The Witels RiverEnquire Now
20 min from Ceres
+27 21 424 7725 www.piscator.co.za
The Witels is a mysterious river that runs through the southwestern side of the Hex River Mountains and joins the Dwars River that comes in from Ceres side to form the Breede River in Mitchell’s Pass. It is not a CPS river but the entire upper section is controlled by the University of Cape Town (UCT) Mountain & Ski Club and no fishing is allowed. The lower reaches flow through Ceres Municipal property and a state permit and Western Cape fishing license are required to fish this area. For hiking trips through the upper reaches, a trip can be booked six months in advance of the hiking season (1 November to 31 March) through UCT Sports Administration.
It is a brown trout fishery with sly trout that become more and more wary as the season progresses. The bigger fish hang around in the lower-to-middle valley and can even be found in the top section of the Breede River in the early season.
Perhaps the most daunting hike in the Western Cape for any trout angler (or hiker), this gorge demands respect and is recommended only for the advanced adventure fly-fisherman.
A minimum of three days is required to fish the Witels successfully (up to the UCT boundary) and, apart from a tough pair of leather boots, a tent and provisions for an extra day, a spare rod should be carried. A dry bag for backpacks is also required for the swims encountered through the length of the gorge accessible to anglers.
Wildlife, such as baboons, klipspringer, genets and even leopard are often encountered on the Witels. If you wish to keep leftovers for lunch the next day, pack them away, preferably inside the tent, or unexpected visitors will spoil your meal. There are also eels in the Witels and they are not shy to scavenge on table scraps left in shallow water after washing the dishes in the evening.
The lower valley is accessed from Mitchel’s pass below Ceres. It would be wise to arrange a drop and pick-up rather than leave a vehicle parked next to the road. Cover the first three hours of the hike on a footpath until a large pool with a big boulder in the head (Boulder Pool) is reached. Cross the high bank on the right and set up camp on the gravel bed next to the slender pool just upstream of Boulder Pool. A good day’s fishing lies upstream from here to the next camp, Stony Camp. Packing in a small daypack to carry the bare minimum (camera and food) while fishing will allow you to cover water quicker and you will spook fewer trout. The norm is to take a stiff walk back to the previous camp and carry the heavy packs to the next camp before sunset.
From Stony Camp up the valley there are many camps to choose from and the trip should be preplanned by carefully studying the map of the Witels (obtained from UCT). This will also give you a good estimation of where the swims are situated, which is essential information when trapped in the gorge when the river suddenly floods. The first two swims are encountered a short hike above Stony Camp. Plan the swims for the early-to-midday hours so you can dry properly before the sun sets and to leave enough sunlight to dry wet packs (sleeping bags and clothes) in case of emergency.
Lastly, it has to be mentioned that hikers have succumbed on the Witels due to unforeseen circumstances, such as heavy frontal systems or unexpected snowfalls. Please take care! It is of utmost importance to keep an eye on weather forecasts (up to the last minute) and to inform someone of your trip and location. Do not attempt a hike even at the slightest prediction for rain; this river has a wide catchment and dangerous flash floods can develop in minutes.
Fly Fishing Witels, Start
Fly Fishing Witels, Boulder Pool
Fly Fishing Witels, Stony Camp
Fly Fishing Witels, First Swim
Fly Fishing Witels, Second Swim
Fly Fishing Witels, Start of UCT Property
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.