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Fly Fishing in the Eastern Cape Highlands

Eastern Cape Highlands Area Map

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The Eastern Cape Highlands is one of South Africa’s favourite fly fishing destinations and is world famous for an outstanding fishing experience.

An abundance of narrow streams in the headwaters, fished with light tackle, drain down into pristine rivers and large pools in the more accessible valleys. On offer is more than 250kms of fishing paradise in the Rhodes area  and 1000km in the Maclear area all with loads of private access.

The rivers were stocked almost 100 years ago with rainbow trout which bred prolifically, as they still do today. There are also small and large-mouth yellowfish, wild trout, brown trout, sharptooth catfish and chubbyhead barb.

Fly Fishing in the Eastern Cape Highlands watersThe Rhodes area straddles the magisterial districts of Barkly East, Dordrecht, Lady Grey and  the Maclear area includes Ugie. Rhodes is at the heart of this sport and the Wild Trout Association (WTA) is based there. The WTA is an organisation of riparian owners with trout waters at their disposal. The WTA arranges access to these waters and offers advice to anyone interested in planning a fishing trip to the area, including where to fish and accommodation options. They also have a guide book, probably one of the most comprehensive “where and how” publications on fresh-water fly fishing on the continent. Contact Dave Walker Tel: +27 45 974 9290: 1 Vorster Street, Rhodes, Eastern Cape, South Africa: E-mail

In the Maclear area, the Maclear Fly Fishing Club has access to over 1000km of pristine riverfront and 10 stock dams. The rivers offer great variety in terms of fishing experience. For information on where to fish and accommodation the contact details of the club are: Theuns Botha Tel: 073 674 3326: E-mail

The most important fly-fishing areas in the Rhodes area of the Eastern Cape Highlands (Highlands of the Eastern Cape) are those upstream of the confluence of the Karringmelkspruit and the Kraai River

In the Middle Kraai catchment both indigenous smallmouth (Barbus aeneus) and largemouth yellowfish (Barbus kimberleyensis) are often caught. The former move upstream in summer to spawn, returning to the Kraai River before winter sets in. (exist as far upstream) They migrate as far as Rhodes on the Bell River, Knockwarren on the Bokspruit and Knighton on the Sterkspruit.

Brown trout (Salmo trutta are occasionally taken on the Bell River, however a section of the Vlooikraalspruit known as the Willow Stream has a section dedicated to the species. The more opportunistic and less secretive rainbow trout (Oncorhynxcus mykiss) are found throughout the Middle and Upper Kraai catchments. Both species were introduced into the area shortly after the turn of the century and so should be considered virtually indigenous.

Another indigenous species, which occurs in the Kraai catchment, is the Sharptooth catfish, or Barbel (Clarias gariepinus). Of species unlikely to be taken on fly are the Chubbyhead barb, (Barbus anoplus) and the Rockcatfish or Klipbaber (Austroglanis sclateri). The Kraai and its tributaries therefore provide a variety of fish to entice fishermen to this friendly and spectacular upland area of southern Africa .

The Karnemelkspruit which runs alongside Lupela Lodge is rated as one of the best rivers in the area, with crystal clear running water and deep pools. The Diepspruit that flows through Millard Farm is also an excellent beat. Both Millard and Lupela Lodge have been featured in The Complete Fly-Fisherman magazine. Lupela has also been included in the beautiful book by Peter Brigg: ‘Call of the Stream – a fly-fishers passion for hunting trout in mountain streams’.

Reknowned fly fisherman Tom Sutcliffe had this to say about fishing in the area:

“There are good streams here, streams that are small and cosy; tight streams with clear water and strong trout. The Diepspruit is an example, and there are others, like the Willow and the Joggem, all within easy reach. Added to this is the larger Kraai, with rainbows, browns and smallmouth yellowfish.

These streams are more dominated by their landscapes, the valleys they flow through, than other streams I know of hereabouts, landscapes that are abundant, almost so splendid you can’t find the words to describe them.

You would call these rivers nymphing waters, though one of the best fish I ever had when it came to raw power I took from the Diepspruit on a dry fly, a tiny size 18 Adams. That fish burned line off the reel and in the end I never got to see it, though it left with me the impression of a hooking a swordfish more than a trout. It was the sort of fish that makes you feel you want to go back, just to test yourself, to see what else the water can offer.”


More info on the town of Barkly East More info on the N. Ukhahlamba area

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