A Stream Beyond Beautiful 

Yesterday I hiked into one of my favourite valleys to scratch an itch called fishing. It was far more of a hike than it was a fishing trip, as we hiked close on 30km, and had only a few hrs of fishing while the fish were in the feed. It’s the upper most reaches of one of KZN’s most famous trout rivers and yet I’ve only met one other person who has fished there and I’m probably not as high as I have been. How can that be? Well it’s remote. Very remote. It is definitly the most remote trout fishing in the Drakenbsberg, if you measure the distance from where you can leave a car, to the highest fishing water. That includes the remote rivers in the Northern Drakensberg. 

My visit to this river in the spring of 2015 inspired me to start writing this blog, and hence the name of this post. I came up with the name for my blog after I was asked where I was fishing the next day. We were on a family holiday at a nearby resort, and my reply was “it’s a stream beyond those hills”. 

To access this section of river without trespassing through private property, you have to walk about 15 km over two large mountain ridges, and then you are at the very top of the river. To access it illegally is much easier, but you need to risk running into some grumpy landowners. This is also a 15 km walk but at least there are no mountains to climb and you can start fishing about half way.

Yesterday I chose the illegal route as that’s the only way I could fish it in on day trip. I suppose I should ask the land owners but I don’t know who they are. Maybe I will find out for the next visit. It’s brutal as a day hike goes and my legs today can certainly feel that they were used.

 I took a regular fishing buddy of mine, Andrew Descroizilles. We left Kokstad at 4 am and arrived at our parking place at 5:45 just as the sky in the east was starting to light up. As we opened the car door we felt the huge temperature difference between home and in the berg. The frost was thick, but thankfully the air was still. A beautiful autumn day was in the offering, we just would have to wait a bit for water warm and the fish to come on the bite. We walked for 2 hours to get to the start of the gorge where we made stopped for breakfast, and make a cup of tea. I suspect that the section leading up to the gorge puts a lit of people off going higher. The water is thin with very little holding  water even whenever the river is full.  

We actually had to wait untill midday for the first fish to show itself. There was not a fish to be seen anywhere and so at 10:30 I suggested we have an early lunch so as to wait for the fish to come out and start feeding. That’s unfortunately the nature of these rivers at this time of year. The fishing time in the day is relatively short, and as inviting as the water may look, it’s hardly worth wetting a line before 11 am. 

It was incredibly difficult tearing myself off the river as it just seemed to get better and better and the fish were by now out and about. Rockhopping up the river, rod in my hand and catching a fish in every pocket is about as close as I will come to heaven meditation. You soon snapp out of it as you become aware that every corner you round, you get further from home. The three hour walk, the 2 hr drive, my beautiful wife and baby, and the oxtail stew eventually got the better of me and I turn round and trotted off back down river to find Andrew.

If you enjoy flicking dries into pocket water, if you value fishing in places that are seldom fished, if you enjoy hiking, if you enjoy spectacular mountain scenery, then this place is for you. If you enjoy catching big fish, then I’m sorry this is the wrong place. This is my kind of place, where the fishing is secondary. It’s the kind of place where I would be pushed to decide which is more important, camera or fly rod. 

The very upper reaches of this river where the main river splits into two tiny streams,  is the place where I wish my ashes to be sprinkled.  My soul, if I have one will be quite content to chill out u there for the rest of time, Unless of course I find somewhere more beautiful. Let’s hope I do although somehow I doubt it. This stream is close to perfect, it’s  a stream beyond beautiful.

A good breakfast rock after walking for a few hours.
Looking up towards the start of the gorge. The river gets steeper with more pockets and pools.
The start of the gorge where I left Andrew. He fished from here up and I walked up to the corner at the top of the gorge and fished up from there.
The first pool that Andrew fished and he got lucky. He pulled several small fish out of this deep pool. We watched them swim off the bottom and take his dry fly. 
It’s hard to capture the scale of those cliffs in a photo, but they literally tower over you on both sides. Every little run and pool is so perfect that it’s as if the stream was designed for dry fly fishing.
Andrew fishing a perfect run.
These little pockets were perfect for my Tenkara rod. Nowhere do you need more than a flick to get to where the fish lie.
I sat for a whole hour watching and trying to catch one fish that I spotted in this pool. After a whole hour of watching and observing I realised there were two fish. Of course I caught the smaller one and then the big fish completely disappeared. I called it off as my curiosity about what’s up around the next bend got the better of me.
The big fish. Well it’s big by this rivers’ standards. Maybe 12″ or so. It would have easily been the biggest fish I’ve taken in this stream. I will be back!
Can you get cleaner water? The colour of the water was a reflection of the intense blue sky we had that day.
The top or the gorge has a thick forest on the south facing slope.
Exiting the top of the gorge and looking up towards the Sandleni Butress. The river levels off a bit here and it’s more riffle water with small pockets.
The spectacular sandstone peaks towering over the head of the gorge.
Looking downstream towards the head of the gorge.
Each of these pools held several fish who were extremely skittish, but if the fly was presented well, they couldn’t resist.
Right into that pool is where you can throw my ashes one day. I can’t think of a more beautiful place for my ashes to be scattered. This is the confluence pool is where I have caught my biggest fish on both my outings to this stream. From here the river splits in two and both streams hold fish. I have been only a few hundred meters up the left fork and about a km up the right fork. Next time this is where I will start fishing and I will fish both the streams untill they are too small to hold fish. Now that will be a long hike
The fish from the confluence pool.
Heading up the right fork was the most exciting fishing I have done in a long time. Rockhopping up a stream like that and flicking flies into such perfect pocket water is highly addictive!
This was as high as I got up the right fork. It was torture to turn around so early on in the day with so much unexplored water up ahead.
This little spider did the business. It has a foam body, a cdc hackle and pheasant tail legs.
Another version of the spider.
I also caught several fish on my Bungezi Beetle.
The foam bodied Bungezi Beetle.
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