Apr 20

First week of the Trout Trekking Season – Plenty of rain, but not enough to dull the spirits of a great bunch of guys.

Jay into a good Lesotho Rainbow

Jay into a good Lesotho Rainbow

The first week of trout trekking, got off to a slightly wet start, and by slightly wet I mean somewhere in the region of 200ml of rain. Before even attempting the wind down into the khubelu valley we made the call to change plans and head over to the Bokong where we could enjoy the comforts of a roof and hot showers. This idea went down faster than the rivers came up. So after arriving late to a clean but fully in flood Bokong, we called it a day, lit the fire and enjoyed a hot meal and a couple glasses of red wine. Not a bad situation considering we were meant to be sleeping in tents in this torrential rain.

Releasing a Lesotho Rainbow

Releasing a Lesotho Rainbow

Waking up to an impending sky we still cracked on and made our way down to the estuary and first couple of pools in the river (still very much in flood). Heavy nymphs and wooly buggers being the names of the day. The gents did very well fishing with on and off rain and the odd hurricane blowing through. We managed 4 rainbows over 20” and a few little guys in-between.

The next day meant more terrible weather and a second bit of flooding from the previous days rain. Undeterred we fished on, jay landed a beut 24” rainbow in the river and his brother Paul jumped on the board with an incredible 5lb rainbow also well into the river. That night with the promise of better weather we planned to pack some donkeys and head upstream for the last two days.

Blue skies woke us the next day and without delay we loaded five very unwilling donkeys and set of upstream. After about 20km we found a cracker of a campsite, a huge old willow tree with a big hollow in it which served as a perfect fire place. That afternoon and the whole of the next was spent fishing around camp and much further upstream,

The Bokong River, Lesotho

The Bokong River, Lesotho

unfortunately we didn’t find any fish apart from some shivering yellowfish that hadn’t made their way down stream yet.

The next morning we broke camp and skipped back to the vehicle and headed out.  Minus the poor fishing we had an incredible time with some beautiful weather and some very good company.

Apr 17

Makhangoa Community Camp: 22 March – 12 April

23 – 28 March:

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The picturesque Makhangoa Community Camp, Lesotho

We had an impromptu  visit  from the Wildfly crew the other day as they worked on a Lesotho project. Although we only had a single night available for the crew between groups, some great fishing was had.

Releasing a trophy rainbow trout

Releasing a trophy rainbow trout

After a quick introduction and briefing, tackle was set up, and the guys headed off to fish the estuary just below camp.  The river was still running strong and the rainclouds were looming overhead, but Jeremy Rochester was soon into a strong fighting rainbow.  The fishing was wild and swinging big streamers down the fast runs proved to be very successful with all the guys lading some really big rainbows.   After filming, the guys settled in in front of the fireplace to enjoy a whiskey and reminisce about the days fishing, and the adventures that await.  After saying farewell to the Wildfly crew the following day, there was yet another surprise -  TF guide Stu arrived in camp with the group (Jay Smit from Jay Vice fame) who were supposed to be trout trekking on the Khubelu river.

Releasing a trophy rainbow trout

Ed enjoying success as he swings flies for big rainbows

Heavy rains, and high water levels, caused a change of plans, and the trek had to be put on hold. So instead the guys opted for the comfort and warmth of the Makhangoa Community Camp, and to target the big trout in the area.  The river was flowing strong, but clear enough to swing big streamers through the fast runs.  The fishing was not easy but everyone caught some trophy rainbows as well as the odd yellowfish.  Jay and his merry band of anglers made their way upstream as soon as the weather cleared to search for some wild river trout while the rest of the party, fisherman visiting from Swaartberg in Natal, stayed in camp taking advantage of the perfect conditions targeting large rainbows and yellowfish in the estuary and river.

doubleIt has been an absolutely fantastic season here at Makhangoa Community Camp as we break new ground fishing through autumn and into winter. The trout fishing has been absolutely world class, complimented by some epic late season yellowfish sessions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has joined us on this incredible adventure. None of this would be possible without your support. On behalf of Tourette Fishing and the Makhangoa Community we would like to express a heartfelt thanks to all our guests, and we look forward to seeing you back in the future.

 

We have our first family group, 3 couples and 7 young children, coming in today which should be great fun. Trout fishing, kayaking on the river, pony treks and river hikes are all on the cards!

Cheers for now.

Pierre

Henk with nice trout

3 – 6th and 6 – 12 April 2015

Kids enjoying ponies and donkey rides from the Makhangoa Community Camp

Kids enjoying ponies and donkey rides from the Makhangoa Community Camp

We had a whirl- wind three night stay with three families and 7 young kids over Easter. What a great experience for everyone. With kids kayaking on the river, riding ponies and donkeys, endless swimming and river hikes, combined with the fathers trying to fit in some fishing between their family duties, the Easter weekend was spent in true family holiday fashion. The Makhangoa Community Camp, offers a really unique mountain experience and we look forward to welcoming more family groups in the future. Apart from the fun family times, some great fish were landed as well.

The change in focus from purely fishing however did not last long as the next groups arrived. We have just completed a record breaking week at the Makhangoa Community Camp with some very big rainbows being landed.

Leonard Flemming broke his personal best by landing a hefty 12.5 pound rainbow trout while stripping a large streamer through a fast run on the Bokong River and also managed to land a few more rainbows in the slower glides and pools.  The yellowfish were around but they were super skittish in the cool clear water and presenting a fly to a feeding yellows proved to be very challenging.

 

TF Guide Pierre Swartz and camp guest Henk with a fin perfect trophy trout

TF Guide Pierre Swartz and camp guest Henk with a fin perfect trophy trout

The next group of anglers were also treated to some exceptional fishing in the estuary, as well as the river, where large schools of big rainbows were moving into the system to start their annual spawning run.

The fishing was, to say the least, off the charts.  More records were broken with many large rainbows being landed both on dry fly as well as streamers.  Henk landed a beautiful wild river rainbow of 9 pounds, Schalk and Tony landed their personal best river rainbows, and on the last day Tony succeeded in landing the fish of a lifetime and broke the camp record with a 15 pound rainbow hen caught on a large black woolly bugger fished deep in the estuary.

 

Tony landed this 15lb brute to take the new camp record

Tony landed this 15lb brute to take the new camp record

The trout season at Makhangoa Community camp is still running strong and we are looking forward to some more great catches as we welcome more guests to this spectacular area.

The Makhangoa Community Camp , is not only a fly fishing haven, it is a nature lovers paradise with clean air, great fishing, walking trails, mountain biking, trail running, horse riding, pony trekking, cultural village tours, and much more.  It is an experience unlike anything else, and not to be missed.

Look forward to having you here.

Cheers for now

The TF and Makhangoa Community Team

Tony and Pierre enjoying some world class river fishing

Tony and Pierre enjoying some world class river fishing

 

Apr 07

Second week of the Nubian Flats Season

AJ showing off a really great Nubian Flats Titan Trigger

AJ showing off a really great Nubian Flats Titan Trigger

For the second week of the 2015 Nubian Flats Season we were joined by returning guests and old friends Eric Heyns and Chris Rooseboom. They were teamed up with friends AJ, Riaan, Werner, and Richard Wales from Cape Town.

The wind was still strong and the forecast showed that the conditions would be tough for the first few days.

 

The first morning everyone was more than amped to go out on the flats despite the tough conditions. The water was high and really cool but the triggerfish were out in good numbers. The strong wind made spotting these fish really hard but by the end of the day everyone had plenty of shots, although not everyone converted these chances into fish.

A truely memorable fish. A trophy Yellow Margined Trigger

A truly memorable fish. A trophy Yellow Margined Trigger

Triggerfish are extremely difficult fish to catch. Firstly, they are really hard to get close to. Secondly, they can be incredibly fussy when it comes to eating your fly and lastly, when you finally hook one, chances of him either clipping your hook like a side cutter or just plain letting go, is a very real possibility! All of the above make them that much more desirable to catch. Addictive is the right word that springs to mind when thinking about triggers.

Just being able to get the eat is a massive victory.

By the end of the day we did manage to land some really nice yellow margined triggerfish. Special mention has to go out to AJ who landed  a really massive specimen of a yellow margined triggerfish.

 

On day 2 the wind continued to make the going tough, but was still manageable. The visibility on the flats was less than the first day, and on top of this the permit, bones, bluefin and GTs, that were on the flats in good numbers the week before, were hard to come by. Fortunately the lack of these species was made up for with the ample shots at tailing triggers. The wind made the going really tough but on a positive note, the extra noise and movement in the water allowed the anglers to come really close to tailing fish, making presenting the fly a little easier.

We succeeded in fooling many triggers to eat the fly and landed some really nice Yellow Margined Triggers with the odd Titan in between.

The wind continued to gain potency and we resorted to some teasing in the afternoon before heading back to the mothership for some shelter. The going was tough but Richard persisted and landed a really nice bluefin trevally and a decent GT in the roughest of spots.

 

Happy Guide and Guest. Eric Heyns getting the job done.

Happy Guide and Guest. Eric Heyns getting the job done.

Unfortunately the wind reached gale force speeds during the night and by the morning of day 3 we had to call off fishing, and spend the morning tying flies and rebuilding leaders.

By late afternoon the wind died down and we headed out for a quick session in one of the semi sheltered areas close to the mothership.

What was expected to be a slow session turned out to be a little gem. Eric alone hooked 7 triggers and landed 4. Between the other anglers on the flat we got a couple more triggers and also had a good shot at a solid meter GT that somehow missed the fly 3 times before spooking. A couple more big GTs came in over the flats, but we didn’t manage to get a fly in front of them. The most memorable catch of the day though had to go to Riaan who sighted, cast to and landed a solid 8 plus kg Bohar Snapper on the flat.

 

Over the next couple days the weather improved drastically and so did the numbers of triggerfish on the flats. The guys landed some really good sized fish and got schooled by many more! We also had some shots at milkfish, bluefin, barracuda, GTs and incredibly big bonefish but to no avail. One bonefish in particular was well over 12 pounds, and although it took its time to inspect the crab pattern, in the end it decided against eating it.

A solid Bohar Snapper taken on "Little Snake Island Flat"

A solid Bohar Snapper taken on “Little Snake Island Flat”

We are still hoping for a photo with one of these monsters. This is something to really relish, the thought of cracking the code on these monster bonefish, as they are like no other bonefish we have ever fished for in the past. Big, spooky and more selective than the permit.

 

On the last day a big frontal system moved over the area again bringing heavy clouds with it.

The fishing however was hot from the start. Barely 20min into the walk we were already presenting flies to tailing fish and the majority of them were incredibly big in size. So much so that every fish we hooked, ended well into the backing.

Luck was not on our side though. Richard and Riaan hooked 5 really great triggers and both, on each occasion, were left with broken tippets and mangled hooks. Between Chris and Werner they presented to 15 fish each, and although they hooked a few, were still left empty handed by the end of the session.

Richard into a good fish - Nubian Flats

Richard into a good fish – Nubian Flats

In the end though we got 4 triggers to hand before being chased back to the mothership by the strong wind at 15:00, bringing the trip to an end.

 

Over the week the weather made the going very tough  but the guys persisted and did very well. It was really good to share this week with such a great bunch of fly anglers that were happy to accept the good, with the bad hand we got handed with the weather.

 

On a final note: To all guests that will be fishing with us on the Nubian Flats in the near future. try to limit the use of any hot orange in your crab patterns.

Thats it for now but be sure to check in next week for another update from the Nubian Flats. The weather for the next 7 days looks dead calm, and we have got a score to settle with some permit, GTs, and some massive bonefish. I am sure there will be plenty of shots at the triggers.

 

Till next time

The Tourette Fishing Nubian Flats Guides Team

Mar 31

First week of the Nubian Flats Season

Nubian Flats permit

Nubian Flats Permit

For the first week of the 2015 Nubian Flats season we were joined by a group of very eager fisherman ready and set to kick-off the season with a bang. Father and son combo Dave & Matthew Espen were joined by long time friends Martin, Fanie, Gerrit and all the way from Namibia, Chris. After a late arrival and good dinner on Monday night, the guys went to bed very excited to kick off their trip the following day.

On the first morning we woke to very strong wind coming out of the north. This wind direction is very favourable for fishing but the strength of it made the fishing very tough. The fish were definitely there in good numbers, but visibility was a challenge. Luckily on the Nubian Flats, with all the different islands around, no matter what direction the wind is coming from, there is always some shelter to be found.

Nubian Flats GT

Nubian Flats GT

Despite the tough conditions, we still had some shots at a couple really big bluefin trevally as well as some triggerfish with the latter being very difficult and almost near impossible to see, until it was too late and the fish were moving. We saw some incredibly big permit as well but the conditions made it very hard to get a good presentation to them. One of these permit in particular was an absolute beast, and well over 25 pounds. There were also a few single bonefish on the flats, all of them excessively big and comfortably over 10 lbs. The code on these big bonefish is yet to be cracked. As we get very few shots at them, the time we have been able to dedicate to figuring these fish out has been limited. We have got a few ideas, so we are hoping to be able to send some pictures of these bones in the next few blogs. A mouthwatering prospect for the next group of anglers.

By the end of this first day the guys scratched up some fish with Martin taking the honours by landing a very nice bohar snapper.

Over the course of Day 2 & 3 the weather improved drastically and so did the fishing. In true Nubian Flats form, the flats were crawling with both titan & yellow margined triggerfish but they were incredibly finicky. Refusing almost every crab we presented, spooking when you start loading your cast, or just plain ignoring your fly, most definitely a result of the very cool water. The guys were left frustrated at times but managed to fool a couple of them on size 2 tan coloured Velcro Crabs and some Avalon Shrimps.

Nubian Flats Yellow margined trigger

Nubian Flats Yellow margined trigger

We also encountered some really big GT’s on the flats as well as some big barracuda. Fannie got absolutely smoked by two incredibly big GT’s on Day 2 and got handled again the very next day by another big GT on the flat. Special mention has to go out to Gerrit who persisted and kept on presenting to the shoals of permit and managed to land a small, but very nice specimen on a chunky merkin crab.

One can also spice up your trip to the Nubian Flats by adding some offshore popping and jigging, away from the fly fishing areas, and this is exactly what Chris and Matthew did. They did some morning sessions offshore and then spent the afternoons on the flats fly fishing. The water offshore was still a little coolafter the northern hemisphere winter, so the GT’s offshore were scarce but they still got rewarded handsomely with some really big bohar snapper in access of 10kg. Chris even managed to land two bohar on the same cast with one lure.

Day 4 & 5 we headed up north some more, to go and fish a different section as well as some of the atolls further offshore.The weather gods still smiled on us and we got treated to picture perfect days and some really good fishing. A number of good GT’s presented themselves on the flats. Some fish cruising solo while others accompanied rays and sharks. Matthew got stuck into a nice GT on the edge of the one atoll and managed to land a nice 90 cm fish. The guys also cashed in on some good sized bluefin. The triggers were still in good numbers on the flats everyday but were extremely tricky, refusing almost everything we had in our arsenal and ultimately leaving guides and anglers equally frustrated. We still succeeded to land a couple though. Fanie landed an exceptionally big yellow margined trigger while Matthew also got into the mix.

Nubian Flats GT

Nubian Flats GT

On the 6th and final day of the week, the wind came with force from the south and made the going very tough. This isn’t a good wind for this area, and luckily it only blows on the rare occasion. We had some shots at triggers but the main attraction of the day was the GT’s and bluefin we found hustling the flats. The wind was very strong which made the casting very difficult but Martin and Fanie capitalized and landed two nice GTs on the flats. An exciting aspect of this session was that we again saw some massive single bonefish in the skinny water. One fish in particular was well over 12 pounds, and although we didn’t get a legitimate shot at the fish, it is an exciting prospect for the week ahead.

The wind continued to get stronger throughout the day and by early afternoon, it pushed all the fish off the flat and we decided to call it a day and head back to the mother ship for a shower and steamy cup of Italian coffee. All in all a good start to the season despite some of the windy days and we can’t to head out for the second week.

Till next time The Tourette Fishing team in Sudan.

Fede and Mark.

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.

2

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.

5

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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IMGP3512

 

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

Socotra landscape 4 small_l_flemming

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

Ed's Emperor small_l_flemming

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

 

 

 

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