Venue: Kouga Dam and River (Baviaanskloof)
Date: 5 to 9 August 2016
After a bitter cold night we woke up the next morning to tackle the river once again. The first day wasn’t easy fishing, but at least we managed to catch a few solid smallmouths. Hopefully, this day would be a bit easier.
We decided to head up-stream and seek new pools higher up in the river. Pools were extremely rare as most of the river was ankle deep to about 30 cm deep. It seems that the smallies generally prefer deeper waters and with the cold temperatures of the previous night, they had even more reason to keep to the deep.
The previous day I struggled a lot to wade in the river as my shoes got stuck in the sinking sand several times. Large parts of the river was covered with this sinking sand which made it a mission to cover water, especially when you have to pull an inflatable full of batteries, a trollingmotor and lots of fishing gear, through these shallows water with the sinking sand. Almost every third step I ended up falling hip-deep in the sand and then had to struggle to get out of the sinking sand just to fall back in again after a few steps. This was extremely physical and unpleasant to say the least. As I had to struggle pulling my shoes from the sinking sand on several occasions, I decided to leave my shoes at the camp site for this day – stupid decision!
Moving up river we walked on large areas covered with sharp rocks and my feet took a heavy beating on these rocks. We covered great distances to find pools. Fishing was extremely difficult as most spots didn’t produce any bites on crank, spinnerbait or plastic.
Evert managed to catch one smallie on a nest with a sinko, to his dismay it was the smaller male that took his lure and not the fat female cruising about. We made hundreds of casts on different structures with different lures, but it seems that most fish were lock jaw.
After a long day of hard fishing with no luck, we headed back to the pool at Doodsklip, to try our luck in the late afternoon before sunset. Francois managed to catch two smallies on a Mepps spinners, Shaun picked up one on a sinko and had to work extremely long before picking up one on a sinko. I noticed how they were cruising up and down a cliff; staying in the current and holding to a drop-off. So, I made a cast upstream from the current and allowed my lure to drift passed the cliff. I didn’t work the sinko at all as I figured that the current is giving the lure enough action. As I kept tension while the lure was drifting with the current, I felt a tap…strike…ON!
Plastics rig for bass:
- 7.1 ft. Abu Garcia Villain medium heavy action casting rod
- Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel
- 12 lbs. Berkley Trilene 100% Fluoro line
- Size 3 Gamakatsu Wide Gap hook rigged with a Netbait Little Spanky (Black) on a light mojo rig
After a few short burst I decent 1.31 kg smallie surfaced in front of me and saved me from blanking for the day. Unfortunately, the smallie took the lure very deep and it was bleeding badly. Though I saw it swim away after the release, we saw it floating on the surface a short while later. It was dead. We took it back to camp where Shaun filleted the bass. It discovered several small River Gobies in the stomach of the bass – this gave us some insight into what the smallies were feeding on. Before we went to sleep, we all discussed what lure we thought would deliver the best result the next day. Looking at the profile, size and colour of the River Goby, I had my money on Little Spankies or Cane Thumpers in black colour, to be the most productive lure to cast for these smallies. We had to wait for the next day to see who made the right call. With only five fish between the four of us for this day, we were sure that fishing could only improve.
We were fortunate to experience mild weather the night before our last day of fishing. Our plan was to spend our last time targeting the dam as it was clear that the pools produced limited results. We decided to take one inflatable and make turns towing it up all the way to the dam.
We decided to take a few casts at the pool in front of Doodsklip before taking on the long route towards the dam. It seemed that we were in for a good day of fishing as Shaun and Francois managed a double-up of two good specimens and Evert also took two good fish. I managed to catch one small rat and missed two good takes. Sinkos and spankies did the damage here.
We then commenced the long trek up to the dam with a fully loaded inflatable boat. Eventually we made it to the dam and climbed on the inflatable to work our way up in search of a promising spot. Space was extremely limited as the inflatable was designed for max two anglers and we were four on it; this made casting rather difficult as we were in each other way constantly. It became clear that we would need to find an area where we could beach the inflatable and then work from the shore to fish effectively. The dam is surrounded with cliffs on both sides; these cliffs are difficult to take on by foot and one can get hurt when taking on this rugged terrain.
Ideally, a kayak or inflatable (with one or two anglers), would be the ideal way to fish this area in my opinion.
As we moved up the dam with our sneaker, Shaun and Francois took their rods and made a few casts. We moved passed a few submerged trees which were situated a few meters away from the cliffs on the side, we could see the current moving passed these trees and the water was a stained colour – something rare to find as most areas we have fished up to this point had crystal clear water.
Shaun made a cast down a line of these trees with a Salmo Popper (SMS colour) and commenced popping the lure back to us. Next thing we knew, we all saw how the water exploded behind his popper as a massive smallie missed his lure! Instantly, chaos broke out on the boat as all of us grabbed our rods and started casting to the trees! Soon enough Shaun went tight with a proper smallie on the Salmo Pop and he was soon followed up by Francois who caught a small smallie on a Rattlin Hornet. We were not fishing effectively due to the limited space being available on the boat and therefore beached our boat on the side. Shaun, Francois and Evert immediately made their way back to the area where the two fish came out, while I decided to fish in the area close to the inflatable.
I made the wrong choice as the other three experienced the best fishing of the whole trip on that session.
They even managed to catch a triple-up! Most fish were taken on Little Spankies and Cane Thumpers in Black and Junebug colours – seems I made the right call the previous night!
A few were also taken on 4.5 cm Rattlin’ Hornets and sinkos.
After a while the guys returned to the boat and told me of the great fishing they have experienced. I was a bit down as I had only caught a small rat for the day and had no luck in the area I was fishing. We decided to climb back on the inflatable and make turns to let two of us fish for a while. Francois and I fished the first shift. I decided to cast a 7 cm Salmo Minnow SDR in Green Tiger colour as we were still fishing in stained water and the cliffs made a quick drop next to it, so the Minnow would dive down quickly to get in the strike-zone.
Spinning rig for targeting smallmouth bass:
- 7 ft. Abu Garcia Veracity medium action spinning rod
- Penn Clash 2000 spinning reel
- 12 lbs. Berkley Nanofil line
- 7 cm Salmo Minnow SDR (Green Tiger colour)
It took numerous casts without any bites before I finally went tight with a solid fish. The bass gave a few good pulls before it was netted and I was relieved to see my new PB on board. We weighed the specimen and took a few snapshots before releasing it – a decent 1.63 kg job! I caught this fish by casting my lure down the cliffs and retrieving it parallel to the cliffs while keep my rod tip down. The aim is to bump structure as much as possible as this often leads to a reaction-strike.
The other guys landed a few more good specimens on Rattlin Hornets and Little Spankies before we needed to head back.
We ended the third day with 26 bass and this brings our total for the trip up to 42 bass taken between the four of us in three days. All four of us managed to improve our PB’s and it was amazing to experience this beautiful venue. Even though the fishing was difficult, we all agree that we would like to fish at this venue again when the water level has risen a bit. The scenery is truly incredible at this place as you get to experience a mix between that of the Kruger and Knysna while fishing amongst leopards and buffalos. Luckily, we didn’t run into any encounters with this wild life, though we walked passed two carcasses (probably leopard kills) and were constantly walking passed buffalo and leopard prints and dung. One needs to always be extremely vigilant when fishing here as you can easily run to unforeseen trouble.
Until next line…