As us Fly Fisherman are always looking for the next still water venue that has it all… great fishing, scenic views, beautiful accommodation, amazing food and warm hospitality. A venue where your other half can enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine while the grazing wilderbeest and eland roam the hillside and you land a few beautiful trout. The venue that ticks all the boxes and more has to be Tillietudlem.
In fly fishing circles here in Natal, Tillietudlem is one of the most reputable lodges. Myself and my wife decided to see what the talk is all about and enjoy a weekend of fishing and relaxing. Within minutes of driving through the gates we were greeted by a heard of wildebeest who allowed us to get close enough to get a few photos, then 300m further we had some eland grazing. This just sets the pace for a great weekend.
As you pull up to the accommodation, Ograms Colonial house, you see a massive oak tree surrounded by a beautifully manicured garden, my attention was all focussed on the rising fish feeding on an evening hatch. We were warmly greeted by Jane who showed us around the stunning farmhouse with fires blazing warming up the chilly winter air. Excellently run by Petra and Bazil Roth, words can’t describe how amazing Ograms colonial house is. Being able to accommodate 10 people, the house is spacious with a beautiful lounge that overlooks the valley. There is a stocked bar for those that like to have few sundowners while taking in the landscape. There is also a massive TV equipped with full DSTV and the whole house has WIFI, so you are not completely out of touch with the outside world, which could come in handy if the weather turns a bit foul.
Within minutes of being shown around I had the fly rods rigged and ran down to the dam know as Otter Dam which is a stone throw away from the house. My wife was fishing a white bugger style fly and immediately started picking up interest. Within minutes she was into her first trout of the weekend. After a few fish under our belts it became too dark to see what was going on so we decided to get back to the warmth of the house and get ready for dinner.
The food at Tillietudlem is out of this world. The entire weekend we were constantly impressed by what we were being served. When your wife turns to you and says “we can come here for this years anniversary” you know that you are onto something good. The lodge caters for all food preferences to keep all its customers impressed and well fed. Jane and her assistants make some seriously delicious food in their kitchen, all 3 course from the full English breakfasts to eland medallions to delicious pavlova. Petra and her staff are hands on and went out of her way to make sure our stay was perfect.
Now for the fishing!! The dam known as Otter dam is set close to the house enabling you to get onto the water fairly fast and it is well stocked with hard fighting fish. The banks are well manicured making accessibility easy even for the novice angler. There is also jetty for those that prefer fishing off one. The boat is safe for two people to fish off, which is where we found great success. In the mornings a slow RIO In-touch hover line is the way to go as it gives you time to fish a full line slowly and target those bigger fish. We found papa roaches and black bugger style patterns with some chartreuse tied in did the trick constantly throughout the day with plenty of the fish hitting the fly on the ‘hang’. The hang is a method where you are nearing the end of your retrieve about 10ft to 12ft from the end of your flyline, where instead of stripping your line in and casting again, you slowly raise your rod giving little twitching actions to the flys. This method often initiates takes from the fish as most insects slowly ascend as they take on their next stage of life, if the fish don’t strike their ‘prey’ now, the insect would have reached the surface and the fish missed a meal. It could just be the jiggling action of the flies that they just like but none the less it’s very effective.
Tillietudlems prize dam is Eland dam. Only when I got down to this water did I recognize the dam. I had been privileged to have fished it at the Boston festival last year, we entered through the south gate during the festival approaching the farm from the Boston direction. This dam has it all, a nice rocky dam wall, an island and plenty dead trees where that big brown might lurk. Known amongst the fly fishing circles to have some good sized fish one never knows what might come your way. When we got down to the water the friendly farm worker asked us if we would like to come see an eel that they had caught in the river while servicing the slipway. Having only heard about freshwater eels and never seeing them, it was pretty interesting. This one was only about 40cm long but the gentleman said they recently caught one over a metre long.
Ideally this dam should be fished off a float tube as it is a large body water. Using a float tube you can target the sticks and the deep water easily and get to those areas that you simply cannot get to from the bank. I fished from the banks hoping for a nice big fish and was in luck. Fishing a papa roach as my point fly and small wet flies as my other two droppers on a floating line letting the papa roach slowly sink do its thing resulted in a good sized fish off the natural jetty in the shallow water. A simple shot with the fish in the water with the rod and net for scale had to suffice as I try not stress out the fish more than what’s needed.
Tillietudlem is a top class venue and certainly ticked all the boxes for a great get away. What is great is that there is so much to do and with all the beautifully prepared meals one does not have to worry about cooking and preparing for a weekend away, giving you more time to simply relax and enjoy the outdoors. The venue caters for the entry level fisherman to the more serious fisherman. A weekend is just simply not enough time and has kept us longing to return.
A big thank you to Bazil and Petra Roth for their amazing hospitality. With the help from their staff they run a top class lodge where 4 stars should be 5. We will certainly be back as soon as possible