I had a good idea that water levels and flows would be low and despite a few storms in the catchment and a dusting of late winter snow, I was to some extent prepared, but not quite for what I found. The Bushmans up at Giants Castle was paper thin, gin clear, the flow down to a mere trickle and water temperatures verging on being too high. Even the tribal waters downstream of the conservation area were a sad sight, slow, warm with a few barren looking deeper pools. I’m sure the trout are there. I just think they should be left for now.
I have spoken each year for the past 5 seasons of the changing weather patterns, longer, warmer winters and late spring rains. I’m told that this is the effects of the El Niño factors and that it will eventually return to normal, whatever that is? I’m not so sure because I have been fishing these waters for more than 30 years and I base my thoughts on experience rather than science – things they’re a changing in my view.
It has been a long winter, a lot of time behind the vice and in pages of angling literature, so the urge was strong, come hell or high water to get my feet wet and loosen my casting arm. Had it not been for the fact that my son and two of my grandsons had been looking forward to the outing, I would probably have not fished. I don’t necessarily enjoy fishing in these conditions when the system is so fragile, oxygen depleted, the trout skittish as race horses in their starting gates and easy prey to natural predators. They seek shelter in deeper runs and slots or at the head where there is some turbulence to provide limited surface cover – vulnerable.
But, we did spend a few hours fishing, mostly showing the boys some of the finer points of flyfishing, it was slow, they struggled in the conditions. We did bring a few hungry brownies to the net, pretty as ever, splattered with spots, some red over flanks of buttery gold; nature’s precious jewels.
A week later I took a walk along the Polela, a pretty southern Drakensberg stream at Cobham close to Himeville. The conditions were even worse than the Bushmans; my Boshoff bamboo didn’t see the light of day. I spent a little time photographing a few flowers and looking for signs of the rainbows that inhabit this water. The only reward, a lonely fish in one of the remaining pools, all 4 inches of it!
The 4 incher’s pool
A week has passed since then and there have been scattered storms over the mountains and even a little more snow, but the ground is so dry and parched that most of the precipitation is simply sucked up with little or no improvement in flows. But, it is a start and eventually the ground water will become saturated and run-off will begin to filter into the waterways, flow will increase and oxygen content will be higher, water temperature will be more constant, the trout will be happier as will I and all those that enjoy the small upland mountain streams and wild trout.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2014. All rights reserved.