Day 4 - November 21:
South Africa is big. Really big and really scenic. We got up at 04.00 and drove through the Karoo desert for 15 hours straight. All the way from Cape Town to Ficksburg, a small town on the border of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Our new friend Brendan drove the whole way, and we owe him big time for it. For a naive, spoiled Norwegian it was tough to witness the desperate poverty of the townships. I dreamt about it all night.
Arriving from South Africa, the change of vibe was instant. Lesotho is laidback and peaceful, and the scenery is just drop dead gorgeous. Brendan forced our little Suzuki SUV through a high mountain pass. 3090 meters above sea level. Rolf: “Shut up, this is nice”. Brendan: “I want that on a t-shirt”.
After passing through the small town of Katse, a narrow, bumpy dirt road took us to our final destination - the pristine Bokong river. The Makhangoa Community Camp is run by a company called African Waters. We were received like royals by our guides Riley, Dave, Chris and Young Angus, and it was really cool to see how they worked together with the locals. African Waters are providing work opportunities and truly cooperating with the villagers on protecting the river. After checking in to our cabins, which were spacious and very comfortable, we headed straight for the river’s home pools, a couple of hundred meters from the camp. Gazing into the crystal clear water of the Bokong in the hot afternoon sun, the first thing I saw was a big smallmouth yellowfish cruising in the tailout of the pool. Hands shaking, I put my dry fly, a size 14 Bullbator, 2-3 meters ahead of the fish. A few seconds later, the fish smashed my fly violently. My strike was way too hard, and the fish broke me off immediately. Damn! Amateur hour again.
The guides had warned us that the yellows were seriously powerful fish that could easily snap the leader, but controlling your nerves in these situations is easier said than done. What’s worse, that was my only Bullbator. A few minutes later, we spotted another big yellow cruiser. I covered the fish quickly with a slightly different ant pattern, but it flat out refused the fly. I went through several different dries, including a big hopper and a small Klinkhammer. No luck. Picky yellow bastards.
Strangely enough, the preferred fly turned out to be a tiny hi-viz mayfly spinner from Headhunter’s Fly Shop in Craig, Montana. Dry fly fishing is strange sometimes. The fish inhaled my American dry fly gently and took off in a blistering first run. Euphoria! An awesome fish, almost prehistoric looking in its beauty. A real powerhouse, too, probably somewhere between 4 and 5 pounds, deep bellied with broad shoulders. Gleaming gold with a tiny mustache. Darkness came creeping fast, and we made for a late dinner and a couple of cold ones at the camp.