In Search Of Natal Yellowfish Top Scaly Rivers Of Kwazulu-Natal
The Complete Fly Fisherman|Jan/Feb/Mar 2021
Carl Freese shares his favourite home rivers for hunting KZN scaly.
Carl Freese

When TCFF’s editor commissioned me to write an article on fly fishing for KwaZulu-Natal yellowfish or scalies (Labeobarbus natalensis) and some of the rivers I frequent, my first response was, “Which ones?” Honestly, there are days that I can’t make up my mind as to which river I would fish as I have five major rivers within an hour’s drive from my home. When I think of people having to sit in traffic for an hour or more just to get to work, I consider myself truly fortunate. KZN offers a diverse fishery with many aspects to it, the first being the biodiversity of the rivers and the biospheres where we find our quarry. From clear mountain streams with the backdrop of the mighty Drakensberg at high altitude, to the lower areas where bushveld is the vegetation most common and spiral-horned antelope are familiar spectators.

A UNIQUE SCENARIO

The fish, too, show great variation throughout the province’s waterways in regard to physical form, colouration and feeding habits. These characteristics I attribute to geography, which is the most common adaption or variation-causing factor. From source to sea, our rivers don’t flow nearly as far as the Vaal/Orange river systems before they enter the ocean (those who have travelled down to the east coast will agree). Due to KZN’s unique conditions, great elevation drops occur and so many well-known waterfalls and gorges exist, all forming natural, impassable barriers so that the fish exhibit positive rheotaxis and may be factors contributing to genetic isolation and the variations mentioned. How would positive and negative rheotaxis affect fish in rivers like these? I believe that the environment creates a greater noticeable change in a species over a shorter period of time: water flow rates, feeding habits, self-preservation and survival instinct, food availability and food behaviour, riverbed substrate and water colour.

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which ranges the northern, central and southern Drakensberg at an average altitude of 3000m, is the highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro on the African continent and is the source of many of KZN’s main rivers, namely the Thukela (Tugela), Bushman’s, Mooi, uMngeni, uMkhomazi and uMzimkhulu. This region is characterised by basalt and sandstone layers that act as a natural sponge, absorbing rainfall and snow which is released as spring water during dry conditions. The source waters are always of high quality due to the protection the park offers and it’s not uncommon to be able to fish those high stretches soon after rain spells due to them clearing up so quickly.

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