Vaal River - Middle |
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Vaal River - Middle

Country: South Africa
District: Vaal River - Middle
Type: River

Location size
River: 250 km

Distance from
Johannesburg: 100 km
Parys: 35 km

Federation of SA Fly Fishers

The Vaal river originates on the plateau west of the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga, east of Johannesburg and flows southwest to it's confluence with the Orange river southwest of the town Douglas in the Northern Cape.

It is approximately 1100km in length and forms the border between Mpumalanga, Gauteng and North West Province on it's north bank and the Free State in the south.

The river is divided into three water management areas; the Upper Vaal, Middle Vaal and Lower Vaal river respectively.

The Middle Vaal river is downstream of the confluence of the Vaal and the Rietspruit rivers and upstream of Bloemhof Dam. It extends to the headwaters of the Schoonspruit river in the North and the Vet river in the South.

The Vaal river is the second largest river in South Africa. Premier yellowfish destination.

How To Get There

1. From Johannesburg take the N1-South Highway towards Bloemfontein, continue through the Grasmere Toll Plaza*. From the Plaza drive straight (still N1) for a distance of 38 km. Turn left and get off the N1 highway and onto the Vanderbijl Park / Potchefstroom (R53) off ramp.

Turn right to Potchefstroom (R53) at the ramp and drive straight for +- 7km. At this point you will arrive at the first of many public venues situated along the river up to the town of Parys.

2. From Johannesburg take the N1-South Highway towards Bloemfontein, continue through the Grasmere Toll Plaza*. Approximately 1 Km before the Kroonvaal Toll Plaza take the Parys/Sasolburg turnoff - R59.Turn right and continue driving for about 20km towards the town of Parys.

From Parys to the end of the Middle Vaal river section a whole set of new public venues are accessible to fly fishers.

* Road taxes are payable at a Toll Plaza. The rate at Grassmere Plaza is an estimated R15 per car regardless of the number of passengers.

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Location Details

The section of river starting from above the Barrage wall and flowing downstream past what is now known as Goosebay Canyon (weir), past the resort of Smilin 'Thru and towards the town of Parys is characterised by long sections of deep, slow moving water meandering down bush-clad islands interspersed with shallower water, rapids, riffles, runs, ledges and eddy's.

The rapids are not large by world standards but are very challenging in high flows and especially during the rainy season. Surrounded by banks, willow trees, unspoiled nature with the call of the Fish Eagle that can be heard from time to time and only an hour's drive from Johannesburg; this is truly a world class fishing location.

In the Parys area, one and a half hour's drive from Johannesburg, the landscape is less rugged and consequently, the river has a wider and shallower bed, flowing around a large number of islands of variable size. The biggest island, with an area of about 180 acres is Groot Eiland; (large island) is situated just below Parys. A variety of wild trees grow on the islands making bird watching a treat with over 150 species of birds.

For anyone visiting this area today, signs that it is becoming a tourist attraction are apparent in the rush of coffee bars, art studios, antique shops and B&B's.

Further downstream of Parys, the river follows a north-westerly course towards a place called Kommandonek and re-enters the Vredefort Mountain land.

The river follows this valley towards the southwest, trending along the curvature of the mountain land before a further fault across the outer collar allows it to leave the dome and assume a more western course towards Klerksdorp in the North West Province continuing towards and into Bloemhof Dam.

The river is only accessible after you turned off from the main road, onto a dirt road and on private property leading towards the river. Normal SUV's are adequate in getting to the river but a 4x4 vehicle might be a better option.

Fishing venues are indentified with name boards or place names and dedicated parking areas are normally provided by the land owner of the fishing venue.

Access to the river from "no man's land" is strictly prohibited.


The main fish for fly fishers is Smallmouth Yellowfish. Other species caught on fly in this region of the river are Mudfish, Sharptooth Catfish, Carp and Largemouth Yellowfish.

Mudfish are slightly smaller in size compared to Smallmouth Yellowfish and are caught in the same manner as Smallmouth Yellowfish. Pound for pound these fish are stronger fighting fish. Great fun!

Catfish are mainly caught during the summer months and are considered to be the dominant predator fish during warmer months. These monster fish can grow to weights in excess of 30kg. Common food items include fish, frogs, birds and small mammals. Slapping flies on the surface to draw attention, fished with a short leader and floating line seems to be the most successful technique.

Carp are considered to be a pest of great significance because of their feeding habits.

Nonetheless, they can provide excellent fun using fly - fishing techniques. Carp can reach weights in excess of 20kg.

Largemouth Yellowfish are without a doubt THE freshwater predator fish to target in South Africa. Largemouth Yellowfish are indigenous and should be released immediately. It is a criminal offence to keep these majestic fish.

Largemouth Yellowfish require a different approach in terms of catching them on fly.

They prefer slower and deeper moving water next to structure and mainly feed on smaller minnow species, big Dragon Nymphs, Crabs, Shrimp, Tadpoles and mice.

Majority of fish are caught during the winter months when water visibility is at it's optimum.



AFTMA 5 or 6 fast actioned rods, 9 or 10 foot in length fished with a floating line. Large Arbor reels with a good drag system are essential for big fish and easy line recovery.

Typical leader lengths are 6 foot to 10 foot long. Tippet size - 6lb to 10lb Monofilament or Fluorocarbon. Strike indicators constructed of egg yearn and or barred fly line for bite detection.

Felt soled boots with good ankle support for slippery/rocky bottom, Breathable waders, wooden wading stick for easy navigation and support in high water.

Breathable rain jacket for summer rains. Sun gloves, landing net with soft mesh and long handle, pliers, forceps, polaroid sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, wide angle hat or cap and buff. It can get very hot! Long sleeve shirts, nutrition - lot's of fluids, fly vest.

Dry fly fishing

AFTMA 4 or 5 medium to fast action rods, 9 foot long and floating line for dry fly fishing.

15 foot tapered leaders ending of with 5X or 6X Monofilament tippet, floatant, sinkant, amadou dryer or chamois from a car to dry out CDC flies, float tube or inflatable craft, fins, fly vest.

How To Fish

The season kicks off at early Spring (September) when the water temperature begins to rise to about 15-16 degrees Celsius whereby fish will start to move into shallower waters right after fattening up from the previous winter months.

Late September will bring forth the first of three spawning cycles. This cycle will last for about a month until the end of October. Anglers are advised to avoid shallow waters and spawning gravel beds during this period. The next spawning period is in December and the last cycle in February.

As soon as the water temperature reaches the 17 degree Celsius mark, fish will be feeding actively and aggressively in the rapids and runs of the river. This period will last from October right through until early May when the outside and water temperature begin to drop back from the highs of the twenties back to 17 degrees Celsius and lower as the month end approach.

Smallmouth Yellowfish are caught right through the year with Summer (December to February) and Autumn (March to May) being the most productive in terms of numbers. It is not uncommon to catch 30 or more fish on a hot day.

Typical upstream Indicator Nymphing and Czech Nymphing are the obvious preferred

techniques used to catch these fish on fly in summer.

Smallmouth Yellows predominantly feed on algae, vegetation, Mayflies, Caddis, Midges, Flatworms, Crabs, Shrimps, Damsel Nymphs, Dragon Nymphs but become piscivorous(feeding on fish) when they reach a certain age and size so it pays to fish smaller bait fish patterns on occasion.

Smallmouth Yellowfish prefer flowing, oxyginated water in summer with rapids, runs and riffled water next to smaller boulders and bank side vegetation and structure being the most productive areas to target.

Practical Info

The number one consideration before planning a fishing trip is to monitor and track the flow of the river. Some valuable information can be obtained from various online sources. A rule of thumb where flow is concerned is to not fish the river alone when it is higher than 30 m3/s.Ideal flows are 20-25 m3/s. Some seasoned fisherman can handle 60 m3/s but it's not advisable.

Another requirement is to check local weather predictions and forecasts the night before. Some severe thunder storms are common occurrences in the summer fishing season.

A recreational fishing permit is available from most Post Offices at a cost of roughly R45 per month or R70.00 annually. Keep the license with you or in your vehicle at all times. Inspection is very unlikely but rather be safe than sorry.

There is no specified fishing season and no restrictions apart from obtaining permission from the venue owner.

To access the river anglers are advised to announce their arrival with the venue owner after prior arrangements were made. Day fees range from R25 to R150 per person per day.

The current legal limit for keeping Smallmouth Yellowfish is two fish per angler per day but most public fishing venue's support a catch and release policy and hooks which are debarbed.

Most day venues do not have an onsite Café or Restaurant so it advisable to pack a lunch box and sufficient amounts of fluids be that water or some form of energy drink. Some Lodges do however offer light meals to those staying over.

Fishing can be done alone but as a guest in the country a good suggestion is

to get in contact with experienced anglers that know their way around. South African fly fishermen are very forthcoming so feel free to sign up to fishing forums where many will jump at the opportunity to steer you in the right direction or visit a local Fly shop.

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