Waters & words : a celebration of flyfishing

Current flyfishing conditions

Like most passionate flyfishers, I keep my ears to the ground about weather and fishing conditions. When I am heading out, I want to gather as much information I can, to try to establish what water levels, clarity or temperature I should expect. I also like to know how others are doing; not because I want to follow them to their private hotspot, but just to know if things have been slow, or brilliant, or somewhere in between. In keeping with that, this page is definitely not intended to blow good fishing spots, so if that was what you were hoping for, sorry!

My fishing news is also sporadic, as are my opportunities to get out, and this page will be updated according to when I get news, so I’m afraid I can’t commit to a schedule. What I can share is “Updates” (more comprehensive) and “Check ins” (bullet style one-liners). I will share these on twitter and Facebook, so check that out to keep up to date:

Twitter and Facebook: click here and follow

or check in here as you need.

Check in: 8 June 2022

So 1 June kicked off with serious frost, it has been winter ever since, and the streams are a weirdly distant memory. Funny how that works..

On the last week-end of May some friends and I fished a stillwater in the Dargle for many hours with disappointing results, but hey, a few days later others were on the same water and caught more fish in 2 hours than we did in a weekend, with one big fish in the mix. Likewise a private festival that same week-end apparently produced a lot of only small fish, but the Kamberg Festival the week-end just passed produced its usual range of fish of all sizes, including some impressively large ones out there. One of the NFFC dams produced awesome fishing like it used to in days gone by, so there’s a counter to anyone who bemoans how its not as good as it used to be! My friend Wayne tells me they were variously eating minnows (which surprisingly were still around on at least one water), snails at other venues, and I have no doubt the ubiquitous Woolly Bugger in between. Does anyone know the latin name of the thing the Woolly Bugger represents?

So generally your typical winter situation. Icy mornings which are often still. Invariably a north wind that gets up and persists for much of the day, but otherwise pleasantly warm sunny days. And fish that turn on and off seemingly without reason, but there is never a good reason not to go out and keep experimenting.

Check in: 20 May 2022

I have been laid up with COVID and have missed the last 2 weeks of life on the water….right in the middle of what is arguably the sweetest spot of the year! That would be sweet whether you were on a stillwater or a stream. I have seen pictures from friends of absolute stonkers coming from all manner of stillwaters around the province. In addition a few friends have been on the rivers, and found fish feeding and not the least bit “turned to breeding” . There have been good reports from the upper end of the uMngeni, where fish have been witnessed feeding on very small flies, and it seems, rejecting hoppers. The water is startlingly clean, but flows are still very good for this time of year. (Midmar is still overflowing). The forecast is for a cut off low, and cold weather to arrive this afternoon (just ahead of the week-end as usual!), and perhaps that will usher in the turn, and the end of the river season.

Check in: 10 May 2022

The uMngeni was looking superb yesterday. That is at Chestnuts, where it has been off colour for so many months now, together with everything upstream of that. All crystal clear, but with strong flows. You could not hope for better. I have no doubt that all the other Trout streams look the same, as we have had clear stable weather, with very little rain for a while now. But water temps are dropping, and there are only 20 days of river season left.

Check in: 1 May 2022

I took some footage of the uMngeni at “The Glides” on Friday afternoon, narrated and all, in which I said that the river was flowing strongly, but a tiny bit off colour. That is out of date now (Sunday)….I just met the owner at breakfast, and he said it is crystal clear this morning. In a similar vein, I can confirm that the Mtshezi is crystal up in the reserve, albeit a little “slatey” on the tribal water lower down. The Furth stream is full and crystal clear. The Mooi is looking magnificent . All the above confirmed by guys on the water who have described it or sent me photos. Consensus is that the water everywhere is a little quick, but that you can use a dry fly at least somewhere, and water is clean. The weather forecast indicates sunny mild weather for the next 10 days across the berg and midlands. There are no more than about 3 weeks of season left on the Brown trout streams. As advised by Boo Gilbraith : “call in sick”.

Check in: 28th April 2022

What a pleasure to have a public holiday mid-week! I crossed the uMngeni and it was still off colour, but clearing, as was the Furth stream. Add to that, no appreciable rain is forecast for the next 10 days or so, as shown on the YR weather app. So I reckon we are going to sneak in a maximum of about 3 weeks of autumn fishing at the tail end, and before the late May cold sends the Browns into breeding mode. Yes, it is as limited as 3 weeks…and then it will be stillwater season. (Did you know that the end of season date here in KZN has varied widely over the years, but during a good chunk of my formative years it was 15th May).

And talking of cold: I have measured water temps of 14 degrees C in 2 high altitude stillwaters in the last 7 days. I often consider 11 degrees C as a switchpoint. That happens to be the water temperature reported by my friend Richard from the upper Umzimkulu where he was in recent days. He reckons the rivers were clear as a bell and looking superb though.

Check in: 25 April 2022

Friday night it poured with rain again, just as the rivers were starting to drop and clear! It seems that this was the case over a wide area. The Bushmans, and the uMngeni were both in spate and off colour on Saturday, and I can only imagine that the Mooi between them was in a similar state. Pictures from the Lotheni show it high and “slaty”. I saw the uMngeni late Friday and it was still off colour, but starting to gain transparency. Saturday morning it was the colour of a road drain and totally opaque. Of course they would have started clearing in the higher reaches on Sunday, but last night (Sunday night) there was widespread rain again. In between all this , guys are getting in some fishing here and there, like my friend Neil who got a big rainbow (hatchery escapee) on the Bushmans on Sunday ….but you really have to pick your days, go upstream, and throw some tungsten. You will definitely find some fish, the number probably proportional to how much weight you are happy to chuck. If, like me you shun beads over 2.5mm, you will be limiting yourself, but a Mepps is heavy and I have managed to shun those …….

It is starting to feel as though the golden weeks of autumn river fishing will have been washed out completely! I suppose there is always a stillwater. Those are full, and cool and looking pretty damned good. I was on one of them in the Dargle on Saturday. Interestingly I got a hen fish with its ovipositor protruding, and I just heard from a mate that at another water the cock fish are displaying winter colours.

Check in: 20 April 2022

The uMngeni, Inzinga and every tributary you can name in those catchments were full and dirty over the weekend. We have had some sun since then. In fact glorious autumn weather, but I reckon the lower beats will take a few more days to settle. I see some blokes have caught Trout up in the higher reaches on the weekend , but as far as I could see it was done in grey coloured water and with big beads. The water is no doubt clean now, but I think you will still need those beads

Check in: 15 April 2022

Apologies. Its been a bit of a hiatus. I know. I have received calls.

There was a work thing. Then there was a fishing trip. Then there was more work stuff. But as you can all know, in between has been a flood big enough that my mate Brett has been watching it on TV in Oz.

I crossed the uMngeni at the Chestnuts bridge yesterday, as well as the Furth stream higher up. They were totally blown out. And as I write this our two and a half days of sun are over, and it is raining again. The weather forecast reckons its going to be 9 degrees C and raining at the high altitude lake I had my eyes on. I’ve just tidied my tying desk and I am sitting down to tie something with beads.

Check in: 18th March 2022

Check in: 14 March 2022

Wet, Wet , Wet! Saturday saw the Mooi at Riverside flowing very full and a bit milky. The Reekie Lyn Stream even fuller, and by the looks of the video a mate sent, a bit more than milky. On Thursday the Inzinga, Furth stream and uMngeni were all unfishable, and the Inzinga in particular dirty beyond what you would ever fish, and not safe to put your toe into. On Sunday the very upper uMngeni near the Lyndhurst road was beautifully clean, despite running full, but after the Poort joins it, and on down through Sheardown, it was just too fast and coloured to tempt me. A friend caught some feisty rainbows at Injasuthi on the weekend, but he confirmed that it was too full to wade and would have been dangerous to attempt a crossing. I was also sent a video of the Bushmans at the clinic, going over the road bridge on the 6th March. I have not seen that before!

Then yesterday the temperature in the Dargle and elsewhere reached 30 degrees C, and as I write we are having a sustained downpour with lots of rain predicted around the province.

I don’t often admit defeat, but right now my focus is on fly tying!

Check in: 4 March 2022

Last Friday night, the Reekie Lyn stream came up over the bridge to the extent that it was impassable. As the flood waters receded, it left a badly damaged road, but by late on Saturday, the stream was running clear again, and there were anglers on the river below! There were also anglers out at Stillerus, Tendele and Kamberg, and even before the Reekie Lyn stream had cleared, they got clean water, as did anglers on the Bushmans. With the downpours Friday evening, water temperatures were as low as 17 degrees C on the upper Mooi on Saturday. By Saturday night there were storms again, and traversing the area on Wednesday there was evidence of heavy rain all over the place. The uMngeni was brim full and off- colour, and even up at the top, where it simply wouldn’t have been true to pass it off as merely brackish. The road up through the Dargle is in a state, as are those across the Inzinga and Lotheni catchment, where streams were all coloured on Wednesday. The last two days have seen intense heat, and starting today, more rain.

But I just saw a video of a Ukranian farmer stealing a Russian tank and towing it away with his tractor; so are there fishing opportunities out there on the streams this week-end?

Hell yeah!

Check in: 22 Feb 2022

Things really are a mixed bag. Last Wednesday, after a seemingly long break in the rain (i.e. a few days), I fished the upper uMngeni. It was full, brakkish and 20 degrees C with a fair bit of detritus in the water, but certainly not muddy. That night there were storms all over the place, with rainfall in the Kamberg from as low as 5mm to 25mm, and a spot near uMngeni vlei getting 48mm. We have had storms most afternoons since then, but not consistent rainfall across the area, so its impossible to know which river is clean when. I am told the uMngeni was dirty at Chestnuts yesterday. As for the rest: the Mooi, Lotheni, Bushmans……I really don’t know, and if I did and reported it here the news could be outdated within hours.

Check in :9 Feb 2022

Check in: 7 Feb 2022

My mate Richard was up on the Bushman’s on the week-end and sent me a clip of the river down at the clinic bridge. It was going like a steam train, but a slate colour rather than plain muddy. Richard reckons lower down, and with the contribution of the Ncibidwane, it was muddy. The Mooi is also full to its banks and off colour, and I’m told, was packed with competition fishermen at Tendele on the week-end. The uMngeni was still off colour at the Chestnuts bridge yesterday, but there too, not chocolate. Speaking to a farmer up on the Furth stream, he reckons they got 27mm of rain over Friday/Saturday…..significantly less than the 60mm reported much further downstream. But the Furth Stream was flowing very strong, and possibly contributing most of the colour to the uMngeni. So I reckon if you go high enough, you will find some water to fish, but it will definitely be fast! It may be cool though. Richard tells me the Bushman’s was 16.5 degrees, a whole lot better than stillwaters which are reporting surface temps of up to 23 degrees after last week’s heatwave. NFFC has closed its stillwaters and rightly so!

Check in: 31 Jan 2022

OK, so I crossed the uMngeni at Chestnuts (again!) today just after sunrise. The catchment clearly didn’t get the crazy storm Friday afternoon, because while it was still off colour there, it was only slightly so. The next cool day we get: Sheardown…..go.

Check in: 30 Jan 2022

On Friday afternoon, here in Hilton, we had 85mm of rain in about two hours. It was an utter deluge. The rivers that all feed into the uMkhomazi however, were unaffected, had dropped well down from their spate flow of the week-end before, and were all looking absolutely magnificent. I didn’t bother taking a water temperature (because that would have cut into time when my dry fly could have been in a drift!), but the water felt warm…lets say 20 degrees C. That’s what we would expect with all the hot weather we have been having.

Check in: 23 Jan 2022

Check in: 20 January 2022

Check in: 15 January 2022

My friend Ray was up on the Mooi yesterday looking for some water to fish. It had been raining Friday night. This is what he found:

Thanks for the pics Ray.

It is raining again now, and the weather forecast that I follow predicts over an inch over the entire region in the next 24 hours. Time to tie some flies!

Check In: 12 January 2022

A Recce up the uMngeni catchment today revealed the river still in spate and blown-out at Chestnuts. The Furth stream was also going like a steam train, and the roads were rutted with storm damage. There were signs of sheet wash, erosion off maize fields, and silt at the bottom of slopes. I’m guessing you will find clean water if you go high up the berg streams, but it is all likely to be fast water.

Check in: 30 December 2021

Yesterday, I was at a stillwater in the Inzinga catchment, and noticed that the dam was not overflowing. I spoke to the farmer, and he said that while rains have been very good, they haven’t had the damaging deluge storms that the likes of the Kamberg and the Dargle have had in recent days. The Inzinga itself was clean (but still pleasingly full). The Lotheni is clean in its upper reaches, although, my mate Ray says that he crossed it with the utmost care, and judging by his video he was wise to do so. Along the Lotheni road, just before the end of the tar section, there is evidence of severe sheet-wash coming off the north east slopes of Spionkop, and the stream at Staybraes was running brown yesterday afternoon. The fact that the Lions river was still spilling its banks down at Lidgetton yesterday evening also talks to the fact that there must have been an enormous storm in the vicinity of War Common (Those 4 distinct hills that run eastwards from Spionkop, and mark the watershed between the Lions and the Mooi). That will almost certainly have muddied the lower stretches of the Mooi, just up from Springgrove, and the uMngeni too. I know the uMngeni and the Furth were both still off-colour on the 27th. A friend of mine runs a weather station on the hills near the source of the uMngeni, and he told me this morning that they have had 465mm of rain since the 10th November. That is pretty significant rain! I know the uMngeni will still be dirty.

I had an afternoon on a stillwater in the upper Elands catchment just after Christmas. The water was clean, but the dam was full. The water temp at this as well as the Inzinga water, was running 20 degrees C at the surface. On both dams the minnow were active, and so were the trout chasing them.

A well chewed Muddler Minnow

We nabbed a few of them…it was exciting stuff, with smash takes and wild fights. A ten pound Brown caught by my buddy made it all the more memorable.

I would imagine the upper stretches of the streams will mostly be clean, but very full. Has anyone heard any news from the Incibidwana and Bushmans? Please do drop me a note if you know. (truttablog@gmail.com)

My dry fly friend says he has still been able to get fish in side eddies and quiet pockets on a well placed dry fly. He fishes these on a 10 foot rod, allowing him to almost drop the fly into a pocket from behind a nearby rock…kinda tenkara style.

For the rest, you are going to need some tungsten to get down. Just be careful of your rod tip! A friend and I both broke rods last week, after a direct hit with a bead. Mine is fixed, and I fished it yesterday. It has a bit of a set in it, but it withstood a few fish, and some long double haul casts, so I reckon all is OK. Now I just have to keep it away from hail storms and lightning….both of which are predicted this afternoon (by my insurance company, who seem to be running scared)

Check in: 23 December 2021

There was overnight rain across the whole midlands and berg on the night of the 21st, and the Mooi was brim-full, and slate coloured at Riverside bridge on the morning of the 22nd, but fishable higher up, although it was running quick, and the water temperature was 15 degrees C. Two storms on the afternoon of the 22nd put paid to that. This video was taken around 3 pm, when the slug of brown water had just arrived down from the mountains, and before it had reached Riverside. There were widespread heavy storms on the afternoon of the 22nd, making clean water an unlikely prospect anywhere.

Check in: 20 December 2021

The infrequency of my reports here is partly because the conditions change so quickly, that if I leave it a day it hardly seems worth passing comment. Also, when you get in a fair bit of fishing, the time in-between can easily get gobbled up catching up on work, rather than filling in the conditions for your mates.

Five days back, after good solid rains, and people talking about the rivers being washed out, the Mooi was looking superb. Yesterday, after 4 days of mostly soft rain, and reports of the rivers being washed out, all the rivers in the uMkhomazi catchment…….were looking superb. Well…they were a bity “slaty” at the road crossings, but higher up they were as clear as glass, and full too. I have been measuring 17 degrees C water temps in the mornings, and in the sunny patch before the rain….20 degrees by mid afternoon. Now that we have had 4 cool days at a trot, it could be cooler. But as I write there is another rain shower, so who knows if the river you have in mind will be clean.

If you get there, and its not clean….go higher. When you find clean water, no matter how fast: Try the pockets (even dinner plate size pockets). And try a dry fly. That is all I am saying.

Check in: 10 December 2021

Last week-end, the rivers were all looking great. Between Friday and Saturday reports from the uMngeni, Inzinga, Lotheni, Bushmans , Mooi, and uMkhomazi were that the rivers were clean, even as late as Saturday early afternoon, despite driving rain all day Saturday. By late Saturday, lower reaches were reported dirty in places. But I can report that the whole upper uMkhomazi catchment (all tribs) were still clean late Saturday, and that less rain fell in this zone than in the Underberg area to the south, and Giants Castle area to the north.

The uMngeni (and its tribs the Furth Stream and Poort Stream), were crystal clear again by Wednesday, despite 15mm of rain the night before:

While water temps of 17 degrees were reported on the upper Bushmans, the uMngeni at Furth was at 21 degrees on Wednesday afternoon. One has to remember through, that river temperatures are FAR more variable than stillwaters, and early morning temps can be expected to be around 17/18, with evening temps after a hot day at 20/21.

Wild storms were reported Wednesday evening. We are in that time of year where info like that typed above can be rendered inaccurate within the hour! You just have to get out there, and have a plan B up your sleeve.

The timid will have fewer experiences and catch fewer Trout.

Check in 27 Nov 2021

Check in: 14 November 2021

The Mooi was looking great yesterday. A bit low, one could argue, but given that we have had constant good flow, and no really low water or excessive heat since the start of the season (1 Sept), it actually doesn’t get better. The water was 19 degrees (mid morning), and as clear as it gets. Wading was a tad more slippery than it sometimes is, but the fish are plentiful and looking up at dry flies.

The uMngeni has slightly more water, and I experience it as less slippery. Water temps this week reached 20 degrees late in the day, but again here the water is crystal clean and the fish are looking up.

Check in : 10 Nov 2021

Check in: 28 Oct 2021

Check in: 19 Oct 2021

Check in: 10 Oct 2021

Check in: 1 Oct 2021

Check in : 18th Sept 2021

Check in : 11 Sept 2021

Check in: 5 September 2021

The opening of the river season this week seems to have gone well for many people I have spoken to or heard about. The water temperature in the Bushmans was reportedly at around 14 degrees on opening day, and yesterday the middle uMngeni was 13.5. We had widespread rain, seemingly an inch in most places, in the week leading up to opening day. That may or may not have brought levels up, but it certainly stopped them from dropping. Despite the rain, waters seem exceptionally clean, as one would expect that this time of year. Flow looks rather good.

The uMngeni at the Dargle bridge

Yesterday there was a report in of good fishing at The Bend on the Mooi, where a friend got 11 browns, two of which looked like superb fish. Social media has sported some pictures of nice fish from the Bushmans, and we got a handful on the uMngeni.

We seem to have been having a mix of hot berg wind days followed by cloud. Friday was 30 degrees C here at my home in Hilton, with a howling north wind and the following day it was dead calm and the air temperature started at 11 degrees, peaking at 16, under clouded skies.

In years gone by I have done both spectacularly badly, and spectacularly well on berg wind days. I put it down to when we hit the lowest atmospheric pressure, and when that nice steady rise begins. According to my weather app, our pressure is at a low point as I write this on Sunday afternoon, and it looks like a steady rise right the way through until Tuesday, as the cooler, weather moves in , bringing cloud and drizzle.

That sounds like Brown Trout weather to me!

Check in: 23 August 2021

My pal Sean was taking a pre-season walk on the Mooi on the week-end and sent me these. With the prospect of rain and snow in a few days time, water levels could be superb come opening day. One farmer let me know that the uMngeni level rose pleasingly after the last moist-cold snap a week back. Things are looking up!

Check in: 21 August 2021

Check in: 19 August 2021

August is always tricky. The water is clear as ice. It is not yet warm. I measured water temps of 9 degrees C at the surface, in the shallows at 3 pm this week. But we did have a wild caddis hatch, and fish were going dilly. That only really happens when it is calm, and in Au”gust” that doesn’t happen often. A week ago I fished in the wind and didn’t see a thing (except the otter). Then a few days later two of us got some lovely big browns in relatively calm weather. And then this morning, I see another water (in the Dargle) reported a big Brown. Maybe its a thing.

Check in : 8 August 2021

You will notice that my winter (stillwater) condition updates are less regular. This undoubtedly has a lot to do with the prediction I got so very wrong in the post below, in which I suggested that we shouldn’t let a minor protest get us down, and just go fishing. Well! I didn’t see that one coming. I don’t think anyone did. The province was rocked by violence that you normally see on TV taking place in some place across the other side of the world, and for me it was surreal.

The other reason for few updates relates to how stable winter weather can be. Sure we had that parcel of arctic air that crept in on the one week-end my buddies and I decided to go stay in a waterside cottage. And YR weather app is predicting big rain and snow for next week-end. But in between it has just been cold and sunny and dry, like winter always is.

The fishing though is unpredictable. One day looks like the next when it comes to the weather, bit catches are just so damned variable, and I for one am normally at a loss to explain why. The moon and tide guys will be quick to offer their help, but they know that I can discredit their theories faster than a rainbow takes a dry fly on the upper Mooi river.

Anyway….I just know that I have had some really slow fishing, and that guys seem to go fish the same water a day or two later and show me up properly. That has me itching to get out again soon to see if I can turn the tide, and maybe have one of those cracker days myself. And that has be beside the water soaking up the sublime winter sunshine and marveling at the clarity of the water for hours on end. They call it fishing.

As we slide into August, expect water temps to start rising very slowly from the current levels around 8 degrees. Within a few weeks that curve will steepen and I expect that the fishing will be kick started a little.

I have been dropping tippet diameter to 5X on waters with smaller fish…4 X on the ones that sometimes produce hogs. I have been drifting small midges under terrestrials and pulling dark coloured dragons deep behind small nymphs. And I haven’t cracked it. So don’t go listening to me. Rather go fishing.

Check in: 11 July 2021

The last water temperature I took was 8.5 degrees last week-end. It hasn’t been any warmer. We have had mostly balmy days, but a few cooler afternoons followed by more frost in the morning. Many mornings have been calm, but generally the wind is up by 11 am. If you are lucky you will get a still evening, and the fish will then most likely go mad on midges…..well, that is what I have witnessed anyway. A few pictures are coming in of some monsters. Most don’t tell you where (I support that). But if you know the waters, the background gives it away. My own results have been slow. I take that as normal, and accept that you just have to put in the time. Most winters are like that.

Protests have caused many people to cancel their fishing trips. That is a pity. While I don’t advocate taking risks, most of these things endure for an hour or two here and there. I make it my business to stay informed and choose routes and dally until its over…that kind of thing. (but NEVER cancel.)

Update: 22 June 2021

In recent weeks there have been two festivals (aka competitions) on the stillwaters here in the KZN Midlands…The Kamberg Trout Festival, and the Boston/Dargle Festival. It is not my position to analyse the results, so I thought I would rather deliver this [less analytical] commentary. Participants in the “KTF” were bitterly cold and many were disappointed, bitterly or otherwise. Several, including some I spoke to , were calling for a change in stocking policy by the organisers. A strange thing that. It is the same stocking policy that made them so happy in previous years. I liken their baying to a sports fan who calls for the coaches head after a single game is lost.

It was simply a windy, cold, slightly offish week-end.

While the guys were packing up on the Sunday, a friend and I fished another dam just over the hill and did rather well. We caught on woolly buggers, GRHE’s , Black DDD’s, and some obscure green thing, to name a few. Some deep, and some off the top. A day or two later a trophy (8 pounds or so I think) was caught in one of the NFFC dams that fared badly in the competition.

The vagaries of fishing!

“The Boston”, this last week-end, produced some good fishing. Scanning the results table I see strings of fish over 19 inches (50 cms). ok…I just tallied the string quickly…about 50 fish of that size or bigger. There was a lovely Brown of 23 inches…one of 4 fish of that size. And seemingly lots of fish caught. Clearly a much better stocking strategy! 🙂

Of more interest to me was the pattern of the catches. Like, I mean the pattern the numbers made on the page. It was lekker. Sort of a geometric thing that caught the eye. Closer inspection revealed that the rows were listed per “session” (why do I hate that term?) ..so slot 1, then 2, then 3, then 4…then the next water. So The pattern was showing lots of fish in session 1, fewer in no 2, even fewer in 3 …etc…on the same water…then the next water starts with session 1..lots of fish,…and so it went.

Rather than hang this byzantine pattern on my wall, I choose to interpret it as follows:

When someone has been walking around a trout water all day, he ruins it for his mate who visits the next day.

There is a lot of info in the above statement.

  • Waters kept un-fished until the day of a competition will fare better
  • Waters trying to provide year-round sport will do worse
  • Lots of visits to a water will diminish the success of the next visitor
  • even if a water only receives say, 4 rods a month, if they were 4 days in succession, the results might not be so good
  • baaaa

I think of it like the law of diminishing returns that I was taught in first year economics. It is a progressive curve, and I reckon fishing pressure quickly takes the graph to a point where the results dip off exponentially.

The point of all this theorizing of mine is this: Go fish waters that no one has been to. Don’t be a sheep.

Here ends the lesson.

Dams are full. Water is clean. A bit of frost. Water is bloody cold. Weather is stable and comfortable at the moment. I reckon you should stay home and wash the car. Gotta go……

Update: 1 June 2021

As the river season clamps to a close, let’s look back on the last few weeks.

We had fantastic rains right into April, and even early May. This saw streams hold their levels particularly well, and if a generalisation had to be made, it would be that the water only started getting a bit “thin” in the last 10 days of the season. My own experience was that even with good flows, the stream clarity was fantastic, but the fish got so spooky it was unbelievable. Water temps on the uMngeni held up around 13 degrees, and every evening I was there, I saw at least some fish rising, but damn they were fussy! I didn’t get onto the Mooi, Lotheni, Bushmans and others in the last weeks of the season, so I have a blind spot there, but I did see pictures and I think that my comments on the water levels and clarity at least hold true for those too.

For me a small highlight in the last few weeks, was a fish I spotted on Brigadoon. It was over a crack in the bedrock, not moving a fin, but I spotted its eye, of all things and video’d it. That’s all. Didn’t catch it. Didn’t even try for it. …I will put up a post to explain why that was a highlight.

On the stillwaters: I had a two days out in the last month. On both occasions we saw plenty of fish, but we didn’t catch a lot. Other waters I know of, have been almost completely dead. Some waters in the Kamberg suffered inversions in May, and were looking dreadful, but a friend was out looking over the week-end and he says they have cleared up nicely. For a while a few dams produced absolutely no fish at all, making us believe the inversions had caused a fish kill, but then a couple of guys have started catching fish there again (albeit mainly tiny stockies). The Kamberg festival comes up on the weekend, and that will give us a quick litmus test of what the fishing is like, and which dams have indeed gone mysteriously quiet.

The air has turned really cold in the last three days, and winter really is upon us. There is snow predicted for the mountains tomorrow. It is time to wrap up warm and head for the stillwaters.

Check in : 21 May 2021

The uMngeni has dropped a bit but is crystal clear. still around 13 degrees, and fish spotting conditions in the mornings is perfect.

Check in: 16 May 2021

The uMngeni is on fire! Crystal clear water; good flows; 13 degree water; and trout rising in the evenings in every pool. I suspect all our rivers are similar at the moment, although the berg rivers might be colder, and as 1 or 2 fishing returns indicate, the action a bit slower as a result.

Check in: 5 May 2021

The Inzinga was running much cleaner yesterday, and I am told the Mooi was clean at Reekie Lyn. The good rains caused Midmar to run over strongly again and the Lions was near breaking its banks at Lidgetton on Saturday past. With its source so close to the uMngeni, one can expect that river to only be clearing now. Either way, most rivers will be clean now, and as the cold grips the end of the season, you want to get out on the rivers while you still can, and while the browns are still active.

Stillwater returns remain disappointing, but with the odd ray of hope here and there, when some lucky blokes buck the trend. There just seem to be a lot of small fish around, and many (but not all) of the better fish are not showing….in general…there are definitely exceptions here and there….and us fishermen are eternal optimists, so don’t let this stop you getting out there and trying.

Check in: 2 May 2021

Sorry, its been a while: Frontal storms that preceded the current cold snap saw widespread storms on Thursday night, and rain persisting through Friday (30th April). For those who were out Saturday morning, you may have been lucky enough to have a break in the clouds and see the berg decked in snow. If you crossed any trout streams, you would have seen them all (I think) flowing high and discoloured. While that put paid to stream fishing this weekend, it is a great sendoff for the coming dry winter.

On the stillwaters there were reports of water temps of 16 degrees early in the week, and as low as 13 degrees on Saturday. One angler reported fish showing spawning behaviour in the spillway of a dam, and that was before the rainfall and cold, so chances are fish are going to be colouring up and developing kypes quickly, with all the “calling water” and cooler times.

The weather is spectacular right now, cool and bright and with a rain-washed landscape ahead of winter’s inevitable dust. While the next day or two might need to be on a stillwater, the streams will be the place to go thereafter, and in the dying days of the season.

Check in: 6 April 2021

There were a number of reports over the Easter week-end of dirty stillwaters. It seems the Kamberg had a deluge ahead of the holidays, and many dams were off colour. Presumably the rivers were affected too, but they seem to be clearing, while dirty stillwater reports continue to come in.

Check in: 1 April 2021

I am told by a local that the Bushmans this morning down at Bhungane beat, is “like Sprite”. Good news for the Easter week-end!

The Inzinga was a tiny bit milky and flowing strong. Midmar dam’s overflow was going like a steam train.

Yesterday I measured a water temp at the surface of a high altitude dam, at 19 degrees at 3 pm. That is promising!

Check in: 29 March 2021

In the last week there has been a sudden drop in air temps, and water temps are certainly following. There were big rains last Sunday that blew out the lower stretches of the Bushmans and the Mooi,

A tributary of the Mooi on Reekie Lyn a week ago

but oddly the uMngeni was looking fine.

Since then, more rain has fallen and there are reports of the Inzinga, Amanzinyama and Mooi all being blown out, as well as many stillwaters being off colour. As soon as those clear, autumn fishing, both for stillwater and streams, should be at its absolute peak

Update: 21 March 2021

We have had a few weeks of warmth, and for a change, limited rainfall. So while the streams warmed up a fair bit, they had a fortnight of lovely clean water. I noticed that Midmar’s overflow had slowed down to a trickle three days back. The problem is that this covers two week-ends at best, and then late last week we had storms again. I wasn’t aware of the extent of the storms upcountry, but a foray over the last two days revealed off colour water. Midmar is pumping over again.

On Thursday, I found the uMngeni tinged slightly with a mid brown muddiness, and coupled with that , strongly stained with its usual summer peat stain.

The uMngeni from the bridge below Chestnuts

From a distance it looked totally blown out. Up close I could see the bottom four foot down. I have come to appreciate that the subtlelty of water colour as as nuanced as a photographer’s light!

The Furth Stream (tributary of the uMngeni) was a lot cleaner, and I took a water temperature mid afternoon of 19 degrees C.

The Furth stream at Brigadoon farm on 19 March 2021

What is interesting about that is that a few hours earlier, at higher altitude, I took a surface water temp at a stillwater and got 22 degrees. It goes to show how a tumbling, partly shaded, running stream is sometimes more hospitable to Trout than an impoundment.

Back to colour: The Bushmans yesterday was surprisingly off-colour too.

The Bushmans at the bridge on the eClinic beat on 20th March 2021

Its colour was slightly more on the yellow/fawn spectrum, at least down at the Clinic beat. Higher up, it had more of a slate-like colour.

The same Bushmans some 9 kms upstream at the parking spot on Ezibukweni Kwaundaba

I attribute the difference to the extent of the bare earth, wattle and overgrazing in the tribal area, vs the thickly grassed state of Snowflake and the park above.

Either way the river was fishable in my view, and the catch returns of two parties on the river yesterday bear testimony to that.

A temperature reading at Ezibukweni kwaundaba showed 17.5 degrees C.

Across on the Mooi, we were back to slate grey flow at the bridge at Riverside, and the river was full.

The Mooi at Riverside

The dairy stream looked like it was contributing much dirtier flow, but interestingly the centre pivot was running, suggesting that most of the rain fell in the berg. No farmer would waste electricity pumping water onto soil that is already saturated!

The Reekie Lyn stream was flowing strongly and arguably a tiny bit more tinged than the main river at Riverside.

The Reekie Lyn from the road bridge

As I left the valley late yesterday, dark clouds were massed over the berg. Who knows what it will look like tomorrow!

Generally you are going to find the rivers cooling and dropping, and the bankside vegetation particularly rank after a very wet summer. I was shocked to see how bad the bramble and wattle growth is on the upper Mooi and upper Umkomaas in recent weeks. The uMngeni and the Furth stream have a ‘fine crop’ of blackjacks this year (an expected aftermath of alien invasive clearing in recent years). If you can put up with these things, you are in for some mighty fine autumn fishing. Already some superb fish have been caught in the last two weeks on various rivers (and no….I am not tattling as to where!)

For those less inclined to brave the chest high growth along rivers, the NFFC has just opened its stillwaters after the seasonal warm water closure. The opening is arguably premature, but as I write a cold front has moved in, night temperatures are down to 11 or 12 degrees, and the water temps will be falling below 20 very soon indeed. Enjoy!

Check in : 16th March 2021

It has been mighty hot this past week! Even up in a high berg stream, water temps of 21 to 22 degrees C have been recorded in the late afternoons, coming down to about 17 or so as at early morning. Air temps, even in the berg reached 30 degrees on Saturday and Sunday. On the positive side, the rains have abated for a while, flow has dropped, and clarity has been magnificent everywhere. From the Bushmans:

The Bushmans at the Clinic today

To the Mooi to the uMngeni and the rivers to the south: Clear everywhere. I looked in on several of them last week from high up to low down, and without exception, they looked great. Except that is the Bushmans where I am told that someone marked off beats with plastic danger tape, and left the markers behind after they left….at a pristine a world natural heritage site. I don’t know who did that, or if it is still there. Sies!

Check in: 9 March 2021

The Umgeni, the Mooi, the Bushmans, the Lotheni….all “Sprite”…beautifully clean. Water temps are sitting at 20 degrees by midday. Flow is good. There’s just a hot week predicted this week, but I was up at 1800m yesterday and the air temp was 23 degrees, while in Maritzburg it was 32…so I reckon there’s no excuse at all. Go fish a river. Its beaut! (some good fish coming out too).

Stillwaters: 24 degrees C measured in a dam near Giants a few days back. At the surface no doubt, but the stillwaters still need time off.

Check in: 4 March 2021

News in from the Bushmans, is that the community waters are full, blown out and off colour from a storm last night that stretched from there to Kamberg and probably across to Lotheni. The upper stretches will be fishable, but there is a lot of white water for a few days.

Check in: 3 March 2021

News from my mate on the banks of the Bushmans near the “e-clinic” beat yesterday, is that it looks like “Sprite”…in other words, crystal clean. The Mooi at Riverside yesterday was ever so slightly milky, but spotting fish was definitely possible, so very acceptable. The uMngeni at Chestnuts is stained (usual for summer), but you can see the rocks on the bottom off the bridge, so as you go up to Furth and Sheardown, it will no doubt be perfect.

Water temps: 19 degrees at Riverside on the Mooi yesterday at 3pm. Highmoor has been hovering around 18 degrees in the early afternoons, so temps are definitely dropping.

Check in: 27 February 2021

The Bushmans at the Clinic is full and brown this morning after extensive rain yesterday and last night.

Water temperatures of 17 degrees were reported yesterday morning in a high altitude dam on a syndicate in the upper Dargle.

Check in: 25 February 2021

A friend tells me they have had rain on and off all week up on the Bushmans, and that it is currently running high and milky.

Check in: 21 February 2021

The Mooi, uMngeni and Bushmans are all looking perfect at present. After some substantial rain, we have had it hold off long enough for the rivers to clean up. We have seen some very hot days, but night time temperatures in the mountains are helping water temps. The upper Mooi measured 15 degrees C yesterday morning.

Update : 17 February 2021

It has been a wild ride! The week-end just gone was devilishly hot, and it followed floods in northern KZN (Winterton area) and in southern KZN (Underberg), but nothing noteworthy rain-wise in the central area (uMngeni and Mooi). Then the heat was followed on 16th Feb, by a cold front which was preceded by a morning of heavy rain in some places (but not all). So 2 days back the Bushmans was clean. Yesterday it was chocolate. Yesterday, when I crossed the uMngeni and the Furth Stream, they looked perfect, but the day before a fisherman on the Furth stream reported it dirty. And so it goes….

Either way, I can tell you that KZN has had magnificent rains, and water is pouring out of everywhere. What this means is that the water table is up, the ground is saturated, and any additional rain quite quickly runs off, dirtying the rivers. In between the rain, we have had some really hot days, so water temperatures haven’t been great for Trout, certainly not in stillwaters, and on the lower reaches of our rivers. If I had to sum all this up, I would say your best bet has been to go high in the berg and fish the rushing mountain streams. Even those have been blown out their fair share, but at least they clear quickly. If you get them at a low ebb between storms you may be lucky and be able to fish a dry fly, but for the rest it has been nymphs and heavily weighted ones for the most part. The fish have been either on the bottom, requiring lots of lead to get down there through the white water, or, perhaps the more appealing option: in the slack margins and eddies tight against the bank. But here is something to think about….If you own that wonderful old book titled “Masters on the Dry Fly”, go and read the chapter by Art Flick. It is about fishing pocket water, but at some point he covers fishing rushing white water….with a dry fly…and having success to the amazement of his colleagues. I am just putting that out there.

In the meantime, we have a sunny but cool day today following the cold front, and it feels autumnal. But not being March yet, I think it is an anomaly, and I expect a lot more heat before I can start claiming to feel the change of the season. We just have to sit this out for another 3 or 4 weeks, and then……..!

Check in: Thursday 11th February 2021

The Mooi at Riverside is full and strong and a bit “creamy”, but it is fishable. Kamberg definitely didn’t have the radical storms of 2 days back.

Check in: 11 Feb 2021

Videos and pictures are pouring in of the floods to the North and South of KZN’s berg…..Garden Castle and the Umzimkulu river basin down at Underberg, and Winterton to the North. Storms of 130mm, bridges washed away etc etc.

In the middle, a report of the uMngeni looking perfect yesterday. A picture of the Bushmans near Giants Castle from a passer by suggests the river is full and dirty, but nothing like those others.

Check in: 5 Feb 2021

The uMngeni right up at the top was flowing full and strong. The water is clean, but there is a particularly strong tannin stain at the moment, which might put people off, because they will think it is muddy. It is not! A mate reported that the Mooi at Stillerus is looking superb at the moment, just the odd batch of milky water coming through, probably from activities upstream, but eminently fishable. I suspect the Bushmans, Lotheni, Umko and everything else will be similar, since I am not aware of any major downpours in the last 5 days or so.

Check in: 29 January 2021

My friends at the Bushmans confirmed that this afternoon the river is still muddy brown and pumping full. I reckon the week-end is out everywhere. Of course all club stillwaters are closed due to peak summer water temps, and the private ones that aren’t, arguably should be. Time to tie some flies.

Check in: 27 January 2021

The Bushmans today was milky down at the clinic, but clear enough to fish comfortably up at Thandabantu.

The Little Mooi was as clear as a bell, as was the Mooi at Riverside and the Reekie Lyn stream.

The Reekie Lyn beat of the Mooi was clear too. All were of course flowing strongly and water temps were around 18.5 degrees C. BUT: Heavy clouds hung over the berg, and before the day was over there were widespread downpours. Coupled with this, heavy rain is predicted over the next 3 or 4 days…..

Check in : 24 January 2021

The uMngeni was remarkably lower today than a week ago. The water was crystal clear, and it was looking beautiful. The water temp was however at 22 degrees!

The Injisuthi was also reportedly running beautifully clear. But of course cyclone Eloise is on the way and Injasuthi is likely to be more affected as are other Northern streams….let’s see how much rain it dumps on us!

Check in :21 January 2021

The Mooi at Reekie Lyn and at Riverside was looking superb today. Levels good and water clean, but for a slug of milky water mid afternoon. Should be perfect for the week-end, as should be the Bushmans, Lotheni, uMngeni et al……unless it storms of course.

Check in: 17 January 2021

The uMngeni is looking wonderful at the moment. Water temp: 19.5 degrees C.

uMngeni, Stoneycroft

The Mooi is looking superb up top, but a bit milky down at Reekie Lyn. The Bushmans is just too strong. Forget colour…its just pumping!.

Check in: 15 January 2021

In the last week, I haven’t been up to the Mooi or Bushmans, and there have been just a trickle of reports indicating that flows have been abating and clarity improving since last Friday’s/ Saturday’s significant storms. I expect they will be looking superb this week-end, and my best guess is that the Lotheni will be similar. The uMngeni, and by the looks of things, chiefly its tributary the Furth Stream (which joins at Brigadoon) received an absolute deluge last Saturday. Small streams running into the Furth were still dirty on Wednesday when I crossed them, and the main uMngeni at Chestnuts was clearing but still unfishable yesterday. I would try the uMngeni above the Furth confluence, where I reckon you will get some clear water.

uMngeni below Chestnuts on 14th Jan

Check in: 8 January 2021

The Bushmans and Ncibidwana were in full flow this afternoon and milky, and storms broke over the Giant in the afternoon, no doubt worsening the situation. Stream temps were at 18degrees C . The Mooi is very full, and was cleaner than the Bushmans, but storms were swirling around the catchment. The Reekie Lyn stream was crustal clear today, but around 4 pm a big storm broke in that catchment. Looking from there to Spionkop, it looked possible that the uMngeni maybe escaped the storms, but info in showed a massive storm hit the slopes of Inhlosane Mountain, blowing out the Furth stream and the uMngeni below the confluence completely.

Frequently updated info on fishing conditions in the KZN Midlands, of relevance to the Trout waters .
The “Mavela stream” that feeds the Furth Stream at 5 pm 8th Jan.

Check in: 7 January 2021

The Bushmans confirmed flowing strongly and a bit milky this morning.

Update: 6 January 2021

December hit us with all the heat, drizzle, wild storms, and rain that it is known for. Anglers staying over for Christmas will have had days when it was too hot to go out, followed by ones that were too dangerous on account of the lightning, or too miserable due to the drizzle. That is summer for you. You grab the opportunities for an hour in the early morning, or after the storm. In between you are dealing with rivers that are blown out, sunburn and purple patches that lasted a few minutes and which you missed on account of some turkey, revelry, or family obligation.

But you know what…I have been missing typical wild Decembers for years, and it has been so good to have one again. A December of extremes. Wild, wet and beautiful. I don’t mind that the fishing had to be eked out in between.

I had a few days on a Stillwater where, when it was cool and pleasant, the fish were down. Then it was too hot, and the fish were on the prod for a while, and then an east wind came up, or a storm, and it was over.

These times are best spent in a cottage beside the water,  where your rod can stay rigged and on a hook under the eaves. Its expensive, in that you may pay for a week’s worth of accommodation and total only a few hours here and there.

I fished the Mooi one day where it was hot and humid and stuffy, but the water pulling at my legs was clean and refreshing, and the lightning a few hours later wasn’t all that frightening. My companion got a few little browns on nymphs. I blanked. The amount of time spent behind a camera lens or catching up on my pal’s news may have had something to do with that. We spoke about going back a few days later to do it again “but properly this time”. Then the heavens opened, and I am not sure if the river has cleared up yet.

A call to the Bushmans yesterday yielded news that it was very full and “The colour of Stoney Ginger Beer”. I am trying to picture it. I reckon you could nymph it, unless they too had the downpour we had yesterday. Maybe high up will be better. It certainly cleans up quicker up there.

Even on the top beats though, the flows are strong, and it will be a case of dropping a fly into the pockets of slack water or in the back eddies.  For the rest it will require nymphs heavier than I care to fish.  If you catch it for a day before the next deluge, the Gods may shine on you and you will get to fish a dry.

River temperatures are highly variable. From just after a hail storm, to the evening after a stinker of a day, you can expect anything from 14 degrees to 22 degrees C. If I had to report an average of what I have experienced it would be 19.5 degrees. That will do. In a strongly flowing river the water will be fully oxygenated, which as you may know, means different things depending on the water temperature. Either way, the temps are better than the stillwaters, and so is the oxygenation. That is why the Natal Fly Fishers Club has exercised their annual Stillwater closure thing. So for now it’s the rivers.  

And who knows what you will get.

Go anyway.  Just do it.