Southern Africa is a unknown entity in the world of trout fishing and, secretly, many of people hope that it stays that way for a long time still to come.
The Drakensberg Mountain range stretches from the Eastern Cape in the south to the Limpopo province in the north. To the trout fisherman this mountain is a godsend. Close to the coastal plains the mountain rises steeply to over 10 000 feet, causing a massive upwelling of moist air and heavy rain on the eastern slopes in summer. They are the birthplace of countless trout streams flowing east into three prime trout areas of the country the midlands of KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. The small towns of Barkly East and Lady Grey are ideal for trout fishing. Trout are also high up in the mountains a short distance inland of Cape Town where the climate is Mediterranean.
Fishing in the independent Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked mountainous country crisscrossed by bright, clear streams is great, with most mountains over 8 500 feet above sea level. Food is more abundant in these high streams than in any others, with particularly dense populations of mayfly. The average size of the trout is exceptional. One can get there with four-wheel drive vehicles, but air travel by plane or helicopter makes the trip a little more comfortable.
Salmonids were introduced to southern Africa near the turn of the century from Loch Leven brown trout stock imported from Scotland. These browns did well in their environment, and rainbows were introduced a decade or so later to complement them. Still, most of the rivers retain a clear identity, either brown or rainbow waters, rarely ever holding both species.
South African trout fishing is small by international standards, with more streams than large rivers, yet the average size of the trout caught is relatively large. Most of the rivers produce fish of up to five pounds, and in the Barkly East area river fish up to ten pounds are not rare.
In the upland sections of most rivers the trout proliferate and the waters tend to become overstocked.
African fly fishing can have bad seasons caused by drought. Good trout fishing is dependent on good rainfall and a season or two of poor rains can cause setbacks. South Africa is dry. However, droughts are less common in the eastern highlands than they are in the interior, and often less devastating. Just as bad as droughts is the problem of flash flooding and silt, South Africa is one of most underestimated trout fisheries in the world, certainly one of the most beautiful and most underutilized.
To compensate for the relative uncertainty of the river water and the fact that rivers are not always easy to get onto, South African trout fishermen have taken to Stillwater fly-fishing. All the still waters are man-made impoundments, called lakes or dams, averaging 10 to 20 acres. Most are remarkably fertile, and the growth rate of the fish in them is phenomenal. Trout up to 10 pounds have become commonplace, and the best go over 14pounds. Most of fishing is done from float-tubes, using floating lines, imitative nymph patterns and dry flies.
Trout season starts in September and goes on through to the end of May. Many of the still waters, on the other hand, have no closed season at all. The best of the fishing is in spring from September to October, and in autumn, from late March through May. During these months the water is cooler and the trout are more active.
Most fly fishing is done using 4 or 5 weight outfits, both on Stillwater and in the rivers, with rods from 8 to 9 feet. However, there has been a move toward ultra light tackle. The fish are not selective and are hardly ever consistent surface feeders. The mountain streams of the Western Cape are a notable exception, where free-rising trout come to the dry fly smartly, just as they do in the upland streams in Lesotho. Visitors are advised to approach a professional company for a full breakdown of the options available to go fishing.