THE SOUTH AFRICAN FLY FISHING COMMUNITY

THE SOUTH AFRICAN FLY FISHING COMMUNITY

Fly fishing is, mostly, a solitary pursuit, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit. By joining a club, attending a fly tying evening, or hitting a festival, you’ll learn a lot, make some new chinas, and probably catch more fish. With that in mind, we scanned the length and breadth of South Africa to bring you a roundup that includes venerable institutions formed over 100 years ago, new clubs, secret societies, and epic events. Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie, a social butterfly or Norma No-Mates, there is something in here, and out there, for you.

AMATOLA FLY FISHING CLUB

A mid-size club steeped in history, the Amatola Fly Fishing Club (AFFC) is the result of the 2013 marriage of the Stutterheim Trout Angling Club and the Frontier Acclimatisation Society (South Africa’s oldest fishing club, established circa 1894). With such deep roots it’s no wonder the AFFC has some of the Eastern Cape’s best waters. They host a fundraising jol at Gubu Dam in September every year. affc.co.za 

Waters: The 109ha Gubu Dam, the Maden and Mnyameni still waters, and the lovely, Lilliputian Wolf River near Hogsback.

How much? An initial R200, followed by R990 for locals and R750 for country members per year. Combos apply for couples and pensioners.

AUGRABIES YELLOWFISH FLY FISHING INVITATIONAL

The spectacular gorge and waterfall on the Orange River was named “Aukoerebis” by the Khoi (pronounced AW-GGGRAA-BEES by everyone else), and the name means “great noise”. A great noise is what you might hear at night during the Augrabies Yellowfish Fly Fishing Invitational as attendees get loose after going tight all day. At this four-night event hosted by Craig Eksteen and the Kalahari Outventures crew, guests fish six sessions over several beats. It’s not often that South Africans are permitted to fish in national park territory, so if you’re looking for a yellowfish trip that combines a festival, a jol, and exclusive fishing, this is it. kalahari-adventures.co.za

Waters: The Orange River above and below Augrabies Falls.

How much? Teams of two each will pay R8 995 per person (team entry is R18 990) and there are 16 teams. Includes accommodation, chow, prizegiving, and great yellowfish on fly.

“You get to fish four unbelievable sections of the river that are not usually available to the public. Having three days on foot and one day on a drift boat made it a unique trip. Plus, I got to meet and fish with a bunch of really cool people. The guys from the Vaal were hauling yellows out!” Andre van Wyk

BANKBERG FLY FISHING CLUB

What: This area of the Karoo around Somerset East is one of the unsung centres of South African fly fishing. There are four different biomes and a ton of productive fishing. Thanks largely to the efforts and enthusiasm of local fly guide Alan Hobson of Wild Fly Fishing in the Karoo, members have access to a handful of dams with productive weed beds and feisty fish, including a black bass dam and a few other trout waters, some of which are not open to day visitors. wildflyfishinginthekaroo.co.za

Waters: Four still waters including Besterhoek and Charlton dams, plus you get access to the Naude’s and Buffelshoek rivers. It’s hard to beat a session spent using Alan’s renowned bouncing beetle patterns off the Glen Avon Waterfall and into the maws of rainbows.

How much? R600 once-off, with a R500 sub. Certain waters have a day fee plus R50 for the gate.

IF YOU’RE IN THE AREA and you’ve had your fill of the club’s trout fishing, hire Alan to take you to some farm dams to fish 9-weights and poppers for behemoth barbel that have gorged themselves on dairy slurry. Or go to the Walter Battiss Art Museum in Somerset East for some kultcha. It’s a toss-up…

BARKLY EAST ANGLING SOCIETY

What: Often overlooked by anglers on a pilgrimage to its more famous sister, Rhodes, this understated rainbow trout fishery in the Eastern Cape highlands is run by an active committee that sorts out beat maintenance, riparian-owner agreements, and an annual festival. As one of the first clubs to employ a booking app, Barkly East Angling Society (BEAS) members can use their phones to book beats with SMS confirmation received immediately. Other clubs should take note. A year-long in-house competition allows members to tally their weekend fishing scores and be in the running for sweet gear and, if you’re lucky, maybe even a sheep. facebook.com 

Waters: Barkly East and the surrounding area hosts plus-minus 450km of fishable waters, including the Karringmelk, Flooikraal, and Kraai rivers.

How much? Locals pay R250 and country members pay R500 annually, and both have a R50 per day fishing fee.

BARKLY EAST RIVER FESTIVAL

What: Over three days in November each year, the BEAS accommodates 40 anglers for the local river fly fishing festival. Anglers are split over a selection of waters, taken out by guides in small groups, and put onto the best fly fishing available. There are raffle prizes and lucky draws too. fosaf.org.za

Waters: Depending on what’s firing, waters could include the Kraai River and its tributaries Diepspruit, Vaalhoek, Saalboom, Ruitjiesvlakte, and Langkloofspruit.

How much? R2 500 per person excluding accommodation.

THE BLOEM BARBEL CHALLENGE

What: For this perennial fly-only event, hosted by Free State fly stalwart John Gavin, a fly fishing crew descends on Soetdoring Nature Reserve to catch barbel and carp. John says, “It’s about more than just fishing and braaing next to the water for lunch and having a catnap under a soetdoring tree.” Access to the same water has become challenging, but there are efforts afoot to find new catfish waters so that the Bloem Barbel Challenge can be unleashed upon the world once more. Details on the Central Free State Fly Fishing group on facebook.com.

BOSTON FLY FISHING FESTIVAL

What: Boston is farming hamlet at the foot of the iNhlosane mountain in KwaZulu-Natal. At the eponymous fly fishing festival, 18 teams of four fish four sessions on a selection of dams within the Elands River drainage basin on a catch-and-release basis. Each participant receives a goodie bag and evening meals throughout, while sponsored gear and fishing-trip prizes go to the top anglers per category. Funds raised go towards restocking dams and upkeep of the town by the Boston Country Club. facebook.com

Waters: Still waters donated by private landowners in the Boston and Dargle valleys.

How much? R1 300 per person.

CAPE FLY FISHERS

What: A clandestine, invitation-only club in the Western Cape whose members include Jimmy Hoffa, ElvisPresley, Amelia Earhart, Andrew Cockroft, and Pope Pius the XXX.

Waters: Top secret still waters in the Kouebokkeveld inhabited by monstrous troot and guarded by vacationing Tonton Macoute from Haiti armed with dassies with great incisors.

How much? How much does a soul weigh? Do you know how to dish out backhand panther-grip handjobs? Have you got spare Krugerrands? If you have the right answers to these questions, be on the corner of Buitengracht and Castle Street in Cape Town wearing a jackal-fur mankini at 3am on February 29 and wait for a pickup from a mustard-coloured Lada with a furry dash. Tell the driver, “My milkshake brings all the clannies to the yard and my waders smell like Apache trout,” then accept the suppositories he gives you and get in the boot. All will be revealed at the end of your trip.

CAPE PISCATORIAL SOCIETY

What: In the storied Mercantile Building on Hout Street in Cape Town’s CBD sits the venerable Cape Piscatorial Society (CPS) headquarters. Take the oldest working elevator in Cape Town to the fourth floor. There you will find the club room, with one of the largest fly-fishing libraries in the Southern Hemisphere, a flea-bitten giant kingfisher, and long-dead, eye-patch wearing and pipe-smoking legends of the club peering down from the walls on old and new CPS members meeting up for fly tying evenings and slide nights. A super-active club with new member orientation, river clean-ups, and social gatherings, the CPS has a serious legacy and comes with the status of having established reciprocal relationships with other fly fishing clubs around the world. piscator.co.za

Waters: Main rivers include the Smalblaar/Molenaars, Elandspad, Witte, and Holsloot plus there’s an annual raffle for slots to fish the fabled, access-restricted Jan du Toits. Lakenvlei is the CPS’s alpine-esque still water above Ceres in the Cape Fold Mountains.

How much? A start-up fee of R122 and an annual membership of R680, plus R370 for rights to the rivers or still waters.

MOST PEOPLE TRY to book the Lakenvlei hut in winter because that’s still water season and freezing suffer-fests are a thing. But book it in summer and there’s less competition for slots, there’s still quality fishing in the mornings and late afternoons, and you can enjoy a swim in the heat of the day.

“My journey with the CPS began in the mid-90s and has created precious memories and wonderful times spent bonding with the family, not only on our beautiful Western Cape streams, but in the rest of South Africa as well.” Imraan Parker

CAPE PISCATORIAL SOCIETY RIVER FESTIVAL

What: Every November, the CPS hosts an excellent river festival with guided fishing on the Western Cape’s premier whiskey-coloured dry fly rivers. Evenings include expert casting tutelage, fly tying tutorials, serious fish chats, and prizegivings. If you’re new to the Cape streams or have just started fly fishing, there’s no better induction. piscator.co.za

Waters: Smalblaar, Elandspad and Holsloot rivers.

How much? R3 500 per person includes guiding, grub, and two nights’ accommodation at Du Kloof Lodge.

“The CPS River Festival was absolutely brilliant! The best way possible to start my fly fishing lifetime adventure.” Murray Krug

This is only up to the letter “C”! Read the rest of Community in issue 40. It’s free and it’s fantastic!

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