Keys To Success: Fly Fishing The Rivers

The Eastern Cape is one of the most diverse fishing areas in South Africa, and is just an amazing area to fly-fish. Saltwater fly-fishing can be a very intimidating prospect, and can be frustrating if you are not on the right path. I hope this article can shed some light on fly-fishing in the Eastern Cape, and can help you catch fish on a more regular basis.

Where To Start?

Eastern Cape Fly FishingA lot of fly fishermen start off on the wrong foot, by using heavy rods and large flies. Before you can start targeting fish like Grunter, Leerie’s and Kob, you need to know the dynamics of the areas you are fishing, and what smaller species are around. If you think you can rock up with a 9 weight and catch a 4-kilogram Grunter in every session, you are wrong. Fly-fishing is a sport of patience, technique and understanding.

To start off, fish light, a 4 or 5 weight rod will be perfect. Arm yourself with a variety of small flies, such as Crazy Charlies, Fritz’s and Salty Buggers. Then it is time to start exploring. Go to familiar spots where you have caught on bait or artificial before, somewhere you are confident in. I believe confidence and having a positive mind influences you as a fisherman, and fly-fishing is no different.

What To Do?

Fritz Imitates A GlassyOnce you have found that confidence boosting spot, now you can fish. Make a mental note of the area you are fishing. What kind of bait is readily available in the immediate area? Are there prawn banks? Schools of mullet? Glassies, Swimming Prawns? And so on. This will help at a later stage. Now it is time to set up. If you are in very shallow water, a floating or intermediate will suffice. If it is a deeper area, or there is a nice drop off, use sinking line. The line should be matched to the setup you are fishing (For example a 4 weight rod should be matched with a 4 weight reel and a 4/5 weight line).

Now, based on what bait you noted in the immediate area, choose your fly.

  • Lots of mullet = Clouser Minnow
  • Lots of mud/sand prawn = Crazy Charlie
  • Lots of glassies = Fritz
  • Lots of invertebrates/swimming prawn = Salty Bugger

The last part of the job is then tying on your leader and selecting the right colour fly. For ultra light fly-fishing with a 4 weight, I use between 4lb and 8lb fluorocarbon. The water colour can influence the fly you choose but I have found that Chartreuse, Brown, White, Pink, Orange and Red are the go to colours in the Eastern Cape. And if they are all mixed together, it is a bonus.

Time To Cast

We can finally start casting. Saltwater fly-fishing can require some serious casting and break-breaking work, so being a good caster is essential. Work the entire area you are at least 3 times with one fly before you decide to change. With the smaller flies you should be getting knocks and takes if you are in the right area. So keep moving and cover lots of water, and when you find the fish, stay with them!

You should become familiar with the smaller species of fish and the areas, so move around and use the tackle you currently have for a few sessions. If you do not catch fish, find new spots and try new things. But with the flies and tackle mentioned above, you will catch fish when you find them. Species such as Stumpnose, Moony, Blacktail, Karanteen and small Leerie’s will be caught during this process.

Time To Step Up

Now you should be confident with the area you are fishing and you should know it well, as well as what is swimming around. Now you can turn to your larger setups such as a 6 or 7-weight (I would not go any bigger in the rivers). Bigger versions of the flies mentioned above will be successful, and now you can also start using larger flies such as Slammers, Flippers, Epoxy Mullet, Woolhead Mullet, Baby Cray, Dog’s Breakfast, White Death and even the GRHE can all be used. If I had to choose 4 imitations however, they would be different sizes and colours of the Fritz, Salty Bugger, Crazy Charlie and Clouser Minnow.

Fishing for the bigger fish can be frustrating and time consuming, so make sure you work out the areas well in advance before you try and tackle them. Always look for structure, drop-offs and holes. And you need to remember the saying “perseverance pays off”, it is just how fly-fishing is. Nothing matches the adrenaline rush and happiness once you get a saltwater fish to commit to a fly, so it is very rewarding. And just in case, always keep that 4-weight fly rod handy, lots of fun can be had while timing or waiting for the tides.

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