Natal Scaly on the Tugela River by Jeremy Rochester

Natal Scaly on the Tugela River by Jeremy Rochester

With Spring in the air and all the social media hype of good Natal yellows coming out on the Umkomass and the uMzimkhulu rivers I decided to steal a day or two and head to Zingela river lodge on the Tugela River. The trip didn’t start well. There was a bit of political unrest in Colenso so we decided to make a detour via Weenen to get to Zingela Lodge. A break in the cold fronts and a few days with hot weather on the cards had me chomping at the bit.
The Tugela valley must be one of the most amazing places to lose yourself for a few days of fly fishing for our indigenous Natal Yellow Fish. After setting up camp for the night on Warthog Island we finally got on the water at midday. The temps in the high twenty’s and the water still quite cold, I wasn’t convinced that we had timed it correctly. The water was quite dirty for this time of year but the flow rate was perfect.

I rigged my new Xplorer T-50 10’ 5 Weight with Rio’s Euro Nymph line and a 5m French leader, knowing the average fish on the Tugela are a good quality fish. I chose the Rio Powerflex Plus Tippet material in a 5x. Fishing two flies, a caddis control fly in a mustard colour and #16 black Mayfly was my choice of patterns. Wading through the first rapid I noticed a few fish had been spooked as we made our way up stream. We started nymphing the runs, it wasn’t long before we started detecting the takes. A quick lesson with Derek on the basics of French Nymphing and he had caught on fast, keeping in touch with his flies. It was not long and I heard screams of joy as I watched the line peeling from his reel. We finally landed the fish in a quiet back water, a fish of a life time. 63cm Natal Yellow fish is a prime specimen.

It was time to Leave Derek to learn the hard way as I left him to figure it out himself. I found a section of river were the flow rate was good and a fair bit of depth to get my flies down. Making sure I could feel them bouncing on the bottom and getting into the zone. It wasn’t long before my line was tight, screaming upstream and downstream, I could feel the big head shakes and knew I had a decent fish on. These Natal Yellow Fish are pound for pound the strongest fighting fresh water species here in Natal.

Late afternoon really got the fish moving as the water temperatures warmed up and literally every cast was a take or a fish on. We tried a lot of different patterns. The most productive patterns were a #16 Black Mayfly, #16 Red Rock Worm and the good old mustard caddis. The last of the afternoon sun was the most productive with a great number of quality fish being caught and released. We tried stretching the day out for as long as possible but with the light fading quickly we decided to head back to camp. An early night was on the cards after stumbling around on the moss covered rocks all day.

We awoke the next morning to the sound of flowing waters and the birds in full chorus in the trees above. There was still a slight chill in the air we made our way back to the rapids upstream from camp.

The day started off slow with no fish committing to our flies at all. So we headed back to camp for an early breakfast.
Back on the water at around 10am my thoughts being the water may have started to warm up a little but still not much action at all. After changing patterns a couple of times I managed to get a couple of short takes. It wasn’t long before the yellows started to feed again.

Zingela River Lodge is a must for all Fly fishers and offers so much more than just the fishing. The bird life is out of this world and the game viewing just as spectacular.
The Natal Yellow fish on this section of the Tugela grow big and with the protection of the lodge and Mark Calverley the future looks good for this river.

A big thank you to Mark and his tean at Zingela Lodge, for accommodating us at the last minute.
Give Mark a call at Zingela lodge to book on VOIP phone 087-802-0050 or whats app phone 0844162857.