The Big Bloemhof Barbel!

The Big Bloemhof Barbel!

“It was not as easy as it seemed”


For a long time a few in a circle of our friends have spoken about using one of South Africa’s larger rivers as a form of transport for fishing purposes! Our options from Gauteng, and being in love with the snorbek, were; The Orange, the Vaal and the Krododil(which feeds Hartebeespoort). Although the Orange offered opportunities of the biggest barbell, we had heard of up to 46kg, it was just too far for a 5 day mission. Krokodil was most accessible, but green water, pollution and crime, made it a no go!


So it was to be the Vaal.

Our initial plan was to do 250 km from Parys to Bloemhof Dam, Ha, Huge pipe dream! So after much planning, drinking, logistics, admin, drinking, and packing we travel to where the R505 crosses the Vaal river, unpack and get a lift to leave the car at our destination which was Bloemhof Dam. After seeing big rises in the light brown water below, we had energy to climb Everest. We proceeded in getting all our gear, 2x Hunter Ski’s, a Sail marine rubberduck and its 15hp engine, 3 jerry cans, 25 litres of drinking water, our food bag, loads of tackle and many more bits and pieces down from the brigde, over rocks, barbwire fences to the inviting, flowing water down below. 2 hours of hard graft and we were on the Vaal river ready for three relaxing days of fishing. Oh, how wrong we were!


4km down from the R505 bridge we come to a hysinth blockage in the river, for as far as we can see there is a bright green layer of hysinth. We check our GPS and our first waypoint at the second bridge is still 1.5km away. Logic tells us that they have put a cable across at the bridge to stop the hysinth from getting any further. This means that the hysinth is not just floating loosely on the top of the water, but has been compacted by thousands of litres of water pushing down river. We try to make some headway through the crap but actually get significantly stuck, so much so that panic starts to set in! Fortunately we were close to the western bank and managed to drag our gear onto dry land. After scouting the surrounding area which showed no land route around the hysinth, we realized our plan had fallen apart and we needed to rethink. Our logistics co-ordinator only had one excuse, “Google Earth’s old maps didn’t show any blockages”!


To cut a long nightmare of a recovery mission short; we organized a return lift to the vehicle at our destination; paddled back up river to the bridge; carried every single bit of gear over the fence up the rock embankment; loaded the double cab Isuzu at 7:30pm and got to a Bloemhof Dam nature reserve Chalet 9 at 9pm. One of the longest days of our lives!


The new day had promise of a new plan, mission and purpose! This time we had a base, the Bloemhof Dam nature reserve, and no matter what nature threw in our way, we knew we could get back to our horse back home.


Sunday 8 march and we set off up river, our progress is slow, but this is part of the new plan, more fishing, less paddling, which conforms with the fishing ideology which this trip was based upon! Most of the day passes without any great results. Things start to pick up as the heat of the day lowers with the big red ball in the sky. A 7kg Snorrie at 4pm gets the three of us humming with energy.


Baby Beach! Irronically named, as this is where the mamas dwell!

We spotted a small sand beach that would be an ideal camping spot for us, as we did not bring anything soft to sleep on. This amazing spot produces PB’s for all three of us musketeers, the biggest being my 18kg beauty! At times double ups or even triple ups were to be expected, and the only way to take a break was to keep your bait out of the water. We got 8 fish over 10 kgs, with the bigger ones coming out between 10pm and 11:30pm.


What a spectacular place! The next night was even more prolific in numbers, but we could not crack the 18 kg mark again. The so called “factory” was producing on any bait; cranks, spinners, chicken livers, fish heads and as always a plattie is dynamite.


This mecca for barbel fishing in the free state is well worth a visit for any fresh water angler. Although none of us targeted karp, the dam is full up with them and we saw them spawning continuously. In three days of paddling we saw one power boat, and it seemed as though we had this massive dam all to ourselves!


Two lessons learnt from this expedition:


1. Hysinth has become a real problem in South Africa’s water systems.


2. Bloemhof Dam is a wonderful place and a well kept secret!


Tight Lines!