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:

  • Water quality and quantity: A body of water, warm or cold, flowing or flat, will be considered for Blue Ribbon status if it has sufficient water quality and quantity to sustain a viable fishery.
  • Water accessibility: The water must be accessible to the public.
  • Natural reproduction capacity: The body of water should possess a natural capacity to produce and maintain a sustainable recreational fishery. There must be management strategies that will consistently produce fish of significant size and/or numbers to provide a quality angling experience.
  • Angling pressure: The water must be able to withstand angling pressure.
  • Specific species: Selection may be based on a specific species.


So, it is not a term I made up!

I first heard about it in the early 1990’s.

In fact I remember coining the term “Blue Ribbon Umgeni” to a kombi load of fly-fishers traveling back from a fly fishing festival in Somerset East in 1996. I was telling them of my dream to tidy the river up, and to ensure its availability to more fly-fishermen, and how it might become an asset to the riparian owners. Here is a link to that story, and how it got started: LINK

OK, so it took me 17 years to actually do something about it, but hey…I got there eventually!


So how does the Upper Umgeni stack up as Blue Ribbon water?


  • Water quality and quantity:  Pretty good. We are hoping to reduce silt loads and increase flow by removing wattles and re-grassing, but there is in any event no pollution on the stretch we are looking at.
  • Water accessibility: The Natal Fly Fishers Club (which anyone can join….no waiting list), has access to 12 kms of the 17km stretch in question.
  • Natural reproduction capacity: The Umgeni has always produced Trout all on its own..so it is sustainable…even in a drought. Possibly not in large numbers, but in the South African context we perhaps don’t want that anyway, as they would all end up small.
  • Angling pressure: The Umgeni can withstand a LOT MORE fishing than it currently gets.
  • Specific species: Brown Trout.