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Fly Fishing the Western Cape


Fly Fishing the Western Cape

For important information about river access, permits and booking, see the the tab marked "Access".

Many rivers in the Western Cape were stocked with rainbow or brown trout in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Not all of these efforts were successful and even some of the successful ones have been degraded over time through agricultural or urban development.  Nevertheless, a few have survived, and even flourished, and left us with a legacy of some of the best freestone river fishing in the country.

The waters of these rivers are stained light amber by the tannins in the fynbos and the wild trout populations that occupy them are very hardy.  Lower down, the rivers become unsuited to trout, so almost all the fishing waters are higher up in the mountains.  Here the rivers are small; in paces they can be as narrow as an easy jump.  However, they are rocky and can be tricky to navigate.  Most anglers end up doing the “slippery rock dance” at least once a day, and often end up taking unplanned swims. 

In high summer this is no big deal, but in the cooler months it can be rather unpleasant.  For this reason, non-slip wading boots are strongly recommended.  Bear in mind that you will be spending almost the entire day in the water – there is no bank fishing here. A walking stick is also recommended, in particular for fisherman who are no longer as athletic as they once were.

Wade slowly.  It is not only good for balance, but also the better way to fish these waters.  The banks of the rivers are sometimes covered in a thick seam of riparian vegetation and scrambling around deeper pools can be challenging.  Long trousers and long-sleeved shirts help minimise scratching when such evasive manoeuvres are called for.

The mountains down which these rivers tumble play host to the Cape floral kingdom, which is the smallest and richest of the six floral kingdoms of the world.  In places, the hills can be richly covered in stands of proteas, ericas, restios or any number of other fynbos species.  When in bloom, the walk to and from the river can be as rewarding as the fishing itself.

The Cape Piscatorial Society (CPS) and Cape Nature Conservation control the rivers in the Western Cape and you also need a provincial fishing permit. You don’t have to be a resident of the Western Cape to become a member of the CPS.  Bookings can also be made on a day-by-day basis. See the 'access' tab for details. 

To control and facilitate access, the CPS has divided the rivers into a beat system.  One of the key reasons for using demarcated beats is that the fish are often easily spooked and a person trailing behind a fisherman will often struggle to fish well.  Please ensure that you are familiar with the boundaries of your demarcated beat and don’t succumb to the temptation to encroach on other beats during your fishing.

Beats are numbered from the lowest section upstream in numerical order.  A number of strict guidelines, including the use of barbless hooks and a catch-and-release policy are applicable on the CPS rivers.  The CPS waters include the Witte River in Bains Kloof, the Smalblaar and Elandspad Rivers in Du Toit’s Kloof, the Holsloot River near Rawsonville and the Jan Du Toit’s River in the Worcester area.

Please note that no camping is allowed on the CPS Rivers, with the exception of the Jan Du Toit’s River, which runs through private land. No fires are allowed in Cape Nature Reserves.  Please keep the streams free of litter.


Governing Body

The Cape Piscatorial Society
+27 21 424 7725

The CPS manages the fishing on these rivers on behalf of Cape Nature, and membership is open to everybody. However, you do not have to be a member to fish these rivers. But, you do have to book through the CPS. Bookings are granted on a first-come-first-served basis. Bookings can be made by phoning the CPS office between 10h00 and 16h00, Mondays - Thursdays; or 10h00 to 12h00 on Fridays. The early cut-off on Friday is because the fishing lists for the weekend has to be sent to Cape Nature.

Fishing works on a beat system. In other words, you have exclusive access to a stretch of river if you have booked it for the day. Each beat is limited to two rods for the day.

Remember to keep your CPS fishing permit on your person when you go fishing, as well as a freshwater angling permit and a permit from Cape Nature (or an appropriate Wildcard) to enter the relevant reserve.


John Yelland, +27 21 762 8007

Articles & Blogs

Guiding Mishap

Tom Sutcliffe 11:13am 1 Oct


I've slowly been sifting through the near 17 000 fly fishing images I now have with the intention of doing some tidying out. It struck me how many otherwise lovely shots weren't pin sharp because the shutter speed wasn't fast enough. Here is an image to illustrate the point and I’ll describe the circumstance.

We had spotted a feeding fish and I was setting up to do a few action shots of Billy de Jong catching it, with Leonard Flemming ‘assisting.’  The water was glass clear and low so we were all moving carefully and slowly, like we were on eggs...

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Flyfishing Outside the Box

Tom Sutcliffe 5:55am 23 Jul


It’s difficult to find the right adjective to describe Peter Hayes’ new book, Fly Fishing Outside the Box - Emerging Heresies. Many come to mind – intriguing, enlightening, fascinating – but none really do this brilliant work full justice and the title delivers precisely what it promises.

Hayes undertakes a major debunking of many long held rituals, beliefs and philosophies in fly fishing and fly tying and he does it convincingly...

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For Feathers!

Tom Sutcliffe 3:30pm 17 Jul


Traditionally you don’t get much for feathers, or so the saying goes. Well I struck it lucky after sending Herman Botes a bunch of French Partridge feathers I had dyed a deep olive green. I thought Herman might find them useful in tying his popular Papa Roach.

After putting them to use Herman replied, ‘At first I was gonna use them for my BWO’s and stillwater nymphs, but was pleasantly surprised when I found them perfectly suitable for the wing case on...

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Dramatic Rescue

Tom Sutcliffe 11:55am 25 Jun

The story and pictures on my website of how three determined fly fishers rescued a tiny antelope from the freezing waters of the Western Cape’s Lakenvlei dam will certainly warm your heart. See

It is a wonderful piece about the selfless commitment of her rescuers.

Image: Stephen Boshoff

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Peter Hayes visit to Cape Town

Tom Sutcliffe 4:55am 4 Jun


Peter Hayes, an Australian and a friend of Nick Taransky, is a former Australian world casting champion and is now a guide and lodge owner in Tasmania where he runs the Australian Fly Fishing Conclave. He is currently on a tour of South Africa mesmerising anglers with his casting and knot tying skills. On Saturday he joined me at my home for the morning where he heaped one fly fishing revelation after another on my head; the Penny knot, two really useful casts for tight places, the frailties of the old ’10 o’clock – 2 o’clock’ teaching method, a patented...

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A rainbow or brown? Or something else?

Tom Sutcliffe 5:35pm 21 May

Dave Edgar posed this question to me in an email last week:

I went fishing in the Hex River valley this weekend and caught a rainbow trout with what seemed to be three reddish dots down its side. Is it a different strain? Do you have any pictures of similar trout?

I replied that if he was on the Hex River then I was pretty sure it was a brown trout.

He responded saying it was definitely not a brown, possibly a rainbow with different markings than usual. He also recalled me mentioning a different strain of rainbows in a previous Newsletter and wondered if this was one...

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Winelands Fly Fishing

Tom Sutcliffe 12:19pm 10 May


Philip Meyer runs a pretty fly shop on the edge of spreading vineyards and mountain backdrops Somerset West and Stellenbosch in the Western Cape Province. To my mind it could just qualify as the prettiest fly shop on earth, or at the very least, the fly shop in the loveliest setting. He has a wide range of stock, provides guiding and tuition as well as fly fishing tours for yellowfish, tigers and trout.

This year Philip may well be part of the Protea (South African) fly fishing team going off to fish the world...

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Sage Circa

Tom Sutcliffe 11:55am 30 Apr


Last week I fished the Lourens River, a slender stream running through Somerset West. I was with my friend Robin Douglas and pretty keen to test the Sage Circa 7’ 9” 2-weight his son, Ian, had made for him. I did that and by happy chance, managed to catch a couple of decent trout as well.

How would I describe the action of the Sage Circa? I guess it’s on the slow side, but not too slow, and there is a sweet feel in the middle of the rod with no tendency to fall away on powered casts. To me it is very reminiscent of the SPL, a model Sage brought...

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The mind of a trout

Tom Sutcliffe 8:15am 22 Apr


Further to the debate in the last two Newsletters sparked by Bob Wyatt’s latest book, What Trout Want, in which he questions ‘educatedness’ in trout, Steve Dugmore, a local master bamboo rod maker and professional architect, adds this splash of fuel to the fire...

I had an extraordinary experience a while back which I thought I should share with you. It is almost unbelievable and, without the witness that I fortunately had, I would be opening myself up to the...

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Pascal Cognard Lectures Western Cape Fly Fishers (2)

Tom Sutcliffe 3:38pm 6 Mar

Here are a few ideas on equipment from Pascal:

We don’t use long enough leaders on clear rivers and streams. Four metres plus is where we need to be, all the leader sections pre-boiled except for the tippet.

Never join fluorocarbon and nylon. The fluoro will cut into your nylon.

Take the greatest care to create an ultra-smooth leader to fly line connection. Pascal uses a glued needle knot that is beautifully tapered, layered with wraps of 8/0 red fly tying thread and coated as smooth and neat as the wraps on a fine bamboo fly rod....

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Pascal Cognard Lectures Western Cape Fly Fishers (1)

Tom Sutcliffe 3:35pm 6 Mar

Representing the French fly fishing team, Pascal Cognard is a three times individual world fly fishing champion. He was partnered this weekend by Said Yahiaoui, a member of the French team from 1991 to 1993 and its current manager, in a three-day seminar that included on-stream demonstrations on the Smalblaar River. Local fly fisher, Korrie Broos, arranged their visit to various centres in South Africa.

Here are a few things you might find interesting:

We don’t wade carefully enough. To watch Pascal wade is to watch a heron stalk. I...

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Evolution of the modern nymph

Tom Sutcliffe 6:00am 7 Feb

MC Coetzer, one of South Africa’s most respected fly fishers, has taken part in international competitions for many years. In this article he traces the changes he has noticed in the development of successful nymph patterns used at international competitions over the years. What intrigued me about their apparent evolution, especially of the European nymph patterns, is how...

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Transforming a parachute

Tom Sutcliffe 11:30am 20 Jan

Again I’m indebted to Ed Herbst for pointing me in the direction of yet another interesting website and another intriguing fly pattern.  In one simple step the tyer converts a standard deer hair post on a dry fly into a deer hair parachute Klinkhåmer-type pattern! It’s a brilliant, why-didn’t-I- think-of-that-before pattern from a wonderful website!


 - Tom Sutcliffe

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Book Review - The Trout Diaries

Tom Sutcliffe 7:00am 10 Jan

The Trout Diaries

The Trout Diaries by Derek Grzelewski is right up there with the best reads available in fly fishing. This South Island New Zealand based photo journalist has done a marvelous job of drawing you into the fishing life in this part of the world with text and illustrations.

His website is also worth a visit

Guest Blog by Tom Sutcliffe

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The Purple Parachute Adams

Tom Sutcliffe 11:00am 28 Dec

The colour purple in dry flies is not something new or unique. One of the best examples is Charles Meck’s Patriot, a variation of the Royal Wulff, with a segmented purple body. And I have seen a Purple Para Wulff and a Purple Renegade – though less commonly – and Oliver Kite’s timeless pattern, Kite’s Imperial, is tied with purple silk.

But I had never heard of a Purple Para-Adams until I read the Spatsizi Wilderness Reserve’s 2012 Newsletter, where they record it as this year’s most successful dry fly on their many rivers and streams! It’s a pattern better known as Carlson’s Purple...

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Masters of their craft

Tom Sutcliffe 7:00am 28 Dec

Says Steve Boshoff: It has become tradition for me to spend the first week of the December break exploring new ideas as opposed to fulfilling orders. Driving this work remains a search for the “Africa rod” devoid of imported components, refinement of the centre axis rod and reel, the all wood outfit, and excluding unnecessary rod and reel fittings. I have also become interested in the work of bladesmiths and their influences are appearing in my rods and nets. 

The wooden rod grip has a long history in rod making. However, weight is a challenge. For lightness, the late Vince...

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Guest Blog - Tom Sutcliffe

Tom Sutcliffe 2:52am 28 Dec

We are pleased to have received a few guest blog pieces from Tom Sutcliffe; the South African flyfishing legend, author and artist. 

For more about fly fishing, see Tom's website.


Matt Hayes is an accomplished photojournalist with over 20 years experience and a very keen angler, so his book, FISHEYE – A Guide to Angling Photography, promises to deliver the real deal on this subject. In fact it covers everything...

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