Martin Lamer, my long-time Swiss friend from Ugie phoned to tell me that he was bringing me an English client. A few days later Martin arrived in Rhodes with Kelvin Cox.
On day one I elected to take Kelvin to Lower Hillbury on the Bokspruit. This beat offers every kind of water and a shot at yellowfish as well. We pulled up for the obligatory bridge stop at Cleft Hill and looking down into the water Kelvin saw his first large yellowfish; this really whet his appetite! He told me that on his home waters one rarely sights fish due to poor water clarity and light conditions.
Click in images to enlarge them
We parked in shade of the Acacia forest and walked right to the bottom of the beat. Water normally teeming with fish failed to deliver many. It was a very hot day and the water temperature was high. Working upstream we came upon the first yellows, but they would not come up for a dry and were very easily spooked when a nymph hit the water. They just melted into an undercut and refused to come out. We didn’t see many, not even in what are normally my hot spots, although Kelvin caught a few well conditioned trout. All the fish were taken from faster flowing, shallow water on dries.
Kelvin with a well conditioned trout taken from faster flowing, shallow water on dry fly
I wanted to show Kelvin as varied a selection of our local waters as possible, so the following day I decided to take him to Birkhall.
Kelvin on the Birkhall stretch of the Sterkspruit River
We had coffee with our gracious host and went down to the upper reaches of the beat. It was another very hot day and the water was warm. Fish did not come easily. Kelvin was lucky to see a male Paradise Flycatcher displaying while we heard the Fish Eagle calling in the forest. We had seen a few yellows as we walked downstream, but these proved to be elusive as he fished his way back upstream. A few trout were taken from the faster flowing eyes of pools, where the water flows in, again all on dries.
The next day, in a search for cooler water, we went to Ben Lawers on the upper Bell. As we left the vehicle, walking down to the river, the first rain drops fell. Moving upstream Kelvin fished all the likely looking spots without success; we didn’t even see fish until we spooked a monster, a fish of at least 20”. The rain continued unabated and we broke for lunch before going back to the water way upstream.
Kelvin Cox on Ben Lawers, the upper reaches of the Bell River
At last we located fish and Kelvin was able to bring a few to hand, all sighted, all on dries and all from undercut banks. He even went back for a fish that he had missed and caught it in the same place. The English don’t mind fishing in the rain; they think it’s normal. We had raincoats and apart from my sweatshirt that hung out from my raincoat and wicked moisture up my back, all was well.
The next morning was bright and clear and we went to Birnam on the Bokspruit. Kelvin was impressed with the water clarity and how it improved at each upstream bridge stop. We started in the middle of the beat at the bridge to Killmore, a nice spot to get your eye in, but a herd of cattle had just been through the water. We moved upstream and battled to find fish where I expected them. This stretch of river has changed over the last year and created some nice new habitat where we did find fish. Kelvin caught a few up to 12” and ended up locating a nursery where every fish seemed to be smaller than the previous one.
Kelvin Cox on the Birnham stretch of the Bokspruit
In a way this is good news. These were survivors from last winter’s breeding. We turned and went back for lunch. Rain had started falling and we went down to the beautiful blue bedrock section beneath the Poplars. This section normally offers great fishing for small well conditioned fish in very shallow water. On arrival we found that this was another section that had been transformed by flooding. A lot of the pools had simply disappeared. Nevertheless Kelvin was able to take a few and again all on dry flies.
On Kelvin’s final day I took him to Mt. Mourne on the Riflespruit. Rain was forecast for midday and we started at the bottom of the beat. Knowing that it was going to rain I planned to arrive at the pump pool below the homestead before we were rained off. I know that there are a few larger fish resident here and I wanted Kelvin to catch one.
Kelvin Cox on the Mt. Mourne on the Riflespruit
The stream on this section of the Rifle is still densely treed and at times one is even under a canopy. Over the last few days Kelvin had been using my tackle, the 000-wt with a dry fly and a 2--weight for the nymph. The trees required some very accurate casting and Kelvin certainly came to the party, much to his own surprise. Unfortunately the rain came down hard just as we arrived at the pump pool. We took shelter below a tree until it abated, but to poor light meant that we were unable to spot fish. Kelvin tried fishing likely spots for a while without success so we moved upstream.
A few 10 – 12 inch fish came to hand
We came to a clean, scoured-out pool on a bend and a few 10-12” fish came to hand. Our plan was to move back down to the pump pool but the river discoloured before our eyes and we called it a day.
Unfortunately Kelvin did not catch a yellowfish over his few days here. The majority of his fish were taken on dries, the Edhammer (Ed Herbst’s version of the Klinkhåmer) and the RAB being responsible for most. Fish were almost all taken from faster water at the heads of runs as opposed to the tails of pools. Usually the story is, ‘You should have been here next week’, but Kelvin was lucky he caught it just at the right time, as the rains continued and the streams are a bit high and discoloured lower down at present. Kelvin left as a friend and was very impressed with our local waters. The increased flows should cool the water and fishing will continue to improve from this juncture. So we hope to see you all in the Eastern Cape Highlands soon.