Blessed with over 3 000 kilometres of coastline, a plethora of dams, lakes, rivers and streams, South African anglers don't have to travel far to get their fix. Heck, even landlocked Gautengers can find great spots within an hour's drive to drop a line, take in their tranquil surroundings and unwind. So why not pack the family into the car this Easter, go explore the waterways near you and do some fishing? Think about it: casting a line in a pretty setting sure beats dealing with bored, housebound youngsters while on their two-week school break. And, although the year's still relatively new, that doesn't mean it hasn't been stressful – you're probably due for a little reprieve on the work front anyway. That said, here are five cool fishing destinations where you can avoid the maddening crowd, chill with the family and hopefully catch some lunch over the upcoming Easter holidays.
Brookwood Estate Trout Farm (Cradle of Humankind)
Location: Muldersdrift. GPS Coordinates: S25' 58.605, E27' 48.558
Gautengers spending the Easter holidays at home can head off to Brookwood Estate. This idyllic retreat, about one hour's drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, boasts 5 well-stocked dams as well as about 700 metres of river frontage along the Blaaubank River.
Three of the five dams cater exclusively to fly-fishing. Stocked mainly with rainbow trout (including some brown and golden trout in winter), these dams are said to be home to some of the largest trout in Gauteng – the biggest caught to date being a 4kg rainbow, 3.6kg golden and 3kg brown. The fourth dam, by far the largest, lets your kids refine their fishing skills and entertain themselves while you concentrate on the serious stuff – bagging lunch. Using anything from spinners to bait (no earth worms allowed), they can hunt a variety of species ranging from trout, bass, carp, bream and barble. Here, all fish except trout must be released.
The fifth and final dam is for folk with no interested in trout. Containing bass and carp, this dam is fished on a strictly catch and release basis. The largest catches hauled out to date include an 18 kg carp and a 2.5 kg bass. Oh, and don't forget the Blaaubank River – it's a great spot for hooking yellows.
Facilities include a well manicured picnic site situated along the river (that's safe for your kids to swim in). There's also a fully equipped tackle shop with one of the largest selection of flies in Johannesburg. And, after spending a fun day's fishing, you can kick back at the pub with a refreshing drink in hand while overlooking the dams and river.
For those wanting to spend more time than just a day visit, Brookwood Estate offers two luxurious fully equipped, self-catering, two bedroomed chalets with open fireplaces as well as three camper's cabins. There is also a quaint, fisherman's cottage for those who prefer a more rustic experience.
How to get there
Coming from Johannesburg, travel straight along Beyers Naude and cross over the N14 Pretoria/Krugersdorp highway. Exactly 3km further on, turn left at the tar road (big satellite dish with advertising on corner). Continue straight, passing through 2 traffic circles. 2 km past the second circle you'll see Brookwood's on the right.
Dimalachite River Lodge (Vredefort-Dome)
Location: Parys. GPS Coordinates: S 26° 54’378, E 27° 21’823
Named after the Malachite Kingfisher that nests along the banks of the Vaal River, Dimalachite River Lodge is the go-to place for Gautengers wanting to indulge in some serious river fishing. Without a doubt, the main drawcard here is a chance to bag a monster largemouth yellow (the biggest caught to date being about 11 kg). That said, you can also expect to catch smallmouth yellows, carp and barbel too.
Thanks to the many deep holes and rapids on the river, you can choose between fly or deep-water fishing. And, for the more adventurous, guided fishing trips on rafts can be arranged – giving you the chance to catch something nice in the rapids. For the more sedate at heart, there's the scenic riverbank right next to your campsite where you can drop a line. You can also hire rafts to paddle to the islands and rapids or bring your own. As the lodge's motto is “catch and release”, they request you take a nice photo, then release the fish as soon as possible.
All the resort’s camp sites are on the riverbank, with lovely views over the river. In total, there are 60 to choose from, all with Eskom electricity and braai facilities. The 28 dedicated fishing campsites directly on the water are slightly more expensive.
The venue is also extremely family friendly. Everyone can relax around the swimming pool or jacuzzi, go bird watching, paddle on the river or enjoy the thrill of white water rafting. Kids can bring their bicycles, play on the Jungle Jim, jump on the trampolines or do paintball target shooting. You can even join a self-paddling sunset cruise on rafts with snacks or a bonfire braai. Game drives are also available on request.
How to get there
Drive through Parys towards Vredefort on the R59. 2 km out of Parys, take the Scheomansdrift turn-off to the right. Continue for 7 km where you'll see Dimalachite on your right-hand side.
Stonecutters Lodge (Mpumalanga)
Location: Between Lydenburg and Dullstroom. GPS Coordinates: S 25.2176, E 30.3151
Lying in the heart of fly-fishing country, the up-market Stonecutter’s Lodge is surrounded by a scenic mountainous backdrop and gets regularly enveloped in mist. Aesthetics aside, it boasts two well-stocked trout dams and 3 km of free-flowing river.
The Dorp's River, one of the head tributaries of the Olifants, is a perennial stream offering different fly-fishing experiences around every bend – with large deep pools, free-flowing sections and rapids guaranteed to challenge even experienced anglers. The pathway around the river is mowed and, at strategic spots along the riverbank, regular brush-cutting makes direct access to the water possible. Catch and release of uninjured fish in the dams is permitted. All fish caught in the river are to be released.
Understandably proud of their excellent fly-fishing reputation, Stonecutters Lodge only uses reputable hatcheries to regularly restock their dams. And, to supplement the wild trout that breed naturally in the river, they stock that when necessary too. To help keep things the way nature intended, trout at Stonecutters feed naturally. Supplementary feeding (floating pellets once a week) only occurs during the winter months when natural food is scarce and the trout that are caught (although healthy) are long and thin.
The lodge's luxury accommodation comprises self-catering houses or spacious executive studios for couples. All of the accommodation is stylishly furnished and is serviced daily. Their DSTV package includes all sports channels, movies and news programmes. The Internet is also available at the main lodge.
How to get there
From Johannesburg and Pretoria, take the N12 or the N4 to eMalahleni (Witbank). Continue on the N4 towards (Mbombela) Nelspruit through the toll plaza and exit the highway at Belfast. At the third 4-way stop in Belfast turn right at the Dullstroom signboard. Continue through Dullstroom towards Lydenburg until you see the Stonecutters Lodge signboard 35 km later on the left. Turn left onto the Capstone / Stonecutters dirt access road (The gate may be closed but is not locked ) and follow the road, keeping left for 800 m. Press the buzzer for access to the lodge.
Jozini Dam (Northern KZN)
Location: Jozini. GPS coordinates: S 27.4294, E 32.0651
Nothing beats the rush of having a monster tiger grab your hook, then bolt so fast your line tears through the water as if a deranged bull has snagged it and gone on the rampage. And, when it angrily launches itself out of the water, shaking so aggressively that your lure gets flung through the air, that's when you know you're in game fish heaven.
Jozini Dam's main claim to fame is tiger fishing. Thanks to the space, availability of food and warm water the dam provides, populations have grown to the point where Jozini is now one of the most popular fishing destinations in the country – making it comparable to places like the Okavango Delta and Zambezi River. Apart from tigers, 27 other species call it home, the most common being tilapia, barbel, yellowfish and carp. Tigers are voracious, aggressive predators and fish form the largest part of their diet. As a result, using bait is the most popular method of bagging one. They'll take almost anything, including tilapia, barbel, sardines and chicken, even ox liver. Make sure to bring your heavy gear – these guys rip light tackle to shreds.
If you are planning a Jozini fishing trip, a boat is essential to get to all the good spots. If you don't have your own, you can hire one with a skipper/fishing guide who will take you to all the best locations. Two places where shore fishing is possible is at the Phongolo Game Reserve camping site near Golela and the Fish Eagle camping site on the southern side of the dam.
With the tiger fishing being the major drawcard for visitors to Jozini, you have plenty of accommodation options, ranging from luxury resorts to affordable, rustic campsites. Word of warning though – wherever you choose to stay, watch out for the hippos and crocs (there's a lot).
How to get there
From Durban, take the N2 heading North. Continue on the N2 passing Richards Bay, Mtubatuba , Hluhluwe and Mkuze. 10km past the town of Mkuze, you will see a right turn indicating Jozini. Turn right at the sign board and continue for 19km over the Lebombo Mountain Pass.
Wacky Woods Private Resort (Gamtoos River, Eastern Cape)
Location: 15 km outside Jeffrey's Bay. GPS Coordinates: S 33.908634, E 25.023993
One of the most popular edible fish along our coastline is the cob. As luck would have it, it's a species the Gamtoos River has in bucket loads – with large specimens caught on a regular basis. It's also a prime fishing location, giving you the opportunity to fish a variety of species in three different environments (river, estuary and surf) without having to travel far from the comfort of your base.
Large dusky cob and white steenbras are predominantly found in the lower reaches of the estuary, while spotted grunter, seabarbel, garrick and mullet are found throughout the system. A number of elasmobranch species are also frequently captured near the estuary mouth – these include the diamond ray, eagleray, blackspotted electric ray, ragged tooth shark and lesser sank shark.
Cob are voracious, shoaling predators and highly specialised for feeding in the often murky, silt-laiden waters of estuaries. Bait options include small fish, crustaceans (prawns and crabs) and molluscs (squid and cuttlefish). When using lures, half of the skill of catching cob is knowing where to look. These guys are ambush predators – they want their prey to come to them. That said, the easiest way to hook one is to find a spot where you have shallow water flanked by deeper gulleys.
The Wacky Woods Private Resort, nestled on a 58-hectare sliver of paradise next to the river, places you right in the centre of all the action. It also provides affordable, well-appointed accommodation comprising a few thatched chalets and 16 caravan/camp sites (all with lights, power points, braai facilities, grids, taps and bins). Apart from the fishing, it also offers canoeing, aquatic birding and advanced hiking trails. There's a safe playground for young families with children, of which all ages are welcome. There's also a slipway where you can launch your boat, and deep sea fishing charters can be arranged.
How to get there
Travelling on the N2 from Port Elizabeth, take the second turn-off (Thornhill/Hankey) after Van Stadens bridge. At the off ramp take a left, then turn right at the stop. Continuing on the R102, drive for about 15km until you see the Gamtoos valley. Turn a right at the bottom (about 150m before the single lane metal bridge), drive for about 1km and Wacky Woods will be on you right. – (c) 2017 NavWorld
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