted to leave our spots on either side of the dam.
There were times when more than one fish would smash at the fly throwing spray into the air and I wondered if that big fish was going for the fly or the smaller fish that was going for the fly. Andre then had clear evidence when he hooked smaller fish and a bigger one came and grabbed it and swam around with it in its mouth for a bit before spitting out the poor little bugger. He even had a fish snap him off and then caught it again a few minutes later with his lost popper still in its mouth.
I was having a ball and was trying out different flies and thought let me go really big and see what happens and tied on a large dear hair slider with a long zonker tale. Second cast and the slider was sipped underwater by what I thought was a small fish and then all hell broke loose as a fish over 20 inches launched out of the water. These fish had huge mouths and big tails and had an aggressive look to them, pissed off having been caught, probably for the first time ever.
This went on for a while, then suddenly after a couple of hours the surface action slowed down, was that it, I wondered? So I switched to some subsurface patterns, game changers and deer hair baitfish and caught some fish but the surface eats are hard to beat. But it was hot and wet and the sun didn’t come out and suddenly the surface bite came on again and we fished till our hearts overflowed and it was time to leave.
PJ’s guiding and hosting skills did not disappoint and Andre and I compared thumb rashes from all the fish while wrapping things up which was a clear sign of success.
We did go back again, but it was a sunny day and there was a big moon that night, the surface bite wasn’t really on. It was strange to see the difference but it made sense. We all got some good bass though, and PJ showed us how it’s done by landing a few really good size bass on what we call the Conna Clouser which is a winning colour combination for smallies that Conrad Botes uses successfully as many of us do.
I know what I want to be doing more of this summer and the search for local farm dams that we can get access to is in full swing. But we also have to wait for another hot and wet day.
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