In recent years, maize production in South Africa has faced challenges related to climate change which have prompted farmers to adapt their production activities. We assessed factors informing the adaptive decision-making of maize farmers in the Vaal catchment by examining linkages between farmers’ experiences, their perceptions of climate change and the adaptation strategies they use. Data were collected through semi-structured household-level interviews, key informant interviews and focus group discussions. Catchment climate data were also collected to determine key 30 yr trends (1989-2018) and the farmers’ level of awareness about these trends. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, Mann-Kendall (MK) test, Sen’s slope test, climate anomalies and multinomial logit modelling. Results suggest that maize farmers in the catchment are aware of climate change (95%), with many of them referring to it as ‘a shift in climate’. This perceived ‘shift’ is supported by meteorological data, as the MK test confirmed a decreasing inter-annual precipitation trend (-0.149) and a decreasing trend at the onset of the maize planting season (-0.167), with temperature showing an increasing trend (0.470). These trends have inspired the adoption of a range of timing-related responses and other farming and off-farm adaptations. Modelling results revealed farmer perception, farmer typology and the nature of maize production (rainfed) as some of the variables with a deciding influence on the nature of the adaptation employed. The study confirms the importance of understanding intersections between qualitative and quantitative variables in triggering adaptive responses. Current strategies need to be expanded and supplemented to improve resilience and prevent maladaptation.