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.
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.
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.
Black CDC hotspot micro-nymph (#20)
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.
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).
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.