This first part of this post will be written in the present tense as I was blogging on the go. Part two is written in the evening after the adventure.
It’s 6:30 am on Sunday morning and deep down inside me I have this feeling of something like a cross between excitement, nervousness, and bursting happiness. The big day has arrived. My fishing and hiking buddy, Jenny is back in action and ready to go out on a proper day mission. My 3 month old boy, Olli, is now strong enough to hold his head up and to sit on my back in the baby rucksack. I have been waiting for this day for 3 months now. A happy family off to go and enjoy the great outdoors together. You might ask why the nervousness? Well I am just hoping like crazy that it all goes well and we don’t get stuck in a big thunderstorm or something like that. I desperately want this to be a regular occurrence.
I wonder what I will resemble today? Human or pack mule? I think the latter. Guni our first born, a Sausage Dog is now going beserk running around the house. He has seen my fishing rod and he knows what this means, adventure! Uncle Slug our pavement special is now squeaking with excitement as he has also seen the fishing rod and ruck sack. Olli who was squawking his head off has just had some boob and is now passed out on the bed. He’s oblivious to all the preparations for the adventurous day ahead. We have just managed to persuade another friend to join us. So that makes 8 of us. Guni, Slug, Sonja Moxham, Jeremy, Andrew, Jenny, Olli and myself.
We now move into the past tense.
We set off a little later than planned but 9 am was not bad going. The drive to get to where we hike from is about half an hour of tar road and then about half an hour of dirt. The last few km is off road through the veld and a 4×4 vehicle is needex . It was a stunning morning to hike with a bit of cloud around and a cool breeze. I have taken very few people to my secret place and today I took the first fishermen, Jeremy and Andrew. Everyone was blown away by the beauty of the place, but it’s not exactly a place for any but the most hardcore or should I say crazy fisherman. Andrew’s coment was that I shouldn’t worry about sharing this secret with other people as not many people will ever bother putting in the effort to get here. A days fishing here is more like a day of rock climbing, bush whacking, slipping, sliding, and swimming. Every now and then u may be able to have a cast at a decent fish.
We arrived at the waterfall after a 2 hour slog. I was definitely a pack mule and I had a huge rucksack filled with all the comforts needed, nappies and lots of other baby stuff for Olli. When two adults go for a hike, two day packs are sufficient. When two adults and a baby go on a hike, then the gear needed seems to quadruple. I mustn’t complain though, this has been something I have been dying to do for ages. Thankfully Olli loves being carried and bounced around so he spent most of the time either enjoying the scenery or sleeping. I hardly heard a squawk from him all day, it was wonderful. Babies definitely get cabin fever if you don’t take them outside so this is definitely a great way to spend a Sunday.
After our picnic lunch and a pot of tea, Andrew, Jeremy and I headed off down stream with the plan to fish back up. We skirted along the side of a very steep slope, high up above the stream. As usual I went around one too many bends but it was worth it for what we saw. A lot of the gorge is barely accessible unless you are very surefooted and have a decent rock climbing ability. The first pool we stopped and looked into I spotted a huge fish that must have gone 3 lbs. I decided that I had to have a bash. Jeremy and Andrew looked at me in disbelief that I was going to go down there. It was a slippery slide down an almost vertical slope, clinging to bushes as I slid down on my bum. It was a huge effort of mine to get a fly onto the water, and for my effort the fish should have obbliged. Everything was textbook stuff except my fly choice. The fish came cruising past me and took something small in the surface film only about a foot away from my Para-Daddy. That’s about as big of a rejection as you get. I had a few more casts with a few different flies, but didn’t get a look.
In my half an hour or so that I spent trying to catch that fish, I didn’t notice that some dark clouds had rolled in. Oh crap! Olli was not supposed to be getting drenched in a thunderstorm on his first outing. I scrambled up the gorge to try catch up to the others who had gone higher up to enter the gorge somewhere easier. I caught up to them fairly soon and suggested they go on up to a few big pools where I knew there were fish and they are easier to access. On my scramble up I spooked one really good fish that was lying in the tail of a long shallow pool. Typical of a Brown trout to park off in such an awkward place. Only a few runs upstream I found a beautiful pool which I knew must have a fish. I watched for a good 5 minutes before i decided that the only place a fish could be was in front of a big rock at the tail of the pool. I dared not poke my head over to look in case I spooked it, so I delicately flicked my hopper over the rock. The fly landed out of sight but as it landed in saw a ripple roll out from behind the rock. I gently lifted my rod and I was in! That has got to be one of my most satisfying and beautful fish I have ever caught.
We came up with an appropriate analogy of how challenging fishing this stream is: Fishing in a stillwater is like shooting a Reed buck from the back of the pickup, and fishing in this stream is like a trying to hunt a Bongo in the jungle of the Central African Republic, with a hand made bow and arrow. Well I caught my Bongo and I was as chuffed as I’ve ever been after catching a fish.
It was a bit of a panic now to get back to the girls before the storm broke, and I had to find the other two in the bushes up ahead. Luckily Jenny and Sonja had already packed everything up and were coming downstream to find us. Sonja needed to be back by 5, now she tells me! That would be impossible but the message was pretty clear, we needed to get out of here! We got back to the cars by about 5 pm so Sonja was only an hour late, luckily only for a church service. Thankfully the storm that threatened for a while, missed us and we only got a few drops to cool us down.
Olli had a fantastic day out in the hills, and Jenny admitted that he is much better outdoors than indoors. So our next step is to take him camping and hiking in Lesotho. I think I have persuaded her that it is possible and could even be a lot of fun, so long as we organise some donkeys and Basuthus to carry some of our gear. Watch this space it’s on the cards for January or February next year.