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Fly Fishing in the Free State


Fly fishing in South Africa

Fly fishing in South Africa can be divided into three broad headings; cool freshwater, warm freshwater and saltwater fly fishing.

The cool freshwater fly fishing centres on trout, a non-indigenous species introduced well over one hundred years ago and located in four main regions – the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape Highlands, the Drakensberg region of KwaZulu-Natal and the higher lying areas of Mpumalanga.

Both rainbow and brown trout are found, but rainbows predominate in both streams and stillwaters. The rivers offer opportunities for both dry fly and nymph fishing to trout that in most streams outside of those in Mpumalanga, spawn naturally. In other words, the trout populations in the majority of streams in this country are self-sustaining. While large trout – over 20 inches – are occasionally caught in streams, the fish mainly average at between 10 and 14 inches. However some lakes in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal offer world class trophy fishing for brown and rainbow trout in excess of 12 pounds.

Streams in the Western Cape Province are rocky and extremely clear, offering wonderful sight fishing with small dry flies for rainbows and brown trout. The going is relatively difficult with anglers wet wading for most of the season. 5/10 (Vibram) rubber soled boots are recommended.

The Eastern Cape Highlands has the most – and the best – opportunities for trout fishing. Access to the water is controlled by the Wild Trout Association (WTA), centred in the village of Rhodes, with over 350 kilometres of high quality water available to visitors at modest rod fees. The rivers and streams are easy to wade, but often involve a long hike in and out. The waters are often clear enough toward the end of the season for sight fishing.

Warm freshwater fly fishing centres around the indigenous species of yellow fish, with the main venues being on the Vaal and !Xhariep (Orange) rivers. Here large and small mouth yellowfish offer exciting sport on both nymphs and dry flies. But, be careful. These are large rivers and wading can be dangerous. The most useful method for taking yellowfish involve techniques very similar to those used in Czech nymphing. The average weight of yellowfish taken in rivers in South Africa is far greater than that of trout.

An exceptional, world class stillwater yellowfish venue is Sterkfontein Dam in the Eastern Free State where guides and accommodations are available. This venue offers wonderful opportunities for sight fishing in gin clear water using dry flies or small nymphs.

Off-shore, estuary and deep sea fly fishing is available along the eastern and western coastline for a host of species, but there are no real saltwater sight fishing opportunities such as those in the Seychelles.

It is recommended that visitors make enquiries about the availability of guides, particularly when fishing in more remote locations. Angling permits are required on most fisheries.

The trout fishing season runs from 1 September to the end of May. The best months are November, March and April. The Yellowfish season is all year round, but fishing is far better in the hotter months of mid-summer. Visitors are advised to bring 3 to 6 weight fly rods, floating and Intermediate fly lines and to consult local sources on suitable fly patterns. 


To get general information on what South Africa has to offer by way of trout and yellowfish opportunities, contact this country’s fly fishing umbrella body, the Federation of South African Fly Fishers (FOSAF), though their website 

For saltwater fly fishing opportunities in southern Africa it is suggested that you make contact with Ufudu, a company specialising in saltwater fly fishing in this country since 1999, on their website 

For freshwater fly fishing in the Western Cape contact the Cape Piscatorial Society offices in Cape Town via their website 

To fly fish in the Eastern Cape Highlands contact the WTA through their website on 

To fly fish for trout in Mpumalanga it is suggested that you make contact with Mavungana Fly Fishing 

For fly fishing opportunities in KZN visit the Natal Fly Fisher’s Club website,, or contact the Fly Fishers Association in Durban on email [email protected]

Articles & Blogs

Fishing the Sterkfontein

Tom Sutcliffe 9:46am 20 Feb

From Damon Mathfield - Fishing Sterkfontein Dam for Yellowfish

My friends and I found the DDD in both natural and black very successful on the yellows fishing Sterkfontein Dam. The untidy DDDs tied with klipspringer worked best. Apart from being an effective beetle imitator, it worked very well mid-morning when the big caddis were hatching in the shallows. It is definitely a fly I will never be without on this water.

Here is one of Damon's images from the trip. He hasn't been long at his underwater work...

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