Ed Herbst engaged in a favourite pastime – under supervision!
Insects and flies in the Eastern Cape Highlands

Insects and flies in the Eastern Cape Highlands

by Ed Herbst

(Revised by Ed, January 2016)


The streams and rivers in the Highlands are extremely nutrient-rich, so not only are there numerous food forms upon which fish prey, but they occur in abundance. This accounts for the many trophy trout and yellowfish the region produces. An important point though, is that you don’t need to imitate a multitude of different insect species to fish successfully. Knowledge of the basics in aquatic entomology is, however, useful.

Mayfly (Baetidae)

All the main mayfly types, the clingers, crawlers, swimmers and burrowers, are found in abundance in these streams. There are fewer mayfly species in still waters, but they do occur prolifically at times – such as during a Caenis hatch – when they can cause avid, selective feeding. The most prolific mayfly species in streams and rivers are the Baetis family, especially Baetis harrisoni and Demoreptus natatensis while the tiny Tricorythidae discolor, aptly known as the “Angler’s Curse”, hatches in clouds over dams and the slower, silt-bottomed sections of these rivers.

Black fly – ‘Lord of the Rapids’

In his book, Productive Trout Flies for Unorthodox Prey, (Frank Amato, 2012) Jeff Morgan writes: ‘I located more than 20 studies where black flies were, at least for a month or two, by far the most important food resource for trout, not to mention dozens more where black flies ‘only’ were more important than every single mayfly species with the exception of Baetis!’

‘Female black flies can swarm and concentrate egg laying in a relatively small section of stream. One study found a 10 metre section of a small stream with 3 million eggs, the result of 3750 females laying eggs synchronously!’

Trout in Africa are no different. Vernon van Someron spent two and a half years studying trout for his 1950 PhD thesis, ‘The Biology of Trout in Kenya Colony’.

He was based at the Kenyan Government’s River Research and Development Centre situated on the Upper Sangana River, but his study also encompassed 15 other rivers and streams in the country which held trout.

His finding, based on stomach content analysis, is unequivocal:

‘Simulium larvae are eaten in the greatest percentage, form the greatest bulk of the aquatic food taken, and are found in the greatest percentage of stomachs. Together with Simulium, Baetis nymphs constitute a major portion of the aquatic food eaten.’

Van Someron’s findings in Kenya are replicated in a photograph of the stomach contents of trout caught on the Bell River in Rhodes by local guide Fred Steynberg. When he stomach pumped the trout it was found to contain only two prey species, Baetis nymphs and Simulium larvae – 17 of the former and nine of the latter.

 Matching the blackfly larvae proved difficult until the UV-light cured resins, derived from dentistry, became available a few years ago. Read my articles Black fly – the challenge’, ‘The Black Fly Challenge – a postscript’ and ‘Testing the Simulid Nymph’ on Tom Sutcliffe’s Spirit of Fly Fishing website for more information.

Caddis (Tricoptera spp)

Caddis flies are an important food source for trout and yellowish, both in the larval and pupal stages as well as adult flies. In the Highlands, the most commonly found caddis is Cheumatopsyche afia which, incidentally, is highly variable in colour. Remember that adults tend to skitter across the water once hatched so, under such circumstances, a twitched fly often works well. Hatches often occur at twilight and a #16 CDC and Elk covers most bases


The presence of grasshoppers, beetles and ants, like any other insect, is cyclical but, whenever they occur, they are attractive to trout and worth imitating. Most fly fishers in the Highlands tend to use a nymph, fished dead-drift behind a yarn strike indicator as an imitation of the dominant food source for fish in the region – mayfly nymphs – often with a lift at the end of the drift to provoke a strike. Fishing a hopper can offer a welcome relief from the rigours of concentrating on drag-free drifts – you can slap it down on the water surface and, when it starts to drag, you can twitch it like a small popper because that is how hoppers behave when they land in the water. They drift for a while and then kick frantically towards the bank. There is a cautionary note, however, by Jeff Morgan in his book Small Stream Fly Fishing (the best on the subject in my opinion). ‘In the stomach samples I researched for this book, trout ate more black flies (both adults and larvae) than grasshoppers in 55% of the studies. The reality that has eluded anglers for decades is that hoppers are not the optimal choice in most terrestrial situations. Certainly, anglers can catch fish with grasshopper flies, but rarely as many as if they used beetles, ants and other terrestrials. The basic fact is that trout do not eat hoppers in the quantities we think they do.’

Morgan is convinced that the trout that strike hopper patterns do so instinctively the moment they hit the water. He says that hoppers are torpid on cold mornings and so they are best fished after ten in the morning when trout become more attuned to their presence on the water.

Hoppers are most vulnerable to trout predation in April and May which is when they reach maximum size and begin to breed. In fact, Eben Dowd, fly fishing editor for Tight Lines/ Stywe Lyne, says that on his farm in Maclear (which has a small, brown trout stream) grasshoppers disappear completely after the first frost in winter. This kills the adults and the eggs they have laid will only hatch with the onset of warmer weather almost six months later. Read my article, ‘Why fish hoppers in autumn? Of hoppers and toebiters’ on Tom Sutcliffe’s Spirit of Flyfishing website and my article Trout in the Fynbos Biome on the CPS website for more information. Tom’s website features my hopper pattern which is based on the balsawood McMurray Ant. It has proved very successful but is a complex tie which is not available commercially. The best commercially-available imitation, in my subjective opinion, is tied by Marcel Terblanche and it is featured on his Driftflyfisher website. It draws on another Western Cape tie which is featured in the article, ‘M C Coetzer’s favourite stream patterns’ on Tom Sutcliffe’s website and includes the orange barred rubber legs which MC considers to be a significant trigger.

Beetles and ants are perennial favourites with trout whether floating on the surface or sucked down by the currents. My Bushwhack Beetle, tied in either split-back or tuft back form has a ‘sighter’ made of a contrasting colour material such as Ice Dub inserted into the foam top of the fly and the tiny sparkles of light which are emitted makes it easy to follow during the drift. Ant patterns don’t usually incorporate this feature and I usually fish ants with a strike indicator. This comprises a small yarn or float-putty indicator combined with a leader containing a section of Rio 2-tone indicator tippets which is described as ‘Opaque two tone 8” sections of fluorescent pink and fluorescent chartreuse color changing tippet with highly defined hard color changes. These color breaks create maximum contrast to allow anglers to get visual cues when tight line nymphing.’  This is available down to 4 and 5 x and I would end my main leader with a section of this mono incorporating a perfection loop. To this, via a loop-to-loop connection, I would add further sections of 5, 6, and 7 x tippet. Slide the two loops apart and into the gap, slip a small section of orange glo-bug yarn which has been soaked in Loon Hydrostop and allowed to dry. Then grease the fly line and the entire leader down to the yarn indicator with Green Tin Mucilin and for a few centimeters beyond it. If your eyesight is good you need not use the yarn strike indicator. When you change to a dry fly, just slide the two loops apart and remove the yarn indicator which should not be bigger than a match head

The technique of fishing a sunken beetle like a nymph, upstream and with a strike indicator, first came to my attention in the pages of Piscator, annual journal of the Cape Piscatorial Society In the nineteen forties Eric Horsfall Turner had been sitting on the banks of the Derwent River in Yorkshire watching a large trout that had ignored all offerings. A beetle fell into the water and was instantly eaten. All Horsfall Turner had that resembled a beetle was a huge, winged peacock herl-bodied fly of Norwegian origin. Stripping off the wings, he offered it to his tormentor – to be tormented no more. Over the years he refined his technique, fishing his Eric’s Beetle – a Coch Y Bonddhu with a yellow wool butt replacing the gold tag – on a leader greased to within a foot of the fly. It was so successful that he eventually disdained its use, only implementing this method when he needed to find out what a particularly selective trout was feeding on.

In this regard he led his American counterparts who were to write, much later, of the beetle’s ability to catch fish during a mayfly or caddis hatch.

Further proof came in one of my favourite small-stream books, Mike Weaver’s In Pursuit of Wild Trout (Merlin Unwin Books, 1991). Weaver favours the floating deer hair beetle but, when the water becomes slow and clear, he switches to his Black Bug, a weighted peacock herl–bodied fly with a slip of crow or other iridescent feather – an Egyptian Goose wing primary feather would be a good local substitute – over the back to give a beetle shape.  ‘For some unknown reason, even the most supercilious trout in smooth shallow water is vulnerable to this fly when presented on a long leader with a very fine point.’

Fishing the Holsloot near Rawsonville one hot summer’s day I found that I was not getting the expected response to my sunken beetle. I also noticed that, while there were no beetles to be seen, ants were everywhere and I started to develop ant patterns that I could fish with a strike indicator.

At the beginning of spring when the Cape mountain air is sweet with the smell of flowers in bud, then fynbos flowers literally writhe with movement as the beetles, speckled with pollen, enjoy the feast. By late autumn that is a thing of the past. Two points are salient here – while more species of beetles exist than any other form of animal life on earth, in sheer numbers they are considerably exceeded by ants and secondly because ants, unlike beetles, live in colonies rather than as individuals there are concentrations of them numbering from hundreds to thousands. If those colonies are close to water then the chances of fish in that area becoming familiar with their silhouette and light pattern on the water – rather than that of a beetle – is considerably enhanced.

The seminal study on trout in African small, mountain streams was the two and a half –year, state-sponsored Phd study, Biology of Trout in Kenya Colony, published in 1950 by the late Dr Vern von Someron.  He said mayflies hatch in ‘penny numbers’ and mostly

at night. His study found that Baetis mayfly nymphs and blackfly (simulium) larvae were the main constituents of trout diet but that beetles, ants, grasshoppers, wasps, bees and other terrestrials

were always present in trout stomachs and were often the preponderant constituent in such samples.

He wrote: ‘Ants are taken in far greater quantities than other terrestrial foods. Next in importance among terrestrial foods are beetles of various kinds.’

In his excellent book, Productive Trout Flies for Unorthodox Prey (Frank Amato, 2012) Jeff Morgan writes: ‘Unlike hoppers, ants form a critical part of the midsummer trout’s diet. In a month-long sampling I did in Yellowstone, ants were six times more prevalent that hoppers in stomach samples.’

A sunken ant is far more visible to trout that a floating one which is just a silhouette against a bright background and so the defining characteristics of this insect must be emphasized.

In addition to the narrow waist, says Jeff Morgan there are two other triggers: ‘A flying ant has four wings (two pairs of different sizes). One thing that is often ignored is the wings on many species of ants. These wings are the vehicles that propel most ants into the water, so in order to give trout something similar to the natural, imitations should be winged. Secondly, ants have an exoskeleton and many tiny hairs on their abdomen. The resulting effect is a glistening wet look akin to gelled hair. Keep these things in mind when sculpting your imitations.’

My resulting imitation, the Unique Hair Ant had a glass bead for a head, a weighted abdomen covered with a sparkle dubbing like black Ice Dub and legs and antennae made from Unique Hair, a fine, crinkled nylon which is used in salt water streamers. For wings I used cling film or a few strands of bridal organza material. If I tied them now I would cover the abdomen with UV light-cured resin for greater durability and translucence.

A few years ago, I tied three for Tom Sutcliffe for a trip to Barkly East and Rhodes.  He was fishing the Sterkspruit with a variety of small nymphs hung NZ-style from the bend of a DDD. Nothing was working and so he tried my Unique Hair Ant and the response was far more enthusiastic. He caught several trout on them but then had the bad luck to lose all three in quick succession.

You can read his assessment of this pattern on pages 217 – 221 of his book Shadows on the Stream Bed

Leaf-eating Beetles (Chrysomilidae)

It is rare that a trout’s stomach does not contain a beetle and they are known to take beetle patterns opportunistically even when selectively feeding during a heavy mayfly or caddis hatch. By far the most common beetle in the Highlands is the bronze-green, leaf-eating Chrysomilidae beetle that is found in great numbers in October and November, but also in late summer and autumn. This species lives on the leaves of the invasive Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) which is indigenous to China and prolific in Rhodes. If you lift the bark on any willow tree in Rhodes or Barkly East you will find evidence of their presence. The black, mite-like larvae feed on willow leaves for two to four weeks and then pupate, emerging as mature green beetles about half a centimeter long. Willow Beetles are often far more accessible than mayfly nymphs which hide beneath rocks and are cryptically coloured and mobile. A #18 Coch-y-Bonddhu or Black and Peacock Spider fished with a strike indicator is all you need. A black 1.5 mm brass or tungsten bead provides ideal weighting in stronger currents or deeper runs beneath willow trees.

Sawfly (Nematus oligospilus

Sawflies first appear in late October and are found until autumn.  A relatively recent newcomer from America, the sawfly was accidentally introduced into Lesotho in a plant consignment and was first recorded in Maseru in 1993.  They subsequently spread to South Africa. Here, their host-specific food source, the imported willows, Salix babylonica and S. fragilis, had been imported to Parys in 1906 in the hopes of starting a basket weaving industry. In the absence of any indigenous biological control organisms these trees rapidly emphasize high altitude streams providing the newly-arrived sawfly – a primitive form of wasp – with an almost unlimited food supply. The larvae of the sawfly, a green caterpillar, incorrectly given the generic name “inchworms” by anglers, has introduced a significant new food source for trout and yellowfish resulting in bigger fish in better condition.  An examination of fish stomach contents, particularly those caught between heavily wooded banks, show that fish feed almost solely on this insect at times. The Working for Water program has significantly reduced the extent of the crack willow infestation but these trees quickly re-grow and they will always be present so it is worth monitoring such trees for their presence. When the wind blows they can drop into the water in their dozens and they float for meters before sinking. They are taken avidly on the surface by both trout and yellowfish. A sliver of green foam tied to a hook is all you need and the best imitation is Mario’s Inchworm, tied by Mario Geldenhuys of Aliwal North. It is featured on DVD on Volume 2 of A South African Fly Tying Journey with Ed Herbst and Friends


In the late afternoon, midges hovering over the water can play a significant role in the “evening rise” on streams and, on dams, emerging midge pupae can provide frenetic activity as the sun sets. They are by far the most important food source for trout in dams but they are of relatively minor importance to the river fly fisher, other than in high altitude streams where hatches of the Net-winged midges, Blepharoceridae, are prolific at times. The ideal stream imitation is Darryl Lampert’s Hi-Vis Midge, a CDC version of the Griffiths Gnat.


Dragon and damselfly nymphs are present in rivers and dams throughout the season and form a significant part of both trout and yellowfish diet, though they are more abundant and available in dams than in streams.


Most reputable fly-shops will offer a variety of patterns but you need to be discerning in choosing an effective selection for this region.

The dry fly produces best on the clear, small streams at higher altitudes such as the upper Bokspruit at Gateshead whereas, in the pastoral, slower-flowing sections of rivers where agriculture is more intensive with more turbid stretches of rivers like the Sterkspruit and the Kraai in Barkly East and Rhodes and the Pot and Wildebeespruit in Maclear, are better suited to the nymph or even a streamer. Read my article on Tom Sutcliffe’s website, ‘Big trout in Barkly East.’


For evening mayfly hatches you would be hard-pressed to beat that perennial, worldwide favourite, the Adams dry fly in any of its guises, but particularly the Parachute Adams. Sizes 12 through 16 will suffice with an emphasis on the smaller size. For caddis larvae, the green rock worm patterns, so beloved of those who fish the Vaal for yellowfish, will suffice and, in smaller sizes it could well be taken as an inchworm. For adults, one can’t go wrong with the Elk Hair Caddis or the Kaumann’s Stimulator or, better still, Hans Weilenmann’s CDC and Elk. For midges, those who tie their own flies are at an advantage because flies tied with Cul du Canard (CDC), soft, wispy feathers found round a duck’s preen gland, have unrivalled properties, landing softly and floating well. Many suitable patterns such as the Arpo, the IOBO (It ought to be outlawed) and a range of patterns by Agostino Roncallo can be found on the internet. Few, however, are more suitable than Darryl’s Hi-Vis Midge, a pattern developed by Darryl Lampert of Cape Town and featured on the Flytalk and Global Flyfisher websites. If you don’t tie your own flies then a #18 – 20 Griffiths Gnat fished on a 6 or 7x tippet is your best bet.

Attractor dry flies, such as the Klinkhamer, Royal Wulff, Kaufmann’s Stimulator, the Caribou Spider, the RAB and a Red Humpy will serve you well in non-hatch periods. The better fly shops will have imitations of the tiny Trico mayfly and it’s worth having a few patterns in your box just in case you encounter a hatch.

If you are fortunate enough to experience a gentle upstream breeze then there few pleasures greater that fishing a RAB. On such days, a gentle roll cast will gently deliver a RAB where you want it to land and the response gives one a better understanding of why the big-hackled Variants have proved a perennial favourite on our streams for more than half a century. My sense is that trout take them for dragonflies.

On rivers and dams the DDD is hard to beat as an impressionistic imitation of a wind-blown terrestrial. It makes an excellent prospecting pattern and, on dams, is best fished on sunny days along wind lanes when nothing is hatching and fish aren’t rising. On dams, a San Juan worm, as a bloodworm imitation, can be deadly fished below a DDD and allowed to drift with the wind and the latest Squirmy Wormy versions are proving particularly effective.

Don’t forget the importance of the terrestrial insects on rivers and dams. Grasshopper, beetle, ant and inchworm patterns can be as effective fished under the surface as they are on top.

Peacock-herl flies like those perennial favourites, the Coch-y-Bonddhu in size 16, tied on a light-wire hook as a floater or the soft hackle, Black and Peacock Spider fished as a sinker are all you need to imitate the Chrysomilidae beetles. A tungsten-bead version, fished like a nymph with a strike indicator can be deadly, particularly in faster, deeper water.

On windy days at the peak of the inchworm cycle, the caterpillars can carpet the water and, particularly with yellowfish, which is a shoaling fish, provide frenzied rises. The inchworms tend to float for quite a distance and this provokes selective rises to the floating insect from fish holding in the current tongue below the trees harbouring the little green worms. Under such conditions, sinking inchworm patterns are likely to be ignored. In the absence of wind and when fish are not rising, a tandem rig of a chenille inchworm fished suspended below a green foam imitation is always deadly on wooded beats when these caterpillars are feeding on the leaf canopy. The Working for Water programme has seen the number of crack willow trees along Highland streams considerably reduced and this, in turn, has reduced the number of inchworms available. Nevertheless, they will always be present and my guess is that inchworms are, by now, well fixed in the neuronal memory loop of trout.

Hopper patterns can provide exciting fishing, particularly in hot, windy conditions and you will rue the day that a mating flight of ants carpets the water with tiny bodies, the fish are going dilly and you don’t have a few ant imitations handy.

Stomach content studies done by Bob Crass in Natal and Dr Vern von Someren in the small streams of Kenya show that mayfly nymphs, particularly Baetis, are the staple food source for rainbow and brown trout in Africa. They average little more than a centimetre  in length and with tungsten beads now available down to 1.5 mm, the tying of weighted #16 and 18 so  hackle or flashback Pheasant Tail and Hare’s Ear nymphs in an equivalent length becomes practical.

For mayfly nymph imitations one can’t go wrong with the original and subsequent bead-head and flash-back versions of those time-honored killers, the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear and Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail nymph. Tom Sutcliffe’s ZAK nymph, which combines the best of both these flies, has become a favourite fly with many who fish the nymph in this region.

On dams, I would not be without a few midge patterns. I have mentioned the larva, the bloodworm and these are effective in red or green. An examination of stomach contents from trout caught in local dams will often reveal a high number of glassy green midge larvae as well as the more common bright red specimens.  Countless midge larva patterns exist and it’s anyone’s guess which is best. But just as important as the larva, are the emerging midges, sometimes called buzzer patterns. Make sure you have red and tan patterns in sizes 14 and 16 in your dam fly box. Fish them dead drift, on a greased leader, just a few centimetres under the water surface to those classic, porpoising lake trout that tend to sip a steady beat, often very near the shallows. At times, these fish will be sipping adult midges and the Griffiths Gnat is an unbeatable imitation. For survival reasons the chironomid or Buzzer emerges just as the sun dips below the horizon and the water can sometimes boil as the trout key in on the rapidly-ascending insects. This is champagne fishing at its best. Read Dean Riphagen’s Stillwater Trout in South Africa (Struik, 2004) for details.

There will be few occasions during your visit to this region when the fish will feed selectively and ignore everything but one species of insect. In spring and early summer on the more wooded beats, inchworm and beetle patterns are a must, particularly if splashy rises are seen every time a breeze shakes the leaf canopy. In the late afternoon, emerging mayflies and recently-fertilised mayfly females returning to the water to lay their eggs will require a small, black, parachute pattern or the Adams equivalent. But, for the rest, good stalking skills and delicate presentation count for as much, if not more, than pattern selection.


Fishing small, rocky, high altitude streams where there are few  or no trees such as the Gateshead section of the upper Bokspruit, requires very different tactics to fishing, say, the bigger, slower, tree-lined Birkhall section of the Sterkspruit which is at a lower altitude and has a predominantly gravel river bed. Gateshead has very few stream-borne leaves and twigs and trout can thus be reasonably sure that something floating on the surface could be food and thus worth rising to. The pastoral, lowland rivers, in contrast, have a much higher ratio of plant material and thus trout are far more inclined to ignore dead-drift flies at any level.

On these bigger, slower rivers with fewer rocks, the trout tend to hug the undercut banks and you need to target the banks and animate the fly with lifts or by moving the rod tip. Furthermore, any logjam will shelter fish and you must get the fly very close, or better still, beneath the deadfall to provoke a take.

Patterns for these larger rivers benefit from being bigger and from incorporating materials which provide movement e.g. rubber legs, palmered hackle and marabou tails. A bead head Woolly Bugger, for instance, which could imitate a high-calorie food source like a crab, may well be more effective than a streamlined, relatively inanimate pattern like Frank Sawyer’s original PT nymph. On the small streams of the Western Cape we have seen a resurgence of soft hackle patterns for the very reason that they have innate movement even when being fished dead drift. And although the traditional version of the Soft Hackle is tied without tails I have discovered that incorporating tails made from “bait cotton”, (a very thin, translucent lycra used by rock and surf anglers to secure soft baits to their hooks), significantly improves the attractiveness of these century-old flies. First colour the tails with a red or light brown permanent marker – I use Letraset Pro-markers – let them dry and then speckle them with a black marker. Even thinner versions are now available from companies such as the Montana Fly Co and Hareline Dubbin which means that you can add these mobile appendages to #18 nymphs.

Be alert to your surroundings. If you are fishing a grass-lined stream and storks are very much in evidence then the chances are good that a hopper pattern is going to work – they are not known in Afrikaans as “Sprinkaanvoëls” for nothing! Look for hoppers in the grass as you approach the water. If they are present in significant numbers you can improve your chances by using a hopper-dropper combination of a foam-bodied, rubber-leg hopper imitation and, suspended below it, a small PT nymph tied to the bend of the hook, New Zealand-style. A sinking, rubber-leg hopper, tied with a tungsten bead and water-absorbent materials such as a chenille body and a raffia wing and fished in front of a yarn strike indicator, can be even more effective than the floating version. This is because it is drifting at the level where the fish are holding and they accordingly do not need to move upwards through the water column to intercept the fly.

And, if you see sporadic rises beneath a bankside tree every time the breeze ruffles its leaves, you can tie on a beetle or inchworm pattern with confidence. Better still, when you get to the river, first examine the crack willows and check their leaves to ascertain whether inchworms are present in sufficient numbers to justify tying an imitation to your tippet and then check the weeping willows for the presence of Chrysomilidae beetles.

Custom flies

Fred Steynberg has developed outstanding beetle and ant patterns which have proved their worth on the streams and rivers of Rhodes and Barkly East for many years. If he can find the time between his guiding trips abroad and the salt water streamers he ties for these trips, Fred can tie his terrestrial patterns for you. Contact him through his Linecasters website. http://www.linecasters.co.za/

In my subjective perception, the best custom hopper pattern available is tied by Marcel Terblanche and its sealed, extended-body abdomen makes it almost unsinkable. His version of my Tuftback Beetle, which we renamed the Bushwhack Beetle after the newly acquired Beat Seven of the Smalblaar, is easy to follow on the water and has all the necessary triggers. You can find details on his website, www.driftflyfisher.co.za  and I wrote a profile on him for Tom Sutcliffe’s Spirit of Flyfishing blog.

One of the most innovative fly tyers in the country is Alan Hobson of the Angler and Antelope B&B in Somerset West. His dam patterns are legendary and I wrote a profile about him and his wife Annabelle on Tom Sutcliffe’s website which includes several other articles about the variety of fly fishing opportunities Alan provides. Alan’s Flyfishing in the Karoo website provides illustrations of his patterns.


Arno Laubscher’s Scientific Fly company has become a staple in our lives with his Grip hooks, flies and fly tying materials and his website has patterns which cover all the bases for trout in the Highlands.


Fred Steynberg stocks Arno’s patterns in his shop in Rhodes and also flies from Cliff Rochester’s Fishient company


The current price, at the time of writing, (January 2016) for custom flies is about R25 a fly and at this price you not only get a proven fly which has had a lot of R&D but a collector’s item.

A small stream bibliography

Several outstanding books and DVDs have been marketed in the past few years on tactics and flies for small-streams.

Here is my list of favourite books, starting with the best ones.

Tom Sutcliffe’s three recent books, Hunting Trout, Shadows on the Streambed and Yet More Sweet Days are essential reading for fly anglers who visit Rhodes, Barkly East, Maclear and Lady Grey. They combine anecdote and instruction in an unbeatable mix. They can be purchased from him via his Spirit of Flyfishing website. If you Google the key words ‘Tom Sutcliffe’ plus ‘six patterns’ you will come across the pattern choices of about a dozen local and international experts and a similar feature, ‘Flies for the Eastern Cape Highlands – an irreducible minimum’ featuring the pattern choices of regular Rhodes and Barkly East visitors and residents can be found on the Wild Trout Association website.

Small Stream Fly Fishing – Jeff Morgan (Frank Amato, 2005)

The Orvis Guide to Prospecting for Trout (The Lyons Press, 2008)

Trout from Small Streams (second edition) – Dave Hughes (Stackpole Books, 2014)

Ed “Mea culpa” Herbst fishing with his “toothpick rig” at Gateshead – see Ed’s article entitled “Big Trout” for more on “it is my fault”.

Creekcraft – The Art of Flyfishing Smaller Streams – William C Black (Truchas Publishing, 1988)

Mountain Water – The Way of the High-Country Angler – (Pruett Publishing, 1999)

The Pursuit of Wild Trout – Mike Weaver (Merlin Unwin, 1991)

Fly Fishing Small Streams – John Gierach (Stackpole Books, 1989)

A Casting Approach to Dry Fly Tactics in Tight Brush – Joe Humphreys (Amazon) DVD.


Fly Tying

Guide Flies – Simple, Durable Flies that catch fish – Tim Rolston (New Voices Publishing, 2013)

A South African fly Tying Journey with Ed Herbst and friends

Volume 1 – Caribou Spider, G&B Low Floater, RAB, Shuck Emerger, Xmas Xaddis

Volume 2 – Ed’s Hopper, Fred’s Ant, Ed’s Split-Back Beetle, Philip’s Para RAB

Productive Trout Flies for Unorthodox Prey – Jeff Morgan (Frank Amato, 2012)


Favourite patterns

The FOSAF series Favoured Flies and Select Techniques of the Experts contains the stream selections for brown and rainbow trout by some leading fly fishers. It is available from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Volume 2

Peter Brigg, Mike Biccard, Ed Herbst, Tony Kietzman

Volume 4

Rob Karssing, Jonathan Rodgers, Peter Kidd, Jolyon Nuttal, Andrew Fowler

Volume 5

Marietjie Davies, Giordano Zamparini, Philip Meyer, Peter Brigg, Tom Sutcliffe

Natural History

Freshwater Life – A field guide to the plants and animals of southern Africa (Struik Nature, 2015)

Field Guide to Insects of South African (Struik Nature, 2002)

A bottle of water in my bakkie, still frozen solid @ 09h35, 21st July 2019

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