For most of your fishing here a 5 to 6 weight fly rod is perfect. We mainly stick with floating fly lines, but if the fishing is slow (suggesting the fish are holding deep), an intermediate fly line is valuable. We use tapered leaders attached to a 3X fluorocarbon tippet that provides a breaking strain of around 8 pounds, which is more than enough. Look, the occasional fish will snap your tippet like cotton, but you just learn to live with that.
The flies we use are mainly big, bright, attractor patterns, or imitations of the ubiquitous dragon-fly or damsel-fly nymphs. There will be days when trout rise to the surface after terrestrial insects, or hatching mayflies or sedges, when you can have some of the most exciting stillwater fishing using dry flies like the DDD, or Kaufmann’s Stimulator. You will mainly fish from a float tube or kick boat, simply because the margins of many of the lakes are weeded and you will not reach the deep, clear water from the bank as easily as you will in a float tube. Waders and flippers consequently become essential items of your tackle, as does a small anchor to hold your tube in position.
Add to the essential item list a warm pair of fishing gloves, thermal long johns, a hat, rain gear, a wind cheater, dark glasses with polarised lenses and sun tan lotion. And when the trout don’t snap you, a large landing net is essential. Finally, you will spend long hours out on the water and will be pretty chilly when you get out. This is when a thermos of hot coffee can feel like it just saved your life.
I once asked a Highland Lodge regular about the best time to visit, and he replied, ‘Whenever you can get away’, which I suppose was his way of saying it’s a great place all year round. But if you have to pick a season I’d say autumn, from early March through April, even deep into May. It is a time of year when you can expect the temperatures to drop steeply in the evening, but the days will mainly be clear and sunny.
As a rule, we make our annual trip plumb in the heart of winter, simply because the water is exquisitely clear in these months, and the trout are still bright with spawning colours, all of which are ideal for underwater photography. But Dordrecht is now officially the coldest town in South Africa, so brace yourself for some freezing conditions, even snowfalls, if you choose to go at this time of year.