Blue Ribbon Umgeni

#BRU Restoring the Umgeni as a trout stream



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.

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


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.



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

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.

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!

NFFC work parties:



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