Castleburn And The Umzimkulu River

The view from Lake Madingofani
The view from Lake Madingofani

I was lucky enough to win a weekend away at Castleburn at last year’s Boston Fly Fishing Festival (courtesy of the UHTFC). We finally decided to make use of it when my dad and Cassia flew up to Durban to visit Emma and us. The weekend was fantastic while the fishing was a bit of a mixed bag as my dad and I only made it onto the water twice over the course of the week.

Our first attempt saw us heading down to Lake Madingofani (Castleburn Lake) for a late afternoon session. On the walk down we fished a few of the smaller dams, more out of curiosity than due to their potential. I assume these dams are targeted at beginners as we were easily able to cast across them. We could also easily see all the fish in these dams as they are extremely shallow. However, despite all of this, we were still unable to land any fish (I guess they could see us too) and therefore continued down to the lake.

It is interesting to note that these smaller dams are stocked weekly and you are allowed to keep these fish for the pan. The lake on the other hand is strictly catch and release.

Lake Madingofani is large and looks extremely promising. I opted to take a row boat out while my dad fished off the mowed banks and convenient jetties. He therefore slowly made his way to the wall while I headed for the reeded areas closer to the inlet, as well as the far bank which isn’t fishable from the shore. Over the next hour or two I slowly fished my way around the dam until I met up with my dad who was now fishing the wall.

One of the smaller dams at Castleburn
One of the smaller dams at Castleburn

Neither of us had had so much as a touch despite the hundreds of fish rising around us (so many in fact that it almost sounded like rain). That said, they appeared to be stokies in the 4 – 5 inch range with no bigger fish in sight. Strange, since the manager swore blind that they hadn’t stocked fish that small. Could the fish be breeding despite no river flowing into the dam?

As night fell I finally managed to hook one of the small stockies. My dad meanwhile had a promising knock from a larger fish but sadly didn’t manage to connect.

Our second attempt saw us heading down to the Umzimkulu River the following afternoon. My dad climbed in at the pools while I jumped in further downstream at the bridge. On just my second cast I landed a beautiful brown trout of about a hand-span. Shortly afterwards I spooked a second fish, which was probably around a kilogram in size and a beaut of a brown. Slowly we made our way upstream, but the water was thin and for the next hour neither of us spotted a fish. Our luck then took a turn for the better, either because of the longer runs or perhaps due to the evening rise. Either way, the fish suddenly came alive and both of us landed several small browns, all in spectacular condition.

Eventually, fearing we’d finished our beat and were now trespassing, we climbed out of the water and waded through thick grass back to the main road for the walk home. It had been a successful session in my preferred type of water, crystal clear mountain streams.

It’s tough to say how well the lake usually fishes, but either way, I definitely preferred (and would recommend) the river.

The Umzimkulu River at Castleburn
The Umzimkulu River at Castleburn
A small Umzimkulu brown trout
A small Umzimkulu brown trout

5 thoughts on “Castleburn And The Umzimkulu River

  • collin

    great read mate
    i will be fishing this area first week sept
    just getting my fly selection in gear.Any popular ones you can share.
    ive tied some ptns and a selection of nymphs etc.

    have some dries 16 to 18 in the box.
    any assistance would be appreciated.


  • Warren Prior

    Hi Collin,

    I assume you’ll be fishing the rivers? Or are you also looking at the still waters.

    The upper stretches on the Umkomaas are great fun on dries, while the lower stretches are best fished with a nymph. Even on the upper stretches there are some beatiful pools where fish are reluctant to rise. So it’s great to have 2 rods or at least a few nymphs and an indicator with you.

    In terms of patterns I find black to be the most effective colour. I favour the ZAKs, prince nymphs, flashbacks, and CDCs. Hotspots also seem to help.



  • collin

    Hi Warren,
    many thanks for the reply mate,
    i want to fish the rivers preferably.
    do you know the waters at castleburn?
    havent fished these parts before.
    should i try try a dropper?



    • Warren Prior

      Castleburn has a few small ponds (you can literally cast across them) that they stock weekly. These are more for beginners or for the pot.

      They then have a large “lake” which is for the more experienced fisherman and is catch and release. This is stocked less often and I believe holds browns and rainbows. I’ve only fished it once so can’t comment too much. A dropper rig will definitely work in the right conditions. As will the usual like woolly buggers, dragon fly and damsel nymphs, etc.

      Let us know how it goes.

  • Collin

    Thanks Warren
    Will try the part of river that runs thru the estate
    Will definitely give you some feedback

    Thanks for the heads up


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