A couple of weeks ago we started making plans to hit some rapids to take on the yellows of the Vaal River. It was great timing as we had some sample fly fishing products coming in that we needed to test for Blue Water Gear from ALX as well as another manufacturer, and thankfully everything arrived 2 days before our trip. This was to be my first outing Czech Nymphing for yellowfish.
Wednesday Theo Schoeman spent the morning with me explaining rigging and brought some flies with that he had made. Thursday evening Tristan Wood & Paul Pereira came over for dinner to assist me in getting everything rigged up. You forget how daunting it was when you first took up a facet of angling. The knots, the rigs, the how to's, the dont's, the if's, the but's etc… . Thankfully there are people out there that are willing to part with their knowledge and teach others.
Saturday morning dawned as I was greeted with an elbow to the ribs from my wife because I had failed to hear my alarm. Tristan Wood made it to my place and we travelled through to Eendekuil together and got a little lost on the way. However we still managed to make it to the venue by 6:30 where we were greeted by Theo Schoeman, Wouter Kritzinger and Stephen Kolenic. Stephen had graciously already made fried eggs and sausages on rolls for us before we hit the water.
By 7:30 we were fully rigged, packed and ready to take on the rapids. My session started off with an extensive breakdown on how to Czech Nymph from Tristan Wood. Very quickly the notion of just chucking a line in the water dissipated as I found that there was far more technique involved. Understanding how the yellowfish navigate the rapids definitely adjusts your way you fish and you become more conscious of where you are casting and why. We made our way through 2 sets of rapids fishing along as Tristan educated me and corrected my technique as we went along. For the first hour and a bit Tristan didn't even wet a line as he imparted his knowledge and assisted me in perfecting my technique. Theo Schoeman and Stephen Kolenic broke away and made their way to the second set of rapids across the island.
It wasn't long before I hooked into my first yellow, and this is where the complete newbie shone through from my side. I struck the fish like a bass angler and started hauling it like a bass angler, thankfully however I was quickly educated by everyone around me (In a loud manner) that I must not force it and let the reel run. It was amazing to see how these fish fight and how they sit behind structure to minimize effort in swimming, but when they do take off, they take off like a rocket. Tristan and I made our way down the 2 sets of rapids to land the fish and then I got to see my first yellow close up and personal. When you see pictures of yellowfish you think they are scaley and hard, but they are completely the opposite. The yellowfish have these soft bodies and these amazing colours. You can see why they are referred to as Gold bars. This was my first yellow and weighed in at 1.2kg's.
After we revived and returned my first ever yellowfish to the water we made our way back up the rapids. Between Tristan and I we caught 4-5 yellows in the first set of rapids before crossing over the island and making our way to the next set of rapids. By now I was in full swing and really enjoying the time out in nature with good friends. Running water, insects buzzing, birds chirping and the occasional miggy down the throat, but simply taking in nature in its finest.
As we joined onto the second set of rapids we caught up with Theo and Stephen, they had had some marginal success but things were about to get really busy for everyone. The 5 of us must've caught in excess of 15 fish in the second set of rapids, including a really big muddy that Tristan Wood caught as well as a very large steam train yellowfish that broke him off under the reeds. We were targeting a faster and deeper flow area close to the reeds and at one point all 5 of us were on with good fish. After about 2 hours in the second set of rapids we decided to make our way across to the last set of rapids. The trip across was a little trickier having to navigate fallen trees and shrubbery while trying to continuously unhook my 8'6" fly rod from absolutely anything and everything it got caught up in.
As we entered the 3rd set of rapids I started feeling the toll on my body. The constant balancing, watching your footing, fighting the flowing water, and fishing was becoming physically exhausting, never mind the mental exhaustion of thinking before doing. Fishing for yellowfish in the rapids is a tremendous core workout. There is definitely a certain level of fitness that can be obtained by fishing at regular intervals. I personally challenge anyone that says fishing is not a sport to call me up and we will organize a session out on the water. My email address and contact number can be found on the Blue Water Gear website www.bluewatergear.co.za.
We caught plenty of fish in the 3rd set of rapids including a beauty of +-2kg caught by Tristan Wood. Watching Tristan fight the +-2kg was like watching poetry in motion. Fly Rod bent to unfathomable degrees, line put to the ultimate test, angler pushing his gear to it's limits, back and forth during runs that last minutes but seem like forever as you take in everything in around you, and just when you think you are able to net that golden slab it takes off and the process starts all over again.
We made our way down the 3rd set of rapids to a deeper section of water that eventually led to the final set of rapids at Eendekuil. All the previous sets of rapids led to this set. I made a few casts when all of the sudden I was steam-trained by a very large yellowfish, I watched it take off and within 20m's could feel the familiar sawing and grinding of underwater structure against my line. I slowly made my way over to the structure and could feel the fish was still on from the head shaking. I lifted the submerged 6m branch and then I heard it… The most awful sound in the world that any angler can hear… *click* and it was gone as the branch severed the line. It was a big one, but it was that big one that keeps your mind running and thinking "if only" or "what if", it is that big one that got away that will keep me coming back.
Thank you to Tristan Wood, Theo Schoeman, Wouter Kritzinger and Stephen Kolenic for a great day on the water. Thank you Paul Pereira for lending me your boots and wading stick.
Until the next time… Keep those lines tight and those reels screaming.