Mar 25

Makhangoa Community Camp: 19 – 23 March 2015

Winter is approaching fast in the mountains of Lesotho.  Heavy autumn rains have caused havoc in the catchment area of the Bokong river claiming 1 victim who got washed away by the strong currents while trying to cross a swollen river.  The local man from Motswedi village upstream from Makhangoa was only found days later when the river subsided a bit. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

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On the fishing front, the bulk of the yellowfish have moved out of the river at the end of the spawning season by early March and into the Katse dam where they can be caught against the steep banks and in the weedbeds as they forrage for food.  Autumn is hopper time in Lesotho. Garth Wellman and Armand Flies enjoyed a crazy session casting big hoppers at cruising fish from high on the steep and slippery slope, risking both limb and rod to get an eat and were rewarded with some very good fish.

 

 

John spent time on his small inflatable duck with trolling motor cruising the margins and casting stimulators to rising yellows landing a number of good size fish.

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The next day Garth and Armand fished a very swollen river and were rewarded with a very good yellowfish taken from ‘Homepool’.  High waters made it impossible to  fish the river using conventional upstream tactics so the guides had to come up with some new ways to target the big rainbows moving into the system.

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Standing waist deep in the head of the run, casting huge streamers on intermediate and sinking lines across the fast current, then allowing the fly to swing down while stripping line proved to be very successful.  The rainbows were hitting the flies hard so the guys spent most of the time ripping and stripping big flies through the runs and pools hoping to latch onto that all elusive 10 pounder that all trout fisherman are after.  Unfortunately no 10 pounders were landed on this trip but everyone got some big trout as well as yellows. The fish of the week being a hefty yellowfish landed by Garth while swinging flies in the estuary just below camp.  This is what the guides call fishing for “Katse Steelhead”.

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It was a very good week with some great fishing and great company.

The trout season is now in full swing and there are still plenty of yellowfish to be caught in the dam so get your float tubes ready, pack your sinking lines and come visit us at the Makhangoa Community Camp.

See you on the water.

Pierre

4

Mar 10

Sette Cama, Gabon – 27 Feb to 3 March 2015

After months of planning and excitement, we finally welcomed Russel & Kenneth Collins, Guy Mccormack, Dave & Sandy Bell, Marnus & Tinus van Zyl, and Jack to Sette Cama.

The guys arrived quite late in the day, so after a short briefing, we went through all the tackle setting up rods, and headed out for a quick evening session. The fishing was a little slow but by last light a small shoal of Jacks came into the surf. They stayed quite far out but we still managed to land a couple smaller fish leaving the guys eager for the early morning session.

The first morning we headed out at 4am to make the most of the last bit of the outgoing tide in the dark before the sun starts rising and the tide starts pushing back into the river. Fishing sinking stick baits and Orion Plugs slowly on the bottom, the guys concentrated and worked hard for the early morning snapper but to no avail. By first light though, we saw some tarpon rolling in the surf but the Jacks decided to crash the party as well. Eating most lures moving fast, they still preferred a 2oz Sea Iron spoon worked just above the bottom. Everyone got stuck into the frenzy and countless jacks were brought to the beach. Dave Bell really capitalised and landed 10 by himself in almost as many casts.

Kenneth(left) and Dave with one of many Jack Double Ups

Kenneth(left) and Dave with one of many Jack Double Ups

By 9am the fish went off the bite and everyone headed back to camp for a well deserved breakfast and siesta before the evening session.

After an early dinner at 4:30pm, we headed back to the surf accompanied by heavy looking clouds and wind. Unfortunately the weather seemed to push the fish down and the guys managed to land only a handful of jacks and one nice cuberra snapper.

For the morning session on Day 2, the guys decided to split up. Guy and Jack headed to the surf while the rest of the guys opted for a slower start in the mangroves, targeting jack crevalle and juvenile snapper on light spinning outfits.

The mangroves fished well and plenty jacks were landed with some really big barracuda thrown into the mix as well. But the surf is where all the action took place.

From first light, thousands of tarpon came into the surf and all hell broke loose. Working the  Goosestix Stickbaits slowly with long pauses, the guys got towed all over the beach by big tarpon. Cast for cast the guys were hooking and jumping fish in access of 80kg!! To make things even more interesting, in-between the Tarpon, massive shoals of Jacks were feeding on all the scraps, eating lures as they got thrown by the tarpon. Gabon firing hard!

The tarpon moved off after sunrise, sending the guys back to camp to go lick their wounds.

Tarpon are notorious predators and very hard to keep on your line

Tarpon are notorious predators and very hard to keep on your line

After regrouping and sorting out tackle again, the guys were more than eager and ready for the night session. The jacks came in again but nowhere near as crazy as the morning session. However, Marnus persisted and managed to land a big 20kg Jack. This fish took him far down the beach and really put his skills to the test.

After sunset the tarpon rolled in again for another 30minutes of absolute chaos. Guy hooked a really big tarpon but again got dominated and was left to wind in hundreds of meters of braid. To add insult to injury, on the very next cast, he hooked an even bigger one that came off on the third jump. Tarpon 2 – 0

After the success of the previous morning’s session, needless to say, everyone was keen to start Day 3 in the surf. This time round though, the Giant African Threadfin was out on the prowl and pulled the guys all over the beach from the very first casts. Being notorius bottom feeders, they showed a real preference to 2oz Sea Iron Spoons worked very slowly on the bottom.

Russell and Sandy really dominated this session and went tight with fish on almost every cast, showing the young guys how its done.

Despite hooking and almost loosing all his line to a monster tarpon on the previous cast, Russel managed to hold on this time round and land a monster 22kg Giant African Threadfin. A truly magnificent catch.

Russel Collins with a brute 22kg African Giant Threadfin

Russel Collins with a brute 22kg African Giant Threadfin

The evening session turned out to be like none any of these guys have ever experienced. Jacks were being hooked on every single cast! Guides were franticly running up and down the beach to take photos and release fish while some anglers had to sit down and take a breather.

Then, just as if Gabon wanted to show us really what it had to offer, it shifted up another gear by sunset and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the tarpon were feeding everywhere. Giant silver bodies going airborne, spraying baitfish allover the place. Absolute fishing porn!

To say it was chaotic would be putting it lightly. Giant tarpon were being hooked and jumped the whole time and guides were re-rigging rods at an alarming rate. These fish are magnificent beasts and hard to land in the most favourable conditions. But to hook these legendary predators, in access of 70kg in the pounding surf, is a whole other ball game.

In the end we were defeated and left with broken bodies and tackle.

By Day 4 everyone was really tired and unfortunately a big low pressure was moving in as well. The morning session in the surf only produced a handful of smaller fish and by early evening, monsoon like rains moved in bringing the the 4day trip to an end.

Despite the the weather putting the fish off on the last day, we experienced some truly amazing fishing and again Gabon showed why it is the number one destination in the world for Saltwater Surf Fishing.

For more info, please drop Rob Scott a mail at rob@tourettefishing.com

Also checkout our Facebook page for the full gallery( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tourette-Fishing-try-fight-it-in-Africa/90837823797)

Till Next time

The Tourette Fishing team

Guy with a nice Jack Crevalle

Guy with a nice Jack Crevalle

Fishing into the sunset

Fishing into the sunset

The Dads & Lads

The Dads & Lads

Feb 17

Makhangoa Community Camp Grp 11 & 12 : 8th to 14th February 2015

A cloud of super relaxed holiday vibes moved into camp on arrival of good friends and returning guests, Chris, Terrance, Greg, and Gerald. After the horrible weather these poor guys had last season(http://blog.tourettefishing.com/three-rivers-lesotho-yellowfish-group-7-30-jan-02-feb-2014/), they were sure to make the most of the picture perfect conditions that was predicted for this week.

Chris and Greg made themselves very comfortable on their veranda and kicked up their feet for the afternoon while Gerald and Terrance ventured down to the river for a late evening session. With the water being super skinny, the fishing was technical but very rewarding. Both of them landed a few good yellows on dry.

After the evening’s festivities, we were up to a very relaxed start on the first morning. With sunny skies and very little wind we all set about taking on Beat 1. By the end of the day everyone got stuck into the yellows. The water still being very skinny, there wasn’t much room for error, but everyone did very well.

Terrance cashing in on the good conditions

Terrance cashing in on the good conditions

On day two, we headed to Beat no 2 for the day. The water dropped even more overnight and with the skinny conditions, the yellows were not moving in the running water between pools anymore. This made the day very challenging! By the time of sunset, the guys made the most of the low light and could manage to get very close to these wary yellows and managed to land some really nice fish.

On day 3(change over day), we said goodbye to Chris, Gerald, Terrance and Greg in the morning and welcomed the new guests Peter, Richard, Hannes, Gerhard, Pat, and Tom into camp that same evening.

After settling in and a quick briefing, we hit the water with some urgency as the weather report for the next afternoon did not look to promising. We covered a lot of water on the first afternoon as we still had very few fish moving around. Once a fish was spooked, the best thing to do in this skinny water was just to move on to the next pool. The fishing was not easy but it was a good opportunity for everyone to shake off the cobwebs and work on accuracy and presentation.

The following morning everyone was up bright and early. Maybe a little bit too early as the temperature dropped during the night, cooling the river down to a yellowfish sulking 14deg. We decided to split up for the day. Pat and Tom started on beat 3 while the rest of the group opted to fish the section around the Woolshed in the dam, with the hopes of landing a trophy trout.

With the low water temperature, it seemed that most of the fish in the river dropped back closer to the dam and it did not take long for the guys on Beat 3 to do the same. The predicted bad weather moved in quickly soon after and made the going very tough. The guys soldiered on through the rain though and managed to find a honey hole close to the start of Beat 1. By the end of the day, everyone (despite the weather) got their quota of yellows on dry. Special mention must go out to Pat though. Despite the conditions he managed to land a beautiful 21” rainbow trout on dry.

Pat with a lovely 21inch trout taken on dry

Pat with a lovely 21inch trout taken on dry

On the final day of the week we woke to sunny clear skies and a much needed couple extra inches in the river. With conditions looking more favourable , we packed some lunch and headed out for the whole day! The guys split up again, the same as the day before, with Pat and Tom heading to the second half of Beat 3 while the rest headed for the middle of beat 2.

Close to midday though the wind, that could only be described as ‘gale force’, came howling down the valley. This added and extra challenge to the already technical fishing. However, this made every fish that got landed very rewarding. Pat and Tom managed to crack the code and despite the conditions, managed some really nice fish in the super skinny waters on the sides of the river bringing the week to an exiting but tough end.

Till next time

Stuart and Pierre

Another one meets the net!

Another one meets the net!

Pat's rainbow swam off strongly to fight another day
Pat’s rainbow swam off strongly to fight another day

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Feb 13

Socotra Archipelago Exploratory: 4 October – 11 November 2014

Further to a brief Facebook post in October 2014, which you can read here: (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152795413528798.1073741851.90837823797&type=1) below is Ed Truter’s official report on the Socotra Exploratory

Socotra Archipelago Exploratory – 4 October to 11 November 2014

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The idea behind the Socotran exploratory was to evaluate the shore-based fishing potential (predominantly for fly fishing and light spinning) of the area, while our host operator, Wild Sea Expedition, did the same offshore but with the emphasis on popping for monster GTs. Although Wild Sea Expedition has extensive experience in the archipelago on the back of regular visits since 2010, some of the outermost areas had not yet been visited and the mission was thus to spend serious time fishing those.

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A magical place, Dharsa Island in the Socotran Archipelago

I’ll start by saying Socotra is not for sissies. The climate is harsh and the relentless heat and zero shade resets one’s primal instinct to treasuring every drop of freshwater. One is also totally dependent on the locals for all support services, in our case that was fishing boats and the sambuk (motorized dhow), which was our mothership that accompanied us while we toured, camped, and fished the islands. At a friendliness, welcoming level, the locals were great and good fun. At a bargaining and negotiation level, the locals’ bizarre reasoning strategies and rip-off tendencies when setting services costs were tiresome to the extreme.  Security

Abd Al Kuri full moon rising

Abd Al Kuri full moon rising

concerns were a non-entity both in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, and out amongst the islands. Although the area has had Somali piracy problems in the past, coalition naval action and improving political stability in northern Somalia has virtually brought piracy in the Gulf of Aden to a standstill for some time. Basically put, Yemen is just another country full of friendly, peace-loving people going about their daily business and trying to live a normal life as best as they know how. Even the current political uprising in Sana’a should be seen in this context and is largely unrelated to radical or hard-line Islamic movements in other parts of the Middle East.

And the fishing? Before I get there, a brief geography lesson. Given the islands’ locations in the paths of the Indian winter and summer monsoons, they get pounded by high winds and heavy seas for eight months of the year, which together with the deepwater setting, results in a complex current regime and upwelling. The upwelling drives a ‘nutrient engine’ that nourishes an exceptionally rich food chain. So, what we observed on the ground was unusual for a tropical setting: almost no coral, algae covered reefs, abundant intertidal, filter-feeding invertebrates, and a huge biomass of bait fishes. The baitfish included species I do not typically associate with the tropics like anchovies and mackerel as well as the to be expected scads, fusiliers, kawakawa, garfish, mullets, herrings, etc. Then there were uncountable acres of swimming crabs and other creatures in abundance like squid. I don’t think I have ever seen that much bait anywhere, an observation emphasised by breeding colonies of seabirds and including flocks of pelagic cormorants numbering thousands of birds. The waters’ richness also manifests itself in how everything in Socotra grows bigger-bodied and heavier in a length to weight ratio than just about everywhere else. For example, I saw a local fisherman with three golden trevally taken on handline each of which exceeded the 14.75kg world record, and I could tell similar stories about our team’s experience with rainbow runner, bohar snapper, and so forth.

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Leonard Flemming on a bonefish beach, not a bad place to be.

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A whole army of sizeable bluefin trevally looking to annihilate schools of anchovies. At least 160 BFTs are visible in this pic.

The islands all have a calm (sheltered) side, often with sandy beaches and bays interspersed with rocky points and a ‘wild’ (seaward) side that is typified by steep, rocky shores including sea-cliffs and deepwater points. With the amounts of baitfish visible in and around the various calm-side points and bays, one would expect some pretty wild fishing and there be the conundrum: for reasons that I cannot fathom, the bigger predatory fish avoided the calm shorelines in any number and instead spent most of their time feeding offshore. One would think that some of the bays we fished would offer ideal opportunities for a constant procession of gamefish to drive baitfish against the shore, but this was not the case. There were certainly times when predators did hound baitfish against the shore, but it did not happen as often as one would expect if considering the numbers of GTs, bohar snapper, Spanish mackerel, green jobfish, golden trevally, yellowspotted trevally, groupers, etc. that were seen and caught by the teams fishing just offshore. Whatever the dynamic is that is at play, and it’s most likely something to do with the powerful currents that wrap around the islands, it is probably more efficient for the big predators to follow the current s and feed offshore, perhaps co-operatively in schools of predators (as was often observed), than to feed against the island edges. It may have also had something to do with the season and spawning activity, and a different time of year might show another picture

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Leonard Flemming with a boner.

Long story shorter, here’s a species by species summary in alphabetical order of most of the fishes and situations we experienced on the trip as a whole, so that is spinning, vertical jigging, and fly fishing, shore-based and off.

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Leonard Flemming with a bream, Acanthopagrus sp.

Amberjack: good numbers taken vertical jigging when other fishes allowed the jig to reach the deeper levels the amberjack preferred.

Barracuda: large individuals offshore eating the GT lures, and smaller ones along the beaches that mostly bit off our flies. No number of really big ‘cuda typical of what one sees on the flats in some places were spotted along the beaches.

Barred trevally (Ferdau’s trevally): catchable numbers patrolling the beaches as singles. They were good fly takers on bonefish gear and we caught them up to 3kg.

Proper GT on popping gear

Proper GT on popping gear

Bigeye trevally: plentiful in schools feeding on sprats in mixed sandy and rocky bays, but few fish bigger than 3kg.

Black trevally: common catch from the boat on spinning and jigging gear, a number teased in and hooked from the side from deepwater points.

Black sweetlips: one taken on fly, sight-cast to in a shallow bay. Some others spotted and one sizeable one caught by a local sight-fishing and handlining a lure that was home-made from a strip of white plastic. An interesting species that it would be nice to see more of.

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One of the most beautiful and feisty fish in the ocean, the largespot pompano (a.k.a. wave trevally or dart).

Black marlin: one hooked and lost while vertical jigging.

Bludger trevally: fair numbers taken vertical jigging.

Bluefin trevally:  ubiquitous and one of the most temperamental fishes in the ocean in my experience. We found them in singles to small groups patrolling the beaches and reef edges, most of the time they would not eat a well presented fly. At certain, deepwater point/cliff locations we found schools of big bluefin. These schools numbered 100 to 200 individuals and were usually on the hunt and willing to eat. I remember how on one big-surf day we found one of these schools so tightly crammed into a small, shallow gulley that it
seemed as though it held more fish than water, and most of the fish had their backs in the air—a crazy thing to see.

Bohar snapper: many were taken as by-catch while spinning with big poppers for GTs offshore with groups of snappers often rising behind a single popper. From the shore a few were hooked from shallow, rocky points between stretches of sand and then good numbers teased and caught off deepwater points. Interestingly, teasing from the shore with sinking stickbaits brought in more fish than did the more standard, surface skipping and popping lures used for teasing.

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Angler, Hilary Robinson, told us that on remote trips he likes to partake of the local black sweetlips.

Bonefish: in fair numbers over clean-sand areas along some beaches. Note, the beaches are calm environments with low surf but are not sand flats. The bones were typically 6-9lbs with the biggest a 75cm/11lb fish and we saw some that were considerably bigger. The bonefish in the area feed a lot on fish and can be seen molesting the baitfish schools. Most of the fish we spotted were in waist-deep water and caught on #2 Clouser minnows tied sparse, but one little-piggy bonefish even ate a 8/0 GT Semper. It was also possible in some areas to catch bonefish by just blind casting into likely looking channel and swash areas along the surf zone.

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Steve van den Heever and a boisterous teen off the rocks on popping gear.

A number of bonefish were caught on sizeable spoons cast on spinning gear, fished close to the bottom. Interestingly the bonefish we caught did not have the electric blue highlights on their fins, unlike any of the other bonefish species I’ve seen in the Red Sea, Caribbean, and South Pacific.

Bream: possibly Acanthopagrus berda but certainly Acanthopagrus somebody, in the surf near Ditwah Lagoon (Socotra) and happy to eat a fly.

Emperors: various species taken off the boat while deep jigging. Many smaller species taken off the shore on fly and a few of the bigger ones lost due to being instantly reefed on 9wt gear.

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Leonard Flemming and a beauty of Ferdau’s trevally.

Flame jobfish: in plague numbers on vertical jig, most of them 6-12kg.

Golden trevally: good numbers offshore, big fish taken mostly vertically jigging or fishing live swimming crabs on the surface. No sure sightings of adults from the beach but many babies taken on fly.

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A flame jobfish caught on a vertical jig. These fish were so abundant that it was nearly impossible to get the jig through them to the amberjack below.

Green jobfish: a very common by-catch while GT fishing from the boat and generally on the big size. A couple were teased up on big poppers within casting distance of deepwater points, so catching them from shore is not unrealistic (this applies to a number of the typical offshore fishes in the area when fished for from the cliffs and deepwater points that are typical of the islands).

Grouper: lots of tiny groupers taken over rocky rubble but some sizeable white-blotched grouper off the boats hitting teasers and on big GT poppers.

Grunter: schools of one of the spotted species but not sure which exactly, tailing in the Ditwah Lagoon on Socotra and cruising the adjacent surf and eager to chase the right fly.

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Federico Castignoli of Wild Sea Expedition and an average sized Socotran GT. A Goosestix popper was the poison.

GT: in big numbers and big sizes. Average sized fish caught spinning offshore, based on length to weight calculations, was 37kg, with fish over 50kg being caught daily and some fish over 60kg caught. A complete dearth of smaller GTs with none observed smaller than 20kg. Very few GTs were sighted along the beaches and those that were, had total lockjaw when presented with a fly. Off deepwater points it was possible to spin, tease and/or just fish blind for the odd GT cruising by. In thisway one of our clients, Hilary Robinson, landed a

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Ed and a salad fish (a.k.a. needlescaled queenfish) of which there were plenty to sight-cast flies at along the beaches.

132cm/46kg fish that ate a black Semper fly at his feet. Hilary is to be congratulated on this great catch (his first GT!) and the little adventure, especially trying to land the fish on a tiny ledge amid a heaving sea and that involved a lot of swimming, will not soon be forgotten by all involved. The lack of coral reef and the rounded nature of the gneissic rock reef, which is also covered in algae, greatly reduces the options for a fish to cut one off. Catching big fish in deep water from the rocks, and especially if one uses the height advantage offered by

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No photo trickery here so how big this GT? Who knows. Luc Madrenne (left) with one of many he caught on popping gear.

the steep terrain, is thus a viable option. I must at this point also apologize to Leonard Flemming who joined myself and film maker, Richard Morton, during the first ten days of this trip, as I told Leonard it would be nearly impossible to land a 100lb class GT from the rocks in deep water and that he shouldn’t think about trying it any further. But, given the nature of those particular rocks, and 20-20 hindsight of what we saw and learned after Leonard left, it’s certainly quite repeatable.

Indo-Pacific permit: a few singles and triples sighted out of the blue in the beach swash, no great shots offered when we were rigged with the right setup but some

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An emperor that ate a slow jig.

curiosity shown in the Clousers chucked at them as they went by.

Kawakawa: caught while vertical jigging but also large shoals of small individuals around deep, rocky points with breaking waves; easily caught on fly from said rocky points.

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Ed with a boner and it’s longer than Leonard’s.

Milkfish: very large numbers with no shortage of big ones amongst them. Most of the time we found them in small schools moving haphazardly around the open sea feeding on diffuse, white plankton on or near the surface. We tried many conventional and unconventional fly approaches, one or two of which may have attracted some attention, but it’s hard to say. As we spent most of our time fishing from shore, we had few opportunities at stacked up fish on current-lines, which is the easier setup for testing ideas and getting eats. The odd milky was seen patrolling the sandy shorelines.

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Brown triggerfish on an algae fly.

Pompano, large-spotted and small-spotted: very common along the beaches. The small-spotted were tiny fish that hung around in schools in sandy bays near rocks and were a pain in the arse, often grabbing a flycast at other fish. The large-spotted were better-sized fish that patrolled the beaches in singles or small groups and easily took a fly.

Rainbow runner: in fair numbers close inshore. Though none were hooked from shore, it would be possible if one put in the time. Some very large specimens (e.g. 15kg+) taken from the boat on vertical jig.

Redlip parrotfish: in good numbers over shallow reef and along steep rocky shores. Difficult to present the fly to due to surge and swash, but a number were hooked on light-coloured crab imitations. None were landed, all of them either reefed us or the hook pulled, but as these fish are so plentiful and up to at least 20kg, and if the
code can be cracked, they could offer some great action.

Rusty jobfish: very common on the vertical jig, but not in the ‘a-carpet-of-fish’ number of the flame jobfish.

Sailfish: present in good numbers in some areas. Often seen free jumping from shore and although not actively targeted, a number were raised on GT poppers and one was hooked and landed.

Salad fish / doublespotted queenfish: very common patrolling the beaches at speed in singles to triples. Some fish up to 3kg and eager to eat a well-timed and placed Clouser. Great sight-casting fun.

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Socotran bones are fish eaters and like Clousers.

Sharks: various but in deepwater, offshore, and mostly caught by local commercial fishermen for whom it is their livelihood. Sharks were not a problem as tax agents or a wading risk.

Spanish mackerel: large numbers offshore taken as GT fishing by-catch. Possible sightings from shore over deep, sandy areas. Another species of toothed mackerel, as of yet unidentified, was caught on fly and small lures. These fish were tiny, most under 1kg but plentiful along some sandy beaches and with teeth a lot meaner than those of the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel.

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Unicorn fish ate Gotchas, who would’ve said.

Triggerfish: only one species (brown) and not in the shallows but in deep water, on algae flies, small lures, and bait. Surface concentrations of pelagic redtooth triggers attacked algae flies but were nigh on impossible to hook. Both these triggerfishes are small species.

Unicornfish: very common in schools over all sorts of rocky habitat, most fish 4-6kg and quite easily caught over shallow, mixed sand and reef on a Gotcha. That these fish reacted to a bright, flashy fly like the Gotcha more than anything else, is a bit of a mind warp, but then I even caught a few on stickbaits cast on spinning gear.

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Luca Fistachio Tomarchio with a black jack (Caranx lugubris). This species is almost always only found around isolated, mid-oceanic islands far from continents. This is probably one of very few ever caught with the angler’s feet on the ground.

Yellowfin tuna: by-catch while vertical jigging. Fair numbers of <15kg fish caught by the locals trolling with handlines.

Yellowspotted trevally: good numbers in plus sizes offshore, mostly vertical jigging.

Other arbitrary catches on fly but interesting for the ‘twitchers’ and species tickers amongst us were the biggest examples of thornfish and mojarra (pouter) I’ve ever seen. There were also flute fish, moray eels, goatfishes, various small sea breams including Diplodus sp. (e.g. blacktail), wrasses, lizard fishes, porcupine fish, garfish, hawkfish, flounder, other grunter and even squid. Conspicuous by their absence but known to be present at other times of the year were threadfin (Polydactylus sp.) and wolf herring.

 

In summary, and speaking for October/November, the beaches were not the easiest to fly fish as the deeper water complicated the fish spotting. Also, the fish cruising the shorelines generally move fast, which requires some snappy thinking and on-your-feet reactions to convert sighted fish into caught fish, i.e. tight windows of opportunity. Of course, just as in all fishing, a bit of skills practice, psychological prep, and some fitness goes a long way in widening those windows. The deepwater areas offered great opportunities at life-time quality fish, if one was willing to sit out the long periods between high activity, which one should be for fish like that. The offshore spinning was crazy-good. Note too that all the offshore fishing was done from local boats with no sounder or similar technology, so vertical jigging was a rather random affair to fill in the times when the GTs weren’t eating. Goodness knows what might have happened with the use of a sounder.

If anyone is interested in booking spinning trips to the archipelago speak to Rob Scott at Tourette Fishing. If you are a big-GT nut you owe it to yourself to go do this one. If you want to take a shot at just the land-based fly fishing, or a mixed spinning and fly trip, there are options to join an excursion but for land-based fishing you will be looking after yourself re. the actual day to day fishing (i.e. DIY), though provided with guidance by way of where and what to try, but expect it not to be a walk in the park.

Some of what transpired during the first three weeks of this trip was captured on film by Richard Morton, he’s the guy behind www.finlovers.com. Most of his island time was spent in my company and it was good having him along. Richard, his team, and I, will be cutting together a little feature called Shadow Fishing in the Yemen, which is probably not going to be classic fish porn but a rather different kind of diversion. We’ll keep you posted on the edit’s progress. If you’ve not seen it yet, go take a look at the website, there are already some technical content clips posted there that you might find useful.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with the expedition directly and especially to all the clients who joined us and who always showed exceptionally good humour, sometimes in the face of a lot less than perfect comfort levels. One never knows how beyond-the-known trips are going to go and it makes a difference when everyone keeps showing a smile. Also, a big thank you to our Wild Sea Expedition colleagues (Nicola, Federico, and Federica) for their very hard work and dedication to the passion to make it all possible, and to your Yemeni crew (most of them anyway). And finally, thanks to those who helped indirectly and shared of their knowledge and technical tips: Pete Coetzee, Ivan Farneti, Ray Montoya, and Mark Wals.

Edward Truter, January 2015

Ps: though I looked and tried hard, me catching a salmon was not to be.

Part of the Soctora exploratory team, some looking a bit worn

Part of the Soctora exploratory team, some looking a bit worn

A grunter that's spotted but that's probably not a spotted grunter, species as of yet unconfirmed.

A grunter that’s spotted but that’s probably not a spotted grunter, species as of yet unconfirmed.

Hilary Robinson hooked up to his first ever GT. He landed the 132cm/46kg fish, not bad for starters

Hilary Robinson hooked up to his first ever GT. He landed the 132cm/46kg fish, not bad for starters

Photo credits: Leonard Flemming, Steve van den Heever, Richard Morton, Arnaud Pauliac, Hilary Robinson, Frederica Truc, and Ed Truter

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132cm GT

 

Feb 03

Makhangoa Community Camp – 15 to 30 January 2015 – Photo Essay

Over the last 2 weeks the guides teams have been incredibly busy. We have had a cracker of a week with Victor and his team of guests from Leads To Business, as well as our old friends, Johan, Steve and Eugene. The last 2 weeks have seen some great conditions, as well as some marginal cooler weather, but through it all all the guests had some amazing fishing, and experienced the magic of fly fishing in Lesotho.

With limited time off the water, the guides have sent through a short photo essay to try and capture the last couple weeks: Enjoy.

Good friends before a great day out, fly fishing in Lesotho

Good friends before a great day out, fly fishing in Lesotho

The gin clear water of high altitude Lesotho rivers. Fly fishing paradise

The gin clear water of high altitude Lesotho rivers. Fly fishing paradise

Fly fishing in Lesotho

Fly fishing in Lesotho

A big Lesotho Yellow

A big Lesotho Yellow

Rob making his limited time out the office count.

Rob making his limited time out the office count.

A treat for the yellows of Lesotho

A treat for the yellows of Lesotho

An added bonus of fly fishing in Lesotho - trout in the same water as the yellows.

An added bonus of fly fishing in Lesotho – trout in the same water as the yellows.

Fly Fishing for yellows in Lesotho

Guide Andy enjoying some time, fly rod in hand, between groups.

Stu and Andy enjoying some humour on the Bokong River, Lesotho

Stu and Andy enjoying some humour on the Bokong River, Lesotho

Jan 16

Makhangoa Community Camp Grp 7 : 11th to 15th January 2015

After the success of the previous group, with much anticipation, we welcomed Garth Wellman, John Yelland, Andrew Mayo, Pascal, and Avril Potgieter into the Makhangoa Community Camp.

Upon arrival the water level was still a little high and cool but the fish were definitely around as we could see fish rising in the estuary section behind camp.

After a quick briefing the guys settled into their “rondawels” and it was not long before the first fish was landed. Most fish were taken on a dry-dropper setup but as the day drew to a close, Andrew Mayo walked away with the spoils by landing a superb 6lbs rainbow trout while nymphing the headwater of the pool below camp. Garth also pulled off a “Lesotho Slam” by landing a yellow, rainbow, and brown trout in his first session.

Andrew Mayo with his beaut 6lbs river caught Rainbo trout

Andrew Mayo with his beaut 6lbs river caught Rainbow trout

On the first morning the water was still very cool and we decided to start in the estuary/dam, have lunch in camp, and then fish the afternoon up the river. Even though most guests come to experience the spectacular sight fishing in the river, when the condition are non favourable, we are fortunate to have some world class sight fishing in the dam. The guys walked the edges and  presented dries to very eager cruising fish and managed to land some really good specimens in access of 4lbs

The afternoon session got blown out by an immense hail storm which rendered the river a muddy mess.  Fortunately the Bokong tends to run clean very quickly, and by early evening, the guys were treated to some world class fishing again. Mostly on a dry dropper setup, some really nice fish were landed. What did stand out was the monster yellowfish Garth sighted just before dark. Although nailing some incredible tricky casts and drifts, the fish was having none of it and in the end left us going back to camp defeated.

The following day we woke to gin clear skinny water, despite the storm of the day before.

With the picture perfect conditions, we decided to head up-stream and fish the pools and pocket water section around the village. The guys were treated to really spectacular fishing and countless fish were taken on the dry-dropper rig again. Big foam hoppers teamed up with size 16 hotspot nymphs were very enticing, and this combination pulled out a number of fish in the 4-6lbs range.

Unfortunately the day got cut a little short again by a heavy thunderstorm followed up by a front that brought plenty rain.

Its about to get ugly

Its about to get ugly

Needless to say the last morning everyone took their time over breakfast as there was no rush to get into the water. With the rain still coming down, the guys tied some flies over a steaming cup of coffee while some just enjoyed a nice lie in.

By midmorning the clouds started to lift and we gave it one last proper go. Garth and Andrew tackled the river while Pascal and Avril headed for the dam again.The fish were being very fussy and holding deep, but by the end of the day,  some really good fish came to hand. Garth and Andrew managed a couple 3-4lbs fish while Pascal and Avril managed a handful of smaller fish.

Despite the weather not playing along the whole time, we still experienced some world class fishing and everyone had a great time. It was a pleasure having such experience anglers in camp, and their skill shone through in the tough conditions.

Until next time

Mark and Pierre

Andrew Mayo with a unit of a yellowfish

Andrew Mayo with a unit of a yellowfish

 

Avril Potgieter with a brute 52cm fish

Avril Potgieter with a brute 52cm fish

Lesotho Gold

Lesotho Gold

John Yelland dominating on dry fly

John Yelland dominating on dry fly

Garth Wellman braved the rain and got rewarded handsomely

Garth Wellman braved the rain and got rewarded handsomely

 

 

 

Jan 13

Makhangoa Community Camp Grp 6 : 8th to 11th January 2015

Tim Babich with a Lesotho Yellowfish

Tim Babich with a Lesotho Yellowfish

This week was a real opportunity to spend time with old friends and the chance to make a couple new ones.

We welcomed into the Makhangoa Community Camp some great old friends from Fly Castaway, Tim Babich, Gerhard Laubscher and Ryan Hammond. Joining them were Paul Boyers from the Guides Company, as well as Kallie and Alan.

With flyfishermen such as Gerhard, Tim, Ryan and Paul it was no doubt that these couple of days were going to produce some great fish. As it turns out Kallie and Alan were no slouches with the fly rod either, even though Alan hadn’t cast a 5 weight for a number of years.

Everyone self drove into camp and were, as the conditions were excellent , quickly onto the water. Crystal Clear, warm, skinny water and plenty of fish willing to come up to a well presented dry. It wasn’t long before everyone was into fish and enjoying the sight fishing on offer.

The first evening we fell asleep to massive thunderstorms, and as expected we

rose to a river that was discoloured and flowing strongly. We weren’t overly concerned, as the skies were clear, and within half an hour it was already visible how much the water level had dropped.

The group about to board the "Fly Mobile" after a great day on the upper reaches of the Bokong River

The group about to board the “Fly Mobile” after a great day on the upper reaches of the Bokong River

By the time we had finished breakfast and were packing the vehicle (aka the fly mobile), the river was back to its normal level and the visibility was increasing fast.

This is one of the great things about this special fishery, is the fact that the catchment is completely undisturbed by agriculture, and any rain runoff passes through the catchment quickly. This means that the time that the river is

affected by high or dirty water is very limited.

We decided to fish the top beat, and during the vehicle ride up river everyone’s eyes turned to the river which, by the time we reached our destination, was gin clear and skinny. There was absolutely no doubt that this was going to be a world class day of sight fishing.

What followed was a blur of walking, catching sighted yellows, and enjoying the incredible scenery.

What did stand out was a really big rainbow that Gerhard had a shot at towards the end of the day.

Big Yellows in Skinny Gin Clear Water: What Fly Fishing in Lesotho is all about

Big Yellows in Skinny Gin Clear Water: What Fly Fishing in Lesotho is all about

It is hard to say how big the fish was, but it is safe to say it was above 6lbs.

Although Gerhard made an awesome stalk, at the moment when he was about to pull the trigger and make a presentation, a cloud came over the sun and bought the visibility down to a point where Gerhard last sight of the laid up trout.

Gerhard did end up having a shot at the fish, but it wasn’t meant to be and Gerhard was left wondering about that beautiful fish on the walk back to the fly mobile.

The following day we awoke to a high river after another night of violent storms, and although the same scene the previous day had disheartened everyone’s spirits, everyone now knew that this wouldn’t affect the fishing for long.

Fly Fishing in Lesotho's Crystal Clear water

Fly Fishing in Lesotho’s Crystal Clear water

Having enjoyed such superb fishing the previous day, everyone took their time over breakfast, tied a few flies, before heading out to spend the morning session on the dam. Here casting dries to cruising fish, such is the norm at sterkies was the name of the game. The fishing was excellent and everyone had their share fare of good sized yellows.

On the drive back to camp, everyone was eager to get back for lunch and to see how the conditions in the river had developed while we had been spending time on the dam. It was a great sight, as the water level had dropped and the clarity improved.  A quick lunch was enjoyed before we headed out to fish the section of water from Ed’s Pool up through some great pocket water.

In the early stages of this afternoon session, the water was still cool and although the yellows would come up for a dry, it did take some skill to get them to eat. There were some great yellows taken in tough conditions early on in the session.

Tying flies in the Makhangoa Communtiy Camp - Lesotho

Tying flies in the Makhangoa Communtiy Camp – Lesotho

With the slightly cooler water, there were a few trout around and Tim managed a couple smaller rainbows. A fish that did stand out was a massive brown trout that Tim fished to. Estimated at around 7 pounds, it rushed the fly twice, but failed to eat it.

As the session wore on, the water carried on clearing until it was it was back to its normal clean state. The last few hours of this session was superb, with fish coming up to the dry on almost every cast. Ending with a massive rise on the home pool, where there was literally hundreds of yellows sipping midges off the surface.

In the end, two days were just not enough and it was with heavy hearts that we said farewell to group. We are sure it won’t be long before they are back in camp again, having some cold beers around the fire and looking forward to some world class sight fishing on the Bokong River.

Jan 09

Makhangoa Community Camp Group 5: 4th – 8th Jan 2015

Carl, Cassim, Johan and Johan arrived in camp around midday to a perfect 4 day forecast. Arriving at the tail end of a cut off low, the river was dropping and heating up well.  The  fish were on the move and hungry as the pressure stabilized. Carl and Cassim have both fished with us before in Sudan, Botswana and Lesotho, and it was great to have them back with Carl’s father, Johan and good friend Johan.

The first evening was spent fishing a small portion of Beat 1 around camp. This first session is a great time to get rid of some bad habits under the watchful eyes of the TF  guides. This is especially important as the fishing gets progressively more technical as the we move through the beats each consecutive day.  All 4 guests did well  on this first evening, with a number of fish landed on ants, klinkhammers and DDD’s.

Caarl Raath with a solid yellowfish taken on dry

Caarl Raath with a solid yellowfish taken on dry

The first full day was spent fishing the rest of Beat 1 and into Beat 2, returning to camp for lunch. Again, well presented dry flies fished in both the pocket water, glides,  and pools were rewarded with good fish. The flies for the day, and rest of the week really, continued to be large foam and CDC ants, and massive klinkhammers tied on size 8 hooks.

Day 3 and 4 the group made their way up river, fishing Beats 3 and 4 respectively. Packed lunches and white knuckle drives in the cruiser to the bridal path are how the days start and finish. These treks into the mountain allow guests to fish remote stretches of the river, all exclusively for the Makhangoa Community Camp guests. These waters are up there with some of the best fresh water river fishing in the world. The beauty of the river as it flows through large boulder fields and  over bed rock sections, framed by 3000m peaks is something to behold. The fishing is also very  technical, as we target individual fish in the 4 – 10lb range holding in water often no deeper than ones shins. Dry fly sight fishing at its best.

All the group landed some superb fish, and lost some lunkers in the process. Highlights of these two days, was when a well presented fly, on the back of a careful stalk and planned approach results in a hook up. The visual aspect of the process, paired with the anticipation of the planning and build up to making the cast, make the results that much sweeter.

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Apart from the 4 days of subliminal fly fishing, the group was treated to some amazing mountain vistas as we fished upstream and even enjoyed some lunch time swims in the crystal clean water. A highlight  of one of the hikes to the upper beat was the sighting of a breading pair of Verreaux eagles (Black eagle). This pair of unique raptors now adds to the local Bearded Vultures in the area, making this Bokong Valley a important site for large raptor conservation,  adding to the amazing environment which makes fly fishing in Lesotho so unique.

ON behalf of the TF crew and Makhangoa Community, we would like to say a big thanks to Carl, Cas, Johan and Johan for a spectacular trip. It was an absolute pleasure to guide and spend time with you. Looking forward to the next time.

Cheers for now

Keith and Pierre

The gents before heading out for the morning session

The gents before heading out for the morning session

Lesotho, Dryfly heaven

Lesotho, Dryfly heaven

Cassim into another fish on dry

Cassim into another fish on dry

 

 

Dec 18

Makhangoa Community Camp Grp 2 & 3: 8 – 13 and 14 – 18 Dec 2014

Group 2: 8 – 13 Dec 2014

After meeting Jaco, Hylton, Werner and Tim at the vehicle park, we drove in convoy back to our mountain fly fishing lodge, The Makhangoa Community Camp.  Unfortunately the weather must have gotten word of the new arrivals and we proceeded to get a good old Lesotho downpour on arrival. Needless to say, fishing was off for the afternoon. We all took this chance to move everyone into their rondavels,  unpack food, and prepare for the following days. The pent up excitement, with no fishing release, lead to a number of beers being drunk.

Looking down on Beat 3 - Makhangoa Community Camp

Looking down on Beat 3 – Makhangoa Community Camp

 

We woke the following day to a picture perfect clear mountain sky. After a quick breakfast we hit the water. With this group of well-seasoned river and Sterkies fishermen,  the yellows came easy, and by the end of the first morning all the gents had landed a good number of fish. We were chased off the water by another late afternoon storm, but content in a great days fishing and eager for the following 3 full days ahead.

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Day 3 dawned with water levels up, and slightly cooler, due to the previous nights rain. Dry and dropper and complete nymphing rigs are the name of the game when the waters are cooler, and the group all did well in the tougher conditions.  Over dinner we made plans to fish the furthest 4th beat the following day. This beat is something from a Lord of the Rings movie. Steep valley walls, and river that comprises fast bed rock glides, pocket water and deep blue pools. It is a also a beat where one starts to find more consistent trout numbers mixed in with the yellows.

Stalking yellows on the Bokong River - Makhangoa Community Camp

Stalking yellows on the Bokong River – Makhangoa Community Camp

Fishing beat 4,  entails a good little march up steam about 5km past the end of the road. After getting up there, we soon found hundreds of big happy yellow fish, all feeding happy and in the zone. Armed with big hoppers we started what will go down in the books as an epic day. We slowly meandered our way up the river taking fish at will, all sighted and on the dry. At the end of the day there was no known figure on the amount of yellows on dry, as well as a number of trout.

Lesotho Gold - the fruits of fishing high altitude stream

Lesotho Gold – the fruits of fishing high altitude stream

The last full day was spent on Beat 3, fishing up to where we had started the previous day.  Again it was big hoppers to sighted fish for the day, and countless number of fish landed and released.  With the weather holding out long enough for us to finish the whole beat and walk back to cruiser  in good time, it was a great end to the trip.

On behalf of myself, Pierre and the Makhangoa Community Camp Staff, it was a pleasure to have the group from FlyLeaders in camp, and we look forward to the annual trip planned going forward. Until next season!

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Going tight on a beautiful mountain run – Makhangoa Community Camp, Lesotho

Cheers

Stu and Pierre

Group 3: 14th-17th December

On Sunday we welcomed, Christo, Dave, Vossie, Johann, Steve and Piet. With everyone arriving in their own vehicles and at relatively unknown times, the day was a bit chaotic but we squeezed in plenty of fishing.  Once on the water, all the guests settled into the swing of fishing the Bokong, and after a few popped leaders as some school fees, everyone landed their fare share of good yellows.

Steve getting stuck into some solid rive yellow fish

Steve getting stuck into some solid rive yellow fish

On the first full day we made the plan to pack some lunch and with Piet, Johann, Dave and Vossie,  head up to fish the 4th beat which as explained in previous blogs is a good trek from the end of the road to the start, coupled and a fairly long march back at the end of the day. It is however absolutely worth the effort. Unfortunately some rain in the previous evening had turn the water cold and a bit dirty, undeterred we fished on, heading further and further uphill. The cold water had pushed most of the fish down river but this made for some very excited stalking and talking guys onto singular fish. This type of fishing  is very rewarding for both guide and guests. Pieter and Johann who were a bit further downstream did very well, nymphing in the clean but chilly water.

The beautiful Bokong River Valley - Makhangoa Community Camp

The beautiful Bokong River Valley – Makhangoa Community Camp

Next day we woke up to a slightly emotional sky. Again undeterred we headed up to fish the 3rd beat. The lads quickly got into the fish in a big way. The sun broke through lifting everyone’s spirits. But as quickly as it came it was gone and the weather went from emotional to downright depressed. The fish however being used to the wet carried on feeding hard, so the rain coats came on and we all toughed it out and found ourselves laughing at something that only fishermen would understand as the yellows rose to eat large hoppers off the top through the rain. Soaked, we headed back to camp and after hot showers all huddled around the fire and feasted on a steaming lamb curry.

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David enjoying some trophy yellowfish action

Much to our surprise the 3rd day bought cold, but very clean water, even after the heavy rains from the previous afternoon. The sun was out to play which is always great. The group focused on fishing nymphs under indicators in the cold high water, and had a field day. Dave and Piet managed to land a couple of really big yellows. Piet chased one about 200 meters downstream before his fly line was reunited with his reel.  Apart from the countless fish landed by the group, 2 fish in the 8lb range highlighted a superb last day

All in all the entire trip was a huge success with many laughs, many yellowfish, a couple trout (rainbow and browns) and a few more laughs, shared amongst a great group of chaps..

Vossie in on the action!

Vossie in on the action!

 

We look forward to many more.

Cheers for now

Stu, Keith and Pierre

Dec 11

Okavango Tigerfish Week 9: 9 – 14 Nov 2014 (Final Week)

Flying in early on the first day, we had the De Jong family joining us as our last guests for the season. Lourence sr. with his two sons, Lourence jnr and Eben. Being their first trip they stepped off the plane eager to get on the river.

The first afternoon session was focused on the deeper seems and sandbank drop-offs as the barbel runs were further down the river. Working the Goya jigs slowly the guys managed some fish and got the hang of everything pretty quickly.

Heading out the next morning for their first full day on the water, with some heavy weather over head, the guys knew they had some work to do and decided to try out some live-baiting. With the help of Kyle and myself, we rigged up some tiny hooks and worms as bait for the gents. After an hour or so we had a bucket full of livebait and the guys were ready to try for some tigers after lunch. The afternoon session however was fairly quiet but the guys still managed some nice 4 – 6lbs fish.

Kyle Reed, Okavango 9-14 November 2014 (1)

Day 2 we decided to take the guys down to Sepopa, about three hours downstream, to find some runs. The weather was really fowl so a slow day was expected. On arrival, Kyle’s boat came across a sizeable run that showed some potential. The guys worked really hard but when fish have lockjaw, there is not much you can do. By the end of the day though, the guys did managed to land some nice fish. All varying from 3-5lbs.

The next day we had an earlier start(also better weather) as we had a long run back home again in the afternoon. Soon after the start, we came across a good run about 15mins down river. The fish were in feeding mode and at one stage the guys were connecting with fish cast for cast. However, this frenzy didn’t last long and soon the fishing started to slow down quite drastically.  After the 3hour trek back to Xaro Lodge in the late afternoon, we managed to squeeze in another little session just before dark and ended the day with a prize 5.5lbs Three-spot bream.

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The final day the guys reverted back to livebait-fishing as the weather turned south again. Despite the weather, the guys persisted and the day turned out to be a really good one. The guys made all the eats count and by the end of the day they had an 8lbs and two 6lbs fish to write home about. All in all a great way to end a trip.

The weather made things very tough for us this week but with such a great group of anglers in camp, it made the last week of the 2014 Okavango season a breeze.

Till next season

TF Guides Steve and Kyle

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Kyle Reed, Okavango 9-14 November 2014 (12)

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