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Fly where the fishing takes you

Fly fishing adventures, particularly for trout, have become a favourite choice of vacationing and letting loose. Joburg Style Magazine’s Eric Bornman recently discovered a few ‘must visit’ local gems. 


The new world since social media, more so than ever, is filled with opinion (called for or not), so whilst I cringe at how judgemental this sounds, I find the many ways of fishing quite boring (traditional static gear angling from the dusty shore of a dam), downright brutish (noodling – the primal act of wrestling giant flathead catfish out of muddy shallows with your bare hands) and, in many other cases, utterly laborious and just plain hard work. But before I upset a vast number of passionate vissermanne, let me at least offer an explanation. 

I say that if you are going to embark on the exercise of trying (against fairly stacked odds) to catch a fish, you might as well do it with a bit of style and pizzazz – unless you’re a subsistence fisherman and have to do it in order to live.


So, for starters, as far as fly fishing ticking these boxes, history is on my side. The angling method of casting a fly was first documented in a 1613 poetical treatise by one of Shakespeare’s fishing buddies. As such, it is more than a technique; it is, in fact, so elegant that it incites prose. Fly fishing was also a major interest of the English nobility. I’m no snob but those old farts knew how to live it up and, along the way, invented a bunch of other things that totally changed the world: the telephone, the television, almost every modern sport including soccer, rugby and cricket, the steam locomotive and the World Wide Web. Based on their innovative prowess, you argue against their choice of fishing technique at your own peril.

Secondly, fly fishing for trout in particular (and the salmonid family as a whole) is part and parcel of a travel experience that takes you to regions where they prefer to live, generally speaking the most eye-wateringly beautiful locations in the world. Think beautiful clear lakes on snow-capped mountains, little streams in wide open highland expanses and, a bit more artificially, the dams specifically stocked for the purpose. Even the most awful day wading up a clear mountain stream or rhythmically casting a fly looking out over a highland escarpment beats the best day at the bottom of a muddy bayou. I suspect that anglers, fly fishermen or otherwise, always enjoy the fishing, even more so when the catching is good, but it is the surroundings that feed the soul and rejuvenate the body.



Furthermore, trout fishing has as its associated activities the enjoyment of a cosy lodge environment, in front of a warm fire after a day out in the water. There are some top-class establishments out there that play perfectly into the rich heritage and ambience of this pastime. And, based on my personal experiences, it’s great for the family too, especially if you’re after generating some Kodak moments with your kids. Landing a nice big one with my son or watching him catch his first one rates up there with my most memorable experiences.

The trout fishing hotspots in South Africa include the well known locations of the Mpumalanga Highveld towns of Dullstroom and Lydenburg, the eastern Free State gem of Clarens, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and the lesser known (to ordinary South Africans) Griqualand East (Underberg region), which is considered big-trout country. We will eventually cover them all but for now we’ll keep it close to home and hit the Highveld.

Spekboom Valley in the Drakensberg Mountains of Mpumalanga, on the Finsbury Road outside of Lydenburg, is a famous location and home to two of our featured destinations. If you want to be properly removed from civilisation, this is the spot, but if you melt down when there’s no network, beware.


Nooitgedacht Trout Lodge

The 1,200-hectare reserve houses a five-star lodge and a trout hatchery, which is handy because they stock their dams liberally. Tours of the hatchery offers something of educational interest for all ages amidst all the leisure.




Nooitgedacht is the epitome of style. The accommodation is plush, 10 spacious suites, including singles and family rooms. It offers full board inclusive of first class, hearty, home-cooked meals served in a beautiful, sunny dining room. Virtually every room has its own fireplace and the loungy nooks, huge farmhouse-style porch, library and pub are cosy. The entertainment lounge houses a rare, full size snooker table, giant wood-burning fireplace and another bar area for a couple of after-dinner drinks, a few tall tales and a large couch where you will happily fall asleep given half a chance. The fishing, of course, is simply fantastic. You enter the property by crossing a low-water bridge, a cascading weir and a couple of dams (that look big until you actually see their big one) on either side.
Four kilometres of Spekboom River twines through the surrounding hills and cliffs, finally running into the big Nooitgedacht Dam where you can take a small boat out to the most amazingly remote spots in-between the reeds or those mysterious unreachable spots where the big fish hide. A simply magical area a couple of kilometres downstream is a picnic spot where your cares can melt away. No visit is complete without spending a day there chilling out. There is a section of river below the dam for the purist fly fishermen where frisky wild trout outwit even the most experienced campaigners as they wade their way upstream.

A night sky this vivid is something us city folk rarely get to see in all its glory. Stargazers are, in fact, able to see (with the help of their equipment) neighbouring galaxies and other rare constellations.

Nooitgedacht ticks all the boxes of a stylish adventure and is highly recommended. | 082 776 2526 | 071 088 0606 |


Highland Run Fly Fishing Estate

Located a couple of kilometres further down the Finsbury Road is the slightly more basic self-catering alternative – Highland Run. What a rare privilege to spend time in such a place. It has been designed with the single objective of experiencing exactly the type of rugged authenticity for which real travellers hunger. The two eight-sleeper pine cottages are homely and comfortable, serviced daily and allow for the freedom to live, roam, eat and drink unencumbered and on your own time. The Highveld can get bitterly chilly, even in summer, so whether you choose to relax and read beside it, or as night falls cook beside it, the fire is often at the centre of it all.



The five subtly manicured kilometres of river frontage is the most beautiful I have ever seen, allowing generous access to stream runs, krantz pools, tight spots, deep water and rapids, but also areas anyone can get to. There are pools downstream where you would be forgiven for thinking you’re in another world altogether. Sitting beside one of these pools, deep and safe enough to swim in during summer, with a basket of goodies (and you know I’m thinking Champagne and oysters upon arrival, cheese and wine or just an ice-cold beer) is the kind of stuff you will never forget.
When the entire river is stocked (there are times that specific dams only are stocked) walking, stalking and exploring this area is extremely special. | 013 235 1882


Gooderson Kloppenheim Country Estate Hotel

The four-star Kloppenheim resort is certainly not on a hardcore fly fisherman’s bucket list of uber-destinations, but seeing that we are talking about locations that tick a variety of leisure boxes, it makes my list. It is the most varied of the three places on review and only about three hours from Joburg (between Belfast and Machadodorp), deep in the heart of the Highlands Meander. It caters for family leisure, conferencing, weddings and even a romantic retreat (I know of at least one baby that was conceived there!). The resort offers game viewing, mountain biking, hiking, tennis, horse rides, swimming, lounging and fishing, of course. The clubhouse caters for a highlands experience and the accommodation is fantastic. You can self cater or go full board, an interleading lakeside suite being perfect for a family of four looking for a bit of space to relax as individuals as well.



There are six dams on the property stocked with frisky, pan-size trout that rise in the early evening under spectacular sunsets over the Highveld escarpment. This is entry-level fishing that will nevertheless keep the more experienced entertained because the kids have plenty to do and the ladies can relax at the spa or next to the fireplace with room service on speed dial. What more could you ask for? | 013 256 9148

There’s more…

Make time en-route to stop in a place (calling it a town would be overkill) called Tonteldoos, 20km outside of Dullstroom, for lunch at The Cat & the Cow. Here you will find the most fantastic pancakes and the coldest beer in Mpumalanga. It is the most unexpectedly delightful spot where you can easily spend an entire lazy afternoon. Check in at Pendle Hill Dairy or Bergen Cheese to stock up on some quality fromage – an absolute essential accompaniment for those red wine nights once you’re at your final destination. Alternatively, if you fancy a wee dram, pop in at Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom. Milly’s (en-route to Machadodorp) is an institution as far as homemade everything, including the most amazing trout pies, is concerned.


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