South African trout fishing is a delightful pastime – not least because the abundant food means they grow far larger than you'd expect. But don't come looking for them in huge rivers. You're more likely to find them in mountain streams and still-water areas.

Did you know?

Trout can only breed in cool, clean running water so they are a good indicator of water health.

Trout fishing in South Africa goes back more than a hundred years after brown trout ( Salmo trutta) that are indigenous to Europe and parts of North Africa, and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from the Pacific North-West in America, were introduced to local streams and rivers in the late 19th century

Today, both species can be found in some streams, rivers and dams in mountainous parts of South Africa (mainly Mpumalanga, the Western and Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal), but changing government regulations have tightened up on where trout may be released. There is an ongoing debate between the trout-fishing community and the authorities over whether or not these fish are invasive.

Nevertheless, some towns have built a whole tourist industry based on trout fishing. One such spot is Dullstroom, a village in Mpumalanga where many local establishments have dams set aside exclusively for fly-fishing. 

The decidedly Scottish weather of this high altitude town (the highest peak is 2 300m or 7 546 feet above sea level) brings mist into this rocky terrain. Here the Wellington gumboot and the Woolly Bugger lure rule. At weekends, the place is full of fly-fishers, mainly from Johannesburg (a three-hour drive away), gathering to talk, catch and cook trout.

Another is Rhodes, a hamlet in the Eastern Cape Highlands at the geographical centre of the biggest sport fishery on the continent, where access can be gained to hundreds of kilometres of running water that include not only wild trout but indigenous smallmouth yellowfish ( Labeobarbus aeneus) as well. Rhodes is close to both Ben McDhui, the highest peak in the Eastern Cape, and the Naudesnek Pass, the highest mountain pass in the country.

Up in the high streams of the Drakensberg there is abundant food for the trout, and so, despite the fact that the water source is often just a healthy trickle, the trout grow very large. Good trout fishing can also be found in the mountains inland of Cape Town, along the Lesotho border along Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, in Mpumalanga and in the eastern Free State, in the Clarens area. The Somerset East area is also popular fly-fishing country. 

Local trout man Alan Hobson comments: 'Trout fishing is a little like Cluedo. You've got to see what's actually happening. What insects are flying around? Do you see moths in the grass? They will be the ones you need to imitate. Look at the way a trout rises. That shows you what it's eating and at what stage of development it is. Look out for wind channels on the water. You're just focused on water. It's like you're working out a puzzle, and you're completely transported. It's mental therapy.'

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