The Rivers in the following few post are very special places and I wouldn’t normally name such places, but you will see my reason for publicising the area later on in my series of posts on this area. There is heaps and heaps of great quality fishing water that is easily accessible and a lot of water which is very inaccessible to all but the most adventurous of fisherman.
In April 1999 I did my first multi-day hike I did into Lesotho. My father had small aeroplane at the time and after a scenic flight along the Drakensberg escarpment we noticed a particularly interesting valley. We took a slight detour and flew low over the mountains and into Lesotho to check it out. Yes i suppose it was invading another countries air space but my old man is just as keen on exploring new places as I am. It was an incredible flight down a spectacular sandstone gorge. The pools were big and crystal clear. We thought then, that this must be the best river in Lesotho and certainly better than anything in this country. We knew there were trout there as we had often fished in the Sehlabathebe National Park and the surrounding rivers which drained into this gorge, but this river looked beyond my wildest dreams. It just screamed big trout. A few months later we had the chance to explore the Tsoelike River with a few mates Craig and Greg Carter-Brown. The plan was to get dropped off somewhere in near the start of the best looking water which was just downstream of Ramastelisos Gate, and to walk up river to the confluence of the Leqoa River and Tsoelikane River.
My old man was a little over ambitious in where he dropped us off or Maybe it was his sense of humour? That first hike was far, very far. We only managed to get half way to Sehlabathebe before we had to hike out of the valley to the road and hitch hike to our planned meeting place. The confluence of the rivers is about 40km as a crow flies from where we started and my rule of thumb is that you need to at least double the straight line distance between points when hiking in Lesotho. 80km in 3 days is far and near impossible if you want to get any decent amount of fishing in.
This is a huge river by my standards and you could spend all day fishing a 1 km stretch of water. The pools are big and daunting. It’s almost like fishing small dams with a rapid coming in at the top. There are however some delightful stretches of pocket water and shallower stuff so it’s probably best to carry two rods. One rigged for the pools, and one rigged for the shallower stuff, or one for the deep water and one for the shallows at the head of a pool where you could expect to catch a fish on a dry fly.
We caught a lot of fish in the Tsoelike River but all of them small. I suppose with a more refined technique and a bit of patience there would have been some better fish to be had, but certainly not with our method of attack. I got the biggest fish of the trip of a whopping 3/4 pound. It was great fun but not what we hoped for in terms of fishing and I suppose that’s the main reason I haven’t fished more often in this stunning piece of river. Such is the nature of these river up here. Full of tiddlers one year and the lots of good fish the next. Lesotho is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you going to get.
After our beautiful hike up the Tsoelike gorge we spent a few days in Sehlabathebe National Park with my parents where we again slayed the tiddlers in the upper Tsoelikane River. While staying at the lodge we met the head Park Warden, an absolute gentleman by the name of Augustinus. I can’t remember his surname. He was a keen fly fisher himself which is unusual for a a local Basuthu. He recommended that we fish the upper reaches. He reckoned that February/March was the best time and that bigger fish move into the upper reaches during the rains, and that they are biggest at the end of summer. We took his address so we could correspond by letter and so hatched the plan of a return trip in the autumn of 2000 and fish the Leqoa River.
Here follows a photo of a letter that Augustinus wrote to my old man regarding the planned trip. I have this letter pasted into my fishing journal. I actually visited him this weekend on my latest trip and he was over the moon to see me and especially to hear from my old man whom the letter is addressed too. My father is always very considerate in his dealings with all people and he used to whenever we came to stay in the park he would bring Augustinus some Amasi (a traditional African yoghurt) and firewood. It’s something I need to become more conscious of in my dealing with others less fortunate. They really appreciate a courtesy visit which I am always good about, but a thoughtful gift of some Amasi or firewood is something they won’t ever forget.
I have fished the Leqoa river several times since then and I have never had anything like the fishing I had on the return trip to the upper Leqoa River. Unfortunately we were rushed due to another huge underestimation of the distances in Lesotho. Even though I only fished a few hours, it was fishing like I had never had before in a river. It seemed that every few casts a fat fish of a pound + would charge out of nowhere and smash my fly. I was amazed at how so many good sized fish i found in the shallowest of runs. I still remember vividly the pink flesh of the fish we ate and the fat that oozed from their flesh after steaming them in toilet paper. It was the first time my old man had showed me this trick of how to cook a trout. Here is a SBS on how to prepare “Kakrol Vorrel”. Direct translation of “shitpaper trout”. Obviously it applies to any fish species.
You wrap the gutted fish in toilet/newspaper paper, lots of it. You can stuff it with some garlic or herbs and spices before wrapping it in paper or u can add it afterwards. Then you wet the wrapped up fish so it’s like a soggy mummy. The fish is then chucked onto the coals or open fire. You need to turn it once just when the paper starts burning. Once the paper is burned on the outside on both sides, you peel off the paper layer which should still be moist underneath the black layer. There you have it, beautifully steamed trout with a hint of smokiness. Don’t try this with any fish bigger than 2 lbs. The paper will burn before the fish is cooked through. I tried doing an 8 pounder like this at a family braai and it was a complete bugger-up!
Here follow a few pics of the trip from 2000. They are photos of photos. I did a write up back then that I have photographed. If you can enlarge the picture are looking at this on a desktop computer you will be able to read the story on the trip. Now you will understand why i got a D in English. Quite an amusing read if you can read it.
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