Sterkfontein Dam Blog: Jan – Mar 2023

The 9th of January 2023 saw our team arrive at Sterkfontein Dam in preparation for a 9 week long fly fishing season to start our year off. As we prepped our fleet of Fusion boats during the early evening we were reminded of the beauty of the place, with panoramic views of lush green rolling hills and a skyline littered with puffy clouds illuminated in pastel colours… It was so good to be back at our summertime home!

Preseason Prep

This season saw us make yet more upgrades to our fleet of 3 boats, adding casting platforms to both front and back decks on each of the boats, as well as 2 brand new 4-stroke engines to ensure we traveled quickly and reliably to our chosen fishing areas each day. These new additions, especially the casting platforms made a desirable difference to the average day, raising our guest’s vantage point and allowing them better visibility which increased their chances of success. We also revised our fly selection for the season, adding 5 new patterns to our ever-expanding library of purpose tied dry flies to cover every condition likely encountered. Armed to the hilt with everything a guide team could possibly need we were ready to take on anything Sterkfontein could throw at us.

The fishing

Sterkfontein is, and always has been a challenging and technical fishery, where the margins for error are slim. 2023 turned out to be a testing fishing season due to several factors which included; particularly difficult weather conditions and inconsistent wind directions.

Despite the above, we still managed to deliver a successful fly fishing season. When the weather was bad, we caught fewer fish and when it was good, we caught loads. In tougher seasons one needs to adjust expectations and bank the small wins. This was critical this season, where the windows of opportunity could be a short 2-hour period and if you weren’t on the money, you were left scratching for answers. Planning, teamwork, and experience ensured that we were in the right place, at the right time, and most importantly providing sight fishing opportunities to Smallmouth Yellowfish for our guests. The next thing apparent this season was fly selection and the difference that made to our catch tally at the end of each day. Being a team certainly helped, as we could test several different patterns and if one happened to stand out we would then share this information amongst the team. It became evident certain flies outperformed others and were often the difference between landing 1 or 9 fish for the day. In seasons past we hadn’t had to be quite so selective in our choice of flies or as intentional in our decision-making.

Below are recollections of certain fish and sessions that stood out during our stint at Sterkfontein:

Early season we welcomed old-time friends back to Sterkfontein for the 3rd consecutive year. Zac enjoyed days of fly fishing bliss landing 10 or so Smallmouth Yellowfish each day under perfect bluebird skies with almost no wind to speak of. It was during Zac’s trip that we realized that the old staple fly patterns were not going to be sufficient and we needed to experiment.

Our first international visitor of the season, Gareth Jones, of Airflo Fly Fishing converted his opportunities in front of the Smallmouth Yellowfish. Gareth, a very competent angler, has won 2 silver medals at the Men’s World Fly Fishing Championships and is a master at his craft. He enjoyed a particularly productive morning session hooking and landing loads of powerful Smallies.

Another international visitor, Don, also enjoyed several days of action and reported catch returns in the double figures each every day of his trip with us. Having fished the world, and a lot in the US for trout, he caught onto the rhythm and vibe quickly and thoroughly enjoyed the sight fishing element of the fishery.

Riaan and Alecia joined us for the second consecutive year for an extended period and enjoyed a particularly special day where 9 fish were brought to hand before having to call the day short due to a brewing thunderstorm. The catch of the day went to Alecia, who managed to catch a 6 ½ lbs fish Smallmouth Yellowfish that she expertly sight-fished and threaded through a large weed bed before landing her prize. We’ve landed a fair number of Sterkfontein Yellows during the past 3 seasons and this is a very large fish for the fishery. Well done, Alecia!

Gerhard and Angelika, longtime supporters of our Sterkfontein Dam experience joined us on two separate occasions during our Jan – Mar season. They were lucky enough to experience a large flying ant hatch during 1 of their afternoons and Angelika struck gold and managed to land several powerful Smallies, one of which a real beauty of 4 ½ lb. Great job, Angelika!

The fishing, laughs, and evening shenanigans we shared with our guests this season were special. We enjoyed every moment and although Sterkies showed us her moody side at times, she still shone brightly when conditions lined up favourably. As such, the hope of a strong season next next year has us excited and already hard at work with the preparations!

Till next year,

The FlyCastaway Guide Team

Sterkfontein Dam Blog: Jan – Feb 2022

2022 saw South Africa experience one of the wettest summers in our recent history. The shear amount of water and variable weather conditions experienced between January & February can make fly fishing a challenge, particularly in South Africa. This was not the case during our 2022 Sterkfontein fly fishing season and again proved why “Sterkies” is our favourite high summer fly fishing destination, it just keeps producing the goods regardless of the variables!

This season at Sterkies saw us run our full fleet of customised Fusion 17ft boats for a period of 7 weeks. Our team rose the bar another couple of notches with days full of opportunities, even during the most challenging of conditions. Week in and week out we felt a great deal of pride seeing the excited grins on the faces of our guests who had either just tasted their first ever Smallmouth Yellowfish success, or veterans of the experience expressing a sense of satisfaction closely resembling one’s face after enjoying a delicious meal. The fish swam high and happy, and we were in the right place at the right time. A success in so many ways, we’ve highlighted the top 5 moments from our 2022 season below:

1. Ant Fall

Sterkfontein is comparatively devoid of aquatic hatches. Despite this, the reservoir experiences prolific ant falls with hundreds, if not thousands of these terrestrials losing their way and eventually falling into the dam. Our quarry, the Smallmouth Yellowfish have cottoned onto this phenomenon and lock onto them. At times they become very selective, only accepting profiles that closely resemble the ants in the water. A simple fly change is often all it takes and then the action begins in ernest. Guests Tom Lewin & Dean Riphagen of Frontier Fly Fishing experienced this exact scenario and managed to make the most of their opportunities as the fish swam just a few inches below the surface picking off the struggling ants. Although these hatches are not guaranteed, when they do happen the dry fly sight fishing action can only be described as superb. See the video below of a brief snippet of this experience.

2. First Time Success

Welcoming first-time visitors to Sterkfontein is always an exciting occasion, and an opportunity for us to unlock the full fishing potential of the fishery immediately for our guests. Keegan Kennedy of Xplorer fly fishing and friend Matt joined us for a couple of days on the dam. Their second day produced one of the most productive sessions we’ve ever seen, with no fewer than 36 x Smallmouth Yellowfish brought to hand, all sight fished under bluebird skies. Keegan caught 3 specimens of 50cm (20 inches) plus, which are large enough to be considered as trophies at Sterkfontein. Well done, Keegan!

3. Veteran’s Redemption

Long-time friends of FlyCastaway, John and Paddy enjoyed a stella 4 days of fly fishing with us during our Jan-Feb Sterkfontein season. The duo was treated to various dry fly fishing scenarios, most notably were the late afternoons where they experienced the thrill of heavy ant falls. On each occasion the team made the most of their opportunities and went on to enjoy double digit days on the dam which is no mean feat… Well done gentlemen!

4. Open water cruisers 

The father and son duo of Ian and Drummond also had their eyes opened to the full fishing potential available at Sterkfontein. They enjoyed an incredibly productive session fishing in the open water, amid a large brewing storm. The sharp change in barometric pressure mixed with the large ant fall meant the duo experienced some of Sterkfontein’s gold standard, the guys landing several large and healthy Smallmouth Yellowfish!

5. Guide’s Day Off

Although there weren’t very many days to spend on the water ourselves, we took the few opportunities we had to explore rarely visited areas of the dam, putting the prior evening’s creative fly tying product through its paces. Fly fishing at Sterkfontein is one of those experiences that you can fully immerse yourself in, where the mind doesn’t wonder about anything other than the task at hand…. finding high riding smallmouth yellowfish and attempting to convince them to eat our new/improved dry fly patterns. One such day stands out above the rest when guides Justin and Milan found a string of fish while drifting along an extended scum line in the middle of the dam. The boys made quick work of the fish and enjoyed an incredibly productive 2-hour session which left them both itching for that next day off!

Our time at Sterkies provided us with another opportunity to scratch that sight fishing itch that we love so dearly, which for the most part we have to travel far and wide to enjoy. There isn’t any doubt in our minds that this experience ranks highly with other top venues around the world, whether it be in the fresh or saltwater. As the saying goes “no rest for the wicked” we have already begun our preseason preparations for our 2023 season where we’ll be extending our season into March. For those of you who fished with us this year, we thank you and we look forward to sharing Southern Africa’s No 1 sight fishing destination with you again soon.

Yours in fishing,

The FlyCastaway Guide Team