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Thread: In search of the rarist 'yellow' of all - Witvis (Barbus andrewi)

  1. #1
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    Default In search of the rarist 'yellow' of all - Witvis (Barbus andrewi)

    Three of us (Dean Impson of Cape Nature Conservation, Kevin Cox and I) headed out yesterday in search of the highly endangered Witvis. It was a day I will not forget in a hurry and it was indeed an incredible privilege. Both Kevin and myself could not thank Dean enough for sharing this with us.

    Upon arriving at a stream that forms part of the Breede River system, I was immediately struck by the crystal clear water, with a light apple green tinge to it. A gentle glide to the right of us as we approached the stream, with its rock strewn bottom, appeared to be very shallow and I was doubtful that we would find any fish in there at first, but stepping into the stream I realised that it was a deception. The stream was magnifying the bottom, making it appear much shallower than it actually was.

    On the right hand bank of the glide was a deep channel with a white sandy bottom. Dean told us to space ourselves out and not get too close to the channel. This particular channel is where one of the last remaining populations of Witvis reside.

    Enquiring about flies and tactics, Dean told us to try the smallest of nymphs,...anything light in colour. Dean recommended a 4/5 weight rod because the Witvis is an incredibly powerful fish and one would not want to overplay them. Following his advice, I started rigging up my Greys Missionary but realised after I assembled it that I had gone and left my floater at home. Fortunately I had my Sage 3 weight rod with me and attaching my small Abel to it, I discovered that it was still loaded with a length of 6x tippet. I decided to stick with that and hope for the best. I selected a #16 gold beaded flash back GRHE nymph. I must admit, I felt a bit apprehensive about the lightness of my tippet as I attached the fly.

    Spacing ourselves out about 30 metres apart, we proceeded to cast cross the current into the deeper channel on the far side. I allowed the nymph a few seconds to get down before starting a slow figure of eight retrieve with a bit of a twitch. On my second cast I had an explosive take and a fish broke the surface in an attempt to throw the fly. Pound for pound, this fish was stronger than anything I have ever caught in any Cape stream. It was not a huge fish from what I could see, but the fight betrayed his size. I had him on for a little while and then my line suddenly went slack. He must have been very lightly hooked, and I was fishing barbless.

    Pivoting my head from side to side to cut the reflection off the surface with my polaroids, I saw some dark shapes approaching from upstream, and the next thing, they were upon us, a shoal of about 30 fish. I could not believe what I was seeing! I put out the nymph just ahead of them and immediately had a grab, but the connection wasn't there.
    By this time the shoal was spaced out quiet nicely between the three of us.
    Two cast later I had another grab, followed by a short run and 'bang'.....6X tippet gone! "Damn!" I thought.....I knew it would be too light.

    All this while, Kevin and Dean had not had any knocks yet and Kevin decided to do a fly change, attaching a 6X dropper with a small GRHE to his existing 5X tippet. At this point I decided to dispense with the 6X and switched to a 5X tippet and attached a tiny Corixa. The shoal were patrolling up and down the channel and every now and then we could see a silver flash of colour as an individual fish darted off playfully.

    Kevin picked up a fish on his first or second cast with his new rig and he was giggling with delight as the fish relentlessly fought for it's freedom. He landed the fish with much excitement and congratulations from both Dean and myself.
    WV2.jpg


    During this time I had had about 5 or 6 casts with my 5X tippet and no knocks at all. Dean asked if I had a small GRHE to spare, and I gave him one.
    While I was busy attaching a different fly to my 5X, Kevin hooked into another fish and proceeded to spend some time photographing it. Dean then hooked into a fish with the flash-back GRHE that I had given to him.

    After what seemed like an excellent start for me, I was still fishless and feared that it would remain so, because by now, the fish were becoming shyer and more spooky, ignoring everything that we offered them. In desperation, I decided to go back to my 6X tippet and selected a #14 red beaded bloodworm. I put out a long diagonal cast upstream of the shoal and gave the fly a chance to get to the bottom before commencing a dead slow figure of eight retrieve. Half way back it was picked up by a good fish, and this time I was ready and let him run, but stayed in contact with my rod held high above my head. "At last!" I thought as I held the gleaming bronze coloured Witvis of about 1kg, much to the relief of Kevin and Dean who were starting to become a bit anxious on my part.
    WV3.jpg


    We then collectively agreed that this would be a good time to do a bit of snorkelling, so we headed back to the car for our goggles. At the car we toasted our fish with a dram of whiskey from my old hip flask, before heading back to the stream to spend the next hour in amongst the fish. What a lovely sight it was to have a shoal of such a rare fish swimming around us. I felt extremely privileged to be one of a handful of people to ever experience this. Shoals of fish surrounded us, inspecting us from a careful distance before flashing past and then circling us once they were safely past.
    WV1.jpgWV4.jpg


    Kevin and Dean continued to snorkel upstream for another hour, but after seeing the fish, I had to have another few casts and although they were by now fully aware of our presense and incredibly suspicious, I managed to land one more before we left. This was after much trying I might add. Needless to say, I was very happy.
    WV5.jpg


    The whole experience of catching something as uniquely 'ours' as the Witvis has bitten me big time. All I want to do now is head out and re-visit some of the remote streams that I have discovered in my meanderings over the years and where I have sighted yellows before. I cant wait!

    To conclude, from our observations we noted the following; to catch Witvis, the smallest of nymphs, no bigger than #14's and the lightest of tippets (6X) are definitely more successful than anything else we tried. Just one size up on fly and tippet amounted to noticeable refusals, even when the nymph was right in the midst of the fish. They are incredibly leader shy! All in well, we did well to land 6 fish among us. They are not easy targets, pretty technical fishing actually, but that is all part of the appeal. Although we didn't get the biggest fish, that is besides the point, the beauty of each and every one of these fish, regardless of size, is what it is all about.
    Last edited by Chris Shelton; 02-12-06 at 05:53 PM.
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

  2. #2
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    Sweet post Chris! You captured how I felt. It was an awesome experience and I too am totally hooked on these Witvis! Man, what a pleasure!

    Here are two more pics, just for sh1ts and giggles.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #3
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    Lovely pics Kevin! Thanks a lot. I am glad you feel the same way. I have not been able to get those fish out of my mind all day! Crazy huh?

    I am dying to hit the stream that I was telling you about now.....intrigued to know what those fish were. Would be nice if you and Grant can join me, and Dean if he can make it........sooner the better!
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

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    That was absolutely awesome chaps, sounds like you had a blast. Chris, even us poor sods who don't get much opportunity to fish streams like that were able to capture some of your moment
    Daryl Human

    The solution to any problem -- work, love, money, whatever -- is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be. --John Gierach

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    Mind Blowing, Ongedonnerslooflik, Manjifiek!!!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Shelton View Post
    Lovely pics Kevin! Thanks a lot. I am glad you feel the same way. I have not been able to get those fish out of my mind all day! Crazy huh?

    I am dying to hit the stream that I was telling you about now.....intrigued to know what those fish were. Would be nice if you and Grant can join me, and Dean if he can make it........sooner the better!
    How does Wedndesday sound???

    I really like the way that a couple of guys have been writing little trip reports on the site, with photos attached in between. Guys, they make for an enjoyable read (Philip, Sean, MC etc- your articles on the main site are the same and I think Kevin E has also used this format before if memory serves me correct?)
    Keep it up chaps!
    Last edited by KevinC; 02-12-06 at 08:10 PM.

  7. #7
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    Great trip, thanks for the read...
    Mike McKeown

    You're either fishing or waiting...

  8. #8

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    well done chaps, great underwater pics of the shoal of witvis

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    Absolutely awesome thread Chris. Thanks a stack. I notice you mentioned a stream that forms part of the Breede river system. Ja, Ja cmon, whats it gonna take???

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    Absolutely awesome thread Chris. Thanks a stack. I notice you mentioned a stream that forms part of the Breede river system. Ja, Ja cmon, whats it gonna take???
    Join the working group and all will be revealed. It certainly will be one of the field trips that the group will embark upon.
    "Innocence is a wild trout. But we humans, being complicated, have to pursue innocence in complex ways" - Datus Proper

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