The sounds around camp here on the Gourits River in South Africa last night put me in a deep sleep. Granny and I were serenaded by frogs, birds, jackals and more all night long. I woke up bright at 5 AM and made some instant coffee and kicked back and worked on the blog while I waited for Granny and the rest to wake up. During that time, I watched some klipspringer on the side of the mountain across from us and listened to angry baboons downstream that have been upset since our arrival.
Ed Truter and Anthony woke up around 6:30 then Granny and the rest by 7. As we snacked on last night’s leftovers for breakfast Ed broke out a stack of Google Earth Maps and we pieced together a fishing plan for the day where seven of us wouldn’t trip over each other. This meant a 4 km drive from camp up over the mountain behind us then down to the river again where it made a monster bend.
The drive was steep, rocky and slow. It was low gear and 4×4 up and over. The drive was so slow I actually got out and took pictures while walking with the car. It was easy to keep up. Once up top the view was tremendous. The skies were rich blue in color and the river had that look where you just knew we were going to smash the fish good.
Like yesterday Ed had a plan for Granny and I. He had a favorite spot in mind and sort of reserved it for us from his friends. We cautiously crept into a small channel and positioned ourselves on a rocky ledge. We saw smallmouth yellowfish cruising everywhere and honestly I wanted to launch a dry fly. But Ed was certain it would be like yesterday and they wouldn’t eat the floater and advised that all I’d do with a dry is inform them they were being stalked. Instead we carefully chose a nymph the yellows would munch.
We chose our nymph correctly. I don’t know what the heck it’s called but it was a Vladi nymph that was brown and size 14. The yellows didn’t eat it like it was going out of style but there were enough fish that when I stacked up a few good presentations in a row I nailed one. I don’t know much about these smallmouth yellows yet but Ed assured me that this one was a dandy. What I have learned in 24 hours is that yellows fight hard and this tank kicked my butt on the 5-weight much like that of a carp twice his size.
Once back to the main river the yellowfish were hard to find. Instead I had my shot at the unusual freshwater mullet. I had one eat my nymph and hit him too hard and ripped out my fly from his soft lips. My mistake was a bummer because not only would I’d like to give the bizarre fish a look over but it would have been a nice addition to the species list. But what overshadowed the missed freshwater mullet were my friends from north America – the sunfishes – starting with this respectable bluegill.
I can’t give you a date but both largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as bluegill were introduced to South Africa about 100 years ago. They’ve been here so long that they’re found in most freshwaters throughout South Africa and on the Gourits River the fishing for them is flat out incredible. I thought my nice smallie yesterday was a fluke but today I caught at least five more that averaged this size.
It’s not just the smallmouth bass that flourish here but so do the largemouth bass. Anthony, Ed and I probably caught a dozen of the size you see here. What’s interesting is this is not perfect habitat for either the smallie or the largemouth. But they’ve adapted after a 100 years and unlike back in the States, both species seem to live happily alongside one another.
Not only did we whack the yellowfish, bluegill and smallmouth and largemouth bass, but Ed managed to skillfully pluck a common carp from a mud on a nymph. The carp aren’t big but we’ve seen a handful and just like at home on Blackfoot they don’t come easy.
The four of us hiked a long way downstream from the car. Granny and Anthony turned it around about 4 while Ed and I proceeded. Ed punished the bass while I picked up a couple more yellows. With a tribe of baboons sneaking in on us on the far side of the Gourits we called it a day around 6 PM and made the strenuous hike then long slow drive back to camp. It was another fantastic day of fishing here in South Africa and now I can say I’ve caught largemouth and smallmouth bass on two continents. Tell me that’s not weird. Now time for a lamb stew to be prepared by Anthony and beers around the fire. . . I don’t need to say it do I?