Catfish on the Fly in South Africa

by Guest Author Terry Babich
A couple of months ago Terry contacted me about doing a guest article for fly fishing for Catfish in South Africa. Here is Terry’s article and pictures. Enjoy.

Terry’s Bio:

Fished in several national championships as a competitive course and light tackle boat angler for freshwater species
Competed in fly fishing for South Africa in 4 International championships including world and commonwealth championships
Fly fishing nationals coach for South Africa and coach for the ladies national team
Hold three registered IFGA World Records of which two are still current
Currently offering courses as a casting and fly tying instructor
Offer tutorials and guiding for carp, grass carp, yellow fish, mudfish and trout.
Have written several articles about the different species


Catfish on the Fly in South Africa

According to IGFA the sharptooth catfish is the most widely spread species of fish in Africa. You would think that is would be one of the most targeted fish species. It is targeted by subsistence fisherman throughout the continent and is a high source of protein . a government initiative was started for farm this fish as a cheap source of food for the local peolple but instaed this has become a big export opportunity.

The angling potential for this fish is mostly through course anglers using bait and only a few people actually target this fish with a fly. Unfortunately fly fishing in South Africa is mostly available and associated with people who have a far higher income than average and is largely trout based. This said, the irony of catfish actually allows it to be targeted very cost effectively due to its abundant and wide distribution as indigenous fish species. Despite this it is probably not targeted by fly fisherman due to the fact that is just downright ugly.

This is the my favourite fish to target because I don’t have to travel far to find it . There are well populated city dams nearby. The size and strength of this fish makes it a very attractive species to target on light fly rod tackle. It grows even bigger than grass carp and the common carp with the with IGFA world record at well over 40kg. Fish of this size are rarely seen and are mostly found in the warmer climes of the Orange River. An angler would do well to catch a fish of over 20kg. In fact there is possible less than 10 fly fisherman in South Africa who can boast that they have landed a fish on fly over 20kg.

I have developed a very unusual method for targeting catfish on fly . These fish are the ultimate opportunist come predator . They will eat almost anything regardless if it moves or not. I look for schools of fish and cast to rising fish splashing the flies where I see them rise . I will cast two or three times on the same spot and let the flies sink. The fish will either sit on the bottom waiting for the flies to sink or he will come up to chase after them . It is best to target these fish in shallow water so that they can easily find the flies. Normally I would use a fast sinking and a slow sinking fly fished in tandem allowing me to make the most of fishing all of the water column.

I have watched many videos of catfish around the world and I am convinced that the same method would produce catfish of all species and of much greater size than what we have available to us here in South Africa. I am convinced that some of your more aggressive catfish species in the United States would be easily caught on this method. That is if no one is already using it. I developed this method of fly fishing many years ago. Today it is recognised as the main way to catch catfish allowing anglers to often catch more that 30 fish a day with some of us being able to catch more than 100 fish in a morning. Its great fun try it….


Terry Babich


babich barbel bugger

BBB (babich babel bugger) fly on a thin wire stinger hook for easy penetration on strikes with light fly tackle



carptugger weighted fly

Carp tugger fly – weighted to allow for plopping sound when hitting the water



Terry Babich with a 18kg (39 3/4 lbs) fish caught at Bloemhof dam. One of 86 catfish and 22 carp landed for the day. The two species are often found together



Close up of this alien looking fish




16kg (35 1/4 lb) fish Bloemhof dam



Gertrude Babich with a nice fish caught on the Vaal dam. These fish are great sport an can be easily targeted by ladies and youngsters alike, particularly because they are mostly caught on short casts to rising fish