Recently I decided to drop in on a new piece of water that’s been haunting me. Blueliners will know how unknown possibilities can chip away at you. You just gotta scratch that itch. The water looked small , thin and off colour due to rains. Doubt started welling up as I “trekked” downstream to a suitable starting point. Per fact there should be fish in this stream…But is there? I surveyed the head of a pool and crept into position trying to get a feel for the place since I couldn’t see into the water. I dropped a tentative cast in there. The fish took the nymph on the dropped and my click-n-pawl sang like a morning canary…SURPRISE!


Now a fish on a first cast can be a bad thing at times if your’e the superstitious kind .The rest of the morning  panned out superstitious free and a couple more followed. Some were strong fish in thin water, hunting ‘trikes’ (trico-nymphs).


I got a solid take in a bucket between some boulders that held promise. When I brought the fish to hand, I got my biggest SURPRISE. I noticed that it had an odd-looking mouth. There were no signs of  injury and it looked like this could very well be an Incomati chiselmouth (Varicorhinus nelspruitenis). It could also be a deformed smallmouth yellowfish, because this fish is very much outside of the chiselmouth  distribution. But the more I study the photos (I’ve included all below) ,the more I’m convinced it could be a chiselmouth. I would appreciate any feedback from fish fundi’s  and anglers familiar with chiselmouth?


Note the olive dorsal colouration with white belly and darker olive edged scales along the lateral line


Note the single short barbel





  1. Leonard Flemming 19 May, 2015 at 11:51 - Reply

    Hi Herman, I agree with you that the mouth-parts, head and colour of the fish looks a lot like that of the Incomati chiselmouth. Do you perhaps have a clear photo of the whole fish (full length)? Great catch if it’s what we believe it is!

  2. Rudolph Venter 19 May, 2015 at 12:29 - Reply

    Looks like a deformed yellowfish, chiselmouth are found with smallscale yellowfish. The Vaal won’t have it.

  3. Herman Botes 20 May, 2015 at 09:43 - Reply

    These are unfortunately the only pics , as I assumed it is a deformed smallmouth.Guess I will have to go back in Spring to see if there is more

  4. Sean I'Ons 17 August, 2015 at 23:10 - Reply

    A Chiselmouth is called that as it has a straight underslung mouth which is quite wide compared to that in your photographs.
    The fish you caught is a Smallmouth with a deformed mouth and definitely not a Chiselmouth.
    Target Chiselmouths in Upper Sabi river around Pilgrims Rest / Graskop area.

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