Fishing the Elandspad river: “So, we fish upstream?”

“Ja well, the fish are all facing upstream to intercept food, so that’s a pretty good way to fish dries.”

Tudor continues in the background as the reality of how we are going to be fishing dawns on me. I’m essentially going to be walking up river and casting some miserably small critter towards an even more miserably small fish in a pool the size of a large bath tub.

So let’s pause here. I’ll fill you in on the back story. I had fished this river, the Elandspad, before. Or, more accurately I had successfully poached this river before. When I was a laaitjie, maybe 10 or something, my folks used to take myself and my unruly coalition of mates fishing at the trout farm in Du Toits Kloof. One day on the way back to Cape Town after a lovely day hammering stocked trout and handling them with hands coated in salt and vinegar chips and grass before illegally releasing back into the pond, I convinced my dad to stop and let us go explore the river under the bridge before the tunnel.

Armed with a bait caster and an orange and yellow Mepps #3 spinner, we set off walking in to what I now know as EP1, or just above the weir. A few casts later I had hooked into what must have been a 20cm rainbow. I remember thinking that this thing was 2.2kgs and far bigger than any rainbow I had caught before on the farm, but being a wild, formidable and resilient trout, this few hundred grams outfought a farmed fish many times over.

Having landed and successfully bludgeoned my quarry (Sorry Louis) I went home and asked my mum to cook my wild and delicious trout.

This Saturday I found myself back on the Elandspad, deep in the canyon on EP2 and gearing up to go dry fly fishing for trout. Legally this time. I had been invited by Tudor to give this whole trout thing a try. I was skeptical, but open-minded and excited.

The truth of the matter is that, it’s not always perfect conditions at Strand to go target kob and leeries, it’s not always easy to a group of okes together to go ham on a few Eastern Cape estuaries for a week, and with the Orange river blown out, options not only become limited in terms of species and technique, but also on where to head geographically. The Elandspad lies near as makes no difference an hour from Cape Town, but once you get onto the stream, forget cars, cell signal and generally people except for the odd hiker.

Trout occur everywhere, literally. While I can wax lyrical about their distant cousins Salmo salar (Atlantic Salmon) which I guide for in Norway, in the grander scheme of things I know nothing about the little rosy cheeked buggers in our streams.

But I had Tudor. Tudor knows a thing or two about trout.

We setup our rods, and tied on some diabolically small leaders and some flies that resembled miniature tumbleweeds with a floaty sponge part. I later learned the name of which is a DAB or RAB or something. Armed with no idea of the technique needed here but overflowing with excitement, eagerness and enthusiasm, we headed off upstream, which in itself felt wrong going against the flow of the gentle stream.

Initially I just observed Tudor prospecting in what are essentially potholes on a road tarred by water. Tiny, I mean really minuscule pockets of fast flowing water. It would have surprised me to find even algae growing in there.

Before I realized it, Tudes was bending the little rod and giving the poor fish on the other ends some real horns. He got the fish to net after a fun little tussle and I was in complete shock. The fact a fish came out of that hole blew my mind. The other thing that got me was how quickly the feisty little rainbow rushed the tumbleweed on the surface.

I was up next. I started waving around my 6X tippet wand and “presenting” my spongy tumbleweed to all the hide outs I thought big enough to house a fish. What took me two or three failed attempts to learn is exactly how quick these little bastards are. Tudor made a likeness to the slapping hands game. This wasn’t an underestimation. These guys devour a fly off the surface like it’s no one business.

Fishing the Elandspad river
Nic Schwerdtfeger getting to grips with light tippet and small fish on the Elandspad river
Fishing the Elandspad river
Nic with his first legal Cape streams rainbow trout

By some miracle of blind luck, Tudor shouting at me to set, and, when it counted, fast enough reaction time, I caught my first wild rainbow trout on dry fly. Legally. I was well beyond stoked after having frommelled the previous few. Success! I was ecstatic when I got my 10 inch bar of silver, speckled brown and rosy red into the net.

This fish meant a lot, not because it was my first, but because I had history with this river. We had an unfinished business of sorts after I had poached that fish some 22 years ago. Fuck I’m old. It felt like a tip of the hat to the river. Now we were on even playing terms. The other reason this fish meant a lot was that I had broadened my skill set as a fly fisherman. I had added a new arrow to the quiver of arbitrary talents needed to be a good all round fly chucker. Which for some reason, seems to be important to me.

We continued up the river for the rest of the afternoon and ended the day with 3-4 fish each. Which I am told is pretty much par for the course this late in the season if you insist on only fishing dry flies as we did. Still, despite their combined mass being well under 500gr, they put an absolutely massive smile on my face. The valley is amazing in itself. The company great, the fishing challenging and completely different to anything I have done before.

Am I converted? Who knows?

Will I fish the streams again? YES. Definitely.

Am I trolling Facebook and Gumtree for a good used 3wt? YES.

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