Most fly fisherman in South Africa start out by fly fishing for stillwater Trout. This is due to the fact that fly fishing is synonymous with Trout and as it is also referred to by some as Trout fishing. The problem with this is that a lot of people think that you can only fly fish for Trout, which is off course not true.
There are however, not many things as pleasing as stripping your fly line in anticipation of a strike and then getting that sudden thump from a stillwater Trout. Another thing I love about stillwaters is the sight fishing opportunities for big cruising Trout in the winter months. This can be very challenging sometimes but it is also very rewarding if you get the fish to take your fly.
As most of us who live in Gauteng head toward the Dullstroom , Belfast and Machadodorp region over weekends to catch Trout, we at GAFF thought that we would share some of our proven tactics and preferred fly patterns for targeting stillwater Trout.
There are many stillwater Trout venues to choose from these days but unfortunately not all of them are up to standard when it comes to quality fly fishing. Most of these venues are more focused on people looking for a romantic weekend away than on serious fly fishermen looking for a quality stillwater Trout fly fishing destination.
Little Troutbeck is without a doubt our favourite stillwater fly fishing venue as the quality of the fish and the fishing itself is really top class. There are 11 dams of which Loch Logan, which is a 3 hectare spring fed dam, has the potential to be (if not already) the premier trophy Trout stillwater in Mpumalanga. Loch Logan has recently been awarded both the best stillwater and the biggest fish awards during the Dullstroom Classic, which is Mpumalanga’s most prestigious annual fly fishing competition.
When looking at a stillwater Trout venue, make sure that the dams and the fish are managed properly and that the owner or manager of the farm knows what he/she is doing. Most of these venues don’t come cheap, so make sure about the quality of fishing before making a reservation.
When you get to a new stillwater, always spend about 5 minutes looking at the water before you start fishing. Identify structure and keep an eye open for any fish activity. Try to establish where the Trout will hold and where they will feed. Structure is very important as it offers protection to the Trout and habitat to its prey.
Submerged trees, reed beds, rocky structure, sudden drop offs and weed beds are the most common forms of structure to be encountered in a stillwater environment and it is in these areas where you want to start fishing.
Inlets into dams and shallow bays are also great places to start, especially so early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the water is cooler. Trout like to hang around in these areas as their food source will be more concentrated and thus easier for them to hunt.
When temperatures rise above 24 Celsius during the day, Trout tend to go into deeper and colder water where there is more oxygen. This usually happens between 10:00 am and 15:00 pm, especially so in the warmer months. Early morning and late afternoons are thus prime time as this is when the Trout will be most active, due to the cooler water temperatures and an increase in insect activity.
A sudden onset of a cold front or change in temperature will sometimes cause Trout to completely go “off the bite” as some refer to it. This is due to a number of factors, but the most important is the change in atmospheric pressure. You will notice that before a cold front or before a storm the fish activity will increase as the pressure drops but there after they will become almost lethargic during the front and a couple of days after the cold front has passed.
This should not deter you as you will still catch fish, but probably less than in optimal conditions. Unfortunately the weather does play a major part in fish behaviour so always keep an eye on the weather prediction ahead of a fishing trip, at least then you will know what to expect.
A 10ft 6wt fast action rod will be ideal but a 9ft 5wt medium to fast action rod will also be adequate. A fly reel is not there to “just hold the fly line”, so you should preferably have a large arbour reel of reasonable quality and a decent drag.
You will need a floating line for the majority of your stillwater fishing but make sure to invest in an intermediate and sinking line as well. If not then get a floating line, such as a Rio Gold or Scientific Angler’s GPX and a sinking line such as a Rio Intouch Deep or Scientific Anglers Uniform sinking lines.
A float tube or kick boat is not essential but is required when you want to cover big stillwaters thoroughly and when you are serious about catching that 10lbs trophy.
9ft 2x tapered leaders will suffice and you can step it down to a 4x tippet when using smaller flies.
A good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must and make sure you wear adequate sun protection (hat, long sleeve shirt, sunblock etc.).
Waders are not compulsory except if you are going to make use of a float tube or if you are going to wade in the shallows (not permitted everywhere).
A soft mesh landing net with an extendable handle will make your life easier when netting a fish from a steep dam embankment. McLean makes great nets and they last very long.
In part two of the article we will have a look at ten of our favourite stillwater Trout flies.
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