Amazingly it had been 8 years since Nick and I last visited (and camped) at Midmar Dam in the Kzn Midlands. Yes, it’s not as scenic as the mountains and bass are not as fondly thought of as trout by most fly fisherman; but we’re not most fly fisherman! So when a long weekend popped up just before Christmas we packed the vehicles, hitched the boat, and took the families up to Midmar for a relaxing weekend with a “little” fly fishing.
We arrived at around 6pm on Friday evening which left us just enough light to pitch the tents and get camp ready before darkness fell. Then the beers came out, the fire was lit, and we began the usual discussions of fish in waiting, what tactics we would use, and which bay we would fish first. The first night was of course a little heavy on the rum, but then again, first nights always are.
Saturday morning started at an early 4:30am when Mila woke up thanks to a rather rabid crow. Not realising how early it was I climbed out of bed, grabbed my camera, and started firing off a few shots of the painted sunrise. Eventually I was alerted to the time and climbed back into my sleeping bag for another quick hour of rest.
When we got up for the second time at 6am we kitted up the fly rods, launched the boat, and headed for the horizon (or in our case, in search of our old favourite bay, last visited 8 years before). After realising that the water level was far higher, and that we weren’t going to locate our old stomping grounds, we picked a spot with good structure and got fishing. Being early in the morning we opted to fish the surface and were soon pulling poppers across weed beds…plop, plop, plop…
Sadly this yielded no results and so we tried fishing some deeper water around sunken trees with sub surface flies. This too left us empty handed and with the wind picking up, and realising that the water was a tad dirty, we opted to head off in search of a more protected (and cleaner) bay.
Eventually we found a sheltered bay with good structure and got back to fishing. To cover all aspects I fished the surface while Nick pulled a strip leach through the weeds. Nick was the first to connect with a fish, and what a beaut it was. Sadly, after a relatively short fight, the fish somehow managed to detach itself from the hook and swam off looking rather smug. We gave it a few more minutes and then headed back to camp to meet up with the girls for a skottled breakfast.
When we arrived back to camp the girls were nowhere to be seen. A quick phone call revealed they had visited a local farmers market and were still out and about. Seizing the opportunity we jumped back into the boat and fished a nearby bay for a few minutes. This yielded the first fish of the trip for me, a VERY small largemouth bass.
Knowing that things could only improve we headed back to camp where we had a quick breakfast and then got down to relaxing. For me relaxing meant tying up a few strip leeches in different colours as they seemed to be the fly of the morning.
Eventually the afternoon rolled around and we headed out in search of bigger and better bass. We headed for the small bay where Nick had lost a good fish in the morning and slowly drifted along the weed beds casting at likely holds. Then, almost unexpectedly the heavens opened and we were left fishing in belting rain. Thankfully we had our Columbia jackets with us and they kept us 100% dry and happy to continue fishing. Sadly however the storm grew and soon bolts of lightning were flashing over the hills.
We quickly packed up our kit and headed for shore. Boats could be seen rushing back to camp from all edges of the dam as a colossal storm bared down on us; it was actually a rather funny sight. Thankfully we’d just pulled the boat out of the water as the winds grew and the storm passed directly overhead. We hunkered down in Nick’s tent, rain somehow finding its way in, and waited it out.
When the carnage had passed Nick and I took a walk around the camp assessing the damages. We found several collapsed tents and gazebos, some unidentifiable and left discarded under trees. Several people were also packing up and heading home muttering swear words under their breath.
Impressed we’d survived unscathed we launched the boat once again and went out in search of bass. We opted for a new bay and finally had some success. This time Nick was fishing the surface while I fished sub surface with my newly tied leaches. It took only 5 casts and Nick was into his first first of the afternoon, a largie of around 500g. I quickly changed to a flipper and promptly missed 3 fish on the surface.
Having found the fish we frantically pulled our poppers over the surface and watched them getting smashed over and over again. Things then took a dire turn when Nick managed to hang his flipper high up in a tree. After snapping it off he quickly realised that he’d left his bag (and flies) back in camp. I rummaged through my boxes and managed to find an old, small flipper which he tied on. Sadly it proved ineffective and sunk rather than plopped. Fail!
Focus filled Nick’s eyes as he began to devise a plan to rescue his key fly. Finding a piece of anchor rope he quickly tied on a few shackles to form some form of primitive batarang. We pulled the boat up under the tree and he began tossing his contraption at the offending branch. After hooking and pulling several other branches off the tree and into the boat he finally connected with the correct branch. Yelps of joy could be heard from across the dam as his fly fell into the boat, branch still attached.
Fishing promptly commenced and we landed a few more bass on our prize flippers as the sun dipped below the horizon. As evening fell we started the motor and headed back to camp where the girls had a roaring fire ready to cook a delicious dinner. We pulled the boat out of the water and got down to tanning some meat and enjoying a few cold beers. Slowly we wound down and eventually crawled into bed far earlier than the night before.
On Sunday morning we climbed out of bed at 6am to a nasty wind and white horses covering the lake. The boat was also low on fuel so a morning session was out of the question. In preparation Nick and I headed to for the nearest petrol station and then in to town to stock up on food.
Back at camp we skottled a fantastic breakfast and then took shelter in the gazebo from the relentless wind. Fishing sadly wasn’t an option.
Once again I passed the time by tying flies (flippers in various colours), thereby lowering the risk of Nick pulling branches into the boat when he hung his like a Christmas decoration. We’d also purchased a bat and ball which sufficed in entertaining us for short periods as we moaned about the weather. Dinner was once again braaied but Tarryn had headed to bed feeling ill and the wind was getting the better of all of us, so it was a short lived evening.
Thankfully the wind hand dropped when we climbed out of bed on Monday morning. We quickly launched the boat and headed back to our favourite bay for a quick morning session. Things were quiet but I managed to pick up one largie before heading back to camp for another late breakfast with the ladies.
Egg and bacon rolls, with left over braai meat, was the order of the day and went down swimmingly. And then it was time for one last session…
We opted to explore a few new areas but found only muddy water from the recent heavy rains. After fishing them for a while we decided to make the most of the weather and headed back to location X. Almost immediately I got into an average bass on the surface. Nick on the other hand missed one whilst trying to navigate the boat around a submerged tree that suddenly appeared before us. This left him somewhat annoyed. We continued our drift and he missed another fish in the weeds. I immediately put in a cast to where he missed the fish and landed the biggest bass of the trip. His annoyance grew and comments of poaching flew from his mouth.
Feeling the pressure Nick’s fishing gained intensity and before he knew what was happening we’d drifted deep into the weed beds. Trying to get us out resulting in a very jammed prop which saw me jumping into venomous adder territory, knife in hand, to cut us free. After we’d eventually freed ourselves we decided to call it a day and headed back to camp.
Impressively the girls had started packing up and drying out our kit. This made life a lot easier and, after pulling the boat out of the water, we finished packing up the site and headed home.
One of the best things about Midmar is just how close it is to home. Forty five minutes later we were back in the comfort of our house and wondering where our next trip would be too…