Blue Ribbon Umgeni

#BRU Restoring the Umgeni as a trout stream

The Umgeni as a Trout Stream

The following resource has been put together for those interested in fly fishing on the upper Umgeni. It is a free PDF document, that you can download and print. It is packed with information, history, stories, maps and the like. It is also regularly updated as new information comes to light.

Enjoy:  Trout on the doorstep

Umgeni (21 of 49)



Featured post

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Looking back over the posts on this blog, I see I often said things like “Last push” and “finishing it off” . In reality, we kept finding more to do. The upside of that was that we had the money to do it.

Sure there were competing needs, and deciding where to spend the money was a head scratcher…we always wanted best bang for our buck, but there was some cash.

Now, as at the end of winter 2020, the cash from the Roy Ward Fund of the Natal Fly Fishers Club is spent! We spent the last R39,000 removing logs and logjams from 1.5 kms of the upper river on the farm Sheardown. The task was completed admirably by our contractor, and the river is looking magnificent.

The Blue Ribbon Umgeni initiative enters the maintenance phase.

Going forward, the contribution of the fly fishers will be determined by fundraising to the Roy Ward Fund. The likelihood is that the extent of that will, at best, enable routine annual maintenance….cutting saplings and spraying bramble on the main river channel. This is commendable and important work and will require ongoing dedication and determination to uphold the practice.

In the interim, Andrew Fowler has taken this river restoration thing a step further, with the launch of Upland River Conservation. That entity looks to catchment-wide land practices, tributary remediation, and other aspects way beyond the ambit of a fishing club.

So, if you are interested, follow that link above, and support “Upland Rivers”. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook and watch the next chapter in this story.

For now, this Blue Ribbon Umgeni blog will remain online as a record of what we achieved between 2013 and 2020. Its been a wild ride, and much has been achieved. To everyone who supported this in every way:

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Follow up at Big Rock

In early December we were back at the river near “Big Rock”, and that little footbridge over the Furth Stream.  The bridge was fitted with a piece that stabilises the cable handrails, sandwiches the poles together, and provides a point to secure the fittings with a chain so that we don’t lose them in a flood one day.

We also visited the area that was cleared of brambles with brushcutters by Breandan Mc Kibbin and team at our “big rock day”, and started the process of spraying the regrowth, now that we can get in there and pick them off stem by stem. What a pleasure to be able to walk around now that the high bramble is gone…..thank you Breandan!


Our chemicals were supplied by the DEA , and labour, transport and spray equipment by the Natal Fly Fishers Club.

We made Big Rock Great again…

#BRU team Big Rock-1#Flybrary-1DCIM100MEDIADJI_0020.JPGBig Rock done-1Confluence done-1Furth Bridge-1Owlhouse high-1Owlhouse-1

All the details

For anyone wanting to attend the #MakeBigRockGreatAgain day on 31 August 2019.

Upper Brigadoon 2019

We meet at Il Postino at 8:30 am that morning, and we can kinda go up in convoy…..

For the rest of it, read this …its a 4 page PDF thing:   open it and read….

Make Big Rock great again


Thanks to:

Neil , Anton, Andrew, George and his boys, Richard, Jabulani , and Asanda .  These guys worked a solid day in cold weather, cold water and dusty conditions to rid a steep section of wattle regrowth on Furth Farm on the 20th July 2019.

A Job well done!



31 August 2019

Here is a short video explaining what is planned for Saturday 31st August 2019.

The video about Big Rock

Further details at : NFFC events page





lower Furth


Make Big Rock great again

Money….here is the full record:

Want to see what money has been raised and spent?  Click on this to see the full record:

Roy Ward Funding history


Planning again

Thanks to a generous donation from the WWF, the Furth stream has been completely cleared of logs. This has not only accelerated the progress of the #BRU2 initiative, but it has freed up funds.  Things on the horizon with the remaining money are as follows:

  • Poison a few wattle trees above a pool called “The Black Hole” on Furth Farm.
  • Get a small daring crew to clamber the steep banks where wattles were felled in September 2018, but where hard to reach saplings are taking root.
  • Do Follow up bramble and wattle spraying along the entire Sheardown, Stoneycroft, Furth and Brigadoon farms in October. (10kms)
  • Remove wattles felled by ‘WFW’  from the river on Sheardown Farm (3kms)
  • Assess and perform light clearing and follow up on Chestnuts Farm (4 Kms)
  • Poison trees in the tight valley between Furth dam and the main river
  • Take out 4 or 5 trees on a steep slope a few yards below the confluence of the Furth Stream and the main Umgeni on Brigadoon farm….drop them in the river and pull them upstream and out with long chains.
  • Spray bramble in the vicinity of Big Rock and the removed trees mentioned above.
  • Built a rudimentary foot bridge over the Furth Stream with 2 gumpoles and some. chain near the confluence/Big Rock.
  • Do follow up bramble spraying in the valley of the Furth Stream.

As the money runs short, we will try more volunteer days again to get some of this done.  Watch this site for further info on those.

As seen from space…

Stoneycroft before (2013):

Before G Earth Stoneycroft 2013

And after, in the summer of 2019:

After G Earth Stoneycroft 2019

And the upper end of Furth in 2013:

Before G Earth upper Furth 2013

And upper Furth after….in the summer of 2019:

After G Earth upper Furth 2019

And the lower end of Furth before (in 2013):

Before G Earh 2013

And in the summer of 2019 after the very last of the clearing:

After G Earth 2019

Getting rid of the (acidic) stuff

In recent weeks a contractor has been working on the Furth stream to remove wattle branches and logs from the stream. The work was co-funded by the WWF and the NFFC. The work is now done, and the stream is looking great  from the perspective of a fisherman.

But here’s the thing:

“Soil pH and carbon were significantly different (p < 0.05) in the soils collected from under and outside [wattle] canopies . Soil pH was acidic (3.1) on soils collected from under canopies while soil from outside tree canopies was less acidic (5.5) “.

2010 University Thesis By
Hloniphani Peter Mthunzi Moyo

In recent days we also heard that a downstream farmer’s galvanised irrigation suction pipes had rusted through just two years after he replaced them.

We also read of Frank Sawyer, years ago in the UK, discovering that all the leaf matter in the chalk streams, from bankside trees that did not naturally belong there, had “soured the water” and made it acidic.

In  the KZN midlands, our soils are naturally acidic, and farmers spend a great deal of money putting down lime to counter this, and to make their fertilisers more available to plants in a more pH neutral environment.

Could it just be that removal of wattle trees on river banks, after the initial soil disturbance, could have a long term benefit to farmer’s soil management.

Modern thinking in environmental circles revolves round finding “Eco System services”, or as the Director of the Wild Trout Trust in the UK enlightened me to the more modern term,  “natural capital accounting”. This concept, in layman’s terms, involves finding an economic value to a restored environment, so that someone will pay to get it done.

Anyone out there want to attempt the calculation……what is the value in bought lime, of a cleared hectare of wattle upstream from your irrigation pump…..?

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0010.JPGJoe Gwamanda’s team working on the Furth Stream in late May 2019

We can see the difference!

Upper Umgeni River-28

The population and size of Trout has improved remarkably on the upper Umgeni.

Log clearing progress

Here is a 7 minute Youtube video showing maps and drone footage of the final steps of the WWF’s work on the Furth stream, namely clearing of logs from the stream bed.:

Progress video

2019/20 plans

Here’s an update of the status of the whole #BRU thing:

We have cleared about 10km of the Umgeni proper since 2013.  WWF have cleared about 5kms of the Furth tributary , plus more on Wakefield and Ivanhoe. Landowners above Furth Farm (on the Umgeni) have cleared too.    In summary,  all the remaining work is now maintenance and follow-up. There are exceptions, but for the most part, no more heavy machinery and chainsaws required.

The NFFC (and with WWF money allocated to NFFC) have enough money to:

  • Remove logs from the Furth stream below the waterfall (currently underway)
  • spray wattle saplings in the Furth Valley below the falls (planned for April 2019)
  • Follow up on about  5kms of whichever stretches of river have the most wattle/bramble regrowth in Oct/Nov 2019

And then our funds in the “Roy Ward Fund”  are depleted.

In the meantime, we continue to speak to “working for water implementing agents”, and participate in networking with other environmental agencies to see what might come up. We are hopeful that we could secure some working for water allocations in 2019.

And now it is time to start scratching our heads about further fund-raising to keep up the momentum.  Ideally we would like to secure enough money to do follow-up work along the entire length of riparian zone (32 m either side of the river)  on the Furth and Umgeni above the Dargle falls  (est 20kms)  every year for the next 5 years.

One can dream.


Furh log clearing sml-10

The dreamstream

The Dreamstream.

The Furth stream is the #Dreamstream.  The work continues. Jabulani and his crew removing all the lumber (and a wheel!)

How its looking now……

Umgeni River Trout-2

#BRU in The Mission fly mag

The Mission fly mag

Steep spots done…and more…all done!

Over the first 2 weeks of September  2018, we had five days of work on the steep spots at the lower end of Furth Farm, as planned and reported in the previous post here.

The work was challenging, with diesel outages, machine drivers going AWOL, snapped chains, angry bees  and all the difficulties that come with dropping trees off a cliff into deep pools and then trying to extract them with heavy chains and staff who don’t swim.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But we did it. And, an unspoken, overly ambitious goal to do another section below that, became a reality. We did it!

It feels like a significant milestone has been achieved.  At 3:30 pm last Wednesday, when staff were due to pack up, I said to Don Stirling “what about that one….its the last one”, and Don obliged and got his team to fell that last tree.  As far as I know, our days of heavy machinery and professional chainsaw gangs working in a wild whirr of noise, and bleeding money, are now over on the Umgeni.

It is done.


Much maintenance, and “parks and Gardens” type work lies ahead, and we need to go and inspect some areas cleared by WFW some years ago, but the big hairy audacious goal that we set ourselves is conquered.   It has  been 5 years and  hundreds of thousands of Rands, but the end result makes it all worthwhile.  Stand by for a chapter in which we share multiple pictures over the seasons, showing what it looks like now.  Perhaps we will go and search out the exact spots in which we took old photos and do some “before and afters”.

That is something to look forward to!

Steep spots next

In previous clearing exercises, we skipped 3 difficult steep patches  in the interests of not getting bogged down. In Nov 2017 we added them to the list when we cleared “Stoneycroft” of wattles, but we just never got that far.

Now it is time!

On Monday 4th September, Dons Tree fellers, and other volunteers and labourers, will arrive at Furth farm to do battle with those difficult spots.  We will be there Mon, Tues and Wed (4,5 and 6 Sept) and again the next week (11th and 12th).

We are going to start here: (see the trees  on the far bank : wattles among the forest trees)

Umgeni River-2

Then we will tackle this…those trees behind the fisherman: (its on a steep slope):


And then the ones that on this old photo hereunder, are below the vehicles in the background. (this is an old picture in which there was a thick stand of trees on both sides of the river….it is now much thinner than depicted here)



These areas are shown on this image in red:  (all the trees where there are yellow lines are gone already)

last bit


What we really need to make things go faster is a second one of these things:


Any offers?


Anyone willing to lend a hand in any way, please contact Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or

Zig and his drone

Zig Mackintosh, conservationist and movie maker, flying his drone over the Umgeni, to give us a birds-eye view of what has been achieved.


Zig has an idea about a series of movie clips….let’s see what he comes up with….

Roy’s Pool


During the cleanup:



and after:


Roys pool

Another B & A

Before and after:

Stoneycroft before (November 2017)


and after (April 2018)



We are thrilled with the progress!


She is quite good at avoiding the camera, but she has been a supporter and a hard worker from the start……on the river sowing grass seed, putting up stiles, walking up the Furth valley and along the river to check on progress of contractors.  Petro Fowler shares the vision: she is a #BRU enthusiast and supporter of the highest order!


2014…a “Before picture” on Brigadoon


The very last stile:  Big Rock just below the Furth stream junction with the Umgen

in the rain

In the rain!


Christmas 2017: seed planting and Stiles on Furth Farm


Seeding of the Furth stream banks


Planning for Spring

On a recent visit to the banks of the Umgeni, it was decided that an autumn bramble and wattle spraying would be difficult in view of the rank growth of summer.  The Umgeni was blessed with good summer rains, and has flushed and scoured beautifully, leaving gravel runs free of silt, and the river running clear and full.

Contractor Jabulani Mthalane’s advice was sought, and the plan is to wait until the bramble is in flower in November 2018, when both bramble and germinated wattles will be sprayed.


Jabulani surveys the banks at Stoneycroft, which were cleared of mature wattle trees in November 2017.

Status update May 2018

Visits to the Umgeni in late April and early May revealed that the teff and eragrostis planted at the end of 2017 has germinated well and has covered several spots previously left bare by wattle felling and fire.

teff germination -1

The river valley is however thick with blackjacks, as is commonly the case at this time of year, as well as a fair amount of bramble, and wattle seedlings have germinated where we previously cleared.  All this is normal, and to be expected however, and the landscape is looking great.

Geni April 2018-2

Fishermen enjoying the river are once again reporting brown trout being caught all along the length of river, in places where trout were previously few and far  between.  Good sized brown trout have also been spotted spawning in the shallows (and even captured on video).



On Friday 29th December 2017 a team of men planted grass seed on the banks of the recently cleared Furth Stream.

The area grassed is represented by the orange lines in the image below:

Grass seeding Dec 2017

(The red and green lines represent the boundaries of the area cleared by WWF and currently being maintained)

Thank you to the Natal Fly Fishers Club who supplied the seed in the interests of silt free water below, and to Jabulani Khuswayo and his superb team.


The Dargle Conservancy were recently given a list of confirmed bird sightings in the Dargle Valley, by Ian Guthrie.  To access the list of 252 birds (!) visit the Dargle Conservancy website and click on the link for the download.

The fruits of our labours

This is what we are working towards:  Well grassed banks, clear of wattles, as per the pool in the foreground of this picture. This is how the river looked before acacia mearnsii invaded. This pool was cleared and the banks re-grassed in 2016. Umgeni River-63

Germination trial


Petro Fowler sowing a mix of eragrostic curvula and eragrostis teff on ground left bare after clearing and burning.  Two academic papers supplied by WWF have somewhat contradictory reports on germination success of e curvula. Both seem to say e teff will germinate. Previous trials on the bank of the Umgeni itself showed disappointing germination.  7 Kg of mixed seed was sowed on Saturday 18th November on a section of the Furth stream valley, and was raked in deeper than the previous trail.  We will wait and see how it goes.


With summer rains upon us, it is clear that we urgently need to sow grass seed on areas left bare by the clearing activities of all parties.  The after effects of storms are clearly evident out in the open veld below bare patches, and in the streambeds  and in little tributaries and gulches……topsoil is shifting!  This is true of the Furth Stream area, as well as Stoneycroft, and we would do well to check smaller patches on Furth farm too.

The WWF have helped with literature on which species to use. The NFFC has bought some grass seed. The contractor on the Furth stream has done his best to lay branches across the slope (in line with the contour).

Furth Oct 25 2017-4



Now we need helpers with metal rakes and a spare morning.  How about it?

Volunteers can contact Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or mail


From the 7th to the 10th November, NFFC appointed contractor “Dons Tree Felling” worked together with hired labour and volunteers to clear another stretch of the Umgeni. Two TLB’s, and a tractor were used to pull old and fresh logs from the river. All streamside wattles were felled and removed, and the vast majority of logs were removed.




The stream banks still need to be cleared of brambles, but it would be true to say that the riverine landscape over just short of a kilometer has been restored to that of open grassland, and is looking great.  This brings the project to 8.5Kms of river cleared.


Thanks to The NFFC for funding the work from the Roy Ward Fund (in excess of R40,000), to Russell Watson and Irritech for machines, to Howard Long for chains, Dave Prentice and Dries Ellis from the NFFC and to Don Stirling of Dons Tree fellers. And a big thank you to the 20 or so men who performed this back breaking work.

Progress on the Furth Stream

On the 29th October, two committee members of the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) , were on the Furth stream to do the month end inspection of the WWF appointed contractor’s work.

This significant tributary of the Umgeni (as well as the Poort Stream and upper Wakefield Stream) are being cleared of wattle trees  by the WWF, who saw to initial clearing a while back, and are now partnering with the NFFC to achieve 2 years follow up work (2017/2018).  Trout Unlimited in the States have long held the view that “look after the tributaries, and you look after the river”. This project plays to that tune, and is seen by the NFFC as important to its fishery on the Umgeni River.

We had use of a drone, thanks to Mike Smith from Renen, and were able to take these awesome shots to show you all what Jabulani Mthalane has achieved since August.

Furth below waterfall before start of WWF work

Note: the two patches of trees at centre top have been cleared too, but were outside the flight path on the day. Note also that the mandate is to clear the left bank entirely, but only 30m from the stream on the right bank.

Furth below waterfall as at 29 Oct 2017


Mike retrieves the drone after the flight:


Mike’s generosity in doing the drone work, allows us to show the WWF project managers in Cape Town, where their money is being spent. And thanks to Mike’s computer literacy and enthusiasm, we even have a 3D model.  The areas still requiring follow up in coming months were photographed and mapped as well, which will give us excellent reference material to track the work.

Thank you Mike.



November 2017 work

On 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th November,  we will have Dons Tree Fellers, Russell Watson’s & Irritech’s  TLBs, and volunteers working to further clear the upper Umgeni.  We are clearing 3 very steep sections on Furth Farm, that require specialist tree feller skills. Once done there we will be moving upstream to the “Stoneycrofty” property to clear big log jambs in the river, fell and poison trees, and start with bramble spraying on another approx 0.9km of river.

These areas are marked in RED on the map excerpt below:

The plan

We are in need of more manual (non specialised) labour to pull branches, tie and untie chains, and spray bramble.

Anyone able to come along and bring a few workers:  The Natal Fly Fishers Club  will re-imburse you for your labourer’s daily wage.

For detail or to volunteer, please call Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or mail

A Red Sock day

These two photos were taken from exactly the same spot, 6 years apart.

Furth farm, upper Umgeni River:

Before. Roy, October 2011


After. Rogan, September 2017


The top photo is of Roy Ward. He may have been wearing his red socks that day, but the river was full, so you can’t see them. In the lower photo his son Rogan wears his late  Dad’s socks. I got him to pose for me, knowing that back home I had a picture from this same spot, from back when his Dad and I explored this part of the Umgeni together and spoke of our dream to remove the choking wattles.  It was a dream that Roy and I shared. He committed huge effort and energy to the task, and just this week, his son and I visited the river, and I showed Rogan what his Dad and I have started, and what has been achieved so far.

It was a special day. A red sock day perhaps, in which Rogan and I were as unsuccessful in the fishing as his Dad and I often were, but in which we celebrated everything that Roy stood for.

Follow up no 1

Having felled a great many wattles, the ground is now open to the sunlight along stretches of the Umgeni that were previously shaded. The sunlight (as well as fire), prompt the germination of seeds.

Unfortunately this continues for a proven 50 years after the trees are gone!  Yes FIFTY!

So regular follow ups to remove saplings is essential.

The Natal Fly Fishers Club, has employed DUCT to facilitate and manage a team of river workers , who are part of a Government “expanded Public Works Programme”. The NFFC accepted DUCT’s quote for the management, and the team has been working all of this week (Sept 11 to 15, 2017) and will work into next week to get the work done.

They are felling and poisoning all saplings and ring barking any trees that we may have missed in #BRU1. They are doing this in a 60 metre wide band down the valley (30m either side of the stream), over a length of 7.5Kms.


Dargle Local Living

Dargle Local living covered our walk along the Umgeni that happened on the morning of our fundraising dinner on May 7th 2017.  Nikki Brighton covers the walk and the background HERE

The Furth Stream

The Worlwide Fund for Nature, with donations from Nedbank and others, has taken responsibility for clearing two tributaries of the Upper Umgeni, namely the Poort Stream, and the Furth Stream. After the initial clearing in earlier years, WWF commenced with follow up work in mid 2017.

Following relocation of the WWF project manager to Cape Town, the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) has stepped in and volunteered to project manage the work on a day to day basis.  Contractor Jabulani is doing a great job,  and as at date of this, over a kilometre of the Furth stream is again flowing in sunshine, between banks that should cover with grass in the spring.

Furth 25 Aug 2017-7

Follow up work will continue throughout 2018. Thereafter the baton is handed to the farm owner to keep up the good work, in terms of the WWF stewardship program.

TU Greetings

In this video clip, Duke Welter of TUDARE wishes us well with our fundraiser and #BRU2 and tells us a bit about their projects in the Driftless:

Greeting from TU

Gordon’s donation

Gordon Van Der Spuy is an animated and excitable actor from Cape Town. He is also a fly-fisherman and fly tyer , and a passionate one at that. In 2016 Gordon started an annual, national fly fishing and fly tying expo. At the 2017 event (the second one), Gordon auctioned off a number of donated items to raise funds.

R21,500 of the proceeds of that auction were then donated to the Natal Fly Fisher’s Club, for the #BRU2 project.

Thank you Gordon. We salute you.  The funds will be used sparingly and carefully to achieve great things!

The Fundraiser

Watch the footage of the project story and the landmark fundraiser for #BRU2:

Click here for the professional video clip:

The fundraiser story

An invitation

On  the morning of Saturday 6th May 2017, a guided, 7 km  morning walk will be held along the banks of the upper Umgeni River.

All are welcome:  No charge


This is a casual stroll, suitable for kids, partners, fishermen and conservationists alike. It aims to showcase and celebrate what has been achieved to date, and highlight future plans for stream restoration, but above all it is intended as a pleasant morning hike in beautiful countryside.

The walk is to be guided by Andrew Fowler who says:



All you need to bring is a hat, reasonable walking shoes, and a water bottle. A camera and binoculars may prove useful.

You can leave your car at Il Postino, and jump in with someone else, or drive up in convoy to Brigadoon farm (+-16 kms from Il Postino). There we can leave cars parked at the dairy, and will be dropped off in a 4 X 4 at the lower boundary, to walk upriver, to be collected again at the end of the walk and brought back on the back of the 4 X 4 to our cars.

Each participant will receive a booklet about the upper Umgeni, with details about its history, fishing, birdlife etc. Along the walk, milestones, wattle clearing projects, good fishing spots and the like will be pointed out.


Head back to Il Postino afterwards for a pizza lunch and craft beer.

Il Postino is along the Dargle Road, just 4.8kms from Piggy Wiggly on the midlands meander.  Accurate directions : click this blue link HERE

Questions?  Phone Andrew on 082 57 44 262 or email

For planning purposes, please drop Andrew an sms/Whatsapp or e-mail to advise if you plan to join in, but even if you have not, you are still welcome on the day.

Quick details:

Where: Il Postino Pizzeria, Impendle Road, lower Dargle, and on to Brigadoon, 16kms further up the road

When:  gather at 8:00 am, leave for Brigadoon at 8:30 am on Saturday 6th May 2017

Bring: Walking shoes, hat, water bottle, Binos, camera

Suitable for: Fishermen, birders, hikers, families, kids (say over 6yrs of age)

Cost:  Nil



Lucky 13. That is the number of stiles now erected over about 7.5kms of the Umgeni, to allow fishermen to hike and fish all that water without having to climb through a barbed wire fence. What a pleasure! The last of the stiles were erected in the rain on Saturday 4th March by Anton Smith, Roy Ward, Nunu O’Connor and Andrew Fowler.




#BRU officially ended at the end of 2016.

That is because it was originally decided that people would have a stomach for all the hard work for a limited period of time, before it became ‘stale’, and they started to lose interest, at least to some degree.

It has been a fantastic experience, and we have transformed a piece of Trout stream. 98 of the 100 limited edition copies of the book “Stippled Beauties” are sold, and the last two will no doubt go soon. Either way the full proceeds together with all other donations have been spent. (About R120,000!)  There are a few wattles left here and there on steep sections, and from time to time a log jam may need some work, and some bramble will need to be sprayed.

Re-growth of wattles WILL be a big issue, and we will have to team up with the farmer for a day or two a year to go work on saplings before they get too big to manage by hand.


So we are done, right?

Well……we are speaking to some landowners upstream of where we have worked about access to their water, and they might be inclined to help us if we help them. And WWF have come good on their promise to do 2 years follow up on the tributary known as “The Furth”, and if we were to work alongside them, we could clear that to create a great small stream fishery.  And then two different fly fishing bodies have come forward with offers of SUBSTANTIAL fundraising to do more…….


Watch this space.

Why stiles?

We believe that part of keeping the upper Umgeni a pristine environment, is to make it a treasured place to many people. That way people will visit, and pull out the odd wattle for example. For it to be treasured, people should visit it often. And to visit it often, they need to enjoy being there.

Fly-fishermen enjoy their day more if the don’t have to deal with alien invasive bramble, and if they don’t have difficult fences to clamber through.

So bramble gets sprayed, and we put up these fence stiles for those hiking the river banks:


Lucky Mthalane and Zithulele Zuma putting up a fence stile. They were part of the team that cleared logs from the pool in the background earlier in the year.  

Stream restoration by flyfishers across the globe

It is always encouraging to see what others are doing to improve and restore rivers elsewhere, and to scout for potential advisors for the future.

Here is what the Wild Trout Trust are up to in the UK on the river Dever:

Wild Trout Trust

Here’s what is troubling fly-fishermen on the Smalblaar in the Western Cape, together with a very level headed response from the Cape Piscatorial Society:

Water Warriors

And a good summary of what is being achieved by TUDARE in Crawford County, in the Driftless area of Wisconsin:


It is good to see flyfishers actively restoring environments!

19 November 2016

This time around we have no hired contractors, and we are completely dependent on YOU, the volunteer!


Here is your chance to join the last volunteer day on the Umgeni for 2016 and be part of the #BRU initiative.

At 8:00 am on Saturday 19th November volunteers will gather at Il Postino restaurant in the Dargle, to travel up to the upper Umgeni in convoy and do battle with bramble.

Various parties have donated or lent items such as knapsack sprayers and chemicals. The plan is to start at the upper boundary, and for a team to line up either side of the river, and to work downstream, spraying bramble plants alongside the river. You will have a “support vehicle” mixing and re-supplying knapsacks with Garlon spray.

Any additional volunteers will cut and paint wattle saplings that have re-grown, or assist with the erection of fencing stiles.

You will need to bring:

  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Plenty to drink
  • a picnic lunch
  • and if you have: a bushknife, knapsack or rose sprayer, a small bowsaw.

There is no need to RSVP, and you can decide to join at the last minute.

If you DO plan to attend it would be useful for planning purposes to know you are coming, so please do drop an e-mail to : with your cellphone number and first name, and we will add you to the whatsapp group.

If it rains, we will delay to the following day (Sunday 20th), and if that days is also hampered by weather we plan to re-group on Saturday 26th November…same time, same place. Postponement or other important info will be advised on the Natal Fly Fisher’s Club (NFFC) Facebook page and on the above whatsapp group.

We hope to see you there!




Blue what?

A number of people have asked what the term “Blue Ribbon” is all about. Some have even misquoted it as “Blue River”….even in print.

The term “Blue Ribbon Fishery” is one used extensively by government and other organisations in the United States, and was coined as early as the 1970’s. By the early 1990’s publications were regularly referring to the term, and there are now many books bearing the term in their titles or subtitles.

Wikipedia defines Blue Ribbon water as follows:

Continue reading “Blue what?”

It is done

Well….largely done….








With thanks to :

  • Don’s Tree Fellers
  • Russell Watson
  • DUCT
  • Alfred Zuma & team
  • Roy Ward
  • Anton Smith
  • Howard Long
  • Murray Hibbs
  • Irritech

Polishing it off

This is the last piece of river on Furth/Rathmines farm that needs heavy pulling power to rid the river bank of heavy wattle infestation:

last bit

At top right of the picture you can see the brush piles from work undertaken in 2015.Above that the purple arrow denotes where there is a crossing. We can get tractors across there (this is the ONLY access), and get to the northern river banks, and work where the yellow lines run. We think we can also fell the trees on the very steep southern banks denoted in red, and drag them across onto the northern side.

By way of scale:  the red lines are 155 metres and  180 metres in length respectively. The yellow lines total about 650 metres. We estimate that this will take 3 days work, with a TLB and tractor, 8 chainsaws, and about 15 labourers. The TLB and tractors have been offered with fuel and drivers by the landowner. Much of the labour will be supplied by the owners of the north bank (Ross Poultry Breeders), and helpers have been offered by DUCT. The cost of the chainsaw gang for 3 days is R24,000.. We are checking with the donors…we might JUST have enough to do it.

After this the remaining trees will be within the capability of the odd volunteer day here and there, and can be incorporated into the yearly ongoing maintenance hereon out.

One nagging small patch just off the picture (top left) where we cant get a tractor either side of the river……but we can do this one tree at a time.

So there we go…this is all that is left to break the back of it!

The NFFC is not new to this.

Did you know, that the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC) was busy working on the Umgeni as far back as 1974!

Inspiration from the USA

Several fly-fishing articles have appeared in recent months and years in the online media about flyfishing for Trout in the Driftless area of the USA, such as this one in a publication called “a Tight Loop”. [Lost in Wisconsin, Pg 112]

If you have a look at these and other pictures, you will see that the landcape looks remarkably like that of the Umgeni and other KZN meadow streams, like the middle Mooi River.

Josh Glovinsky Driftless article
Photo from “A Tight Loop”, from the article by Josh Glovinsky

Spurred by these similarities, our attention has been drawn to that area’s own stream restoration and conservation efforts, spearheaded by Trout Unlimited in the USA. In fact TU has a conglomeration of chapters and projects described more fully as TU DARE (Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort)

Read HERE about what they are doing. We hope this will inspire the reader to see the vision for the Umgeni, and some of the background, bigger picture and holistic outlook for #BRU.

Spring success

On the last 2 days of August, the Umgeni valley on Furth farm was again disturbed by a roar of chainsaws and tractors.

Together with Don’s Tree Felling, DUCT, Ross Poultry Breeders, Russell Watson, and NFFC members, numerous trees were felled and dragged away, and some massive log-jams were cleared. We were working downstream from where we ended up in April, and succeeded in closing the last kilometer or so, to where we had previously been working upstream.

We again worked on both sides of the stream, this time felling numerous trees on the north bank, that extended well up the hillsides.

Furth cleanup (1 of 7)


In other words, with the exception of 2 very steep sections of about 150 metres each, the southern banks of the Umgeni on this 6.5Km stretch are now free of wattles!

The Umgeni is now a delight to walk and to fish. #BRU Stalwart Roy Ward, together with Andrew Fowler, and visiting Trevor Sithole enjoyed a morning out on the river on opening day, the 1st September:


But the fat lady has not yet sung:  We have bramble spraying to do, and those 2 steep sections to tackle. There is also more to do on the northern banks. Then the dead bramble and piles of brush will need to be burnt, but these are the last steps, and there is a sense of conquest!


Future Plans

What do we hope to achieve before the end of 2016?

  • A day (funded by the NFFC) with contractors clearing the last 1 Km or so of the south bank on Upper Furth.
  • A volunteer day in October to spray bramble: all the bramble in the top say 3km…a big job, but achievable with about a dozen knapsack sprayers in one day.
  • Encouragement and support for Ross Poultry Breeders to press ahead with their undertaking to clear their +-5kms of the northern bank on Rathmines farm.
  • The last 20 or so copies of the limited edition book need to be sold to fund some more contractor work. Books will be on sale at the fly-fishing expo in the Western Cape on 30th July 2016.
  • If funds allow:  tackle the wattles growing on 3 very steep spots on the South bank.
  • Felling wattles on a stretch of 900m above Furth farm, that will be accessible to us from this month onwards
  • Follow up work on Chestnuts farm to remove saplings and evaluate what needs to be done there in future.
  • Start minor follow up on the lower sections of Brigadoon and Furth that were cleared over the last 3 years….pull out/spray wattle saplings and bramble.


And finally:  To hold a celebratory family day on the river near year’s end, to walk the river, fish it, perform Mini SASS tests, and enjoy what all the contributors to this wonderful initiative have achieved over the three years.

NFFC donates again

We are delighted that the Natal Fly Fishers Club (NFFC), voted unanimously at their June committee meeting, to donate another R10,000 to the #BRU initiative.

The funds will be used to hire in contractors to clear the last continuous kilometer or so of the south bank of the Umgeni on Furth farm, and if time and resources permit, to start to tackle the two steep spots, which until now have been bypassed.

Furth cleanup (1 of 7)

The above picture shows the last stretch of Umgeni still to be tackled on the south (right hand)  bank.

Schoolboys get stuck in

On Friday the 27th May 2016 schoolboys from Michaelhouse and St Johns College (JHB) joined forces and spent the morning doing follow up work on a stretch of the upper Umgeni River.

Chestnuts (1 of 1)-3

The area tackled (just above the Dargle falls) had previously been cleared , both by “working for water” several years ago, and by landowners William Griffin and Chris Howie. As will become the case with all the areas cleared to date, this was follow-up work, eradicating re-growth of wattle and bug weed. This work, although arguably less glamorous that the felling of big trees, is going to become critical if we want to prevent the area reverting back to its overgrown condition.


The boys, with guidance from their respective teachers, Riegardt Kotze  and Andrew Caldwell, as well as Roy Ward and Andrew Fowler, did a superb job, cutting and poisoning stems.  Amongst other things the boys learned that these rivers get cold in winter; how to hold onto a panga tight when cutting; and not to walk through bramble barefoot!

Chestnuts (1 of 1)

Thanks to the boys, their schools, and the committed teachers. Thanks also to the Natal Fly Fishers Club for providing pangas, saws and gloves and to TWK Howick for discounted pricing on these items. We are thankful to Doug Burdon of DUCT who arranged chemicals to stop re-growth.  And to Will Griffin and Craig Howie, who had staff working on the river on the same day.


Before and after


the corner 2013

and after:

the corner 2016

and a little downstream….

Before (note areas ringed in blue)

2013 google earth

and after (note same areas ringed in red):

2016 google earth






Autumn success

In the last week of April a team of contractors from Don’s tree fellers, The Branch Manager, DUCT, and employees of Russel Watson did battle with wattles. This time around, work started at the top boundary of Furth farm. The plan had been to try to work down to where we had got to in our upward work in March, some 1.4kms from the top boundary. We didn’t get there. This however, does not signal a failure:  We found a good river drift that allowed us to work both sides of the river with tractors. As a result we cleaned both sides completely, which is something we have not done before. It meant we only did about 650m of river, but the results are fantastic.

Furth cleanup (1 of 1)

We had a TLB plus two 4X4 tractors and a team of workers from Russel, who, together with Don and Duncan’s guys hauled every last wattle tree and old log out of the river and up the hill out of the floodplain.  Added to that we had extra chains courtesy of farmer Howard Long, so we were able to shuttle chains and keep the tractors moving, or alternatively haul logs from way up on firm ground.

Continue reading “Autumn success”

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