Smallmouth Yellowfish on the Vaal River

Not too long ago I was invited by a friend of mine to fish one of his “secret spots” that he has on the Vaal river. He mentioned that he was the only person with access to this specific stretch of the Vaal river and that we would be the only people fishing the spot. This was something that particularly excited me, as the Vaal can get quite crowded these days as it is the closest and biggest fly fishing destination to Gauteng and it’s fly fishing enthusiasts.


We left Pretoria early on Saturday and arrived at our location just before 07:00 am. The weather did not look very promising and with rain and wind forecast for the day we prepared ourselves for a miserable day on the water. None the less, we didn’t drive all that way for nothing so we got into the cold Vaal river and started nymphing.


With my 3rd cast I was into a very big fish which was only the beginning of what turned out to be one of my best days ever on the Vaal. The fish took a mustard Caddis pattern that I tie on a #8 Knapek jig and which I used as my anchor/dropper fly to reach the bottom of the river.


Shortly after that Emile and Stephan (who’s spot it is) was also into fish, and we then knew that it was going to be good day on the water! Another friend of mine, Edu then caught his first Yellowfish on fly which was a memorable occasion for him.



The technique that proved the most effective for me on the day was with a European nymphing leader setup as per George Daniel’s Dynamic Nymphing book, but with a modification of my own.

Euro Leader Setup.jpg

I start off with a 9ft 1X Tapered leader to which I connect a 40cm  piece of sighter material with a blood knot or triple surgeon’s knot. To that I connect a tippet ring (if available) or alternatively I make a perfection loop at the end of the sighter material to which I then connect 4 feet of 4X also with a perfection loop. The loop to loop connection ensures that the sighter material lasts a bit longer, but the tippet ring method is definitely my preferred way of doing it.


What is nice about the #8 Knapek jig hook is that is has a big eye to which I tie my point fly. This ensures that the dropper fly is left open (which increases takes) as there is no line connected to the hook shank as with the conventional NZ style. I have found this method to be very effective, but everyone has their own preference.What I like about it is that it’s stronger and faster to tie than the competition style 2 and 3 fly rigs (for me anyway) where you tie the flies onto tags created by making Surgeon’s knots.


We finished the day with 36 fish caught, a figure which exceeded our expectations, considering that the weather chased us back to the city after only about 4 hours on the water. We did lose a number of fish, two of which was estimated at over 4kg’s. This only gives us more reason to return to this remote and amazing piece of the Vaal river.

© 2014 Guns and Fly Fishing. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I am very interested in circle hook flies as seen in the article. Do you know where I can get some? I live in Richards bay and we only fish with small circle hooks.

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