Whenever I hear an angler say, “I am going to target largemouth yellows,” my first question is: “Are you taking a guide with you?” If the answer is no, I immediately think the said angler obviously feels very lucky, or they are going to be using dynamite. As is the case with all fish, time on the water, trial and error and experience is what it takes to figure out how and when to successfully target any specific species. With largemouth yellows, it may not take weeks or months but rather years to eventually know what you are doing and why, and to start achieving a certain amount of success. I agree you can visit certain locations on the Orange and the many private venues or secret spots that guides keep to themselves and get into some fish, but to successfully target trophy largies on the Vaal River takes a great deal of time on the water, experience and self-belief in what you are doing. Less luck and more skill sets the true largie fisherman apart from the casual wannabe like myself. In my opinion, if you can muster up a reasonable amount of success on the Vaal River, you can take largemouth yellows anywhere.
In this series of articles, we will be chatting to three experienced largemouth fishermen, all of whom have their own ideas, approaches and techniques, and although some of what they discuss will overlap, each has his own unique outlook on this magical fish. The three anglers I talk to have guided many clients and friends into some exceptional fish. I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with Ian Couryer in the Seychelles and dealing with Ian in the industry on and off over many years. The second angler is Garth Wellman. I met Garth for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1996 at Fly Fishing Adventures. We have fished together for smallmouth yellows, trout and bass and have shared the odd bottle of fine whisky on certain trips. Our third angler is Marius Rousseau. A humble man, Marius, as far as I know, dispelled the myth that largemouth yellowfish should only be targeted in winter. Back in the day when I still had my retail store I heard that Marius was taking largies regularly throughout the year. Sadly, I have never had the good fortune of spending time with Marius on the water – something I plan to remedy soon!
Take care to ingest properly what these fly fishermen have to say. I did, and I guarantee you will be better equipped to get out there and chase these incredible fish. Our first conversation in this issue is with Ian Couryer.
MP: Ian, what in your opinion makes largemouth yellowfish such a sublime species to target on fly?
IC: Let me answer that question with a scenario I’ve witnessed and participated in countless times. The fly sails towards the mark, making just a slight plop as it enters the cold, clear water under the bankside willow. I take up the slack, rod pointed at the target. My eyes strain, glued to the tip of the floating fly line for the slightest, almost imperceptible abnormal movement which may spell success. The fly sinks vertically, pulled into the depths by the weight of the dumbbell eyes; the rabbit skin tail vibrates enticingly in the current. I brace for a hit, imagining a huge largemouth cruising over to hoover up the helpless victim. When the fly is a few metres below the surface, I begin a slow, pulsing retrieve, tweaking in a few inches of line at a time, bouncing the line, imparting plenty of movement to the fly without speeding it out of the zone with GT-like strips, and willing the predator to take the struggling morsel. Nothing. No one home.
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