Venue: Lower Orange River (near Upington)
Date: 16 to 22 December 2016
The next morning we woke up to see that the river level has climbed substantially. The rapid in front of our campsite has changed drastically and it looked much more promising. The higher water level had all of us psyched about what the day would hold in store for us. We also heard big catfish activity right through the night which made us very positive about hooking into a beast or two.
While drinking coffee and gazing over the river with high spirits, we noticed how a big catfish was moving around in the shallows close to us. The sight was too much for De Wet to see as he left his coffee and went to target this beast. Unfortunately the cat spooked as he went for it. One thing was clear from this – we should keep our eyes open for catfish preparing to spawn in the shallows!
Koos and myself head down the river to the spot where we nailed the yellows the previous afternoon, while my dad and De Wet head up stream to fish the rapids where the fished the previous day. We saw a few catfish turning the surface on our way to the yellowfish, but none of them seemed interested in our presentations.
Finesse spinning rig for yellowfish:
- 7 ft. Abu Garcia Veracity medium action spinning rod
- 2000 Penn Clash spinning reel
- 12 lbs. Berkley Nanofil line
- 10 lbs. Double X High Abrasion Mono line (used as leader)
- 4 cm Salmo Hornet Real Identity Perch colour (Floating)
On arrival at our spot we noticed that the higher levels have caused the gullies to change. The rapid was much bigger than the previous day and had a faster flow. At the head of the rapid the flow was extremely fast. Here Koos managed to catch a few small largies and smallies on the Sparky Shad which he still had on from the previous session. I was still casting my 4 cm Hornet in Real Identity Perch.
I saw a few rocks submerged in the head of the rapid which blocked the flow and created a still patch behind it. With a long accurate cast I placed my lure in this patch and just as I started reeling my lure was smashed, followed with a good run. The fish surfaced on the take, by now we knew that this was a telltale of largemouth yellowfish. As expected a good size specimen largie soon showed its face. After a quick pic we released the beaut. These river largies have a much more slender profile than the largies of Vanderkloof which I am so use to.
Koos managed to pick up another solid smallie, which was shortly followed up with a bus of a fish. The fish was heavy and powerful. Koos went after the fish and tried to control it, but it was a beast and he was out-gunned! Eventually the fish managed to swim into a patch of weeds, but Koos decided to wade in neck-deep after it. He managed to pull it out of the weeds and tried to keep it out of the weeds by using his body as barrier between the structure and the fish. This strategy worked for a while, but it was difficult to bully this fish with his spinning rod as it only had 10 lbs Double X mono to rely on and this fish was way over 15 kg. Eventually, after about 15 minutes into the fight, the fish managed to swim past Koos into another patch of grass and then (to Koos’s dismay) snapped his line – gone! Would have been epic if we could see this fish and if Koos could land it.
We decided to head further downstream and explore some new water. The water we came across looked incredible! Plenty of tiny rock islands submerged with deep pools close to them – the perfect waters for big catfish or even big largies to hunt. We didn’t try for largies here, but Koos did a little bit of popping which produced a few small cats, while I decided to cast blindly next to the islands with my slow sinking madpumkin. Maybe I can get a lucky break and hook up with a catfish that decided to look for prey next to these islands. No such luck for me, unfortunately. I did however come across four monters catfish spawning in the shallows. They were swimming in two pairs in about 30 cm deep water, right against the reeds. The smallest one looked about 18 kg, while the biggest was in excess of 25 kg. I dipped my madpumkin on the whiskers of the biggest one two times (with my heart pumping in my throat), but it refused it both times before jumping out of the water like a whale as it fled to the deep. This catfish’s head must have been at least 40 cm high – it will haunt me for some time!
We moved even further down passed a very strong rapid; I was actually a bit worried about if we would be able to get back through this rapid as it was flowing very strongly. We worked the tail-end of the rapid with no luck and then Koos decided to cast next to the rough water at the head of the rapid and he went on with an epic run! The fish pulled him hard and he waded downstream to keep the fish away from structure, after an epic fight he landed his new PB smallmouth yellowfish of 3.8 kg.
We then changed our focus to work the gullies next to the rough waters at the head of the rapid as it seemed the fish wasn’t lying in the tail-end of the rapids as with our previous sessions.
This move allowed us to land several trophy smallies as well as two decent largies – one being Koos’s new PB!
He fished this whole session with a Sparky Shad, which again, as with the previous day, produced several quality fish for him. To be frank, he out fished me with my 4 cm Hornet.
We worked our way back to camp; catching several more yellows and having a ball of a time.
On our way, as we were passing the small rocky islands, I saw a big catfish swim by underneath my kayak. I paddled on and then saw another big catfish cruise passed me – I needed no more convincing! I scoped the area and paddled quickly, but calmly, towards the most promising-looking island. After securing my kayak, I situated myself to have a clear view over the shallow islands in the vicinity.
Casting rig for catfish:
- 7 ft. Custom Heavy action casting rod
- Shimano Curado E200 casting reel
- 50 lbs. Berkley Whiplash braided line
- 50 lbs. Maxima Ultragreen mono line (leader)
- Lume Lures Large Slow Sinking pumpkinseed with size 7 Mustad Kaiju inline hook
Now I just needed to wait for a catfish to cruise by. After a short wait I saw catfish turn close to one of the islands; I immediately made a long cast towards it and saw how the catfish came up and hit the lure miss. I then waited for another catfish to show itself and after a few minutes another catfish showed itself. I repeated the same process of making a long cast and placing my lure in front of the fish. I then left it dead still and watched as the cat surfaced; it took the lure and was on for a second before the hook pulled. After another 20 minutes or so a smaller catfish cruised by and it immediately took my lure as it fell next to it. It went straight into a clump of weeds and got stuck in it. I just kept tension on it and commenced making my way to it. When I reached it, it was already quite tired from fighting against the strong weeds. We landed it and took a few photos before releasing it. We didn’t have a weigh-bag with us so we couldn’t weigh it, but I estimate it around 14 kg.
The heat was getting to us, so we decided to take a break in the shade and enjoy some lunch. While relaxing in the shade, we watched my dad as he was fishing the rapid in front of our campsite. It was incredible to see him as he was catching fish on a cast for cast basis! We literally shook our heads as we saw him hook up with fish after fish! Eventually, I decided to grab my action camera and take some footage of him fishing – I was still a bit dazed by the sun, so I taught I would take it easy while filming him. I managed to get some great footage of how he hooked up with a mudfish (in the mouth), a largy and a 3.7 kg smallie – all on the same Salmo Sparky Shad that Koos lost that morning to the beast catfish!
My dad told me that he and De Wet had an insane morning session – his best yellowfish fishing of his life! He stated that they caught more than 40 yellows that morning between the two of them, with most being over 3 kg and a few “small” ones of 2 kg plus.
They also managed to land three smallmouths of over 4 kg between the two of them. De Wet caught all his big fish on the 5 cm Hornet in Real Identity Perch, while my dad caught most of his fish on a size 3 Mepps spinner.
De Wet also managed to land a monster 22 kg catfish which he caught on sight by presenting his 5 cm Hornet at it on his spinning rig – the fish pulled him through a rapid and gave him one hectic fight before he managed to subdue it.
At the end of the day, I managed to catch a few more small largies and my dad caught another good size smallie, after which we called it a day.
We were all extremely satisfied with the day’s catches and were keen to see what the last day held in store for us.
If you are interested in fishing these amazing waters, contact De Wet to arrange a guided trip with him. Click the link below and send him a PM via Facebook.