WILD TROUT ASSOCIATION Rhodes Eastern CapeAdd to Favourites
About the WTA
The Wild Trout Association (WTA) is an organisation of riparian owners with trouting waters at their disposal, and affiliate members, who provide services and facilities such as guiding and accommodation. The WTA is thus a fly-fishing marketing body that promotes fly-fishing on a sustainable basis on behalf of its members. The headquarters of the WTA is Walkerbouts Inn, Rhodes Village.
General rules of the Association;
Fish by fly only with recognised fly-fishing equipment
Leave gates as you find them
Please do not drive through lands of any description, ever
Do not litter and fires are prohibited
No dogs pets allowed on beats
Remember that you are on private property that is precious to the owner. Treat it as such.
What does the WTA do?
The formation of the WTA brought about long-needed access to these waters and has been remarkably successful in doing so. It has taken many long years for the association to expand the scope of its access to fishing.
The WTA is responsible for the administration of the fishery, including the central booking system and other administrative functions such as data capture and processing, permit fee disbursements and marketing.
Riparian members have been encouraged to develop the necessary infrastructure to accommodate visiting fly-fishermen to the area. Fly-fishing cottages and lodges have duly been established along the rivers and in the village of Rhodes where a host of different accommodation options has become available.
In addition to making the fly-fishing resource more easily accessible, the WTA has concentrated a great deal of its efforts on making the attractions of the Eastern Cape Highlands known to the general public. Although trout fishing is the major sport practised in the region, there are umpteen other attractions such as snow-skiing, hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching, pony riding, rock art viewing and, for the hunting enthusiast, greywing francolin shooting to be enjoyed as well.
Where does the WTA operate?
The greatest concentration of fly-fishing on wild running water available to the public in Southern Africa is to be found in the Highlands of the Eastern Cape. The Highlands straddle the southernmost portion of the Drakensberg and continue into the Stormberg. The WTA administers and has access to more than 350km of running water throughout the Highlands and is the largest sport fishery of its kind on the entire continent of Africa.
The waters range from Lilliputian streams found at the headwaters of the tributaries of the Kraai River that grow as they tumble down into the valleys below. These freestone streams and rivers are mostly fed by summer precipitation including thunderstorms and to a lesser extent by melt water from occasional snowfalls in winter.
The preferred method of fishing was on a catch-and-release basis. This was promoted to create an awareness of the sustainable utilisation of a natural resource - a "put them back so that someone else can catch them again" policy. Experience has shown that although a commendable principle, the headwaters provide a most suitable breeding ground to the extent that after years of complaints about only catching "small" fish, the policy now revolves around "window fishing". Cull the fingerlings, return the breeding stock and take the trophy fish, if it's a trophy fish that blows your hair back, in a manner of speaking! Enthusiasts are accordingly welcome to sample the fruits of their fishing "labour" by way of removing pan-sized trout for culinary purposes whilst in the Highlands. Resorting to the historic "South West fishing trip" practise of filling cool-boxes/deep-freezers is definitely frowned upon!
Booking a Beat
Guidelines for arranging fishing on WTA waters
Fishing on Wild Trout Association water is arranged by purchasing a day permit that allows access to water on WTA members’ property. Rates are subject to change without notice. Permits are sold on a first-come-first served basis.
Permits are issued on a daily basis during office hours only and are valid for one day only. Permits consist of two sections. The upper half contains the vendor and purchaser details, i.e. name & address, vehicle registration number, the number of rods, the total fee and the venue/s to be fished. The lower half consists of a catch return that must be completed and the permit returned to the vendor. The permit must be stuck onto the inside of your windscreen to ensure visibility.
To ensure that double bookings do not occur, a central beat register is maintained at The Rhodes Tourist and Information Centre in Rhodes. This system endeavours to ensure that the beat required has not been booked already and, if available, is recorded on the central beat register. Keeping this register up to date is the key to the success of satisfactory fishing experiences and is also the key to the success of the fishery.
Ensure that you know where your beat is or that you are given clear instructions as to how to find the beat concerned as well as identifying its boundaries. As stated above, copies of the permit must be stuck to the inside of your windscreen to ensure visibility and therefore confirmation that you are not a poacher.
Beats can be booked at the central register in advance. However, this is done at the risk of inclement weather rendering the water booked un-fishable, in which case alternative arrangements will be made subject to availability of suitable beats.
Visitors who are accommodated in WTA member’s accommodation must also purchase permits for the water concerned. Please ensure that the vendor notifies the Rhodes Tourist and Information Centre of such sales in order to keep the central register up to date.
Earlier this year, it was proposed that the streams and rivers administered by the Wild Trout Association (WTA) remain open during the winter months to allow enthusiasts to fish for rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) during the “closed season”. In South Africa it has long been a tradition to stop angling from June 1 to August 31 as this was assumed to be the trout breeding season when they should be left undisturbed. The proposal was duly circulated to various members and luminaries in the world of ichthyology and fly fishing.
The motivation for this proposal was based on the following:
On behalf of farmers, the WTA administers more than a thousand kilometres of river and streams which experience relatively low angling traffic. Redds will therefore not come under any significant threat as there is minimal fishing pressure on WTA waters
Over-breeding in these rivers and streams is evident in most seasons
Rainbow trout breed according to prevailing conditions unrelated to human calendars, particularly in an area where unseasonal weather extremes are common
Most anglers practise catch and release so pressure on the existing stocks is low, other than for poaching in some sections e.g. at Rhodes, however despite this pressure, a few bigger fish have been taken on this water thus confirming the concept that where there are fewer fish, they grow bigger
Beats that reflect a negative impact due to winter fishing can be closed or managed accordingly
Pre- and prevailing winter weather conditions will determine the “fishability” of WTA waters
Protective legislation relating to trout no longer exists
Anglers wading across gravel beds suitable for use as redds by trout may disturb these redds and therefore have negative impact on spawning
The population may well be reduced by winter fishing thereby alleviating pressure on the food resource
Decreased numbers will result in more bigger fish – analogy: “100 sheep on 1 hectare do not fare as well as 1 sheep on 100ha”
Allowing winter fishing will result in more fly fishing visitors
Increasing the number of fly fishing visitors will contribute to local economic development
Beats be monitored by way of regular catch return analysis, particularly of the catch returns collected during the annual Rhodes-based Wild Trout fly fishing festival which takes place in March
The festival is a sound source of data that provides a bulk overview that will be a reliable indication as to the impact of winter fishing
The brown trout section of the Willow Stream on the farm Balloch is not included
After a consultation process with qualified people in a wide range of relevant disciplines, it was concluded that the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages.
A recent study by Dr Marius du Preez and Deborah Lee of the economics depart at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth concluded that fly fishing tourism in Rhodes plays a beneficial role in an area where poverty is endemic and most of the residents are unemployed. According to the data collected by du Preez and Lee, some 700 fly fishers visit Rhodes during the traditional angling season and contribute almost six million rand a year to the Rhodes economy. In the process 39 jobs have been created. This vindicates a decision twenty years ago to establish an organisation – the Wild Trout Association - that would benefit farmers in the area by getting visiting anglers to pay them a rod fee but also indicates that, where possible, increasing this tourist income has humanitarian ramifications. If fly fishing opportunities can be offered throughout the year, there could be a small but not insignificant opportunity for revenue generation and the residents of the nearby Zakhele township would benefit from the trickle down consequences of expenditure by visiting tourists in the Rhodes village.
In summer, the indigenous smallmouth yellowfish (Labeobarbus aeneus) migrates upstream from the Kraai River into its tributaries to spawn. During this period they are a prime quarry for wading fly fishers
Despite the fact that there has never been any protective legislation or “closed season” for yellowfish, they have survived and continue to flourish in the Kraai and its tributaries despite the disturbance of their breeding grounds by humans fishing for trout and yellowfish! If, in the past, there have been no ethical qualms expressed by fly fishers and their guides about angling for this species during their summer breeding season, it ill behoves any of them to express concerns about fly fishing for trout in winter.
1 Vorster Street, Rhodes, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 9787