Venue: Richtersveld (Lower Orange River)
Date: 1-4 January 2019
Photo credits to Jacques van Wyk
This year I was privileged to start the year with a BANG! On the first day of the new year, I would feast my eye on the untouched waters of the Orange River in the heart of the Richtersveld.
We were four friends on this trip, Koos Bonnema, Jacques van Wyk and Armand Heine. We opted to paddle down the river with one of the local guiding companies. It was a pretty sweet deal as they supply us with a kayak and guide who not only knows the river, but also serves us with three meals every day.
The plan was quite simple; paddle our asses off to reach our camping spot as soon as possible and then spend the rest of the day spinning for monster yellowfish or the odd big catfish.
This wasn’t my first rodeo in the Richtersveld, I did this same paddle several years ago. Though this trip didn’t produce great fishing because of a cold front which hit us hard and too be honest, I just didn’t have the necessary experience to fish the river effectively. It was good to back on this splendid piece of water and apply the knowledge I have gained since my previous visit.
We arrived early the afternoon of the 1st, pitched our tents for the first night and then headed to the water. At first glance, it was nice to see the visibility was superb and we saw numerous Vlei and Blue kurper swimming in the shallows, as well as mudfish feeding a bit deeper in and some juvenile yellows cruising about – all the signs of a healthy ecosystem.
Fishing was on in front of our lodge, as there was just too much vegetation around. We decided to organise two kayaks and head up river to a weir which was close by.
Weirs generally have the tendency of being great spots to target yellowfish on lure. Koos and I tagged up for this session, while Jacques and Armand paddled together. We headed straight for the weir. Here we secured the boats and positioned ourselves on various spots to fish the stream below the weir. Armand and Jacques managed to cover the sweet spot, while Koos and I fished a bit down from the weir.
Yellowfish spinning rig:
- 7 ft. Medium Action spinning rod
- 2000 spinning reel
- 10 lbs. monofilament line
- 4.5 cm Rattlin Hornet (Yellow Holo Perch)
Our technique involved casting upstream and keeping tension with our lure as it runs down stream with the flow. The trick here was to pick up your slack as quickly as possible once your lure has landed, so you can feel it running downstream from the get go.
I took two spinning rigs with on this trip, one loaded with mono and the other with braid. During this session, I decided to give the mono setup a go. Personally, I wasn’t feeling extremely confident fishing this rig, as I could feel that I had less direct contact with my lure with mono as when fishing with braid. The advantage of mono or fluoro is that you don’t need to tie on a leader when fishing the river, as yellowfish as masters of cutting off braid on rocks during their runs, if you don’t have a leader tied. Mono or fluoro gives you much better abrasion resistance, which is crucial when fishing in rivers where rocks are all over. But, it you fish with braid with a fluoro leader, you will have the advantage of more direct contact with you lure (feeling as it runs over structure or when the lure is not swimming nicely because it hooked vegetation) and you will also cast further with ease. This session was all I needed to make up my mind that I would fish the remainder of this trip with my braid setup.
I was lucky enough to hook up with small Largemouth Yellowfish with my first few casts (about 2 kg). Koos’s first catch was an interesting one, he caught a decent size Vlei kurper solidly in the mouth with his 5.5 cm Rattlin Hornet – I’m still trying to figure out how this happened, one would think the Vlei kurper’s mouth is too small for a hookup on such a big lure?!
Armand was nailing the yellows fishing in the main stream of the weir, managing to catch several Smallmouth Yellowfish on the 3.5 cm and 4.5 cm Rattlin Hornets. Jacques also joined in the fun soon enough. It wasn’t long before Armand hook onto a big fish!
It is interesting to see the effect hooking onto a big fish has on the group. Armand quickly got into the water to follow his catch which kept on running down stream with no signs of stopping. Jacques stopped fishing and grabbed the net to assist Armand. Koos and I watched as the fish pulled Armand and Jacques towards us. At this stage, we were all starting to wonder if Armand hooked up with catfish (as these parts of the river has catfish up to 40 kg). Eventually the fish tired and showed itself – it was a solid Largemouth Yellowfish.
We weighed the fish in our landing net and after subtracting the weight of the net, it was settled that this beaut was just over the 7 kg. What was really special is that this was Armand’s first Largemouth Yellowfish caught on lure ever! Big fish to open his Largie account with! We took a few snaps after reviving and releasing the brute. Armand tamed this beast on the 4.5 cm Rattlin Hornet in Gold Fluoro Perch colour. A few more smaller yellows were landed before we decided to call it a day and head back to camp for dinner.
Our trip hasn’t officially started and we already had a trophy fish on the catch list, it could only get better from here.
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