Natal scalies may be aggressive at times and eat big flies, but they are no pushover. We (Jeff Tyser, Ben Pellegrini and me) had many big yellow mambas swim over to check out our flies, but most of them either spat the fly out so quickly we couldn’t connect with them (they sipped and spat out our flies in a split second, which seemed more like a ‘taste’ test than anything else), or they simply swam away without even eating the flies. So we certainly didn’t have them ‘worked out’, but there was mutual agreement on some patterns that worked well for all three of us; I found that the following nymph patterns consistently outperformed other flies in my boxes over a period of three days:

Hare’s Ear with black wire rib (#12-14)

There were many clubtail dragonfly nymphs (family Gomphidae) in the river we fished and I believe that the fish eagerly ate biggish, bushy Hare’s Ear nymphs because they imitated the clubtail nymphs well.

fly fishing nymph


The standard Hare’s Ear nymph fooled some of the best yellow mambas of the trip, such as this 7.7 lb fish caught on a blind cast in a deep channel with overhanging trees (they loved deeper spots with undercut banks, big boulders or overhanging trees and especially places with a combination of these features). We also got put in our place properly by big fish in these spots.

Red Tag Hare’s Ear (#14-16)

A red tag, charcoal gray Hare’s Ear nymph was the first fly I tied on, which made me swim after a big fish that ate it in a deep channel riddled with big boulders. I used a fluorescent red tag in this fly; it’s a great search pattern for yellowfish.

fly fishing nymph



Black CDC micro-nymph (#20)

This nymph worked really well for me when sight fishing to scalies feeding in shallow glides in the midday hours. They were very nervous and spooked easily in shallow water, but this fly fished on a long leader with 6-7X fluorocarbon seemed to do the trick in these situations.

fly fishing nymph


Black CDC hotspot micro-nymph (#20)

fly fishing nymph


Adult scalies often patrolled edges of pools in small schools (two to three fish), making presentations tricky due to the many sets of eyes that could potentially spot the angler. I lay flat on my back when two really good fish came to the bank to feed ‘at my feet’; I pitched a black CDC hot orange bead head nymph at them and the smallest of the two ate the fly…The ‘bigger fish’ has haunted me since.


Horst Filter’s bloodworm imitation and Mustard caddis (#14-16)

We saw many small to medium size caddis flies hatch and flutter about in the evenings, which made me try #14-16 caddis larvae imitations. The scalies showed a lot of interest in these patterns and I caught a few fish on them after other nymphs were refused. Besides caddis larvae imitations, and specifically a Mustard caddis with olive flashabou rib, Horst Filter’s bloodworm imitation also worked well when scalies rejected other nymphs.

Horst Filter’s bloodworm is an effective pattern for most of our yellows.


Trophy yellow mamba propeller – photo by Jeff Tyser.


The evergreen Mustard caddis; I like to tie them with creamy yellow dubbing and tease out the dubbing strands to make them look scruffy. Sometimes the fish are attracted to the version with olive flashabou used as rib (as in the case with scalies on this trip). Other times they prefer something more natural or subtle like copper wire – a great all-round trout and yellowfish pattern.


Releasing a scaly that was sight fished near the surface with a small Mustard caddis.

Ruhan Neethling’s Taddy

This fly is based on a tadpole imitation that Ruhan Neethling designed for trout and yellowfish many years ago. Mark Krige introduced me to this fly. The only difference between Ruhan’s original Taddy and this pattern shown here is the use of a jig hook and slotted bead I believe (as also tied by Mark Krige to prevent the fly from snagging when fishing it blind).

fly fishing nymph



UV black nymph (#12-14)

This fly has worked very well for me on many yellowfish trips. Especially for smallmouth yellowfish, Clanwilliam yellowfish and Natal scalies.

fly fishing nymph



Large scalies feeding in shallow glides between pools were some of the hardest fish to approach and catch. Ben Pellegrini made it look easy – photo by Jeff Tyser.

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