The Jewel of Eastern Lesotho

Dramatic sandstone cliffs, willow trees in full autumn bloom, clear water, and shallow cruising trout. What more could I ask for?

Here follow a few pictures of a beautiful day exploring a section of the middle Tsoelike River. I was again accompanied by Andrew Descroizilles. 

It’s probably my last cast in Lesotho until next summer at least. The fishing was challenging and rewarding with almost all fish being sight fished. It was encouraging to know that the population is healthy enough that next season can be expected to be a cracker, assuming the drought is finally over.

Next season I have to make an effort to get up here in the height of summer. The locals talk about the yellow fish being full up in the river in the summer months, and we even saw one good sized yellow cruising a long pool before we had a chance to set up. I would have thought with the water temperature as cold as it was that they would have moved down river a long time ago.

It will be important to get the timing of the trip right, to coincide with good water levels, and clean water. It will take a few days to clear after rain so its easy to have a trip blown out by dirty water. It happened to me last year in February when I went up to try for some yellows, so its not an easy trip to plan for as it storms regularly in the summer in those parts.

Feast your eyes on the dramatic scenery.

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I think this is the road less travelled. This is the remnants of a road that goes down to Waaihoek Village on the edge of the Tsoelike River. We left our car in the village for the day. A few pockets of butternuts from the farm were a welcome gift.
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Confronted with clear and calm conditions like this, sight fishing becomes a very exciting way of catching fish. One person spotting and the other fishing
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A pool like this seemed to have one of two fish in the half pound to 1lb range. The river was certainly not teaming with fish. Enough to keep you excited, and few enough to make each fish rewarding.
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Andrew about to reluctantly wet his feet. The water was icy cold for most of the day.
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Andrew waiting for a cruising fish to come back into casting range.
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I had a great view of  several cruising fish. The trick was to get Andrew to understand which direction to cast as I was  seeing things from such a different angle.
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The highlight of our day. You can see the huge fish almost dead centre of the picture. While I was trying to get Andrew into a fish of around a pound, suddenly a hen fish of close to 4lbs chased the small fish away from its feeding lie. We tried to catch this fish for close on 1hr 30 min. It was like watching a movie for me. My adrenalin was flowing and Andrews was gushing. He missed one take on a dry fly by striking too early, he missed it again as the smaller fish literally grabbed the fly out of the big fish’s jaws, and he spooked it with a bad cast. The fish was then gone for a good 20 min. With his legs numb from cold, we decided to have lunch and wait for her return. He then spent a good 10 min undoing a tangle as the fish fed only 5 meters in front of him. 
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 Eventually Andrew hooked the fish. A nymph drifted down to the fish did the trick. Andrew had to stand upstream of the fish as it was the only way he could get a fly into the feeding zone. 
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After a a good five minutes of fighting the hook pulled free. I was about to help grab the fish as the hook pulled. It’s moments like these that you remember forever whether the fish was landed or not. A fish of a life time for Andrew suddenly was an “Almost fish of a lifetime”. Had we had a net, the fish would have been landed. I don’t fish with one, I just get annoyed carrying one, and fishing has never been a numbers game for me. This was the first time I regret not having one, if only for Andrews sake.
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Another downstream drift produced the goods here. Andrew into a feisty fish that I spotted from up on the cliff.  It fell to a Bungezi Beetle.
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A typical fat Tsoelike Rainbow.
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The last pool we fished before heading up to the car. This place I call knifes edge. The other side of the cliffs is the river only a stones throw away but a good 2km along the river. The height of the river is on the other side is only a little lower than that white layer in the rock which is bald ibis and cormorant droppings.
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Last evening light at knifes edge pool. If you have fished or hiked this section of river then you will know the place.
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Driving home as the sun sets. There’s a good reason they call it the Mountain Kingdom.

 

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