Dullstroom: Winter Wonderland

Always try to raise the fish's head

Always try to raise the fish's head

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.

Beautiful Rainbow

Beautiful Rainbow

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.

Dress Warm

Dress Warm

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.

Another Rainbow

Another Rainbow

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.

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6 responses to “Dullstroom: Winter Wonderland

  • Manuel "Manny"Carvalho

    Found your site by surfing the net,looking at fishing sites,I enjoy casting a few feathers around,I plan to return to RSA mid next year,and will be visiting my old school (Belfast) the frist time in same 50 years!!! and visit the district,and naturaly Dullstroom (playd rugby there once!!!)is it safe to travel in the area?what is the best time of the year? will,bring along a 5wt a 7wt and 10wt (to use for tiger on the Chobe/Zambezi.What are the paterns of you dry and wet flys,and in what size?
    Tight lines for 2010 Manny the land of Oz

  • thebassboat

    hi Manny, thanks for your comment. im not a seasoned trout angler so im only speaking form my experience. i like to use the flies mensioned above. the olive and and black wolly buggers in sizes 12 or 14, and i like them with a decent sized bead head to get them to sink nicely. red eyed damsels i like them tied in a dark olive colour as apposed to too light with red glass beads as eyes as apposed to the red tying material that many prefer to use for eyes. then topwater i only use DDDs and hoppers, same sizes, 12 to 14. best time of year would be the winter months, i love july the most, its coldest and i have had most success during this time of year, you can catch them in summer but its tough fishing. id stick to May, June, July. the colder the better and the bite is distinclty early morning late after noon. you will see the surface action. i would say the area is extremely safe but crime is everywhere. i can only speak for the dullstroom area and its safe. enjoy it when you come down and please update me, would love to know how you go, send us pics and stories il post them on the site if you want. enjoy. hope that helps. i also know a very quaint little cottage with a private dam as mentioned in the article. so if you dont need to many luxuries and want good rates let me know and il e-mail the details. dam has some MASSIVE fish but it is quite difficult to fish depending on the state of the reeds around the bank (waders will do you good). the cottage is about 4 km out side of dullstroom so it not far to find other dams too. take care.

  • greg

    Hi, I loved your notes on dullstroom. As an enthusiastic but very new angler i found your hints very useful. I too enjoy the whole dullstroom experience and try go whenever time permits. So far my favourite place to stay and fish is Field and Stream. However i am on the look out for other alternatives. The cottage you describe sounds idyllic and i would appreciate it if you could send details.

  • Matt

    Hi all,

    Great article and I cannot wait to get back to Dullstroom after 13 years of being away. Visiting in November and looking for a cottage exactly like you described, small, intimate, great views, for 2 people with some tasty fishing to watch the world go by. Can you please send me through the details and if I can by you a beer in town let me know.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Ebrahim

    Hi,
    Thank you for such an informative site. I would like to take my three young sons on a bass fishing trip. Is the place you describe suitable for this and is it appropriate in winter. Please advise…Thanks.
    Regards,
    Ebrahim

    • thebassboat

      Hi there Ebrahim,

      Unfortunately the venue does not stock bass at all and is strictly trout. depending on what area you are from i would suggest taking them for some trout fishing during winter and save the bass for the warmer months. Im not sure what level your boys are fishing wise but there is an awesome little trout farm named footloose trout farm near monte casino, fourways. it consists of a bunch of small little dams stocked to the brim with trout. they also offer rods for hire and all your bait. it is very easy fishing and i must say can get expensive as i think they charge around R90 a kilo for trout and do not allow catch and release for the trout. in summer it is a brilliant venue because they stock carp, bass, barbel and kurper and many nice sized fish can be taken. they also have a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool on site and everything is easily accessible. talking about trout fly fishing, I know its not everyones cup of tea but dullstroom has many places for this. dullstroom tourism online would have much information on the various places.

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