To spawn or not to spawn, tis the question

Climate change, global warming and greenhouse gasses. What on earth do any of these terms have to do with a small drinking town called Dullstroom that has a massive fishing problem? Well, a couple years ago, just about nothing; but this year things have started to change.

Now don’t be alarmed, our trout aren’t dying and our dams aren’t littered with plastic as far as the eye can see, but the trout are behaving differently. Late May, early June are normally considered your pre-spawn months where the fishing can be amazing. However, due to the long summer we had, which pushed water temperatures up to 25 degrees, it appears that in a lot of cases we are skipping the pre-spawn and are heading straight into the spawn. Naturally, there are of course a couple of exceptions. The Birds of Prey Trophy Dam produced a great number of fish, including some beautiful males which now have their spawning colours, and typical pre-spawn, they were taking streamer patterns retrieved fast and furiously. However, as the water temperatures continue to drop, the fish will start pairing and will get ready to spawn making them difficult to catch. angler holding a rainbow trout caught in Dullstroom

When they do this, their main focus is definitely not on feeding, and winter can definitely be the most technical and challenging time of the year to fish, but it’s also very exciting. Sight fishing in crystal clear waters to fussy fish is something I love to do, and winter is truly the time to do it. So prepare yourself as you’re going to need to use the thinnest tippet along with the smallest flies you have. Size 16-20 nymphs fished on 6X tippet is my go-to tactic, unless of course there’s a hatch of sorts – mainly caddis in winter, then I’ll put on a size 16 Champion Caddis from Fullingmill. Not only does this fly look super buggy, but it’s tied with a hot orange butt which just adds to the effectiveness of the fly. Alternatively, a size 18 Hotspot PTN is a must! You can of course fish your egg patterns starting off with orange, moving to white and then green. Now, these can be highly effective, but it’s not a fly you’ll find in my box. Trout often tend to take these very deep as they inhale the fly completely which makes it difficult to remove, and more often than not, you’re going to have to just cut the fly off as that’s the lest harmful method to the fish. Ideal, I think not.goldhead-pheasant-tail-nymphIf you’re not familiar with fishing a team of nymphs, it’s very simple. Your leader setup will consist of two to three flies, depending on the conditions. If you’re not seeing fish, and the wind isn’t too bad, I’d go for three flies. This will allow you to cover multiple water columns. But it’s important to note that there is an order in which you put your nymphs, in other words, you’re going to put your biggest/heaviest nymph on point (right at the end). This will pull the other nymphs down to the bottom. On your droppers you can put one or two smaller or lighter nymphs; I prefer a couple of unweighted flies, but play around till you find what works for you. If you’re sight fishing, I would stick to two nymphs with the same concept of your point fly being the heaviest. Your nymphs are to be spaced between 900mm and 1200mm apart, and you’ll be tying them on droppers – not New Zealand style. Doing so gives your flies the ability to move freely in the water. The other important thing to look out for is wind. You want a slight breeze to make this technique successful as the wind will pull your line across the water and add a natural movement to your flies. You’ll also cover more water like this as you’re not retrieving your flies like you would a streamer. You want to pick up any slack line and keep tension the whole time through SLOWLY retrieving your line, but you are in essence fishing static, always remember that. Otherwise, you’re welcome to incorporate a slow foot long pull every now and again to add a bit of movement, hopefully grabbing the fish’s attention. The only challenge with this technique is detecting takes. You can either fish your rig with an indicator a couple foot below the end of your fly line, or you can go without an indicator and do what we’ve already discussed – keeping contact the whole time. When takes are subtle, I favour an indicator; but you will need to see what works for you.

If you’re not too familiar with fishing in the winter, then this is what you’ll need:

  1. Trout Hunter 5X and 6X Fluorocarbon tippet
  2. Rio 5X 12ft leaders
  3. Loon Deep Soft Weight
  4. Loon Lochsa
  5. Rio Tippet Rings


  1. PTN Hotspot #16-18
  2. GRHE #16-18
  3. Black BiotBeatis #18
  4. Tungsten PTN #16
  5. Champion Caddis #16
  6. Sedge High Rider CDC #14
  7. Fullingmill Klinkhammer #14
  8. Infallible #16
  9. Aero Orange Indicator Fly

Order your personalized selection –

And lastly, patience. As I said, it might not be very easy fishing, but with a bit of patience and all the above items, you’re in for some very rewarding fishing!

By Nathan Pahl in our Dullstroom Shop