One of my worst times of year as an angler is UNDOUBTELDLY winter. As the fishing slows during the cold months so too does my enthusiasm toward life. I think I speak on behalf of all avid anglers when I say that I find it difficult to keep myself busy during this time. As miserable as I become during the cold winters months there is always one place that slams a warm smile back on my face, and that place is Dullstroom. Dullstroom is an awesome little town in the Mpumalanga province where most fly fishing enthusiasts literally migrate to in the winter months in search of the illusive Trout species: rainbow, golden, and brown trout. Every so often I decide to follow, and with my gross lack of trout hunting knowledge I went up there just a month or so ago in the winter of 2009.
I think that Dullstroom, although a renowned and frequented fly fishing destination, has many great secrets. One of these is a small dam I’ve had the privilege of fishing on more than one occasion. Just 5Km outside of Dullstroom the dam is seemingly unpressured and those that stay on the property have the dam completely to themselves for the duration of their stay. If there was one warning that I could share about Dullstroom it is that the temperatures drop dramatically in winter, sometimes to below zero. BUT the ‘christmasy’ atmosphere that these conditions create, are all just part of the experience for me. I love nothing more than hearing the icy grass crack underneath my shoes as I scout the dam in the early mornings, as well as watching the water from the fly line freezing into crystals around the eyes of my fly rod as I retrieve it with short sharp strips.
Rainbow trout have become one of my favourite species to target. In fact there is something about the whole culture of fly-fishing for trout that grabs me. I love sitting in front of the warm fireplace in the cottage drinking rose while I set up my rig for the following days fishing, or chopping back a castle draft in the Duck and Trout restaurant, in Dullstroom, talking about the days catch, knowing that I am constantly surrounded by like-minded anglers.
Now Trout fishing seems far more delicate than other fishing forms, one has to approach the dam bank with extreme care, and keep noise levels to an absolute minimum. There is something extremely peaceful about the whole experience. Anyway, some advice that I would give to the novice is as follows: Firstly, I always carry a wide variety of Woolybuggers, Red Button Wooly Worms, DDD’s, Hoppers, and especially Red Eye Damsels. The thing I like the most about trout fishing is that the fish, during winter, are visibly active during feeding time snatching falling insects off the water surface. This is the time to cast a dry fly (floating) such as the DDD to the feeding fish. You simply cast it out into the path of the fish allowing it to sit motionless, and hopefully if the fish are feeding on insects, resembled by the DDD, it should be taken fairly quickly. If the DDD does not work one could tie a Hopper pattern to the end of the line and twitch that on the water surface to entice a strike. If the fish are actively feeding on or just under the surface I generally start with a dry fly and then move to wet flies (sinking) if no takes occur. The wet flies that I almost always try are Woolybuggers in black and olive, Red Button Wolly Worms, and my absolute favourite the Red Eye Damsel, in that order. I fish all of these in the same way. I simply cast them out, allow them to sink slightly and then strip them back in short erratic movements of the wrist and forearm. If a fast retrieve doesn’t work, then I try a slow retrieve and vice versa. As far as lines are concerned I always use a floating line with a fluorocarbon leader and tippet. The more I want the fly to sink the longer I make my leader.
Trout Put up a great fight and often show amazing displays of acrobatics, just be sure to use leaders in the ranges of 3x and 4x (preferably fluorocarbon) and be gentle on the fish if possible, as during certain parts of the season they are notorious for breaking even some of the strongest of lines.
If you are interested in trying the venue that we almost always stay at in Dullstroom then please send us an email or comment on this post and we will provide you with the relevant contact details. The cottage is fantastic in its simplicity and consists of two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a beautiful fireplace. It is also situated on a hill with a stunning view. Also remember to visit the scottsman at the Mavungana fly-fishing centre as you arrive in Dullstroom for all your fly-fishing tackle and solutions.