There’s a time to be quiet and there’s a time to be heard. For Richard Wale, when it comes to conserving the Zandvlei leervis and the general fish population of his home waters, Cape Town’s premier urban estuary, staying quiet no longer makes sense.

Zandvlei leervis
Stonking leerie.

Zandvlei leervis
Rich with a fine specimen.

Zandvlei leervis

I first fished Zandvlei when I was in my early teens. After quite a few missions I finally managed to catch my first decent leervis (garrick) in the Marina Da Gama area on an old-school Tasmanian Devil spinning lure. This was before the time of mobile phones and digital photos. But that moment is etched in my memory. Every time I go past the spot where I caught that first leerie I feel a sense of nostalgia.

My peers in our school’s piscatorial society, some of whom I am still in touch with, motivated those first visits to Zandvlei. Bar a few missions in between, it was only in my late twenties that I really started fishing Zandvlei properly.  This was prompted by the fact that I moved to within five minutes of the estuary. I still live here. What I discovered that very first time and what has been reinforced again and again over the years, is that Zandvlei has amazing fly fishing for leervis. 

There, I said it…

Local angler and resident Tyron Knight with a beast.

…While local anglers have done what they can to protect it over the years, the problems facing Zandvlei are too big and too numerous to face alone. We need help, because if we don’t do something about this special place, we will lose it altogether. That’s not a dramatic statement, because it has happened to other urban estuaries right under our noses. Milnerton estuary, for example, on the other side of Cape Town, used to produce good leeries and other species of fish, but is now a heavily-polluted body of water that neither new-comers nor hard-core fisherman can find any value in. In my opinion, it is beyond the point of conservation and it is even questionable as a long-term restoration project. This is not the case for Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve just yet, but it easily could be. 

For us by us

Everyone who cares about the place will lose out if Zandvlei is ruined, not just anglers. Zandvlei is obviously not just about the fishing. The more time I spend on the water here, the more I understand how much this place gives to locals. People from all walks of life canoe and paddleboard on the water. Birders twitch. People walk their dogs here every day; they play soccer and fly kites on the lawns and, on the weekends, entire extended families have braais at the municipal braai-places. It’s easy to see why.

With a vista that ranges from ocean views of False Bay, to the ring of mountains stretching from Muizenberg Peak right above Zandvlei, across Ou Kaapse Weg and Silvermine, Steenberg, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, it’s one of the most picturesque settings in one of the most picturesque cities on earth. That it has a resident population of good-sized leervis makes it even better. 

Zandvlei’s bird hide on Park Island.

Read Richie’s full feature in issue 29. It’s free!

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2 thoughts on “OPEN SECRETS”

  1. Hi I am living in Pretoria and Glencairn. And a rookie fly fishing enthusiast. I did not know I could fish in Zandvlei. And would like to make some fishing friends. How can I get involved? Regards. Lourens

  2. I was here last year and witnessed a truck dumping affluent into the estuary from the car park behind the water slides


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