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.
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.