Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Fly fishing for yellowfish

I am sitting in Johannesburg airport, waiting for my flight home, so I thought I would use a bit of the time to update this blog with some news of my last few days here in South Africa. This is the first internet connection I have had since my last update. What a trip. What a place. What awesome fishing......

We have been staying on the banks of the Vaal river at Parys, about an hour and a half outside Johannesburg, chasing these awesome smallmouth yellowfish on the fly. Above is Jako Lucas with a seriously good "smallie" that he took on a wet fly stripped back slowly. Working with these FlyCastaway guides is always a fantastic experience, for they are all outstanding fly fishermen and are huge fun to spend time around. The more time I spend with the guys simply reaffirms my belief that they are one of the best guiding operations on this planet. Check out what they do here, and then get in touch with them if you want to experience some of the world's best fly fishing.

We spent a bit of time rafting and fishing certain sections of the Vaal river, and the two photos above show Jako landing a nice fish and then paddling down to the next spot. Africa is usually about the whole experience, and I love it with a passion. There is just so much fishing to do.

Above is Jako with another big smallmouth yellowfish - these magnificent creatures are arguably more loved than trout down here, and big numbers of fly fishermen target them in the Vaal and Orange river systems. You can fish dry flies and wet flies, with upstream nymphing being particularly popular and successful in the faster, shallower water. These fish pull big time. All the FlyCastaway guys are so easy to photograph.

Here is FlyCastaway guide and all round "freaky good" angler John Crabb bringing a "smallie" to hand as the sun goes down on another perfect African day. Last night they smashed the fish hard on small dry flies, wading right out into the middle of the river. What is great is that the water is warm enough to wet wade - no need for chest waders.

The Vaal is also full of huge catfish and some nice carp, including this stunner that Jako nailed as he was trying for the yellowfish. We were hoping that it might be one of the rarer and more elusive largemouth yellowfish - these thing grow huge, but they are not as prolific as the hugely numerous smallmouth yellows. Very much worth chasing though.

You can see from this head shot just how adept the smallmouth yellowfish is at grubbing around on the bottom for the large percentage of its food. They simply light up when the sun is out, and all fish are of course returned.

Here's that carp barely slipping into the landing net - Jako just managed to fit him in there. The carp are in fantastic condition and John Crabb nailed a few that he saw literally tailing like bonefish. He also got smoked by a big, 30lb plus catfish !!

This has been a hell of a trip, meeting some fantastic new people, and also catching up with some good friends. I am already making plans for multiple return visits, but not before I get home and actually spend some proper time with my family. These last few weeks have been seriously travel hectic (check backwards on the blog for the info), and I have photographed a huge range of material that is going to illustrate a serious number of features all around the world. Now though I am so looking forward to getting home to my girls and being around for a while - my wife is awesome the way she holds the fort when I am away and I could not do what I do without her. If all goes well I should be landing at Heathrow early tomorrow morning, and then I have about a three and a half hour drive back down to Plymouth. Hopefully the bass are biting big time......

Far too many people simply have no idea about the world class fishing that is on offer throughout Africa, from some outrageous rock and surf fishing on the southern coastline through to monstrous Nile perch in Uganda. I have done a lot in Africa over the years, and I have every intention of doing a whole load more. This place gets to you in a big way. A lot of the fishing really need not cost the earth - and some really good news is that the incredible beach fishing in Namibia is really firing once again, and the guys are catching stacks of big sharks again, together with the edible species such as kob and steenbras.

Talking about kob (kabeljou), I am already about to put some dates aside for next autumn to come back down and fish with John Crabb again for some potentially huge kob - they have been caught recently to over 100lbs from the shore. Yes, you read that right, that is a "fish" and not a "shark" - imagine what that must look like. Anybody into serious shore fishing needs to check these kob out. A lot about how they are caught reminds me of our own bass, although this is on a somewhat extreme scale.

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