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Month: February 2018

EXPLORING THE NGWEMPISI RIVER

 

Ngwempisi River

The most fishable section of the Ngwempisi River lies on the road between Piet Retief and Amsterdam as it flows through some really beautiful surroundings winding its way through a gorge of steep cliffs known as Skurwe Rantjies to the locals and then it opens out into a series of kloofs as it flows towards Swaziland. Unfortunately its waters have been off limits to even local anglers, except a few privileged foresters of the local forestry company that owned the property that it flows through. Recently the ownership of this section of water switched hands and fortune smiled on me, as the new owner and myself have been friends for some time and finally after many years I obtained permission to fish the waters to my heart’s content.

It has been running full and quite turbid making fishing nearly impossible thus only increasing the anticipation to get to it, since fly fishing for Yellows in the Piet Retief area is mostly done in clear water during winter, with longer leaders as compared to some of the methods used for yellows across the country it has been virtually unfishable with it being swollen from the runoff.

Every time I crossed the river I would slow down and gaze down at its waters longingly, anticipating the days for it to clear out enough to get a line over its flow. Finally it looked like the waters had cleared up a little and I could not resist. I pulled over and walked down to the edge of the river. The visibility seemed okay even though it wasn’t optimal, following the river downstream I found more and more small fish flashing in the glides and small rapids, but no decent fish. It was getting dark and I needed to get out of the kloof before I couldn’t see, so I left planning to return a few days later but this time with rod and flies.

A couple of days later on my way home I was prepared, stopping under the bridge, I got my kit rigged up and made my way downstream. Even though the water hadn’t cleared up much from my last visit I stayed optimistic and started searching for the telltale flashes of activity. Directly under the bridge the vibrations of heavy vehicles crossing the bridge seemed to put the fish of, but the fish started showing themselves more and more, tying on a small #16 PTN to the bend of a #14 DDD I swung the flies out into the fast water. The first few runs didn’t even register a take at first but I kept at it.

The further I worked my way downstream the harder the going became, the river passes through the last of the gorge, even though it was difficult the beauty of the high cliffs and indigenous trees made it all the more worthwhile. As I came out of the gorge the river widens into a larger pool, hemmed in by stands of high reeds. I worked my way out onto a shallow section of the pool and after having to free my flies couple of times from the bushes, I finally managed to get a cast slightly upstream a small fish rose to the DDD but didn’t commit itself. Another attempt at a cast and I cussed and swore at myself for not bringing the spare spool with the Single Handed Spey line on, as that would have been perfect in these surroundings. The flies broke of to high to reach behind me and I then retied the tippet and changed tactics, this time I tied on a Dragon Bugger followed by a Cravens Jack Flash.

After a couple of tries I managed to lay another cast out and get the flies drifting down the current, as they passed a large rock directly in the current the end of the fly line hesitated for a brief moment and instinctively I lifted the rod, the hook bit and I kept pressure on for a short while to ensure the hook pulled deeper, then I gave its head as it turned downstream and made a good strong run. After working it out of the main current I managed to slip the net under it and a healthy Smallscale of about two pounds lay gleaming in the net. After quickly snapping a few pics I set it free again. I was quite chuffed with landing my first Ngwempisi Yellow.

DCIM101GOPRO

I then climbed out of the water and worked my way downstream to the tail of the pool, after finding a suitable spot to make a cast, I sent the flies upstream and let them sink, as the flies drifted back I would give them a twitch or two, the line jumped forward as the flies sunk and I set the hook, fish on! It wasn’t very big and didn’t put up much of a fight, I unhooked it and let it go to grow a bit bigger for my next visit.

Time was once again against me and against my will I had to call it a day before it was to dark to see. There wasn’t much time to fish as I worked my way upstream to the car but I did make a few casts in the more promising pools, even though I didn’t get anything more I was filled with a sense of hope for when the waters became clearer and the fishing would become better as winter came closer. After packing up I drove home looking forward to my next visit to the Ngwempisi River.

BANDED BANDITS

Often when out on the water the smaller species get overlooked for let’s say the more glamorous species such as Trout, Bass and Carp. Yet those little guys can really make the difference between a slow uneventful day, or just help to let time pass.

For the last couple of years from January to late February when going out for Carp and Bass in some of the local large impoundments such as Westoe and Jericho Dam I have started taking my 3wt with a floating line along, armed with a selection of tiny #12 poppers, that I originally tied up for Bluegill. But bluegill are far and few between from where I live and I kind of forgot about those tiny poppers.

It came about one day while waiting for carp to start coming onto the flats, I tied on a #02 popper in the hopes of tempting a bass or two while stalking the edges, when I noticed large schools of Banded Tilapia holding in the shallows, as soon as the popper came close to the fringes or passed close to some standing grasses, a horde of tilapia would rush the popper and the larger ones in the group would slash at it. Some would even manage to pull it down by the tail.

Well since the bass were not willing to hit the popper and the carp were skittish, I clipped the popper of and tied on a section of 4X tippet, rummaging through a fly box for something appropriate I found those small poppers, tied one on and made a short cast along the fringes. I then let the tiny bug sit a bit until the ripples died away then gave it a sharp pop.

Let me say a #12 popper doesn’t make much of a noise but it was enough to draw the attention, the popper was rushed down and it was fish on, well on the seven weight there wasn’t much of a fight but it did try its best. After a quick photo I unhooked it and let it go to join its mates.

I then made another few casts, letting the fly sit after it had fallen on the water a while, then give it a twitch or two. The water was very clear and it was easy for me to see how these tilapia reacted to the fly, as soon as the fly hit the water or was popped the school would rush up to it and stare at it. Eventually the suspense would become too much and one would have a go at the popper. If left to long they would lose interest and start to turn away, a small twitch would elicit a strike from the larger fish in the school. Sometimes while the school would surround the popper, another larger fish would out of nowhere charge the fly and take it before any of the others can decide if they want it or not. I nearly forgot about the carp, as I walked along the edges catching one after the other.

There are some bull sized ones to you just need to find them, these are territorial and they will hammer anything that enters their proclaimed territory. Keeping them out of the weeds on 3wt and 4x tippet becomes a challenge.

Bull Banded Tilapia.jpg

Yes I know it’s not rod bending, adrenaline pumping stuff, but it’s fun and relaxing, plus the visual aspect of having a fish hit a surface bug, to me is just addictive. As I said I now don’t leave home without my 3wt and those dinky sized poppers. Just in case the fishing is slow, or so I tell myself.