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My top 5 fly fishing spots in South Africa

September 4, 2023

By Dylan Isaacs

It comes as no suprise that fly fishing is a favourite past time of many South Africans. After all, South Africa is home to some of the most picturesque and varied fly-fishing destinations in the world.

From the still waters of the South African highlands to its beautiful and wild, almost 3000 km long coastline, there are countless places where anglers love to cast the line. But how to find the best spot?

Whether you’re a seasoned fly fisherman or a newbie eager to cast your first line, you’ll love these top 5 fly fishing spots in our beautiful country, picked by our good friend and fly-fishing pro, Dylan Isaacs.

So, pack your gear and get ready to explore an angler’s paradise!

1. Fish the crystal-clear waters of Sterkfontein Dam

Set in a picturesque landscape on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, the gin clear waters of Sterkfontein Dam boasts some of the best freshwater sight fishing in South Africa. This is the most consistent destination for small- and largemouth yellowfish sight fishing. Although it can be fished year round, the summer months are most popular.

Armed with a 5-weight rod and floating line, beetles- and hopper flies, you’re are set for an unforgettable time.

2. Try saltwater fly fishing in Kosi Bay

If you prefer the beach to the mountains, head north to our border with Mozambique.

The endless beaches, reef systems, and rolling white water of the Kosi Bay area make for the perfect habitat for saltwater fly fishing.

Saltwater fly fishing is not always the easiest with wind and currents to contend with, but in the end, you may land a 2-pound Wave Garrick or get lucky with a 40kg GT.

3. Catch Tigerfish in Jozini Dam

Let’s stay in the subtropical area of Kwa-Zulu Natal for a bit longer.

Located just south of the Eswatini border, the Jozini Dam is one of the only dams in South Africa that holds the ferocious Tigerfish; and the only dam where you can catch Tigerfish all year long. Perhaps not the size you’re used to catching in the Zambezi or other African countries but seriously fun nonetheless! The best time to fish is in winter when the water is clearer – all the way up to the first rains toward mid/end September.

Moreover, you can easily combine your fishing trip with a safari in Pongola Game Reserve, situated right on the dam’s shore.

Dylan’s pro-tip: Tigerfish rip through anything that swims in their path, making them a formidable target for fly fishermen. Fish the area with sinking lines and target the fish along drop-off’s and closer to the banks. Don’t forget the wire as they will bite straight through your line.

4. Brave the cold water of Knysna’s estuaries

At the other end of South Africa, Knysna and its surroundings are a paradise for lovers of cold-water fishing.

The cold water brought in by the Atlantic current brings different species of fish that enter our estuarine systems.

Explosive topwater takes from Garrick will get any fly fisherman’s heart racing, and sight casting to a tailing Grunter will get your knees shaking.

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5. Enjoy the best wild trout fishing in Rhodes

You probably expected Dullstroom, the fly-fishing capital, to be the next on the list. Or the KZN Midlands – home to bigger trout waters. Yes, these are great destinations but my favorite is Rhodes, up in the highlands of the southern Drakensberg on the border with Lesotho.

You cannot go wrong with the pristine rivers surrounding Rhodes, offering the best wild trout fishing in South Africa.

Fly fishing in Rhodes in winter is a particularly wonderful experience. Cast delicate dry flies to raise fish as the snow falls all around, then go and relax at Walkerbouts and have a hearty meal next to a raging fire.

The birding is great here, too – look out for Lammergeier, Black Eagles, and others.

About Dylan

Dylan Isaacs has over 30 years of experience in fly fishing. He has run fly shops and guided from Seychelles to the Zambezi and all our local waters, including Sterkfontein Dam, van der Kloof Dam, the Orange River, the Vaal, and Kosi Bay. Recently, he started his fly-fishing tour company, Tailing Loops Fly Fishing Co.

He received his Protea colours in 2009. He has extensive knowledge of multiple fish species and is always happy to share the finer details and knowledge he has learned over the years on his fishing tours. Nothing makes him happier than seeing a client landing a great fish and smiling from ear to ear.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to him and cast the line together.

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