The Smalblaar and Molenaars RiversEnquire Now
20 min from Paarl
+27 21 424 7725 www.piscator.co.za
The Smalblaar (or Smallies) is probably the most popular river in the Western Cape because of its easy access and good fishing. It flows alongside the Du Toit’s Kloof pass section of the N1 yet once you are on the river you can neither hear nor see the traffic. The Smalblaar holds a good head of fair-sized rainbow trout. Trophy fish of 3 pounds or even heavier are still caught every year. At the end of spring, the Smalblaar attains a certain charisma that distinguishes it from most other trout rivers in the Cape.
The large pools flow emerald green and heavy leptophlebid and Baetis mayfly hatches saturate the air. This gets the trout moving and tough nymph-fishing turns into testy dry-fly splendour.
Lower down in the Du Toit’s Kloof valley, the river is known as the Molenaars. With slightly bigger pools and being the last stretch of the river that does not suffer from water abstraction, big fish take up residence here. The Molenaars is an early summer beat. Most of its water is very shallow and heats up quickly in summer. When this happens, the fish are few and far between and the fishing can be as tough as nails.
Note: the Smalblaar and Molenaars are exposed to strong south-east and north-west winds; keep the weather in mind when booking your beat!
Smalblaar Beat Six
The upper stretch of the Smalblaar River accessible to the public is a small stream that carves through steep mountainous terrain.
Feisty rainbows will lunge at anything drifting through this section of river. I visit this beautiful area regularly and never go home disheartened. The shaded kloof in the higher reaches provides the trout with cool water throughout summer and, in comparison to the lower beats, such as the Molenaars, the fish do particularly well here in the warmer months. The most attractive feature of this section is the numerous waterfalls and abundant indigenous trees and ferns that adorn the pools.
This beat demands a good pair of wading boots and warm clothing for the early morning and late afternoon. At one point, the only way forward is through a narrow gorge with steep cliff faces!
Dries and soft hackle patterns produce good catches, but a personal favourite imitates the long-jawed water spiders (Tetragnatha sp.) that you may find dangling off rooi-els shoots that drape the edges of the stream.
There is also the tiny Krom River, which joins the Smalblaar roughly in the middle of Beat Six. This lovely small stream may hold a sparse population of rainbows but it’s the size of the fish that will impress you. I have sight-fished 15-inch rainbows in the Krom and they are sure to raise your heartbeat when targeting them in the tiny, shallow pools this stream has to offer.
A 1wt outfit, or lighter, would be ideal in the limited casting expanse of these streams. In terms of leader construction, a double-taper leader with dimensions 25 cm of 0.25 mm – 55 cm of 0.32 mm – 30 cm of 0.25 mm – 20 cm of 3X, and 30 cm of 4X and 40 cm or more of 6X added as tippet would be most suitable.
Parking for Beat Six (and the Krom River) is at the Huguenot Tunnel. The beat starts at the low-water bridge below a large shallow pool near the parking area. Fish the river upstream to the junction of the Elandspad River and continue up the right branch (facing upstream) until a large, impassable waterfall pool is reached.
Smalblaar Private Beat
The CPS acquired the newest beat on the Smalblaar only a few years ago. This private beat has excellent rainbow trout water and is a must-fish stretch of river. It covers the water from the large bridge that crosses the Smalblaar above the Du Toit’s Kloof Lodge and continues upstream to the start of Beat Six at the low-water bridge. This beat can be approached from either the designated parking at the Huguenot Tunnel or by walking along the main road from the lodge parking area. The private beat is not long and can be covered in a morning, but the water is attractive and can be thick with trout, especially in the early season. Lies for trout vary between curved glides with challenging, but interesting drifts, short distances of pocket water ideally suited to the dapping technique, and deep pools offering sight-fishing opportunities. Large terrestrial dries (#12) to small mayfly imitations (#16-18) and nymphs (weighted with beads and without) will induce strikes throughout the season.
Smalblaar Hotel Beat
Flowing almost at a constant width, the river section on the hotel beat has some of the best glides and runs on the entire Smalblaar. It is an easy beat to access and the fishing can be spectacular. Permission to allow fishermen onto the hotel beat was granted only after the original beat system had been worked out, so this beat is not part of the numbered beat system. It is accessed by parking at the Du Toit’s Kloof Lodge and walking straight down to the river along the higher boundary of the lodge. Fish upstream until the large bridge crossing the Smalblaar is reached (start of the private water), then either scramble up the high bank and follow the main road back to the lodge or simply retrace your footsteps back down the river.
Smalblaar Beat Five
Beats Four and Five have a similar feel and consist of many large pockets with quartzite boulders in them. The fish often hang in the slack water around the boulders or the large tongues of water that exit pools. A tandem rig consisting of large dries (#10-14) and small (#16) weighted nymphs fished New Zealand-style is probably the most productive method for this water. Smaller patterns, including dark mayfly imitations and emergers, fished on light tippets (5-6X) can be productive during late afternoon hatches in summer. Parking for this beat is at the Du Toit’s Kloof Lodge. Then stroll down the small footpath to the lower boundary of the lodge. The beat ends at the higher boundary of the lodge.
Smalblaar Beat Four
As with Beat Five, leave your car at the Du Toit’s Kloof Lodge and stroll down the main road (N1), past the Beat Five indicator, until the marking indicator of Beat Four is reached; follow the small footpath from here towards the river. For a description of the water and flies, please see Beat Five above.
Smalblaar Beat Three
Beat Three is the start of the lower reaches of the Smalblaar and consists of large open runs and several deep pools. Dry flies fished on long leaders are best for the shallow runs, while indicator nymphing techniques work well in the deep pools. Large Zak nymphs combined with tiny (#16-18) pheasant tail nymphs, tied 30 centimetres below, form a deadly trap for fish patrolling the pools. A prominent weir on the river is the starting point to Beat Three. There is a parking area above the weir, next to the N1, where you can leave your car. The beat ends above a second large pool; approximately 500 metres above the first, a large, dark pool that is passed by scrambling over the high rocky outcrop on its right (facing upstream). At the end of the day’s fishing, find the path on the left bank (facing upstream) at the start of Beat Four and hike back along the main road, or retrace your footsteps along the river and back to the parking area.
Smalblaar Beat Two
Although this beat has a good mixture of trout lies, the river widens substantially, forming widely exposed runs in most parts. The shallow water is comfortably waded for big rainbows. These fish will come to a selection of medium to small dries and nymphs. Fish both branches whenever the river splits to form an “island”, even if the pools seem on the small side. The confluence of the Klip River and the Smalblaar forms the starting point to this beat. It is recommended to park your vehicle at the weir, which forms the boundary between Beats Two and Three (Parking Beat Three) and hike down the N1 main road to the Klip River subway, where you can make your way down to the river.
Smalblaar Beat One
The section of river in Beat One is attractive but vast distances are covered on foot. Large shallow pools and runs offer testy fishing to large rainbows and smallmouth bass. Early season (September to November) is the best time for the lower reaches of the Smalblaar.
Beat One is accessed by leaving your car at the side of the road just below the Klip River and strolling down to where a rainwater channel joins the river from under the N1.
There is a close resemblance between Beat One and the Molenaars. The pools are wide and shallow compared to the rest of the river and the water temperature is notably higher in summer. The fish are few and far between but the average size will not let you down. Although large dries, including terrestrial flies such as hoppers and crane flies, work well, the fishing can get extremely testy with wary fish in either exposed or tucked in lies. Parking for the Molenaars Beat is next to the roadside or through a gate for which the key can be obtained from the CPS. The start of the beat is accessed by hiking down the river valley until a large pool with a cable-crossing is reached. From here, fish your way back to the car.
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Molenaars Gate
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Molenaars Beat
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Beat 1
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Beat 2
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Beat 3
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Beat 4
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Beat 5
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Hotel Beat
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Start Beat 6
Smalblaar Fly Fishing, Krom River Tributary
As the name suggests, the Cape Winelands is an area of vines and vineyards; the berries of which are responsible for that most delicious fermented juice of the grape: wine. The region is well known for its proliferation of estates and cellars that continually create quality wines throughout the cultivar spectrum.
This is an area that encourages leisurely meanders along its various wine routes, absorbing the natural beauty of the rural surroundings.
The region stretches northwards from the eastern outskirts of Cape Town. In the south the popular and trendy towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek nestle in the shadow of the mountains that make up the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. To the west the popular tourist ‘Route 62’ follows the Breede River Valley. It takes in the town of Robertson, the quaint village of McGregor and continues to Worcester.
North, across the N1 highway, the historic towns of Paarl, Wellington and Tulbagh are strung out between a series of mountains. In the far north-east, the town of Ceres is a dot in a sweeping valley of fruit orchards.
Craggy mountains are a feature of the landscape, giving rise to the region also being called the Boland (High Land). The mountains include the ranges of the Groot Drakenstein, Langeberg, Hexrivier and Witzenberg. Their steep rocky peaks plunge to gentler gradients rich in fynbos and proteas, before levelling out in fertile valleys threaded with chortling streams.
In these low-lying areas, suspended between the slopes, vineyards stretch in patchwork patterns. Like an artist’s palette the area changes with the seasons - from subtle spring pastels, through lush summer greens, to the earthy shades of autumn.
Not only are the Cape Winelands a delight for connoisseurs of fine wines; the towns themselves are centres for a host of enjoyable pastimes. Many are steeped in history and have magnificent collections of traditional Cape Dutch and period architecture.
These are best viewed during a stroll along the leafy streets. The historic Church Street in Tulbagh has the largest concentration of provincial monuments in one street in South Africa. The university town of Stellenbosch, with its oak-lined boulevards, is the second-oldest town in the country, dating back to 1671. Today it is an important cultural centre with a host of galleries and museums, and the country’s oldest music school.
Franschhoek, reclining in a somnolent valley ambience, entices gourmets to sample its fare at some of South Africa’s top restaurants. McGregor is well known for its life-enriching tranquillity and Ceres for its fruit production and snow-covered mountains in winter. Besides their wineries, Robertson and Worcester are known for the production of some of South Africa’s best known brandies – Klipdrift and KWV, respectively.
The winelands is great country in which to enjoy a leisurely trip along minor roads that fade into the fynbos. They will take you into valleys and gorges, past barns stacked with bales of lucerne, and paddocks with grazing sheep and lazing cows. Around farmsteads and cottages, chickens strut their stuff and pigs wallow in slushy heaven. Dams mirror the sky and hillsides, their reflections rippled by drifting and preening waterbirds. Tractors till the land, and labourers and farmers wave to every passer-by.
For centuries the terroir here has been ideally suited to the production of great wine and today, more than ever before, it is also conducive to the making of good times and fond memories. The Cape Winelands is a region to relax in, whilst inhaling the warm, scented air and indulging in the finer things in life.
Look out for
Wine tasting – naturally this is a popular and pleasant pastime in the region. The Stellenbosch wine route, established in 1971, is the oldest in South Africa. Today other routes lead to the cellars and estates around virtually every town in the region. Many of the wineries offer tasting and sales from Monday to Saturday. Maps are available from the tourism office in each town.
Brandy tasting – this much-loved spirit is produced by a good number of cellars and specialist distillers throughout the region. There are 2 brandy routes in the region. The Western Cape Brandy Route winds through Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Wellington. The R62 Brandy Route goes through Robertson and Worcester. Many of these offer tasting, tours and sales from Monday to Friday.
Historical towns – the Cape Winelands is rich in history, with most towns and many of the wine estates having their own collections of historical buildings, museums and monuments. The region is synonymous with Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture. Highlights include Church Street in Tulbagh and the De Oude Drostdy Museum just outside the town. There are Zeederberg Square and the Paarl Museum in Paarl, and Klein Plasie open air Museum in Worcester. Twenty declared National Monuments are in Wellington and there is the Huguenot Memorial and Museum in Franschhoek.
Scenic drives – where there are mountains and valleys there are always scenic roads and passes to explore; here is no exception.
River rafting – the Breede River is the sixth largest river in South Africa and is a playground of fun and adventure.
Adrenalin - for lovers of the adrenalin rush, Ceres Zipslide Adventures offers 8 slides totalling 1.4km amongst the rock formations of the Skurweberg mountains near Ceres.
Art galleries – the towns are home to a host of artists and galleries. The Stellenbosch Gallery and Rupert Gallery in Stellenbosch are popular and showcase art through many mediums and genres.
Wildlife on display – the area has a number of parks that allow one to get close to a variety of wild creatures in captivity. Some of the better known ones include the Drankenstein Lion Park, Butterfly World, Paarl Bird Sanctuary and the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm - all situated between Paarl and Stellenbosch.