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Keegan Kennedy

October 10, 2017

The Umkomaas Valley – A Hidden Gem in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

We have just left on an eight hour overnight journey on our next adventure and I figured there is no better time to write this report. However, the Orange and Riet river will be for another trip report.

The Umkomaas valley is a hidden gem in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. The uMkomazi River is the largest river on the South Coast. The river is 298 kilometres long, from its source just south of Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site to its mouth on the Indian Ocean.

It is home to one of the nine recognised species of Yellowfish in South Africa, the Natal Yellowfish or Scaly. Labeobarbus natalensis are endemic to the Kwazulu Natal Province and are a highly sort after species to target on fly in the area.

The most exciting time to target the Scaly is late winter into Spring just before the first summer rains. Although you will still get fish in dirtier water, the cleaner water during this window of opportunity allows for some excellent sight fishing. You will see fish flashing in the rapids as well as cruising in the shallows and pools.

There are many ways to catch this species and you can make your fishing as technical as your experience dictates. The most productive way is to nymph the rapids where you will catch plenty of smaller fish but you always stand of chance of hitting a bigger Scaly. We found that casting a full fly line in the calmer pools with two flies tied New Zealand rig seems to produce the better fish. Fly combinations include a weighted #12 nymph with a #16 flashback at the point or fish with a heavier caddis at point and a nymph your dropper fly. Sight fishing can be done with dry flies such as an elk hair caddis, klinkhammer, adams or hopper patterns with GRHE and flashback nymph droppers. If all else fails then pop a san juan worm on under an indicator and fish the slower water.

Even though they are called yellowfish they are olive from above and easily disappear against the river bottom. Walking slowly on the banks spotting fish should be your first approach followed by casting into all the slightly deeper holes preferably behind the larger submerged rocks. Be careful on the very warm summer days as the Umkomaas Valley is renowned for snakes which includes the deadly Black Mamba.

Species on the Fly

Basil Manning

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