Sunday, 26 October 2014

Zwakala River Retreat - Venue Review


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.


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.


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.


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 on Vimeo.

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