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JBSC1On one of the supposed last trips to the river with new friend Jarryd Bach we found us on one of my favorite stretches on the Assegai River. While crossing the river we noticed a lot of fish in the faster glides and rapids in water hardly deeper than knee high, these fish were actively feeding in this really shallow water and didn’t seem to bothered with our presence, but we passed them up, in favor of the better waters, that I believed would be more productive, after a short hike upstream we came to the pool that I had in mind for the afternoons fishing, within a short space of time I made one or two casts and gave a few pointers to Jarryd, quickly realizing that the fishing here in the pool would not be to good due to the water being off color, I suggested we move back down to where we had seen the fish earlier in the glide.

A quick change of leader and flies and we made our first casts, shortline nymphing to the yellows that were actively feeding in the fast current, it wasn’t too long before I was on with a small but decent sized Smallscale Yellowfish, it accounted well for itself with a short but spirited fight, I managed to slip the net under it, after popping the hook from its mouth I let it go back into the stream.

Now it was Jarryd’s turn, Pointing him to a spot on the water I moved upstream to spot for him, the fish were so close I could poke them with the rod tip if I stretched my arm far enough out. The first few drifts of the fly were pretty exciting as I grunted and made all kinds of noises every time I saw the indicator bob or slow down, instead of yelling strike or hit or some other profanity, but it didn’t take too long and soon he was on, it fought well enough for its size and used the current to its advantage, not to long and out came the net and in the fish went, even though it wasn’t a trophy sized Smallscale it was his first one and that to me is just as special, a quick pic, or two and back it went.

JBSCRelease1The rest of the afternoon went pretty much the same, grunts and curses included, as we missed the quick takes of the yellows picking up and rejecting the flies like lightning, but all in all, by the time it became too dark to see and we were packed up, he had managed to land at least four more fish I can recall including a Largescale to add to another first on fly for him. We headed home and later after a good meal, we parted ways.

Well that night I sat around thinking as to what would be the most effective way to target these fish, after looking into the various methods of fishing nymphs in a fast current, I decided on giving Czech Nymphing a go. It wasn’t too long before I found myself on the water again and the fish were still there in the same shallow section again, a quick leader change and of I went, note I have never Czech Nymphed before so this was all new to me, at first the lobbing of flies that were nearly heavy enough to knock you out if they did hit you felt strange, but it did not take too long and they quickly fell where I wanted them, now to learn how to control the drift and stay in contact with the flies at the same time, after some trial and error this to snapped into place and the sighter of the leader straightened and I lifted into the take, that first run with such a short line out was so direct it nearly caught me of guard, but I managed to stay on without breaking a rod or leg in the shallow water on slippery rocks as the fish at first powered upstream and then suddenly turned and flashed passed me as I frantically tried to keep tension on the barbless hook.  Stumbling like a frightened hippo I managed to keep everything tight and I managed to get the fish close enough to lift a healthy but not too large Smalscale out of the water with the net. After sliced bread I think barbless hooks are the next best thing and often after the first two or three flops in the net the hooks normally just pop out and it’s just a matter of sinking the net below water level and helping the fish out back into the current.

After disturbing this section with my previous antics I took a few paces upstream to where I could see a few more fish holding in the current and lobbed the flies up into the stream and tracking them downstream again, this time I let them sweep past me and sure thing there that sighter bobbed again, I set the hook and let the fish run, this one turned around and used the current against me, but since the water was slightly of color I had stepped up the fluorocarbon tippet section and was able to put some pressure on the fish and work it upstream again. The rest of the afternoon blurred into a one as I by trial and error on my own learned how to control the drift of the flies and stay in contact with them as I worked my way upstream, fishing likely spots. By the end of the day I returned with sore arms and a content smile.

All things considered at the end of the season Czech Nymphing seems to be quite effective for targeting Smallscale Yellows and even the odd Largescale that have moved into the shallow riffles and runs to feed in the slightly clearer water, the sunlight seems to penetrate easier into the lower water levels, in comparison to the deeper slower pools, this I believe increases visibility slightly making it easier for the yellows to pick up nymphs and other aquatic creatures drifting by.  The number of wish taken was quite surprising but no fish over a kilo and a half were caught.

The rains have come full force now as I sit typing this out and the river is flowing brown and strong, thus the Czech Nymph experiment will have to wait till next year. Still it extended the season a little longer and if that’s the case then even a small yellow is a good yellow, when normal methods don’t work





One of my favourite patterns for tilapia especially the Redbreast Tilapia or as known in Zimbabwe as the Pinky (Tilapia rendalii) is a Yellow and Red Wooly Worm pattern, I find it very effective but its only drawback is that it’s a bit fragile when it comes to the abrasive mouths that these fish have, unless constructed bullet proof, these fish will make short work of your lovingly tied creations. But they work and they work well, the contrasting colours are just what triggers these usually vegetarian fish to have a go at it, also the short tail ensures that the fish commit to the fly, since they will so often nip at the tail. So I set out to tie a fly that would stand up to these fish yet still have all the qualities that the fish find attractive.

Nights were spent at the vice figuring out one pattern after the other, often to the wife’s dismay, weekends would be spent at the dam testing these creations, adding even more to the missus’s displeasure.

The contrasting colours were not too much of an issue to figure out, since these fish are not really picky when they are in the mood to take flies, but I wanted a fly that would be easy and simple to tie, one can lose quite a few in an outing, considering that the closer the fly lands to standing vegetation the better and a little breeze or a slight over cast would end the flies snagged in the ruff. The other consideration was to make the flies a bit tougher, especially with the tendency the fish have, to come from behind and mouth the fly a few times, this tends to rasp at the softer materials such as hackle and sometimes even the rib of the fly.

Eventually settling on materials such as ordinary knitting yarn and tuff chenille that come in a variety of colours, to form the body and tail with. It was just a matter of finding a way to incorporate some flash and hackle to the fly that would take the punishment. On one outing the fish as usual tore the trusty Wooly Worm to bits again, but the hackle at the eye where I usually take two or three wraps to give it some bulk and then tie it down with a number of thread wraps to lay it back stayed on, the fly was working so I just whipped out the Leatherman and trimmed the tip of the feather that had come lose, leaving only the collar and also shortened the unravelled crystal flash that I used as a rib, to trail just past the tail. The fish didn’t mind this waterside correction and I kept on catching a number fish on this same fly.

Pinky Punch

  • Hook: Longshank #12
  • Thread: Black
  • Tail:Red Yarn
  • Body: Yellow Tuff Chennile
  • Flash: Two Strands Pear Krystal Flash
  • Hackle: Black Hen

That evening I took the fly to the vice and tied up a number of these deconstructed woolly worms, dispensing with the palmered hackle and rib, for two strands of flash tied in laying to just the same length as the tail and just taking two or three wraps of hackle behind the eye. It didn’t take too long to tie up a number of these flies in some proven colour combinations either. It basically looked like a bulletproof modern soft hackle or a stick fly. But would the fish approve?


Off to the water at the soonest possible opportunity, with a box full of these new worms it was. On arrival there I made short work of rigging up a rod, over time I had learned that on clear wind still days such as this one was, a yellow and red colour combination was deadly, so I tied one on and started scanning the waters for the redbreasts, it didn’t take too long to find them where they were holding up against the Knotweed. Moving into position I made the first cast as close alongside the green stuff as possible and let the fly sink. Making long slow strips seems to help detect the take and I started retrieving the fly as such. Missing the first take I kept on stripping the fly closer ready for the next enquiry.

It didn’t take to long for another fish to show interest in the fly and I set the hook. After managing to move the fish away from the vegetation that it kept trying to duck into, it used its wide flat profile to its advantage as they usually do. After a quick but spirited fight, carefull to prevent being impaled by one of those wicked spines these fish have, I lifted a decent fish of about 500g from the water. After a quick photo, I unhooked it and set it free again. Now it was time to inspect the fly, so far it had held up and I was quite happy seeing this, so back to the water to continue putting it to the test. A couple more fish later the fly was still fine showing hardly any wear. After a great day catching quite a number of them on this modified pattern that held up quite well, apart from a few that were broken off I went home. That evening I expanded the number of these flies in my box.

Wired Up

  • Hook: #12 Longshank
  • Thread: Black
  • Tail: Yellow Yarn
  • Body: Red Wire
  • Flash: Two Strands Pearl Krystal Flash
  • Hackle: Black Hen

Some effective colours are yellow and red on wind still days when the water is relatively clear, orange and red works well when there is a bit of a chop on the water and a black and chartreuse fly seems to be quite effective in stained or darker waters, or when the weather is a bit overcast. Many tilapia are at times not averse to taking small fry and for this I tie a red and white version. All red and olive flies also have their place for when the fish are in the mood for some aquatic insect fare, red is especially good when the vegetation stands seem to border mudflats that bloodworms live in. Incorporating some wraps of lead helps get the fly down, especially if you are fishing a floating line, but isn’t quite necessary for the sinking lines. When using a sinking line keep the leader and tippet short nothing more than 1,5m with a fluorocarbon tippet of no less than 3X, as the fish live near and often in some nasty stuff and you will need it to keep them out of it, regularly check the tippet after every couple of fish their mouths will also abrade the tippet. Then there is also always the possibility that a bass or catfish will grab the fly, if so you will appreciate the extra strength at the end of the leader. Keep in contact with the fly with long slow strips or the relay retrieve, pointing the rod straight down the line, by doing so you will feel the takes more directly.

Bigger fish seem too often hit the fly between strips so at any hesitation strip strike, often you will be surprised with the result. Fishing with a 3wt rod is fun, but when one of those big guys pick up your fly you will appreciate the backbone of a 5wt or even a 6wt rod. More so if a catfish snaps at the fly, Since they often hunt for smaller tilapia against the weed line, as do bass. Who wont pass up on an easy meal.


Largemouth Bass by nature are creatures of habit and are often drawn to the same structure and underwater features in any lake

The larger bass will key in on the better sections of a pond or lake and become quite territorial about their hot-spots and so the pecking order will follow down the ranks to where the smaller fish are in the less productive spots of a dam. Knowing where to look for the larger specimens, could turn an unproductive day or even a day of many small fish into a great day.

Any long, short, wide, narrow, steep or sloping point that juts out into a lake is likely to hold bass. Such points rimmed by shallow to moderately deep water that has any kind of structure (tree snags, fallen logs, stumps, rocks, weeds, etc.) is an especially great place to cast flies such as Eel Worms Streamers, Calcasieu Pig Boats, baitfish imitations and even top-water bugs such as Poppers and Gurglers. From August to November, depending on the geographical location of the dam in South Africa, feisty, fly-smashing largemouths will often spawn around such points and attack any critter that dares to pass close or through the nest. During Spring through Summer and often into Autumn one will also find the bass cruising the shallows and working the cover for baitfish, insects and other foods.

  1. Points
  2. Stream Bed / Channel
  3. Old Roads
  4. Islands

2Stream inlets and channels: Hungry bass often hunt near the mouths of in flowing streams, which concentrate minnows, crustaceans and insects. Casting flies at such spots during early morning and late in the afternoon most often should meet with success. When the sun rises and starts to warm the water during the summer months, move further out into the lake or pond and fish for the bass finning in and around deep river channels that one can locate using either old topographical maps, charts and even electronics. Channel bends are especially good spots to work jigs fly patterns such as Pfeifer’s Flying Jig and Pig, weighted Minnow patterns and other flies that get down and stay down are also effective in the deeper waters. Takes are subtle especially on a sinking line, often the take will feel like the line just gets slightly heavier, strike when in doubt you will often be surprised at a fish pulling back at the other end.

3Sunken roads: Check maps, charts and electronics for asphalt and gravel roads that were sub-merged when an impoundment was built. Flooded roads and accompanying ditches and bridges concentrate both baitfish and predatory bass. Biologists and bass pros find that largemouths will often cruise along old road beds when moving to and from feeding areas. Try to intercept these road runners with A Dhalberg Diver on a sinking line with a short leader it is often very deadly around such flooded roads, bass just can’t seem to resist the bug floating upwards between strips.

A floating bug on a sinking line, with a short leader has a very seductive action that Largemouth Bass just can’t seem to resist.

4Islands: Any island, and especially one surrounded by humps, gravel bars, drop-offs and the like, is a good place to find bass from spring through fall. Unfortunately most islands in large lakes or ponds are not accessible without a boat or other flotation device to get you within closer range. Drift your craft into position and fan cast bait-fish imitations, such as leech and worm patterns, at spawning or feeding largemouth bass. If there are some overhanging branches try casting a popper underneath or as close as possible and work it back slowly. Largemouth bass know that there is a potential food source in the branches and also are drawn to the shade and cover that the overhanging branches provide.

Next time you get on to your favorite bass pond or dam or even a new water, consider taking the time to scan the water and identify the most likely looking hot-spots, you might not catch a string of small bass, but you just might hook into that one special fish of the day.



Banded Tilapia can be found in nearly every stream or dam in South Africa, they are omnivores and will feed on any available food source from algae, soft plants, small insects and fry. They tend to be quite opportunistic thus won’t pass up on a fallen bug or small fish that happens to be in their vicinity. They tend to gather in shoals and because of this they often feed aggressively and they will readily come to the surface to nab a bug or insect. They’ll eat whatever bug they see and sometimes even try to eat bugs that can hardly fit in their mouths and they’ll eat it fast, before another tilapia can get to it. Like the Bluegill and even Canary Kurper they are quite underrated, yet they can provide hours of fun for youngsters starting out with a fly rod. As in most bluegill fly’s durability and other practical considerations are quite important and the same goes for flies designed for the tilapia species. Their abrasive mouths can wreak havoc on a delicate tied trout fly and often another tilapia will try to steal the fly out of the mouth of the hooked fish, thus tearing at the body of the fly

This is where the all-synthetic bluegill bug designed by William G Tapply known as the Tap’s Spider really shines, it’s a quick pattern to tie, it has that buggy look and the tilapia love them just as much as the bluegill do.

It’s practically indestructible and easy to make from inexpensive materials. The closed-cell foam body keeps it afloat all day (if it gets a bit waterlogged, just squeeze it dry), and it has that soft natural feel in a fish’s mouth that hard-bodied bugs lack. In white or yellow (banded tilapia like bluegill are normally not too fussy about the colour) it’s readily visible to the fisherman. The little burble made by the squared-off head attracts them, and even sitting motionless, the quivering legs and tail make the bug irresistible to the tilapia.

  • Hook: Dry Fly #10-14
  • Thread White 3/0
  • Tail:Rubber Leg Material
  • Body: Closed Cell Foam
  • Legs: Rubber Legs
Tying Instructions:
  1. Cover the hook shank with thread, ending at bend.
  2. Fold and tie in a strand of rubber-leg material for the tail, trimming it to the length of the hook shank or slightly longer.
  3. Cut a strip of 4mm thick closed-cell foam about 3cm long and 5-7mm wide.
  4. Lay the foam strip over the top of the hook shank with the front of the foam just behind the eye of the hook and the other end extending over the tail.
  5. Wind the thread forward, binding the foam tightly to the top of the hook.
  6. Tie two strands of rubber-leg material to the underside of the hook, about one-third back from the eye so that they form an X. Trim them so that each leg is about 1 inch long.
  7. Fold the remaining foam over the top of the hook, stretching it tightly, and tie off behind the eye. Whip-finish.
  8. Trim off the remaining foam, leaving a square head. Decorate the foam (and the legs and tail, if you’re so moved) with waterproof pens to suit your artistic bent. I usually colour the bug’s belly green or black, and I always leave the head white so I can see it on the water.
  9. Finish the head and the thread wraps along the underside with head cement.

BUFFALO RIVER 2019-07-06


Every time we have met the Border Fishing Buddies had been regaling me with tales of a pretty little river they regularly fish for KZN Yellowfish aka Scalies, so when Dèhan posted some pictures of a quick but successful excursion to the Buffalo River I just couldn’t resist the temptation any more.

Some quick plans were made and the wheels were set in motion, this time for me to visit Jarryd and Dèhan on their home water in search of those pretty scalies. The excitement built up as I counted the days down and then even before the alarm clock went off the Saturday morning I jumped out of bed, got dressed and made myself a quick cup of coffee before the hour and a half’s drive that lay ahead of me. As I pulled the already packed Hilux out of the garage the cold hit me, but nothing was going to stop me from a visit with good friends and maybe even a bent rod as a bonus.

It was still dark as the kilometers rolled out beneath me and before the sun was up I stopped to get another cup of coffee in Volksrust and off again for the last bit, as I rolled through the Amjuba pass, I tried to imagine how it must have been for the English forces entrenched on the sides of the mountain when the sun also rose on them, the morning when the Boer Commando started their assault on them in 1881.

Just as the sun came up over the horizon I arrived at the arranged meeting place and is wasn’t long before Dèhan and Jarryd stopped there too, the formalities aside I followed through billowing winter dust clouds on a relatively decent gravel road to where they had arranged for us to fish. After stopping the bakkies and walking closer to look at the pretty little stream that flowed in front of us we then with shivering fingers threaded fly lines through rod eyes and tippets were tied on and attached to flies, while Jarryd tended to the coffee as a cold wind blew down the valley from the frosty sides of Majuba Hill.

After a few casts in the winter shade of the wattle trees on our side of the river, but the cold started creeping through our jackets and the three of us then launched a small dinghy and proceeded to precariously cross the river in it to fish a bit in the early morning sun. It seemed that it wasn’t just us who were suffering from the cold as the Yellows were still hunkered down. We crossed the river again for more coffee and to inflate the pontoon boat that I had brought along for Dèhan to give a test run.

After Dèhan set off I crossed the river again only after a few minutes to hear Dèhan calling to us that we should come downstream with the dinghy as he has already released his third fish, what is it with these guys as soon as you split them one starts to fish it happened on the Assegai and here again.

Downstream we row making a cast every now and then until we find a nice spot effectively cutting in front of Dèhan and making sure he doesn’t catch another. It wasn’t long before Jarryd and myself started getting the indicators to dip and dive but the wind was making it difficult. Eventually we both managed to land a fish. The action seemed to die down a bit and we made a call to try and push through a thick patch of hyacinth to a pool further down that looked very promising. With some serious effort and worse cussing we got through praying that it wasn’t for nothing.

Knowing your home water is always a great advantage and before long buddy was on to his third fish from this pool, showing me how it’s done. After a few fish the action died down again so we decided to garden our way through the cabbage back to where the others were in the hope of sustenance and refreshments. A cold one and some friendly banter lifts weary spirits and soon the guys had a small fire going for some proper flame grilled “boerrie” rolls. Since my time was short I excused myself and rod in hand headed to the spot that I had first tried on our arrival. It wasn’t long and I struck gold in a handsome, decently sized KZN Yellow. A quick photo and back it went. It didn’t take long and I was tuned into their station and another one came to the net. After a fourth one I decided to go grab a bite.

Done wolfing down some food and making the required amount of small talk I grabbed my rod and set off to make those fabled last casts, fortunately the river and its inhabitants liked me and another few fish were fooled by feathers and fluff. Eventually and regrettably I had to call it quits since I didn’t want to have to negotiate two mountain passes in the dark on my way home.

With a heavy heart I started packing my kit and soon the place looked like we were never even there. We said our farewells and made plans to get together soon again and I headed home happy to know there are good friends in life great places to fish and plans in the cooker for another get together on another water.

A final shout out goes to Bjorn who made it possible and went out of his way to make the place accessible for us.

Warmwater Bends



At some stage I became tired with lugging numerous boxes of flies to the water, so I summarized the years captured data, determining that I mostly used about 16 different patterns on the Assegai River for most of our Smallscale and Largescale Yellows. The same flies and sizes had also fooled quite a number of Smallscale Yellows in the Pongola, uHlelo and Ngwempisi Rivers too. Also noting that on visits to the Vaal and Orange River I had had relied on my same trusty Smallscale selections to catch the Smallmouth Yellowfish and Muddies of these two systems. The same bunch of flies had also proven themselves on KZN Yellows on the Buffalo River.

So one evening I pulled all the flies from the boxes except those that had proven themselves and set out to fill the rows in only one of my fly boxes with the flies that have worked for me over the years. There were nine rows on each side of the fly box I chose to fill and each row has 28 slots. Between orders and time on the water I spent some serious time behind the vise, slowly but surely filling the rows of flies, sometimes replacing a couple I had lost on an outing to the water. Eventually I was done and happy with my efforts.

Many times when I take first time visitors to the Assegai River or any of the other rivers in the area, I am often asked what flies work best and now that I have crunched the data, I am able to confidently say what mostly works for myself on the river and would like to share at least ten of the most effective of these patterns here.

No 1: Peacock Caddis

Peacock CaddisThis fly was shared with me a few years back, by none other than the Smallscale Master Horst Filter who guides on the Assegai and Pongola Rivers, its a simple tie and doesn’t take much materials or time at  to wrap up a few of them. In the smaller sizes such as #14 – #16 it is absolutely deadly. I often fish this fly ahead of a Dragon Bugger pattern New Zealand style, but it is just as effective on its own fished tight up against standing growth such as reeds bordering the water. Cast it and let it sink then give two or three short twitches and let it sink watching the point of the leader that enters the water. At any untoward moment strike, smallscales can be very sneaky at picking a fly up and rejecting it.

No 2: The Peeping Caddis

Cased CaddisShortly after obtaining Dean Riphagens excellent book The South African Fly Fishing Handbook one of the first flies I tied from its pages was the Casemaker Caddis by René Harrop. As the years went by and new materials and hook styles became available I started tinkering with this particular fly, the first change was the substitution of the Gold Crystal Chenille for Gold Ice Dubbing in an effort to keep the body slimmer. I later saw a similar pattern incorporating a small split shot crimped onto tippet and then tied in at the head to flip the fly over similar to modern jig hooks it also had a small chartreuse burnt Peeping Caddisyarn head to simulate the head of a caddis peeping from its case, surrounded by a turn or two of hen hackle to imitate the legs, this all made sense and was put to the test with good results. When jig hooks became more available the Peeping Caddis naturally progressed to them, eliminating the Split shot head procedure. I mostly fish this pattern in #14 and once you are familiar with the tying procedure it is another quick no nonsense fly to tie.

No 3: The Hot Green Brassie

Hot Green BrassieWhether green rockworms are around or not, this one in the faster waters will often produce the goods, the concept is based on the South Platte Brassie by Gene Lynch when tied on a #14 – 16 hook with a hot orange head it seems to trigger both Small- and Largescale Yellows to having a go at it. It has also become one of my favorite Vaal and Orange River flies due to the slimHot Green Brassie (Jig) profile and heavy wire abdomen it gets down fast and stays down for most of the drift and is also very effective combined with a small PTN dropper just above it. Recently I’ve been having success with the Hot Green Brassie tied on a jig hook instead of the caddis/grub style hook, eliminating it getting stuck to rocks and other structure.

No 4: The  V-Rib Caddis (That Ugly Brown Worm)

V-Rib CaddisAnother one from the stable of super flies from Mr Filters vise, this one is not a fly that will win prizes for its looks, but man does it catch fish over and over, on nearly every water I have presented it to yellows. ItHot Orange V-Rib Caddis uses minimal materials and takes less than a few minutes to tie. I fish two versions of it, one with a gold bead and another with a hot orange bead, especially when the fish seem less inclined to and one size seems to work best a #10 TMC200R nothing smaller. It gets down quick to where the fish seem to often be and takes are often quite visible right after a few quick twitches. Give the V-Rib Caddis a chance you just might become convinced.

No 5: Beams Woolly Worm

Beams Wooly WormA true South African fly in its own right originally tied by the Late John Beams, often one of the first flies I tie on when I visit new waters or when the gong gets tough. This little no in #14 tied on as a dropper has deceived more Smallscales than I can count, even in a local still-water it delivers when fished just below the surface on its own. The hot orange butt acts as a trigger, combined with peacock herl and a sparse hackle for movement yellows will confidently inhale it. Beams Woolly Worm is just one of those patterns I always have, even carp agree with it.

No 6: The Dragon Bugger

Dragon Bugger (Original)I go through these like its nobody’s business, a very productive fly from American fly tier Andy Burke with a few small tweaks, such as the small hotspot and a strand of crystal flash on either side of the tail. This fly produces solid and very visible takes and is often a fly I give to first time visitors to the Assegai River who are not familiar with how sneaky Smallscales can be in picking up a fly.  Fished on an active retrieve takes usually come between jerks as Dragon Bugger (Hot Spot)the fly stops and slowly sinks, since dragonfly nymphs can spurt away quite quickly I believe that yellows hammer this pattern before it can get away, resulting in very visible and positive pickups by the fish. The Dragon Bugger is another one size fits all for me pattern, with #10 being the only size I carry and the dark brown colour also being the most effective.

No 7: Hot Spot PTN

PTN Hotspot (Natural)A yellowfish selection without the trusty Pheasant Tail Nymph would be incomplete, it is just one of those patterns that seem to work everywhere for yellowfish not to mention a couple of other species to. A pattern that can imitate a variety of mayfly nymphs found in most river PTN Hotspot (Black)systems. On the Assegai and other local rivers that small bright thorax seems to trigger the less aggressive fish to pick it up, when the water is off colour the fish seem to key in better on the black version and for clearer waters the natural brown pattern doesn’t shine and put them off like a light bulb on a dark night. The most effective sizes on the Assegai River are #14 – #18

No 8: Craven’s Cased Caddis

Craven's Cased CaddisThis is one of those patterns that when I open my fly box it draws some attention, the first question I often get is “is this one of your own patterns” the answer is “nope” its probably because not many anglers are familiar with it. This one comes from master tier Charlie Craven’s vise and the first time I saw it I tied up a quick couple of them and was on the water the following day. This little pattern proved itself and has found a permanent row in my fly box. A very versatile pattern that can be fished in fast and slow water, on its own or with another fly as a dropper. Tied on a #12 TMC200R is probably the most effective size. If the fish are rejecting it, I have come to believe its not a size issue, but a different pattern that they are keyed in onto.

No 9: Scruffy Nothing (Roadkill Scrape)

Scruffy Nothing (Roadkill Scrape) Living in a small town for away from fly fishing shops prior to the availability of online shopping leads to one using what is available, I started tying this fly about 15 years back. I gifted a Slender Mongoose pelt that had met its untimely end while raiding eggs, for quite some time the skin was left nearly forgotten until one day I was looking for slightly longer and spikier fur due to the lack of squirrel fur for the thorax on a Red Fox Squirrel Nymph. After tying a couple of Red Fox Squirrel Nymphs with the mongoose hair I started playing around with this material over time until I settled on this pattern. The tail comes from Golden Pheasant tail I had picked up and the body was from another road kill victim, this time an unfortunate hare that crossed the road at the wrong time. The bead is a clear glass bead. When the caddis are diving back into the water or rising of the surface this is the first fly I tie on, the hot orange collar and the clear glass bead work well together with the spiky thorax simulating movement and a small air bubble. I tie this fly in #12 and fish it mostly with an audible plop and long strips. Takes are often solid as the fish slash at them before they can get away. It also works well as a dropper fly and has caught some decent yellows on the Vaal and Orange River systems.

No 10: Gold Ribbed Hares Ear

Gold Ribbed Hares Ear (Variant)An old favorite that probably will keep on working for ever, it is a great searching pattern on the Assegai, it represents a whole range of things from small dragon fly nymphs to mayfly nymphs. Fished on its own or with another heavier pattern rigged New Zealand style it does very well when cast close to standing vegetation or submerged structure where yellows like to hang out. I have over the years made some proven changes to it, to simplify the tying of this pattern. Such as using Peacock Herl for the thorax cover as advocated by Randal Kaufmann and using pheasant hen for the tail. I predominantly use hot orange thread for tying since I believe it doesn’t hurt to have a small hotspot incorporated in the fly for added effectiveness. The Hares Ear in sizes 12 to 14 seem to be the most effective.

These ten flies are what I have come to believe in over the years on the Assegai River and other local rivers and wherever I go if there are yellows this box comes along with me.


After going through my seasons records, I found that one fly in my box of tricks, fooled more Smallscales on the Assegai River this season than all my other flies combined. The Dragon Bugger definitely rates as one of my confidence flies and the number of Smallscales that fell for it, is probably because, I often found myself reaching for it first from the slots in the fly box when I was rigging up beside the water. It’s simple enough to production tie a good number of them in an evening after losing a few on the water at some stage and I try never to have less than twelve in my box when I go out to the river often because I lose a few, but more so because it’s the first fly I hand to those who fish with me and seem to be having a hard time detecting the subtle takes when fishing smaller nymphs. It’s also a big fish producer and I hardly ever catch juvenile fish on it.Dragon Bugger (Hot Spot)

I started looking around for a dragonfly nymph imitation after regularly coming across long slender dragonfly nymphs burrowing in the sediment along the river’s edge. The idea is not completely my own as the Dragon Bugger comes from the vice of renowned USA fly tier Andy Burke. I did make a few modifications to the original to suit the conditions on the Assegai River.

Dragon BuggerFish this fly on a leader of about 12 to 16 ft. into large slow pools. It seems to work best when cast as tight as possible to structure such as standing reed banks or submerged weeds and rock formations in the river. Once the fly lands straighten the leader ans line then let it sink a bit and start a active retrieve very similar to a startled dragonfly nymph by giving it two or three small sharp twitches then let it settle down again. The takes often come right after the twitches as the fly sinks, sometimes they are very subtle, but more often the take is a very visible one and the tip of the line where the leader enters the water will actually jump forward quite visibly. Fish also seem to take the fly quite confidently and I suspect that this is due to the fact that the fleeing dragon retrieve elicits a reaction strike from the fish. There are also times when a slow and steady crawl retrieve that mimics dragonfly nymphs that are making their way along the bottom to hatch above surface seems to do the trick. The retrieve should be a slow series of small twitches as close to the bottom as possible, most of the takes when employing this retrieve are usually very subtle, as the fish have all the time they need to inspect the fly before committing. Any untoward movement of where the leader enters the water should be reacted to with a sharp strip strike and if any resistance is felt, smartly lift into it with the rod to set the hook. Dragon Bugger (Original) Then let the fish have its head as it powers off, since often this first run is the one that will part the  tippet or pull the hook out. If nothing is felt on the strip strike, it’s no harm just let the fly sink again and continue the retrieve. It also fishes well in combination with a small size 14 caddis or mayfly nymph hanging off the bend of the hook, on about 7 inches of 4x tippet. Largescales seem to love the trailing fly as an added bonus.

Even though the steps required to tie the Dragon Bugger might seem complicated at first, once you have a few lined up in your fly box and your hands become familiar with the tying steps, tying it won’t take too long.  The materials required to tie this fly won’t break the bank either and are quite easy to obtain from most fly shops. I have found that a size 10 hook closely resembles the size of the naturals in the Assegai River and I hardly fish a size smaller or larger.

When tying this fly ensure that the narrowing between the cigar like shaped abdomen and the head is distinct, similar to that of the natural nymph. Also the tail should be no longer than the body and head and not much shorter than the abdomen. The tail support should also not be omitted since this keeps the tail from wrapping around the hook bend and also kicks it up. Furthermore the eyes should be quite pronounced as this seems to act as a trigger. When winding the hackle feather do so before tying down the shellback that lies over the abdomen this splits the fibers to the sides giving the impression of legs. The length of the feather fibers should be just longer than the length of the abdomen and about two turns are sufficient. Don’t overweight the fly with a lot of lead wraps since this inhibits the natural movement of the fly, less is better just four or five turns will do. The one variation that I made to the fly is a tiny hot orange spot of dubbing where the abdomen meets the tail, this adaptation seems to work better at the end of the season when the first rains have come, clouding up the water a bit.


Hook: #10 Tiemco 3761 or GRIP 12004

Thread: 6/0 pre-waxed brown or black.

Tail: Brown Marabou.

Tail guard: Deer hair or similar to match the tail.

Under body: 4 to 5 wraps of .020 lead wire, covered with brown yarn to form cigar shape of the under body

Abdomen: Any dark brown fine to medium texture dubbing

Wing case: Nymph Skin mottled turkey.

Thorax: Same as abdomen.

Legs: Brahma Hen feather, brown.

Eyes: Burnt monofilament.

ASSEGAI RIVER 2019-06-08


Good times, better friends, cold winter nights around a fire and awesome fishing, is the only way to describe the last time I was out on the water with the Border Buddies as we have started referring to our merry group of fly casters.

The annual trip to the Assegai River for the Border Fishing Buddies has become one of my highlights. As the time gets nearer the WhatsApp messages become more and more animated and every day the excitement grows.

This year like the last looked like it would be no different (ASSEGAI RIVER 2018-09-01), a cold front had rolled in the night before, to me this spelled bad news as smallscales can sometimes develop some serious lockjaw when the barometer readings start hopping all over the place.

Once at the river it did not take the guys long to get rigged up and they were shortly making their first casts. I had hardly set up my own kit when I heard that all to familiar sound an angler makes when he sets the hook on a fish, I grabbed my net and rushed down to find Dèhan fighting a fish.

In no time he had the fish close and I was able to net it quickly, a few snaps and it was sent of to call its mates. At that stage I thought that it could only get better, man was I wrong. We hopped from one pool to another with no luck, eventually at the furthermost point of the river Jarryd managed to land another fish.

We decided to turn back and fish some of the pools on our way back to the cabin. But the cold front had done its work and the yellows had sunk to deeper places to wait out the weather, after a couple of absolute last casts, we called it a day and made our way back to the cabin to get a fire going and supper prepped.

Needless to say, we had a blast around the fire until late that evening, but knowing that there were fish waiting and that they could prove a bit difficult we hopped into warm beds and fell asleep dreaming of fish and personal bests, well I did at least.

The next morning I was up early and while my mates were still rising I walked down to the river to see if I could get a fish on. Unfortunately the smallscales were not cooperating, so I walked back to the cabin to put the kettle on, the guys were up and ready to go by now, another quick cuppa and of we set. I had a spot in mind but at the last minute decided to go to another productive section of the river. The guys made their way to the water and flies sailed through the air in no time. We heard Jarryd mumbling something and by the time we could hear what he was saying, he informed us that he had already released his third fish.

Well the day only got better as the guys and myself started catching them nearly one after the other, eventually we had to call it quits after about 32 fish in three hours. We headed back to the lodge to pack and say our fare wells

And so our weekend came to an end, with smiles all round.

Until next time on the Assegai

ASSEGAI RIVER 2018-09-01


The Dept. of Water Affairs had opened the sluices of Heyshope Dam a few days before the arrival of my guests Dèhan Bezuidenhout and Jarryd Bach. Making the Assegai rise a few inches, this also affected the water clarity. During the night lying in bed I could hear the water flowing stronger and the sound of the water coming down louder. When we woke up for coffee I could see from the deck of the cabin that the water was flowing much stronger than the previous day.


For the first days fishing I had managed to gain permission from the land owner that a very productive section of the Assegai River flows through and has bigger and larger sections than those close to the cabin where we were staying on the river. This section had been closed off to fisherman for about two years and I believed that it would produce some spectacular catches for my guests.

On arrival at the planned honey hole we were informed that we were not to drive to the place I had in mind to fish first and that we should walk if we wanted to fish it. I ran this by Jarryd and Dèhan and they were keen to make the hike. After setting up our kit, we took a brisk walk to the pool. It looked clear enough and I placed them on the most productive spots letting them cast into deeper waters from the sandbank we had waded out onto.


After about an hour with not even a take from a yellow we decided to move, the reason for fish being scarce becoming apparent as we came across a number of operations where sand for building was being pumped out of the river. Since it was not too late we packed up and returned to the waters in close proximity to the cabin.

Here on the first hole where I placed Jarryd he went tight, with a smallish but healthy Assegai Smallscale, the next moment we saw Dèhan who was upstream on the same pool’s rod bend and his reel complain as what looked like a decent fish really put the screws to him.

I managed to make my way around the pool to, help him netting the fish, after a good fight and numerous attempts to get the fish closer, for the net to come into play I managed to net a proper sized Smallscale Yellow, that would have easily pulled a scale past 2,5kg and even a bit more. A few quick photos and we set the fish back in the river.

The pool had been spooked by now so we moved to a couple of other pools, here Jarryd managed another Smallscale Yellow, but with the river running turbid it was difficult fishing, yet the guys pushed on until it was nearly dark and we decided that a cold beer at a fire with a couple of steaks would be a better idea.

The next day we were up and out early again, the water still flowing strong, at one of the first pools where we stopped I managed to land a good sized yellow in faster water.

But that was it for the day, I really gained a lot of respect for these two enthusiastic anglers the weekend, even in sub optimal conditions and the fishing being really difficult they never lost heart, kept on plugging at it and were at least rewarded with a few fish for their efforts. What really set them above some of the anglers I have fished with was the fact that after I tried to slip a portion of their guide fee back to them it was discovered and returned to me. Absolute gentlemen they were about it, no griping no complaining.

The flies that were productive on this outing were Brown V Rib Caddis, Emerging Caddis, my Sand Dragon now renamed by Dèhan as the “Bytjie” (bee) and A Green Bodied Brassie with a hot orange bead. These flies stood out in the murkier water.

Till next time on the water

Warm Water Bends



After spending some quality time on the Assegai River with skilled Protea Artlure angler Rudolph Venter, Koos Bonema and local experienced angler Pieter Heyneke, we came to the conclusion that casting lures on light tackle setups is not just a fun filled activity but also a highly effective method of targeting the Smallscale Yellowfish of the Assegai River.

Because of this we have decided to add light tackle spin fishing to our package for guests who would like to cast lures to the Smallscales on this river.


Short drives from one pool in the river to the next keeps the fishing pressure at a minimum, often allowing anglers to return to a productive pool again at a later stage in the day, the drives are quite scenic along the river and what seem like endless plantations, Fishing is mainly done from the river’s banks, casting to the edge of reed stands and other structure such as submerged rocks, sometimes wading is required and a stealthy approach into the water will ensure that fish holding close to the edges of the river are not spooked.

A minimal degree of fitness will go a long way especially getting in and out of the river and moving up and down the river from one spot to the other, the river isn’t very overgrown and mostly flows through gentle sloping gradient as it makes it way to Swaziland.


Most fish range between 500g to 1,5kg but on most outings fish of over two kilograms are caught and the odd trophy sized fish of over 3,5Kg has also been taken from the river, when spin fishing the number of fish is usually less than using fly fishing methods, but here its quality fish over quantity that sets using spinning methods apart, as the larger fish are often more predatory.

On a new pool are the first couple of casts are the most productive, from there the fish become slightly unsettled and will move to deeper cover, this is where the deep diving lures that stay in contact with the bottom are most effective. As soon as it becomes clear that the fish in the pool being fished are no longer bumping lures, it is time to move to the next holding spot, sometimes the next pool is within walking distance, at other times some driving to the next spot may be required.

When a fish shows itself by rising to the surface, a quick cast into the ring usually gets a fish that is close to the surface to turn and investigate the disturbance on the water’s surface often resulting in a strike, Smallscales can often be quite inquisitive and sometimes after the lure lands let it sit for a second or two, the fish will often pick the lure up as it slowly sinks

Recommended Setup

A 7 – 8 FT Medium to medium heavy Spinning rod paired with a good spinning reel loaded with braid and a 3ft fluorocarbon leader of up to 15Lb is sufficient to cast the required lures and also put the brakes on these steam trains.

Effective Lures:
Hornets 3cm
– White Shad
– Black Tiger
Rattlin Hornet 4,5cm
– Yellow Holo Perch
Rattlin Hornet 5,5cm
– Sexy Shad

DT Series Crankbaits
– Bleeding Olive Baitfish

If you would like to fish for some really decent sized Smallscale Yellowfish, on some of the most scenic rivers please feel free contact me for more details.



Some time back I managed to snap the second section from the tip of one of my favourite rods, a Temple Fork Outfitters, Jim Teeny Fly Rod  9′ 6wt, 4pc rod.


Even though I had a spare rod with me that day, it still wasn’t a good day, it felt like I came second regardless of the fact that I did manage to land a couple of Yellowfish.

Well when I arrived home the afternoon I unpacked and put the rod on my desk since it was too late to contact the South African distributor. The next morning I phoned up the distributor and was met with some disappointing news, apparently the rod was no longer in production and he also had no spares for the section that was broken, his suggestion was to replace it with a BVK or other TFO Model. Well I was disappointed to say the least, but eventually I did replace the rod with a BVK.

Don’t get me wrong I love my BVK Rods and I’m a staunch TFO Fly Rod advocate, but that Jim Teeny rod was just awesome on the water and it was my all-round, go everywhere with me, just in case rod. With its powerful lower section for fighting bigger fish yet sensitive tip and fast action I could cast out bulky flies for bass and tigers and still make those few extra meters on the river to get that fly in front of yellows holding in the current on the other side of the river, I had chalked up some very memorable catches on it, such as a 9Lb Tigerfish on the Komati River, a 17Lb carp and more yellowfish and largemouth bass than I could count.

TFO Teeny Rod

Well time went by and the BVK’s caught fish, I tried to source another TFO Teeny rod but to no avail, after some time I decided to take a chance and send TFO USA a mail in the hope that they just might have the rod section.  Within the space of a few hours after sending the mail, a very friendly customer agent by the name of Kimberly Penick responded to my email and the response was very positive. After some correspondence with a couple of pictures of the broken section and sorting out the postage details, I received a mail informing me that the rod section was in the mail.

As expected it took some time to arrive in South Africa all the way from the USA and anticipation grew as I followed the tracking status nearly on an hourly basis every day, but the day eventually came and I received the collection slip in my post box. I was as excited as kid before Christmas. I was in and out of the Post Office in record time with the package in hand I rushed home to open it, in less than half an hour I was on the lawn with the rod rigged up making one cast after another. Line sailed through the guides and the rod performed just like I remembered it. Man did I miss this rod’s action and feel.

Thanks so much to Kim and TFO USA for making the effort, to help me put this awesome rod together again. I really was impressed with your help and assistance and the fact that TFO keeps to their word regarding your guarantee. Its service like this that makes your rods even better.

Now just to get it on the water again and feel the bend in action.

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