The Vaal river is fast becoming the fishing destination of my dreams. A fishing buddy of mine, the talented Chris Le Roux, took me out a couple weeks ago around the 8th October 2011. I thought I knew small mouth yellowfish fly fishing, but the reality is that I just didn’t, until now. We fished a new venue near Parys, which was unlike anything I have experienced before. I’m used to targeting yellows but catching more muddies than anything else. This was different. For sure, being a self proclaimed amateur yellow angler, i’l admit that I struggled to get into the fish. Up till lunchtime I never saw so much as a golden scale. But once the water warmed up and we found the honey holes, the fishing was beyond beautiful! Chris landed a large number more than I did, but the number of times that I got broken off in the rapids by some of the strongest fish I have hooked into was immense. I loved every moment, and learnt a lot from Chris in the process. Between us i think we must have landed close to 18 small mouth yellowfish, only four of which were mine…
For beginners I would suggest starting with a pretty hefty leader and tippet. I went with 3 kg leader and tippet, but it was just too light for me. I’d suggest around 4 to 5 kg line, JUST to begin with. I can see all the experienced anglers cringing while reading that, but it’s my advice take it or leave it. Pulling motoring yellows out of strong flowing current is challenging enough as it is, let alone with light line. I guess it does depend on current speed and therefore the slower the current the lighter you can afford your tippet. I would also suggest a three fly Czech Nymphing rig (see Czech style here). This method allows your flies to behave more freely in the water whereas the more commonly used New Zealand trace is known to hamper natural movement. When it comes to fly selection a common technique is lifting up any lose rocks that you feel under your feet in the river. As Chris explained, under every rock is a clue to what flies you should be fishing! Simply lift a rock, and match your flies to the colour, shape and size of the creatures that you find clinging to the bottom. These are the bugs that the yellowfish are intercepting as they get washed off the rocks in the strong current. Makes sense!
Some advice and this is something I have mentioned before in a previous post. There are a few things that you simply CANNOT go without when targeting yellows on the Vaal. I cannot stress how important they are. Do not even think about wetting your feet in the river without:
1. Wading boots
Proper wading boots are a MUST. They are not cheap but they are also a necessity. And don’t skimp on this, they must have felt soles, ankle guards and a hard toe. TRUST me the rocks in the river are treacherous and it’s easy to roll an ankle, slip or even break a toe or two.
2. Wading stick
This is basically a walking stick that allows us to negotiate the unstable and unpredictable river bed a little easier. It literally acts as a third leg which helps you to balance. There are many makes on the market made from a variety of materials: aluminium, graphite, wood, etc. However you can quite easily just make your own out of an old broomstick or a branch from the garden. In fact Chris believes that wood is the only way to go as commercial sticks are over-priced and the aluminium variety make too much noise clashing with rocks under water. If you don’t think this is necessary then give the river a go without one and let me know how it goes.
3. Sun screen/ buff/ hat/ shades
The sun is unforgiving out on the water. Dont risk it, you know the drill. just put sun screen on and cover your face.
4. Landing net
Finally, the landing net. It’s hard enough trying to keep balance and fight a fish on some seriously tough underwater terrain, trying to land a large yellowfish without a net at the same time is damn near impossible. It’s not worth chancing and you WILL lose more fish than is necessary.
And that’s basically that! Follow these guidelines and pack the appropriate equipment and you can’t go wrong with smallmouth yellows. Tight lines.