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Get Lost in the Trout Triangle

 
09 January 2017 by Katy Louise Johnson

Most people have heard of the Bermuda Triangle and the lives it has claimed, but few realise that this is not the only sinister Triangle out there. The Devil’s Sea Triangle in the Pacific has claimed countless ships; The Michigan Triangle over the USA Lake has downed aircraft and made boats vanish; while America’s Bridgewater Triangle is responsible for hundreds of strange sightings. 

Main image credit: Michele Meacher

Mpumalanga too has its own mysterious Triangle. A region responsible for multiple disappearances, mainly of Gauteng locals who have visited for the weekend! As the story goes, nothing more is heard of them after their shocked bosses receive a letter of resignation and their townhouses are put up for sale. Rumour has it they are living a far more contented life after being sucked in by Mpumalanga’s very own Trout Triangle.

Image credit: Michele Meacher

The Trout Triangle can be found in the Highlands Meander region of the province between the towns of eMakhazeni (Belfast), Dullstroom and eNtokozweni (Machadodorp), a convenient two hour drive from the hustle and bustle of the Gauteng metropolis.

It certainly appears this triangular slice of Mpumalanga has the same effect on fishermen that their strangely named lures have on the fish! Crowned as the top trout fishing destination in South Africa, this is a place where wellington boots rule and woolly buggers are the fly of choice. Especially in the tourist town of Dullstroom, famed for being the country’s trout fishing capital and whose tourism industry is built upon these beautiful fish.

What causes this anomaly to occur?

The trout! Thanks to the high elevation of the Highlands Meander and cool climate the many rivers and streams that work their way down through this region from the Drakensburg Mountains remain icy cold and crystal clear all year round.  Add to that the assortment of bugs and insects found here and the abundant cracks and crevices in the riverbanks where the trout can hide from predators, the rivers and streams of the Highlands Meander make the perfect home for natural populations of this exotic fish to flourish.

Image credit: Michele Meacher


Then there are the dams. Filled with the same crisp cool mountain water, but constantly restocked. These are indeed paradise for those “non-purist” fishermen willing to tip the balance their way, rather than battle against Mother Nature in a natural “un-stocked” rivers and streams.

Brought to South Africa over a hundred years ago from Europe and America, there is big debate about whether they should be seen as a tourism opportunity or an invasive species but for now Rainbow, Brown and Golden trout are the main attraction in the triangle.

They draw hundreds of thousands of fishermen every year, from across South Africa and the globe, to test their wits in a battle of man vs fish. While the odds, especially in the dams, are stacked in our favour. Many a fisherman has returned home empty handed but with a smile on his face, after a glorious day spent in idyllic scenery taking on a fish that prove to be just too good this time.

Image credit: Michele Meacher


So what do you need to know if you are a new to the art of fly-fishing?

Trout fishing is definitely a year round pursuit but you can improve your odds by coming in the dry winter months of May to September and while it takes a lifetime to learn, we do have a number of ‘handy-hints’ that can propel you along the way:

1.       Keep your cast simple! Yes we all want to look like Brad Pitt in ‘A River Runs Through It’, or the expert fly-fisherman gracefully playing with his line and making it dance over the river leaving behind just the faintest flickers on the water’s surface. But in reality to this you will need to develop the accuracy of Indiana Jones with his bull whip and the patience of a Buddhist monk and both take years to master. So for your first time down to the river concentrate on a simple backward and forward flick that speeds up as you go through each stroke and pauses momentarily at the end of both backward strokes and forward flicks to let the line straighten out. If you can combine this movement with an ending cast where the rod tip remains at eye level, you’ve got it!

2.       Long Vs. Short? Again a common mistake amateurs make is to watch a master at work and think your line needs to be as long as theirs, it doesn’t! Remember the phrase, ‘long for show, short for a pro’. It’s even more important as a novice fly-fisherman.

3.       Woolly Bugger or Black Ghost or Coch y Bondhu: It’s fair to say fly-fishing lures have the best names out there, but with so many to choose you can easily get lost in all the colours, sizes and variations. So how do you choose the perfect lure? Simple, before you buy a single one go to the river or dam where you will be fishing and have a look to see what real insects are about. Then go to the shop and look for something that matches, as nothing beats the real thing apart from a perfectly matching replica! If that seems too much trouble, ask a pro!

4.       Faster Waters = Hastier Fish! Trout aren’t stupid. They’re not bass that will simply gobble everything up. Given the chance the will test the water, observe the fly, and wait for the right moment to strike. In a slow moving body of water they have time to do this, but in faster rapids and ripples they become hastier, pouncing on the fly before it has time to drift away. So if you’re a beginner and simply want to catch a fish and not spend a day testing your wits against theirs we suggest you head to the fast waters.

5.       Hippo Vs Heron: There are two ways to wade through water. The right one is to impersonate a heron, be slow, deliberate and don’t muddy the waters. The other is like a hippo, crashing aimlessly through and making a mud-bath along your route. Wading styles is the reason why hippos eat grass and herons eat fish, you might want to remember this.

The next question is where to start fishing?

This is one of the biggest “headscratchers” in the Trout Triangle, as there are so many great places to choose.

Image credit: Michele Meacher


The biggest mistake most anglers make, especially first timers or novices make is to ask “where are the best fish”. A better question is, “what do you want from your stay”.

If you are all fishing enthusiasts content to spend the whole day walking riverbanks and flicking at the dams, then any of the great in town or more remote fly fishing locations will suit your needs as long as it has a dam and river that isn’t too crowded.

If you are coming with a family, or as a mixed group with some who aren’t so keen about this noble pursuit, it is a good idea to book a place with easy access to the local area’s other attractions. Or somewhere that offers a range of activities alongside fishing. Thankfully the Trout Triangle is full of alternative pursuits, from horse-riding, clay-pigeon shooting, adventure hiking and crossbow lessons. To art galleries, boutique shopping, spa days and places to simply unwind!

Image credit: Michele Meacher


What do you do once you have caught your first trout?

Again it depends on where you are fishing. Some places are purely catch and release, others allow you to keep your fish at a price and some work on the basis “you catch it, you keep it”. So make sure you know where you stand, before you cast your first fly!

For those not lucky enough to take a fish home for supper never fear! There is a wealth of mouth-watering restaurants just waiting to set your taste buds alight with trout based concoctions. So whether it’s grilled trout, baked trout or my personal favourite smoked trout, no matter how bad a fisherman you are you needn’t go home hungry.

While there are too many amazing places to list here, we selected a number that offer something a bit different for those who come to the Triangle for trout but want to leave feeling they’ve had the ‘whole’ experience!

 

Image credit: Michele Meacher


Top Ten Trout Treasure Troves:

1.  Skurwenberg Trout Hideaway, outside Dullstroom – When it comes to pretty locations and feeling removed from the hustle and bustle of modern day life then Skurwenberg Trout Hideaway has it. Encircled by mountains and prairie like grasslands this really is heaven on earth for fly-fishermen and nature lovers alike.

2.  The Woolly Bugger Farm, Tonteldoos – Here you can take on the trout and also work on your aim, with the option to add a crossbow adventure to your fishing trip.

3.  Bergwaters Eco Lodge and Spa, Waterval Bowen – While it is not strictly part of the Trout Triangle it is part of the Highlands Meander and a great place to stay for those who enjoy a few creature comforts alongside fishing. With the rejuvenating body massages and pristine mountain streams this is the perfect place to fish and relax, especially for those keen not to let their tourism footprint leave a lasting mark.

4.  Uitvlugt Farmhouse, Dullstroom – Part of the Holingsberg estate, which boasts six well stocked dams and amazing mountain bike trails. This is the perfect spot for a fisherman who loves to explore. While the beautifully restored farmhouse with its old poplar and oak tree garden is the ideal spot for a bit of rest and relaxation.

5.  Highland Giants Estate, Steenkampsberg Mountains outside Dullstroom – If you love immersing yourself in nature, are an avid bird watcher or rambler this is the fly fishing location for you. The panoramic views are simply spectacular and the feeling of peace and privacy you get here make it the ideal choice for anyone wishing to rejuvenate their soul!

6.  Komati Gorge Lodge, Machadodorp– Is where you can mix fly fishing in one of three dams or an 8km stretch of the Komati River, clay pigeon shooting, archery and canoe adventures. There are even guided horse-riding trails that take you around Africa’s very own Grand Canyon! It’s the place to choose if you have a whole family to entertain.

7.  Walkersons Hotel and Spa, 10kms outside Dullstroom – For the Five Star fly fishing experience. Set in rolling hills with 14 lakes and dams and 4km of perennial rivers, everything about the Walkersons Hotel is out of this world and mind-blowing. Endless vistas, luxurious accommodation, treatment and wellness centre, and each meal a carefully crafted journey of the senses. This is for the fisherman who likes a bit of pampering too!

8.  Rainbow Lodge, Belfast – Here you will experience a touch of the Swiss Alps in the Highlands of Mpumalanga. Belfast really has that Alpine feel and nowhere is that more apparent than when you check into one of the beautiful Swiss style log cottages for a weekend of wonderful fly fishing. It truly is the perfect fishing hide away.

9.  Schaefers’ Halt, Dullstroom – Is a place where the art and fishing collide, where hours can be whiled away painting the landscape of trying to tempt a trout. Coming here is like taking a step into a bygone era that will soon soothe the stresses of city dwellers hoping to find the authentic country lifestyle.

10.  Blaaubosch Trout Inn, Waterval Bowen – For those who want something more rustic and down to earth the Blaaubosch Trout Inn combines great fishing with a host of family friendly activities. Yet it is the ancient ruins of the site that have many intrigued, especially due to their proximity to the world famous Adams Calendar.


CONTACT INFORMATION:

 

Bergwater Eco Lodge and Spa, Waterval Onder -  www.bergwaters.co.za | info@bergwaters.co.za | 087 802 0498 or 082 804 1527 | GPS: S25 39' 11.99", E30 22' 35.02"

Skurwenberg Trout Hideawayskurenberg@telkomsa.net | www.linx.co.za/skurwenberg | 017 844 1252 or 083 276 7687 |

Woolly Bugger Farminfo@woollybuggerfarm.co.za | 079 103 0949 or 076 876 9610 | Just 7km outside Tonteldoos| Please note while low-clearance vehicles will make it, our roads are, well… adventurous… so high clearance vehicles are preferable!

Bergwaters Eco Lodge and Spa, Waterval Bowen- ??? | ???| GPS: -25.480113 30.019103

Uitvlugt Farmhouse, Dullstroom–reservations@holingsberg.co.za | www.holingsberg.co.za | 083 253 5371 | GPS: -25.653330 30.376444

Highland Giants Estate, Steenkampsberg Mountains outside Dullstroom – info@highlandgiants.com | www.highlandgiants.com | 072 605 4147 | GPS: -25.236983 30.284215

Komati Gorge Lodge, Machadodorp – info@kontigorge.com.za or komtigorgelodge@gmail.com| www.komatigorge.co.za| 017 843 3920 | GPS: -25.896187 30.283535

Walkersons Hotel and Spa, outside Dullstroom – reservations@walkersons.co.za| www.walkersons.co.za | 082 807 7505 | S25.21.68 E030.11.18

Rainbow Lodge, Belfast – info@rainbowlodge.co|www.rainbowlodge.co | 084 500 2267| S25 38’ 34.53” E30 06’ 04.12”

Schaefers’ Halt – info@dullstroomcottages.co.za| www.dullstroomcottages.co.za  | 083 731 2567 | GPS: -25.41263 30.1023998

Blaaubosch Trout Inn, Waterval Bowen– info@blaauboschtroutinn.co.za | www.blaauboschtroutinn.co.za   | 083 616 0208 or 082 508 4449 | GPS: -25.60525 30.280166