30 min - 1 hour from Rhodes
This stream has its source on the slopes of Vaalkop near Barkly Pass on the escarpment where the southern Drakensberg begins. This river has less of a gradient and a wider, cultivated flood plain over its course than other rivers in the area. As you move downstream, its main tributaries, the Coldbrook, Koffiehoekspruit, the Bokspruit and, finally, the Bell River, join the Sterkspruit. After this last confluence, the river is known as the Kraai. The Sterkspruit has a mixture of sandstone, cobbles, gravel and sand substrate over its course. At times the earthen banks have been eroded to a depth of up to four metres.
The majority of the crack willows that used to line the riverbanks have been eradicated as part of a government sponsored project to reclaim the river from water-sapping alien vegetation. However, there are a few weeping willows around, as well as the occasional stand of poplars. This river has more agricultural run-off that others in the area and is consequently more affected by rainfall than most. On the upside, it it does clear relatively quickly and is said to fish at its best just before the water clears completely. The Sterkspruit is home to rainbows and seasonal yellowfish. This river produces bigger fish than its neighbors. Fish your normal style, but don’t forget to also fish the undercuts, particularly in the lower reaches.
This is the WTA beat closest to the Sterkspruit’s source. Parking is in the camp on the right as you cross the bridge at confluence of the Sterkspruit and Coldbrook stream. The banks vary from single-sided rock faces to farmland and pastures. The substrate is sandstone bedrock or sand with occasional cobbled riffle areas and some relatively deep pools. A short length of the Coldbrook, which flows into the Sterkspruit here, is also situated on this property. The Coldbrook is a small stream that can be useful at times when the Sterkspruit is running high or dirty. There is some stunning dressed stonework on the property; look out for the dipping race on the riverbank below the homestead.
Farnam and Granard (WTA)
The host likes guests to contact him to be shown where to fish (Izaak and Nellie Botha, 045 931 2281). The river here has a similar character to Knighton, but there is more gravel and sand substrate. A comfortable guesthouse is situated on Granard, with its own private dam and filled with enormous trout. These farms are well looked after and the banks are in good condition. Fish tend to respond more to nymphs than the dry in deeper water. Dries work better in the fast, shallow sections. The Koffiehoekspruit joins the Sterkspruit on Farnam and at times this can be very fishable.
The beat is on the west side of the river only and has a weir as its downstream boundary. Most of the substrate is boulders, cobbles and gravel. This certainly looks like great trout-breeding territory.
The banks are pasture or reeded over its course. Fish may be found anywhere on this beat; stalk carefully when the water is low and clear.
This is a very pretty beat with a beautiful gorge section downstream. The substrate is cobbles and sand. Most of the beat consists of shallower water, but there are deeper pools and runs to be found, especially where a bank side is rocky or there is a cliff face. Nymphs produce better in the deeper sections but dries deliver in the shallower faster sections. Accommodation is offered in a well-appointed, lovely old stone house on the property. Catering can sometimes be arranged, but depends on farming activities.
There is a dam beside the road and one may either park and fish here, or follow the track below the dam wall to the river. The dam has produced double-figure fish. The stream has willows and poplar trees on the banks, with a cobbled or sandy bottom. The banks are eroded in places, but there are some deep pools as well. Concentrate on fishing the undercuts that are formed by tree roots. This is where the big fish live and this beat has probably produced more large fish than any other on the Sterkspruit. Accommodation is offered in a cottage near the main homestead.
The river here has a sandy bottom with cobbled riffle areas. It flows through farmland and pastures and, at times, the banks are quite deeply eroded. Numerous yellowfish may be found here during the summer months and some of the deeper pools produce larger trout. As usual, look for the fastest current and resultant scoured-out streambed.
The fish are to be found in faster water or in the deeper pools. They tend to respond to nymphs more than dries.
Sterkspruit Fly Fishing, Knighton
Sterkspruit Fly Fishing, Farnam (below) and Granard (above)
Sterkspruit Fly Fishing, Broadford
Sterkspruit Fly Fishing, Branksome Gate
Sterkspruit Fly Fishing, Birkhall Entrance & Dam
Sterkspruit Fly Fishing, Jennerville Gate
The Friendly N6 route runs between Bloemfontein and East London, connecting the provinces of the Free State and the Eastern Cape. Aliwal North is at the border of the 2 provinces.
South Africa is famous for horizons that stretch for kilometres, so wide open spaces and endless skies are a traveller’s constant companions on the N6. The route takes one through about 600km of peaceful, diverse and beautiful land, giving one a sense of just how vast the country really is.
The N6’s attractions include everything from sea to snow, interspersed with charming towns. These are only slightly off the beaten highway, and are intriguing and pleasant places to explore. In the Free State, Bethulie and Zastron are within easy travelling distance of the N6, while Reddersburg, Smithfield and Rouxville are main stops along the route.
In the Eastern Cape the towns of Dordrecht, Molteno, Elliot, Rhodes, Burgersdorp, Barkly East and Lady Grey are all worthwhile diversions for curious travellers with time on their hands. For those sticking to the highway, Aliwal North, Jamestown, Queenstown, Cathcart and Stutterheim are along the route. These provide a sufficient diversity of interests and activities for guests. The highway is also relatively close to the Gariep Dam, Oviston and Hogsback Nature Reserves.
Sprawling sheep farms are probably the most obvious and frequent feature of the landscape, but the area is rich in cultural significance and interest.
Apart from San (or Bushman) history and rock art, there are also interesting museums and art galleries, and fine local arts and crafts. The route’s proximity to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho means that Basotho culture is an important and unique influence on the culture of the area. Xhosa culture is proudly and strongly entrenched in the Eastern Cape.
The hills and towns of this area were witness to the Great Trek. This was the migration of the ‘Trekboers’ from the Eastern Cape across the Gariep River, (previously the Orange River) further into the central interior. It is often mentioned as an example of Afrikaner rebellion, perseverance and endurance.
This same Afrikaner resilience cost Britain an unanticipated £190 million in the South African (or Anglo-Boer) War, which is commemorated at many sites and towns along the N6 route.
Travelling south to East London from Aliwal North, tourists are afforded a majestic view of the Maluti mountains of Lesotho, as well as a sample of the Great Karoo in Stutterheim and Queenstown. East London itself is a lovely city which really lives up to the ‘friendly’ N6 brand. It has some interesting tangible links to prehistory: the East London Museum displays the last remaining dodo egg, as well as the body of a coelacanth, one of the oldest species on the planet. This fish was thought to be extinct until one was found alive on a fishing boat in the East London harbour in 1938.
Look out for
Relax and rejuvenate in Aliwal North’s hot springs and appreciate its beautiful old buildings.
The Kologha Forest and the Kubisi Indigenous State Forests are less than 10km from Stutterheim. Large swathes of ancient indigenous forest are home to yellowwoods, ironwoods, white stinkwoods, Cape holly and Cape chestnuts with montane grassland cresting the slopes. Six well-marked forest trails, from 3-17km long, start and end at the Kologha Picnic site. They lead to waterfalls and good trout fishing and birdwatching spots. Rare birds found here include the endangered Cape parrot, grey-crowned crane and white-starred robin. Mountain biking and horse riding are allowed on certain trails. Maps are available at the forest kiosk.
The Thomas River Historical Village is in the Amathole mountain region on the 31 000ha Thomas River Conservancy between Stutterheim and Cathcart on the N6 highway. The area was named after Thomas Bentley, a deserter from the Van Der Kemps Missionary who was shot dead with an arrow while crossing the river. The conservancy offers a variety of outdoor activities including hunting, hiking, rock art talks and trails, fishing, birding, and paintball. The village dates back to the 1870s, has a popular restaurant and houses museums themed on wagons, rock art, pubs and vintage motor cars.
Mgwali Cultural Village near Stutterheim showcases Xhosa culture, with crafts and traditional food on sale.
Tiffindell Ski and Alpine Resortnear the picturesque village of Rhodes is South Africa’s only ski resort. It offers snow adventures on the slopes of Ben McDhui, the tallest mountain in the Eastern Cape.
Lady Grey and Cathcart are quaint, peaceful towns to visit. There is a Cape vulture sanctuary 12km from Lady Grey at the Karringmelkspruit gorge. Cathcart is known for its wildflowers, San rock art, excellent hang-gliding launch sites, fishing, birdwatching and adventure activities.
Malaria-free game viewing is possible at the Lawrence De Lange Nature and the Longhill Nature Reserve near Queenstown, as well as at Tsolwana Game Reserve near Tarkastad. Big 5 game viewing is possible at the Mpongo and Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserves, both within 35km of East London.
At the N6 route’s end, East London, visit the Python Park and Lion Park, the Queen’s Park Zoo, the East London museum and the aquarium. Enjoy the shopping, restaurants and, of course, surf the waves. The Calgary Transport Museum (5km north of East London on the N6) has a quaint collection of carts, wagons and buggies. It is open daily from 09h00 to 16h30.