I arrived in South Africa yesterday on my way to hosting a Yellow Dog trip to the Seychelles. I’m visiting my friends Gerhard Laubscher and Ryan Hammond that own FlyCastaway, the outfit that operates Farquhar. We planned months ago to fish for largemouth yellowfish. Due to weather, the plans have changed. The new twist begins . . . .
Last night at 10 PM I was so far beyond jetlag exhausted it wasn’t funny. I was delirious. Regrettably, instead of going to bed, Gerhard and I had to go back to the Johannesburg airport to pick up my Simms bag that didn’t come in with my flight earlier in the day. Retrieving my luggage took two hours and we returned to Gerhard’s around 1 AM.
Other than crappy naps on planes I’d been up since Thursday. But I was so tired I couldn’t sleep. It’s the worst. Rather than toss in bed, I loaded yesterday’s blog. I went to bed at 2 AM. Painful as it was, Gerhard got me out of bed at 4:25 AM to head on a long drive for fishing. I hadn’t felt as crappy tired in years.
We left Gerhard’s and picked up Ryan Hammond. You’ll remember Ryan from last trip to South Africa when we fished Sterkfontein and again this summer when we fished the Henry’s Fork. After a quick handshake (now 5 AM) I climbed in the back seat of the truck. This was my position for the entire drive.
Six months ago our plan was to fish for largemouth yellowfish (a species similar to the mahseer of India) at FlyCastaway’s newest lodge. Disappointingly, huge rains the last two weeks blew our plans out the window. Desperate to find any fishing this week, Gerhard and Ryan decided on a seven-hour drive south to the small mountainous country of Lesotho.
Last year at this exact time Granny and I were in Lesotho with my friends of Tourette Fishing – Fight it in Africa. We had the fantastic experience of catching smallmouth yellowfish at their remote lodge, Makhangoa Community Camp. Under the short notice we couldn’t go to Tourette’s again and instead drove to a tourist lodge on a hillside overlooking a massive dam where we will explore its tributaries (down here reservoirs are called, “dams”).
After five hours driving I woke up to present my passport at the border crossing from South Africa to Lesotho. The crossing went smooth then we passed through Lesotho’s capital of Maseru. This must be one of the smallest capital cities in the world. We went through the African city in five minutes and before we knew it we were heading up over the mountain pass Lekahalo La Molimo Nthuse, better known as God Help Me Pass.
We drove another two hours and checked into our accommodation. This isn’t a place FlyCastaway works out of, this is simply a cool place Gerhard and Ryan like to stay when fishing for yellowfish. To my delight, FlyCastaway guides, Brendan Becker and Craig Richardson, where here to join us. I met Brendan in Farquhar in 2014 and Craig spent this past summer in Victor.
We enjoyed celebratory beers then filed in Gerhard’s truck and ventured up the rugged dirt roads high above the dam to search for a stream the FlyCastaway boys have studied on Google Earth. The forecast was for rain but things were good. We had a sprinkle here and there with dashes of sunshine. The temperature was around 60°F. This is a photo from high above the dam. Notice the local huts on the hillside. Lesotho takes you back in time.
We got our first glimpse of the river from afar. Gerhard and Ryan have been worried for weeks that the rivers would be muddy from the rain. Luckily, not only was the river crystal clear, it was picturesque. We descended to it and prepared to fish.
There are numerous species of yellowfish. The ones we’re after are smallmouth yellowfish. We rig for them like trout. I have my 5-weight Winston and a floating line. My jetlag and lack of sleep was hitting me hard again. I followed Ryan with my camera. The scenery was more than enough to keep me awake.
The yellows were plentiful. Any dry fly you threw enticed a strike in the tailouts and heads of pools. Yellowfish like the splat of your fly so you slap it down hard. These yellows were tiny but anytime you can start a trip with action is a good thing.
We fished till sunset. We caught 20 fish each. The evening light was memorable on this beautiful river and the distant mountains. I popped a beer and shot photos. Along came a local on horse. He spoke enough English we had an enjoyable chat. What a difference in our lives. He has nothing in comparison to what I, or most humans have but he seems happy and content. He has no idea who the hell Donald Trump is or anything about the world outside Lesotho. In a way I’m jealous. Ryan handed him one of our beers and he thanked us and went on his way into the mountains.
By the time we returned to our house I could hardly keep my eyes open. The only thing I remember was a small furry animal called a rock dassie crossing in front of the car. This is the worst jetlag I can remember and perhaps the most tired I’ve ever been. We pulverized a huge meal of butter chicken and rice. I can’t remember my last bite but I know it was to die for. We are going to a river with bigger yellows tomorrow.