Thursday, 3 August 2017

Sterkfontein Dam Interactive Map

An interactive map based on the Sterkfontein Guide: http://www.fosaf.org.za/documents/Guide_to_Sterkf...

A day on the Lake: Sterkfontein Dam

Introduction:
We recently visited Sterkfontein Dam and I have put this article together predominantly for newcomers looking to fish this world class sight fishing venue. I am no expert on this dam by any means, however I do try and approach any venue in a similar manor. Many of the flies (both dry fly and nymphs) in my boxes are confidence flies that I feel comfortable fishing on both rivers and dams for a multitude of species.
The information that will follow is a breakdown of the 2nd day spent on Sterkfontein Dam and how I approached each situation. The first day we predominantly spent look for good spots en experimented with a few flies. On the first day we only managed a couple of fish and lost a few more on a fairly cold and windy day.
Leader Setups:
The following two leader and rig setups were used during the day:
Early morning:
Leader: 12ft 3x Rio Tapered leader
Leader connection: 2mm Rio Tippet ring
Tippet:
20cm of 4x GTM Stroft – Connection between indicator dry fly and tippet ring
90cm of 4x GTM Stroft, 120cm of 5.5x GTM Stroft with a dropper tag
Flies: Foam Head hopper, Size 16 Walt’s worm and Size 16 Frenchie PTN
Sterkfontein Dam Nymphing Leader Setup

Late morning to Afternoon:
Leader: 12ft 3x Rio Tapered leader
Leader connection: 2mm Rio Tippet ring
Tippet: 90cm of 4x GTM Stroft, 120cm of 5.5x GTM Stroft
Flies: Foam Only Doctor’s Beetle, Orange Leg Bullet Head Hopper and Foam Head Hopper
Note: A 1.5mm tungsten bead was added above the last triple surgeons knot to sink the leader below the surface
Sterkfontein Dam Dry Fly Leader Setup
Early morning Session:
I started the morning fishing a rocky point with a rocky bay on the one side and a bay with weed beds on the opposite side. From a high vantage point we could see fish cruising along this point, close to the shore, a good place to start the morning. With a fairly cold wind blowing directly into the point the fish where still feeding deep and I opted to use a nymphing rig with a dry fly as an indicator.
I fished this rig in the same way you would fish a river upstream (in this case directly into the wind), keeping in contact with my flies and watching the dry fly for any movement. A few casts in a school of fish cruised passed and I made a cast to a fish that broke the surface. The leading fish (the largest in the school) picked up the Walt’s worm, the bottom fly.
Mid-morning Session:
We moved on to a cliff that had a small beach and a scum line bending around it. I climbed down to the small beach and found a good hiding spot between some boulders. Fish where cruising along the scum line and I presented a foam only beetle to the largest fish I could see. The fly landed approximately a meter in front of it and it caused a reaction take from the fish. After this fish we fished the section for another 30min before moving on.
Afternoon Session:
The next spot was a bay with rocky banks on either side. The wind was churning up mud which formed lines between dirty and clean water sections. I fished a small hopper on these lines and got smashed by a large female after a few minutes.
I moved to the one rocky bank and found another good hiding spot between large boulders. At this spot large females where cruising past every 2nd minute and I could choose which fish to cast at. I landed two fish at this spot on bullet head hopper with orange legs.
Approximately 50m further I found a similar spot where I managed to hook another two fish on the same fly, only managing to land one fish with the other one that threw the hook file tail walking.
We decided to call it a day and started our journey back to the car at 15:00

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Vision Loikka Gummi and Stud Boots Review (6 to 8 Months)

As I mentioned in my article on 21 February 2014, I will give you feedback on the performance of Vision Loikka Gummi and Stud boots. In that article I mentioned various criteria I will use to rate the boots and I have given ratings below out of 5 with a brief discussion.

Comfort (5/5): I found the boots to be very comfortable due to the light weight synthetic materials. This is the first pair of boots I have used with built in studs and my first assumption was that I would experience stud. The foam padding on the outer and inner soles are however sufficient to prevent stud pressure and are very comfortable. During a full days fishing I do not experience foot fatigue with these boots.

Feet Protection (4/5): These boots have decent ankle support and are heavily padded on the inside, which prevents your ankles from over extending and protects them against bumps from rocks etc. The toe tips are fairly soft, however I found the rubber covering to be sufficient protection if the boots are worn with thick wool or neoprene socks. Due to the light weight of the boots I also found them to be quite comfortable while hiking on river banks.

Sole Grip (3.5/5): Personally it took some times for me to get use to the Gummi and Stud sole configuration. As with all wading you have to be careful with your foot placement to prevent slipping. The tungsten tips do slip on occasions and will slide a few centimeters before gripping hard into the rock. I found the grip to be sufficient in all my wading conditions which ranges from still water fishing, the Vaal River and Small Streams throughout South Africa. The tungsten tips really come into their own while wading in rivers with rocks covered in algae, which is often the case while wading the Vaal River

The tungsten tips really help a lot while hiking on the banks of dams and rivers, this is normally where for example felts soles will often slip on wet grassy banks. The only situation where I felt the grip was not sufficient was on smooth, iron-rich boulders while climbing out of river beds. Care has to be taken in these situations and can normally be overcome by taking slow well placed steps.

Sole Durability (4/5): I have been wearing the boots since the beginning of March 2014 and have fished various venues ranging from the Bushmans River (KZN), the Broederstroom River (Limpopo), the Crocodile River (Gauteng), the Vaal River and some local streams and dams.

Up to this point the tungsten tips and their fittings have shown virtually no wear. The Gummi soles have a circular grip pattern, some of the grip points do tend to wear off on the side of the soles. The soles show little wear towards the middle sections.

Exterior Material Durability (5/5): The exterior materials of the boots have really impressed thus far. There is virtually no visible wear and tear visible on the exterior of the boots. The rubber layer on the toe part of the boots is still firmly glued onto the synthetic materials. I do advise to wear decent gravel guards with the boots to protect the neoprene sections at the top of the boot and the laces. Up to this point these section of the boots have also shown virtually no wear and tear, however I do think these section will get damaged without gravel guards.

Lacing System Durability (5/5): The nylon laces and rings still look brand new, and the lacing hooks shown no signs of rust.

Interior Material Durability (5/5): The inner soles have a strong nylon material and show no wear. The neoprene and stitching on the interior of the boots also still look brand new, I suggest wearing thick wool socks or neoprene wading socks to help protect these materials.

Weight (5/5): These are some of the lightest boots I have felt in hand and they proved to be even more comfortable while wearing them inside and outside the water.

Value for Money (4/5): These boots are quite expensive, however they are similar priced to boots in the same quality range.

Longevity (4/5): Up to this point the exterior of the boots have shown great durability and very little wear and tear. The soles have shown some wear, however that is very understandable. Normally the exterior of wading boots determine their longevity, my previous boots completely fell apart after a year and the soles where still intact. At this point personally I think these boots will at least last another 2 to three years.

Vision Loikka Gummi and Stud 6 to 8 Month Review

Vision Loikka Gummi and Stud - Minimal wear and tear visible on the exterior

Vision Loikka Gummi and Stud Review - Shoe Tip Wear and Tear

Vision Loikka Gummi and Stud Review - Sole Wear and Tear

Vision Loikka Gummi and Stud Review - Sole Wear and Tear

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Zwakala River Retreat - Venue Review

Introduction

Zwakala River Retreat is the only venue in the Haenertsburg area that provides instant access to the Broederstroom River. This mysterious and tranquil river that flows through indigenous forest and pine plantations offers fantastic, catch and release fly-fishing for both Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout. This privately owned farm venue provides accommodation in various configurations ranging from a comfortable campsite on the river bank, romantic cottages for couples and cabins for families. There are various other activities on the farm such as mountain biking trails, river tubing, swimming etc. for the non-fishing members. There is also an events venue (Mina’s Art Café & Farm venue) ideal for weddings, family or corporate events, music performances and art exhibitions.

Accommodation

During this venue review we stayed in the newly finished Cob House which is a 4 sleeper cottage with 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen and veranda. The cottage does not have any electricity, it has solar powered lights, a fire boiler for hot water and a gas fridge and stove with an oven. The one bedroom has an on-suite shower with one door leading into the living room and the second bedroom is separated from the second bathroom with two doors, one leading to the patio.


Cob House Cottage - Veranda

Cob House Cottage - Living Room
Cob House Cottage - Main Bedroom and En-suite Bathroom
The living room has a large L-shaped couch perfectly positioned around a cosy fire place. Between the living room and the kitchen there is a dining room table looking out over the veranda. The kitchen is fully equipped with all the necessary utensils and as previously mentioned a gas stove/oven and fridge. In front of the veranda there is a fire pit and braai facility, which is the perfect place to sit and relax after a day’s fishing.


Cob House Cottage - Second Bedroom
Cob House Cottage - Fire Pit
Personally, what makes a venue special for me in terms of accommodation are the smaller details! When you break away for a weekend you want to be comfortable especially if you taking your partner with you. Zwakala passed this test with flying colours, from the fire place being lit on arrival (which was perfect with the cold, misty weather), to the most comfortable bed with feather down duvets and cloudy soft pillows. I also loved the fact that the cottage does not have any electricity which allows you to really just break away from all modern day distractions.

Fishing

The section of the Broederstroom River that runs through Zwakala offers some fantastic fishing! The river is only a few meters from the cottage, which allows a very relaxed fishing experience. To fish the river effectively you need at least three days to cover all the sections. The river has various features from a slow flowing section through a forest, various slow riffles, some faster flowing pocket water, pools with waterfalls and some deep slow flowing sections with a lot of structure.


Perfect dry fly water - Slow flowing section of the Broederstroom River
Forest section of the Broederstroom River
One of many waterfall pools
Perfect pocket water in the Broederstroom River
I suggest that river should be fished very slowly and patiently, you will often just have one chance on a big fish during your stay and you don’t want to mess it up. In some of the overgrown sections you will often find a pair of fish slowly sipping insects of the surface, you need to observe them for a while, plan your attack and only then present a fly to them. If you don’t fish this river slowly you will often walk past some of the bigger fish or just end up spooking them, often they will just be holding on the bottom and you will only spot them by seeing an occasional flash as they take a food items.


Brown Trout caught on a Bullethead Hopper
Bullet Head Hopper with CDC underwing
Ideally you should be fishing a 3 weight rod (or lighter) with a maximum length of 9ft, shorter rods will definitely help in the overgrown sections. I recommend you fish a 9ft 3x tapered leader (if you can handle longer you can use a 12ft) that you step down to 6x tippet (or even 7x in some of the shallower sections).


Largest Rainbow Trout of the trip 
I enjoyed fishing dry fly and I mostly fished a dry and dropper rig and switched to a single dry fly if I spotted fish. I caught most of my fish on small Puterbaugh Caddis and Bullethead hoppers. I used black jig mayfly patterns for the dropper and occasionally fished a NZ rig in the deeper sections, this delivered the largest fish of the trip. In some of the pools I switched to a single black or olive jig streamer which proved to be very effective. I fished the streamers upstream the same way you would fish a nymph and just kept contact with the fly.

Summary

Zwakala River Retreat offers the perfect balance between living comfort and fly-fishing quality! This is definitely one of the best fly-fishing venues you can visit that your wife/girlfriend will also enjoy!

The Video


Zwakala River Retreat from flyloops.net on Vimeo.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Angler and Antelope Guesthouse Review


Introduction

This was a trip and review way overdue; I had been threatening to visit Alan Hobson in Somerset East for quite a while.  During last year’s Getaway Show at the Coca Cola dome I finally met Alan at their exhibition stand and we decided there and then to arrange a date for a review. We decided to do the review during December last year and I couldn't wait to explore the hidden fishing potential of Somerset East.

The town is situated approximately 150 km north of Port Elizabeth and 100 km north of the well know Addo Elephant Park. For the newcomer fly-fishermen out there Alan and his wife Annabelle owns a 4-star guesthouse in the town and provides access to various fly-fishing venues in the area. These venues provide fishing in both rivers and dams with various fish species such as Largemouth Bass, Bluegill Sunfish, Carp, Sharptooth Catfish, Smallmouth Yellowfish, Moggel, Mullet, Blue Kurper and trophy Rainbow Trout. Alan recently caught a Rainbow Trout of over 6kg in the Little Fish River which just proves what quality fish this area can produce with its good quality water and healthy ecosystems.


Alan guiding me on the Little Fish River during high flows





Alan is a highly skilled fly-fisherman, a REFFIS registered fly fishing guide and he is also registered as a field guide with THETA. I can highly recommend his services for both novice and experienced anglers, as he has a great knowledge of fly-fishing in general and a lifelong knowledge of the fishing on offer in and around Somerset East, including the well known Thrift Dam.

Accommodation

The Angler and Antelope Guesthouse is 4 star rated and consist of 3 buildings, the main guesthouse, a self service cottage and an old historical church building converted into a bar, restaurant and a fly-fishing shop. The church building is the ideal place to tie some flies on a rainy day or enjoy a drink while swapping elaborate fishing stories.

The guesthouse is centrally situated in the town of Somerset East and is the ideal base for fly-fisherman looking to explore the fishing on offer in the area.  The rooms have various comfort features such as heated flooring, air-conditioning and free WiFi. For more information about the rooms please visit the website at www.anglerandantelope.co.za
The restaurant in the old church building offers guest breakfast and dinners, the ideal arrangement for fisherman that would like to spend the whole day on the water. They have a delicious menu that uses ingredients from local suppliers such as Karoo lamb and beef.

The Angler and Antelope Guesthouse
Somerset East is surrounded by various parks such as the Addo Elephant Park, Camdeboo National Park and Mountain Zebra National Park. What really surprised me about the area is the wide variety of vegetation that rapidly changes from open grassland, Karoo shrubs to forests in the mountainous areas. This makes fly-fishing so much more exciting in this area and just driving to your next fishing spot can provide you with a mini game drive.

Fishing

The fishing around Somerset East can only be described as fantastic and adventure filled! We spent 4 days in the area and barely scratched the surface of the fishing potential. Unfortunately during December fly-fishing can be temperamental in South Africa due to thunderstorms and the rivers where un-fishable in the area.

This was however not a problem, there was endless other fishing options to be explored. On the first afternoon we fished at the nearby Glen Avon Farm that offers both Rainbow Trout and Largemouth Bass fishing. The specific day was fairly hot and we experienced a significant thunderstorm earlier the day that seemed to put the trout of the bite. The bass on the other hand was feeding aggressively and I got smashed on almost every cast with a green deer hair popper.

Glen Avon Farm Dams - Managed by Bankberg Troutfishers Club
Vlei Dam - Glen Avon Farm Dams
Mill Dam - Glen Avon Farm Dams
Mill Dam - Glen Avon Farm Dams
Bass Dam - Glen Avon Farm Dams


On our second day we took a drive up to Mountain Dam with Alan Hobson. The dam is situated on the mountain that overlooks Somerset East. It is a beautiful looking dam surrounded by indigenous shrubs and has various features from deep rocky drop offs to shallow weed beds. It was not long after we started fishing that Alan was into an average size trout, the dam has an average of 750 g to 1.5 kg Rainbow Trout at the moment. The fish in this dam has a great growth rate due to good water quality and food sources, and should have some trophy fish in a year or two.


Getting ready with Alan Hobson to fish Mountain Dam
Mountain Dam, Somerset East

Alan had some good success during the day fishing small nymphs with a quick retrieve just below the surface and with his great local knowledge easily out fished me. I caught my first Karoo Rainbow Trout on a weedbed with a large size 4 dragonfly pattern.  Later the day I managed another fish on the same fly on the opposite bank fished slowly of the rocky cliff. Soon afterwards we called it a day when it got fairly misty and cold.

On the third day we took a break from serious fishing and Alan drive us around to explore some of the local rivers. As previously mentioned the rivers had high flows and was unfishable. It was still worth seeing this area as Alan caught a 6kg+ Rainbow Trout in one of the pools a month before. I will definitely be back to explore this river in the future.



On our final day we explored a dam that has various species such as Largemouth Bass, Blue Kurper, Sharptooth Catfish, Carp, Mullet, Moggel and Smallmouth Yellowfish. The amount of fish in this dam blew me away and at various stages during the day I found myself surrounded by schools of Carp and Sharptooth Catfish. It was difficult to decide what to target and after an hour chasing carp to no avail, I decided to target catfish on a 9 weight setup. I fished a double fly rig, a BBB and Carp tugger combination. I caught around 5 catfish between 3 to 10kg and all of them took the carp tugger on the calling method.



Fly-fishing for Sharptooth Catfish in the Karoo
My first decent catfish in the Karoo
We booked two nights at Thrift dam over new years after our visit in Somerset East. Before we left The Angler and Antelope, Alan gave me detailed advice on techniques and flies to use at this iconic South African dam. Alan knows this dam like the back of his hand and it is well worth arranging a guided trip with him or to one of the other trophy dams in the area. During my stay at Thrift dam I caught my personal best Rainbow Trout, a specimen of 27 inches! I caught the fish from a float tube of a weedbed with one of Alan’s flies, a Hobson’s Original Tadpole (HOT fly).


Cottage at Thrfit Dam
Rainbow over Thrift Dam
A storm brewing over Thrift Dam

Moments before my first fish on Thrift Dam

Last fish from Thrift dam
Conclusion

The Angler and Antelope Guesthouse offer a unique fly-fishing experience with endless options. The fishing ranges from trophy trout fishing in both rivers and dams, Yellowfish and Moggel in rivers and a variety of others species in dams. Alan also offers a fly-fishing guided service that I can highly recommend, he has a great knowledge of fly-fishing in general and also the fishing in the area. The guesthouse offers a very relaxing and comfortable stay and is the perfect base for fly-fisherman that would like to explore the fantastic fishing on offer in the area.

The Video


The Angler and Antelope Guesthouse Review from flyloops.net on Vimeo.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Vision Loikka - Out of box first impressions

I just bought a new pair of wading boots and decided on the Vision Loikka boots with the Gummi and Stud sole option. They also are available in felt soles and the Gummi sole without the studs. I chose the Gummi and Stud configuration, because I will need the boots for various situations. I think the studs might help the longevity of the the Gummi sole, however this theory will need to be tested.

I plan to review these boots over the next two year and keep you updated on the wear and tare of the boot. I will also report on the performance of the sole on different surfaces and in different situations.

As a first impression the features I noticed about the boots are:

  • They are light weight;
  • Limited stitching;
  • It has a rubber layer that protects the front part of the boot;
  • The sole is raised in the front to cover half of the toe point; 
  • There is neoprene webbing at the shoe laces that will hopefully keep out any gravel; and
  • The tungsten stud protrude slight further than the Gummi sole.
Over the next year I will be testing the boots at several venues and I will give short report back on the performance of the soles and how they grip on different surface. My first trip will be in Lesotho where will be hiking short distances with the boot and also do some wet wading crossing the river. I will also be wading with the boot if I have to nymph or fish dries in pocket water.

My aim is to test the boots under the following criteria and rate them from 0-5:
  • Comfort;
  • Feet protection (ankle support and toe protection);
  • Sole grip (I will break this down into different surfaces);
  • Sole durability;
  • Exterior material durability;
  • Lacing System durability;
  • Interior material durability;
  • Weight;
  • Price (Value for money);
  • Longevity;
I will give you feedback on the above mentioned categories every sixth months for the next two year. Please feel free to ask any questions and also suggest any additional criteria.


Vision Loikka - Gummi and Stud
Side View - Notice the Rubber Layer

Gummi Sole over the the tip

Close-up of the Gummi and Stud sole