WORDS Jazz Kuschwe IMAGES Gareth Reid
With SA’s 2 700km of varied coastline, and a cornucopia of creeks, streams, rivers and stillwaters, fly-fishers are spoiled for choice. Here are some of our favourite spots.
LAKE JOZINI, KWAZULU-NATAL
Tigerfish – Africa’s greatest freshwater game fish – are named for their similarities to the land animal: a burnt orange tail, distinctive black stripes along the length of their body and large interlocking teeth. Usually associated with the Zambezi River, South African tigers are limited to a few waterways – most of them in the Lowveld, flowing into, through or out of the Kruger National Park. The good news is, Lake Jozini offers accessible tigerfish water – but you’ll need a specialised boat and knowledge of the dam to fish it successfully. Mavungana Flyfishing has been fishing the lake for years, and will hook you up with an experienced guide and a custom-outfitted skiff.
Mavungana’s packages are full-board, and include accommodation at Nkwazi Lake Lodge in the Pongola Game Reserve. The lodge features en suite, air-conditioned cabins with panoramic views over the lake and reserve, and hearty cuisine rich in venison dishes, served in an open-plan dining area that overlooks the Pongola River.
The centre of the South African fly-fishing universe, this town in Mpumalanga is within long-weekend range of Gauteng,and offers a variety of stillwaters and rivers in which to target brown and rainbow trout. Of these, the Laverpa private venue is a favourite – located 7km from town, it consists of three well-stocked dams. Book a day ticket, or enquire about guiding services through Mavungana Flyfishing (who also have a fully stocked fly store in town). walkersons.co.za
Walkersons Hotel & Spa is a throwback to old-school cool, with a Scottish country manor feel highlighted by its elegant dining rooms, expansive terrace and cosy bar. The rooms are tastefully decorated and feature large verandas from which to take in the glorious views. Bonus: the estate has some well-stocked trout dams too.
FIZANTAKRAAL, WESTERN CAPE
For Western Cape trout, look no further than Du Toit’s Kloof and its freestone streams – like the spectacular Kraalstroom, which makes its way through a private trout-fishing haven. This stream is likely to solicit a “How do you fish that?” from the uninitiated: it’s overgrown, fat-flowing, shallow, gin-clear, and often less than three metres across. There’s no room for expansive, A River Runs Through It-style casting here – it’s all about tight flicks and practised presentation of the fly.
Fizantakraal Private Trout Lodge is nestled deep in the dramatic Du Toit’s Kloof mountains. It looks out onto four picturesque trout dams holding beautifully conditioned rainbow and brown trout, and offers private access to the Kraalstroom. The hiking, birding and mountain biking are also excellent. The lodge sleeps up to eight people, and must be booked out in its entirety.
LOWER ORANGE RIVER, NORTHERN CAPE
The Orange River runs like an artery through the desolately spectacular Richtersveld, and is home to South Africa’s most revered indigenous freshwater species – the yellowfish. The river’s bubbling riffles are full of obliging smallmouths, while trophy largemouths patrol the deep, boulder-strewn pools. Soul-elevating desert scenery and heart-pumping fishing sees discerning fly-fishers returning year after year.
Trips typically take place on custom-built inflatable rafts and feature wild camping – like the one MavunganaFlyfishing runs through the Richtersveld National Park. But if you’re looking for a luxury lodge setup with great fishing, check out Gkhui Gkhui River Lodge near Hopetown on the Northern Cape-Free State border, or Tutwa Desert Lodge in the Green Kalahari.
BREEDE RIVER ESTUARY, WESTERN CAPE
The Breede River estuary in the Overberg is the mainstay of great saltwater fly-fishing. The river teems with fish ranging from kob to spotted grunter and garrick (leervis) – and if you know what you’re doing and where to go, the odds of an estuary slam (all three in a day) are on your side.
Situated within a 22-hectare estate that’s part of the Lower Breede River Conservancy, Mudlark Riverfront Lodge sits on a ridge, offering views of the estuary as well as the Potberg mountains in the distance. It’s surrounded by flourishing fynbos on three sides, and is protected from the prevailing sea breezes.