Smallmouth Yellowfish can be targeted right through the year albeit with different fly fishing techniques. It is, however, the start of spring that see thousands of yellowfish anglers flock to the middle and lower vaal targeting this specie.
Since the late 1990’s fly-fishing for yellowfish has mushroomed to the point where it is now the single biggest contributor to the fly-fishing industry in terms of revenue and angler numbers. A recent study commissioned by the Water Research Commission revealed that the estimated value of the yellowfish dependant fishing industry on the Vaal River that actively targets yellowfish, as just over R133 million per season!
What makes fly-fishing for yellowfish so popular is the fact that anyone with limited experience, or even no fly-fishing experience at all, can very quickly become quite accomplished with first time anglers often registering catches of ten or more fish on their first outing.
For first time anglers on the Vaal River any 5/6 wt fly rod loaded with appropriate floating line and a reel with a good drag system will suffice.
As you become more proficient you will undoubtedly want to upgrade your equipment but for the purpose of catching your first yellowfish in the Vaal River the above should serve you well. Probably the most important part of your kit when targeting fish in fast water is your reel. Spend a little bit extra in order to make sure the reel you selected has a good drag system.
The art of fly casting is seldom if ever learnt in a weekend therefore it is advisable for first time yellowfish fly fishermen to employ one of the short-line nymphing techniques when targeting yellowfish. Here the emphasis is on a thin leader to which you attach one or more heavily weighted flies. A strike-indicator is placed above the flies approximately one and a half time the depth of the water you are fishing in.
The number one rule when targeting yellowfish in a river for the first time is to get your flies down to the bottom. These days most reputable fishing shops sell flies tied with tungsten beads heavy enough to get your flies in the prime feeding zones.
There is nothing romantic in the short-line nymphing technique that you will use when targeting your very first yellowfish. As a matter of fact, if you are doing it correctly your fly line will never touch the water; instead it will be hanging just above the water surface! When using the short-line method we are catching fish practically under the tip of the flyfishing rod and commonly without making use of the flyfishing line. After casting upstream you leave your flies to sink to the bottom of the river and follow their movements downstream with the tip of the rod.
Keep the rod in your hand with your arm stretched out in front of you all the time. When the flies reach the area as far as you can follow them with your rod tip, you lift the flies from the bottom with a movement of the rod upwards and cast again.
Short-line nymphing, and high-sticking all refer to a technique where you stand close to your target area and intentionally keep your fly line off the water by keeping the line “tight” between your weighted flies and your rod tip.
By using a heavily weighted rig and a tight line, you can feel the flies drag, bounce, and tumble along the bottom, and you follow their drift closely with your rod tip.
A “take” of a yellowfish shows up as an inconspicuous movement of the strike indicator upstream or to the sides. Sometimes your strike indicator just stops its natural movement down the river which can also indicate a take. When you are not able to keep in contact with the flies, your chances to observe a take is markedly reduced. The general rule is – WHEN IN DOUBT – STRIKE!
Before you begin nymphing, wade into a shallow riffle and lift a few rocks from the bottom. Test rocks inmidstream as well as a few along the shore to give you a good idea of what you’ll find. My advice to anglers new to yellowfish is to carry only three patterns: The Orange Hotspot Nymph, Mustard Caddis and Green Brassie/Rock worm pattern.
The Mustard Caddis will be your middle fly, heavily weighted with a tungsten bead. Fishing it in tandem with the Orange Hotspot or in tandem with the Green brassie will almost guarantee you fish every time.
For more detailed information, and a step-by-step guide on the set-up and technique on catching your first yellowfish on fly you can access www.yellowfish.co.za. It is highly recommended to make your first trip with an experienced Vaal River fly fisherman or guide. Internet forums such as www.Flytalk.co.za has regular outings to the Vaal and always welcomes new friends to tag along.