Ngwangwane River Fly Fishing
30 min from Underberg
The Ngwangwane lies to the west of the village of Underberg and is the last of the western KwaZulu-Natal rivers that hold a head of trout. It was once known as a river that held “trout the size of salmon”, with specimens of 2kg and more being caught more often than any of the other large rivers in the region.
Sadly, this is no longer the case and, today, because of the effect of a mix of agricultural practices downstream of the small bridge over the river on the Bushman’s Nek road, the trout population in the lower reaches of the river is almost non-existent. In any event, all the water downstream, until one reaches the Coleford Nature Reserve, is in private ownership, making access for fishing difficult and at the pleasure of the riparian owners. The Underberg Himeville Trout Fishing Club does have rights to some stretches of the Ngwagwane River and can be contacted for further information and permission to fish these waters.
Farming activities has also negatively affected the good fishing that fly-fishers once experienced much lower down in the Coleford Nature Reserve section. In addition, vast swathes of land are now used for commercial timber plantations.
It is therefore recommended that anyone wanting to fish the Ngwangwane should concentrate on the upper reaches, where light tackle, small imitative nymphs and dry-fly patterns combined with stealthy, careful presentations will be needed.
The upper section can be defined as that from the South African Police Service outpost above the Silverstreams Country Estate and Caravan Park and as far into the mountains as the fly-fisher chooses to hunt the elusive wild trout. The Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife offices, where fly-fishers can obtain the necessary permits and pay any fees for entering the reserve, is situated a short distance below the police outpost.
The reserve area forms part of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Park and begins just beyond the police complex.
At times, this pretty little stream fishes well, with many spirited little rainbows that have been self-sustaining in these waters since the early 1900s. The stream winds its way down from the high Drakensberg, among the foothills in a wide grassy valley. Access is particularly easy along the hiking trails that more or less follow the course of the stream. The clear water cascades down through the rocky runs and glides, with many rapids and riffles and the odd deeper pool. All of this is set in a pristine wilderness. The stream can be fished easily from the grassy banks or, for those who prefer it, most of it can be waded.
There are a few small tributaries that join the upper Ngwangwane, which should not be overlooked, despite the fact that they are no more than tiny silver threads. The trout that hold in these Lilliputian waters often surprise fly-fishers.
There is log cabin, caravan and camping accommodation a short cast from the river at Silverstreams Country Estate and Caravan Park and also at the Bushman’s Nek Berg and Trout Resort (www.bushmansnek.co.za), which offers catered and self-catering accommodation.
Both of these resorts list fly-fishing as an activity in the river as it flows through their respective properties.
For further information about the stretches controlled by the Underberg Himeville Trout Fishing Club, e-mail [email protected] or telephone 082 636 3985. Bookings for fishing venues can be made at the office in Underberg or by calling 082 636 3985.
Ngwangwane Fly Fishing, Start of Conservation Section
Ngwangwane Fly Fishing, Bridge over Ngwangwane
Ngwangwane Fly Fishing, Bushmans Nek Resort
Ngwangwane Fly Fishing, Silverstreams Resort
Ngwangwane Fly Fishing, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Office
The Drakensberg mountain range begins its rise in the Eastern Cape, running along the length of KwaZulu-Natal’s western border. It also extends in fits and starts into Mpumalanga and covers a vast area stretching into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
It is generally agreed that the ‘Dragon mountains’ got their name from their ragged, irregular silhouette that looks like a dragon’s back from a distance. It was so-named by Dutch settlers. Another, albeit less popular, explanation is that early settlers were told by the locals that dragons lived in the mountains. This theory was given a bit more credence when numerous dinosaur footprints were discovered in the Eastern Free State.
The Zulu tribe has given the mountains its own, equally descriptive name – Ukhahlamba, or ‘the barrier of spears’. Whatever the language and whatever the explanation, there is no argument that the Drakensberg mountains are evocative and mysterious. It is a wild and beautiful area that can change from sunny to snowy in mere moments.
In 2001 a park was established that encompasses a huge tract of the mountains. Known as the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area, it covers 13 000km² of Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal. It includes the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site that by itself covers some 2 400km² and is 150km long.
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a place of immense beauty and enormous spaces. It is one of the few true remaining wildernesses where hikers can walk for days without encountering other people.
It is no surprise, then, that this place is as dangerous as it is beautiful, and one must be well-prepared if tackling it on foot.
In the very north of the park is Royal Natal National Park. It is one of the jewels in the crown of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the proud guardian of the world famous ‘Amphitheatre’. This can be easily viewed from the road to the main camp of the park. A short walk along the river gives amazing photographic opportunities. The attractions of this park are many, from pleasant walks to fly-fishing and swimming in clear mountain streams. It is also home to the 850m-high Tugela Falls, the highest waterfall in Africa and the second highest in the world.
Other notable parks within the greater Drakensberg Park are Giant’s Castle, Kamberg and Loteni Nature Reserves. Each has its own attractions, capable of keeping the tourist busy for days on end.
The Drakensberg was declared a World Heritage Site for a number of reasons. It is an area of incredible natural diversity with over 2 100 plant species, more than 200 of which are endemic to the area. It is also home to over 60 species of mammal, including the threatened oribi and herds of eland and black wildebeest. It has nearly 50 species of reptile and more than 300 bird species. The naturalist will definitely find a visit to the Drakensberg incredibly rewarding.
No less interesting is the human history of the area. A prime drawcard is the San rock art. Excellent examples can be seen in Giant’s Castle. There is also a recreation of how these people prospered in the mountains until they were ruthlessly hunted out of existence by both black and white settlers.
Look out for
The Bushmen paintings are a unique art form that shrouded in mystery and deserving of at least an afternoon’s attention. The fact that they are almost always to be found in remote, beautiful caves adds to their allure. And the walk there adds to the attraction.
Hiking is one of the most popular pastimes in the Drakensberg. Depending on fitness and time, hikers can choose from short but beautiful walks to multi-day hikes. On the latter one needs to be entirely self-sufficient and equipped for inclement weather - including snow - no matter what time of the year it is.
The Giants Cup Hiking Trail is the premier ‘Berg hike, totalling almost 60km and usually taking five days to complete. It runs from Sani Pass to Busman’s Nek in the south.
The Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park is one of the first things that should be put on the ‘To Do’ list. You haven’t really been to the Drakensberg until you’ve viewed it from below - and then again from the top. Here you will encounter one of the most breathtaking views in South Africa.
Fly-fishing is another excellent reason to visit the Drakensberg. KZN-Ezemvelo has a collection of very good trout waters in their reserves. Other dams and rivers are privately owned, but many are accessible to fisherman for a day fee.
The Lammergeier Hide at Giant’s Castle is an amazing place from which to get incredible sightings and photographs of birds. Highlights are the bearded vulture, Verreaux’s eagle, white-necked raven, lanner falcon and Cape vulture. Many smaller species can also be spotted. Booking is essential.
Sani Pass is one of South Africa’s great drives. In winter the pass is often closed due to ice and snow and can be a very hazardous drive. Remember that a passport is necessary to get onto the pass and a 4x4 vehicle is required by law.