This section are for those who have never caught a yellowfish on fly or even those who “by accident” landed their first yellowfish on fly and want to learn more. Some articles on catching yellowfish on fly tend to be very technical, and trust me catching some species of yellowfish on fly can get very technical!

For the sake of most people I will give a simple description on how to catch:

Smallmouth Yellowfish,on fly, in the Vaal River, during spring/summer

 What you need:

  • A fly rod & reel (Any size or shape from a 4 weight to a 7 weight)
    Targeting your very first yellow probably means that you currently have a 5/6wt rod.
    •    Floating line
    •    Monofilament (fishing line) leader. (Maxima, Siglon etc.)
    •    A couple of Flies – not more than 6 types are necessary.
    •    Old running shoes or wading boots (Do not wade with Rocky’s or open
    •    A wading stick.

So I’ve got the gear together – now what?

Firstly you need to assemble your flyfishing set-up or rig.
Presuming you have fitted the reel to the rod and extended the fly line through the guides (eyes) to the tip of the rod:

Let the fly line stick out through the top eye of the rod.
This works easier with the rod lying down….

Step 1

Attach a piece of 5 – 7kg monofilament fishing line such as Maxima, directly to your flyline, of about 7-8ft (2.1m – 2.4m). This is called your leader.

An easy way of doing this is to attach the mono leader to your fly line, and measure it to just above the reel on your rod and cut off.  At this stage being 5cm or 10cm out will not make a huge difference. Some people also prefer to use the ready made braided loops attached to their flyline. You can still attach the mono fishing line to the loop. 

Step 2

Now that your mono line is attached to your fly line go the other end where you have cut off your line and make a double surgeon’s end loop in the mono fishing line.

Constructing your front end and flies
OK – so you have added a piece of 6-7ft mono fishing line to your fly line and made a surgeon’s loop where you cut it off.

Now we have to build the front part.

What you need

Because you will be fishing with more than one fly you will need:

•    Two pieces Mono fishing line such as Maxima of between 3kg and 5kg. Approximately 40cm each.

•    Flies – One control (dropper fly) and one point fly (the fly at the end of the line). We will look at the flies later on.


Take one of the 40cm pieces of Maxima (or similar) mono fishing line and make a double surgeon loop exactly as you did for the leader at one end only.

You now have a loop at the end of your leader, that you attached to your fly line earlier, as well as a loop in the 40cm piece of line you just prepared.  Now we have to bring them together and join them together.

Place the two loops next to each other and join them by using the simple loop-to-loop method.

This is very simple; you take the short 40cm mono piece and place its loop over the loop at the end of your leader.
Pull it up a bit and then stick the bottom end without a loop through the other loop and pull tight.

Easy enough.

Your 40cm piece is now attached to your main line with a loop to loop connection.
Now tie a fly onto the other end!  But what kind of fly?

 Adding flies to your set-up

The top fly or first fly will generally be a heavy weighted fly as it’s purpose of being the “control fly” is to get the flies down to where the fish are feeding.

NB: If your flies aren’t getting down to the bottom of the river you will not catch fish.

You will not need a million flies – I recommend a maximum of three patterns for trying to catch your first yellowfish on fly as the “control fly” or first fly.

Sizes 10 – 12
•    The Czech nymph
•    Mustard Caddis
•    Or Green Larva/grub pattern

-All of which should be available in your nearest fishing shop-

The Czech Nymph

Mustard Caddis

Green Grub Pattern

Note that most of the time flies available from fishing shops are not suitably weighted so look out for flies that have “Tungsten beads” in the shop. If none of these are available with tungsten beads there is no need to worry as the flies can be weighted down by using lead split shot just above the control fly which I will explain later.

Next step

Now that you have attached one of the two flies to your rig it is time to add your second fly. This can become a little tricky.

You have to take your second 40cm of mono fishing line that you cut earlier and attach one end to the “bend” of the hook of the fly that you attached in the previous step.

This can be done by using a simple clinch not – the same knot that most people use to tie a fly to the tippet.

Once you have tied the second 40cm piece of mono to the bend of the first fly you simply add another fly (the point fly) to the other end of the set-up.

You will now have a rig that  resembles something like in the picture above – just with different flies.

What flies to use for your bottom or point fly.

The most successful fly on the Vaal is without a doubt the Orange Hotspot stocked by all fishing shops as this one by Sciflies.

Your point fly or bottom fly unlike your middle (control) fly does not need to be heavy and anglers often fish their point fly beadles and totally un-weighted.

Two other flies I will recommend if you are not having any luck with your orange hotspot is the Green Brassie or Rockworm and also the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear.

Green Rockworm/brassie

Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear

So your whole set-up now looks something like this;

You have a piece of mono fishing line extending from your rod fly rod tip all the way down past your rod handle or butt with two flies attached to it.

OK – Are we ready to fish?

Not yet. Just like catching tilapia (kurper) as a kid it takes time to develop the instincts of when a fish has taken your fly and for this reason you will need a strike indicator – just like you need a float when catching tilapia on conventional tackle.

Which strike indicator to use?

There are many strike indicators on the market with some working better than others. The most preferred strike indicators are the yarn type as they are super sensitive and very affordable.
If you are fishing for Yellowfish for the first time I very highly recommend that you stay away from yarn indicators as they will irritate the hell out of you as you will not be able to detect a take properly.

The most effective strike indicators for those new (and some not so new) fly fishermen to fishing for yellowfish is a neon rugby ball shape  strike indicator available from all fishing shops.

These indicators have a groove cut into them with an elastic piece that fits into the slot to keep your strike indicator in place.

Where do I place my strike indicator?

The general rule of thumb is to place the strike indicator, on the mono leader, one and a half times the depth of the area you are fishing above the top fly (control fly).

In other words, if you are wading in water about 1 meter deep (waist deep), your strike indicator should be placed 1.5 meters above your top fly.

This means that your middle control fly will reach the bottom of the river.
The same applies if you are fishing three flies – 1.5 x the depth from the fly right at the top.

Ok – can I go now?

Not so fast. Remember what we said about weighted flies. If you bought your flies from a fishing shop and is unsure whether they have tungsten beads make sure to place a small splitshot just above your control fly. Yellowfish doesn’t mind weight – rather over weight your flies than underweight them.

Like I said before, if your flies do not reach the bottom of the river you are not going to catch fish!

Now you have the right team of flies on, a strike indicator and one or two pieces of small splitshot just above (5mm-10mm) your control fly. Now you can go fishing – as long as you remember to tie your wading stick to your belt.



Where to fish

I have caught yellowfish in the unlikeliest spots in the river – from 2 meters deep to 25 centimeters deep. Yellowfish are everywhere but prefers certain hangouts.

The most likely sports to try are:
Just above a rapid
Just below a rapid
Next or underneath structure such as reeds or an overhanging tree.

Fast flowing knee deep water with good structure – Yellowfish heaven

For now forget about catching yellowfish in still pools and slow water. These fish feed in fast flowing water. Find a section with nice riffles and small rapids.
My personal favourite spot is just below a little rapid in about waist deep water.

The rule of thumb is to fish in water a little deeper in the morning. From 07:00 to about 10:00 try and fish water waist to bellybutton deep. After 10:00 the fish tend to move to shallower water such as rapids.


Firstly, forget about beautiful long casts and tight loops. There is nothing romantic in the short nymph technique that you will use when targeting your very first yellow.
As a matter of fact, if you are doing it correctly your fly line will never touch the water instead it will be hanging just above the water surface!

The basic method of fishing the Czech nymph technique is the so called short nymph (rolled nymph). When using this method we are catching fish practically under the tip of the flyfishing rod and commonly without making use of the flyfishing line, [i]the end of which (the fly line) does not touch the water surface in most situations. [/i]

Ideally you would be fishing no more than 3 meters away from you!

Illustration by Steven Ojai

After casting upstream you leave your flies to sink to the bottom of the river and follow their movements downstream with the tip of the rod.

Keep the rod in your hand with your arm stretched out in front of you all the time. When the flies reach the area as far as you can follow them with your rod tip, you lift the flies from the bottom with a movement of the rod upwards and cast again.

The main prerequisite of success of the method of short nymph is keeping in permanent contact with your flies.

A take of a yellowfish shows up as an inconspicuous movement of the strike indicator upstream or to the sides. Sometimes your strike indicator just stops its natural movement down the river which can also indicate a take. When you are not able to keep in contact with the flies, your chances to observe a take is markedly reduced.
The general rule is – WHEN IN DOUBT – STRIKE!

There are several things that can help you to keep in contact with the flies. First of all is proper “leading” of the flies – this means following the path of your flies underwater with your rod tip above the water.

Another important help is also the length of the leader. When using a short one, keeping good contact with the flies is easier than with a long one.

When targeting Yellowfish on the Vaal or any other stream have a look at this extract from a DVD by Johan Klingberg showing World Flyfishing Champion Vladimir Sedivy employing basic czech nymphing.


This is the same method you will use for Yellowfish.

The Video is available from http://www.mountainmedia.se/

Although this clip shows a fly-fisherman fishing for Grayling, this is also an excellent  example of the technique employed when fishing for Yellows.


Like I said previously – there are many methods with which you can catch yellowfish but this is by far the easiest.
Once you have mastered the rod and leader set-up as described above as well as the short line nymphing technique you can move on to more advanced techniques and leader set-ups.