Herman’s Yellow

Happy days

I’ve been trying to write this post for a week now, but couldn’t get the right angle to take. After considering a few options, the pressure from people who have seen the pic and want to know ‘wat is die storie dude???’ became to much, so here’s the story.

No country for old men
No country for old men

Last Wednesday my brother Herman arrived in Cape Town from Joburg to join me on our annual trip to remote parts of the Cederberg for a serious session of smallmouth bass and Clanwilliam yellows. Only this time the old man and our younger brother were joining us as well. This trip is an annual institution, although we’ve not been for the last two years, so it was long overdue.

Dead drifting under an indicator
Dead drifting under an indicator

We fished this place for the first time several years ago in our pursuit of smallmouth bass on fly, and enjoyed it so much that we’ve made it our annual pilgrimage. The place we fish is a secret spot, but the kind of secret spot that most fly fishermen targeting Clan yellows know about. So my brother and I have resorted to exploring the place extensively over the years, so much so that we have several secret holes, runs and pools within the greater Secret Spot as a whole. This is also the kind of place that will take years of exploration before one angler can claim to have fished all the water this place has to offer.

A yellow comes to hand
A yellow comes to hand

We arrived at camp as the sun was about to set on Wednesday eve and we rigged rods as fast as we could while the old toppie was lighting the fire and opening a few bottles of red wine to breathe. We made our way around the tailout of the camp pool, and started fishing. We were into fish straight away and by the time the oldman arrived to check out the action, I have already released my first yellow of the trip.

Plenty of juveniles, good sign!
Plenty of juveniles, good sign!

This action kept coming over the next three days and we both fished water we have never fished before, caught lots of big bass and the most Clan yellows we’ve ever caught on a trip. I’m also happy to report that we’ve never seen or caught so many juvenile yellows, which means the yellowfish are managing to recruit successfully in and amongst the bass.

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We also felt that this was our best year in terms of the size of the bass, with several fish close to 20 inches, almost no small bass and two fish over 20 inches caught by Herman.

Herman with a solid smallie on topwater
Herman with a solid smallie on topwater

Above all, the yellowfish action was stellar. Not only in terms of fish caught, but also where fish was hooked and how they managed to have us down the river and so on. My best yellow was caught while dead drifting a meatwhistle under a strike indicator. I was working the opposite eddy and current seam of a pool head, when the indicator dipped and I set the hook. The fly line sliced through the current, and we both knew this was a good yellow. Luckily it was a rather deep pool, so the fish did not give me the run-around. Herman’s first good yellow took a dead drifted Diablo Crab and took off down stream as soon as it realized all was not well. After some boulder hopping and slipping, we managed to take a few snaps and release it.

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Meatwhistles were our most successful pattern
Meatwhistles were our most successful pattern

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We also managed some epic smallies. The takes were very subtle on the whole and for the most part the strike indicator just quivered, revealing a take. However, Herman got the biggest two bass of the trip on topwaters. Epic stuff.

Virgin water
Virgin water

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But the fish of the trip was Herman’s beast of a Clan Yellow. On our second day we decided to do at least a few hours of hiking into new territory before we started fishing. The idea was to fish some virgin water. By noon we were both into our first yellows for the day and the smallie tally wasn’t looking bad either. At one stage we arrived at a very long and overgrown pool. This made casting impossible for the most part, but luckily it was rather shallow. I waded through to a submerged rock about two thirds up the pool. From here I could fan out casts up and downstream and cover water we would otherwise not be able to fish. Herman walked on a few hundred meters towards the head of the pool. After getting into position near the inlet eddy, he unhooked his meatwhisle and lobbed it into the slack water of the eddy in front of him while stripping off line. When he looked up the strike indicator was gone and he set the hook instinctively. From where I was standing I heard hollering (which normally commences as soon as a fish is hooked) looked up and saw the flyline slicing through the water on the opposite side of the pool. Yellow! And a big one too! I started reeling in my flyline in order to assist landing the fish. When I looked up after a few second Herman screamed that the fish was heading my way and if I could get a look at it. I looked into the water between me and the bank and saw the flyline and then the backing disappearing downstream! Herman came sloshing downriver screaming “He’s spooling me! He’s spooling me!”

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Happy days
Happy days

After he reached me we both headed downriver after the fish, making our way over the rocks next to the bank in waist deep water. I tried coaching Harry in slowing it down and gaining some backing. Then after a few hundred meters of running after the fish, it slowed down and Herman started pumping and gaining some backing. Then dead weight. It must have lodged itself somewhere. We made it over to a grass patch and for a few minutes we thought the fish has buried the line and popped off. Herman was trying to look underneath a submerged log to free the line when he realized the log was actually the fish! Off to the races again, but by now we could see the fish was moeg. Eventually he tailed it and we managed a set of quick pics. While he was resting it in between shots, it suddenly kicked free, swam through some grass, popped tippet and swam off with a de-barbed hook to spit out.

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We never had the chance of measuring or weighing it, but I estimate the fork length over 80cm and the weight between 12 to 14 lbs.

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Epic celebration followed that evening as our younger brother Brandt arrived from Cape Town early that evening. And the rest of the trip was a bit of a blur as even lots of yellows sighted and caught, all paled in comparison to the biggest yellow fish I have ever seen and Herman has ever caught.

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4 thoughts on “Herman’s Yellow”

  1. Jeff says:

    Yiss, that’s a bus! Looks like a magic stretch of river, too.

  2. fdavis says:

    Stonker… This is a fish of lifetime!

  3. Kevin says:

    Epic epic clannie!

  4. leonardflemming says:

    Very good report on the Clanwilliam yellowfish in that particular river. Philip Hills and I noticed an increase in juveniles there some 5 years ago – likely the stocked Twee River population giving it a boost?

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