Largemouth Yellow fish (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis)

Largemouth Yellowfish is South Africa’s biggest scaled freshwater fish. The species has often been overlooked by fly anglers, blaming the decline in the numbers of the species for their lack of success. However, techniques developed by FlyCastaway guides have turned the fish into a much sought after fly rod quarry virtually overnight.

Today Largemouth Yellowfish are a popular angling species, giving a good fight and offering even the most skilled angler a challenging target to fish for. This predatory species grows to over 40lbs, however fish of over 10lbs are considered trophies. Every season a couple of lucky fly anglers land fish in the 20lbs plus category.

The natural range of the Largemouth Yellowfish is the Orange-Vaal River system as well as Sterkfontein Dam. Largemouth Yellows are generally only found in the larger tributaries and dams, being absent from the higher reaches in Lesotho and southern tributaries of the Cape. Today the biggest concentration of specimen fish in the 10lb – 25lb range can be found on the lower Vaal. Anglers can often sight fish to these monster sized fish, making them a truly world class freshwater game fish.

Adult Largemouth Yellowfish prefer flowing water in deep channels or below rapids, and around structure, but also do well in dams. Being primarily a predator, they initially take in insects and small crustaceans, but become more carnivorous and opportunistic hunters as they increase in size. Largemouth Yellowfish breed in mid to late summer over gravel beds with steady running water.Please note that the Largemouth Yellowfish has a vulnerable status on the Red Data List. This species is becoming scarce and is being artificially cultured and re-stocked. Please take care of all catches and release all fish caught


When targeting Largemouth Yellows on the Upper and Middle Vaal River most of the fishing will be blind fishing towards structure. Anglers should fish the bigger pools, with your guide showing you how to read the water and where you are likely to find fish. The single most important thing to keep in mind when fishing for Largemouth Yellows is that you must have contact on the fly at all times. If you do not have contact on the fly you will not be able to detect the subtle takes. The most successful fly pattern for Largies on the upper Vaal is the MSP in black and olive. Another good pattern to try as well is the Crystal Bugger in black or olive. Although these patterns have consistently produced fish there is no hard and fast rule. Any pattern exhibiting plenty of movement, the appropriate colour and size depending on water clarity, together with the correct sink rate, will no doubt produce excellent results.

We prefer to use tapered 9 foot 1X or 2X leaders. We tie a Bimini Twist in the end section of the tapered leader and then another in the tippet material we are going to add on. The two different sections are then double looped together cats-paw style. This rig helps to absorb the shock when the fish suddenly take off. You may also use Australian plats in place of the Bimini Twists.

On the lower Vaal most of the fishing will be done sight casting. A Peacock Woolly Bugger tied on a #6 stinger hook, or Black Leech is hardly ever refused when well presented. Also carry a selection of MSP’s for when the odd blind cast is made towards structure and a couple of Deer Hair Sliders and Deer Hair Mouse patterns. Big Largemouth yellows will at times savagely attack big surface bugs.

As you’ll be wading most of the time, good protective footwear is essential. The river has a slippery rocky bottom, with felt soled wading boots without cleats being essential (not 5/10 rubber compound or aquastealth type boots). As the water temperatures will be at least 18Celsius, the guide’s wet wade almost right through summer, except for early and late in the season (September and May). If you are comfortable with light weight Gore-Tex breathable waders you can use them but bear in mind you will be walking a lot and it can get very hot. During winter we recommend neoprene waders or Gore-Tex breathable waders with thermal underwear and thick socks. A handy tip: Normally the reason when you suffer from cold feet with your waders and wading boots even when using two pairs of socks is not because of layers but circulation. You are better off going for a bigger wading boot or one less pair of socks having space so that your circulation can improve.


  • Fly Rod: Medium-fast to fast action nine-foot, seven or eight weight fly rod.
  • Reel & Backing: Large arbor reel, holding at least 150 – 200 meters of 30 50lbs braid. A Bimini Twist to Double Surgions should be tied into the braid, following which the fly line and backing should be joined using the loop to loop method.
  • Fly Lines: Weight Forward 7 or 8 Floating and Intermediate fly lines with a nail knot on the front of the line and a 30lbs braided loop knail knotted onto the back.
  • Leaders: 12 18 foot 1X (12lbs) or 2X (10lbs) fluorocarbon tapered leaders.
  • Flies: Small Brush flies, MSPs, Strip Leach, Wooly Bugger and Crystal Bugger on No2 to No 6 Gamakatsu B10S hooks.
  • Boots: A good quality felt or vibram soled boot with ankle support. No cleats.
  • Gravel guards: A good idea to prevent brambles and thorns scratching your ankles.
  • Sunglasses: Dark amber or yellow depending on light.

Before leaving on your trip you will be briefed in detail by the FlyCastaway guides as to exactly what fly patterns you are going to need and how you should prepare your tackle. For all our destinations we have compiled a comprehensive tackle list.


South Africa Vaal River
South Africa Sterkfontein Dam