Travel

High Flying

If dipping your toes in the trout waters of the KZN Midlands sounds appealing to you, Andrew Fowler, chairman of the Natal Fly Fishers Club, offers his expertise on where to head, and what you’ll need to start.

In the eyes of the trout fisherman, KZN is blessed with a geographical feature of relevance to those in search of cold, clear waters. That feature is an area of high ground, which extends from the eastern-most tip of Lesotho, to the top of the iconic Inhlosane mountain, and encompasses rolling hills and farmland from Mooi River to Kamberg, to Boston to Lotheni, and the Dargle.

For reasons unknown, all the trout rivers in this area are distinguished brown trout streams. With Browns being a relative rarity in South Africa, it makes the area a unique one for the discerning fly-fisher in search of this prized quarry. Added to that the preponderance of farm dams stocked with hard fighting rainbow trout, and you have yourself a veritable mecca for proponents of the long rod.

Visiting fly fishers should seek out rivers such as the Bushman’s near Giants Castle, the Mooi, flowing through the Kamberg, and the Umgeni in the Dargle. On the fringes of this area are the Lotheni in the south, and the Injasuthi to the North. (The Injasuthi is the only one of those listed here that contains rainbow trout.)

There are of course others like the Elands, the Yarrow, the Little Mooi, the Inzinga, and countless small tributaries that are explored by the die-hards who hold their secret fishing spots close to their chests.

For those visiting the Midlands in search of trout fishing, accessing good waters requires a little homework, and some trial and error type exploration, for much of this water is on private land, and even that which is available to the public requires some digging to uncover.

As a starting point, be sure to look up Wildfly in Nottingham Road, who sell day tickets and membership from their fly shop in the village. One can also browse the Midlands Meander brochure or website for accommodation venues, several of which boast decent fly fishing waters.

Those with a longer-term interest, who plan to make regular visits from the coast, would do well to consider membership of the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC), which has access to some 17 river beats and 30 dams. While this club does not sell day tickets, it does aid and support several ventures that do, by either managing their waters, and/or listing details on a community “day tickets” tab on the club website. Examples are the NFFC’s own Bushman’s River Community fly-fishing project, and the KZNFFA’s Thendela waters on the Mooi.

“Those with a longer-term interest, who plan to make regular visits from the coast, would do well to consider membership of the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC), which has access to some 17 river beats and 30 dams.”

Several other waters are managed by the NFFC for its member’s benefit, but as a spin-off, also for the benefit of visiting anglers accommodated at various farm cottages.

These farm stays offer access to fly-fishing that would otherwise be the preserve of only privileged club members. Amongst the best are Riverside Cottages on the Mooi at Kamberg, and a little further downstream, Maxwell farm cottages, both of which offer top-notch dam fishing, together with river water. Copperleigh Cottage in the Dargle similarly overlooks a pristine rainbow trout lake.

Where to get your gear:

Getting kitted out for your week-end fly-fishing venture is not difficult:  KZN has several good fly-fishing shops, from Kingfisher’s branches in Durban, Kloof and Maritzburg, to Wildfly in Nottingham Road, and Xplorer’s new concept fly-fishing shop in Briardene.

Those shops are all manned by enthusiastic fly-fishers who offer very good advice, but expect to be shown a 3 weight 8ft rod for the rivers and a 5 weight 9ft rod for the dams.

If you are starting out and require just one outfit, a 4 weight will comfortably cover both rivers and dams. The trend is for floating lines nowadays. Select and spend on your line first and foremost, matched to a rod that suits it, and with those key elements taken care of, then consider the reel and other paraphernalia which is all secondary, but a great deal of fun.

Flies are readily available, but fly shops will encourage you to immerse your time between fishing trips, in the art of fly-tying, which is consuming pastime all of its own.

Useful links:

  1. The Natal Fly Fishers Club: nffc.co.za
  2. Copperleigh Trout Cottage: copperleightroutcottage.co.za, email info@copperleightroutcottage.co.za   or SMS 082 460 1815
  3. Riverside Cottages: kamberg.co.za  email riverside@vodamail.co.za or call 082 894 7972
  4. Maxwell Farms: on Facebook, email info@maxwellfarms.co.za or call 082 880 5492
  5. Wildfly: 033 266 6981 wildfly.co.za
  6. Xplorer: 031 564 7368 xplorerflyfishing.co.za
  7. Kingfisher: 031 368 3903 kingfisher.co.za