Bell River, Lower Beats

15 min - 1 hour from Rhodes

-30.7932, 27.9619

The River

This hallowed stream rises on the escarpment near Tenahead Lodge. The high-altitude portion of this water is characterised by shallow, fast-flowing water over bedrock streambeds. Occasional boulders, that had their origins on the surrounding peaks, lie in the streambed and influence the flow. The well-grassed banks often have very productive undercuts. No trees survive here, but you will see alpine flowers in season.

Closer to its source, the Bell River flows through a valley with a relatively small, one-sided flood plain with a few contributing wetlands. The river then flows into a gorge and through a schism in the landscape, losing altitude rapidly over a relatively short distance. The Bell picks up a few tributaries on the way downstream, namely the Kloppershoek, Carlisleshoek and Maartenshoek streams.

Further downstream, where the gradient flattens out, the river widens its meanders and flattens, now with sand and gravel bottoms. The banks used to be shaded by crack willow trees (Salix fragilis), but a government sponsored “Working for Water” program has eradicated most these. Although most people fish the Bell for trout, yellowfish is occasionally encountered, as they move up towards the source to spawn during the warmer months. Beware of the sun and elements when visiting the higher beats; in the mountains, prevailing conditions can change rapidly.

Earlstown Upper (Eirwyn) (WTA)

The shallow, sandy-bottomed stream flows down past the irrigated fields below the cemetery. The river braids and narrows, with deeper channels and a cobbled streambed. This relatively short beat is accessible on foot from the village and can be great fun with dry flies, at particularly at dusk.  This is also a great idea for a first afternoon’s fishing after a long day behind the wheel.

Monard (Fred Steynberg)

Here the river flows through pastures. The substrate is generally sandy and fairly shallow. There are a few deeper pools, especially just below the homestead.

Claremont (WTA)  

In this beat, the Bell has a predominantly sandy bottom and some form of structure on every bend. Fishing is a lot easier now that the crack willow skeletons have been removed from the streambed, although it has seen some loss of habitat for the trout: these tree skeletons created a lot of habitat by channelling the flow to scour out holes. The longer, flat-looking pools have a slightly deeper channel against one or both of the banks and there are a few undercuts. Some aspects of this water are small and intimate.

Glass Nevin  (WTA)

The Maartenshoek stream joins the Bell just above the bridge and this could be considered the beginning of the lower Bell River. This beat fishes upstream from the bridge.  Here, the slower flowing Bell has long pools that vary from sandy-bottomed upstream to sandstone bedrock downstream. There is riffle water to be found at the heads of pools and on bends. The stream flows between a cliff face and pastures and sometimes has steep banks, making it difficult, at times, to get your fly to sighted fish. There are still a few weeping willows that survived the eradication program. There are a lot of trout to be found here, as well as yellowfish during summer.

Lower Glass Nevin (WTA)

In this beat, the Bell flows through a valley, with cliffs on one bank. There are some long, shallow pools with riffles in between. Downstream, the river narrows, with deeper holes on river bends and some riffles at pool heads. For some reason, this beat is rarely fished. 

Steepside (WTA)

This is a very beautiful farm. The river is generally on the shallow side, with sandy or cobbled bottoms. At times, the river flows between a pasture and a cliff. There are riffle areas on bends. The bank-side vegetation varies between trees and pastures. There is a campsite as well as a cottage for hire on the property.

GPS Entries

Bell Fly Fishing, Tuschielaw Gate

-30.7932, 27.9619

Bell Fly Fishing, Earlstown Upper Gate

-30.8021, 27.9515

Bell Fly Fishing, Earlstown Lower Gate

-30.8068, 27.9395

Bell Fly Fishing, Monard Gate

-30.8086, 27.9339

Bell Fly Fishing, Claremont / Upper Glass Niven Gate & Parking

-30.8208, 27.8709

Bell Fly Fishing, Glass Nevin Bridge

-30.8207, 27.8706

Bell Fly Fishing, Lower Glass Nevin Gate

-30.858, 27.8535

Bell Fly Fishing, Steepside Gate

-30.8494, 27.8046