past articles written by Malcolm Meintjes

(Author of Zambezi Tiger, Remarkable Flyfishing Destinations of Southern Africa, Trout Through the Looking-Glass and other titles)

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                                                        BLACK BASS AND PRINCESSES (1998)

I’m a bit hazy at the moment as to who it was that kissed the frog and turned it into a marriageable prospect for ever and ever. A calculated gamble to pucker up it was, but, under the old folklore, it was quite possible to effect such miracle. Yesteryear’s wisdom would have been to not judge a book by its cover. Given current day technology, ”What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get”. Kiss a frog and you may just get warts.

Black bass are rather like that. It’s own supporters allow that it is not high in the beauty stakes, but I think them a bit harsh, for while the largemouth is clad fairly sombrely, I clearly recall a magnificent smallmouth that I latched on to in the big brown trout water of Steenbras reservoir in the late 1970s. Over the years I have enjoyed frequent meetings with bass on fly - some very respectable ones - often in trout-stocked waters. 

Bass in trout dams are not universally appreciated. It’s usually nothing personal for they put up a very respectable fight on the fly, take to the air with admittedly a little pre-emptive head shaking and are a very tasty starter but some quirk of nature permits largemouths to breed  prolifically in, what is for them, a relatively cool habitat. This can play havoc, not only with anglers’ expectations, but with trout stocking densities.

 Yet, if the status quo has been pre-determined, it’s in the heat of Summer that the bass play a trump card. Trout, at that time, are more often than not sullen and melt away into the deep water. A sustained period of hot weather will not only make them uncooperative, but they can lose condition and even weight. Trout, in short, do not like steaming Februaries.

One such dam I fish, a reasonably extensive piece of water, holds a mixed population of bass and trout and has carried on regardless for close to two decades. The trout grow superbly, even though I have never, in eight or nine years, ever seen bass fry in stomach contents and the bass population seems to come and go as nature wills it. Only in Summer - in some years - if you go and look for them, will you find Micropterus and then invariably in the luke-warm shallows. 

So when last week-end it was obvious that the trout-pickings were slim, I thought “why not?” A medium-sized Montana nymph was all it took on a floating line and long leader. A few seconds to allow it to drop in between clumps of reeds and then a measured retrieve. The result - some very handsome olive-green specimens and a very pleasurable session of angling.  

It does, of course, depend on one’s outlook. Since I am myself no Princess, I might only look a frog in the mouth, but a gift horse, never.


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