Everyone has Yellow Fever at the moment and when you see the quality of fish that Sterkies and select sections of the Vaal and Orange rivers are producing, you can understand why. But for me, it’s the start of Trout season that get’s my temperature spiking.

Taking nothing away from the fighting qualities of our indigenous yellow fish species (which arguably can outstrip a Trout), there’s something just so majestic about a wild Brown gently sipping a dry off the surface and the speed at which a Rainbow attacks a swinging streamer that never ceases impress. It’s horses for courses, with water temperature dictating terms, yet regardless of your species preference, to bastardise a phrase, the Trout will always come home to roost.

Dave Fly at Riverside

Typically here in the Natal Midlands, after the rivers have flushed and in the lower reaches burst their banks, the equilibrium of the current returns to a robust flow rate, allowing the larger Trout to leave the comfort of their pools and move confidently through the river course. The timing is everything and never an exact science, but if you’re fortunate, the increased water level is constant and will clear, no where near Gin, but a far more forgiving dirty Martini, providing the ideal conditions in which to convince those wise old Trout to come out and play.

Jack Walters on the upper Mooi

These are water conditions you can fish throughout the day, just changing tactics as the sun moves across the horizon.

We all love to throw a dry, but at this time of year, it generally only delivers a consistent result at first light to moving fish, on a quick drift through structure or the insect hatch in the late afternoon / last light. Hoppers and Caddis remain my firm favourites and rarely disappoint in late Summer.

But if you resolve to spend more time fishing this year, it requires dedicating the whole day, leaving many hours in-between to fiddle with a bigger fly.

Sticking with a floating line for ease on control, my first-pick fly is this years’ namesake, the Dragon, which is one of the most versatile flies you can strap on. The more imitative the better and any colour as long as it’s green is my motto. It is a fly that can be fished on the fringes, drifted across any structure or simply laid to rest in the slow water. Not many trout refuse this meal and the Big Browns of the Natal Midlands resemble any addict in the way they chase the Dragon.

Caught on a Dragon

Despite all of these flies mimicking what you will see all around the river bank, I can’t help but resort to some Guerrilla tactics, just to keep busy during the inevitable slack periods. We all have those ugly, go-to streamers, that practically kick down the door of where a trout might be holding and for me there’s non better than the Bully Bugger! As crass in appearance as the name implies, it’s effect on River Trout in South Africa re-enacts the charge of the light brigade, with the same result, if it wasn’t for the fact that we release our fish. I’ve yet to throw this fly on any day and not elicit a chase or a solid take, but predictably not all with a happy ending.

The Infallible bully bugger

For the time being I’m grateful the river Trout are firing in the freestone streams of the Berg, which I hope continues until their migration upstream to spawn. Fortunately that’s the automatic transition to the still water season and based on the 2355 Trout caught and released in WildFly country last year, we have a lot of Trout action to look forward to.

So make sure you spend more time Trout fishing in 2024, and with this being the ‘Year of the Dragon’, here’s wishing the fish find your fly.