Bucket Listing 

At the moment my bucket list of South African fishing destinations is not that long, but inevitably as you tick one off, another is added. All but one of my fishing bucket list places revolve around catching trout. This week I ticked one of them off my list, and for once it was not trout I was after. It was Scalies in a seldom fished and remote river. 

My current fishing bucket list is as follows:

1: Hlolohatsi River in northern Lesotho. This is the last Lesotho river that rises on the top of the Drakenbsberg that I have not yet fished. There are several tributaries to fish and this would require at least a week to fish properly. I have good reason to believe that this may be one of the best of them all. 

2: The Ketane River in South Western Lesotho. Judging by Google Earth, this looks a truly spectacular gorge to explore.

3. The Gairezi and Pungwe Rivers in the in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. These are legendary trout rivers that are seldom fished these days. They have some extremely remote sections of river that are calling my name. 

4. The Wolkberg Nature Reserve. I have reason to believe that there may be a trout or two in this remote and spectacular wilderness area. I have only driven through the area, but the mountains on the northern and Easter side look amazing. The altitude of some of the small forested streams is high enough for trout. I heard from someone who heard from someone that there may be trout up there. At least it would be an epic hike to get there. 

All of the above destinations are to catch trout. The final on on my list was the lower Mtamvuna gorge to catch Scalies. What attracted me to this location was it’s relatively inaccessibility and beauty. Scalies are great fun to catch on fly, and I have not paid them enough attention in my fishing. 

Meg (my sister), Rob and Eva have been staying for a week on the farm. Rob has been on many a fishing adventure with me and he insisted we head into Lesotho for a night out. While drinking coffee at 5 am before hitting the road, Rob realized he had forgotten his passport. I took this as a reason to head towards warmer climes and try catch a scaly. 

I took this opportunity to head towards the coast and explore the lower Mtamvuna Gorge. The Mtamvuna River is the southern limit of the Scalies range. I have heard of good scalies being caught much higher up, but the section of the river in the Mtamvuna Nature Reserve is where I wanted to fish. 

The valley is every bit as spectacular as I imagined it to be, it’s just unfortunate that the bigger fish didn’t seem to be present. Aside from the fishing, this gorge has to have huge potential for the adventurous white water kayaker. I have a few mates who do this sort of thing, maybe I need to get them on to it. 

 I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. 

A massive pool just above the confluence of the Bulolo and Mtamvuna River.
Rob prospecting a beautiful pocket. I fealt sorry for him, as he was so keen to catch a fish and all we did was discover, in Jenny’s words: “another beautiful place with no fish”.
It is the most perfect looking water for Scalies. Lots of good pocket water, interspersed with long slow pools.
Looking up river from the sandbank where we camped out under the stars. A full moon, not a breath of wind and some whiskey made for the most perfect night out under the stars.
A beautiful place to practice your casting. I actually did catch two very small scalies in this pool. There were a lot of fish rising, but they were literally too small to take a fly. I guess that with the migratory habits of these fish, that you need to know which sections to fish at which time of year. We were no further than 3 km above the the estuary. I wanted to go against lot higher but that section was inaccessible without a very long walk first, or without asking a farmer permission to park on his land.  Maybe next time that’s where I will head. 
Last evening light filtering down the valley.
The veiw looking back down the valley after our morning hike out. We decided to head inland and look for some trout.
Rob (left) and I after a 1000 foot climb out the valley. This small nature reserve is a must for anyone visiting the area. Strictly no camping is allowed, but there’s nothing that a two pockets of cabbages,  two pockets of butternuts, and speaking the lingo can’t sort out. 


  1. hiked to and inspected the Wolkberg rivers in the 80s, did not find any trout then.. but that was long ago.

    in Jenny’s words: “another beautiful place with no fish”.
    that’s wonderful – I know lots of good water like that, all over the world 😉


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