There seems to be an art – certainly a skill – in flyfishing. And those doing it well are impervious to the cold and discomfort of venturing out on a chilly morning to outwit the trout. They often catch and release, but many places, notably also in Dullstroom in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province offer trout on the menu.
I know nothing of this sport that seems to attract so many enthusiasts, not only in South Africa but also abroad. It’s intriguing to see with what ease an expert can cast the highly flexible rod to land the lure in the right spot.
To my layman’s eye, these flyfishers (dare one call them anglers?) seem to know the perfect time of day, or the season – not to mention which “fly” – is best to successfully lure the prey. A quick internet search throws up a plethora of strange names such as Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Red Eyed Damsel, or Orange Hotspot, for the artificial insects lovingly tied to resemble real ones.
Trout was introduced to Dullstroom in 1912 when, according to local legend, the postmaster of the nearby town of Lydenburg caught a fish in the Dorps River that looked like a trout. Some years later trout was brought from the Cape province to stock the area’s streams and dams. Dullstroom is now regarded as the capital of flyfishing in South Africa.
Know the history
The craggy mountain grassland dotted with rock outcrops, coupled with the occasional harsh weather, led to the Dullstroom area being described as South Africa’s Scottish highlands. The original inhabitants called it the place of eternal mist – and not in a fond manner. These were Dutch immigrants from the Netherlands, brought here by one Wolterus Dull, who gave his name to the town that eventually became Dullstroom.
Whereas these immigrants soon packed up and returned to Europe, the town now attracts hordes of visitors or retirees. Those who have acquired property here consider it a convenient weekend retreat, as it is less than three hours’ drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria on the N4.
Where to feast on trout
Visitors have a great choice of accommodation in B&Bs, guest houses, lodges and boutique hotels.
The luxury Critchley Hackle Lodge right in the centre of town claims to serve the best food. Its young chef Walkin Froise prepares a lovely smoked trout and avocado mousse with two poached eggs for breakfast, to be followed by a light lunch of smoked peppered trout fillet on toasted ciabatta with cream cheese, capers, herbs and cherry tomato.
For dinner, try his pan fried trout fillets, served with fragrant couscous, aioli, turnips, vegetable crisps, coconut lime broth and mange tout. Or trout tagliatelli. This is flaked smoked peppered trout with a tagliatelli pasta and a creamy white wine sauce, sprinkled with parmesan shavings.
The name Critchley derives from an ancient Anglo-Saxon family name from the Lancashire area of England, while ‘hackle’ is the neck feathers of a pheasant, which harks back to the feathers used by anglers to create the trout lures.
It seems one constantly comes face to face with the allure of trout fishing. For instance, The Mayfly, the place for cocktails, is a name redolent of this sport. Interestingly, the real insect only lives one day.
Dullstroom’s notorious cold will soon drive you into one of the whiskey tasting or chocolate establishments for a hot beverage. Of course, there’s also a snack to be had at Harrie’s Pancakes or Belgian Waffles, followed by invigorating coffee further along the main drag.
Check out the old station. Dullstroom boasts the highest station in the country at 2 077 meter above sea level. Sadly, the line built by the now defunct Nederlandsche-Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorwegmaatskappij (NZASM) for President Paul Kruger’s old Transvaal Republic no longer carries any trains.
The steam enthusiasts should perhaps take to flyfishing.
Remember to buy some takeaway trout products, like roulades, terrines and pies at Milly’s Country Trout Stall to enjoy at home.