From Dullstroom town dam’s water levels sitting on 25%, to overflowing within three days; we couldn’t have been happier when we finally got our rain, even though 2019 was just about the latest we’ve ever received it.

Dams were low and water temperatures were high – too high. But after a week of rain the waters dropped to a comfortable 18 degrees, and fishing picked up for the first time in months. However, oxygen levels are still low and with 30 degree weather most days, the fish – along with the fishermen – are yet again struggling.

Fish have been holding deep and simply haven’t been moving around. Often the difference between a fish and not, is placing your fly two feet to the left or right of your previous cast. The moral of the story – ‘work’ the water. This was really brought to my attention a couple weeks ago when a friend (and very competent angler) fished Laverpa for the day. In five hours he managed 18 fish – something which very, very few anglers are able to do this time of the year. The technique he used is fairly simple, but it boils down to working the water. Much like what one would do when fishing a river; you fish different depths, different kinds of water and the best anglers will often choose a beat and fish just about every inch of that section of water more than once. That kind of mindset and practice is just as important on a stillwater, especially when the fishing is tough.

So often we get caught in our ways and fish the same four flies, retrieve those flies the same every time, and then wonder why we aren’t catching fish. Times change and fly fishing has come a long way over the past 20 years. We need to make an effort to evolve, which can mean learning new techniques, trying odd looking flies and maybe getting out of our comfort zone. The fact still remains, we need to adapt if we are to be successful.

So here are a few tips and tricks to help you in 2020, some of which are getting back to the basics but will make a world of difference.

Learn how to cast… better:

“I’ve been casting for the last 20 years, I don’t need any help.” Sound familiar? Or maybe you were taught by someone with that sort of attitude.  If so, you’ve probably been taught wrong and have developed bad techniques. Taught yourself? Nothing wrong with that, but once again if you’ve never had a professional tell you what you’re doing wrong and where you can improve, your casting will never be up to scratch. The truth is, if you cast further, you will catch  more fish. So, regardless of how often you fish or don’t, take the time to get a casting lesson or at least have someone help you improve.

Double the fly, twice the chance:
Fishing two flies is by no means new, but certainly super effective. However, there is still thought behind what flies you end up fishing, be it two or three. Secondly, there are two ways of fishing more than one fly. The first and the simplest way of rigging multiple flies is a ‘New Zealand Rig’, which is where you attach a section of tippet into the shank of the hook you tied to your leader, and then attach you second fly to that tippet. This is a typical ‘dry and dropper’ rig and can be very effective. However, if you plan on fishing either nymphs or wet flies, I would suggest rather making use of droppers. These are simply the tag ends of line that you don’t trim when you attach a piece of tippet to your leader. The advantage here is that each fly moves more naturally. The disadvantage is, you tend to get more tangles when fishing in the wind. As far as what flies to combine, you generally want to tie your heaviest fly on point with lighter droppers. If you’re fishing three flies on a sinking line, try using a streamer on point, a nymph or damsel on your middle dropper and an attractor on your top dropper – flies typically 1m apart. If you want to fish a team of nymphs on a floating line, put a heavy tungsten nymph on point with two smaller or unweighted nymphs on your droppers. I like to also substitute the top fly for a buzzer.

Depth over distance:
A good fly and a long cast is a recipe for success, but if you aren’t fishing where the fish are, then you won’t catch. Having an assortment of fly lines is incredibly important. You can get by with a floating and an intermediate, but quite frankly I don’t want to be ‘getting by,’ I want to be catching fish. Good anglers change the depth they’re fishing, and therefore change their line almost as much as they change their flies. In my opinion, a floating, intermediate and a sinking (3ips) is a must. The more you fish, the more you’ll realize that a di5 sinking line also has its place, and from there you can really get technical and start looking at sink tip lines, hover lines etc. Fish are forever moving and adjusting their depth to feel comfortable. Identify where this layer of water is, and you will start catching more fish.

Take up tying:
Look at any seasoned angler and you’ll notice a couple things. Firstly, their knowledge on their quarry, secondly their ability to cast well and lastly the fact that they tie their own flies. Commercial flies, although plenty, just tend to lack that uniqueness you’ll find in a custom tied fly. Sometimes it’s something as simple as changing the bead colour on a good old favourite PTN, that significantly influences your catch rate  –  something you just can’t buy commercially.

I remember  when I fished my first Junior Nationals a few years ago, we were fishing the Orange river at Douglas and early on in my session I tied on a very simple PTN with a purple bead. I caught every one of my fish on that fly and ended up winning the session. So, if you don’t already tie flies, consider taking it up as a hobby. It goes hand in hand with fly fishing and is often a great alternative when the fishing is tough.

Want to learn more? Why not join us for a full weekend’s intensive clinic. More info here:

If we don’t see you out on the water, we hope you join us for a cup of coffee in our new coffee shop and tell us about how good that fishing has been! – Nathan Pahl in our Dullstroom shop.