The Smallmouth Yellowfish (Labeobarbus aeneus) is also known as the Vaal Orange Smallmouth Yellowfish, due to it’s range and where it occurs naturally. 

The Smallmouth Yellowfish starts out as a small silver coloured fish, that grows up to be a large brightly coloured yellow and golden coloured species. They have many nicknames, and Gold is often a word used to describe them.

These fish are so beautiful, and are one of the strongest fighting fish in South Africa.

The Smallmouth Yellowfish on fly is arguably the most fished for freshwater fish species on fly in South Africa.

Many people wonder how to tell the difference between smallmouth and largemouth Yellowfish? This is a tough one.

Generally it is almost impossible to tell the difference between the two Yellowfish species when they are smaller. As they grow larger, the Largemouth Yellowfish becomes more distinct with it’s larger more upward pointing mouth.

The eyes on the Largemouth Yellowfish are also situated more towards the top of the head, compared to the Smallmouth Yellowfish where the eyes are more on the side of the head. You can see this by looking up at the fish, which is easier said than done. The adult Largemouth Yellowfish has a larger head and a more prolonged mouth area.




Prefers clear flowing waters of large rivers with sandy or rocky substrates. Also thrives in large impoundments.

Also can be found in a variety of Locations: many Eastern Cape and Western Cape rivers, the Vaal and Orange systems, and dams such as Vanderkloof and the legendary Sterkfontein Dam, where some of the most beautiful Yellowfish can be caught.


The Smallmouth Yellowfish is an omnivore and eats a variety of things. It will consume aquatic plants, algae, insects, crustaceans, invertebrates, snails and fish.


The fishing

The most common methods of catching Smallmouth Yellowfish are on nymphs, with nymphing techniques such as Czech Nymphing, Short Line Nymphing and the New Zealand Nymphing methods. Short line nymphing is our personal favourite, where you use two nymphs. A heavy nymph (Such as a Brassie), which is the control fly, and then a smaller nymph (Such as a Hotspot) tied to the base of the control fly. This is called the point fly. You can fish this method under a strike indicator, or you can watch the tip of your line. It is called short line nymphing simply because you barely cast the fly. You cast a tiny bit of line out in front of you, and let it drift, and then cast again and so forth. You are in complete control of the line, and it is best fished behind and adjacent to rocks in the shallows or rapids and white water in deeper areas. You can use a slit shot or two to get the fly down to the bottom quicker. There are a variety of great Yellowfish flies you can use.


Gear and equipment

A 5 to 6 weight fly rod and reel, paired with a floating line is perfect for this application. Tippet of about 10 lbs is the strength we would recommend. You can catch Yellowfish on dry flies, in rapids, on dams (Such as Vanderkloof and Sterkfontein), and in the calmer pools and areas of large rivers. Small stream dry fly fishing for Smallmouth Yellowfish can be done as well. They often rise, and catching Smallmouth Yellowfish on dry fly is truly exhilarating. They will take big dry flies, and sight fishing for them is amazing.



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