Pole Fishing the Vaal River - Part 1

Pole Fishing the Vaal River - Part 1

A well known English and adopted European style of fishing dating back to the 1800's known as Pole Fishing, or fishing with the long pole has seen a massive decline among local anglers in South-Africa. Although this style of fishing has been introduced to SA over 20 years ago, in recent years there are less than 20 active anglers still practicing the style on home soil.


This blog post is not about how to grow this fantastic sport back to what it was in its glory days (we've even won team medals in Europe and individual medals at home in this facet) but rather to showcase what an effective way of fishing it can be and that any angler wanting to start pole fishing can look forward to - in SA we have amazing venues where great fishing is up for grabs for anyone willing to pursue this style of fishing.

One such venue is the beautiful Vaal River and there are literally hundreds of fishing spots along its banks. The deep slow moving parts of the river are exactly what we as pole anglers are after and if you know of such an area then thats exactly where you should be pole fishing, especially throughout winter! 

These deep holes provide fish such as carp, mudfish, yellowfish, moggel and catfish the perfect safe haven. Dissolved oxygen in slow moving deep water is very high and temperatures stay constant thus keeping the fish active even in the depths of winter where temperatures can often fall below -6°C. Active fish need to feed as they burn energy making it the ideal scenario for anglers to target them during the winter months. Whats more beneficial is that we don't get lots of rain causing strong currents or floods during this time so feeding and bait presentation becomes much easier and more effective. 

How to turn your samp (or any other white maize) bright yellow. Simply add some turmeric to it while cooking.

On a recent autumnal pole fishing session with my wife we visited Aqua Vaal angling club's private water - the beautiful Lethabo Power Station stretch of the Vaal River and had an amazing day. This was my wife's very first time practicing this "foreign" style of fishing and she managed to catch over a hundred fish in just 5 hours! Thats what makes this sport so fantastic as anyone can learn how to fish with a pole very quickly. 

We fished a short pole of only 4-5 sections about 2-4m from the bank catching a fish with every put-in. The water depth was roughly 2m deep on a sloping bottom meaning we could swing our rig past our spot and let the tow push it into the near-side sloping bank presenting our bait on the slope just touching bottom. This was a great way of catching the resident yellowfish, moggel and odd mudfish as the fish will feed against the slope and as soon as they eat our hook bait it will register on the float and a soft strike will result in a hooked fish, every time! 

Marking the pole with some white Nitto tape to make sure we fish on the exact same spot every time, nice and accurate.

The best bait were home-made super fine textured ground bait with a bit of finely minced-up worm which attracted the fish. To keep the fish rooting around in the swim I added some particles including corn, cooked samp, dead maggots and other seeds. On the hook a live maggot threaded on through the body was by far the best as it meant less missed bites and we could catch up to 4 or 5 fish with the same hook bait. 

Adding some Turmeric to your maggots the day before your fishing trip turns them bright yellow and makes them smell 10 times better.

Threading the maggot onto the hook rather than nicking it through the end like usual worked much better on the day.

We used a 0.8g Milo round body float with a carbon stem and 1.5mm plastic bristle tied onto 0.18mm Awa-Shima Classic Competition line with a simple bulk of #8 shots and two #9 dropper shots spaced 15cm apart. The bulk was 45cm from the hook and the lowest dropper 15cm from the hook meaning the bait could reach the bottom fairly quickly and be in the zone of the feeding fish. A #14 Preston Natural N-30 hook tied to 0.16mm Awa-Shima Classic Competition line completed the rig. In hindsight I think a slim body float in 1.5g would've been better as it will show up the bites more positively and reach the fish faster in that depth (1.8m-2m) - but I'm a big believer in "if it aint broke, dont fix it!" so just stuck to what we had. 

The Awa-Shima Classic Competition line is locally available in the perfect diameters for pole fishing ie. 0.16mm, 0.18mm, 0.20mm and 0.23mm. Its also very affordable and dependable.

Chopping up some worms and adding it to the ground bait at the start of the session is a great way of attracting all fish species into your swim.

The method to catch these fish quickly involved throwing a small nugget of ground bait short of the float after hitting a bite and hooking a fish, this way you wouldn't suffer false indications and missed bites as the fish immediately swim up the water column to feed on the slow sinking nugget but follows it down as it sinks - by the time you are done swinging the fish in, unhooking, re-baiting and lowering your rig back in the fish are right there on the bottom busy feeding on whats left of the small nugget of feed and your hook bait. This meant we could easily stay in a rhythm and catch a fish with every put-in resulting in a fantastic days fishing!

A small nugget of the ground bait mix containing a few particles was all that was needed to keep the fish feeding in the swim. 

A net full of fish at the end of our 5-hour session!

A great days fishing for a new angler! My wife caught 165 fish in 5 hours 😮.

Make sure to keep an eye on this blog as throughout the coming winter we will do more of these sessions targeting bigger fish in the cold with the pole!