Fly-Fishing in the Great East Cape – A paradise unexplored
by Martin Fick (E.C.F.F. chairman)
“Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you ‘most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead: green, yellow, and red, the Northern Lights swept in bars?--
Then you've a hunch what the music meant...hunger and might and the stars.
And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of a lonely man for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;“
Extract from a poem by Robert Service
The Eastern Cape of South Africa has always been a place that is a bit “out of the way”, and “Far from the madding crowd”, that is unless you like the crowds and want to go to the beach over the festive season, or if you want to go to Rhodes
in the Southern Drakensberg over Easter. At these times our quiet, conservative countryside is jam packed with holiday makers from around the country. The quad bikes zoom, the rivers are crowded, ski-boats thrash the river-mouths to foam and the local home-folks stay home. But when the crowds subside, and the noise levels return to normal, you could not find a more magnificent spot to take a quiet week-end with a fly-rod to soak up the soul-soothing scenery along a North Eastern Cape Maclear stream, a high mountain lake on the edge of the Karoo or a quiet estuary on the edge of a pristine coastline. Perhaps this is generally the pattern in other parts of the country, but I believe that we have, in the Great East Cape, some of the best quality fly-fishing to be found anywhere in South Africa.
Let me give you an example: at the end of April some friends and I spent a week in Dordrecht, and then a week in Maclear
. The still-waters of Dordrecht
and Queenstown yielded, in four days of fishing and between four of us, 86 wild Rainbows. 16 of these weighed between 8 and 10lb; 5 were between 10 and 12lb and one beauty tipped the scales at 12lb 4oz. (Not to mention the ones that got away!) My friends were aghast! I went on to Maclear, where there are over 1500Km of river frontage to cast a fly at, and fished the Little Pot River, the Tentkopspruit and the lower Pot, and while I cannot number the fish I caught, there were seven fish amongst them over 4lb, and one that weighed just under 7lb. It goes without saying that the Maclear festival
was a tremendous success.
Just prior to this I spent an evening alone on the “Floating Restaurant” on the Bushmans River at Kenton on Sea with my 8wt and a few chartreuse Clousers, fishing the salt with a fly. I stopped counting the Dusky Kob after 13, and only stopped fishing when one of the blighters bit a tearing great hole in my finger while I was trying to release him. They averaged 6lb, and I took home two table fish, one of 13lb and one of 17lb. The shad were also chasing sardines up the beach last week, but I’d forgotten my fly-rod in the secret pouch under the seat of my other vehicle at home.
The Indigenous Yellowfish, or “Yellows” as we affectionately call them are virginal in the Orange River below the Gariep Dam, on an overdose of pheromones in those parts, and can’t wait to feel the hook! It’s not uncommon to land over 40 fish in a morning. Jamie Renton and Jurie Venter tell me that the Yellows in the Bashe and Kei rivers near Umtata in the former Transkei are just as feisty, only twice as big! I haven’t mentioned the Kraai and Barkly East
, nor the Winterberg
where 17 double-figure Trout (both Rainbow and Brown) have been recorded in the last 14 months. In fact, Martin Davies of Rhodes University informs me with a straight face that all the waters in the Eastern Cape that he has provided Trout for, have in the last two years produced 69 double figure fish! (Perhaps a squeeze of lemon together with the pinch of salt, but there you have it.)
As I read a recent report on the state of pollution on the Vaal, and the general state of waters in the Free-State, I must admit that I was extremely grateful that the Eastern Cape doesn’t have to contend with the multitude of problems that are so common elsewhere, and while I sympathise with the authorities in those places, we aim to jealously guard the largely pristine environment that we call home in the Eastern Cape. We struggle economically because we do not have that many fly-anglers as compared to other provinces, but we are thankful that we are not as populace as other provinces for other reasons.
So, I ask you, where else in this country can we boast such a heaven for Fly-fishers? Our Trout angling is certainly world-class, the scenery is magnificent, it isn’t over-crowded, the people are great and the options for a variety of species on fly abound. There are also a host of accommodation providers with superb venues at very affordable prices that will make your stay in the Eastern Cape one you’ll never forget. Surely there is the making of a world class fly-fishing destination right on our doorstep for those who can grasp the breadth of the vision.
The Eastern Cape generally is a vast wilderness of mountains and semi desert with an almost temperate climate where the winters are extremely cold, and the still-waters and rivers maintain temperatures that are conducive to the growth of great Trout, fantastic Yellowfish and the 2000Km coastline offers amazing Saltwater opportunities for the enterprising Fly Fisher. Saltwater species abound, and while fishing the Salt anywhere generally puts you in the “teeth” of the weather, the species here abound, and the opportunities are endless. The local people are friendly and hospitable and, to top it all, the costs are often a fraction of what they are up in the Mpumalanga.
In short, then, the Eastern Cape is quietly inviting; we are promoting, developing and marketing of the Eastern Cape as a destination of choice for local, national and international Fly Anglers.
Come see for yourself: you won’t be disappointed!
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