Chelmsford Dam – Nov 2019

Last year on the way back from our visit to Thatcher’s Rest we noticed Chelmsford Dam stretching to our left not far from Newcastle. We thought it looked promising and read up more about it when we got home, but never really considered it. This year when we realized we were going to be in that area again we decided to make it part of our trip.


Unfortunately, the fishing (where we were) turned out being very slow. The extreme weather on day one did not help either, we got blown away by some strong winds. We persevered however and eventually caught a single baby barbel. Not great but at least we got something.

chelmsford dam waves
Windy day at Chelmsford Dam
chelmsford dam strike
At last Martin caught a fish
chelmsford dam barbel
A baby barbel

The weather improved dramatically over the next couple of days and when it’s calm you realise how beautiful this place can be. It reminded us of Sterkfontein Dam to an extent with the Free State hills in the distance. Unfortunately, the fishing remained quite slow and we only managed a few more small barbel. 

chelmsford dam day 3
View of the fishing area
chelmsford dam casting
Martin ready to cast

Of course, there was fish movement everywhere we went, we just couldn’t catch them. We later figured out that the fish we saw jumping were Natal yellowfish or scalies. They are almost identical to the smallmouth yellowfish we get in the Vaal-Oranje system when small, but they are a very different species. It would have been a massive bonus to catch one of these and tick another species off the list but I guess we’ll have to return to achieve that… 

The water at Chelmsford Dam was this weird milky color which we’ve never seen before. Initially we thought it was because of the heavy winds and rainfall in the area but we were told by the locals that it’s always this color. Really strange.

Anyway, we also tried for bass but even that was a fail. There is bass in Chelmsford but apparently they are mostly around the mouth of the river flowing into the dam. So again we were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

chelmsford dam bass
Trying for bass

On the last day, we were told of a seminar being held by the guys from FISH at the nearby fishing area called Redsands so we decided to go have a look (since we weren’t catching any fish anyway). Here we met up with the owner of FISH, Andre, who explained that we were probably casting too deep. The area in front of the chalets is very deep and this particular weekend the fish were quite shallow due to the weather.

chelmsford dam fish
FISH had a seminar at Chelmsford Dam

So with that, we left Chelmsford Dam empty-handed but we still had a great time and at least we now know how to target the Natal yellowfish when we return…

chelmsford dam leokop
Leokop chalets

Arriving at the front gate at Chelmsford Dam we were surprised at the decent shop in reception. If we had known that we definitely would not have ventured into busy Ladysmith to get basic supplies like wood and ice.

From there the drive down to the chalets was quick and we were welcomed by what looked like the perfect fishing spot. There were even some zebra walking around.

chelmsford dam zebras
We had a couple of visits from zebra

The 4-bed chalet itself was comfortable and had everything you need, there was even DSTV (on a decent bouquet). There are 8 of them and it’s really good value for money at R600 per night.

Here’s what they look like inside…

chelmsford dam kitchen
The kitchen area
chelmsford dam chalet room 1
First bedroom in the chalet
chelmsford dam chalet room 2
The second bedroom in the chalet at Chelmsford Dam, KwaZulu-Natal
chelmsford dam lounge
View of the lounge from the kitchen
chelmsford dam view from chalet lounge
The view from the lounge

And in case you were wondering here’s a satellite view of the Chelmsford Dam area as well as how the chalets are laid out within the reserve.

chelmsford dam reserve redsands
Layout of the reserve
chelmsford dam chalets numbers 1-8
Chelmsford Dam chalets numbers 1-8

In terms of fishing we had a less than successful weekend for various reasons. But we still had a fantastic time. The location and views are beautiful and the accommodation comfortable. Hopefully we’ll return one day to catch a scaly 🙂

If you are staying at the chalets remember that it’s apparently quite deep (9m) right in front.

(2 days)

barbel x4 (small)

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