Venue: De Hoop Dam
18 – 20 December 2015
Since my first visit to De Hoop Dam earlier this year I was super keen to fish this beautiful dam again. During my last visit we fished the dam in the middle of winter and surprisingly the dam produced well during this difficult time of the year. I was anxious to experience how the dam would fish in the summer when the fish tend to be more active.
Evert mentioned that he wants to fish the dam again and as we were both wondering what venues to fish this holiday, we saw on Facebook that the Bass Bandits (Social Bass Group) will be hosting a social bass comp on the Saturday of the 19th of December. After a short chat it was agreed upon that we will be fishing this bass comp. Koos would also join us as well as Francois Nel (friend of Evert). This would be Francois first trip to De Hoop and he was very keen to fish this notorious venue.
Our game plan was to do a bit of pre-fishing on the Friday before the comp, Saturday would be all out bass fishing during the comp and Sunday we would do a half-day session which everyone was free to catch what they like. This was to be my first official bass comp that I participate in and I was looking forward to this new experience. I have heard numerous rumors of the dam boasting with good Largescale Yellowfish aside from all the bass – of course this was high up om my agenda to investigate during my visit. I was also excited to see what other species we would encounter in these new waters.
We decided that Koos and I would fish together, while Evert and Francois were to be a team. Salmo Lures Southern Africa which is back in the country gave us the privilege of representing them in the bass comp as Team Salmo Hornet (Koos and I) and Team Salmo Slider (Evert and Francois). Salmo Lures sponsored a fantastic Salmo Lures hamper as a prize for the biggest bass caught during the comp.
We arrived at Die Ou Staalwiel (https://www.facebook.com/dehoopfishing/?fref=ts) early on Friday morning where we set up camp for the weekend. This was my first visit to this camping area and I must say that the fees were very affordable and the ablutions is some of the best I have experienced while camping close to a dam. James Language is the owner which made us feel very welcome on his premises. The camping grounds have a cash bar which also sells ice (something we wish we found out earlier on this trip as we suffered through the intense heat with hot beverages – at least we now know of it when we visit De Hoop again). Koos and I put my dad’s Coleman Instant Tent in an “instant” – this is my type of tent as it is very easy to set up as well as to set down and it is tough enough to handle most storms (have been camping with it for a year with no problems).
After pitching our tents we prepared our boats and soon enough we were on the water. We were excited to see what the day would deliver, especially after seeing shoals of small Largescale Yellowfish shining on the launch. We didn’t spend any time trying to target these yellows as we figured that we would find bigger specimens elsewhere on the dam while exploring this beautiful dam. We immediately noticed that the dam’s water was exceptionally clear – just another reason to be positive about the day lying ahead of us.
Koos and I drove towards the river to see if we could catch some catfish on Salmo Slider (Sinking) next to the big trees, while Evert and Francois decided to fish towards the waterfall. On our way to the river I noticed a lot of white birds nesting in a patch of trees which looked like a promising spot. I didn’t stop at the spot, but rather continued towards the big trees in the river. This spot had produced a few catfish during our previous visit to the dam and we were confident that it would produce even better now than on that trip as it was summer now. To our disappointment this area was less active than the last time we fished it.
Tackle for casting at catfish next to big trees:
- 7ft Shimano Clarus Medium Heavy action casting rod
- Shimano Curado E200 casting reel
- 50 lbs Berkley Trilene braided line
- 10 cm Salmo Slider RPH Sinking
Koos and I both managed to pick up a small catfish on Sliders and also missed a few, but the area carried few fish. We also made a few casts with 2 and 3 cm Salmo Hornets and Abu Droppen Spinners which produced a few chases by blue kurper and yellowfish – yet, no takes! Koos and I, both also managed to open our bass accounts with a small bass each taken on the small Hornet. With our limited success we decided to move on to a different spot. We headed back up in the dam towards the dam wall when I spotted the place with all the nesting birds I noticed earlier that morning. We stopped here and as we moved closer with our trolling motor I told Koos that I hope he is ready to nail some fish as this spot is going to deliver for us. I knew that this area would carry lots of fish as I have encountered very similar conditions at Arabie Dam in the past to this which produced memorable fishing for me.
As I expected the water was teeming with fish – shoals of blue and vlei kurper and yellowfish were parading under the nesting trees, a few catfish was also awaiting their meals under the nests and we also noted a few bass cruising about. The conditions looked favorable for fly fishing, so I decided to set up my fly rod for some fun. Koos decided to fish with his spinning rod.
Fly rig for targeting whatever bites:
- Greys XF2 Streamflex 6 weight fly rod (9 foot)
- Greys GX300 fly reel
- 20lb Power Pro braid backing
- Greys 6 weight floating fly line
- Straight 10lb Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon line
- White Death fly
Here is where the fun began as Koos and I nailed one fish after the other. I managed to catch my first vlei kurper on fly as well as several blue kurper, a few small bass and to my dismay I missed a few yellowfish. Koos was lucky enough to catch a small yellow, after two larger yellowfish schooled him. He also managed to catch several blues. We were having a feast! The kurper was caught by casting our fly/Powerbait Wiggler under the trees with nests, then we would wait as our fly/lure sinks down slowly before we would see the schools of kurper rising from the deep and fighting among one another to be the first to take our lures. We probably caught around 40 kurper, before we moved on. It was super exciting to see how the kurper and yellows followed as well as take my fly every time I stripped it – these fish take and spit one’s fly in a matter of seconds, so one needs to be vigilant to strip-strike at just the right moment.
One thing that saddened me was to see that all of the blue kurper we caught were hybridized with nile kurper (Niloticus). This is probably because some angler introduced nileys in the dam which led to them hybridizing with the blue kurper found in the dam. It always amazes me how one person senseless actions can have such a huge impact. Because of one idiot, De Hoop is now contaminated with hybrids which means that all the waters downstream of De Hoop are likely to face the same fate and thus pure bred blue kurper will disappear from this system (which is the case in most of Mozambique and Botswana). Hybrid strains can either produce a super-strain of fish that grow exceptionally big or a weakened strain which doesn’t grow big and produces many deformed fish. I fear that De Hoop may never produce big bream because of this stupid move – rant over.
As we cruised around in the area we saw a few bigger bass lying between the brush which we left to catch the next day during the comp.
The heat was intense on this day, so Koos and I decided to go off at around 15:00. We would enjoy a relaxing evening back at the camp to ensure that we would still be fighting-fit for the next day during the comp.
Look out for Part 2 when I share how we performed in the comp as well as on Sunday…