Fruits of the Cape

Written by Graeme Field

Table Mountain, Cape Point, the Waterfront, the Wine Route, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Robben Island all spring to mind when describing the attractions of the Mother City and the surrounding Western Cape. World famous sights that draw hoards of tourists to the city year after year, these attractions are at the center of Cape Town's international appeal, and lead the way in South Africa's booming tourism industry.

Yet just beyond the hustle and bustle of a thriving and vibrant city, in the heart of South Africa's wine country lies the tranquil Breede River Valley, and it's well kept piscatorial secrets. From tiny wild trout streams in the towering peaks around Rawsonville, to the smooth flowing Breede River river and numerous private lakes and dams, this area of the Western Cape offers dynamic and appealing fresh water fishing.

Cape Streams

Barely an hour's drive from the center of Cape Town, cool and crystal clear freestone trout streams pour from the craggy Du Toitskloof mountains between Rawsonville, Worcester and Goudini. Tumbling and bubbling their way down the long, rugged kloofs and valleys, below majestic peaks and through narrow gorges these streams hold healthy populations of wild rainbow and brown trout, as well as a variety of small and sometimes rare indigenous fish. Trout were introduced into these waters more than 100 years ago, and have survived and bred in the wild ever since. Although not of any great size, they are feisty and hardy little fish that readily rise to feed off the surface, making these supremely clear streams a dry fly fisherman's paradise.

Being in a winter rainfall area, the water levels are generally low and clear during the annual summer trout season (September to May), and are quite fast flowing, as they are mostly of a high gradient. The most commonly fished rivers in the area are the Smalblaar, Molenaars, Elandspad, Holsloot, Witte, Jan du Toits and the Witels – and all are governed by a strict catch-and-release policy. Divided into beats and controlled by the Cape Piscatorial Society they vary dramatically in size, shape, accessibility and surrounding scenery. The riverbanks are lined with shrubs and bush, some indigenous and some alien invaders. Local “fynbos” is common on some rivers, especially in the more remote upper reaches. Offering glimpses of wild buck and small deer, baboons and bird life, a day out on the streams is more than just about fishing, but is a chance to escape into the wilderness and enjoy nature at its finest. Once one climbs down into one of the valleys that house the streams, the peace and quiet is so complete that you could easily be many miles from civilisation. You will soon find yourself slipping into the peaceful mood of the beautiful and tranquil surroundings.

The fishing is mostly in pocket water, but there are sections of some rivers that have long pools, riffles and runs – especially on some of the bigger rivers such as the Smalblaar that runs past Rawsonville. Fishing all these Cape rivers is a unique and challenging experience, and under most circumstances a stealthy approach is required in order to enjoy success. Small dry flies and tiny nymphs fished on super light rods, long leaders and hair thin tippets are the norm on these intricate streams. With these tiny flies, light tippets and delicate presentations, fishing the technical Cape Streams will appeal to the fly fishing “purist” and provide a challenge to even the most seasoned of anglers.

Trout stillwaters

Dotted around the mountains in the wine country around the towns of Goudini, Rawsonville and Ceres, a number of lakes and reservoirs offer excellent still water trout fishing (browns and rainbows) for all anglers - novice and expert alike.

The Western Cape's premier trout still water, Lakenvlei Dam is situated approximately 2 hours from the centre of Cape Town, past the towns of Wolseley and Ceres. This beautiful high altitude lake produces good sized rainbow and brown trout in crystal clear water all year round. Fishing from the shoreline as well as float tubing is available for day or overnight excursions. With a snug and cosy cabin on the shoreline, it is the ideal destination for over night or weekend fly-fishing getaways.

Bass rivers and dams

Three main rivers drain the Western Cape area, each dammed in places to provide water for agricultural and metropolitan use. The rivers and dams in the area hold largemouth, small mouth and spotted black bass. All three species are highly regarded sport fish and produce great fishing on fly and spinning tackle.

The largest river of them all, the mighty Breede, winds its way through the wine farms and past the towns of Wolseley, Worcester and Robertson, through Theewaterskloof and Brandvlei Dams on its way to the coast where it joins the Indian Ocean at the small coastal town of Witsand.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass dominate the rivers and dams, with spotted bass much less common than either of the above two species. Both smallmouth and large mouth are found in the Breede River, with smallmouth preferring the faster sections of water. Theewaterskloof Dam and the slower sections of Breede River in particular are excellent largemouth fisheries.

Autumn and spring are prime times for bass, and fishing during these seasons, especially during low light conditions (bass are particularly light sensitive) can provide some aggressive feeding and explosive action. Fishing the dams by boat or float tube is ideal, and a day trip down the Breede River through the magnificent farming and wine lands on a float tube is a rewarding and memorable fishing experience.

There are a number of smaller private dams on the wine farms, which offer some excellent fishing for the intrepid anglers that put in the time to seek them out.

With such a variety of streams, rivers, dams, lakes and species to chose from, anglers visiting the Breede Valley are sure to enjoy some world class freshwater fishing in beautiful surroundings, whilst enjoying some of the superb food and wine that this are has to offer.

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